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The "Cameos" here put together are intended as a book for young people just beyond the elementary histories of England, and able to enter in some degree into the real spirit of events, and to be struck with characters and scenes presented in some relief.
The endeavor has not been to chronicle facts, but to put together a series of pictures of persons and events, so as to arrest the attention and give some individuality and distinctness to the recollection, by gathering together details at the most memorable moments. Begun many years since, as the historical portion of a magazine, the earlier ones of these Cameos have been collected and revised to serve for school-room reading, and it is hoped that, if these are found useful, they may ere long be followed up by a second volume, comprising the wars in France, and those of the Roses.
February 28th, 1868.
CAMEO I. ROLF GANGER. (900-932.)
CAMEO II. WILLIAM LONGSWORD AND RICHARD THE FEARLESS. (932-996.)
CAMEO III. YOUTH OF THE CONQUEROR. (1036-1066.)
CAMEO IV. EARL GODWIN. (1012-1052.)
CAMEO V. THE TWO HAROLDS. (1060-1066.)
CAMEO VI. THE NORMAN INVASION. (1066.)
CAMEO VII. THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS. (1066.)
CAMEO VIII. THE CAMP OF REFUGE. (1067-1072.)
CAMEO IX. THE LAST SAXON BISHOP. (1008-1095.)
CAMEO X. THE CONQUEROR. (1066-1087.)
CAMEO XI. THE CONQUEROR'S CHILDREN. (1050-1087.)
CAMEO XII. THE CROWN AND THE MITRE.
CAMEO XIII. THE FIRST CRUSADE. (1095-1100.)
CAMEO XIV. THE ETHELING FAMILY. (1010-1159.)
CAMEO XV. THE COUNTS OF ANJOU. (888-1142.)
CAMEO XVI. VISITORS OF HENRY I. (1120-1134.)
CAMEO XVII. THE BATTLE OF THE STANDARD. (1135-1138.)
CAMEO XVIII. THE SNOWS OF OXFORD. (1138-1154.)
CAMEO XIX. YOUTH OF BECKET. (1154-1162)
CAMEO XX. THE CONSTITUTIONS OF CLARENDON. (1163-1172.)
CAMEO XXI. DEATH OF BECKET. (1166-1172.)
CAMEO XXII. THE CONQUEST OF IRELAND. (1172)
CAMEO XXIII. THE REBELLIOUS EAGLETS. (1149-1189.)
CAMEO XXIV. THE THIRD CRUSADE. (1189-1193)
CAMEO XXV. ARTHUR OF BRITTANY. (1187-1206.)
CAMEO XXVI. THE INTERDICT. (1207-1214.)
CAMEO XXVII. MAGNA CHARTA. (1214-1217.)
CAMEO XXVIII. THE FIEF OF ROME. (1217-1254.)
CAMEO XXIX. THE LONGESPÉES IN THE EGYPTIAN CRUSADES. (1219-1254.)
CAMEO XXX. SIMON DE MONTFORT. (1232-1266.)
CAMEO XXXI. THE LAST OF THE CRUSADERS. (1267-1291.)
CAMEO XXXII. The CYMRY. (B.C. 66 A.D. 1269.)
CAMEO XXXIII. THE ENGLISH JUSTINIAN. (1272-1292.)
CAMEO XXXIV. THE HAMMER OF THE SCOTS. (1292-1305.)
CAMEO XXXV. THE EVIL TOLL. (1294-1305.)
CAMEO XXXVI. ROBERT THE BRUCE (1305-1308.)
CAMEO XXXVII. THE VICTIM OF BLACKLOW HILL.
CAMEO XXXVIII. BANNOCKBURN. (1307-1313.)
CAMEO XXXIX. THE KNIGHTS OF THE TEMPLE. (1292-1316.)
CAMEO XL. THE BARONS' WARS. (1310-1327.)
CAMEO XLI. GOOD KING ROBERT'S TESTAMENT. (1314-1329.)
Young people learn the history of England by reading small books which connect some memorable event that they can understand, and remember, with the name of each king—such as Tyrrell's arrow-shot with William Rufus, or the wreck of the White Ship with Henry I. But when they begin to grow a little beyond these stories, it becomes difficult to find a history that will give details and enlarge their knowledge, without being too lengthy. They can hardly be expected to remember or take an interest in personages or events left, as it were, in the block. It was the sense of this want that prompted the writing of the series that here follows, in which the endeavor has been to take either individual characters, or events bearing on our history, and work them out as fully as materials permitted, so that each, taken by itself, might form an individual Cameo, or gem in full relief, and thus become impressed upon the mind.
The undertaking was first begun sixteen years ago, for a periodical for young people. At that time, the view was to make the Cameos hang, as it were, on the thread furnished by ordinary childish histories, so as to leave out what might be considered as too well-known. However, as the work made progress, this was found to be a mistake; the omissions prevented the finished parts from fitting together, and the characters were incomplete, without being shown in action. Thus, in preparing the Cameos for separate publication, it has been found better to supply what had previously been omitted, as well as to try to correct and alter the other Cameos by the light of increasing information.
None of them lay claim to being put together from original documents; they are only the attempt at collecting, from large and often not easily accessible histories, the more interesting or important scenes and facts, and at arranging them so that they may best impress the imagination and memory of the young, so as to prepare them for fuller and deeper reading.
Our commencement is with the Dukes of Normandy. The elder England has been so fully written of, and in such an engaging manner for youthful readers, in the late Sir Francis Palgrave's "History of the Anglo-Saxons," that it would have been superfluous to expand the very scanty Cameos of that portion of our history. The present volume, then, includes the history of the Norman race of sovereigns, from Rollo to Edward of Carnarvon, with whose fate we shall pause, hoping in a second volume to go through the French wars and the wars of the Roses. Nor have we excluded the mythical or semi-romantic tales of our early history. It is as needful to a person of education to be acquainted with them, as if they were certain facts, and we shall content ourselves with marking what come to us on doubtful authority.CAMEO I. ROLF GANGER. (900-932.)
Kings of England. 901. Edward the Elder. 924. Athelstan.Kings of France. 898. Charles the Simple. 923. Rudolf.Emperors of Germany. 899. Ludwig IV. 912. Konrad. If we try to look back at history nine hundred years, we shall see a world very unlike that in which we are now moving. Midway from the birth of our Lord to the present era, the great struggle between the new and old had not subsided, and the great European world of civilized nations had not yet settled into their homes and characters.
Christianity had been accepted by the Roman Emperor six hundred years previously, but the Empire was by that time too weak and corrupt to be renewed, even by the fresh spirit infused into it; and, from the 4th century onward, it had been breaking up under the force of the fierce currents of nations that rushed from the north-east of Europe. The Greek half of the Empire prolonged its existence in the Levant, but the Latin, or Western portion, became a wreck before the 5th century was far advanced. However, each conquering tribe that poured into the southern dominions had been already so far impressed with the wisdom and dignity of Rome, and the holiness of her religion, that they paused in their violence, and gradually allowed themselves to be taught by her doctrine, tamed by her manners, and governed by her laws. The Patriarch of Rome—Papa, or Father—was acknowledged by them, as by the subjects of Rome of old; they accepted the clergy, who had already formed dioceses and parishes, and though much of horrible savagery remained to be subdued in the general mass, yet there was a gradual work of amelioration in progress.
This was especially the case with the Franks, who had overspread the northern half of Gaul. Their first race of kings had become Christians simultaneously with their conquest; and though these soon dwindled away between crime and luxury, there had grown up under them a brave and ambitious family, whose earlier members were among the most distinguished persons in history.
Charles Martel turned back the Saracens at Tours, and saved Europe from Mahometanism, and his grandson, Charles the Great, rescued the Pope from the Lombards, and received from him in return the crown of a new Empire of the West—the Holy Roman Empire, which was supposed to be the great temporal power. As the Pope, or Patriarch, was deemed the head of all bishops, so the Emperor was to be deemed the head of all kings of the West, from the Danube and Baltic to the Atlantic Ocean—the whole country that had once been held by Rome, and then had been wrested from her by the various German or Teutonic races. The island of Great Britain was a sort of exception to the general rule. Like Gaul, it had once been wholly Keltic, but it had not been as entirely subdued by the Romans, and the overflow of Teutons came very early thither, and while they were yet so thoroughly Pagan that the old Keltic Church failed to convert them, and the mission of St. Augustine was necessary from Rome.
A little later, when Charles the Great formed his empire of Franks, Germans, Saxons, and Gauls, Egbert gathered, in like manner, the various petty kingdoms of the Angles and Saxons under the one dominant realm of Wessex, and thus became a sort of island Emperor.
It seems, however, to be a rule, that nations and families recently emerged from barbarism soon fade and decay under the influence of high civilization; and just as the first race of Frankish kings had withered away on the throne, so the line of Charles the Great, though not inactive, became less powerful and judicious, grew feeble in the very next generation, and were little able to hold together the multitude of nations that had formed the empire.
Soon the kingdom of France split away from the Empire; and while a fresh and more able Emperor became the head of the West, the descendants of the great Charles still struggled on, at their royal cities of Laon and Soissons, with the terrible difficulties brought upon them by restless subjects, and by the last and most vigorous swarm of all the Teutonic invaders.
The wild rugged hills and coasts of Scandinavia, with their keen climate, long nights, and many gulfs and bays, had contributed to nurse the Teuton race in a vigor and perfection scarcely found elsewhere—or not at least since the more southern races had yielded to the enervating influences of their settled life. Some of these had indeed been tamed, but more had been degraded. The English were degenerating into clownishness, the Franks into effeminacy; and though Christianity continually raised up most brilliant lights—now on the throne, now in the cathedral, now in the cloister—yet the mass of the people lay sluggish, dull, inert, selfish, and half savage.
They were in this state when the Norseman and the Dane fitted out their long ships, and burst upon their coasts. By a peculiar law, common once to all the Teuton nations, though by that time altered in the southern ones, the land of a family was not divided among its members, but all possessed an equal right in it; and thus, as it was seldom adequate to maintain them all, the more enterprising used their right in it only to fell trees enough to build a ship, and to demand corn enough to victual their crew, which was formed of other young men whose family inheritance could not furnish more than a sword or spear.
Kings and princes—of whom there were many—were exactly in the same position as their subjects, and they too were wont to seek their fortunes upon the high seas. Fleets coalesced under the command of some chieftain of birth or note, and the Vikings, or pirates, sailed fearlessly forth, to plunder the tempting regions to the south of them.
Fierce worshippers were they of the old gods, Odin, Frey, Thor; of the third above all others, and their lengthy nights had led to their working up those myths that had always been common to the whole race into a beauty, poetry, and force, probably not found elsewhere; and that nerved them both to fight vehemently for an entrance to Valhalla, the hall of heroes, and to revenge the defection of the Christians who had fallen from Odin. They plundered, they burnt, they slew; they specially devastated churches and monasteries, and no coast was safe from them from the Adriatic to the furthest north—even Rome saw their long ships, and, "From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord deliver us," was the prayer in every Litany of the West.
England had been well-nigh undone by them, when the spirit of her greatest king awoke, and by Alfred they were overcome: some were permitted to settle down and were taught Christianity and civilization, and the fresh invaders were driven from the coast. Alfred's gallant son and grandson held the same course, guarded their coasts, and made their faith and themselves respected throughout the North. But in France, the much-harassed house of Charles the Great, and the ill-compacted bond of different nations, were little able to oppose their fierce assaults, and ravage and devastation reigned from one end of the country to another.
However, the Vikings, on returning to their native homes, sometimes found their place filled up, and the family inheritance incapable of supporting so many. Thus they began to think of winning not merely gold and cattle, but lands and houses, on the coasts that they had pillaged. In Scotland, the Hebrides, and Ireland, they settled by leave of nothing but their swords; in England, by treaty with Alfred; and in France, half by conquest, half by treaty, always, however, accepting Christianity as a needful obligation when they accepted southern lands. Probably they thought that Thor was only the god of the North, and that the "White Christ," as they called Him who was made known to them in these new countries, was to be adored in what they deemed alone His territories.
Of all the sea-robbers who sailed from their rocky dwelling-places by the fiords of Norway, none enjoyed higher renown than Rolf, called the ganger, or walker, as tradition relates, because his stature was so gigantic that, when clad in full armor, no horse could support his weight, and he therefore always fought on foot.
Rolf's lot had, however, fallen in what he doubtless considered as evil days. No such burnings and plunderings as had hitherto wasted England, and enriched Norway, fell to his share; for Alfred had made the bravest Northman feel that his fleet and army were more than a match for theirs. Ireland was exhausted by the former depredations of the pirates, and, from a fertile and flourishing country, had become a scene of desolation; Scotland and its isles were too barren to afford prey to the spoiler; and worse than all, the King of Norway, Harald Harfagre, desirous of being included among the civilized sovereigns of Europe, strictly forbade his subjects to exercise their old trade of piracy on his own coasts, or on those of his allies. Rolf, perhaps, considered himself above this new law. His father, Earl Rognwald, as the chief friend of the King, had been chosen to cut and comb the hair which Harald had kept for ten years untrimmed, in fulfilment of a vow, that his locks should never be clipped until the whole of Norway was under his dominion. He had also been invested with the government of the great Earldom of Möre, where the sons of Harald, jealous of the favor with which he was regarded by their father, burnt him and sixty of his men, in his own house. The vengeance taken by his sons had been signal, and the King had replaced Thorer the Silent, one of their number, in his father's earldom.
Rolf, presuming on the favor shown to his family, while returning from an expedition on the Baltic, made a descent on the coast of Viken, a part of Norway, and carried off the cattle wanted by his crew. The King, who happened at that time to be in that district, was highly displeased, and, assembling a council, declared Rolf Ganger an outlaw. His mother, Hilda, a dame of high lineage, in vain interceded for him, and closed her entreaty with a warning in the wild extemporary poetry of the North:
"Bethink thee, monarch, it is ill With such a wolf, at wolf to play, Who, driven to the wild woods away, May make the king's best deer his prey." Harald listened not, and it was well; for through the marvellous dealings of Providence, the outlawry of this "wolf" of Norway led to the establishment of our royal line, and to that infusion of new spirit into England to which her greatness appears to be chiefly owing.
The banished Rolf found a great number of companions, who, like himself, were unwilling to submit to the strict rule of Harald Harfagre, and setting sail with them, he first plundered and devastated the coast of Flanders, and afterward turned toward France. In the spring of 896, the citizens of Rouen, scarcely yet recovered from the miseries inflicted upon them by the fierce Danish rover, Hasting, were dismayed by the sight of a fleet of long low vessels with spreading sails, heads carved like that of a serpent, and sterns finished like the tail of the reptile, such as they well knew to be the keels of the dreaded Northmen, the harbingers of destruction and desolation. Little hope of succor or protection was there from King Charles the Simple; and, indeed, had the sovereign been ever so warlike and energetic, it would little have availed Rouen, which might have been destroyed twice over before a messenger could reach Laon.
In this emergency, Franco, the Archbishop, proposed to go forth to meet the Northmen, and attempt to make terms for his flock. The offer was gladly accepted by the trembling citizens, and the good Archbishop went, bearing the keys of the town, to visit the camp which the Northmen had begun to erect upon the bank of the river. They offered him no violence, and he performed his errand safely. Rolf, the rude generosity of whose character was touched by his fearless conduct, readily agreed to spare the lives and property of the citizens, on condition that Rouen was surrendered to him without resistance.
Entering the town, he there established his head-quarters, and spent a whole year there and in the adjacent parts of the country, during which time the Northmen so faithfully observed their promise, that they were regarded by the Rouennais rather as friends than as conquerors; and Rolf, or Rollo, as the French called him, was far more popular among them than their real sovereign. Wherever he met with resistance, he showed, indeed, the relentless cruelty of the heathen pirate; but where he found submission, he was a kind master, and these qualities contributed to gain for him an easy and rapid conquest of Neustria, as the district of which Rouen was the capital was then called.
In the course of the following year, he advanced along the banks of the Seine as far as its junction with the Eure. On the opposite side of the river, there were visible a number of tents, where slept a numerous army which Charles had at length collected to oppose this formidable enemy. The Northmen also set up their camp, in expectation of a battle, and darkness had just closed in on them when a shout was heard on the opposite side of the river, and to their surprise a voice was heard speaking in their own language, "Brave warriors, why come ye hither, and what do ye seek?"
"We are Northmen, come hither to conquer France," replied Rollo. "But who art thou who speakest our tongue so well?"
"Heard ye never of Hasting?" was the reply.
Hasting was one of the most celebrated of the Sea-Kings. He had fought with Alfred in England, had cruelly wasted France, and had even sailed into the Mediterranean and made himself dreaded in Italy; but with him it had been as with the old pirate in the poem:
"Time will rust the sharpest sword, Time will consume the strongest cord; That which moulders hemp and steel, Mortal arm and nerve must feel. Of the Danish band, whom 'Earl Hasting' led, Many wax'd aged, and many were dead; Himself found his armor full weighty to bear, Wrinkled his brows grew, and hoary his hair; He leaned on a staff when his step went abroad, And patient his palfrey, when steed he bestrode. As he grew feebler, his wildness ceased, He made himself peace with prelate and priest; He made himself peace, and stooping his head, Patiently listen'd the counsel they said. "'Thou hast murder'd, robb'd, and spoil'd, Time it is thy poor soul were assoil'd; Priests didst thou slay and churches burn, Time it is now to repentance to turn; Fiends hast thou worshipp'd with fiendish rite, Leave now the darkness and wend into light; Oh, while life and space are given, Turn thee yet, and think of heaven.' "That stern old heathen, his head he raised, And on the good prelate he steadfastly gazed, 'Give me broad lands on the "Eure and the Seine," My faith I will leave, and I'll cleave unto thine.' Broad lands he gave him on 'Seine and on Eure,' To be held of the king by bridle and spear, "For the 'Frankish' King was a sire in age, Weak in battle, in council sage; Peace of that heathen leader he sought, Gifts he gave and quiet he bought; And the Earl took upon him the peaceful renown, Of a vassal and liegeman for 'Chartres' good town: He abjured the gods of heathen race, And he bent his head at the font of grace; But such was the grizzly old proselyte's look, That the priest who baptized him grew pale and shook." Such had been the history of Hasting, now Count of Chartres, who without doubt expected that his name and example would have a great effect upon his countrymen; but the answer to his question, "Heard ye never of Hasting?" met with no such answer as he anticipated.
"Yes," returned Rollo; "he began well, but ended badly."
"Will ye not, then," continued the old pirate, "submit to my lord the King? Will ye not hold of him lands and honors?"
"No!" replied the Northmen, disdainfully, "we will own no lord; we will take no gift; but we will have what we ourselves can conquer by force." Here Hasting took his departure, and returning to the French camp, strongly advised the commander not to hazard a battle; but his counsel was overruled by a young standard-bearer, who, significantly observing, "Wolves make not war on wolves," so offended the old sea-king, that he quitted the army that night, and never again appeared in France. The wisdom of his advice was the next morning made evident, by the total defeat of the French, and the advance of the Northmen, who in a short space after appeared beneath the walls of Paris.
Failing in their attempt to take the city, they returned to Rouen, where they fortified themselves, making it the capital of the territory they had conquered.
Fifteen years passed away, the summers of which were spent in ravaging the dominions of Charles the Simple, and the winters in the city of Rouen, and in the meantime a change had come over their leader. He had been insensibly softened and civilized by his intercourse with the good Archbishop Franco; and finding, perhaps, that it was not quite so easy as he had expected to conquer the whole kingdom of France, he declared himself willing to follow the example which he had once despised, and to become a vassal of the French crown for the duchy of Neustria.
Charles, greatly rejoiced to find himself thus able to put a stop to the dreadful devastations of the Northmen, readily agreed to the terms proposed by Rollo, appointing the village of St. Clair-sur-Epte, on the borders of Neustria, as the place of meeting for the purpose of receiving his homage and oath of fealty. It was a strange meeting which there took place between the degenerate and almost imbecile descendant of the great Charles, with his array of courtly followers and his splendor and luxury, and the gigantic warrior of the North, the founder of a line of kings, in all the vigor of the uncivilized native of a cold climate, and the unbending pride of a conqueror, surrounded by his tall warriors, over whom his chieftainship had hitherto depended only on their own consent, gained by his acknowledged superiority in wisdom in council and prowess in battle.
The greatest difficulty to be overcome in this conference, was the repugnance felt by the proud Northman to perform the customary act of homage before any living man, especially one whom he held so cheap as Charles the Simple. He consented, indeed, to swear allegiance, and declare himself the "King's man," with his hands clasped between those of Charles; but the remaining part of the ceremony, the kneeling to kiss the foot of his liege lord, he absolutely refused, and was with difficulty persuaded to permit one of his followers to perform it in his name. The proxy, as proud as his master, instead of kneeling, took the King's foot in his hand, and lifted it to his mouth, while he stood upright, thus overturning both monarch and throne, amid the rude laughter of his companions, while the miserable Charles and his courtiers felt such a dread of these new vassals that they did not dare to resent the insult.
On his return to Rouen, Rollo was baptized, and, on leaving the cathedral, celebrated his conversion by large grants to the different churches and convents in his new duchy, making a fresh gift on each of the days during which he wore the white robes of the newly baptized. All of his warriors who chose to follow his example, and embrace the Christian faith, received from him grants of land, to be held of him on the same terms as those by which he held the dukedom from the King; and the country, thus peopled by the Northmen, gradually assumed the appellation of Normandy.
Applying themselves with all the ardor of their temper to their new way of life, the Northmen quickly adopted the manners, language, and habits which were recommended to them as connected with the holy faith which they had just embraced, but without losing their own bold and vigorous spirit. Soon the gallant and accomplished Norman knight could scarcely have been recognized as the savage sea-robber, once too ferocious and turbulent even for his own wild country in the far North, while, at the same time, he bore as little resemblance to the cruel and voluptuous French noble, at once violent and indolent. The new war-cry of Dieu aide was as triumphant as that of Thor Hulfe had been of old, and the Red Cross led to as many victories as the Raven standard.
It is said that the word "Exchequer" is derived from the court of justice established by Rollo, so called from the word "Schicken" signifying, in his native tongue, to send, because from it judges were sent to try causes throughout the dukedom. It is also said that the appeal from them to the Duke himself, made in these terms, "J'appelle a Rou," is the origin of the cry "Haro" by which, for centuries after his descendants had passed away from Normandy, the injured always called for justice. This was for many centuries believed in Normandy, but in fact the word Haro is only the same as our own "hurrah," the beginning of a shout. There is no doubt, however, that the keen, unsophisticated vigor of Rollo, directed by his new religion, did great good in Normandy, and that his justice was sharp, his discipline impartial, so that of him is told the famous old story bestowed upon other just princes, that a gold bracelet was left for three years untouched upon a tree in a forest.
He had been married, as part of the treaty, to Gisèle, daughter of King Charles the Simple, but he was an old grizzly warrior, and neither cared for the other. A wife whom he had long before taken from Vermandois had borne him a son, named William, to whom he left his dukedom in 932.
All this history of Rolf, or Rollo, is, however, very doubtful; and nothing can be considered as absolutely established but that Neustria, or Normandy, was by him and his Northmen settled under a grant from the Frank king, Charles the Simple, and the French duke, Robert, Count of Paris.CAMEO II. WILLIAM LONGSWORD AND RICHARD THE FEARLESS. (932-996.)
Kings of England. 927. Athelstan. 940. Edmund I. 947. Edwy. 959. Edward. 959. Ethelred II.Kings of France. 936. Louis IV. 954. Lothaire III. 986. Louis V. 987 Hugh Capet.Emperors of Germany. 936. Otho I. 973. Otho II. 983. Otho III. The Norman character was strongly marked. Their whole nature was strong and keen, full of energy, and with none of the sluggish dulness that was always growing over the faculties of the Frank and Saxon; and even to this day the same energy prevails among their descendants, a certain portion of the English nobility, and the population of Normandy and of Yorkshire.
There was a deep sense of religion, always showing itself in action, though not always consistently, and therewith a grand sense of honor and generosity, coupled, however, with a curious shrewd astuteness. The high-minded Norman was the flower of chivalry and honor, the low-minded Norman the most successful of villains—and there has often been a curious compound of both elements in the character of some of the most distinguished Normans whom history has to show.
Old Rollo caused his only son to be highly educated, and William of the Long Sword grew up a prince to be proud of. His height was majestic, his features beautiful, his complexion as pure and delicate as a maiden's, his strength gigantic, his prowess with all the weapons on foot and on horseback unrivalled, and his wit and capacity of the brightest and most powerful. Born since his father's arrival in France, the tales of Thor and Odin, the old giants, and the future Valhalla, wore things of the dark old past to him, and he threw himself with his whole heart into the new faith. So intensely devout was he, so fond of prayer and of the rites of the Church, that Rollo called him fitter for a cloister than a dukedom; but the choice was not open to him, an only son, with the welfare of the Normans dependent on him; and while living in the world, his saintly aspirations did not preserve him from a self-indulgent life at home, or from unjust dealing abroad. But he had many fits of devotion. Once when hunting on the banks of the Seine, he came on the ruins of the Abbey of Jumièges; which had, many years before, been destroyed by Hasting. Two old monks, who still survived, came forth to meet him, told him their history, and invited him to partake of some of their best fare. It was coarse barley bread, and the young duke, turning from it in disgust, carelessly bestowed a rich alms upon them, and eagerly pursued his sport. He had not ridden far before he roused a huge wild boar, and, in the encounter with it, he broke his sword, was thrown from his horse, and so severely injured, that his servants, on coming up, found him stretched insensible upon the ground. Believing this accident to be the just punishment of Heaven for his contempt for the old brethren, William, as soon as he recovered his senses, desired to be carried to Jumièges, and there humbly confessed his sinful feelings, and entreated their pardon.
His first care, when his health was re-established, was for the restoration of Jumièges, which he built with great splendor, and often visited. His chief desire was to enter the abbey as a brother of the order, but his wish was opposed by the excellent Abbot Martin, who pointed out to him that he ought not to desert the station to which he had been called by Heaven, nor quit the government till his son was old enough to take the charge upon himself, and at the same time encouraged him by the example of many a saint, whose heavenward road had lain through the toils and cares of a secular life.
William yielded to the arguments of the good father, but his heart was still in the peaceful abbey, and he practised in secret the devotions and austerities of the cloister to the utmost of his power, longing earnestly for the time when he might lay aside the weary load of cares of war and of government, and retire to that holy brotherhood.
In Normandy, his strict, keen justice made him greatly honored and loved, but the French greatly hated and abhorred him, and his transactions with them were sometimes cunning, sometimes violent. He had much of the old Northman about him, and had not entered into the Church's teachings of the sanctity of marriage. Like his father, he had had a half-acknowledged wife, Espriota, who was the mother of his only child, Richard, but he put her away in order to ally himself with one of the great French families, and he had his child brought up at Bayeux, among Norse-speaking nobles, as if he would rather see him a Norseman than a, French prince.
The bold and devout but inconsistent William was the dread of all his neighbors, and especially of Arnulf, Count of Flanders. William was in alliance with Herluin, Count of Montreuil, against Arnulf; when, in 942, he was invited to a conference on a small island in the Somme, and there, having contrived to separate him from his followers, at a given signal one of the Flemings struck him down with an oar, and a number of daggers were instantly plunged into his breast.
The Flemings made their escape in safety, leaving the bleeding corpse upon the island, where the Normans, who had seen the murder, without being able to prevent or revenge it, reverently took it up, and brought it back to Rouen. Beneath the robes of state they found it dressed in a hair-cloth shirt, and round the neck was a chain sustaining a golden key, which was rightly judged to belong to the chest where he kept his choicest treasure; but few would have guessed what was the treasure so valued by the knightly duke of the martial name, and doubtless there were many looks of wonder among the Norman barons, when the chest was opened, and disclosed, instead of gold and jewels, the gown and hood, the sandals and rosary, of a brother of the Benedictine order.
He was buried beside his father, in the cathedral of Rouen, amid the universal lamentations of his vassals; and his greatest friend and counsellor, Bernard the Dane, Count of Harcourt, fetched from Bayeux his only child, Richard, only eight years old, to be solemnly invested with the ducal sword and mantle, and to receive the homage of the Normans. [Footnote: This is the Norman legend. The French Chronicles point to Norman treachery.] The bitter hatred of the French to the Normans could not but break out in the minority.
To the surprise of the Normans, Louis IV., king of France, suddenly arrived at Rouen, to claim, as he said, the homage of his young vassal. On the following day, Richard did not, as usual, appear beyond the walls of the castle, and there were rumors that he was detained there by order of the king. Assembling in great numbers, the Rouennais came before the castle, shouting loudly for "Richard! Richard! our little Duke!" nor could they be pacified till Louis appeared at the window, lifting young Richard in his arms, and made them a speech upon the gratitude and admiration which he pretended to feel for Duke William, to whom he said he owed his restoration to the throne of his fathers, and whose son he promised to regard as his own child.
On leaving Rouen, Louis claimed the right of taking Richard with him, as the guardian of all crown vassals in their minority; and Bernard de Harcourt, finding it impossible to resist, only stipulated that the young Duke should never be separated from his Norman esquire, Osmond de Centeville, who on his side promised to keep a careful watch over him. Richard was accordingly conducted to Montleon, and made the companion of the two young princes, Lothaire and Carloman, and for some time no more was heard respecting him in Normandy. At last arrived a message from Osmond de Centeville, sent in secret with considerable difficulty, telling the Normans to pray that their young duke might be delivered out of the hands of his enemies, for that he was convinced that evil was intended, since he was closely watched; and one day when he had gone down to the river to bathe, the queen had threatened him with cruel punishments if he again left the place. Bernard immediately ordered a three days' fast, during which prayers for the safety of the little duke were offered in every church in Normandy, and further tidings were anxiously awaited.
In the meantime the faithful squire was devising a plan of escape. He caused the young Richard to feign illness, and thus obtained a slight relaxation of the vigilance with which his movements, were watched, which enabled him to carry to the duke's apartments a great bundle of hay. At nightfall he rolled Richard up in the midst of it, and laying it across his shoulders, he crossed the castle court to the stable, as if he was going to feed his horse, and as soon as it was dark he mounted, placing the boy before him, and galloped off to a castle on the borders of Normandy, where the rescued prince was greeted with the greatest joy.
The escape of his ward was followed by an open declaration of war on the part of Louis IV., upon which the Count de Harcourt sent to Denmark to ask succor from King Harald Blue-tooth, who, mindful of Duke William's kindness, himself led a numerous force to Normandy. Bernard, pretending to consider this as a piratical invasion, sent to ask Louis to assist him in expelling the heathens. Louis entered Normandy, and came in sight of the Danish host on the banks of the river Dives, where Harald summoned him to leave the dukedom to its rightful owner. Louis desired a conference, and a tent was pitched between the armies, where the two kings met.
Bernard advised the King of France not to bring Herluin de Montreuil to this meeting, since the Normans considered him as the occasion of their duke's death; but the French replied that no Dane should hinder their king from taking with him whomsoever he pleased. While the two kings were in the tent, Herluin, seeing a knight from the Cotentin, with whom he was acquainted, went up to him and inquired after his health.
The Danes asked who he was, and the knight replied, "Count Herluin, who caused Duke William's death;" whereupon the wild Danes rushed upon him, and killed him with their battle-axes.
A general conflict ensued; the French were put to flight, and by the time the kings came out of the tent, the battle was decided. Louis mounted his horse in order to rejoin his troops, but the animal ran with him into the midst of the enemy, where Harald caught his bridle, made him prisoner, and delivered him to four knights to keep. While, however, they were engaged in plundering, he made his escape, and had ridden four leagues when he met a soldier of Rouen, whom he bribed to hide him in an island in the Seine, until he could find a fit opportunity of quitting Normandy. Harald and Bernard, however, by making strict inquiries, discovered that the soldier knew where he was, and seizing the man's wife and children, threatened to put them to death if he did not put the king into their hands. Louis was accordingly delivered to them, but they shortly after released him on receiving his two sons as hostages.
The younger of the two princes died shortly after his arrival in Normandy; and anxiety for Lothaire, the remaining son, induced his father to come to terms with the Normans; and, at St. Clair-sur-Epte, Louis swore to leave Richard in undisturbed possession of his lands, and to extend the limits of the duchy as far as the banks of the Epte, after which the young duke paid him homage, and restored his son to him.
Richard then returned to Rouen, which he had not visited since he had been carried to the French court, and was greeted with great joy by the citizens, who were much delighted by his appearance, the height of his figure, and the beauty of his countenance. The King of Denmark was also received by them with great enthusiasm, who, after spending some time at Rouen, returned home.
At the age of fourteen, Richard was betrothed to Emma, daughter of Hugh the White, Count of Paris, a nobleman whose increasing power had long been a subject of jealousy both to the court of Flanders and to the King of France. On hearing of the intended connection between these two mighty vassals, they united their forces to prevent it, and called in the aid of Otho, Emperor of Germany, and Conrad, King of Burgundy.
While Louis and Conrad attacked the Count, Otho and Arnulf entered Normandy, and laid siege to Rouen, but on the way thither were attacked by an ambuscade under the command of the young Richard himself, who now for the first time bore arms, and greatly signalized himself, putting the Germans to flight, and killing the Emperor's nephew with his own hand.
Otho still advanced and invested Rouen. Wishing to know what resources the city contained, he sent to ask Richard's permission to enter it, in order to pay his devotions at the shrine of St. Ouen. His request was granted, and in passing through the streets he perceived that the city was so well defended that he could not hope to take it. On his return to the camp, he told his council that he intended to make his peace with the Duke of Normandy, by delivering up to him the Count of Flanders, the author of the expedition. His council, however, persuaded him that this would be a disgraceful action; and Arnulf, receiving some hint of his proposal, in the middle of the night quitted the camp with all his men, and returned to Flanders. The noise of his departure awoke the Germans, who, imagining themselves to be attacked by the besieged, armed themselves in haste, and there was great confusion till morning, when, perceiving The departure of the Flemings, they set fire to their camp, and took the road to Germany. The Normans, sallying out of the town, harassed the rear, killed a number of them, and took many prisoners, and a great quantity of baggage.
In 954, Louis was killed by a fall from his horse, and was succeeded by his son Lothaire, who inherited all his dislike to the Normans, and especially hated the young duke, the companion of his boyhood, whose fame had so far exceeded his own, both in feats of arms and skill in government, and who, though only twenty-three, had been chosen by the wise and great Count of Paris as the guardian of his children, and the model on which his sons were to form themselves.
Twice did Lothaire, in conjunction with Count Thibaut de Chartres, a young nobleman who envied the fame of Richard, attempt to assassinate him at a conference; and the former, despairing of ridding himself of him by treachery, assembled an army of fifty thousand men, entered Normandy, and besieged Rouen. Here Richard, in a sudden night-attack on his camp, dispersed his forces, and took a great number of prisoners, all of whom he released without a ransom. Then, pursuing his advantage, he entered the county of Chartres, but he was obliged to return to his duchy, to defend it against a powerful league of all the neighboring princes, formed by the king.
Fearing to be crushed by so mighty a force, he sent to ask succor from his old friend, the king of Denmark, who, though too aged and infirm to come himself to Normandy, equipped a numerous fleet, and sent his best warriors to Richard.
The ravages which they committed compelled the king to send the Bishop of Chartres to sue for peace, but he would not venture into the camp without an escort from the duke, lest, as he said, "the Danish wolves should devour him on the way."
On his arrival, he implored Richard to have compassion on the French, who suffered dreadful miseries from the Danes; and the duke, always desirous of peace, willingly engaged to treat with the king, and withdrew his forces into Normandy, to the great disappointment of the Danes, who had expected to dethrone Lothaire, and to place the gallant Richard on his throne. They were much surprised at the moderation of the demands which he, a conqueror, made to the humiliated Lothaire, only desiring to be left in quiet possession of his inheritance, and that a pardon should be granted for all injuries committed on either side during the war.
Lothaire gladly agreed to these terms, and the remainder of Richard's life was spent in peace. Such of the latter's subjects as had been trained to arms in the constant wars during his minority, found employment in combats with the Greeks and Saracens in Italy, where the twelve sons of a Norman knight, named Tancred de Hauteville, laid the foundation of the kingdoms of the Two Sicilies. Their place was supplied by the Danish allies, who, full of admiration for the Fearless Duke, were desirous of embracing his religion, and living under his government. Thibaut de Chartres came to Normandy to implore his pardon, and was received with such kindness that he was overcome with shame at his former conduct.
Richard was a stern but honorable man, and the courage and ability which he displayed throughout these wars made a great impression on his Danish allies, who were induced, in great numbers, to adopt the religion of the Fearless Duke, and to live under his government.
How the truly great man takes his revenge, was indeed shown by Richard the Fearless, the last time he took any part in the affairs of the nation. It was when Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, once his ward, had been raised to the throne of France by the authority of the Pope, and having received the homage of every crown vassal excepting Arnulf of Flanders, proceeded to ravage his county and seize his towns. Arnulf, completely reduced, saw no hope for himself except in throwing himself on the mercy of Duke Richard, the very man whose father he had murdered, and whom he had pursued with the most unrelenting hatred from his earliest childhood. Richard had but to allow royal justice to take its course, and he would have been fully avenged; but he who daily knelt before the altar of the Church of Fescamp, had learnt far other lessons. He went to Hugh Capet, and so pleaded with him, that he not only obtained the pardon of Arnulf, but the restoration of the whole of his county, and of both his cities. Thus, without doubt, would the saintly William Longsword have desired to be revenged by his only son.
Richard Sans Peur lived nine years after this, spending his time, for the most part, in the Abbey of Fescamp, in devotion and works of charity, and leaving the government to his eldest son, Richard the Good. He is thus described by a Norman chronicler who knew him well in his old age: "He was tall and well-proportioned, his countenance was noble, his beard was long, and his head covered with white hair. He was a pious benefactor to the monks, supplied the wants of the clergy, despised the proud, loved the humble, aided the poor, the widow and the orphan, and delighted in ransoming prisoners."
He caused a stone coffin to be made for himself in his lifetime, and placed in the Church of Fescamp, where, every Friday, he filled it with wheat, which was afterwards distributed among the poor. In this Abbey he died in 996, desiring to be buried outside the church, close beneath the eaves, "where," said he, "the droppings of water from the roof may fall on me, and wear away the stains of earthly corruption."
His daughter Emma is often mentioned in English history as the wife of Ethelred the Unready, and afterward of Knut. She has often been much blamed for this second marriage with the enemy of her country, but it should be remembered how nearly the Northmen and Danes were connected, and that Knut was the grandson of her father's ally, Harald Blue-tooth.
The great event of Richard's time was the above-mentioned recognition of Hugh Capet as King of France. The Caroline race were Franks, chiefly German in blood, and had never fully amalgamated with the race called French, a mixture of Roman and Gallic, with only an upper stratum of the true Frank. When the Counts of Paris obtained the throne, and the line of Charlemagne retired into the little German county of Lotharingia, or Lorraine, then France became really France, and a nation with a national sovereign. Still it was a very small domain. Provence was part of the German Empire, so was Burgundy; Anjou, Normandy, and Brittany were almost independent, though owning a sort of allegiance to the king who reigned at Paris.
Kings of England. 1016. Knut. 1036. Harold I. 1039. Harthaknut. 1041. Edward the Confessor.Kings of France. 1031. Henry IV. 1039. Philip I.Emperors of Germany. 1021. Conrad II. 1039. Henry III. 1055. Henry IV. Richard, called the Good, son of Richard Sans Peur, does not seem to have been in all respects equal to his father, nor did much that is worthy of note occur in his time.
He died in 1026, leaving two sons, Richard and Robert, both violent and turbulent young men, the younger of whom was called, from his fiery temper, Robert the Devil. After a fierce dispute respecting Robert's appanage, the two brothers were suddenly reconciled, and, immediately afterward, Richard died, not without suspicion, on the part of the French, that he had been poisoned by his brother.
The Normans gave little heed to the calumny, and, in fact, the open, generous temper of Robert was by no means likely to belong to a secret murderer. The splendor of his court, and munificence of his gifts, acquired for him the name of Robert the Magnificent, and the following, among other instances, is recorded of his liberality:
When attending mass at the Abbey of Cerizy, his own foundation, he one day remarked a stranger knight, when asked for his alms at the offertory, reply sadly, that he had nothing to give. He beckoned to a squire, and sent him to present the poor stranger with a purse containing a hundred pounds, which the knight immediately offered on the altar. After the mass was over, the sacristan came to ask him if he knew bow large the sum was, or if he had given it by mistake, to which he replied, that he had offered it wittingly, since it was for no other end that the Duke had sent it to him. His answer was reported by the sacristan to the Duke, who instantly sent the high-minded stranger a second purse, containing the same sum for his own use.
Robert founded nine monasteries, and made large gifts to all the churches in his duchy, entreating the prayers of the clergy and of the poor, for the pardon of the sins of his youth; but his conscience was ill at ease, and in the sixth year of his dukedom he resolved to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a journey which was then even more perilous than in subsequent years, when the Crusades had, in some degree, secured the safety of the pilgrims, and he seems to have been fully persuaded that he should never return alive.
His chief care was for the welfare of his son, William, a boy of seven years old, whose situation was the more precarious, because there was a stain on his birth, his mother being the daughter of a tanner of Falaise, so that it was more than probable that his right to the succession would be disputed by the numerous descendants of Richard Sans Peur. Robert did his best to secure his safety by calling together the vassals to do homage to him, and placing him under the especial protection of Henry I. of France, at whose court at Paris he left him.
Robert then set out on his pilgrimage, with a few companions, all wearing the coarse garb of pilgrims, with staves in their hands, and their feet bare. As they were passing the gates of a small town in Franche Comté, Robert walking last, an insolent warder, tired of holding the gate open, struck him such a blow on the shoulders with a halbert that he reeled under it, but so changed was his once violent temper, that, seeing his friends about to revenge the insult, he called out, "Let him alone; pilgrims ought to suffer for the love of God. I love his blow better than my city of Rouen."
The next time Robert was heard of, was in humble guise, with staff and wallet, when he received the blessing of the Pope at Rome; but afterward, when he entered Constantinople, he appeared in all his wonted magnificence. He rode to the palace of the Greek Emperor on a mule, shod with golden shoes, so slightly fastened on as to be shaken off amongst the crowds who surrounded him.
He travelled onward through Asia Minor, though attacked by a fever, which obliged him to be carried in a litter by Moorish slaves—as he himself expressed it to a Norman pilgrim whom he met returning, "to be carried by devils to Paradise." Safely arriving at Jerusalem, he there paid the entrance-money for a multitude of poor pilgrims, whom he found shut out because they were unable to pay the large toll demanded by the Saracens; and after performing the accustomed devotions at the different consecrated spots in the Holy City, he set out on his return to Normandy. His health was already impaired by the fatigues of the journey, and he died at the city of Nicaea, in the year 1035. There, in the now profaned sanctuary, where was held the first general Council of the Church, rests, in his nameless and forgotten grave, the last of the high-spirited and devout Dukes of Normandy.
From the time of the departure of Duke Robert, dangers crowded round the ducal throne of his child; nor were they, as in the stormy minority of Richard Sans Peur, perils chiefly from enemies without, met by a band of vassals, strong in attachment to their lord. The foes who threatened the young William were of his own family, and his own subjects, and there was none of that generous temper, even amongst his chief supporters, which, in the case of his great-grandfather, had made the scenes of war and bloodshed in which he was brought up, a school not of valor alone, but of the higher virtues of chivalry.
The Norman barons, greatly altered from what they had been in the days when the justice of Rollo prevailed, lived shut up in their strong castles, making war on each other, like independent princes plundering the poor, and committing horrible cruelties, entirely unrestrained by the guardians of the Duke. These, indeed, seemed to be the especial mark for the attacks of the traitors, for his tutor and seneschal were both murdered; the latter, Osborn, Count de Breteuil, while sleeping in the same room with him. Osborn left a son, William, called from his name Fils, or Fitz Osborn, who grew up with the young Duke, and became his chief companion and friend.
It is wonderful that William himself should have escaped death, when so completely unprotected; but he was preserved through all these dangers for the task which was prepared for him; and at a very early age, his numerous troubles had formed his character in the mould fittest for him, who was to be the scourge of England, and yet the founder of its greatness.
He was not sixteen when he first showed of what temper he was. His great-uncle, the Count d'Arques, had set up a claim to the duchy, and was besieged in his castle at Arques by Walter Gifford, Count de Longueville, when the King of France succeeded in sending him such considerable reinforcements and supplies, that Longueville sent information that he should be obliged to raise the siege. The tidings reached the Duke, at his hunting-lodge of Valognes. He stood for a few moments in deep thought, and then called for his horse, only saying to his knights these few words, "Qui m'aime, me suive!" "Let him who loves me, follow me!" and rode off at full speed. He distanced all his followers, rode all night, only stopping to take a fresh horse, and in the evening of the next day arrived quite alone at the camp before Arques, swearing never to leave it till the castle was in his hands. The siege was continued with vigor, and, in a short time, it was surrendered, the Count taking refuge in France.
From this time William took the direction of affairs into his own hands, and, by his firmness and ability, succeeded in restraining the excesses of his lawless vassals, though their turbulence, and the severity of his own silent and haughty disposition, made their submission very unwilling. When he was about twenty, a dangerous conspiracy was formed against him by his cousin, Guy of Burgundy, and a number of his chief vassals, who intended to seize him at his hunting-lodge at Valognes, put him to death, and raise Guy to the dukedom.