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THE PROEM TO BOOK IX
ATURE, says Pliny, appears to have created everything for the sake of Man. Thus indeed it is: whatever in this mortal life can be possessed belongs to Man. Nor does matter what sort of men they are, good or bad, highest or lowest, all own everything promiscuously. And yet individual men do not own everything, even if in all men the greed for possession is so great that each one would want to possess everything, were that possible. Hence great contention has arisen among mortals, so that each person very avidly strives to gain more. And, to omit the rest, there is a particularly great lust for rule in all men, nor do they pay any heed to the manner in which they obtain their wish. Hence Caesar, appropriating a line by Euripides, used to say, “If the law must be broken, let it be broken for the sake of gaining power. You should cultivate piety in other matters.” And so it has come about that empires and great kingdoms have always been exposed as prey, obtained by ignoble men or noble, by good means or bad. All of this is too well understood to require explanation here, and so I shall spare myself the labor of stating it in detail. It is the height of folly to say or believe that kingdoms and empires necessarily come only to those who can boast of their nobility, since daily we see upstarts endowed not only with virtue, but often with a goodly number of vices, elevated to great honors and government. Thus it pleases God that we set no higher value on our goods, for we perceive that they are common to all and do not endure for any man. The kingdom of the Britons, too, was liable to this lot of human mutability, because the Romans, as has been shown, first acquired it by arms and long possessed it. Next the English invaded and in the end gained its ownership, the British people all but being destroyed along with its name. In this manner the English kingdom was formidable to all men, but then gradually this fatal alteration of ownership befell it. Furthermore, not long after it was brought beneath the Dacian yoke. When this was cast off after twenty-five years, it returned to its former condition. And yet it was not permitted to rest, for after it flourished for a while, excellently equipped in its manners and laws, behold, suddenly it once more encountered the cruel necessity of the human condition, and fell into the power of the Normans. As soon as this fierce race, being of Dacian origin, gained this great kingdom, it sought to destroy its excellent manners, its most holy laws, to overturn things divine and human, and to destroy the very race of the English. And yet this power seemed milder and less hateful in this way, that what it took away from the kingdom in respect to these things, it gave back by increasing and retaining its empire. And hence in the end, the Norman name being forgotten, the English state began to revive and was given back to itself. Now (if it be granted me so to do) I must explain this sequence of events down to our own time, in which Henry VIII rules, having obtained peace by land and sea. And I must start by advising the reader that henceforth I shall accommodating the number of my Books to the lives of individual kings, making my beginning with William the Norman, who, being a conqueror, reconstructed the English kingdom as he saw fit. Now let me turn to the sequel.
FTER that battle, made memorable by the death of Harald, and after having captured and ransacked his camp, William promptly headed for London. Meanwhile Earls Edwin and Morcat, zealously exercising their authority to save their nation, appealed to the people to create as their king the young Edgar, the remaining representative of the royal line, of whom I have made abundant mention in the preceding Book. Although a large part inclined towards this measure, yet while they were moved by a variety of impulses, all men first debated about submitting to some honorable peace. Then, stricken with fear, they received the arriving Norman in the city and, giving hostages, begged him for peace. At that point William, speaking gently and kindly and at the same time making lavish promises, was proclaimed king by all men, although not all of them celebrated the festive day with equal enthusiasm. And soon, on December 25, 1066, he was crowned by Aldred Archbishop of York, having refused to accept this honor at the hands of Stigand of Canterbury, a rascal. Then he required that the bishops and leading men of the people, who had sworn their fealty to him, give hostages, and encouraged them to have high hopes, for he professed they would continue to enjoy the same rights of speech and action. This, as it appeared at the time, was indubitable evidence of his probity. Finally, with marvelous energy he devoted himself to fortifying all places, garrisoning them, and protecting the seaboard with his fleet. Likewise he established a Privy Council for which he chose those of his nobles who surpassed the others in prudence, and to which all matters would be referred in his absence. Having achieved these things and assembled an army, he returned to Normandy with the hostages, leaving as governor of the whole realm Odo Bishop of Bayeux, a man of sage intellect, his half-brother by his mother. For after Duke Robert’s death she had borne to her second husband, an obscure fellow, two sons, Odo and Robert. The reason for his return was that he knew that henceforth he would be wholly devoted to the task of settling the state of England, and desired first to settle his Norman affairs so that he could not be easily recalled. William entered Normandy as if he were celebrating a triumph. Staying but a little while, after he arranged things to his liking, he straightway returned to England. At this point he began to lord it harshly over the English, thinking that thus he could more easily hold them to their allegiance. Therefore on trifling pretexts he stripped the goods and honors from a number of nobles and private citizens and bestowed them on Normans. He daily imposed new taxes, and treated English nobility as no-accounts, so much so that he appeared to be working the destruction of all Englishmen. When the English lords, unjustly deprived of their fortunes, appreciated this, they were moved by anger and the indignity of the thing and began to flee in all directions: some hastened to Dacia, others to Norway. Earls Edwin and Morcat betook themselves to Scotland. And there too were driven by a storm Edgar, together with his mother Agatha and sisters Christina and Margaret, while they were sailing to Hungary, where he had been born. Thus it came about that he formed a bond of kinship with Malcolm III King of Scots, who married his sister Margaret. By her he fathered eight sons, of whom three, Edgar, Alexander and David, reigned after him. And his other sister, Christina, a virgin who hated the idea of marriage, became a nun. And so the Scots king, grieving for Edgar’s misfortune, since he had been cheated of his ancestral throne, gladly received English refugees, partly to bestow a favor on this young man, and partly to that he might show himself thankful for the favors he had received. For while the tyrant Maccabaeus reigned (him I have mentioned in Book VI) and had murdered his father Malcolm, he fled to England, where he was received most kindly by King Edward and stayed for fifteen years. But at length, equally supported by the Scots nobility and Edward’s assistance, he returned to his homeland, won a notable victory over Maccabaeus in battle, and killed him. And so, having gained his ancestral throne, there was no gesture of duty towards the English which he did not freely perform.
2. Meanwhile William, perceiving that the English were tolerating his rule only grudgingly, and hence fearing an uprising, devoted great energy to very energetically built four castles in different places: one at Nottingham next to the river Trent, another at Lincoln, a third at York, and a fourth hard by the village of Hastings, where he had landed when he first came to England. By thus fortifying these places, very handy for his enemies, he hoped to deter all men from rebellion. Likewise, so that he might tame the people’s ferocity, he disarmed everybody and passed an edict that every head of household should bank his fire and go to bed by about eight o’clock in the evening, and he enjoined that in every village a signal be given for this by church bells, a custom which is observed even nowadays, and by the Normans was called coverfeu. Meanwhile the strong town of Oxford and Yorkshire, together with Northumbria, were troubled by fresh uprisings. Learning this, William chose Robert, one of the captains of his army, a vigorous man but incautious, and sent him ahead to Northumbria with part of the army, while he with the remainder hastened to set siege to Oxford. When the townsmen discovered the king was coming, they retired within their fortifications and prepared to defend their walls, but when they saw that their enemies had already surrounded the town, had readied a goodly number of ladders, fascines, and grappling hooks, and intended to attack it, they were suddenly overcome by panic, threw down their arms, abandoned their fortifications, and out of necessity surrendered, begging for mercy. This thing accomplished most successfully and speedily, William, trusting in victory, hastened on to York. Meanwhile the Northumbrians, informed by scouts that Robert was unconcernedly keeping himself within his camp without any lookouts or guard, stormed the camp at night and, killing the general and many others, gained it effortlessly. Learning of this, Edgar, who with his light horsemen had been roaming about, eager for a rebellion, came up straightway and attacked the straggling Normans, killing them cruelly in no small numbers. Afterward he lingered briefly at York, then returned to Scotland as quickly as he had come. At the same time, the king learned what had been done while he was on the march, the rumor having spread abroad, and, angry and hot for revenge, he first went flying into Northumbria. After a swift defeat of his enemies, he put to death those responsible for the rebellion. And either made captives of the rest who had borne arms or lopped off their noses and hands, to attest how he punished his enemies. Then he went to York and, having inflicted the same punishment on Edgar’s supporters, returned to London.
3. While these things were transpiring on the island, the Englishmen who had fled to Dacia did not cease urging King Canute IV to take up arms against the Normans, or from finding new reasons for war, saying over and over that the kingdom of England belonged to the Dacians, from which at all times they had gained the greatest access of honor and advantage, and that therefore they should not tolerate it being unjustly obtained by an upstart. This was especially so at an opportune time, when the Normans were do far from reconciling to themselves the minds of the English and their neighbors by any act of kindness, that, hated by one and all, they now played the tyrant. And this was no time for hesitation or shrinking back, because the hope of victory had now been revealed them, if only they would act first to seize the proper places. Canute, moved by these arguments, decided to declare war. I am not unaware, since I have found it written in English annals, that some way this enterprise against the Normans was not the doing of Canute, but rather that, at his urging, it was done by his brother Harald, his predecessor on the throne. But Saxo Grammaticus does not affirm this, nor is it likely, since Harald was a very idle man and lived for scarce two years after having been made king, so that it is beyond doubt that he neither dared undertake so great a war, nor had the time to do it. Now let me return to my design. And so soon thereafter, when a fleet of about 200 ships had been readied, Canute and the English exiles arrived with a great army on the east coast of the island, entered the mouth of the river Humber, and landed. From here they marched in the direction of York, laying everything waste with steel and fire. And all the English exiles in Scotland promptly joined them, under the leadership of Edward. When rumor of this reached the townsmen, they were affected with considerable fear, so much so that Archbishop Aldred, among others, died of grief. Meanwhile when the Normans left to garrison town learned by scouts that the enemies were scarce two days away and that they themselves were greater in number, they formed the plan of firing the suburbs so that the Dacians could not use them, while they kept themselves within the city. Therefore they set their fires, but a wind suddenly came up and carried the errant flames so far and wide that many sparks fell inside the walls, creating a larger conflagration within the city than without, which consumed nearly all its buildings, including the church of St. Peter. And so all the garrison and citizens were compelled to leave the city, and while they fled they encountered their approaching enemies. There the Normans (as happens when a sudden catastrophe brings despair of safety) fought bitterly for a while. But when they saw they were being beset on all sides by missiles, then they remembered their courage and individually burst on their enemy like so many madmen. But many were wounded and they fell everywhere, achieving nothing more than gaining an honorable death. About three thousand Normans were slain, and fewer English, because they were rescued by the Dacians or purchased their lives for gold. This thing done most excellently, Canute quickly turned his march towards the Northumbrians, who voluntarily submitted. And so did others, fearing enemy raids. Now the entire north country obeyed the Dacians. And they were going to attack London any day when a great storm fell, which also kept William from going against the enemy immediately, although he had heard of the defeat and was burning with rage. But not many days later, when the weather had cleared, he hastened to Yorkshire by forced marches, and encamped by the river Trent, which flows into the Humber. Here, when he heard that the camp of the Dacians who had come to confront him was near at hand, defended by great works and also by its natural location, and when he saw his men were wearied by the march, he declined to provoke the enemy to a battle but, leaving no great interval between them, encamped not far from the enemy. And on the following day he ventured forth and came to blows with the Dacians, who were already drawn up for battle. The battle was joined bitterly, and now they had long fought on equal terms when the the Norman horsemen on the left wing gradually began to provoke a rout, as men fled either to Scotland or to the ships so they might save their skins. As soon as the rest saw this, they were panic-stricken and also took to their heels. And Canute, standing in the forefront and surrounded by his own men, got back to his ships, albeit with difficulty. Edgar together with a few followers escaped to Scotland at a gallop. Some write that the Dacians departed, laden down with booty, before William arrived, a view I am scarcely minded to accept. For it would be extreme folly to imagine that the Dacians, who had come to fight the Normans with such an array, who were striving to regain their kingdom, and who had gained a victory at the first encounter, would be content only with plunder and slip away like so many bandits, nor wish to try the fortune of war. Having gained the victory, after very severely punishing all those responsible for the uprising he was able to catch, William so devastated Northumbria and all of Yorkshire that extendes from York to Durham that for the next entire decade the region lay barren, so that nothing would escape unharmed from such a foul contagion. A certain royal soldier, charged with the duty of inflicting this devastation, protected the landholdings of the monastery of Beverley from such ill treatment, being frightened by a miracle. For he had suddenly fallen off his horse, broken his neck and died, his face horribly disfigured. This was the year of salvation 1069, the third of William’s reign.
4. This work finished, the king went back to London, ill-disposed towards all men, and feeling especially against the English nobility. His heart, furthermore, began to be filled with a larger measure of rage because of the new uprisings of this kind that occurred daily and the very frequent rebellions of the English. So it came about that he put no more trust in the good affections of the citizenry, but calculated that he needed to employ fear to protect the kingdom. And so that he might instill this in more men, he started to banish and fine men who not only lay under no suspicion, but men from whom he could hope for nothing other than plunder. Thus the poor English were punished without standing their trials, the cruelest thing of all, something mortals neither can nor should tolerate. Indeed he deprived cities, dioceses, and monasteries of their immunities so they would be obliged to buy them back at a higher price. And, among other things, he ordained that they should give subsidies in time of war, at the king’s discretion. And, inasmuch as he had conquered the kingdom by force and right of war, he wanted to re-found it anew in his own right. So, first of all, he passed a land tenure law by which he named himself the owner of many possessions, both in cities and in the countryside, so that their previous owners would be compelled to redeem them. And yet he retained a goodly portion of the ownership, in such a way that those henceforth possessed them were like tenants, paying annual rents to himself and his successors since they were the landlords. But he excepted from this prescription certain cases whereby these properties reverted to him as the landlord, which cases are too well known to require rehearsal by me. And he wished other landlords to have the same rights over their tenants. From this fountain flowed all landholding, which has been so increased that it gradually imposed a great servitude on estates. And so it comes about that nowadays almost nothing is more uncertain than ownership, nor do more lawsuits arise from any other cause. Next he decreed that four times a year a session would be had in a place of his choosing, and at these sessions judges would sit apart on their benches and pronounce law for the people. Likewise he established other judges who would exercise their jurisdiction with no right of appeal, from whom, as from the bosom of the sovereign, all litigants could come and demand their rights, and to them refer their controversies. This manner of pronouncing justice is still preserved. And from the beginning that court has been at Westminster, where afterwards William’s son Rufus erected a magnificent courthouse, as I will describe at the appropriate place. Furthermore he appointed other prefects who by governing the counties would either execute the mandates of superior magistrates or attend to the punishment of wrongdoing. He called the former justices of the peace, and the latter sheriffs. And he established a fisc and gave it governors vested with great power, who would be royal procurators, receive all taxes, supervise the treasury, its income and expenses in public records, and preserve these annual records, so that by their means an account could be rendered at any time, stating how much money had come in and how much had gone out. He called these officials barons, and the place (usually called, by the use of a corrupt word, the Exchequer) the Stationery, because it should be the stable and firm foundation of the realm, since nothing stabilizes as kingdom so much as Queen Money. He also founded a college of scribes for the writing of documents, calling the master of that college the Chancellor, and he gradually became the nation’s supreme magistrate, such as he is considered today. Having made these arrangements, he lastly abrogated nearly all the laws made by the most holy kings who preceded him as guides to living well and happily, and gave new and less fair ones which his successors preserved, not without harm to themselves, as if it would be a crime to quash bad laws which a man by no means friendly to the English people enacted in place of good ones. And laws of that kind, which should have been intelligible to all men, were (and still are) written in the Norman language, which neither Frenchmen nor Englishmen can properly understand. This is the reason you can daily witness this man being deprived of his ancestral goods, that one being condemned to death by the judgment of most ignorant fellows, a third entangled in a perpetual lawsuit, and divine and human things being thrown into confusion, partly because of the inequity of the laws, and partly by the ignorance of those who interpret it badly, and (lest you distrust my words) mortals both attest and detest this all, in public and in private. And assuredly, in accordance with his national tradition, the Norman was unable to make laws otherwise, since there is no other nation which is more adroit at slandering, falsifying, and foot-dragging, i. e., to litigate or harass with lawsuits by means of fraud, quibbling, dissimulation, and frustration. And the method of judgment was as follows. In every case men of substance, but men for the most part ignorant of the law, of the same county dwells the defendant or the litigant dwelt, to the number of twelve (just like the twelve Apostles, (so that piety would exist at least in the number) were empanelled by judges. They were instructed about the reason for the case, and were both oath to judge rightly and solemnly. These men, coming to the court, are locked up as if in a prison until, having examined the evidence, they either condemned or absolved the accused, or adjudged the controversy in favor of one of the two litigants. When they have done this they wer brought back to the judges, to whom the make declaration of their decision. Then the judges at the bar announced to the accused or to the litigants, and at the same time they indicated the gravity of the penalty appointed by law. Thus twelve men judged in the beginning, and afterwards their judgment have served as precedent for others, that is, they have set a precedent for judgment in any kind of case. This form of judgment is preserved to this day. But since the common man is in the habit of measuring and weighing nobility in terms of antiquity, there perhaps are, or will someday be, those who contend that a goodly portion of laws of and institutions of this kind was introduced by kings who reigned before William, so that a greater authority will attach to ancestral customs. But I, having diligently examined all the records of the ancients, have nothing to say to this but that in a certain small book of the laws of King Alured I found that twelve men, called justices, were elected out of a hundred, who in rural districts heard and resolved cases about injuries and controversies, but who were required to refer capital cases to more senior justices. From which we may understand that the power of judging such crimes and deciding their penalties was the responsibility of the latter, and that terrible judgment by twelve men had not yet originated. Now I return to legislation. What of the fact that even the Norman kings themselves did not deny that these laws were unjust? For as often as William Rufus and his son Henry thought it necessary to gain the good-will of the people, as I shall make clear elsewhere, their first expedient was to promise to abolish their paternal Norman laws and make better ones, saying they were going to restore those which St. Edward had decreed to be used. Stephen, who followed, did the same, and afterwards other kings strove thus to ingratiate themselves with the people. But so far was it from being the case that all Norman laws were abolished that nothing was detracted from the force of a goodly number of them, since they were more useful for the governors than for the governed.
5. After these things William, bent on making money, imposed a general tax on the people and set a very bad example by ordering money that had long ago been deposited in churches or moneys to be removed. Nor did he restrain his hand from sacred plate, although in another way he thought religion required his help. For at that time, when a plenary synod of bishops was convened by two legates of Pope Alexander II for the reformation and improvement of the state of Christian affairs in England, should the need exist, some bishops and abbots were accused of crimes and removed from office by his intervention. Among these was Stigant Archbishop of Canterbury, who was defrocked. He had been accused of many crimes, and this in particular, that during the lifetime of Archbishop Robert (whom I mentioned in the life of Edward), he had appropriated the see of Canterbury and then had occupied it and the see of Winchester simultaneously. And finally, that he had accepted the cardinal’s pallium from Pope Benedict X, the badge of an office to which he had not been elected. But some writers hold this to William’s discredit, claiming that he arranged for English archbishops to be removed from office so that Normans or other foreigners could be substituted in their place, and this did happen. Stigant had occupied the office for seventeen years, and not long after he was defrocked he died in prison at Winchester. Lanfranc the Abbot of Caen succeeded him, the thirty-third archbishop, an Italian endowed with singular virtue, steadfastness and gravity, upon whose help and counsel the king particularly relied in the conduct of his affairs. At the same Thomas, a Norman priest distinguished for his morals and learning, was made Archbishop of York, the twenty-fifth archbishop, who, after a long dispute about the office of archbishop which he had with Lanfranc prior to his consecration, he was compelled to promise upon his oath that henceforth he would not venture anything against the Archbishop of Canterbury in matters pertaining to religion. By this excellent father was consecrated Michael, Bishop-elect of Glasgow in Scotland, who received gift of consecration in the traditional way, swearing an oath of fealty to the archbishop, as if he were the primate of all Scotland. Afterwards Tothad, Bishop of St. Andrews, did the same and took this vow of obedience. This is how it is recorded in the annals of the prelates of York, that by command of that very excellent sovereign Malcolm III King of Scots and his wife Margaret, a right pious woman, who thought provision should be made that their bishops consecrate each other in their own right, contrary to the decrees of the Fathers, or do anything else without the authority of the Archbishop of York which had been customarily done in accordance with his will. Nevertheless, as I will say below in Book XIII, because of the wars which often arose between these two people, which was an impediment that kept them from visiting their primate, they were once more compelled to resort to their own, less legitimate custom until provided otherwise, as will be told in its place in Book XXIV below.
6. Meanwhile the English nobility, seeing themselves been robbed both of their goods and their honors, and to be held of no account in the eyes of the king, and likewise to be scorned and disdained by the Normans and to be cast in chains like so many thieves, decided it was better to abandon all their possessions to be the king’s prey, rather than witness the present calamity, since eyesight is wont to increase pain. Therefore under the leadership of Earl Morcat, who, although a little earlier he had returned from Scotland and come back into the king’s good graces, was nevertheless offended once more, so that his mind grew alienated. So, together with Herevard, a man of consummate courage, and Bishop Elgwin of Durham, they secretly committed themselves to flight and solitude. At the last they came to the Isle of Ely, where they obtained a place defended by nature, and chose to live a life, wretched though it was, which was far removed from Norman savagery, until some opportunity be given them for regaining their liberty. This place looks eastward, fenced about with sweet waters and fens, as was shown elsewhere. But a number of other English lords departed for Scotland under Edwin’s leadership, where soon thereafter Edwin was murdered by his own countrymen. When William found out that the English had occupied the fenlands of Ely, he thought it best to put them down before the poison of this conspiracy could spread further, and so he hastened there and in many places began using fascines and planks with stone piers to build roads above the waterline and put soldiers in those places. Afterwards he built a bridge in the western part. When this had been done, skiffs were brought up from the coastal port of Lynn, a harbor filled with sweet waters following from the Isle itself, and they water a seaboard town likewise called Lynn. And in this manner the Isle was besieged by land and sea forces alike, and the English were putting up a stiff defense when Morcat, finally realizing that resistance was impossible, attempted to break out with his followers, and at length escaped on a small boat, went to the Continent, and finally to Scotland. But the Bishop of Durham and the rest surrendered to the king and were variously fined. The king learned by this experience that Scotland was the only sanctuary for these refugees, and that new disturbances were daily arising from that quarter, decided it was necessary to invade that too. Therefore he entered Galloway, where he had heard his adversaries had retreated, and spent a number of days exhausting his soldiers in chasing them. For his enemies had hidden themselves in mountains or marches, purposefully mocking the king, and at the same time seeking to discover whether they could catch him in an ambush. But when William saw that he was achieving nothing because of the roughness and unfamiliarity of the terrain, he crossed over into Lauden and shifted his wrath against King Malcolm, as if he were the chief of his enemies. Therefore, selecting a place suitable for a fight, he drew up his battle-line against his foe. When Malcom had a look at the Normans ranged before him, he halted, his men drawn up in battle array. But at this point the Scottish king, seeing it was no good to kick against the pricks, as they say, pondered much in his mind, showing clear signs of fear, and sent ambassadors to the Norman. He gave them a friendly hearing, thinking it better to come kind of understanding and grant peace rather than entrust himself to the fortunes of war in unknown places. And so peace was granted the King of Scots on condition that he swear an oath of fealty to William. But at Malcolm’s request an amnesty was given to the English exiles. And, his Scottish affairs thus settled, the king returned to Durham, from where, having been frightened by a miracle, he hastened back to London. For he wished to find out of the body of St. Cuthbert was really in that place where it was adored, or rather he wanted to get his hands on the precious coffer in which the saint’s body was enclosed. But he abandoned the attempt because of a sudden anxiety of body and mind, when he was drenched by a flowing sweat.
7. In the meantime, because of the king’s absence Normandy began to anticipate a revolt. When this was reported to him, although he was more afraid of greater upheavals at home than any he could see abroad, he nevertheless adjudged that this overseas affair had to take precedence over domestic issues. And, because there was a need for haste, he held a levy of soldiers, especially English ones, in whose strength he trusted abroad more than at home. Then he crossed over to Normandy where he subdued those responsible for the conspiracy and pacified everything. In that business he witnessed and extolled the especial bravery of the English. And this was a good thing for Edgar in particular, since, although he had twice broken his oath and decamped to the Scots, he had nevertheless obtained pardon and was in high favor with the king. While William was lingering in Normandy, Roger Earl of Hereford, Ralph Earl of Cambridge, and Walter, the son of that man Sward, whom I have mentioned at the end of the life of Edward, entered into a conspiracy against him. This fellow, possessed of depraved authority and a criminal life, since it at his suggestion that William had confiscated church treasuries, had bestowed his sister on Ralph, contrary to royal command. While this marriage was being celebrated with great estate, in a clandestine meeting he acquired many Englishmen and Welshmen (for Ralph was born of a Welsh mother) as confederates, and to speed this enterprise he particularly appealed to the Dacians. But in the interim Walter, recalling how wrong it was for a brave man to overcome anyone by treason, went suddenly flying to the king in Normandy and disclosed Roger’s intentions. And this greatly annoyed the king’s mind, and he returned to England quicker than he had planned, where he threw so much fear into the conspirators that they forthwith fled in all directions. But he visited various punishments on many of them, throwing Roger and Walter into chains. And then, inspired more by rage than any just reason, he ordered the man to be beheaded. Meanwhile Dacian pirates landed a few ships, but when they heard that the commotion for which they had come had subsided, they went home as soon as they could. Then William had a time of rest. At this time, at the instigation of Lanfranc, a synod of bishops and other clergy was convened at London, in which was decided that some episcopal sees located in small towns and villages should be translated to cities and populous places. And so it came about that the cities of Bath, Lincoln, Salisbury, Exeter, Chester and Chicester were ennobled with new bishoprics, as well be shown at an appropriate place below. Vulstan Bishop of Worcester was present at this synod, a man famous for the sanctity of his life, albeit unlettered. Lanfranc deprived him of that dignity, as being an unschooled man and for this reason, as he said, unworthy of the office. But the common report was that he did not do this because the man was illiterate, but rather that, in accordance with the royal will, a Norman might be put in his place. But God did not permit this. Vulstan, compelled to take off his episcopal vestments, his mind suddenly inspired with divine ardor, said to the king, “Someone better than you dressed me in these, to him I shall return them.” And then, going to the tomb of St. Edward, by whose favor he had been consecrated as a bishop, and taking off his vestments and setting down his staff, he plunged his staff so deep into the stone of the monument that no power could pull it out. Frightened by this miracle, the king and Lanfranc beseeched the holy man that he would take up his vestments and resume his honor. And Vulstan’s singular honor disgraced their insult. This was done in 1078 A. D., the eleventh after the coming of the Normans. Afterwards in this synod nothing was done that did not conduce to the more pious preservation of Christian affairs, and most of all the impure morals of priests were recalled to the rule of the ancient Fathers, as much as could be done, and their right way of life was prescribed for the future.
8. While William had the leisure for domestic affairs, his oldest son Robert, a man who would have been excellent in all his parts, if he had been a little more considerate and less given to levity, invaded the borders of Normandy with the help and counsel of King Philip of France, taking several places. For Philip had begun to take fright at the greatness of William’s affairs, and desired to cause some trouble for him in order to lessen his victories, and so secretly armed the son against the father. Long before, his father had promised him the government of Normandy, and so this young man, eager to gain power, strove to gain by force from father something he thought over-long to wait for. Hearing these things, the king was deeply distressed by the novelty of his crime, enlisted an army, hastily crossed over to Normandy, and with his forces at the ready marched against his son. At this point, both sides raised a great shout and joined battle. While this was being conducted bitterly, Robert sent in his horsemen against his enemy, already distressed in the fight on foot, and these broke through William’s ranks and penetrated to his rear guard. And Robert himself followed them, and came across his father, whom he unhorsed, running him through in the arm. But when by his voice he recognized this man was his father, he leapt off his horse, lifted him up, an cast himself at his feet begging forgiveness for his crime. Moved by paternal charity, the king ran into his son’s embrace, and henceforth always kept him in his eyesight, compliant. The king lost many of his men, and many were wounded, including his son William Rufus. Because of his impiety, as one may adjudge, Robert’s affairs daily went to the worse. Then William, together with Robert, returned to England, and he promptly sent Robert against Malcolm King of Scots, who had broken his treaty and was harrying his neighbors with inroads. But at his arrival Robert broke off pursuit of his enemy when he retired within his own borders. And so while making his return Robert established a permanent garrison on the river Tyne, on the shore of an island to the northeast, where he built a castle, whence came the town nowadays called Newcastle. At that time Odo Bishop of Bayeux was sent with a goodly number of soldiers to Northumbria to avenge the death of Walter Bishop of Bayonne with fit punishment, for the Northumbrians had murdered him a little earlier. And he afflicted them horribly. For a while before the king had substituted Copse for the defeated Morcat as Earl of Northumbria, and then Patrick. After them, the care of this region was given to Bishop Walter, then to Alberic, and finally Robert Mulbery, a brave and wise man, was created its earl. William succeeded Bishop Walter, by whose doing secular canons were expelled and monks, openly greedy for wealth and seeking to escape their solitude, came into the possession of the college of Durham. But not much time passed before Odo became suspect to the king, by whom he was ignominiously sent back to Normandy.
9. It was now the sixteenth year of William’s reign, and at this time he elected to conduct a census, that is, to search all places, count, and enter into a register everything subject to his rule, all cities, towns, villages, hamlets, bishoprics, monasteries, and likewise how much he held, how much yearly tax he took in, how many soldiers were at his service, and how many yokes of oxen he possessed. When this task was completed, he perceived that his English sheep had more fleece for the shearing, and so he imposed a new tax of six shillings on every yoke of oxen. A shilling consists of twelvepence, and is still in use. But I have some authors who say he imposed this tax on individual hides of land, although I cannot affirm it. A hide is a measure of land which contains twenty acres. For your English yoke (commonly called an acre) is forty rods long by four wide. A hide (not to omit this), is also the skin of a bull, and since, as I have shown, it is used as a measure, this seems alluded to in Vergil’s statement about the origin of Carthage in Book I of the Aeneid, “They bought as much land as could be encompassed by a bull’s hide.” For a hide cut into very thin strips can surround an ample tract of land, and so is not foolishly used as a kind of measure. But now I will return from where I digressed.
10. But the English, universally lamenting their misfortune and bewailing their nation’s suffering, grumbled more than any one man could utter, and as their affairs grew daily worse they hated these foreigners as their enemies. On the other hand the Normans thought the English were the sole reason why they had begun to be loathed by foreigners, and so grew yet angrier at them. And the Englishmen’s woes grew heavier day by day, for, after they had lost their wealth, they were also deprived of their honest pleasures. For hunting was popular with the nobility, and now many stags and does were running free in the public forests. But after William had claimed these forests as his own, he imposed a heavy fine on any man who henceforth took or killed them. And so that no man could easily avoid this fine, at the same time he took care that the number of those beasts became far larger. Furthermore, he cleared a space of about thirty miles running southward from Salisbury to the seacoast of all human cultivation and transformed it into a game park, everywhere leveling to the ground churches, houses and cottages, and evicted the inhabitants, complaining and weeping that they were abandoning to the beasts their nation, their homes, their sweet fields. They call this the New Forest, and whoever killed this game was heavily fined. And men did not only curse these deeds with all their hearts, but the land itself abominated them, as was attested by a portent. For at the time it trembled so that many buildings collapsed. There was also an unusually hard winter. But some writers report that William wished this area to be empty because there the access to and from Normandy is handy, and he wanted nobody to prevent the Normans from making use of that route of escape, should they someday be expelled from the country. But make of it what you will, it was still a great crime. Some attribute this king’s harshness to the English not so much to the cruelty of his own disposition as to the inconstancy of the people themselves, because by their rebellions they increasingly irritated their sovereign’s mind, originally mild. And it would perhaps not be rash to believe them, if William himself had sometime made an end to this dire treatment, since in his early years he had modest manners, and then became friendly, liberal, merciful, and a keen opponent of all the vices. But afterwards, partly by his fighting, and party by his harsh government, he altered these virtues. For then he was equally notable for his conspicuous harshness and greed. But he excelled for his courage and martial skill, for his great good fortune in war, and he was most content with his life, without the suspicion of any vice. He was clever of mind and most zealous of glory, and very able to tolerate exertion, wakeful nights, cold and heat. And as soon as he was deprived of his father he showed proof of these virtues, so that he became an object of fear to his enemies and one of envy to his friends. Indeed, right at the beginning King Henri of France became ill-disposed to him for not handing over the castle of Tillières, as William had promised to do. For Henri was eager to occupy this, since it was located in a place useful for attacking his citizens, or very handy for receiving those who had despoiled his fields. And a large part of the Norman nobility, very irked at having a bastard for their duke, conspired against him, trusting in Henri’s help. But the French king took the initiative by making an excursion, taking, and pulling down the castle of Tillières. But afterwards, regretting what he had done, he rebuilt it in placed a garrison therein. Having done so, lest he be held responsibility for the Normans’ conspiracy, nor be said to be ungrateful for a benefit received (for he was once helped by William’s father Robert against the enterprises of his mother Constance, as I have recounted above), he promptly came to the duke’s aid and the both of them joined arms to inflict a vigorous defeat on the conspirators. After these things, Henri began to suffer from envy and attempted to recover Neustria, a former possession of France, seeking for opportunities to break off this friendship honorably. William encountered him not long thereafter and routed him with little difficulty, a goodly number of Frenchmen being killed. Henri learned from the outcome of this misfortune that he had offended God with his ingratitude, and, repenting this thing, sent messengers seeking the duke’s friendship. When he regained this, he most faithfully maintained it, giving back the castle of Tillières. But on the basis of more recent histories some men think that the Norman did not win this victory, being very much weakened by domestic seditions. But I think these writers should scarcely be heeded, for by their own testimony it is agreed that the fury of this Norman conspiracy had been put down before the beginning of that par. But let me return whence I digressed.
11. William’s life had nearly run its course, and with remarkable Christian piety he built three magnificent monasteries at different places and endowed them with considerable landholdings and various donatives. Two of these were in England. One was in the place where he had fought Harald, for the expiation of the souls of those who had lost their lives fighting there, which he dedicated to St. Martin and called De Bello, so that it would be a perpetual memorial of his victory achieved in so great a war. It is five miles distant from Hastings. The other is near London, called the monastery of St. Savior. The third was at Caen in Normandy, where his wife Mathilde built a second religious house for nuns. They say that the reason for building these works was that since the marriage between him and Mathilde, the daughter of Baldwin Count of Flanders, was illegally contracted, for they were blood relations, Mauger Archbishop of Rouen excommunicated them. And William, taking this censure amiss and at his wife’s urging (women are always more eager for revenge) arranged for this good prelate to be deprived of his archbishopric, and to avoid blame for this crime he gave out that the man had been removed from office for being insufficiently devoted to divine matters. And so in the end husband and wife were grief-stricken that they had wrongly condemned a just bishop and a kinsman (for he was a brother of his father Robert by a concubine), and to expiate the blot of such impiety they founded these two houses. And now in the year of human salvation 1087 and the twenty-first since the coming of the Normans, when the English were now quiet and miserably weakened by the paying of taxes, the king went to Normandy, taking with him an enormous sum of gold. And there, a few days later, he was taken by disease and spent more time than usual in his chamber. When King Philippe of France, Henri’s son, found this out, he said as a joke, poking fun at him for his pot-belly, something like this: “The King of England is now abed at Rouen, suffering from a prolonged childbirth.” Rumor of this jest quickly spread, and William, hearing it, was unamused. He is said to have responded threateningly, “When I am relieved of this birthing and have gone to church to be cleansed (thus women do), then a thousand torches will burn in France.” And so not many days had passed when William, regaining his strength, cruelly ravaged the nearby French fields with steel and fire. And this was greatly to his harm, for he hurt his guts in leaping from his horse, and because of the great pain he departed this life not long thereafter, on the sixth of September, in the seventy-fourth year of his life, and eleven days before the beginning of the twenty-second year of his reign. So such an ending had William, a great man and a very fortunate one, if you only consider this, that he gained a kingdom in England, established new laws and customs that, it appears, will last forever, in such a way that he began a line of successors just as if he had founded the kingdom anew, and later kings have used the same royal arms that he instituted. For the kings who had existed before that time had each possessed their individual arms, as I have seen depicted in an ancient manuscript. These arms consist of three maned lions with the same number of lilies, cunningly painted in a small shield with the three flowers above and the lions on the right part, and on the other side the lions above and the lilies below. Now I return to my thread. Noblemen carried his corpse to Caen, where with great funeral pomp it was brought to the church of St. Stephen, which he himself had founded. Before he could be buried, it is was necessary to pay a fee to a certain man who cried out that he was the owner of that place where the church had been built. From which we can appreciate the human tragedy, that there was no patch of ground to bury the richest of princes without doing harm to another man, which can serve as proof to other men, but especially to princes, of that Gospel saying, Let them always render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. By Mathilde William fathered four sons, Robert, to whom he bequeathed Normandy, Richard, who died of disease in the flower of his youth, William surnamed Rufus, and Henry, both of whom reigned among the English thereafter. His father is said to have predicted to this Henry that, after his brothers, he would rule both the English and the Normans, and in his testament he left him a goodly portion of his treasure. And he had five daughters, Cecily, who became a nun, Constance, who married Alan Duke of Britanny, Adele, who married Stephen Count of Blois and was the mother of the Stephen who ruled after Henry. The names of the other two daughters have been lost in time, they died before coming to marriageable age. One of the two had been betrothed to Harald, but to his own misfortune, as I have mentioned above, he repudiated her. They say that at the point of death William, while he repented many sins, especially regretted that he had treated the English with such severity, so that it is reasonable to think that among them he had been increased in honor and majesty.
12. After William’s death England immediately suffered from famine and pestilence, and the sky resounded with much thunder and began to glitter with fire, which rarely happens in England, and so was taken for a prodigy. And at about the time fires broke out throughout all England. And the common people imagined these were portents of the future misfortune which the rule of William Rufus afterwards inflicted on the land of England. In these times were were men famed for their holiness and learning, Vulstan Bishop of Worcester, and Herman, the first Bishop of Salisbury, who transferred his episcopal to that city from the noble village of Shireburn, in compliance with the decree of the synod convoked by Lanfranc. Likewise Osmund, the second Bishop of Salisbury, a very holy man, for whom nothing was more important than to serve as an example of supreme probity. For, scorning all the pleasures, he so lived that he hardly found an equal, let alone a superior, down to our own day, either for his sanctity of life or for is diligence in conducting his affairs, or in his learning and writings. For he is reputed to have been the first to compose a Book of Hours, which even now is used throughout almost all England. Likewise he built a church, only the remains of which are extant, and in it placed his episcopal see. This remained there for about 140 years, until the year of salvation 1215, when Richard the first bishop, ejected from there with his priests at the command of King John, built the cathedral at Salisbury only four years thereafter, where the body of Osmund was transported, and even nowadays this is famed for its many miracles. In these days there also lived Berengarius of Anjou, a man and a deacon scarce unversed in letters, who, impelled by demons’ tricks, easily fell into heresy. For he imagined the that the true body of Christ is not in the Eucharist except as the symbol of a mystery, and afterwards, at the urging of Pope Nicholas II and Alberic the Deacon, he publicly confessed his error, affirming that the Blood and Body are wholly present. Lanfranc rebuked this same Berengarius’ errors in a famous little work.
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