William the Conqueror

By Jacob Abbott

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Title: William the Conqueror
       Makers of History

Author: Jacob Abbott

Release Date: June 20, 2008 [EBook #25848]

Language: English


Produced by D Alexander and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)

 Makers of History

 William the Conqueror





 Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
 eight hundred and forty-nine, by


 In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District
 of New York.

 Copyright, 1877, by JACOB ABBOTT.


In selecting the subjects for the successive volumes of this series, it
has been the object of the author to look for the names of those great
personages whose histories constitute useful, and not merely
entertaining, knowledge. There are certain names which are familiar, as
names, to all mankind; and every person who seeks for any degree of
mental cultivation, feels desirous of informing himself of the leading
outlines of their history, that he may know, in brief, what it was in
their characters or their doings which has given them so widely-extended
a fame. This knowledge, which it seems incumbent on every one to obtain
in respect to such personages as Hannibal, Alexander, Cæsar, Cleopatra,
Darius, Xerxes, Alfred, William the Conqueror, Queen Elizabeth, and Mary
Queen of Scots, it is the design and object of these volumes to
communicate, in a faithful, and, at the same time, if possible, in an
attractive manner. Consequently, great historical names alone are
selected; and it has been the writer's aim to present the prominent and
leading traits in their characters, and all the important events in
their lives, in a bold and free manner, and yet in the plain and simple
language which is so obviously required in works which aim at permanent
and practical usefulness.


 Chapter                                                    Page

    I. NORMANDY                                              13

   II. BIRTH OF WILLIAM                                      31

  III. THE ACCESSION                                         51

   IV. WILLIAM'S REIGN IN NORMANDY                           72

    V. THE MARRIAGE                                          96

   VI. THE LADY EMMA                                        119

  VII. KING HAROLD                                          142

 VIII. PREPARATIONS FOR THE INVASION                        164

   IX. CROSSING THE CHANNEL                                 189

    X. THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS                               212

   XI. PRINCE ROBERT'S REBELLION                            242

  XII. THE CONCLUSION                                       265



 MAP--THE SITUATION OF NORMANDY                              14

 WILLIAM AND ARLOTTE                                         40

 WILLIAM'S ESCAPE                                            77

 THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY                                        102

 THE RESCUE                                                 127

 HAROLD'S INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD                             147

 WILLIAM RECEIVING TOSTIG'S TIDINGS                         166

 MAP--NORMANDY                                              190

 THE NORWEGIANS AT SCARBOROUGH                              218





A.D. 870-912

The Norman Conquest.--Claim of William to the throne.--The right of the
strongest.--Map of Normandy.--The English Channel.--Nature of the French
coast.--Nature of the English coast.--Northmen and Danes.--Character
of the Northmen.--Their descendants.--The Dukes of Normandy.--The
first duke, Rollo.--History of Rollo.--His rendezvous on the Scottish
coast.--Expedition of Rollo.--His descent upon Flanders.--Difficulties
encountered.--Rollo passes the Straits of Dover.--Charles the
Simple.--Defeated by Rollo.--Treaty of peace.--Its conditions.--The
three ceremonies.--Rollo's pride.--Kissing the king's foot.--The baptism
and marriage.--Rollo's peaceful and prosperous reign.--Description
of Normandy.--Scenery.--Hamlets.--Chateaux.--Peasantry.--Public
roads.--Rouen.--Its situation.--The port of Rouen.--Its name of Le Havre
de Grace.--Intermingling of races.--Superiority of the Norman stock.

One of those great events in English history, which occur at distant
intervals, and form, respectively, a sort of bound or landmark, to which
all other events, preceding or following them for centuries, are
referred, is what is called the Norman Conquest. The Norman Conquest
was, in fact, the accession of William, duke of Normandy, to the English
throne. This accession was not altogether a matter of military force,
for William claimed a _right_ to the throne, which, if not altogether
perfect, was, as he maintained, at any rate superior to that of the
prince against whom he contended. The rightfulness of his claim was,
however, a matter of little consequence, except so far as the moral
influence of it aided him in gaining possession. The right to rule was,
in those days, rather more openly and nakedly, though not much more
really, than it is now, the right of the strongest.

Normandy, William's native land, is a very rich and beautiful province
in the north of France. The following map shows its situation:


It lies, as will be seen upon the map, on the coast of France, adjoining
the English Channel. The Channel is here irregular in form, but may be,
perhaps, on the average, one hundred miles wide. The line of coast on
the southern side of the Channel, which forms, of course, the northern
border of Normandy, is a range of cliffs, which are almost perpendicular
toward the sea, and which frown forbiddingly upon every ship that sails
along the shore. Here and there, it is true, a river opens a passage for
itself among these cliffs from the interior, and these river mouths
would form harbors into which ships might enter from the offing, were it
not that the northwestern winds prevail so generally, and drive such a
continual swell of rolling surges in upon the shore, that they choke up
all these estuary openings, as well as every natural indentation of the
land, with shoals and bars of sand and shingle. The reverse is the case
with the northern, or English shore of this famous channel. There the
harbors formed by the mouths of the rivers, or by the sinuosities of the
shore, are open and accessible, and at the same time sheltered from the
winds and the sea. Thus, while the northern or English shore has been,
for many centuries, all the time enticing the seaman in and out over
the calm, deep, and sheltered waters which there penetrate the land, the
southern side has been an almost impassable barrier, consisting of a
long line of frowning cliffs, with every opening through it choked with
shoals and sand-banks, and guarded by the rolling and tumbling of surges
which scarcely ever rest.

It is in a great measure owing to these great physical differences
between the two shores, that the people who live upon the one side,
though of the same stock and origin with those who live upon the other,
have become so vastly superior to them in respect to naval exploits and
power. They are really of the same stock and origin, since both England
and the northern part of France were overrun and settled by what is
called the Scandinavian race, that is, people from Norway, Denmark, and
other countries on the Baltic. These people were called the _Northmen_
in the histories of those times. Those who landed in England are
generally termed _Danes_, though but a small portion of them came really
from Denmark. They were all, however, of the same parent stock, and
possessed the same qualities of courage, energy, and fearless love of
adventure and of danger which distinguish their descendants at the
present day. They came down in those early times in great military
hordes, and in fleets of piratical ships, through the German Ocean and
the various British seas, braving every hardship and every imaginable
danger, to find new regions to dwell in, more genial, and fertile, and
rich than their own native northern climes. In these days they evince
the same energy, and endure equal privations and hardships, in hunting
whales in the Pacific Ocean; in overrunning India, and seizing its
sources of wealth and power; or in sallying forth, whole fleets of
adventurers at a time, to go more than half round the globe, to dig for
gold in California. The times and circumstances have changed, but the
race and spirit are the same.

Normandy takes its name from the Northmen. It was the province of France
which the Northmen made peculiarly their own. They gained access to it
from the sea by the River Seine, which, as will be seen from the map,
flows, as it were, through the heart of the country. The lower part of
this river, and the sea around its mouth, are much choked up with sand
and gravel, which the waves have been for ages washing in. Their
incessant industry would result in closing up the passage entirely,
were it not that the waters of the river must have an outlet; and thus
the current, setting outward, wages perpetual war with the surf and
surges which are continually breaking in. The expeditions of the
Northmen, however, found their way through all these obstructions. They
ascended the river with their ships, and finally gained a permanent
settlement in the country. They had occupied the country for some
centuries at the time when our story begins--the province being governed
by a line of princes--almost, if not quite, independent
sovereigns--called the _Dukes of Normandy_.

The first Duke of Normandy, and the founder of the line--the chieftain
who originally invaded and conquered the country--was a wild and
half-savage hero from the north, named _Rollo_. He is often, in history,
called Rollo the Dane. Norway was his native land. He was a chieftain by
birth there, and, being of a wild and adventurous disposition, he
collected a band of followers, and committed with them so many piracies
and robberies, that at length the king of the country expelled him.

Rollo seems not to have considered this banishment as any very great
calamity, since, far from interrupting his career of piracy and
plunder, it only widened the field on which he was to pursue it. He
accordingly increased the equipment and the force of his fleet, enlisted
more followers, and set sail across the northern part of the German
Ocean toward the British shores.

Off the northwestern coast of Scotland there are some groups of
mountainous and gloomy islands, which have been, in many different
periods of the world, the refuge of fugitives and outlaws. Rollo made
these islands his rendezvous now; and he found collected there many
other similar spirits, who had fled to these lonely retreats, some on
account of political disturbances in which they had become involved, and
some on account of their crimes. Rollo's impetuous, ardent, and
self-confident character inspired them with new energy and zeal. They
gathered around him as their leader. Finding his strength thus
increasing, he formed a scheme of concentrating all the force that he
could command, so as to organize a grand expedition to proceed to the
southward, and endeavor to find some pleasant country which they could
seize and settle upon, and make their own. The desperate adventurers
around him were ready enough to enter into this scheme. The fleet was
refitted, provisioned, and equipped. The expedition was organized, arms
and munitions of war provided, and when all was ready they set sail.
They had no definite plan in respect to the place of their destination,
their intention being to make themselves a home on the first favorable
spot that they should find.

They moved southward, cruising at first along the coast of Scotland, and
then of England. They made several fruitless attempts to land on the
English shores, but were every where repulsed. The time when these
events took place was during the reign of Alfred the Great. Through
Alfred's wise and efficient measures the whole of his frontier had been
put into a perfect state of defense, and Rollo found that there was no
hope for him there. He accordingly moved on toward the Straits of Dover;
but, before passing them, he made a descent upon the coast of Flanders.
Here there was a country named Hainault. It was governed by a potentate
called the Count of Hainault. Rollo made war upon him, defeated him in
battle, took him prisoner, and then compelled the countess his wife to
raise and pay him an immense sum for his ransom. Thus he replenished
his treasury by an exploit which was considered in those days very
great and glorious. To perpetrate such a deed now, unless it were on a
_very_ great scale, would be to incur the universal reprobation of
mankind; but Rollo, by doing it then, not only enriched his coffers, but
acquired a very extended and honorable fame.

For some reason or other, Rollo did not attempt to take permanent
possession of Hainault, but, after receiving his ransom money, and
replenishing his ammunition and stores, he sailed away with his fleet,
and, turning westward, he passed through the Straits of Dover, and
cruised along the coast of France. He found that the country on the
French side of the channel, though equally rich and beautiful with the
opposite shore, was in a very different state of defense. He entered the
mouth of the Seine. He was embarrassed at first by the difficulties of
the navigation in entering the river; but as there was no efficient
enemy to oppose him, he soon triumphed over these difficulties, and,
once fairly in the river, he found no difficulty in ascending to

[Footnote A: See the map at the commencement of this chapter.]

In the mean time, the King of France, whose name was Charles, and who
is generally designated in history as Charles the Simple, began to
collect an army to meet the invader. Rollo, however, had made himself
master of Rouen before Charles was able to offer him any effectual
opposition. Rouen was already a strong place, but Rollo made it
stronger. He enlarged and repaired the fortifications, built
store-houses, established a garrison, and, in a word, made all the
arrangements requisite for securing an impregnable position for himself
and his army.

A long and obstinate war followed between Rollo and Charles, Rollo being
almost uniformly victorious in the combats that took place. Rollo became
more and more proud and imperious in proportion to his success. He drove
the French king from port to port, and from field to field, until he
made himself master of a large part of the north of France, over which
he gradually established a regular government of his own. Charles
struggled in vain to resist these encroachments. Rollo continually
defeated him; and finally he shut him up and besieged him in Paris
itself. At length Charles was compelled to enter into negotiations for
peace. Rollo demanded that the large and rich tract on both sides of the
Seine, next the sea--the same, in fact, that now constitutes
Normandy--should be ceded to him and his followers for their permanent
possession. Charles was extremely unwilling thus to alienate a part of
his kingdom. He would not consent to cede it absolutely and entirely, so
as to make it an independent realm. It should be a _dukedom_, and not a
separate _kingdom_, so that it might continue still a part of his own
royal domains--Rollo to reign over it as a duke, and to acknowledge a
general allegiance to the French king. Rollo agreed to this. The war had
been now protracted so long that he began himself to desire repose. It
was more than thirty years since the time of his landing.

Charles had a daughter named Giselle, and it was a part of the treaty of
peace that she should become Rollo's wife. He also agreed to become a
Christian. Thus there were, in the execution of the treaty, three
ceremonies to be performed. First, Rollo was to _do homage_, as it was
called, for his duchy; for it was the custom in those days for
subordinate princes, who held their possessions of some higher and more
strictly sovereign power, to perform certain ceremonies in the presence
of their superior lord, which was called doing homage. These ceremonies
were of various kinds in different countries, though they were all
intended to express the submission of the dependent prince to the
superior authority and power of the higher potentate of whom he held his
lands. This act of homage was therefore to be performed, and next to the
homage was to come the baptism, and after the baptism, the marriage.

When, however, the time came for the performance of the first of these
ceremonies, and all the great chieftains and potentates of the
respective armies were assembled to witness it, Rollo, it was found,
would not submit to what the customs of the French monarchy required. He
ought to kneel before the king, and put his hands, clasped together,
between the king's hands, in token of submission, and then to kiss his
foot, which was covered with an elegantly fashioned slipper on such
occasions. Rollo would do all except the last; but that, no
remonstrances, urgencies, or persuasions would induce him to consent to.

And yet it was not a very unusual sign or token of political
subordination to sovereign power in those days. The pope had exacted it
even of an emperor a hundred years before; and it is continued by that
dignitary to the present day, on certain state occasions; though in the
case of the pope, there is embroidered on the slipper which the kneeling
suppliant kisses, a _cross_, so that he who humbles himself to this
ceremony may consider, if he pleases, that it is that sacred symbol of
the divine Redeemer's sufferings and death that he so reverently kisses,
and not the human foot by which it is covered.

Rollo could not be made to consent, himself, to kiss King Charles's
foot; and, finally, the difficulty was compromised by his agreeing to do
it by proxy. He ordered one of his courtiers to perform that part of the
ceremony. The courtier obeyed, but when he came to lift the foot, he did
it so rudely and lifted it so high as to turn the monarch over off his
seat. This made a laugh, but Rollo was too powerful for Charles to think
of resenting it.

A few days after this Rollo was baptized in the cathedral church at
Rouen, with great pomp and parade; and then, on the following week, he
was married to Giselle. The din of war in which he had lived for more
than thirty years was now changed into festivities and rejoicings. He
took full and peaceable possession of his dukedom, and governed it for
the remainder of his days with great wisdom, and lived in great
prosperity. He made it, in fact, one of the richest and most prosperous
realms in Europe, and laid the foundations of still higher degrees of
greatness and power, which were gradually developed after his death. And
this was the origin of Normandy.

It appears thus that this part of France was seized by Rollo and his
Northmen partly because it was nearest at hand to them, being accessible
from the English Channel through the River Seine, and partly on account
of its exceeding richness and fertility. It has been famous in every age
as the garden of France, and travelers at the present day gaze upon its
picturesque and beautiful scenery with the highest admiration and
pleasure. And yet the scenes which are there presented to the view are
wholly unlike those which constitute picturesque and beautiful rural
scenery in England and America. In Normandy, the land is not inclosed.
No hedges, fences, or walls break the continuity of the surface, but
vast tracts spread in every direction, divided into plots and squares,
of various sizes and forms, by the varieties of cultivation, like a vast
carpet of an irregular tesselated pattern, and varied in the color by a
thousand hues of brown and green. Here and there vast forests extend,
where countless thousands of trees, though ancient and venerable in
form, stand in rows, mathematically arranged, as they were planted
centuries ago. These are royal demesnes, and hunting grounds, and parks
connected with the country palaces of the kings or the chateaux of the
ancient nobility. The cultivators of the soil live, not, as in America,
in little farm-houses built along the road-sides and dotting the slopes
of the hills, but in compact villages, consisting of ancient dwellings
of brick or stone, densely packed together along a single street, from
which the laborers issue, in picturesque dresses, men and women
together, every morning, to go miles, perhaps, to the scene of their
daily toil. Except these villages, and the occasional appearance of an
ancient chateau, no habitations are seen. The country seems a vast
solitude, teeming everywhere, however, with fertility and beauty. The
roads which traverse these scenes are magnificent avenues, broad,
straight, continuing for many miles an undeviating course over the
undulations of the land, with nothing to separate them from the expanse
of cultivation and fruitfulness on either hand but rows of ancient and
venerable trees. Between these rows of trees the traveler sees an
interminable vista extending both before him and behind him. In England,
the public road winds beautifully between walls overhung with shrubbery,
or hedge-rows, with stiles or gateways here and there, revealing hamlets
or cottages, which appear and disappear in a rapid and endlessly varied
succession, as the road meanders, like a rivulet, between its beautiful
banks. In a word, the public highway in England is beautiful; in France
it is grand.

The greatest city in Normandy in modern times is Rouen, which is
situated, as will be seen by referring to the map at the commencement of
this chapter, on the Seine, half way between Paris and the sea. At the
mouth of the Seine, or, rather, on the northern shore of the estuary
which forms the mouth of the river, is a small inlet, which has been
found to afford, on the whole, the best facilities for a harbor that can
be found on the whole line of the coast. Even this little port, however,
is so filled up with sand, that when the water recedes at low tide it
leaves the shipping all aground. The inlet would, in fact, probably
become filled up entirely were it not for artificial means taken to
prevent it. There are locks and gateways built in such a manner as to
retain a large body of water until the tide is down, and then these
gates are opened, and the water is allowed to rush out all together,
carrying with it the mud and sand which had begun to accumulate. This
haven, being, on the whole, the best and most commodious on the coast,
was called _the_ harbor, or, as the French expressed it in their
language, _le havre_, the word _havre_ meaning harbor. In fact, the name
was in full _le havre de grace_, as if the Normans considered it a
matter of special good luck to have even such a chance of a harbor as
this at the mouth of their river. The English world have, however,
dropped all except the principal word from this long phrase of
designation, and call the port simply Havre.

       *       *       *       *       *

From Rollo the line of Dukes of Normandy continued in uninterrupted
succession down to the time of William, a period of about a hundred and
fifty years. The country increased all the time in wealth, in
population, and in prosperity. The original inhabitants were not,
however, expelled; they remained as peasants, herdsmen, and
agriculturists, while the Norman chieftains settled over them, holding
severally large estates of land which William granted them. The races
gradually became intermingled, though they continued for many centuries
to evince the superior spirit and energy which was infused into the
population by the Norman stock. In fact, it is thought by many observers
that that superiority continues to the present day.



A.D. 912-1033

Castle at Falaise.--Present ruins of the castle.--Scenery of the town
and castle.--Wall and buildings.--Watch-towers.--Sentinels.--Enchanting
prospect.--Chronological history of the Norman line.--Rollo.--William
I., second duke.--Richard I., third duke.--Richard II., fourth
duke.--Richard III., fifth duke.--Intrigues of Robert.--He becomes
the sixth duke.--Robert and Henry.--William's mother.--Robert's
first meeting with Arlotte.--He is captivated.--Robert sends
for Arlotte.--Scruples of her father.--Arlotte sent to the
castle.--Robert's affection for her.--Birth of William.--The nurse's
prediction.--William's childhood.--He is a universal favorite.--Robert
determines to visit the Holy Land.--Dangers of the journey.--He makes
William his heir.--Surprise of the assembly.--The nobles do homage to
William.--William is taken to Paris.--He is presented to the French

Although Rouen is now very far before all the other cities of Normandy
in point of magnitude and importance, and though Rollo, in his conquest
of the country, made it his principal head-quarters and his main
stronghold, it did not continue exclusively the residence of the dukes
of Normandy in after years. The father of William the Conqueror was
Robert, who became subsequently the duke, the sixth in the line. He
resided, at the time when William was born, in a great castle at
Falaise. Falaise, as will be seen upon the map, is west of Rouen, and it
stands, like Rouen, at some distance from the sea. The castle was built
upon a hill, at a little distance from the town. It has long since
ceased to be habitable, but the ruins still remain, giving a picturesque
but mournful beauty to the eminence which they crown. They are often
visited by travelers, who go to see the place where the great hero and
conqueror was born.

The hill on which the old castle stands terminates, on one side, at the
foot of the castle walls, in a precipice of rocks, and on two other
sides, also, the ascent is too steep to be practicable for an enemy. On
the fourth side there is a more gradual declivity, up which the fortress
could be approached by means of a winding roadway. At the foot of this
roadway was the town. The access to the castle from the town was
defended by a ditch and draw-bridge, with strong towers on each side of
the gateway to defend the approach. There was a beautiful stream of
water which meandered along through the valley, near the town, and,
after passing it, it disappeared, winding around the foot of the
precipice which the castle crowned. The castle inclosures were shut in
with walls of stone of enormous thickness; so thick, in fact, they were,
that some of the apartments were built in the body of the wall. There
were various buildings within the inclosure. There was, in particular,
one large, square tower, several stories in height, built of white
stone. This tower, it is said, still stands in good preservation. There
was a chapel, also, and various other buildings and apartments within
the walls, for the use of the ducal family and their numerous retinue
of servants and attendants, for the storage of munitions of war, and for
the garrison. There were watch-towers on the corners of the walls, and
on various lofty projecting pinnacles, where solitary sentinels watched,
the livelong day and night, for any approaching danger. These sentinels
looked down on a broad expanse of richly-cultivated country, fields
beautified with groves of trees, and with the various colors presented
by the changing vegetation, while meandering streams gleamed with their
silvery radiance among them, and hamlets of laborers and peasantry were
scattered here and there, giving life and animation to the scene.

We have said that William's father was Robert, the sixth Duke of
Normandy, so that William himself, being his immediate successor, was
the seventh in the line. And as it is the design of these narratives not
merely to amuse the reader with what is entertaining as a tale, but to
impart substantial historical knowledge, we must prepare the way for the
account of William's birth, by presenting a brief chronological view of
the whole ducal line, extending from Rollo to William. We recommend to
the reader to examine with special attention this brief account of
William's ancestry, for the true causes which led to William's invasion
of England can not be fully appreciated without thoroughly understanding
certain important transactions in which some members of the family of
his ancestors were concerned before he was born. This is particularly
the case with the Lady Emma, who, as will be seen by the following
summary, was the sister of the third duke in the line. The extraordinary
and eventful history of her life is so intimately connected with the
subsequent exploits of William, that it is necessary to relate it in
full, and it becomes, accordingly, the subject of one of the subsequent
chapters of this volume.

_Chronological History of the Norman Line._

ROLLO, first Duke of Normandy.

From A.D. 912 to A.D. 917.

It was about 870 that Rollo was banished from Norway, and a few years
after that, at most, that he landed in France. It was not, however,
until 912 that he concluded his treaty of peace with Charles, so as to
be fully invested with the title of Duke of Normandy.

He was advanced in age at this time, and, after spending five years in
settling the affairs of his realm, he resigned his dukedom into the
hands of his son, that he might spend the remainder of his days in rest
and peace. He died in 922, five years after his resignation.

WILLIAM I., second Duke of Normandy.

From 917 to 942.

William was Rollo's son. He began to reign, of course, five years before
his father's death. He had a quiet and prosperous reign of about
twenty-five years, but he was assassinated at last by a political enemy,
in 942.

RICHARD I., third Duke of Normandy.

From 942 to 996.

He was only ten years old when his father was assassinated. He became
involved in long and arduous wars with the King of France, which
compelled him to call in the aid of more Northmen from the Baltic. His
new allies, in the end, gave him as much trouble as the old enemy, with
whom they came to help William contend; and he found it very hard to get
them away. He wanted, at length, to make peace with the French king, and
to have them leave his dominions; but they said, "That was not what they
came for."

Richard had a beautiful daughter, named Emma, who afterward became a
very important political personage, as will be seen more fully in a
subsequent chapter.

Richard died in 996, after reigning fifty-four years.

RICHARD II., fourth Duke of Normandy.

From 996 to 1026.

Richard II. was the son of Richard I., and as his father had been
engaged during his reign in contentions with his sovereign lord, the
King of France, he, in his turn, was harassed by long-continued
struggles with his vassals, the barons and nobles of his own realm. He,
too, sent for Northmen to come and assist him. During his reign there
was a great contest in England between the Saxons and the Danes, and
Ethelred, who was the Saxon claimant to the throne, came to Normandy,
and soon afterward married the Lady Emma, Richard's sister. The
particulars of this event, from which the most momentous consequences
were afterward seen to flow, will be given in full in a future chapter.
Richard died in 1026. He left two sons, Richard and Robert. William the
Conqueror was the son of the youngest, and was born two years before
this Richard II. died.

RICHARD III., fifth Duke of Normandy.

From 1026 to 1028.

He was the oldest brother, and, of course, succeeded to the dukedom. His
brother Robert was then only a baron--his son William, afterward the
Conqueror, being then about two years old. Robert was very ambitious and
aspiring, and eager to get possession of the dukedom himself. He adopted
every possible means to circumvent and supplant his brother, and, as is
supposed, shortened his days by the anxiety and vexation which he caused
him; for Richard died suddenly and mysteriously only two years after his
accession. It was supposed by some, in fact, that he was poisoned,
though there was never any satisfactory proof of this.

ROBERT, sixth Duke of Normandy.

From 1028 to 1035.

Robert, of course, succeeded his brother, and then, with the
characteristic inconsistency of selfishness and ambition, he employed
all the power of his realm in helping the King of France to subdue his
younger brother, who was evincing the same spirit of seditiousness and
insubmission that he had himself displayed. His assistance was of great
importance to King Henry; it, in fact, decided the contest in his favor;
and thus one younger brother was put down in the commencement of his
career of turbulence and rebellion, by another who had successfully
accomplished a precisely similar course of crime. King Henry was very
grateful for the service thus rendered, and was ready to do all in his
power, at all times, to co-operate with Robert in the plans which the
latter might form. Robert died in 1035, when William was about eleven
years old.

And here we close this brief summary of the history of the ducal line,
as we have already passed the period of William's birth; and we return,
accordingly, to give in detail some of the particulars of that event.

[Illustration: WILLIAM AND ARLOTTE.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Although the dukes of Normandy were very powerful potentates, reigning,
as they did, almost in the character of independent sovereigns, over one
of the richest and most populous territories of the globe, and though
William the Conqueror was the son of one of them, his birth was
nevertheless very ignoble. His mother was not the wife of Robert his
father, but a poor peasant girl, the daughter of an humble tanner of
Falaise; and, indeed, William's father, Robert, was not himself the duke
at this time, but a simple baron, as his father was still living. It
was not even certain that he ever would be the duke, as his older
brother, who, of course, would come before him, was also then alive.
Still, as the son and prospective heir of the reigning duke, his rank
was very high.

The circumstances of Robert's first acquaintance with the tanner's
daughter were these. He was one day returning home to the castle from
some expedition on which he had been sent by his father, when he saw a
group of peasant girls standing on the margin of the brook, washing
clothes. They were barefooted, and their dress was in other respects
disarranged. There was one named Arlotte,[B] the daughter of a tanner of
the town, whose countenance and figure seem to have captivated the young
baron. He gazed at her with admiration and pleasure as he rode along.
Her complexion was fair, her eyes full and blue, and the expression of
her countenance was frank, and open, and happy. She was talking joyously
and merrily with her companions as Robert passed, little dreaming of the
conspicuous place on the page of English history which she was to
occupy, in all future time, in connection with the gay horseman who was
riding by.

[Footnote B: Her name is spelled variously, Arlette, Arlotte, Harlotte,
and in other ways.]

The etiquette of royal and ducal palaces and castles in those days, as
now, forbade that a noble of such lofty rank should marry a peasant
girl. Robert could not, therefore, have Arlotte for his wife; but there
was nothing to prevent his proposing her coming to the castle and living
with him--that is, nothing but the law of God, and this was an authority
to which dukes and barons in the Middle Ages were accustomed to pay very
little regard. There was not even a public sentiment to forbid this, for
a nobility like that of England and France in the Middle Ages stands so
far above all the mass of society as to be scarcely amenable at all to
the ordinary restrictions and obligations of social life. And even to
the present day, in those countries where dukes exist, public sentiment
seems to tolerate pretty generally whatever dukes see fit to do.

Accordingly, as soon as Robert had arrived at the castle, he sent a
messenger from his retinue of attendants down to the village, to the
father of Arlotte, proposing that she should come to the castle. The
father seems to have had some hesitation in respect to his duty. It is
said that he had a brother who was a monk, or rather hermit, who lived
a life of reading, meditation and prayer, in a solitary place not far
from Falaise. Arlotte's father sent immediately to this religious
recluse for his spiritual counsel. The monk replied that it was right to
comply with the wishes of so great a man, whatever they might be. The
tanner, thus relieved of all conscientious scruples on the subject by
this high religious authority, and rejoicing in the opening tide of
prosperity and distinction which he foresaw for his family through the
baron's love, robed and decorated his daughter, like a lamb for the
sacrifice, and sent her to the castle.

Arlotte had one of the rooms assigned her, which was built in the
thickness of the wall. It communicated by a door with the other
apartments and inclosures within the area, and there were narrow windows
in the masonry without, through which she could look out over the broad
expanse of beautiful fields and meadows which were smiling below. Robert
seems to have loved her with sincere and strong affection, and to have
done all in his power to make her happy. Her room, however, could not
have been very sumptuously furnished, although she was the favorite in a
ducal castle--at least so far as we can judge from the few glimpses we
get of the interior through the ancient chroniclers' stories. One story
is, that when William was born, his first exploit was to grasp a handful
of straw, and to hold it so tenaciously in his little fist that the
nurse could scarcely take it away. The nurse was greatly delighted with
this infantile prowess; she considered it an omen, and predicted that
the babe would some day signalize himself by seizing and holding great
possessions. The prediction would have been forgotten if William had not
become the conqueror of England at a future day. As it was, it was
remembered and recorded; and it suggests to our imagination a very
different picture of the conveniences and comforts of Arlotte's chamber
from those presented to the eye in ducal palaces now, where carpets of
velvet silence the tread on marble floors, and favorites repose under
silken canopies on beds of down.

The babe was named William, and he was a great favorite with his father.
He was brought up at Falaise. Two years after his birth, Robert's father
died, and his oldest brother, Richard III., succeeded to the ducal
throne. In two years more, which years were spent in contention between
the brothers, Richard also died, and then Robert himself came into
possession of the castle in his own name, reigning there over all the
cities and domains of Normandy.

William was, of course, now about four years old. He was a bright and
beautiful boy, and he grew more and more engaging every year. His
father, instead of neglecting and disowning him, as it might have been
supposed he would do, took a great deal of pride and pleasure in
witnessing the gradual development of his powers and his increasing
attractiveness, and he openly acknowledged him as his son.

In fact, William was a universal favorite about the castle. When he was
five and six years old he was very fond of playing the soldier. He would
marshal the other boys of the castle, his playmates, into a little
troop, and train them around the castle inclosures, just as ardent and
aspiring boys do with their comrades now. He possessed a certain
vivacity and spirit too, which gave him, even then, a great ascendency
over his playfellows. He invented their plays; he led them in their
mischief; he settled their disputes. In a word, he possessed a
temperament and character which enabled him very easily and strongly to
hold the position which his rank as son of the lord of the castle so
naturally assigned him.

A few years thus passed away, when, at length, Robert conceived the
design of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This was a plan, not of
humble-minded piety, but of ambition for fame. To make a pilgrimage to
the Holy Land was a romantic achievement that covered whoever
accomplished it with a sort of sombre glory, which, in the case of a
prince or potentate, mingled with, and hallowed and exalted, his
military renown. Robert determined on making the pilgrimage. It was a
distant and dangerous journey. In fact, the difficulties and dangers of
the way were perhaps what chiefly imparted to the enterprise its
romance, and gave it its charms. It was customary for kings and rulers,
before setting out, to arrange all the affairs of their kingdoms, to
provide a regency to govern during their absence, and to determine upon
their successors, so as to provide for the very probable contingency of
their not living to return.

As soon, therefore, as Robert announced his plan of a pilgrimage, men's
minds were immediately turned to the question of the succession. Robert
had never been married, and he had consequently no son who was entitled
to succeed him. He had two brothers, and also a cousin, and some other
relatives, who had claims to the succession. These all began to maneuver
among the chieftains and nobles, each endeavoring to prepare the way for
having his own claims advanced, while Robert himself was secretly
determining that the little William should be his heir. He said nothing
about this, however, but he took care to magnify the importance of his
little son in every way, and to bring him as much as possible into
public notice. William, on his part, possessed so much personal beauty,
and so many juvenile accomplishments, that he became a great favorite
with all the nobles, and chieftains, and knights who saw him, sometimes
at his father's castle, and sometimes away from home, in their own
fortresses or towns, where his father took him, from time to time, in
his train.

At length, when affairs were ripe for their consummation, Duke Robert
called together a grand council of all the subordinate dukes, and earls,
and barons of his realm, to make known to them the plan of his
pilgrimage. They came together from all parts of Normandy, each in a
splendid cavalcade, and attended by an armed retinue of retainers. When
the assembly had been convened, and the preliminary forms and
ceremonies had been disposed of, Robert announced his grand design.

As soon as he had concluded, one of the nobles, whose name and title was
Guy, count of Burgundy, rose and addressed the duke in reply. He was
sorry, he said, to hear that the duke, his cousin, entertained such a
plan. He feared for the safety of the realm when the chief ruler should
be gone. All the estates of the realm, he said, the barons, the knights,
the chieftains and soldiers of every degree, would be all without a

"Not so," said Robert: "I will leave you a master in my place." Then,
pointing to the beautiful boy by his side, he added, "I have a little
fellow here, who, though he is little now, I acknowledge, will grow
bigger by and by, with God's grace, and I have great hopes that he will
become a brave and gallant man. I present him to you, and from this time
forth I give him _seizin_[C] of the Duchy of Normandy as my known and
acknowledged heir. And I appoint Alan, duke of Brittany, governor of
Normandy in my name until I shall return, and in case I shall not
return, in the name of William my son, until he shall become of manly

[Footnote C: Seizin, an ancient feudal term denoting the inducting of a
party to a legal possession of his right.]

The assembly was taken wholly by surprise at this announcement. Alan,
duke of Brittany, who was one of the chief claimants to the succession,
was pleased with the honor conferred upon him in making him at once the
governor of the realm, and was inclined to prefer the present certainty
of governing at once in the name of others, to the remote contingency of
reigning in his own. The other claimants to the inheritance were
confounded by the suddenness of the emergency, and knew not what to say
or do. The rest of the assembly were pleased with the romance of having
the beautiful boy for their feudal sovereign. The duke saw at once that
every thing was favorable to the accomplishment of his design. He took
the lad in his arms, kissed him, and held him out in view of the
assembly. William gazed around upon the panoplied warriors before him
with a bright and beaming eye. They knelt down as by a common accord to
do him homage, and then took the oath of perpetual allegiance and
fidelity to his cause.

Robert thought, however, that it would not be quite prudent to leave his
son himself in the custody of these his rivals, so he took him with him
to Paris when he set out upon his pilgrimage, with view of establishing
him there, in the court of Henry, the French king, while he should
himself be gone. Young William was presented to the French king, on a
day set apart for the ceremony, with great pomp and parade. The king
held a special court to receive him. He seated himself on his throne
in a grand apartment of his palace, and was surrounded by his nobles
and officers of state, all magnificently dressed for the occasion. At
the proper time, Duke Robert came in, dressed in his pilgrim's garb,
and leading young William by the hand. His attendant pilgrim knights
accompanied him. Robert led the boy to the feet of their common
sovereign, and, kneeling there, ordered William to kneel too, to do
homage to the king. King Henry received him very graciously. He embraced
him, and promised to receive him into his court, and to take the best
possible care of him while his father was away. The courtiers were
very much struck with the beauty and noble bearing of the boy. His
countenance beamed with an animated, but yet very serious expression,
as he was somewhat awed by the splendor of the scene around him. He
was himself then nine years old.



A.D. 1035-1040

Robert departs on his pilgrimage.--He visits Rome and
Constantinople.--Robert's illness.--Litter bearers.--Death of
Robert.--Claimants to the crown.--Theroulde.--William's military
education.--The Earl of Arques.--William proclaimed duke.--The
pilgrim knights.--They embrace William's cause.--Debates in the
council on the propriety of William's return.--William's return to
Normandy.--Its effects.--William's accomplishments.--Impression upon
the army.--Claimants in the field.--Iron rule of the nobles.--Almost
a quarrel.--Interview between William and Henry.--Henry's
demand.--William's indignation.--Henry destroys one of William's
castles.--Difficulties which followed.--War with Henry.--William rescues
Falaise.--William received with acclamations.--Punishment of the
governor.--The Earl of Arques.--Advance of Henry.--A dangerous
defile.--Henry's order of march.--William's ambuscade.--Its
success.--Pretended flight of the Normans.--Disarray of the
French.--Rout of the French.--William's embassage to Henry.--The
castle at Arques taken.--William crowned at Falaise.

After spending a little time at Paris, Robert took leave of the king,
and of William his son, and went forth, with a train of attendant
knights, on his pilgrimage. He had a great variety of adventures, which
can not be related here, as it is the history of the son, and not of the
father, which is the subject of this narrative. Though he traveled
strictly as a pilgrim, it was still with great pomp and parade. After
visiting Rome, and accomplishing various services and duties connected
with his pilgrimage there, he laid aside his pilgrim's garb, and,
assuming his proper rank as a great Norman chieftain, he went to
Constantinople, where he made a great display of his wealth and
magnificence. At the time of the grand procession, for example, by which
he entered the city of Constantinople, he rode a mule, which, besides
being gorgeously caparisoned, had shoes of gold instead of iron; and
these shoes were purposely attached so slightly to the hoofs, that they
were shaken off as the animal walked along, to be picked up by the
populace. This was to impress them with grand ideas of the rider's
wealth and splendor. After leaving Constantinople, Robert resumed his
pilgrim's garb, and went on toward the Holy Land.

The journey, however, did not pass without the usual vicissitudes of so
long an absence and so distant a pilgrimage. At one time Robert was
sick, and, after lingering for some time in a fever, he so far recovered
his strength as to be borne on a litter by the strength of other men,
though he could not advance himself, either on horseback or on foot; and
as for traveling carriages, there had been no such invention in those
days. They made arrangements, therefore, for carrying the duke on a
litter. There were sixteen Moorish slaves employed to serve as his
bearers. This company was divided into sets, four in each, the several
sets taking the burden in rotation. Robert and his attendant knights
looked down with great contempt on these black pagan slaves. One day the
cavalcade was met by a Norman who was returning home to Normandy after
having accomplished his pilgrimage. He asked Duke Robert if he had any
message to send to his friends at home. "Yes," said he; "tell them you
saw me here, on my way to Paradise, carried by sixteen _demons_."

Robert reached Jerusalem, and set out on his return; and soon after
rumors came back to Paris that he had died on his way home. The accounts
of the manner of his death were contradictory and uncertain; but the
fact was soon made sure, and the news produced every where a great
sensation. It soon appeared that the brothers and cousins of Robert, who
had claimed the right to succeed him in preference to his son William,
had only suspended their claims--they had not abandoned them. They began
to gather their forces, each in his own separate domain, and to prepare
to take the field, if necessary, in vindication of what they considered
their rights to the inheritance. In a word, their oaths of fealty to
William were all forgotten, and each claimant was intent only on getting
possession himself of the ducal crown.

In the mean time, William himself was at Paris, and only eleven years of
age. He had been receiving a careful education there, and was a very
prepossessing and accomplished young prince. Still, he was yet but a
mere boy. He had been under the care of a military tutor, whose name
was Theroulde. Theroulde was a veteran soldier, who had long been in
the employ of the King of France. He took great interest in his young
pupil's progress. He taught him to ride and to practice all the
evolutions of horsemanship which were required by the tactics of those
days. He trained him, too, in the use of arms, the bow and arrow, the
javelin, the sword, the spear, and accustomed him to wear, and to
exercise in, the armor of steel with which warriors were used, in those
days, to load themselves in going into battle. Young princes like
William had suits of this armor made for them, of small size, which they
were accustomed to wear in private in their military exercises and
trainings, and to appear in, publicly, on great occasions of state.
These dresses of iron were of course very heavy and uncomfortable, but
the young princes and dukes were, nevertheless, very proud and happy to
wear them.

While William was thus engaged in pursuing his military education in
Paris, several competitors for his dukedom immediately appeared in
Normandy and took the field. The strongest and most prominent among them
was the Earl of Arques. His name was William too, but, to distinguish
him from the young duke, we shall call him Arques. He was a brother of
Robert, and maintained that, as Robert left no lawful heir, he was
indisputably entitled to succeed him. Arques assembled his forces and
prepared to take possession of the country.

It will be recollected that Robert, when he left Normandy in setting out
on his pilgrimage, had appointed a nobleman named Alan to act as regent,
or governor of the country, until he should return; or, in case he
should never return, until William should become of age. Alan had a
council of officers, called the council of regency, with whose aid he
managed the administration of the government. This council, with Alan at
their head, proclaimed young William duke, and immediately began to act
in his name. When they found that the Earl of Arques was preparing to
seize the government, they began to assemble their forces also, and thus
both sides prepared for war.

Before they actually commenced hostilities, however, the pilgrim knights
who had accompanied Robert on his pilgrimage, and who had been
journeying home slowly by themselves ever since their leader's death,
arrived in Normandy. These were chieftains and nobles of high rank and
influence, and each of the contending parties were eager to have them
join their side. Besides the actual addition of force which these men
could bring to the cause they should espouse, the moral support they
would give to it was a very important consideration. Their having been
on this long and dangerous pilgrimage invested them with a sort of
romantic and religious interest in the minds of all the people, who
looked up to them, in consequence of it, with a sort of veneration and
awe; and then, as they had been selected by Robert to accompany him on
his pilgrimage, and had gone on the long and dangerous journey with him,
continuing to attend upon him until he died, they were naturally
regarded as his most faithful and confidential friends. For these and
similar reasons, it was obvious that the cause which they should espouse
in the approaching contest would gain a large accession of moral power
by their adhesion.

As soon as they arrived in Normandy, rejecting all proposals from other
quarters, they joined young William's cause with the utmost promptitude
and decision. Alan received them at once into his councils. An assembly
was convened, and the question was discussed whether William should be
sent for to come to Normandy. Some argued that he was yet a mere boy,
incapable of rendering them any real service in the impending contest,
while he would be exposed, more perhaps than they themselves, to be
taken captive or slain. They thought it best, therefore, that he should
remain, for the present, in Paris, under the protection of the French

Others, on the other hand, contended that the influence of William's
presence, boy as he was, would animate and inspire all his followers,
and awaken every where, throughout the country, a warm interest in his
cause; that his very tenderness and helplessness would appeal strongly
to every generous heart, and that his youthful accomplishments and
personal charms would enlist thousands in his favor, who would forget,
and perhaps abandon him, if he kept away. Besides, it was by no means
certain that he was so safe as some might suppose in King Henry's
custody and power. King Henry might himself lay claims to the vacant
duchy, with a view of bestowing it upon some favorite of his own, in
which case he might confine young William in one of his castles, in an
honorable, but still rigid and hopeless captivity, or treacherously
destroy his life by the secret administration of poison.

These latter counsels prevailed. Alan and the nobles who were with him
sent an embassage to the court of King Henry to bring William home.
Henry made objections and difficulties. This alarmed the nobles. They
feared that it would prove true that Henry himself had designs on
Normandy. They sent a new embassage, with demands more urgent than
before. Finally, after some time spent in negotiations and delays, King
Henry concluded to yield, and William set out on his return. He was now
about twelve or thirteen years old. His military tutor, Theroulde,
accompanied him, and he was attended likewise by the embassadors whom
Alan had sent for him, and by a strong escort for his protection by the
way. He arrived in safety at Alan's head-quarters.

William's presence in Normandy had the effect which had been anticipated
from it. It awakened every where a great deal of enthusiasm in his
favor. The soldiers were pleased to see how handsome their young
commander was in form, and how finely he could ride. He was, in fact, a
very superior equestrian for one so young. He was more fond, even, than
other boys of horses; and as, of course, the most graceful and the
fleetest horses which could be found were provided for him, and as
Theroulde had given him the best and most complete instruction, he made
a fine display as he rode swiftly through the camp, followed by veteran
nobles, splendidly dressed and mounted, and happy to be in his train,
while his own countenance beamed with a radiance in which native
intelligence and beauty were heightened by the animation and excitement
of pride and pleasure. In respect to the command of the army, of course
the real power remained in Alan's hands, but every thing was done in
William's name; and in respect to all external marks and symbols of
sovereignty, the beautiful boy seemed to possess the supreme command;
and as the sentiment of loyalty is always the strongest when the object
which calls for the exercise of it is most helpless or frail, Alan found
his power very much increased when he had this beautiful boy to exhibit
as the true and rightful heir, in whose name and for whose benefit all
his power was held.

Still, however, the country was very far from becoming settled. The Earl
of Arques kept the field, and other claimants, too, strengthened
themselves in their various castles and towns, as if preparing to
resist. In those days, every separate district of the country was almost
a separate realm, governed by its own baron, who lived, with his
retainers, within his own castle walls, and ruled the land around him
with a rod of iron. These barons were engaged in perpetual quarrels
among themselves, each plundering the dominions of the rest, or making
hostile incursions into the territories of a neighbor to revenge some
real or imaginary wrong. This turbulence and disorder prevailed every
where throughout Normandy at the time of William's return. In the
general confusion, William's government scarcely knew who were his
friends or his enemies. At one time, when a deputation was sent to some
of the barons in William's name, summoning them to come with their
forces and join his standard, as they were in duty bound to do, they
felt independent enough to send back word to him that they had "too much
to do in settling their own quarrels to be able to pay any attention to

In the course of a year or two, moreover, and while his own realm
continued in this unsettled and distracted state, William became
involved in what was almost a quarrel with King Henry himself. When he
was fifteen years old, which was two or three years after his return
from Paris to Normandy, Henry sent directions to William to come to a
certain town, called Evreux, situated about half way between Falaise and
Paris, and just within the confines of Normandy,[D] to do homage to him
there for his duchy. There was some doubt among William's counselors
whether it would be most prudent to obey or disobey this command. They
finally concluded that it was best to obey. Grand preparations were
accordingly made for the expedition; and, when all was ready, the young
duke was conducted in great state, and with much pomp and parade, to
meet his sovereign.

[Footnote D: See map at the commencement of chapter ix.]

The interview between William and his sovereign, and the ceremonies
connected with it, lasted some days. In the course of this time, William
remained at Evreux, and was, in some sense, of course, in Henry's power.
William, having been so long in Henry's court as a mere boy, accustomed
all the time to look up to and obey Henry as a father, regarded him
somewhat in that light now, and approached him with great deference and
respect. Henry received him in a somewhat haughty and imperious manner,
as if he considered him still under the same subjection as heretofore.

William had a fortress or castle on the frontiers of his dukedom, toward
Henry's dominions. The name of the castle was Tellières, and the
governor of it was a faithful old soldier named De Crespin. William's
father, Robert, had intrusted De Crespin with the command of the castle,
and given him a garrison to defend it. Henry now began to make complaint
to William in respect to this castle. The garrison, he said, were
continually making incursions into his dominions. William replied that
he was very sorry that there was cause for such a complaint. He would
inquire into it, and if the fact were really so, he would have the evil
immediately corrected. Henry replied that that was not sufficient. "You
must deliver up the castle to me," he said, "to be destroyed." William
was indignant at such a demand; but he was so accustomed to obey
implicitly whatever King Henry might require of him, that he sent the
order to have the castle surrendered.

When, however, the order came to De Crespin, the governor of the castle,
he refused to obey it. The fortress, he said, had been committed to his
charge by Robert, duke of Normandy, and he should not give it up to the
possession of any foreign power. When this answer was reported to
William and his counselors, it made them still more indignant than
before at the domineering tyranny of the command, and more disposed than
ever to refuse obedience to it. Still William was in a great measure in
the monarch's power. On cool reflection, they perceived that resistance
would then be vain. New and more authoritative orders were accordingly
issued for the surrender of the castle. De Crespin now obeyed. He gave
up the keys and withdrew with his garrison. William was then allowed to
leave Evreux and return home, and soon afterward the castle was razed to
the ground.

This affair produced, of course, a great deal of animosity and
irritation between the governments of France and Normandy; and where
such a state of feeling exists between two powers separated only by an
imaginary line running through a populous and fertile country,
aggressions from one side and from the other are sure to follow. These
are soon succeeded by acts of retaliation and revenge, leading, in the
end, to an open and general war. It was so now. Henry marched his
armies into Normandy, seized towns, destroyed castles, and, where he was
resisted by the people, he laid waste the country with fire and sword.
He finally laid siege to the very castle of Falaise.

William and his government were for a time nearly overwhelmed with the
tide of disaster and calamity. The tide turned, however, at length, and
the fortune of war inclined in their favor. William rescued the town and
castle of Falaise; it was in a very remarkable manner, too, that this
exploit was accomplished. The fortress was closely invested with Henry's
forces, and was on the very eve of being surrendered. The story is, that
Henry had offered bribes to the governor of the castle to give it up to
him, and that the governor had agreed to receive them and to betray his
trust. While he was preparing to do so, William arrived at the head of a
resolute and determined band of Normans. They came with so sudden an
onset upon the army of besiegers as to break up their camp and force
them to abandon the siege. The people of the town and the garrison of
the castle were extremely rejoiced to be thus rescued, and when they
came to learn through whose instrumentality they had been saved, and
saw the beautiful horseman whom they remembered as a gay and happy
child playing about the precincts of the castle, they were perfectly
intoxicated with delight. They filled the air with the wildest
acclamations, and welcomed William back to the home of his childhood
with manifestations of the most extravagant joy. As to the traitorous
governor, he was dealt with very leniently. Perhaps the general feeling
of joy awakened emotions of leniency and forgiveness in William's
mind--or perhaps the proof against the betrayer was incomplete. They did
not, therefore, take his life, which would have been justly forfeited,
according to the military ideas of the times, if he had been really
guilty. They deprived him of his command, confiscated his property, and
let him go free.

After this, William's forces continued for some time to make head
successfully against those of the King of France; but then, on the other
hand, the danger from his uncle, the Earl of Arques, increased. The earl
took advantage of the difficulty and danger in which William was
involved in his contests with King Henry, and began to organize his
forces again. He fortified himself in his castle at Arques,[E] and was
collecting a large force there. Arques was in the northeastern part of
Normandy, near the sea, where the ruins of the ancient castle still
remain. The earl built an almost impregnable tower for himself on the
summit of the rock on which the castle stood, in a situation so
inaccessible that he thought he could retreat to it in any emergency,
with a few chosen followers, and bid defiance to any assault. In and
around this castle the earl had got quite a large army together. William
advanced with his forces, and, encamping around them, shut them in. King
Henry, who was then in a distant part of Normandy, began to put his army
in motion to come to the rescue of Arques.

[Footnote E: See map, chapter ix.]

Things being in this state, William left a strong body of men to
continue the investment and siege of Arques, and went off himself, at
the head of the remainder of his force, to intercept Henry on his
advance. The result was a battle and a victory, gained under
circumstances so extraordinary, that William, young as he was, acquired
by his exploits a brilliant and universal renown.

It seems that Henry, in his progress to Arques, had to pass through a
long and gloomy valley, which was bounded on either side by precipitous
and forest-covered hills. Through this dangerous defile the long train
of Henry's army was advancing, arranged and marshaled in such an order
as seemed to afford the greatest hope of security in case of an attack.
First came the vanguard, a strong escort, formed of heavy bodies of
soldiery, armed with battle-axes and pikes, and other similar weapons,
the most efficient then known. Immediately after this vanguard came a
long train of baggage, the tents, the provisions, the stores, and all
the munitions of war. The baggage was followed by a great company of
servants--the cooks, the carters, the laborers, the camp followers of
every description--a throng of non-combatants, useless, of course, in a
battle, and a burden on a march, and yet the inseparable and
indispensable attendant of an army, whether at rest or in motion. After
this throng came the main body of the army, with the king, escorted by
his guard of honor, at the head of it. An active and efficient corps of
lancers and men-at-arms brought up the rear.

William conceived the design of drawing this cumbrous and unmanageable
body into an ambuscade. He selected, accordingly, the narrowest and most
dangerous part of the defile for the purpose, and stationed vast
numbers of Norman soldiers, armed with javelins and arrows, upon the
slopes of the hill on either side, concealing them all carefully among
the thickets and rocks. He then marshaled the remainder of his forces
in the valley, and sent them up the valley to meet Henry as he was
descending. This body of troops, which was to advance openly to meet the
king, as if they constituted the whole of William's force, were to fight
a pretended battle with the vanguard, and then to retreat, in hopes to
draw the whole train after them in a pursuit so eager as to throw them
into confusion; and then, when the column, thus disarranged, should
reach the place of ambuscade, the Normans were to come down upon them
suddenly from their hiding-places, and complete their discomfiture.

The plan was well laid, and wisely and bravely executed; and it was most
triumphantly successful in its result. The vanguard of Henry's army were
deceived by the pretended flight of the Norman detachment. They
supposed, too, that it constituted the whole body of their enemies. They
pressed forward, therefore, with great exultation and eagerness to
pursue them. News of the attack, and of the apparent repulse with which
the French soldiers had met it, passed rapidly along the valley,
producing every where the wildest excitement, and an eager desire to
press forward to the scene of conflict. The whole valley was filled with
shouts and outcries; baggage was abandoned, that those who had charge of
it might hurry on; men ran to and fro for tidings, or ascended eminences
to try to see. Horsemen drove at full speed from front to rear, and from
rear on to the front again; orders and counter orders were given, which
nobody would understand or attend to in the general confusion and din.
In fact, the universal attention seemed absorbed in one general and
eager desire to press forward with headlong impetuosity to the scene of
victory and pursuit which they supposed was enacting in the van.

The army pressed on in this confused and excited manner until they
reached the place of ambuscade. They went on, too, through this narrow
passage, as heedlessly as ever; and, when the densest and most powerful
portion of the column was crowding through, they were suddenly
thunderstruck by the issuing of a thousand weapons from the heights and
thickets above them on either hand--a dreadful shower of arrows,
javelins, and spears, which struck down hundreds in a moment, and
overwhelmed the rest with astonishment and terror. As soon as this first
discharge had been effected, the concealed enemy came pouring down the
sides of the mountain, springing out from a thousand hiding-places, as
if suddenly brought into being by some magic power. The discomfiture of
Henry's forces was complete and irremediable. The men fled every where
in utter dismay, trampling upon and destroying one another, as they
crowded back in terrified throngs to find some place of safety up the
valley. There, after a day or two, Henry got together the scattered
remains of his army, and established something like a camp.

It is a curious illustration of the feudal feelings of those times in
respect to the gradation of ranks, or else of the extraordinary modesty
and good sense of William's character, that he assumed no airs of
superiority over his sovereign, and showed no signs of extravagant
elation after this battle. He sent a respectful embassage to Henry,
recognizing his own acknowledged subjection to Henry as his sovereign,
and imploring his protection! He looked confidently to him, he said, for
aid and support against his rebellious subjects.

Though he thus professed, however, to rely on Henry, he really trusted
most, it seems, to his own right arm; for, as soon as this battle was
fairly over, and while the whole country was excited with the
astonishing brilliancy of the exploit performed by so young a man,
William mounted his horse, and calling upon those to follow him who
wished to do so, he rode at full speed, at the head of a small
cavalcade, to the castle at Arques. His sudden appearance here, with the
news of the victory, inspirited the besiegers to such a degree that the
castle was soon taken. He allowed the rebel earl to escape, and thus,
perhaps, all the more effectually put an end to the rebellion. He was
now in peaceable possession of his realm.

He went in triumph to Falaise, where he was solemnly crowned with great
ceremony and parade, and all Normandy was filled with congratulations
and rejoicings.



A.D. 1040-1060

A lapse of twenty years.--Conspiracy of Guy of Burgundy.--The fool
or jester.--Meetings of the conspirators.--Final plans of the
conspirators.--Discovered by Galet.--Galet sets out in search of
William.--He finds him asleep.--William's flight.--His narrow
escape.--William is recognized.--Hubert's castle.--Hubert's
sons.--Pursuit of the conspirators.--Defeat of the rebels.--Their
punishment.--Curious incident.--Coats of armor.--Origin of
heraldry.--Rollo de Tesson.--Keeping both oaths.--Changing
sides.--Character of the ancient chieftains.--Their love of
war.--Ancient castles.--Their interior construction.--Nothing
respectable for the nobility but war.--Rebellions.--Insulting allusions
to William's birth.--The ambuscade.--Its failure.--Insults of the
garrison.--Indignation of William.--William's campaign in France.--His
popularity.--William's prowess.--True nature of courage.--An
ambuscade.--William's bravery.--William's victory.--Applause of the
French army.--William firmly seated on his throne.--His new projects.

From the time of William's obtaining quiet possession of his realm to
his invasion of England, a long period intervened. There was a lapse of
more than twenty years. During this long interval, William governed his
duchy, suppressed insurrections, built castles and towns, carried on
wars, regulated civil institutions, and, in fact, exercised, in a very
energetic and successful manner, all the functions of government--his
life being diversified all the time by the usual incidents which mark
the career of a great military ruler of an independent realm in the
Middle Ages. We will give in this chapter a description of some of these

On one occasion a conspiracy was formed to take his life by secret
assassination. A great chieftain, named Guy of Burgundy, William's
uncle, was the leader of it, and a half-witted man, named Galet, who
occupied the place of jester or fool in William's court, was the means
of discovering and exposing it. These jesters, of whom there was always
one or more in the retinue of every great prince in those days, were
either very eccentric or very foolish, or half-insane men, who were
dressed fantastically, in gaudy colors and with cap and bells, and were
kept to make amusement for the court. The name of William's jester was

Guy of Burgundy and his fellow-conspirators occupied certain gloomy
castles, built in remote and lonely situations on the confines of
Normandy. Here they were accustomed to assemble for the purpose
of concocting their plans, and gathering their men and their
resources--doing every thing in the most cunning and secret manner.
Before their scheme was fully ripe for execution, it happened that
William made a hunting excursion into the neighborhood of their
territory with a small band of followers--such as would be naturally got
together on such a party of pleasure. Galet, the fool, was among them.

As soon as Guy and his fellow-conspirators learned that William was so
near, they determined to precipitate the execution of their plan, and
waylay and assassinate him on his return.

They accordingly left their secret and lonely rendezvous among the
mountains one by one, in order to avoid attracting observation, and
went to a town called Bayeux, through which they supposed that William
would have to pass on his return. Here they held secret consultations,
and formed their final plans. They sent out a part of their number, in
small bands, into the region of country which William would have to
cross, to occupy the various roads and passes, and thus to cut off all
possibility of his escape. They made all these arrangements in the most
secret and cautious manner, and began to think that they were sure of
their prey.

It happened, however, that some of William's attendants, with Galet the
fool among them, had preceded William on his return, and had reached
Bayeux[F] at the time when the conspirators arrived there. The
townspeople did not observe the coming of the conspirators particularly,
as many horsemen and soldiers were coming and going at that time, and
they had no means of distinguishing the duke's friends from his enemies;
but Galet, as he sauntered about the town, noticed that there were many
soldiers and knights to be seen who were not of his master's party.
This attracted his attention; he began to watch the motions of these
strangers, and to listen, without seeming to listen, in order to catch
the words they spoke to each other as they talked in groups or passed
one another in the streets. He was soon satisfied that some mischief
was intended. He immediately threw aside his cap and bells, and his
fantastic dress, and, taking a staff in his hand, he set off on foot to
go back as fast as possible in search of the duke, and give him the
alarm. He found the duke at a village called Valonges. He arrived there
at night. He pressed forward hastily into his master's chamber, half
forcing his way through the attendants, who, accustomed to the liberties
which such a personage as he was accustomed to take on all occasions,
made only a feeble resistance to his wishes. He found the duke asleep,
and he called upon him with a very earnest voice to awake and arise
immediately, for his life was in danger.

[Footnote F: See map, chapter ix.]

William was at first inclined to disbelieve the story which Galet told
him, and to think that there was no cause to fear. He was, however, soon
convinced that Galet was right, and that there was reason for alarm. He
arose and dressed himself hastily; and, inasmuch as a monarch, in the
first moments of the discovery of a treasonable plot, knows not whom to
trust, William wisely concluded not to trust any body. He went himself
to the stables, saddled his horse with his own hand, mounted him, and
rode away. He had a very narrow escape; for, at the same time, while
Galet was hastening to Valonges to give his master warning of his
danger, the conspirators had been advancing to the same place, and had
completely surrounded it; and they were on the eve of making an attack
upon William's quarters at the very hour when he set out upon his
flight. William had accordingly proceeded only a little way on his route
before he heard the footsteps of galloping horses, and the clanking of
arms, on the road behind him. It was a troop of the conspirators coming,
who, finding that William had fled, had set off immediately in pursuit.
William rode hastily into a wood, and let them go by.

[Illustration: WILLIAM'S ESCAPE.]

He remained for some time in his hiding-place, and then cautiously
emerged from it to continue his way. He did not dare to keep the public
road, although it was night, but took a wild and circuitous route, in
lanes and bypaths, which conducted him, at length, to the vicinity of
the sea. Here, about day-break, he was passing a mansion, supposing that
no one would observe him at so early an hour, when, suddenly, he
perceived a man sitting at the gate, armed and equipped, and in an
attitude of waiting. He was waiting for his horse. He was a nobleman
named Hubert. He recognized William immediately as the duke, and
accosted him in a tone of astonishment, saying, "Why, my lord duke, is
it possible that this is you?" He was amazed to see the ruler of the
realm out at such an hour, in such a condition, alone, exhausted, his
dress all in disorder from the haste with which he had put it on, and
his steed breathless and covered with dust, and ready, apparently, to
drop down with fatigue and exhaustion.

William, finding that he was recognized, related his story. It appeared,
in the end, that Hubert held his own castle and village as a tenant of
one of the principal conspirators, and was bound, according to the
feudal ideas of the time, to espouse his landlord's cause. He told
William, however, that he had nothing to fear. "I will defend your
life," said he, "as if it were my own." So saying, he called his three
sons, who were all athletic and courageous young men, and commanded them
to mount their horses and get ready for a march. He took William into
his castle, and gave him the food and refreshment that he needed. Then
he brought him again into the court-yard of the house, where William
found the three young horsemen mounted and ready, and a strong and fleet
steed prepared for himself. He mounted. Hubert commanded his sons to
conduct the prince with all dispatch to Falaise, without traveling at
all upon the highway or entering a town. They took, accordingly, a
straight course across the country--which was probably then, as now,
nearly destitute of inclosures--and conducted William safely to his
castle at Falaise.

In the course of the morning, William's pursuers came to Hubert's
castle, and asked if the duke had been seen going by. Hubert replied in
the affirmative, and he mounted his steed with great readiness to go and
show them the road which the fugitive had taken. He urged them to ride
hard, in hopes of soon overtaking the object of their pursuit. They
drove on, accordingly, with great impetuosity and ardor, under Hubert's
guidance; but, as he had purposely taken a wrong road, he was only
leading them further and further astray. Finally they gave up the chase,
and Hubert returned with the disappointed pursuers to his fortress,
William having in the mean time arrived safely at Falaise.

The conspirators now found that it was useless any longer to attempt to
conceal their plans. In fact, they were already all exposed, and they
knew that William would immediately summon his troops and come out to
seize them. They must, therefore, either fly from the country or attempt
an open rebellion. They decided on the latter--the result was a civil
war. In the end, William was victorious. He took a large number of the
rebels prisoners, and he adopted the following very singular plan for
inflicting a suitable punishment upon them, and at the same time
erecting a permanent monument of his victory. He laid out a public road
across the country, on the line over which he had been conducted by the
sons of Hubert, and compelled the rebels to make it. A great part of
this country was low and marshy, and had been for this reason avoided by
the public road, which took a circuitous course around it. The rebel
prisoners were now, however, set at work to raise a terrace or
embankment, on a line surveyed by William's engineers, which followed
almost exactly the course of his retreat. The high road was then laid
out upon this terrace, and it became immediately a public thoroughfare
of great importance. It continued for several centuries one of the most
frequented highways in the realm, and was known by the name of the
Raised Road--_Terre levée_--throughout the kingdom. In fact, the remains
of it, appearing like the ruins of an ancient rail-road embankment,
exist to the present day.

In the course of the war with these rebels a curious incident occurred
at one of the battles, or, rather, is said to have occurred, by the
historians who tell the story, which, if true, illustrates very
strikingly the romantic and chivalrous ideas of the times. Just as the
battle was commencing, William perceived a strong and finely-equipped
body of horsemen preparing to charge upon the very spot where he
himself, surrounded by his officers, was standing. Now the armor worn by
knights in battle in those times covered and concealed the figure and
the face so fully, that it would have been impossible even for
acquaintances and friends to recognize each other, were it not that the
knights were all accustomed to wear certain devices upon some part of
their armor--painted, for instance, upon their shields, or embroidered
on little banners which they bore--by means of which they might be
known. These devices became at length hereditary in the great
families--sons being proud to wear, themselves, the emblems to which the
deeds of their fathers had imparted a trace of glory and renown. The
devices of different chieftains were combined, sometimes, in cases of
intermarriage, or were modified in various ways; and with these minor
changes they would descend from generation to generation as the family
coat of arms. And this was the origin of heraldry.

Now the body of horsemen that were advancing to the charge, as above
described, had each of them his device upon a little flag or banner
attached to their lances. As they were advancing, William scrutinized
them closely, and presently recognized in their leader a man who had
formerly been upon his side. His name was Rollo de Tesson. He was one of
those who had sworn fealty to him at the time when his father Robert
presented him to the council, when setting out upon his pilgrimage.
William accordingly exclaimed, with a loud voice, "Why, these are my
friends!" The officers and the soldiers of the body-guard who were with
him, taking up the cry, shouted "_Friends! friends!_" Rollo de Tesson
and the other knights, who were slowly coming up, preparing to charge
upon William's party, surprised at being thus accosted, paused in their
advance, and finally halted. Rollo said to the other knights, who
gathered around him, "I _was_ his friend. I gave my oath to his father
that I would stand by him and defend him with my life; and now I have
this morning sworn to the Count of Cotentin"--the Count of Cotentin was
the leader of the rebellion--"that I would seek out William on the
battle-field, and be the first to give him a blow. I know not what to
do." "Keep both oaths," replied one of his companions. "Go and strike
him a gentle blow, and then defend him with your life." The whole troop
seconded this proposal by acclamation. Rollo advanced, followed by the
other knights, with gestures and shouts denoting that they were friends.
He rode up to William, told him that he had that morning sworn to strike
him, and then dealt him a pretended blow upon his shoulder; but as both
the shoulder and the hand which struck it were armed with steel, the
clanking sound was all the effect that was produced. Rollo and his
troop--their sworn obligation to the Count of Cotentin being thus
fulfilled--turned now into the ranks of William's soldiery, and fought
valiantly all day upon his side.

Although William was generally victorious in the battles that he fought,
and succeeded in putting down one rebellion after another with
promptness and decision, still, new rebellions and new wars were
constantly breaking out, which kept his dominions in a continual state
of commotion. In fact, the chieftains, the nobles, and the knights,
constituting the only classes of society that exercised any influence,
or were regarded with any respect in those days, were never contented
except when actively employed in military campaigns. The excitements and
the glory of war were the only excitements and glory that they
understood, or had the means of enjoying. Their dwellings were great
fortresses, built on the summits of the rocks, which, however
picturesque and beautiful they appear as _ruins_ now, were very gloomy
and desolate as residences then. They were attractive enough when their
inmates were flying to them for refuge from an enemy, or were employed
within the walls in concentrating their forces and brightening up their
arms for some new expedition for vengeance or plunder, but they were
lonely and lifeless scenes of restlessness and discontent in times of
quietness and peace.

It is difficult for us, at this day, to conceive how destitute of all
the ordinary means of comfort and enjoyment, in comparison with a modern
dwelling, the ancient feudal castles must have been. They were placed in
situations as nearly inaccessible as possible, and the natural
impediments of approach were increased by walls, and gates, and ditches,
and draw-bridges. The door of access was often a window in the wall, ten
or fifteen feet from the ground, to which the inmates or their friends
mounted by a ladder. The floors were of stone, the walls were naked, the
ceiling was a rudely-constructed series of arches. The apartments, too,
were ordinarily small, and were arranged one above another, in the
successive stories of a tower. Nor could these cell-like chambers be
enlivened by the wide and cheerful windows of modern times, which not
only admit the light to animate the scene within, but also afford to the
spectator there, wide-spread, and sometimes enchanting views of the
surrounding country. The castle windows of ancient days were, on the
contrary, narrow loop-holes, each at the bottom of a deep recess in the
thick wall. If they had been made wide they would have admitted too
easily the arrows and javelins of besiegers, as well as the wind and
rain of wintery storms. There were no books in these desolate dwellings,
no furniture but armor, no pleasures but drinking and carousals.

Nor could these noble and valiant knights and barons occupy themselves
in any useful employment. There was nothing which it was respectable for
them to do but to fight. They looked down with contempt upon all the
industrial pursuits of life. The cultivation of farms, the rearing of
flocks and herds, arts, manufactures, and commerce--every thing of this
sort, by which man can benefit his fellow-man, was entirely beneath
them. In fact, their descendants to the present day, even in England,
entertain the same ideas. Their younger sons can enter the army or the
navy, and spend their lives in killing and destroying, or in awaiting,
in idleness, dissipation, and vice, for orders to kill and destroy,
without dishonor; but to engage in any way in those vast and magnificent
operations of peaceful industry, on which the true greatness and glory
of England depend, would be perpetual and irretrievable disgrace. A
young nobleman can serve, in the most subordinate official capacity, on
board a man-of-war, and take pay for it, without degradation; but to
_build_ a man-of-war itself and take pay for it, would be to compel his
whole class to disown him.

It was in consequence of this state of feeling among the knights and
barons of William's day that peace was always tedious and irksome to
them, and they were never contented except when engaged in battles and
campaigns. It was this feeling, probably, quite as much as any settled
hostility to William's right to reign, that made his barons so eager to
engage in insurrections and rebellions. There was, however, after all,
a real and deep-seated opposition to William's right of succession,
founded in the ideas of the day. They could not well endure that one of
so humble and even ignominious birth, on the mother's side, should be
the heir of so illustrious a line as the great dukes of Normandy.
William's enemies were accustomed to designate him by opprobrious
epithets, derived from the circumstances of his birth. Though he was
patient and enduring, and often very generous in forgiving other
injuries, these insults to the memory of his mother always stung him
very deeply, and awakened the strongest emotions of resentment. One
instance of this was so conspicuous that it is recorded in almost all
the histories of William that have been written.

It was in the midst of one of the wars in which he was involved, that
he was advancing across the country to the attack of a strong castle,
which, in addition to the natural strength of its walls and
fortifications, was defended by a numerous and powerful garrison. So
confident, in fact, were the garrison in their numbers and power, that
when they heard that William was advancing to attack them, they sent out
a detachment to meet him. This detachment, however, were not intending
to give him open battle. Their plan was to lay in ambuscade, and attack
William's troops when they came to the spot, and while they were unaware
of the vicinity of an enemy, and off their guard.

William, however, they found, was not off his guard. He attacked the
ambuscade with so much vigor as to put the whole force immediately to
flight. Of course the fugitives directed their steps toward the castle.
William and his soldiers followed them in headlong pursuit. The end was,
that the detachment from the garrison had scarcely time, after making
good their own entrance, to raise the draw-bridges and secure the
gates, so as to keep their pursuers from entering too. They did,
however, succeed in doing this, and William, establishing his troops
about the castle, opened his lines and commenced a regular siege.

The garrison were very naturally vexed and irritated at the bad success
of their intended stratagem. To have the ambuscade not only fail of its
object, but to have also the men that formed it driven thus
ignominiously in, and so narrowly escaping, also, the danger of letting
in the whole troop of their enemies after them, was a great disgrace. To
retaliate upon William, and to throw back upon him the feelings of
mortification and chagrin which they felt themselves, they mounted the
walls and towers, and shouted out all sorts of reproaches and insults.
Finally, when they found that they could not make mere words
sufficiently stinging, they went and procured skins and hides, and
aprons of leather, and every thing else that they could find that was
connected with the trade of a tanner, and shook them at the troops of
their assailants from the towers and walls, with shouts of merriment and

William was desperately enraged at these insults. He organized an
assaulting party, and by means of the great exertions which the
exasperation of his men stimulated them to make, he carried some of the
outworks, and took a number of prisoners. These prisoners he cut to
pieces, and then caused their bloody and mangled limbs and members to
be thrown, by great slings, over the castle walls.

At one time during the period which is included within the limits of
this chapter, and in the course of one of those intervals of peace and
quietness within his own dominions which William sometimes enjoyed, the
King of France became involved in a war with one of his own rebellious
subjects, and William went, with an army of Normans, to render him aid.
King Henry was at first highly gratified at this prompt and effectual
succor, but he soon afterward began to feel jealous of the universal
popularity and renown which the young duke began soon to acquire.
William was at that time only about twenty-four years old, but he took
the direction of every thing--moved to and fro with the utmost
celerity--planned the campaigns--directed the sieges, and by his
personal accomplishments and his bravery, he won all hearts, and was the
subject of every body's praises. King Henry found himself supplanted,
in some measure, in the regard and honorable consideration of his
subjects, and he began to feel very envious and jealous of his rival.

Sometimes particular incidents would occur, in which William's feats
of prowess or dexterity would so excite the admiration of the army that
he would be overwhelmed with acclamations and applause. These were
generally exploits of combat on the field, or of escape from pursuers
when outnumbered, in which good fortune had often, perhaps, quite as
much to do in securing the result as strength or courage. But in those
days a soldier's good luck was perhaps as much the subject of applause
as his muscular force or his bravery; and, in fact, it was as deservedly
so; for the strength of arm, and the coolness, or, rather, the ferocity
of courage, which make a good combatant in personal contests on a
battle-field, are qualities of brutes rather than of men. We feel a
species of respect for them in the lion or tiger, but they deserve only
execration when exercised in the wantonness of hatred and revenge by man
against his brother man.

One of the instances of William's extraordinary success was the
following. He was reconnoitering the enemy on one occasion, accompanied
only by four or five knights, who acted as his attendants and
body-guard. The party were at a distance from the camp of the enemy, and
supposed they were not observed. They were observed, however, and
immediately a party of twelve chosen horsemen was formed, and ordered
to ride out and surprise them. This detachment concealed themselves in
an ambuscade, at a place where the reconnoitering party must pass, and
when the proper moment arrived, they burst out suddenly upon them and
summoned them to surrender. Twelve against six seemed to render both
flight and resistance equally vain. William, however, advanced
immediately to the attack of the ambuscaders. He poised his long lance,
and, riding on with it at full speed, he unhorsed and killed the
foremost of them at a blow. Then, just drawing back his weapon to gather
strength for another blow, he killed the second of his enemies in the
same manner. His followers were so much animated at this successful
onset, that they advanced very resolutely to the combat. In the mean
time, the shouts carried the alarm to William's camp, and a strong party
set off to rescue William and his companions. The others then turned to
fly, while William followed them so eagerly and closely, that he and
they who were with him overtook and disabled seven of them, and made
them prisoners. The rest escaped. William and his party then turned and
began to proceed toward their own camp, conveying their prisoners in
their train.

They were met by King Henry himself at the head of a detachment of three
hundred men, who, not knowing how much necessity there might be for
efficient aid, were hastening to the scene of action. The sight of
William coming home victorious, and the tales told by his companions of
the invincible strength and daring which he had displayed in the sudden
danger, awakened a universal enthusiasm, and the plaudits and encomiums
with which the whole camp resounded were doubtless as delicious and
intoxicating to him as they were bitter to the king.

It was by such deeds, and by such personal and mental characteristics as
these, that William, notwithstanding the untoward influences of his
birth, fought his way, during the twenty years of which we have been
speaking, into general favor, and established a universal renown. He
completely organized and arranged the internal affairs of his own
kingdom, and established himself firmly upon the ducal throne. His mind
had become mature, his resources were well developed, and his soul,
always ambitious and aspiring, began to reach forward to the grasping of
some grander objects of pursuit, and to the entering upon some wider
field of action than his duchy of Normandy could afford. During this
interval, however, he was married; and, as the circumstances of his
marriage were somewhat extraordinary, we must make that event the
subject of a separate chapter.



A.D. 1045-1052

Political importance of a royal marriage.--William's views in regard
to his marriage.--His choice.--Matilda's genealogy.--Her relationship
to William.--Matilda's accomplishments.--Her embroidery.--Matilda's
industry.--The Bayeux tapestry.--The designs.--Uncouth
drawing.--Preservation.--Elements of decay.--Great age of the Bayeux
tapestry.--Specimens of the designs of the Bayeux tapestry.--Marriage
negotiations.--Matilda's objections.--Matilda's refusal.--Her attachment
to Brihtric.--Matilda's attachment not reciprocated.--Her thirst for
revenge.--William and Matilda's consanguinity.--An obstacle to their
marriage.--Negotiations with the pope.--Causes of delay.--William's
quarrel with Matilda.--The reconciliation.--The marriage.--Rejoicings
and festivities.--Residence at Rouen.--Ancient castles and
palaces.--Matilda's palace.--Luxury and splendor.--Mauger, archbishop of
Rouen.--William and Matilda excommunicated.--Lanfranc sent to negotiate
with the pope.--His success.--Conditions of Lanfranc's treaty.--Their
fulfillment.--William and Matilda's children.--Matilda's domestic
character.--Objects of William's marriage.--Baldwin, Count of
Flanders.--The blank letter.--Baldwin's surprise.

One of the most important points which an hereditary potentate has to
attend to, in completing his political arrangements, is the question of
his marriage. Until he has a family and an heir, men's minds are
unsettled in respect to the succession, and the various rival candidates
and claimants to the throne are perpetually plotting and intriguing to
put themselves into a position to spring at once into his place if
sickness, or a battle, or any sudden accident should take him away. This
evil was more formidable than usual in the case of William, for the men
who were prepared to claim his place when he was dead were all secretly
or openly maintaining that their right to it was superior to his while
he was living. This gave a double intensity to the excitement with which
the public was perpetually agitated in respect to the crown, and kept
the minds of the ambitious and the aspiring, throughout William's
dominions, in a continual fever. It was obvious that a great part of
the cause of this restless looking for change and consequent planning to
promote it would be removed if William had a son.

It became, therefore, an important matter of state policy that the duke
should be married. In fact, the barons and military chieftains who were
friendly to him urged this measure upon him, on account of the great
effect which they perceived it would have in settling the minds of the
people of the country and consolidating his power. William accordingly
began to look around for a wife. It appeared, however, in the end, that,
though policy was the main consideration which first led him to
contemplate marriage, love very probably exercised an important
influence in determining his choice of the lady; at all events, the
object of his choice was an object worthy of love. She was one of the
most beautiful and accomplished princesses in Europe.

She was the daughter of a great potentate who ruled over the country of
Flanders. Flanders lies upon the coast, east of Normandy, beyond the
frontiers of France, and on the southern shore of the German Ocean. Her
father's title was the Earl of Flanders. He governed his dominions,
however, like a sovereign, and was at the head of a very effective
military power. His family, too, occupied a very high rank, and enjoyed
great consideration among the other princes and potentates of Europe. It
had intermarried with the royal family of England, so that Matilda, the
daughter of the earl, whom William was disposed to make his bride, was
found, by the genealogists, who took great interest in those days in
tracing such connections, to have descended in a direct line from the
great English king, Alfred himself.

This relationship, by making Matilda's birth the more illustrious,
operated strongly in favor of the match, as a great part of the motive
which William had in view, in his intended marriage, was to aggrandize
and strengthen his own position, by the connection which he was about to
form. There was, however, another consanguinity in the case which had a
contrary tendency. Matilda's father had been connected with the Norman
as well as with the English line, and Matilda and William were in some
remote sense cousins. This circumstance led, in the sequel, as will
presently be seen, to serious difficulty and trouble.

Matilda was seven years younger than William. She was brought up
in her father's court, and famed far and wide for her beauty and
accomplishments. The accomplishments in which ladies of high rank sought
to distinguish themselves in those days were two, music and embroidery.
The embroidery of tapestry was the great attainment, and in this art the
young Matilda acquired great skill. The tapestry which was made in the
Middle Ages was used to hang against the walls of some of the more
ornamented rooms in royal palaces and castles, to hide the naked surface
of the stones of which the building was constructed. The cloths thus
suspended were at first plain, afterward they began to be ornamented
with embroidered borders or other decorations, and at length ladies
learned to employ their own leisure hours, and beguile the tedium of the
long confinement which many of them had to endure within their castles,
in embroidering various devices and designs on the hangings intended for
their own chambers, or to execute such work as presents for their
friends. Matilda's industry and skill in this kind of work were
celebrated far and wide.

The accomplishments which ladies take great pains to acquire in their
early years are sometimes, it is said, laid almost entirely aside after
their marriage; not necessarily because they are then less desirous to
please, but sometimes from the abundance of domestic duty, which allows
them little time, and sometimes from the pressure of their burdens of
care or sorrow, which leave them no heart for the occupations of
amusement or gayety. It seems not to have been so in Matilda's case,
however. She resumed her needle often during the years of her wedded
life, and after William had accomplished his conquest of England, she
worked upon a long linen web, with immense labor, a series of designs
illustrating the various events and incidents of his campaign, and the
work has been preserved to the present day.

At least there is such a web now existing in the ancient town of Bayeux,
in Normandy, which has been there from a period beyond the memory of
men, and which tradition says was worked by Matilda. It would seem,
however, that if she did it at all, she must have done it "as Solomon
built the temple--with a great deal of help;" for this famous piece of
embroidery, which has been celebrated among all the historians and
scholars of the world for several hundred years by the name of the
_Bayeux Tapestry_, is over four hundred feet long, and nearly two feet
wide. The wet is of linen, while the embroidery is of woolen. It was all
obviously executed with the needle, and was worked with infinite labor
and care. The woolen thread which was used was of various colors, suited
to represent the different objects in the design, though these colors
are, of course, now much tarnished and faded.

The designs themselves are very simple and even rude, evincing very
little knowledge of the principles of modern art. The specimens on the
following page, of engravings made from them, will give some idea of the
childish style of delineation which characterizes all Matilda's designs.
Childish, however, as such a style of drawing would be considered now,
it seems to have been, in Matilda's days, very much praised and admired.

[Illustration: PLOWING. From the Bayeux tapestry.]

[Illustration: SOWING. From the Bayeux tapestry.]

We often have occasion to observe, in watching the course of human
affairs, the frailty and transitoriness of things apparently most
durable and strong. In the case of this embroidery, on the contrary, we
are struck with the durability and permanence of what would seem to be
most frail and fleeting. William's conquest of England took place in
1066. This piece of tapestry, therefore, if Matilda really worked it,
is about eight hundred years old. And when we consider how delicate,
slender, and frail is the fibre of a linen thread, and that the various
elements of decay, always busy in the work of corrupting and destroying
the works of man, have proved themselves powerful enough to waste away
and crumble into ruin the proudest structures which he has ever
attempted to rear, we are amazed that these slender filaments have been
able to resist their action so long. The Bayeux tapestry has lasted
nearly a thousand years. It will probably last for a thousand years to
come. So that the vast and resistless power, which destroyed Babylon and
Troy, and is making visible progress in the work of destroying the
Pyramids, is foiled by the durability of a piece of needle-work,
executed by the frail and delicate fingers of a woman.

We may have occasion to advert to the Bayeux tapestry again, when we
come to narrate the exploits which it was the particular object of this
historical embroidery to illustrate and adorn. In the mean time, we
return to our story.

The matrimonial negotiations of princes and princesses are always
conducted in a formal and ceremonious manner, and through the
intervention of legates, embassadors, and commissioners without number,
who are, of course, interested in protracting the proceedings, so as to
prolong, as much as possible, their own diplomatic importance and power.
Besides these accidental and temporary difficulties, it soon appeared
that there were, in this case, some real and very formidable obstacles,
which threatened for a time entirely to frustrate the scheme.

Among these difficulties there was one which was not usually, in such
cases, considered of much importance, but which, in this instance,
seemed for a long time to put an effectual bar to William's wishes, and
that was the aversion which the young princess herself felt for the
match. She could have, one would suppose, no personal feeling of
repugnance against William, for he was a tall and handsome cavalier,
highly graceful and accomplished, and renowned for his bravery and
success in war. He was, in every respect, such a personage as would be
most likely to captivate the imagination of a maiden princess in those
warlike times. Matilda, however, made objections to his birth. She could
not consider him as the legitimate descendant and heir of the dukes of
Normandy. It is true, he was then in possession of the throne, but he
was regarded by a large portion of the most powerful chieftains in his
realm as a usurper. He was liable, at any time, on some sudden change of
fortune, to be expelled from his dominions. His position, in a word,
though for the time being very exalted, was too precarious and unstable,
and his personal claims to high social rank were too equivocal, to
justify her trusting her destiny in his hands. In a word, Matilda's
answer to William's proposals was an absolute refusal to become his

These ostensible grounds, however, on which Matilda based her refusal,
plausible as they were, were not the real and true ones. The secret
motive was another attachment which she had formed. There had been sent
to her father's court in Flanders, from the English king, a young Saxon
embassador, whose name was Brihtric. Brihtric remained some little time
at the court in Flanders, and Matilda, who saw him often at the various
entertainments, celebrations, and parties of pleasure which were
arranged for his amusement, conceived a strong attachment to him. He was
of a very fair complexion, and his features were expressive and
beautiful. He was a noble of high position in England, though, of
course, his rank was inferior to that of Matilda. As it would have been
deemed hardly proper for him, under the circumstances of the case, to
have aspired to the princess's hand, on account of the superiority of
her social position, Matilda felt that it was her duty to make known her
sentiments to him, and thus to open the way. She did so; but she found,
unhappy maiden, that Brihtric did not feel, himself, the love which he
had inspired in her, and all the efforts and arts to which she was
impelled by the instinct of affection proved wholly unavailing to call
it forth. Brihtric, after fulfilling the object of his mission, took
leave of Matilda coldly, while _her_ heart was almost breaking, and went

As the sweetest wine transforms itself into the sharpest vinegar, so the
warmest and most ardent love turns, when it turns at all, to the most
bitter and envenomed hate. Love gave place soon in Matilda's heart to
indignation, and indignation to a burning thirst for revenge. The
intensity of the first excitement subsided; but Matilda never forgot and
never forgave the disappointment and the indignity which she had
endured. She had an opportunity long afterward to take terrible revenge
on Brihtric in England, by subjecting him to cruelties and hardships
there which brought him to his grave.

In the mean time, while her thoughts were so occupied with this
attachment, she had, of course, no heart to listen favorably to
William's proposals. Her friends would have attached no importance to
the real cause of her aversion to the match, but they felt the force of
the objections which could justly be advanced against William's rank,
and his real right to his throne. Then the consanguinity of the parties
was a great source of embarrassment and trouble. Persons as nearly
related to each other as they were, were forbidden by the Roman Catholic
rules to marry. There was such a thing as getting a dispensation from
the pope, by which the marriage would be authorized. William accordingly
sent embassadors to Rome to negotiate this business. This, of course,
opened a new field for difficulties and delays.

The papal authorities were accustomed, in such cases, to exact as the
price, or, rather, as the condition of their dispensation, some grant or
beneficial conveyance from the parties interested, to the Church, such
as the foundation of an abbey or a monastery, the building of a chapel,
or the endowment of a charity, by way as it were, of making amends to
the Church, by the benefit thus received, for whatever injury the cause
of religion and morality might sustain by the relaxation of a divine
law. Of course, this being the end in view, the tendency on the part of
the authorities at Rome would be to protract the negotiations, so as
to obtain from the suitor's impatience better terms in the end. The
embassadors and commissioners, too, on William's part, would have no
strong motive for hastening the proceedings. Rome was an agreeable
place of residence, and to live there as the embassador of a royal duke
of Normandy was to enjoy a high degree of consideration, and to be
surrounded continually by scenes of magnificence and splendor. Then,
again, William himself was not always at leisure to urge the business
forward by giving it his own close attention; for, during the period
while these negotiations were pending, he was occupied, from time to
time, with foreign wars, or in the suppression of rebellions among his
barons. Thus, from one cause and another, it seemed as if the business
would never come to an end.

In fact, a less resolute and determined man than William would have
given up in despair, for it was seven years, it is said, before the
affair was brought to a conclusion. One story is told of the impetuous
energy which William manifested in this suit, which seems almost

It was after the negotiations had been protracted for several years,
and at a time when the difficulties were principally those arising
from Matilda's opposition, that the occurrence took place. It was at
an interview which William had with Matilda in the streets of Bruges,
one of her father's cities. All that took place at the interview is not
known, but in the end of it William's resentment at Matilda's treatment
of him lost all bounds. He struck her or pushed her so violently as
to throw her down upon the ground. It is said that he struck her
repeatedly, and then, leaving her with her clothes all soiled and
disheveled, rode off in a rage. Love quarrels are often the means of
bringing the contending parties nearer together than they were before,
but such a terrible love quarrel as this, we hope, is very rare.

Violent as it was, however, it was followed by a perfect reconciliation,
and in the end all obstacles were removed, and William and Matilda were
married. The event took place in 1052.

The marriage ceremony was performed at one of William's castles, on the
frontiers of Normandy, as it is customary for princes and kings to be
married always in their own dominions. Matilda was conducted there with
great pomp and parade by her parents, and was accompanied by a large
train of attendants and friends. This company, mounted--both knights and
ladies--on horses beautifully caparisoned, moved across the country like
a little army on a march, or rather like a triumphal procession
escorting a queen. Matilda was received at the castle with distinguished
honor, and the marriage celebrations, and the entertainments
accompanying it, were continued for several days. It was a scene of
unusual festivity and rejoicing.

The dress both of William and Matilda, on this occasion, was very
specially splendid. She wore a mantle studded with the most costly
jewels; and, in addition to the other splendors of his dress, William
too wore a mantle and a helmet, both of which were richly adorned with
the same costly decorations. So much importance was attached, in those
days, to this outward show, and so great was the public interest taken
in it, that these dresses of William and Matilda, with all the jewelry
that adorned them, were deposited afterward in the great church at
Bayeux, where they remained a sort of public spectacle, the property of
the Church, for nearly five hundred years.

From the castle of Augi, where the marriage ceremonies were performed,
William proceeded, after these first festivities and rejoicings were
over, to the great city of Rouen, conducting his bride thither with
great pomp and parade. Here the young couple established themselves,
living in the enjoyment of every species of luxury and splendor which
were attainable in those days. As has already been said, the interiors,
even of royal castles and palaces, presented but few of the comforts and
conveniences deemed essential to the happiness of a home in modern
times. The European ladies of the present day delight in their suites of
retired and well-furnished apartments, adorned with velvet carpets, and
silken curtains, and luxuriant beds of down, with sofas and couches
adapted to every fancy which the caprice of fatigue or restlessness may
assume, and cabinets stored with treasures, and libraries of embellished
books--the whole scene illuminated by the splendor of gas-lights, whose
brilliancy is reflected by mirrors and candelabras, sparkling with a
thousand hues. Matilda's feudal palace presented no such scenes as
these. The cold stone floors were covered with mats of rushes. The
walls--if the naked masonry was hidden at all--were screened by hangings
of coarse tapestry, ornamented with uncouth and hideous figures. The
beds were miserable pallets, the windows were loop-holes, and the castle
itself had all the architectural characteristics of a prison.

Still, there was a species of luxury and splendor even then. Matilda had
splendid horses to ride, all magnificently caparisoned. She had dresses
adorned most lavishly with gold and jewels. There were troops of valiant
knights, all glittering in armor of steel, to escort her on her
journeys, and accompany and wait upon her on her excursions of pleasure;
and there were grand banquets and carousals, from time to time, in the
long castle hall, with tournaments, and races, and games, and other
military shows, conducted with great parade and pageantry. Matilda thus
commenced her married life in luxury and splendor.

In luxury and splendor, but not in peace. William had an uncle, whose
name was Mauger. He was the Archbishop of Rouen, and was a dignitary
of great influence and power. Now it was, of course, the interest of
William's relatives that he should not be married, as every increase of
probability that his crown would descend to direct heirs diminished
their future chances of the succession, and of course undermined their
present importance. Mauger had been very much opposed to this match,
and had exerted himself in every way, while the negotiations were
pending, to impede and delay them. The point which he most strenuously
urged was the consanguinity of the parties, a point to which it was
incumbent on him, as he maintained--being the head of the Church in
Normandy--particularly to attend. It seems that, notwithstanding
William's negotiations with the pope to obtain a dispensation, the
affair was not fully settled at Rome before the marriage; and very soon
after the celebration of the nuptials, Mauger fulminated an edict of
excommunication against both William and Matilda, for intermarrying
within the degrees of relationship which the canons of the Church

An excommunication, in the Middle Ages, was a terrible calamity. The
person thus condemned was made, so far as such a sentence could effect
it, an outcast from man, and a wretch accursed of Heaven. The most
terrible denunciations were uttered against him, and in the case of a
prince, like that of William, his subjects were all absolved from their
allegiance, and forbidden to succor or defend him. A powerful potentate
like William could maintain himself for a time against the influence and
effects of such a course, but it was pretty sure to work more and more
strongly against him through the superstitions of the people, and to
wear him out in the end.

William resolved to appeal at once to the pope, and to effect, by some
means or other, the object of securing his dispensation. There was a
certain monk, then obscure and unknown, but who afterward became a very
celebrated public character, named Lanfranc, whom, for some reason or
other, William supposed to possess the necessary qualifications for this
mission. He accordingly gave him his instructions and sent him away.
Lanfranc proceeded to Rome, and there he managed the negotiation with
the pope so dexterously as soon to bring it to a conclusion.

The arrangement which he made was this. The pope was to grant the
dispensation and confirm the marriage, thus removing the sentence of
excommunication which the Archbishop Mauger had pronounced, on
condition that William should build and endow a hospital for a hundred
poor persons, and also erect two abbeys, one to be built by himself, for
monks, and one by Matilda, for nuns. Lanfranc agreed to these conditions
on the part of William and Matilda, and they, when they came to be
informed of them, accepted and confirmed them with great joy. The ban of
excommunication was removed; all Normandy acquiesced in the marriage,
and William and Matilda proceeded to form the plans and to superintend
the construction of the abbeys.

They selected the city of Caen for the site. The place of this city will
be seen marked upon the map near the northern coast of Normandy.[G] It
was situated in a broad and pleasant valley, at the confluence of two
rivers, and was surrounded by beautiful and fertile meadows. It was
strongly fortified, being surrounded by walls and towers, which
William's ancestors, the dukes of Normandy, had built. William and
Matilda took a strong interest in the plans and constructions connected
with the building of the abbeys. William's was a very extensive edifice,
and contained within its inclosures a royal palace for himself, where,
in subsequent years, himself and Matilda often resided.

[Footnote G: See map, chapter ix.]

The principal buildings of these abbeys still stand, though the walls
and fortifications of Caen are gone. The buildings are used now for
other purposes than those for which they were erected, but they retain
the names originally given them, and are visited by great numbers of
tourists, being regarded with great interest as singular memorials of
the past--twin monuments commemorating an ancient marriage.

The marriage being thus finally confirmed and acquiesced in, William and
Matilda enjoyed a long period of domestic peace. The oldest child was a
son. He was born within a year of the marriage, and William named him
Robert, that, as the reader will recollect, having been the name of
William's father. There was, in process of time, a large family of
children. Their names were Robert, William Rufus, Henry, Cecilia,
Agatha, Constance, Adela, Adelaide, and Gundred. Matilda devoted herself
with great maternal fidelity to the care and education of these
children, and many of them became subsequently historical personages of
the highest distinction.

The object which, it will be recollected, was one of William's main
inducements for contracting this alliance, namely, the strengthening of
his power by thus connecting himself with the reigning family of
Flanders, was, in a great measure, accomplished. The two governments,
leagued together by this natural tie, strengthened each other's power,
and often rendered each other essential assistance, though there was one
occasion, subsequently, when William's reliance on this aid was
disappointed. It was as follows:

When he was planning his invasion of England, he sent to Matilda's
brother, Baldwin, who was then Count of Flanders, inviting him to raise
a force and join him. Baldwin, who considered the enterprise as
dangerous and Quixotic, sent back word to inquire what share of the
English territory William would give him if he would go and help him
conquer it. William thought that this attempt to make a bargain
beforehand, for a division of spoil, evinced a very mercenary and
distrustful spirit on the part of his brother-in-law--a spirit which he
was not at all disposed to encourage. He accordingly took a sheet of
parchment, and writing nothing within, he folded it in the form of a
letter, and wrote upon the outside the following rhyme:

     "Beau frère, en Angleterre vous aures
     Ce qui dedans escript, vous trouveres."

Which royal distich might be translated thus:

     "Your share, good brother, of the land we win,
     You'll find entitled and described within."

William forwarded the empty missive by the hand of a messenger, who
delivered it to Baldwin as if it were a dispatch of great consequence.
Baldwin received it eagerly, and opened it at once. He was surprised at
finding nothing within; and after turning the parchment every way, in
vain search after the description of his share, he asked the messenger
what it meant. "It means," said he, "that as there is nothing writ
within, so nothing you shall have."

Notwithstanding this witticism, however, some arrangement seems
afterward to have been made between the parties, for Flanders did, in
fact, contribute an important share toward the force which William
raised when preparing for the invasion.



A.D. 1002-1052

William's claims to the English throne.--The Lady Emma.--Claimants
to the English throne.--Ethelred.--Ethelred subdued.--He flies to
Normandy.--Massacre of the Danes.--Horrors of civil war.--Ethelred's
tyranny.--Emma's policy.--Emma's humiliation.--Ethelred invited to
return.--Restoration of Ethelred and Emma.--War with Canute.--Ethelred's
death.--Situation of Emma.--Her children.--War with Canute.--Treaty
between Edmund and Canute.--Death of Edmund.--Accession of
Canute.--Canute's wise policy.--His treatment of Edmund's
children.--Canute marries Emma.--Opposition of her sons.--Emma again
queen of England.--The Earl Godwin.--Canute's death.--He bequeaths
the kingdom to Harold.--Emma's plots for her children.--Her
letter to them.--Disastrous issue of Alfred's expedition.--His
terrible sentence.--Edward's accession.--Emma wretched and
miserable.--Accusations against Emma.--Her wretched end.--Edmund's
children.--Godwin.--Harold.--Plans of Edward.--Plots and counterplots.

It is not to be supposed that, even in the warlike times of which we are
writing, such a potentate as a duke of Normandy would invade a country
like England, so large and powerful in comparison to his own, without
some pretext. William's pretext was, that he himself was the legitimate
successor to the English crown, and that the English king who possessed
it at the time of his invasion was a usurper. In order that the reader
may understand the nature and origin of this his claim, it is necessary
to relate somewhat in full the story of the Lady Emma.

By referring to the genealogy of the Norman line of dukes contained in
the second chapter of this volume, it will be seen that Emma was the
daughter of the first Richard. She was celebrated in her early years for
her great personal beauty. They called her _the Pearl of Normandy_.

She married, at length, one of the kings of England, whose name was
Ethelred. England was at that time distracted by civil wars, waged
between the two antagonist races of Saxons and Danes. There were, in
fact, two separate dynasties or lines of kings, who were contending, all
the time, for the mastery. In these contests, sometimes the Danes would
triumph for a time, and sometimes the Saxons; and sometimes both races
would have a royal representative in the field, each claiming the
throne, and reigning over separate portions of the island. Thus there
were, at certain periods, two kingdoms in England, both covering the
same territory, and claiming the government of the same population--with
two kings, two capitals, two administrations--while the wretched
inhabitants were distracted and ruined by the terrible conflicts to
which these hostile pretensions gave rise.

Ethelred was of the Saxon line. He was a widower at the time of his
marriage to Emma, nearly forty years old, and he had, among other
children by his former wife, a son named Edmund, an active, energetic
young man, who afterward became king. One motive which he had in view in
marrying Emma was to strengthen his position by securing the alliance of
the Normans of Normandy. The Danes, his English enemies, were Normans.
The government of Normandy would therefore be naturally inclined to
take part with them. By this marriage, however, Ethelred hoped to detach
the Normans of France from the cause of his enemies, and to unite them
to his own. He would thus gain a double advantage, strengthening himself
by an accession which weakened his foes.

His plan succeeded so far as inducing Richard himself, the Duke of
Normandy, to espouse his cause, but it did not enable Ethelred to
triumph over his enemies. They, on the contrary, conquered _him_, and,
in the end, drove him from the country altogether. He fled to Normandy
for refuge, with Emma his wife, and his two young sons. Their names were
Edward and Alfred.

Richard II., Emma's brother, who was then the Duke of Normandy, received
the unhappy fugitives with great kindness, although _he_, at least,
scarcely deserved it. It was not surprising that he was driven from his
native realm, for he possessed none of those high qualities of mind
which fit men to conquer or to govern. Like all other weak-minded
tyrants, he substituted cruelty for wisdom and energy in his attempts to
subjugate his foes. As soon as he was married to Emma, for instance,
feeling elated and strong at the great accession of power which he
imagined he had obtained by this alliance, he planned a general massacre
of the Danes, and executed it on a given day, by means of private
orders, sent secretly throughout the kingdom. Vast numbers of the Danes
were destroyed; and so great was the hatred of the two races for each
other, that they who had these bloody orders to obey executed them with
a savage cruelty that was absolutely horrible. In one instance they
buried women to the waist, and then set dogs upon them, to tear their
naked flesh until they died in agony. It would be best, in narrating
history, to suppress such horrid details as these, were it not that in
a land like this, where so much depends upon the influence of every
individual in determining whether the questions and discussions which
are from time to time arising, and are hereafter to arise, shall be
settled peacefully, or by a resort to violence and civil war, it is very
important that we should all know what civil war is, and to what
horrible atrocities it inevitably leads.

Alfred the Great, when he was contending with the Danes in England, a
century before this time, treated them, so far as he gained advantages
over them, with generosity and kindness; and this policy wholly
conquered them in the end. Ethelred, on the other hand, tried the
effect of the most tyrannical cruelty, and the effect was only to arouse
his enemies to a more determined and desperate resistance. It was the
phrensy of vengeance and hate that these atrocities awakened every where
among the Danes, which nerved them with so much vigor and strength that
they finally expelled him from the island; so that, when he arrived in
Normandy, a fugitive and an exile, he came in the character of a
dethroned tyrant, execrated for his senseless and atrocious cruelties,
and not in that of an unhappy prince driven from his home by the
pressure of unavoidable calamity. Nevertheless, Richard, the Duke of
Normandy, received him, as we have already said, with kindness. He felt
the obligation of receiving the exiled monarch in a hospitable manner,
if not on his own account, at least for the sake of Emma and the

The origin and end of Emma's interest in Ethelred seems to have been
merely ambition. The "Pearl of Normandy" had given herself to this
monster for the sake, apparently, of the glory of being the English
queen. Her subsequent conduct compels the readers of history to make
this supposition, which otherwise would be uncharitable. She now
mourned her disappointment in finding that, instead of being sustained
by her husband in the lofty position to which she aspired, she was
obliged to come back to her former home again, to be once more
dependent, and with the additional burden of her husband himself, and
her children, upon her father's family. Her situation was rendered even
still more humiliating, in some degree, by the circumstances that her
father was no longer alive, and that it was to her brother, on whom her
natural claim was far less strong, that she had now to look for shelter
and protection. Richard, however, received them all in a kind and
generous manner.

In the mean time, the wars and commotions which had driven Ethelred
away continued to rage in England, the Saxons gradually gaining
ground against the Danes. At length the king of the Danes, who had
seized the government when Ethelred was expelled, died. The Saxons then
regained their former power, and they sent commissioners to Ethelred to
propose his return to England. At the same time, they expressed their
unwillingness to receive him, unless they could bind him, by a solemn
treaty, to take a very different course of conduct, in the future
management of his government, from that which he had pursued before.
Ethelred and Emma were eager to regain, on any terms, their lost throne.
They sent over embassadors empowered to make, in Ethelred's name, any
promises which the English nobles might demand; and shortly afterward
the royal pair crossed the Channel and went to London, and Ethelred was
acknowledged there by the _Saxon_ portion of the population of the
island once more as king.

The _Danes_, however, though weakened, were not yet disposed to submit.
They declared their allegiance to _Canute_, who was the successor in the
_Danish_ line. Then followed a long war between Canute and Ethelred.
Canute was a man of extraordinary sagacity and intelligence, and also of
great courage and energy. Ethelred, on the other hand, proved himself,
notwithstanding all his promises, incurably inefficient, cowardly, and
cruel. In fact, his son Prince Edmund, the son of his first wife, was
far more efficient than his father in resisting Canute and the Danes.
Edmund was active and fearless, and he soon acquired very extensive
power. In fact, he seems to have held the authority of his father in
very little respect. One striking instance of this insubordination
occurred. Ethelred had taken offense, for some reason or other, at one
of the nobles in his realm, and had put him to death, and confiscated
his estates; and, in addition to this, with a cruelty characteristic of
him, he shut up the unhappy widow of his victim, a young and beautiful
woman, in a gloomy convent, as a prisoner. Edmund, his son, went to the
convent, liberated the prisoner, and made her his own wife.

[Illustration: THE RESCUE.]

With such unfriendly relations between the king and his son, who seems
to have been the ablest general in his father's army, there could be
little hope of making head against such an enemy as Canute the Dane.
In fact, the course of public affairs went on from bad to worse, Emma
leading all the time a life of unceasing anxiety and alarm. At length,
in 1016, Ethelred died, and Emma's cup of disappointment and humiliation
was now full. Her own sons, Edward and Alfred, had no claims to the
crown; for Edmund, being the son by a former marriage, was older than
they. They were too young to take personally an active part in the
fierce contests of the day, and thus fight their way to importance and
power. And then Edmund, who was now to become king, would, of course,
feel no interest in advancing _them_, or doing honor to _her_. A son
who would thwart and counteract the plans and measures of a father, as
Edmund had done, would be little likely to evince much deference or
regard for a mother-in-law, or for half brothers, whom he would
naturally consider as his rivals. In a word, Emma had reason to be
alarmed at the situation of insignificance and danger in which she found
herself suddenly placed. She fled a second time, in destitution and
distress, to her brother's in Normandy. She was now, however, a widow,
and her children were fatherless. It is difficult to decide whether to
consider her situation as better or worse on this account, than it was
at her former exile.

Her sons were lads, but little advanced beyond the period of childhood;
and Edward, the eldest, on whom the duty of making exertions to advance
the family interests would first devolve, was of a quiet and gentle
spirit, giving little promise that he would soon be disposed to enter
vigorously upon military campaigns. Edmund, on the other hand, who was
now king, was in the prime of life, and was a man of great spirit and
energy. There was a reasonable prospect that he would live many years;
and even if he were to be suddenly cut off, there seemed to be no hope
of the restoration of Emma to importance or power; for Edmund was
married and had two sons, one of whom would be entitled to succeed him
in case of his decease. It seemed, therefore, to be Emma's destiny now,
to spend the remainder of her days with her children in neglect and
obscurity. The case resulted differently, however, as we shall see in
the end.

Edmund, notwithstanding his prospect of a long and prosperous career,
was cut off suddenly, after a stormy reign of one year. During his
reign, Canute the Dane had been fast gaining ground in England,
notwithstanding the vigor and energy with which Edmund had opposed him.
Finally, the two monarchs assembled their armies, and were about to
fight a great final battle. Edmund sent a flag of truce to Canute's
camp, proposing that, to save the effusion of blood, they should agree
to decide the case by single combat, and that he and Canute should be
the champions, and fight in presence of the armies. Canute declined this
proposal. He was himself small and slender in form, while Edmund was
distinguished for his personal development and muscular strength. Canute
therefore declined the personal contest, but offered to leave the
question to the decision of a council chosen from among the leading
nobles on either side. This plan was finally adopted. The council
convened, and, after long deliberations, they framed a treaty by which
the country was divided between the two potentates, and a sort of peace
was restored. A very short period after this treaty was settled, Edmund
was murdered.

Canute immediately laid claim to the whole realm. He maintained that
it was a part of the treaty that the partition of the kingdom was to
continue only during their joint lives, and that, on the death of
either, the whole was to pass to the survivor of them. The Saxon leaders
did not admit this, but they were in no condition very strenuously to
oppose it. Ethelred's sons by Emma were too young to come forward as
leaders yet; and as to Edmund's, they were mere children. There was,
therefore, no one whom they could produce as an efficient representative
of the Saxon line, and thus the Saxons were compelled to submit to
Canute's pretensions, at least for a time. They would not wholly give up
the claims of Edmund's children, but they consented to waive them for a
season. They gave Canute the guardianship of the boys until they should
become of age, and allowed him, in the mean time, to reign, himself,
over the whole land.

Canute exercised his power in a very discreet and judicious manner,
seeming intent, in all his arrangements, to protect the rights and
interests of the Saxons as well as of the Danes. It might be supposed
that the lives of the young Saxon princes, Edmund's sons, would not have
been safe in his hands; but the policy which he immediately resolved to
pursue was to conciliate the Saxons, and not to intimidate and coerce
them. He therefore did the young children no harm, but sent them away
out of the country to Denmark, that they might, if possible, be
gradually forgotten. Perhaps he thought that, if the necessity should
arise for it, they might there, at any time, be put secretly to death.

There was another reason still to prevent Canute's destroying these
children, which was, that if _they_ were removed, the claims of the
Saxon line would not thereby be extinguished, but would only be
transferred to Emma's children in Normandy, who, being older, were
likely the sooner to be in a condition to give him trouble as rivals. It
was therefore a very wise and sagacious policy which prompted him to
keep the young children of Edmund alive, but to remove them to a safe
distance out of the way.

In respect to Emma's children, Canute conceived a different plan for
guarding against any danger which came from their claims, and that was,
to propose to take their mother for his wife. By this plan her family
would come into his power, and then her own influence and that of her
Norman friends would be forever prevented from taking sides against him.
He accordingly made the proposal. Emma was ambitious enough of again
returning to her former position of greatness as English queen to accept
it eagerly. The world condemned her for being so ready to marry, for her
second husband, the deadly enemy and rival of the first; but it was all
one to her whether her husband was Saxon or Dane, provided that she
could be queen.

The boys, or, rather, the young men, for they were now advancing to
maturity, were very strongly opposed to this connection. They did all in
their power to prevent its consummation, and they never forgave their
mother for thus basely betraying their interests. They were the more
incensed at this transaction, because it was stipulated in the marriage
articles between Canute and Emma that their _future_ children--the
offspring of the marriage then contracted--should succeed to the throne
of England, to the exclusion of all previously born on either side. Thus
Canute fancied that he had secured his title, and that of his
descendants, to the crown forever, and Emma prepared to return to
England as once more its queen. The marriage was celebrated with great
pomp and splendor, and Emma, bidding Normandy and her now alienated
children farewell, was conducted in state to the royal palace in London.

We must now pass over, with a very few words, a long interval of twenty
years. It was the period of Canute's reign, which was prosperous and
peaceful. During this period Emma's Norman sons continued in Normandy.
She had another son in England a few years after her marriage, who was
named Canute, after his father, but he is generally known in history by
the name of Hardicanute, the prefix being a Saxon word denoting
energetic or strong. Canute had also a very celebrated minister in his
government named Godwin. Godwin was a Saxon of a very humble origin, and
the history of his life constitutes quite a romantic tale.[H] He was a
man of extraordinary talents and character, and at the time of Canute's
death he was altogether the most powerful subject in the realm.

[Footnote H: It is given at length in the last chapter of our history of
Alfred the Great.]

When Canute found that he was about to die, and began to consider what
arrangements he should make for the succession, he concluded that it
would not be safe for him to fulfill the agreement made in his marriage
contract with Emma, that the children of that marriage should inherit
the kingdom; for Hardicanute, who was entitled to succeed under that
covenant, was only about sixteen or seventeen years old, and
consequently too young to attempt to govern. He therefore made a will,
in which he left the kingdom to an older son, named Harold--a son whom
he had had before his marriage with Emma. This was the signal for a new
struggle. The influence of the Saxons and of Emma's friends was of
course in favor of Hardicanute, while the Danes espoused the cause of
Harold. Godwin at length taking sides with this last-named party, Harold
was established on the throne, and Emma and all her children, whether
descended from Ethelred or Canute, were set aside and forgotten.

Emma was not at all disposed to acquiesce in this change of fortune.
She remained in England, but was secretly incensed at her second
husband's breach of faith toward her; and as he had abandoned the child
of his marriage with her for _his_ former children, she now determined
to abandon him for _hers_. She gave up Hardicanute's cause, therefore,
and began secretly to plot among the Saxon population for bringing
forward her son Edward to the throne. When she thought that things were
ripe for the execution of the plot, she wrote a letter to her children
in Normandy, saying to them that the Saxon population were weary of the
Danish line, and were ready, she believed, to rise in behalf of the
ancient Saxon line, if the true representative of it would appear to
lead them. She therefore invited them to come to London and consult with
her on the subject. She directed them, however, to come, if they came at
all, in a quiet and peaceful manner, and without any appearance of
hostile intent, inasmuch as any thing which might seem like a foreign
invasion would awaken universal jealousy and alarm.

When this letter was received by the brothers in Normandy, the eldest,
Edward, declined to go, but gave his consent that Alfred should
undertake the expedition if he were disposed. Alfred accepted the
proposal. In fact, the temperament and character of the two brothers
were very different. Edward was sedate, serious, and timid. Alfred was
ardent and aspiring. The younger, therefore, decided to take the risk of
crossing the Channel, while the elder preferred to remain at home.

The result was very disastrous. Contrary to his mother's instructions,
Alfred took with him quite a troop of Norman soldiers. He crossed the
Channel in safety, and advanced across the country some distance toward
London. Harold sent out a force to intercept him. He was surrounded, and
he himself and all his followers were taken prisoners. He was sentenced
to lose his eyes, and he died in a few days after the execution of this
terrible sentence, from the mingled effects of fever and of mental
anguish and despair. Emma fled to Flanders.

Finally Harold died, and Hardicanute succeeded him. In a short time
Hardicanute died, leaving no heirs, and now, of course, there was no one
left[I] to compete with Emma's oldest son Edward, who had remained all
this time quietly in Normandy. He was accordingly proclaimed king. This
was in 1041. He reigned for twenty years, having commenced his reign
about the time that William the Conqueror was established in the
possession of his dominions as Duke of Normandy. Edward had known
William intimately during his long residence in Normandy, and William
came to visit him in England in the course of his reign. William, in
fact, considered himself as Edward's heir; for as Edward, though
married, had no children, the dukes of the Norman line were his nearest
relatives. He obtained, he said, a promise from Edward that Edward would
sanction and confirm his claim to the English crown, in the event of his
decease, by bequeathing it to William in his will.

[Footnote I: The children of Ethelred's oldest son, Edmund, were in
Hungary at this time, and seem to have been wellnigh forgotten.]

Emma was now advanced in years. The ambition which had been the ruling
principle of her life would seem to have been well satisfied, so far as
it is possible to satisfy ambition, for she had had two husbands and two
sons, all kings of England. But as she advanced toward the close of her
career, she found herself wretched and miserable. Her son Edward could
not forgive her for her abandonment of himself and his brother, to
marry a man who was their own and their father's bitterest enemy. She
had made a formal treaty in her marriage covenant to exclude them from
the throne. She had treated them with neglect during all the time of
Canute's reign, while she was living with him in London in power and
splendor. Edward accused her, also, of having connived at his brother
Alfred's death. The story is, that he caused her to be tried on this
charge by the ordeal of fire. This method consisted of laying red-hot
irons upon the stone floor of a church, at certain distances from each
other, and requiring the accused to walk over them with naked feet. If
the accused was innocent, Providence, as they supposed, would so guide
his footsteps that he should not touch the irons. Thus, if he was
innocent, he would go over safely; if guilty, he would be burned. Emma,
according to the story of the times, was subjected to this test, in the
Cathedral of Winchester, to determine whether she was cognizant of the
murder of her son. Whether this is true or not, there is no doubt that
Edward confined her a prisoner in the monastery at Winchester, where she
ended her days at last in neglect and wretchedness.

When Edward himself drew near to the close of his life, his mind was
greatly perplexed in respect to the succession. There was one descendant
of his brother Edmund--whose children, it will be remembered, Canute had
sent away to Denmark, in order to remove them out of the way--who was
still living in Hungary. The name of this descendant was Edward. He was,
in fact, the lawful heir to the crown. But he had spent his life in
foreign countries, and was now far away; and, in the mean time, the Earl
Godwin, who has been already mentioned as the great Saxon nobleman who
rose from a very humble rank to the position of the most powerful
subject in the realm, obtained such an influence, and wielded so great a
power, that he seemed at one time stronger than the king himself. Godwin
at length died, but his son Harold, who was as energetic and active as
his father, inherited his power, and seemed, as Edward thought, to be
aspiring to the future possession of the throne. Edward had hated Godwin
and all his family, and was now extremely anxious to prevent the
possibility of Harold's accession. He accordingly sent to Hungary to
bring Edward, his nephew, home. Edward came, bringing his family with
him. He had a young son named Edgar. It was King Edward's plan to make
arrangements for bringing this Prince Edward to the throne after his
death, that Harold might be excluded.

The plan was a very judicious one, but it was unfortunately frustrated
by Prince Edward's death, which event took place soon after he arrived
in England. The young Edgar, then a child, was, of course, his heir. The
king was convinced that no government which could be organized in the
name of Edgar would be able to resist the mighty power of Harold, and he
turned his thoughts, therefore, again to the accession of William of
Normandy, who was the nearest relative on his mother's side, as the only
means of saving the realm from falling into the hands of the usurper
Harold. A long and vexatious contest then ensued, in which the leading
powers and influences of the kingdom were divided and distracted by the
plans, plots, maneuvers, and counter maneuvers of Harold to obtain the
accession for himself, and of Edward to secure it for William of
Normandy. In this contest Harold conquered in the first instance, and
Edward and William in the end.



A.D. 1063-1066

Harold and William.--Quarrel between Godwin and Edward.--Treaty between
Godwin and Edward.--Hostages.--The giving of hostages now
abandoned.--Cruelties inflicted.--Canute's hostages.--Godwin's
hostages.--Edward declines to give up the hostages.--Harold goes to
Normandy.--Harold's interview with Edward.--The storm.--Harold
shipwrecked.--Guy, count of Ponthieu.--Harold a prisoner.--He is
ransomed by William.--William's hospitality.--His policy in
this.--William's treatment of his guests.--William's policy.--William
makes known to Harold his claims to the English crown.--Harold's
dissimulation.--William's precautions.--The betrothment.--William
retains a hostage.--Harold's apparent acquiescence.--The public
oath.--The great assembly of knights and nobles.--The threefold
oath.--William's precaution.--The sacred relics.--Harold's
departure.--His measures to secure the throne.--Age and infirmities of
Edward.--Westminster.--Edward's death.--The crown offered to
Harold.--Harold's coronation.--He knights Edgar.--Harold violates his
plighted faith to William.

Harold, the son of the Earl Godwin, who was maneuvering to gain
possession of the English throne, and William of Normandy, though they
lived on opposite sides of the English Channel, the one in France and
the other in England, were still personally known to each other; for not
only had William, as was stated in the last chapter, paid a visit to
England, but Harold himself, on one occasion, made an excursion to
Normandy. The circumstances of this expedition were, in some respects,
quite extraordinary, and illustrate in a striking manner some of the
peculiar ideas and customs of the times. They were as follows:

During the life of Harold's father Godwin, there was a very serious
quarrel between him, that is, Godwin, and King Edward, in which both the
king and his rebellious subject marshaled their forces, and for a time
waged against each other an open and sanguinary war. In this contest the
power of Godwin had proved so formidable, and the military forces which
he succeeded in marshaling under his banners were so great, that
Edward's government was unable effectually to put him down. At length,
after a long and terrible struggle, which involved a large part of the
country in the horrors of a civil war, the belligerents made a treaty
with each other, which settled their quarrel by a sort of compromise.
Godwin was to retain his high position and rank as a subject, and to
continue in the government of certain portions of the island which had
long been under his jurisdiction; he, on his part, promising to dismiss
his armies, and to make war upon the king no more. He bound himself to
the faithful performance of these covenants by giving the king

The hostages given up on such occasions were always near and dear
relatives and friends, and the understanding was, that if the party
giving them failed in fulfilling his obligations, the innocent and
helpless hostages were to be entirely at the mercy of the other party
into whose custody they had been given. The latter would, in such cases,
imprison them, torture them, or put them to death, with a greater or
less degree of severity in respect to the infliction of pain, according
to the degree of exasperation which the real or fancied injury which he
had received awakened in his mind.

This cruel method of binding fierce and unprincipled men to the
performance of their promises has been universally abandoned in modern
times, though in the rude and early stages of civilization it has been
practiced among all nations, ancient and modern. The hostages chosen
were often of young and tender years, and were always such as to render
the separation which took place when they were torn from their friends
most painful, as it was the very object of the selection to obtain those
who were most beloved. They were delivered into the hands of those whom
they had always regarded as their bitterest enemies, and who, of course,
were objects of aversion and terror. They were sent away into places of
confinement and seclusion, and kept in the custody of strangers, where
they lived in perpetual fear that some new outbreak between the
contending parties would occur, and consign them to torture or death.
The cruelties sometimes inflicted, in such cases, on the innocent
hostages, were awful. At one time, during the contentions between
Ethelred and Canute, Canute, being driven across the country to the
sea-coast, and there compelled to embark on board his ships to make his
escape, was cruel enough to cut off the hands and the feet of some
hostages which Ethelred had previously given him, and leave them
writhing in agony on the sands of the shore.

The hostages which are particularly named by historians as given by
Godwin to King Edward were his son and his grandson. Their names were
Ulnoth and Hacune. Ulnoth, of course, was Harold's brother, and Hacune
his nephew. Edward, thinking that Godwin would contrive some means of
getting these securities back into his possession again if he attempted
to keep them in England, decided to send them to Normandy, and to put
them under the charge of William the duke for safe keeping. When Godwin
died, Harold applied to Edward to give up the hostages, since, as he
alleged, there was no longer any reason for detaining them. They had
been given as security for _Godwin's_ good behavior, and now Godwin was
no more.

Edward could not well refuse to surrender them, and yet, as Harold
succeeded to the power, and evidently possessed all the ambition of his
father, it seemed to be, politically, as necessary to retain the
hostages now as it had been before. Edward, therefore, without
absolutely refusing to surrender them, postponed and evaded compliance
with Harold's demand, on the ground that the hostages were in Normandy.
He was going, he said, to send for them as soon as he could make the
necessary arrangements for bringing them home in safety.

Under these circumstances, Harold determined to go and bring them
himself. He proposed this plan to Edward. Edward would not absolutely
refuse his consent, but he did all in his power to discourage such an
expedition. He told Harold that William of Normandy was a crafty and
powerful man; that by going into his dominions he would put himself
entirely into his power, and would be certain to involve himself in some
serious difficulty. This interview between Harold and the king is
commemorated on the Bayeux tapestry by the opposite uncouth design.

What effect Edward's disapproval of the project produced upon Harold's
mind is not certainly known. It is true that he went across the Channel,
but the accounts of the crossing are confused and contradictory, some of
them stating that, while sailing for pleasure with a party of attendants
and companions on the coast, he was blown off from the shore and driven
across to France by a storm. The probability, however, is, that this
story was only a pretense. He was determined to go, but not wishing to
act openly in defiance of the king's wishes, he contrived to be blown
off, in order to make it seem that he went against his will.


At all events, the _storm_ was real, whether his being compelled to
leave the English shores by the power of it was real or pretended. It
carried him, too, out of his course, driving him up the Channel to the
eastward of Normandy, where he had intended to land, and at length
throwing his galley, a wreck, on the shore, not far from the mouth of
the Somme. The galley itself was broken up, but Harold and his company
escaped to land. They found that they were in the dominions of a certain
prince who held possessions on that coast, whose style and title was
Guy, count of Ponthieu.

The law in those days was, that wrecks became the property of the lord
of the territory on the shores of which they occurred; and not only were
the ships and the goods which they contained thus confiscated in case of
such a disaster, but the owners themselves became liable to be seized
and held captive for a ransom. Harold, knowing his danger, was
attempting to secrete himself on the coast till he could get to
Normandy, when a fisherman who saw him, and knew by his dress and
appearance, and by the deference with which he was treated by the rest
of the company, that he was a man of great consequence in his native
land, went to the count, and said that for ten crowns he would show him
where there was a man who would be worth a thousand to him. The count
came down with his retinue to the coast, seized the unfortunate
adventurers, took possession of all the goods and baggage that the waves
had spared, and shut the men themselves up in his castle at Abbeville
till they could pay their ransom.

Harold remonstrated against this treatment. He said that he was on his
way to Normandy on business of great importance with the duke, from the
King of England, and that he could not be detained. But the count was
very decided in refusing to let him go without his ransom. Harold then
sent word to William, acquainting him with his situation, and asking him
to effect his release. William sent to the count, demanding that he
should give his prisoner up. All these things, however, only tended to
elevate and enlarge the count's ideas of the value and importance of the
prize which he had been so fortunate to secure. He persisted in refusing
to give him up without ransom. Finally William paid the ransom, in the
shape of a large sum of money, and the cession, in addition, of a
considerable territory. Harold and his companions in bondage were then
delivered to William's messengers, and conducted by them in safety to
Rouen, where William was then residing.

William received his distinguished guest with every possible mark of the
most honorable consideration. He was escorted with great parade and
ceremony into the palace, lodged in the most sumptuous manner, provided
with every necessary supply, and games, and military spectacles, and
feasts and entertainments without number, were arranged to celebrate his
visit. William informed him that he was at liberty to return to England
whenever he pleased, and that his brother and his nephew, the hostages
that he had come to seek, were at his disposal. He, however, urged him
not to return immediately, but to remain a short time in Normandy with
his companions. Harold accepted the invitation.

All this exuberance of hospitality had its origin, as the reader will
readily divine, in the duke's joy in finding the only important rival
likely to appear to contest his claims to the English crown so fully in
his power, and in the hope which he entertained of so managing affairs
at this visit as to divert Harold's mind from the idea of becoming the
King of England himself, and to induce him to pledge himself to act in
his, that is, William's favor. He took, therefore, all possible pains to
make him enjoy his visit in Normandy; he exhibited to him the wealth
and the resources of the country--conducting him from place to place to
visit the castles, the abbeys, and the towns--and, finally, he proposed
that he should accompany him on a military expedition into Brittany.

Harold, pleased with the honors conferred upon him, and with the novelty
and magnificence of the scenes to which he was introduced, entered
heartily into all these plans, and his companions and attendants were no
less pleased than he. William knighted many of these followers of
Harold, and made them costly presents of horses, and banners, and suits
of armor, and other such gifts as were calculated to captivate the
hearts of martial adventurers such as they. William soon gained an
entire ascendency over their minds, and when he invited them to
accompany him on his expedition into Brittany, they were all eager to

Brittany was west of Normandy, and on the frontiers of it, so that the
expedition was not a distant one. Nor was it long protracted. It was, in
fact, a sort of pleasure excursion, William taking his guest across the
frontier into his neighbor's territory, on a marauding party, just as a
nobleman, in modern times, would take a party into a forest to hunt.
William and Harold were on the most intimate and friendly terms possible
during the continuance of this campaign. They occupied the same tent,
and ate at the same table. Harold evinced great military talents and
much bravery in the various adventures which they met with in Brittany,
and William felt more than ever the desirableness of securing his
influence on his, that is, William's side, or, at least, of preventing
his becoming an open rival and enemy. On their return from Brittany into
Normandy, he judged that the time had arrived for taking his measures.
He accordingly resolved to come to an open understanding with Harold in
respect to his plans, and to seek his co-operation.

He introduced the subject, the historians say, one day as they were
riding along homeward from their excursion, and had been for some time
talking familiarly on the way, relating tales to one another of wars,
battles, sieges, and hair-breadth escapes, and other such adventures as
formed, generally, the subjects of narrative conversation in those days.
At length William, finding Harold, as he judged, in a favorable mood for
such a communication, introduced the subject of the English realm and
the approaching demise of the crown. He told him, confidentially, that
there had been an arrangement between him, William, and King Edward, for
some time, that Edward was to _adopt_ him as his successor. William told
Harold, moreover, that he should rely a great deal on his co-operation
and assistance in getting peaceable possession of the kingdom, and
promised to bestow upon him the very highest rewards and honors in
return if he would give him his aid. The only rival claimant, William
said, was the young child Edgar, and he had no friends, no party, no
military forces, and no means whatever for maintaining his pretensions.
On the other hand, he, William, and Harold, had obviously all the power
in their own hands, and if they could only co-operate together on a
common understanding, they would be sure to have the power and the
honors of the English realm entirely at their disposal.

Harold listened to all these suggestions, and pretended to be interested
and pleased. He was, in reality, interested, but he was not pleased. He
wished to secure the kingdom for himself, not merely to obtain a share,
however large, of its power and its honors as the subject of another. He
was, however, too wary to evince his displeasure. On the contrary, he
assented to the plan, professed to enter into it with all his heart, and
expressed his readiness to commence, immediately, the necessary
preliminary measures for carrying it into execution. William was much
gratified with the successful result of his negotiation, and the two
chieftains rode home to William's palace in Normandy, banded together,
apparently, by very strong ties. In secret, however, Harold was
resolving to effect his departure from Normandy as soon as possible, and
to make immediate and most effectual measures for securing the kingdom
of England to himself, without any regard to the promises that he had
made to William.

Nor must it be supposed that William himself placed any positive
reliance on mere promises from Harold. He immediately began to form
plans for binding him to the performance of his stipulations, by the
modes then commonly employed for securing the fulfillment of covenants
made among princes. These methods were three--intermarriages, the giving
of hostages, and solemn oaths.

William proposed two marriages as means of strengthening the alliance
between himself and Harold. Harold was to give to William one of his
daughters, that William might marry her to one of his Norman chieftains.
This would be, of course, placing her in William's power, and making her
a hostage all but in name. Harold, however, consented. The second
marriage proposed was between William's daughter and Harold himself; but
as his daughter was a child of only seven years of age, it could only be
a betrothment that could take place at that time. Harold acceded to this
proposal too, and arrangements were made for having the faith of the
parties pledged to one another in the most solemn manner. A great
assembly of all the knights, nobles, and ladies of the court was
convened, and the ceremony of pledging the troth between the fierce
warrior and the gentle and wondering child was performed with as much
pomp and parade as if it had been an actual wedding. The name of the
girl was Adela.

In respect to hostages, William determined to detain one of those whom
Harold, as will be recollected, had come into Normandy to recover. He
told him, therefore, that he might take with him his nephew Hacune, but
that Ulnoth, his brother, should remain, and William would bring him
over himself when he came to take possession of the kingdom. Harold was
extremely unwilling to leave his brother thus in William's power; but as
he knew very well that his being allowed to return to England himself
would depend upon his not evincing any reluctance to giving William
security, or manifesting any other indication that he was not intending
to keep his plighted faith, he readily consented, and it was thus
settled that Ulnoth should remain.

Finally, in order to hold Harold to the fulfillment of his promises by
every possible form of obligation, William proposed that he should take
a public and solemn oath, in the presence of a large assembly of all the
great potentates and chieftains of the realm, by which he should bind
himself, under the most awful sanctions, to keep his word. Harold made
no objection to this either. He considered himself as, in fact, in
duress, and his actions as not free. He was in William's power, and was
influenced in all he did by a desire to escape from Normandy, and once
more recover his liberty. He accordingly decided, in his own mind, that
whatever oaths he might take he should afterward consider as forced upon
him, and consequently as null and void, and was ready, therefore, to
take any that William might propose.

The great assembly was accordingly convened. In the middle of the
council hall there was placed a great chair of state, which was covered
with a cloth of gold. Upon this cloth, and raised considerably above the
seat, was the _missal_, that is, the book of service of the Catholic
Church, written on parchment and splendidly illuminated. The book was
open at a passage from one of the Evangelists--the Evangelists being a
portion of the Holy Scriptures which was, in those days, supposed to
invest an oath with the most solemn sanctions.

Harold felt some slight misgivings as he advanced in the midst of such
an imposing scene as the great assembly of knights and ladies presented
in the council hall, to repeat his promises in the very presence of God,
and to imprecate the retributive curses of the Almighty on the violation
of them, which he was deliberately and fully determined to incur. He
had, however, gone too far to retreat now. He advanced, therefore, to
the open missal, laid his hand upon the book, and, repeating the words
which William dictated to him from his throne, he took the threefold
oath required, namely, to aid William to the utmost of his power in his
attempt to secure the succession to the English crown, to marry
William's daughter Adela as soon as she should arrive at a suitable age,
and to send over forthwith from England his own daughter, that she might
be espoused to one of William's nobles.

As soon as the oath was thus taken, William caused the missal and the
cloth of gold to be removed, and there appeared beneath it, on the chair
of state, a chest, containing the sacred relics of the Church, which
William had secretly collected from the abbeys and monasteries of his
dominions, and placed in this concealment, that, without Harold's being
conscious of it, their dreadful sanction might be added to that which
the Holy Evangelists imposed. These relics were fragments of bones set
in caskets and frames, and portions of blood--relics, as the monks
alleged, of apostles or of the Savior--and small pieces of wood,
similarly preserved, which had been portions of the cross of Christ or
of his thorny crown. These things were treasured up with great solemnity
in the monastic establishments and in the churches of these early times,
and were regarded with a veneration and awe, of which it is almost
beyond our power even to conceive. Harold trembled when he saw what he
had unwittingly done. He was terrified to think how much more dreadful
was the force of the imprecations that he had uttered than he had
imagined while uttering them. But it was too late to undo what he had
done. The assembly was finally dismissed. William thought he had the
conscience of his new ally firmly secured, and Harold began to prepare
for leaving Normandy.

He continued on excellent terms with William until his departure.
William accompanied him to the sea-shore when the time of his
embarkation arrived, and dismissed him at last with many farewell
honors, and a profusion of presents. Harold set sail, and, crossing the
Channel in safety, he landed in England.

He commenced immediately an energetic system of measures to strengthen
his own cause, and prepare the way for his own accession. He organized
his party, collected arms and munitions of war, and did all that he
could to ingratiate himself with the most powerful and wealthy nobles.
He sought the favor of the king, too, and endeavored to persuade him to
discard William. The king was now old and infirm, and was growing more
and more inert and gloomy as he advanced in age. His mind was occupied
altogether in ecclesiastical rites and observances, or plunged in a
torpid and lifeless melancholy, which made him averse to giving any
thought to the course which the affairs of his kingdom were to take
after he was gone. He did not care whether Harold or William took the
crown when he laid it aside, provided they would allow him to die in

He had had, a few years previous to this time, a plan of making a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but had finally made an arrangement with the
pope, allowing him to build a Cathedral church, to be dedicated to St.
Peter, a few miles west of London, in lieu of his pilgrimage. There was
already a Cathedral church or _minster_ in the heart of London which was
dedicated to St. Paul. The new one was afterward often called, to
distinguish it from the other, the _west_ minster, which designation,
Westminster, became afterward its regular name. It was on this spot,
where Westminster Abbey now stands, that Edward's church was to be
built. It was just completed at the time of which we are speaking, and
the king was preparing for the dedication of it. He summoned an assembly
of all the prelates and great ecclesiastical dignitaries of the land to
convene at London, in order to dedicate the new Cathedral. Before they
were ready for the service, the king was taken suddenly sick. They
placed him upon his couch in his palace chamber, where he lay, restless,
and moaning in pain, and repeating incessantly, half in sleep and half
in delirium, the gloomy and threatening texts of Scripture which seemed
to haunt his mind. He was eager to have the dedication go on, and they
hastened the service in order to gratify him by having it performed
before he died. The next day he was obviously failing. Harold and his
friends were very earnest to have the departing monarch declare in _his_
favor before he died, and their coming and going, and their loud
discussions, rude soldiers as they were, disturbed his dying hours. He
sent them word to choose whom they would for king, duke or earl, it was
indifferent to him, and thus expired.

Harold had made his arrangements so well, and had managed so effectually
to secure the influence of all the powerful nobles of the kingdom, that
they immediately convened and offered him the crown. Edgar was in the
court of Edward at the time, but he was too young to make any effort to
advance his claims. He was, in fact, a foreigner, though in the English
royal line. He had been brought up on the Continent of Europe, and
could not even speak the English tongue. He acquiesced, therefore,
without complaint, in these proceedings, and was even present as a
consenting spectator on the occasion of Harold's coronation, which
ceremony was performed with great pomp and parade, at St. Paul's, in
London, very soon after King Edward's death. Harold rewarded Edgar for
his complaisance and discretion by conferring upon him the honor of
knighthood immediately after the coronation, and in the church where the
ceremony was performed. He also conferred similar distinctions and
honors upon many other aspiring and ambitious men whom he wished to
secure to his side. He thus seemed to have secure and settled possession
of the throne.

Previously to this time, Harold had married a young lady of England, a
sister of two very powerful noblemen, and the richest heiress in the
realm. This marriage greatly strengthened his influence in England, and
helped to prepare the way for his accession to the supreme power. The
tidings of it, however, when they crossed the Channel and reached the
ears of William of Normandy, as the act was an open and deliberate
violation of one of the covenants which Harold had made with William,
convinced the latter that none of these covenants would be kept, and
prepared him to expect all that afterward followed.



A.D. 1066

Harold's brother Tostig.--He brings intelligence of Harold's
accession.--William's strength and dexterity.--His
surprise.--Fitzosborne.--His interview with William.--The great council
of state.--The embassy to Harold.--Harold reminded of his promises.--His
replies.--Return of the messenger.--William prepares for war.--William
calls a general council.--Want of funds.--Means of raising
money.--Adverse views.--Various opinions.--Confusion and disorder.--Plan
of Fitzosborne.--It is adopted by William.--Success of Fitzosborne's
plan.--Supplies flow in liberally.--Embassage to the pope.--Its
success.--Reasons why the pope favored William's claims.--The banner
and the ring.--Excitement produced by their reception.--William's
proclamations.--Their effects.--William's promises.--Naval
preparations.--Philip, king of France.--William's visit to
him.--William's interview with Philip.--Philip opposes his
plans.--Council of nobles.--Result of their deliberations.--William's
return.--Final preparations.--Matilda made duchess regent.--William's
motives.--Republican sentiments.--Hereditary sovereigns.--Enthusiasm of
the people.--The two-tailed comet.

The messenger who brought William the tidings of Harold's accession to
the throne was a man named Tostig, Harold's brother. Though he was
Harold's brother, he was still his bitterest enemy. Brothers are seldom
friends in families where there is a crown to be contended for. There
were, of course, no public modes of communicating intelligence in those
days, and Tostig had learned the facts of Edward's death and Harold's
coronation through spies which he had stationed at certain points on the
coast. He was himself, at that time, on the Continent. He rode with all
speed to Rouen to communicate the news to William, eager to incite him
to commence hostilities against his brother.


When Tostig arrived at Rouen, William was in a park which lay in the
vicinity of the city, trying a new bow that had been recently made for
him. William was a man of prodigious muscular strength, and they gave
him the credit of being able to use easily a bow which nobody else
could bend. A part of this credit was doubtless due to the etiquette
which, in royal palaces and grounds, leads all sensible courtiers to
take good care never to succeed in attempts to excel the king. But,
notwithstanding this consideration, there is no doubt that the duke
really merited a great portion of the commendation that he received for
his strength and dexterity in the use of the bow. It was a weapon in
which he took great interest. A new one had been made for him, of great
elasticity and strength, and he had gone out into his park, with his
officers, to try its powers, when Tostig arrived. Tostig followed him to
the place, and there advancing to his side, communicated the tidings to
him privately.

William was greatly moved by the intelligence. His arrow dropped upon
the ground. He gave the bow to an attendant. He stood for a time
speechless, tying and untying the cordon of his cloak in his
abstraction. Presently he began slowly to move away from the place, and
to return toward the city. His attendants followed him in silence,
wondering what the exciting tidings could be which had produced so
sudden and powerful an effect.

William went into the castle hall, and walked to and fro a long time,
thoughtful, and evidently agitated. His attendants waited in silence,
afraid to speak to him. Rumors began at length to circulate among them
in respect to the nature of the intelligence which had been received. At
length a great officer of state, named Fitzosborne, arrived at the
castle. As he passed through the court-yard and gates, the attendants
and the people, knowing that he possessed in a great degree the
confidence of his sovereign, asked him what the tidings were that had
made such an impression. "I know nothing certain about it," said he,
"but I will soon learn." So saying, he advanced toward William, and
accosted him by saying, "Why should you conceal from us your news? It is
reported in the city that the King of England is dead, and that Harold
has violated his oaths to you, and has seized the kingdom. Is that

William acknowledged that that was the intelligence by which he had been
so vexed and chagrined. Fitzosborne urged the duke not to allow such
events to depress or dispirit him. "As for the death of Edward," said
he, "that is an event past and sure, and can not be recalled; but
Harold's usurpation and treachery admits of a very easy remedy. You
have the right to the throne, and you have the soldiers necessary to
enforce that right. Undertake the enterprise boldly. You will be sure to

William revolved the subject in his mind for a few days, during which
the exasperation and anger which the first receipt of the intelligence
had produced upon him was succeeded by calm but indignant deliberation,
in respect to the course which he should pursue. He concluded to call a
great council of state, and to lay the case before them--not for the
purpose of obtaining their advice, but to call their attention to the
crisis in a formal and solemn manner, and to prepare them to act in
concert in the subsequent measures to be pursued. The result of the
deliberations of this council, guided, doubtless, by William's own
designs, was, that the first step should be to send an embassy to Harold
to demand of him the fulfillment of his promises.

The messenger was accordingly dispatched. He proceeded to London, and
laid before Harold the communication with which he had been intrusted.
This communication recounted the three promises which Harold had made,
namely, to send his daughter to Normandy to be married to one of
William's generals; to marry William's daughter himself; and to maintain
William's claims to the English crown on the death of Edward. He was to
remind Harold, also, of the solemnity with which he had bound himself to
fulfill these obligations, by oaths taken in the presence of the most
sacred relics of the Church, and in the most public and deliberate

Harold replied,

1. That as to sending over his daughter to be married to one of
William's generals, he could not do it, for his daughter was dead. He
presumed, he said, that William did not wish him to send the corpse.

2. In respect to marrying William's daughter, to whom he had been
affianced in Normandy, he was sorry to say that that was also out of
his power, as he could not take a foreign wife without the consent of
his people, which he was confident would never be given; besides, he
was already married, he said, to a Saxon lady of his own dominions.

3. In regard to the kingdom: it did not depend upon him, he said, to
decide who should rule over England as Edward's successor, but upon the
will of Edward himself, and upon the English people. The English barons
and nobles had decided, with Edward's concurrence, that he, Harold, was
their legitimate and proper sovereign, and that it was not for him to
controvert their will. However much he might be disposed to comply with
William's wishes, and to keep his promise, it was plain that it was out
of his power, for in promising him the English crown, he had promised
what did not belong to him to give.

4. As to his oaths, he said that, notwithstanding the secret presence of
the sacred relics under the cloth of gold, he considered them as of no
binding force upon his conscience, for he was constrained to take them
as the only means of escaping from the duress in which he was virtually
held in Normandy. Promises, and oaths even, when extorted by necessity,
were null and void.

The messenger returned to Normandy with these replies, and William
immediately began to prepare for war.

His first measure was to call a council of his most confidential friends
and advisers, and to lay the subject before them. They cordially
approved of the plan of an invasion of England, and promised to
co-operate in the accomplishment of it to the utmost of their power.

The next step was to call a general council of all the chieftains and
nobles of the land, and also the _notables_, as they were called, or
principal officers and municipal authorities of the _towns_. The main
point of interest for the consideration of this assembly was, whether
the country would submit to the necessary taxation for raising the
necessary funds. William had ample power, as duke, to decide upon the
invasion and to undertake it. He could also, without much difficulty,
raise the necessary number of men; for every baron in his realm was
bound, by the feudal conditions on which he held his land, to furnish
his quota of men for any military enterprise in which his sovereign
might see fit to engage. But for so distant and vast an undertaking as
this, William needed a much larger supply of _funds_ than were usually
required in the wars of those days. For raising such large supplies, the
political institutions of the Middle Ages had not made any adequate
provision. Governments then had no power of taxation, like that so
freely exercised in modern times; and even now, taxes in France and
England take the form of _grants_ from the people to the kings. And as
to the contrivance, so exceedingly ingenious, by which inexhaustible
resources are opened to governments at the present day--that is, the
plan of borrowing the money, and leaving posterity to pay or repudiate
the debt, as they please, no minister of finance had, in William's day,
been brilliant enough to discover it. Thus each ruler had to rely, then,
mainly on the rents and income from his own lands, and other private
resources, for the comparatively small amount of money that he needed in
his brief campaigns. But now William perceived that ships must be built
and equipped, and great stores of provisions accumulated, and arms and
munitions of war provided, all which would require a considerable
outlay; and how was this money to be obtained?

The general assembly which he convened were greatly distracted by the
discussion of the question. The quiet and peaceful citizens who
inhabited the towns, the artisans and tradesmen, who wished for nothing
but to be allowed to go on in their industrial pursuits in peace, were
opposed to the whole project. They thought it unreasonable and absurd
that they should be required to contribute from their earnings to enable
their lord and master to go off on so distant and desperate an
undertaking, from which, even if successful, they could derive no
benefit whatever. Many of the barons, too, were opposed to the scheme.
They thought it very likely to end in disaster and defeat; and they
denied that their feudal obligation to furnish men for their sovereign's
wars was binding to the extent of requiring them to go out of the
country, and beyond the sea, to prosecute his claims to the throne of
another kingdom.

Others, on the other hand, among the members of William's assembly, were
strongly disposed to favor the plan. They were more ardent or more
courageous than the rest, or perhaps their position and circumstances
were such that they had more to hope from the success of the enterprise
than they, or less to fear from its failure. Thus there was great
diversity of opinion; and as the parliamentary system of rules, by which
a body of turbulent men, in modern times, are kept in some semblance of
organization and order during a debate, had not then been developed, the
meeting of these Norman deliberators was, for a time, a scene of uproar
and confusion. The members gathered in groups, each speaker getting
around him as many as he could obtain to listen to his harangue; the
more quiet and passive portion of the assembly moving to and fro, from
group to group, as they were attracted by the earnestness and eloquence
of the different speakers, or by their approval of the sentiments which
they heard them expressing. The scene, in fact, was like that presented
in exciting times by a political caucus in America, before it is called
to order by the chairman.

Fitzosborne, the confidential friend and counselor, who has already been
mentioned as the one who ventured to accost the duke at the time when
the tidings of Edward's death and of Harold's accession first reached
him, now seeing that any thing like definite and harmonious action on
the part of this tumultuous assembly was out of the question, went to
the duke, and proposed to him to give up the assembly as such, and make
the best terms and arrangements that he could with the constituent
elements of it, individually and severally. He would himself, he
said, furnish forty ships, manned, equipped, and provisioned; and he
recommended to the duke to call each of the others into his presence,
and ask them what they were individually willing to do. The duke adopted
this plan, and it was wonderfully successful. Those who were first
invited made large offers, and their offers were immediately registered
in form by the proper officers. Each one who followed was emulous of the
example of those who had preceded him, and desirous of evincing as much
zeal and generosity as they. Then, besides, the duke received these
vassals with so much condescension and urbanity, and treated them with
so much consideration and respect, as greatly to flatter their vanity,
and raise them in their own estimation, by exalting their ideas of the
importance of the services which they could render in carrying so vast
an enterprise to a successful result. In a word, the tide turned like a
flood in favor of granting liberal supplies. The nobles and knights
promised freely men, money, ships, arms, provisions--every thing, in
short, that was required; and when the work of receiving and registering
the offers was completed, and the officers summed up the aggregate
amount, William found, to his extreme satisfaction, that his wants were
abundantly supplied.

There was another very important point, which William adopted immediate
measures to secure, and that was obtaining the _Pope's_ approval of his
intended expedition. The moral influence of having the Roman pontiff on
his side, would, he knew, be of incalculable advantage to him. He sent
an embassage, accordingly, to Rome, to lay the whole subject before his
holiness, and to pray that the pope would declare that he was justly
entitled to the English crown, and authorize him to proceed and take
possession of it by force of arms. Lanfranc was the messenger whom he
employed--the same Lanfranc who had been so successful, some years
before, in the negotiations at Rome connected with the confirmation of
William and Matilda's marriage.

Lanfranc was equally successful now. The pope, after examining William's
claims, pronounced them valid. He decided that William was entitled to
the rank and honors of King of England. He caused a formal diploma to be
made out to this effect. The diploma was elegantly executed, signed with
the cross, according to the pontifical custom, and sealed with a round
leaden seal.[J]

[Footnote J: The Latin name for such a seal was _bulla_. It is on
account of this sort of seal, which is customarily affixed to them, that
papal edicts have received the name of _bulls_.]

It was, in fact, very natural that the Roman authorities should take a
favorable view of William's enterprise, and feel an interest in its
success, as it was undoubtedly for the interest of the Church that
William, rather than Harold, should reign over England, as the accession
of William would bring the English realm far more fully under the
influence of the Roman Church. William had always been very submissive
to the pontifical authority, as was shown in his conduct in respect to
the question of his marriage. He himself, and also Matilda his wife, had
always taken a warm interest in the welfare and prosperity of the
abbeys, the monasteries, the churches, and the other religious
establishments of the times. Then the very circumstance that he sent his
embassador to Rome to submit his claims to the pontiff's adjudication,
while Harold did not do so, indicated a greater deference for the
authority of the Church, and made it probable that he would be a far
more obedient and submissive son of the Church, in his manner of ruling
his realm, if he should succeed in gaining possession of it, than Harold
his rival. The pope and his counselors at Rome thought it proper to take
all these things into the account in deciding between William and
Harold, as they honestly believed, without doubt, that it was their
first and highest duty to exalt and aggrandize, by every possible means,
the spiritual authority of the sacred institution over which they were
called to preside.

The pope and his cardinals, accordingly, espoused William's cause very
warmly. In addition to the diploma which gave William formal authority
to take possession of the English crown, the pope sent him a banner and
a ring. The banner was of costly and elegant workmanship; its value,
however, did not consist in its elegance or its cost, but in a solemn
benediction which his holiness pronounced over it, by which it was
rendered sacred and inviolable. The banner, thus blessed, was forwarded
to William by Lanfranc with great care.

It was accompanied by the ring. The ring was of gold, and it contained a
diamond of great value. The gold and the diamond both, however, served
only as settings to preserve and honor something of far greater value
than they. This choice treasure was a hair from the head of the Apostle
Peter! a sacred relic of miraculous virtue and of inestimable value.

When the edict with its leaden seal, and the banner and the ring arrived
in Normandy, they produced a great and universal excitement. To have
bestowed upon the enterprise thus emphatically the solemn sanction of
the great spiritual head of the Church, to whom the great mass of the
people looked up with an awe and a reverence almost divine, was to seal
indissolubly the rightfulness of the enterprise, and to insure its
success. There was thenceforward no difficulty in procuring men or
means. Every body was eager to share in the glory, and to obtain the
rewards, of an enterprise thus commended by an authority duly
commissioned to express, in all such cases, the judgment of Heaven.

Finding that the current was thus fairly setting in his favor, William
sent proclamations into all the countries surrounding Normandy, inviting
knights, and soldiers, and adventurers of every degree to join him
in his projected enterprise. These proclamations awakened universal
attention. Great numbers of adventurous men determined to enter
William's service. Horses, arms, and accoutrements were everywhere in
great demand. The invasion of England and the question of joining it
were the universal topics of conversation. The roads were covered with
knights and soldiers, some on horseback and alone, others in bands,
large or small, all proceeding to Normandy to tender their services.
William received them all, and made liberal promises to bestow rewards
and honors upon them in England, in the event of his success. To some
he offered pay in money; to others, booty; to others, office and power.
Every one had his price. Even the priests and dignitaries of the Church
shared the general enthusiasm. One of them furnished a ship and twenty
armed men, under an agreement to be appointed bishop of a certain
valuable English diocese when William should be established on his

While all these movements were going on in the interior of the country,
all the sea-ports and towns along the coast of Normandy presented a very
busy scene of naval preparation. Naval architects were employed in great
numbers in building and fitting out vessels. Some were constructed and
furnished for the transportation of men, others for conveying provisions
and munitions of war; and lighters and boats were built for ascending
the rivers, and for aiding in landing troops upon shelving shores.
Smiths and armorers were occupied incessantly in manufacturing spears,
and swords, and coats of mail; while vast numbers of laboring men and
beasts of burden were employed in conveying arms and materials to and
from the manufactories to the ships, and from one point of embarkation
to another.

As soon as William had put all these busy agencies thus in successful
operation, he considered that there was one more point which it was
necessary for him to secure before finally embarking, and that was the
co-operation and aid of the French king, whose name at this time was
Philip. In his character of Duke of Normandy the King of France was
his liege lord, and he was bound to act, in some degree, under an
acknowledgment of his superior authority. In his new capacity, that is,
as King of England, or, rather, as heir to the English kingdom, he was,
of course, wholly independent of Philip, and, consequently, not bound
by any feudal obligation to look to him at all. He thought it most
prudent, however, to attempt, at least, to conciliate Philip's favor,
and, accordingly, leaving his officers and his workmen to go on with
the work of organizing his army and of building and equipping the fleet,
he set off, himself, on an expedition to the court of the French king.
He thought it safer to undertake this delicate mission himself, rather
than to intrust it to an embassador or deputy.

He found Philip at his palace of St. Germain's, which was situated at a
short distance from Paris. The duke assumed, in his interview with the
king, a very respectful and deferential air and manner. Philip was a
very young man, though haughty and vain. William was very much his
superior, not only in age and experience, but in talents and character,
and in personal renown. Still, he approached the monarch with all the
respectful observance due from a vassal to his sovereign, made known his
plans, and asked for Philip's approbation and aid. He was willing, he
said, in case that aid was afforded him, to hold his kingdom of England,
as he had done the duchy of Normandy, as a dependency of the French

Philip seemed not at all disposed to look upon the project with favor.
He asked William who was going to take care of his duchy while he was
running off after a kingdom. William replied, at first, that that was a
subject which he did not think his neighbors need concern themselves
about. Then thinking, on reflection, that a more respectful answer would
be more politic, under the circumstances of the case, he added, that he
was providentially blessed with a prudent wife and loving subjects, and
that he thought he might safely leave his domestic affairs in their
hands until he should return. Philip still opposed the plan. It was
Quixotic, he said, and dangerous. He strongly advised William to abandon
the scheme, and be content with his present possessions. Such desperate
schemes of ambition as those he was contemplating would only involve him
in ruin.

Before absolutely deciding the case, however, Philip called a council of
his great nobles and officers of state, and laid William's proposals
before them. The result of their deliberations was to confirm Philip in
his first decision. They said that the rendering to William the aid
which he desired would involve great expense, and be attended with great
danger; and as to William's promises to hold England as a vassal of the
King of France, they had no faith in the performance of them. It had
been very difficult, they said, for many years, for the kings of France
to maintain any effectual authority over the dukes of Normandy, and when
once master of so distant and powerful a realm as England, all control
over them would be sundered forever.

Philip then gave William his final answer in accordance with these
counsels. The answer was received, on William's part, with strong
feelings of disappointment and displeasure. Philip conducted the duke to
his retinue when the hour of departure arrived, in order to soothe, as
far as possible, his irritated feelings, by dismissing him from his
court with marks of his honorable consideration and regard. William,
however, was not in a mood to be pleased. He told Philip, on taking
leave of him, that he was losing the most powerful vassal that any lord
sovereign ever had, by the course which he had decided to pursue. "I
would have held the whole realm of England as a part of your dominions,
acknowledging you as sovereign over all, if you had consented to render
me your aid, but I will not do it since you refuse. I shall feel bound
to repay only those who assist me."

William returned to Normandy, where all the preparations for the
expedition had been going on with great vigor during his absence, and
proceeded to make arrangements for the last great measure which it was
necessary to take previous to his departure; that was, the regular
constitution of a government to rule in Normandy while he should be
gone. He determined to leave the supreme power in the hands of his wife
Matilda, appointing, at the same time, a number of civil and military
officers as a council of regency, who were to assist her in her
deliberations by giving her information and advice, and to manage,
under her direction, the different departments of the government. Her
title was "Duchess Regent," and she was installed into her office in a
public and solemn manner, at a great assembly of the estates of the
realm. At the close of the ceremonies, after William had given Matilda
his charge, he closed his address by adding, "And do not let us fail to
enjoy the benefit of your prayers, and those of all the ladies of your
court, that the blessing of God may attend us, and secure the success of
our expedition."

We are not necessarily to suppose, as we might at first be strongly
inclined to do, that there was any special hypocrisy and pretense in
William's thus professing to rely on the protection of Heaven in the
personal and political dangers which he was about to incur. It is
probable that he honestly believed that the inheritance of the English
crown was his right, and, that being the case, that a vigorous and manly
effort to enforce his right was a solemn duty. In the present age of the
world, now that there are so many countries in which intelligence,
industry, and love of order are so extensively diffused that the mass of
the community are capable of organizing and administering a government
themselves, republicans are apt to look upon hereditary sovereigns
as despots, ruling only for the purpose of promoting their own
aggrandizement, and the ends of an unholy and selfish ambition. That
there have been a great many such despots no one can deny; but then, on
the other hand, there have been many others who have acted, in a greater
or less degree, under the influence of principles of duty in their
political career. They have honestly believed that the vast power with
which, in coming forward into life, they have found themselves invested,
without, in most cases, any agency of their own, was a trust imposed
upon them by divine Providence, which could not innocently be laid
aside; that on them devolved the protection of the communities over
which they ruled from external hostility, and the preservation of peace
and order within, and the promotion of the general industry and welfare,
as an imperious and solemn duty; and they have devoted their lives
to the performance of this duty, with the usual mixture, it is true,
of ambition and selfishness, but still, after all, with as much
conscientiousness and honesty as the mass of men in the humbler walks of
life evince in performing theirs. William of Normandy appears to have
been one of this latter class; and in obeying the dictates of his
ambition in seeking to gain possession of the English crown, he no doubt
considered himself as fulfilling the obligations of duty too.

However this may be, he went on with his preparations in the most
vigorous and prosperous manner. The whole country were enthusiastic in
the cause; and their belief that the enterprise about to be undertaken
had unquestionably secured the favor of Heaven, was confirmed by an
extraordinary phenomenon which occurred just before the armament was
ready to set sail. A comet appeared in the sky, which, as close
observers declared, had a double tail. It was universally agreed that
this portended that England and Normandy were about to be combined, and
to form a double kingdom, which should exhibit to all mankind a
wonderful spectacle of splendor.



A.D. 1066

The River Dive.--Final assembling of the fleet.--Map.--Brilliant and
magnificent scene.--Equinoctial gales.--The expedition detained
by them.--Injurious effects of the storm.--Discouragement of the
men.--Fears and forebodings.--Some of the vessels wrecked.--Favorable
change.--The fleet puts to sea.--Various delays.--Its effects.--Harold's
want of information.--He withdraws his troops.--Harold's vigilance.--He
sends spies into Normandy.--Harold's spies.--They are detected.--William
dismisses the spies.--His confidence in his cause.--Fears of William's
officers.--He reassures them.--Arrival of Matilda with the Mira.--A
present to William.--The squadron puts to sea again.--Its
appearance.--Fleetness of the Mira.--Leaves the fleet out of
sight.--William's unconcern.--Reappearance of the fleet.--The fleet
enters the Bay of Pevensey.--Disembarkation.--Landing of the
troops.--Anecdote.--The encampment.--Scouts sent out.--William's
supper.--The missing ships.--The Conqueror's Stone.--March of the
army.--Flight of the inhabitants.--The army encamps.--The town of
Hastings.--William's fortifications.--Approach of Harold.

The place for the final assembling of the fleet which was to convey the
expedition across the Channel was the mouth of a small river called the
Dive, which will be seen upon the following map, flowing from the
neighborhood of the castle of Falaise northward into the sea. The grand
gathering took place in the beginning of the month of September, in the
year 1066. This date, which marks the era of the Norman Conquest, is one
of the dates which students of history fix indelibly in the memory.

[Illustration: NORMANDY.]

The gathering of the fleet in the estuary of the Dive, and the
assembling of the troops on the beach along its shores, formed a very
grand and imposing spectacle. The fleets of galleys, ships, boats, and
barges covering the surface of the water--the long lines of tents under
the cliffs on the land--the horsemen, splendidly mounted, and glittering
with steel--the groups of soldiers, all busily engaged in transporting
provisions and stores to and fro, or making the preliminary arrangements
for the embarkation--the thousands of spectators who came and went
incessantly, and the duke himself, gorgeously dressed, and mounted on
his war-horse, with the guards and officers that attended him--these,
and the various other elements of martial parade and display usually
witnessed on such occasions, conspired to produce a very gay and
brilliant, as well as magnificent scene.

Of course, the assembling of so large a force of men and of vessels, and
the various preparations for the embarkation, consumed some time, and
when at length all was ready--which was early in September--the
equinoctial gales came on, and it was found impossible to leave the
port. There was, in fact, a continuance of heavy winds and seas, and
stormy skies, for several weeks. Short intervals, from time to time,
occurred, when the clouds would break away, and the sun appear; but
these intervals did not liberate the fleet from its confinement, for
they were not long enough in duration to allow the sea to go down. The
surf continued to come rolling and thundering in upon the shore, and
over the sand-bars at the mouth of the river, making destruction the
almost inevitable destiny of any ship which should undertake to brave
its fury. The state of the skies gradually robbed the scene of the gay
and brilliant colors which first it wore. The vessels furled their
sails, and drew in their banners, and rode at anchor, presenting their
heads doggedly to the storm. The men on the shore sought shelter in
their tents. The spectators retired to their homes, while the duke and
his officers watched the scudding clouds in the sky, day after day, with
great and increasing anxiety.

In fact, William had very serious cause for apprehension in respect to
the effect which this long-continued storm was to have on the success
of his enterprise. The delay was a very serious consideration in itself,
for the winter would soon be drawing near. In one month more it would
seem to be out of the question for such a vast armament to cross the
Channel at all. Then, when men are embarking in such dark and hazardous
undertakings as that in which William was now engaged, their spirits and
their energy rise and sink in great fluctuations, under the influence of
very slight and inadequate causes; and nothing has greater influence
over them at such times than the aspect of the skies. William found that
the ardor and enthusiasm of his army were fast disappearing under the
effects of chilling winds and driving rain. The feelings of discontent
and depression which the frowning expression of the heavens awakened in
their minds, were deepened and spread by the influence of sympathy. The
men had nothing to do, during the long and dreary hours of the day, but
to anticipate hardships and dangers, and to entertain one another, as
they watched the clouds driving along the cliffs, and the rolling of the
surges in the offing, with anticipations of shipwrecks, battles, and
defeats, and all the other gloomy forebodings which haunt the
imagination of a discouraged and discontented soldier.

Nor were these ideas of wrecks and destruction wholly imaginary.
Although the body of the fleet remained in the river, where it was
sheltered from the winds, yet there were many cases of single ships that
were from time to time exposed to them. These were detached vessels
coming in late to the rendezvous, or small squadrons sent out to some
neighboring port under some necessity connected with the preparations,
or strong galleys, whose commanders, more bold than the rest, were
willing, in cases _not_ of absolute necessity, to brave the danger. Many
of these vessels were wrecked. The fragments of them, with the bodies of
the drowned mariners, were driven to the shore. The ghastly spectacles
presented by these dead bodies, swollen and mangled, and half buried in
the sand, as if the sea had been endeavoring to hide the mischief it had
done, shocked and terrified the spectators who saw them. William gave
orders to have all these bodies gathered up and interred secretly, as
fast as they were found; still, exaggerated rumors of the number and
magnitude of these disasters were circulated in the camp, and the
discontent and apprehensions grew every day more and more alarming.

William resolved that he must put to sea at the very first possible
opportunity. The favorable occasion was not long wanting. The wind
changed. The storm appeared to cease. A breeze sprang up from the south,
which headed back the surges from the French shore. William gave orders
to embark. The tents were struck. The baggage of the soldiers was sent
on board the transport vessels. The men themselves, crowded into great
flat-bottomed boats, passed in masses to the ships from the shore. The
spectators reappeared, and covered the cliffs and promontories near, to
witness the final scene. The sails were hoisted, and the vast armament
moved out upon the sea.

The appearance of a favorable change in the weather proved fallacious
after all, for the clouds and storm returned, and after being driven, in
apprehension and danger, about a hundred miles to the northeast along
the coast, the fleet was compelled to seek refuge again in a harbor. The
port which received them was St. Valery, near Dieppe. The duke was
greatly disappointed at being obliged thus again to take the land.
Still, the attempt to advance had not been a labor wholly lost; for as
the French coast here trends to the northward, they had been gradually
narrowing the channel as they proceeded, and were, in fact, so far on
the way toward the English shores. Then there were, besides, some
reasons for touching here, before the final departure, to receive some
last re-enforcements and supplies. William had also one more opportunity
of communicating with his capital and with Matilda.

These delays, disastrous as they seemed to be, and ominous of evil, were
nevertheless attended with one good effect, of which, however, William
at the time was not aware. They led Harold, in England, to imagine that
the enterprise was abandoned, and so put him off his guard. There were
in those days, as has already been remarked, no regular and public modes
of intercommunication, by which intelligence of important movements and
events was spread every where, as now, with promptness and certainty.
Governments were obliged, accordingly, to rely for information, in
respect to what their enemies were doing, on rumors, or on the reports
of spies. Rumors had gone to England in August that William was
meditating an invasion, and Harold had made some extensive preparations
to meet and oppose him; but, finding that he did not come--that week
after week of September passed away, and no signs of an enemy appeared,
and gaining no certain information of the causes of the delay, he
concluded that the enterprise was abandoned, or else, perhaps, postponed
to the ensuing spring. Accordingly, as the winter was coming on, he
deemed it best to commence his preparations for sending his troops to
their winter quarters. He disbanded some of them, and sent others away,
distributing them in various castles and fortified towns, where they
would be sheltered from the rigors of the season, and saved from the
exposure and hardships of the camp, and yet, at the same time, remain
within reach of a summons in case of any sudden emergency which might
call for them. They were soon summoned, though not, in the first
instance, to meet Harold, as will presently appear.

While adopting these measures, however, which he thought the comfort and
safety of his army required, Harold did not relax his vigilance in
watching, as well as he could, the designs and movements of his enemy.
He kept his secret agents on the southern coast, ordering them to
observe closely every thing that transpired, and to gather and send to
him every item of intelligence which should find its way by any means
across the Channel. Of course, William would do all in his power to
intercept and cut off all communication, and he was, at this time, very
much aided in these efforts by the prevalence of the storms, which made
it almost impossible for the fishing and trading vessels of the coast to
venture out to sea, or attempt to cross the Channel. The agents of
Harold, therefore, on the southern coast of England, found that they
could obtain but very little information.

At length the king, unwilling to remain any longer so entirely in the
dark, resolved on sending some messengers across the sea into Normandy
itself, to learn positively what the true state of the case might be.
Messengers going thus secretly into the enemy's territory, or into the
enemy's camp, become, by so doing, in martial law, _spies_, and incur,
if they are taken, the penalty of death. The undertaking, therefore, is
extremely hazardous; and as the death which is inflicted in cases of
detection is an ignominious one--spies being hung, not shot--most men
are very averse to encountering the danger. Still, desperate characters
are always to be found in camps and armies, who are ready to undertake
it on being promised very extraordinary pay.

Harold's spies contrived to make their way across the Channel, probably
at some point far to the east of Normandy, where the passage is narrow.
They then came along the shore, disguised as peasants of the country,
and they arrived at St. Valery while William's fleets were there. Here
they began to make their observations, scrutinizing every thing with
close attention and care, and yet studiously endeavoring to conceal
their interest in what they saw. Notwithstanding all their vigilance,
however, they were discovered, proved to be spies, and taken before
William to receive their sentence.

Instead of condemning them to death, which they undoubtedly supposed
would be their inevitable fate, William ordered them to be set at
liberty. "Go back," said he, "to King Harold, and tell him he might have
saved himself the expense of sending spies into Normandy to learn what I
am preparing for him. He will soon know by other means--much sooner, in
fact, than he imagines. Go and tell him from me that he may put himself,
if he pleases, in the safest place he can find in all his dominions,
and if he does not find my hand upon him before the year is out, he
never need fear me again as long as he lives."

Nor was this expression of confidence in the success of the measures
which he was taking a mere empty boast. William knew the power of
Harold, and he knew his own. The enterprise in which he had embarked was
not a rash adventure. It was a cool, deliberate, well-considered plan.
It appeared doubtful and dangerous in the eyes of mankind, for to mere
superficial observers it seemed simply an aggressive war waged by a duke
of Normandy, the ruler of a comparatively small and insignificant
province, against a king of England, the monarch of one of the greatest
and most powerful realms in the world. William, on the other hand,
regarded it as an effort on the part of the rightful heir to a throne to
dispossess a usurper. He felt confident of having the sympathy and
co-operation of a great part of the community, even in England, the
moment he could show them that he was able to maintain his rights; and
that he could show them that, by a very decisive demonstration, was
evident, visibly, before him, in the vast fleet which was riding at
anchor in the harbor, and in the long lines of tents, filled with
soldiery, which covered the land.

On one occasion, when some of his officers were expressing apprehensions
of Harold's power, and their fears in respect to their being able
successfully to cope with it, William replied, that the more formidable
Harold's power should prove to be, the better he should be pleased, as
the glory would be all the greater for them in having overcome it. "I
have no objection," said he, "that you should entertain exalted ideas of
his strength, though I wonder a little that you do not better appreciate
our own. I need be under no concern lest he, at such a distance, should
learn too much, by his spies, about the force which I am bringing
against him, when you, who are so near me, seem to know so little about
it. But do not give yourselves any concern. Trust to the justice of your
cause and to my foresight. Perform your parts like men, and you will
find that the result which I feel sure of, and you hope for, will
certainly be attained."

The storm at length entirely cleared away, and the army and the fleet
commenced their preparations for the final departure. In the midst of
this closing scene, the attention of all the vast crowds assembled on
board the ships and on the shores was one morning attracted by a
beautiful ship which came sailing into the harbor. It proved to be a
large and splendid vessel which the Duchess Matilda had built, at her
own expense, and was now bringing in, to offer to her husband as
her parting gift. She was herself on board, with her officers and
attendants, having come to witness her husband's departure, and to bid
him farewell. Her arrival, of course, under such circumstances, produced
universal excitement and enthusiasm. The ships in harbor and the shores
resounded with acclamations as the new arrival came gallantly in.

Matilda's vessel was finely built and splendidly decorated. The sails
were of different colors, which gave it a very gay appearance. Upon them
were painted, in various places, the three lions, which was the device
of the Norman ensign. At the bows of the ship was an effigy, or
figure-head, representing William and Matilda's second son shooting with
a bow. This was the accomplishment which, of all others, his father took
most interest in seeing his little son acquire. The arrow was drawn
nearly to its head, indicating great strength in the little arms which
were guiding it, and it was just ready to fly. The name of this vessel
was the Mira. William made it his flag ship. He hoisted upon its mast
head the consecrated banner which had been sent to him from Rome, and
went on board accompanied by his officers and guards, and with great
ceremony and parade.

At length the squadron was ready to put to sea. At a given signal the
sails were hoisted, and the whole fleet began to move slowly out of the
harbor. There were four hundred ships of large size, if we may believe
the chronicles of the times, and more than a thousand transports. The
decks of all these vessels were covered with men; banners were streaming
from every mast and spar; and every salient point of the shore was
crowded with spectators. The sea was calm, the air serene, and the
mighty cloud of canvas which whitened the surface of the water moved
slowly on over the gentle swell of the waves, forming a spectacle which,
as a picture merely for the eye, was magnificent and grand, and, when
regarded in connection with the vast results to the human race which
were to flow from the success of the enterprise, must have been
considered sublime.

The splendidly decorated ship which Matilda had presented to her husband
proved itself, on trial, to be something more than a mere toy. It led
the van at the commencement, of course; and as all eyes watched its
progress, it soon became evident that it was slowly gaining upon the
rest of the squadron, so as continually to increase its distance from
those that were following it. William, pleased with the success of its
performance, ordered the sailing master to keep on, without regard to
those who were behind; and thus it happened that, when night came on,
the fleet was at very considerable distance in rear of the flag ship. Of
course, under these circumstances, the fleet disappeared from sight when
the sun went down, but all expected that it would come into view again
in the morning. When the morning came, however, to the surprise and
disappointment of every one on board the flag ship, no signs of the
fleet were to be seen. The seamen, and the officers on the deck, gazed
long and intently into the southern horizon as the increasing light of
the morning brought it gradually into view, but there was not a speck to
break its smooth and even line.

They felt anxious and uneasy, but William seemed to experience no
concern. He ordered the sails to be furled, and then sent a man to the
mast head to look out there. Nothing was to be seen. William, still
apparently unconcerned, ordered breakfast to be prepared in a very
sumptuous manner, loading the tables with wine and other delicacies,
that the minds of all on board might be cheered by the exhilarating
influence of a feast. At length the lookout was sent to the mast head
again. "What do you see now?" said William. "I see," said the man,
gazing very intently all the while toward the south, "four _very small
specks_ just in the horizon." The intense interest which this
announcement awakened on the deck was soon at the same time _heightened_
and _relieved_ by the cry, "I can see more and more--they are the
ships--yes, the whole squadron is coming into view."

The advancing fleet soon came up with the Mira, when the latter spread
her sails again, and all moved slowly on together toward the coast of

The ships had directed their course so much to the eastward, that when
they made the land they were not very far from the Straits of Dover. As
they drew near to the English shore, they watched very narrowly for the
appearance of Harold's cruisers, which they naturally expected would
have been stationed at various points, to guard the coast; but none were
to be seen. There had been such cruisers, and there still were such off
the other harbors; but it happened, very fortunately for William, that
those which had been stationed to guard this part of the island had been
withdrawn a few days before, on account of their provisions being
exhausted. Thus, when William's fleet arrived, there was no enemy to
oppose their landing. There was a large and open bay, called the Bay of
Pevensey, which lay smiling before them, extending its arms as if
inviting them in. The fleet advanced to within the proper distance from
the land, and there the seamen cast their anchors, and all began to
prepare for the work of disembarkation.

A strong body of soldiery is of course landed first on such occasions.
In this instance the archers, William's favorite corps, were selected to
take the lead. William accompanied them. In his eagerness to get to the
shore, as he leaped from the boat, his foot slipped, and he fell. The
officers and men around him would have considered this an evil omen; but
he had presence of mind enough to extend his arms and grasp the ground,
pretending that his prostration was designed, and saying at the same
time, "Thus I seize this land; from this moment it is mine." As he
arose, one of his officers ran to a neighboring hut which stood near by
upon the shore, and breaking off a little of the thatch, carried it to
William, and, putting it into his hand, said that he thus gave him
_seizin_ of his new possessions. This was a customary form, in those
times, of putting a new owner into possession of lands which he had
purchased or acquired in any other way. The new proprietor would repair
to the ground, where the party whose province it was to deliver the
property would detach something from it, such as a piece of turf from a
bank, or a little of the thatch from a cottage, and offering it to him,
would say, "Thus I deliver thee _seizin_," that is, _possession_, "of
this land." This ceremony was necessary to complete the conveyance of
the estate.

The soldiers, as soon as they were landed, began immediately to form an
encampment, and to make such military arrangements as were necessary to
guard against an attack, or the sudden appearance of an enemy. While
this was going on, the boats continued to pass to and fro,
accomplishing, as fast as possible, the work of disembarkation. In
addition to those regularly attached to the army, there was a vast
company of workmen of all kinds, engineers, pioneers, carpenters,
masons, and laborers, to be landed; and there were three towers, or
rather forts, built of timber, which had been framed and fashioned in
Normandy, ready to be put up on arriving: these had now to be landed,
piece by piece, on the strand. These forts were to be erected as soon as
the army should have chosen a position for a permanent encampment, and
were intended as a means of protection for the provisions and stores.
The circumstance shows that the plan of transporting buildings ready
made, across the seas, has not been invented anew by our emigrants to

While these operations were going on, William dispatched small squadrons
of horse as reconnoitering parties, to explore the country around, to
see if there were any indications that Harold was near. These parties
returned, one after another, after having gone some miles into the
country in all directions, and reported that there were no signs of an
enemy to be seen. Things were now getting settled, too, in the camp,
and William gave directions that the army should kindle their camp fires
for the night, and prepare and eat their suppers. His own supper, or
dinner, as perhaps it might be called, was also served, which he
partook, with his officers, in his own tent. His mind was in a state of
great contentment and satisfaction at the successful accomplishment of
the landing, and at finding himself thus safely established, at the head
of a vast force, within the realm of England.

Every circumstance of the transit had been favorable excepting one, and
that was, that two of the ships belonging to the fleet were missing.
William inquired at supper if any tidings of them had been received.
They told him, in reply, that the missing vessels had been heard from;
they had, in some way or other, been run upon the rocks and lost. There
was a certain astrologer, who had made a great parade, before the
expedition left Normandy, of predicting its result. He had found, by
consulting the stars, that William would be successful, and would meet
with no opposition from Harold. This astrologer had been on board one of
the missing ships, and was drowned. William remarked, on receiving this
information, "What an idiot a man must be, to think that he can predict,
by means of the stars, the future fate of others, when it is so plain
that he can not foresee his own!"

It is said that William's dinner on this occasion was served on a large
stone instead of a table. The stone still remains on the spot, and is
called "the Conqueror's Stone" to this day.

The next day after the landing, the army was put in motion, and advanced
along the coast toward the eastward. There was no armed enemy to contend
against them there or to oppose their march; the people of the country,
through which the army moved, far from attempting to resist them, were
filled with terror and dismay. This terror was heightened, in fact, by
some excesses of which some parties of the soldiers were guilty. The
inhabitants of the hamlets and villages, overwhelmed with consternation
at the sudden descent upon their shores of such a vast horde of wild and
desperate foreigners, fled in all directions. Some made their escape
into the interior; others, taking with them the helpless members of
their households, and such valuables as they could carry, sought refuge
in monasteries and churches, supposing that such sanctuaries as those,
not even soldiers, unless they were pagans, would dare to violate.
Others, still, attempted to conceal themselves in thickets and fens till
the vast throng which was sweeping onward like a tornado should have
passed. Though William afterward always evinced a decided disposition to
protect the peaceful inhabitants of the country from all aggressions on
the part of his troops, he had no time to attend to that subject now. He
was intent on pressing forward to a place of safety.

William reached at length a position which seemed to him suitable for a
permanent encampment. It was an elevated land, near the sea. To the
westward of it was a valley formed by a sort of recess opened in the
range of chalky cliffs which here form the shore of England. In the
bottom of this valley, down upon the beach, was a small town, then of no
great consequence or power, but whose name, which was Hastings, has
since been immortalized by the battle which was fought in its vicinity a
few days after William's arrival. The position which William selected
for his encampment was on high land in the vicinity of the town. The
lines of the encampment were marked out, and the forts or castles which
had been brought from Normandy were set up within the inclosures. Vast
multitudes of laborers were soon at work, throwing up embankments, and
building redoubts and bastions, while others were transporting the arms,
the provisions, and the munitions of war, and storing them in security
within the lines. The encampment was soon completed, and the long line
of tents were set up in streets and squares within it. By the time,
however, that the work was done, some of William's agents and spies came
into camp from the north, saying that in four days Harold would be upon
him at the head of a hundred thousand men.



A.D. 1066

Tostig.--He is driven from England.--Expedition of Tostig.--He sails
to Norway.--Tostig's alliance with the Norwegians.--The Norwegian
fleet.--Superstitions.--Dreams of the soldiers.--The combined
fleets.--Attack on Scarborough.--The rolling fire.--Burning of
Scarborough.--Tostig marches to York.--Surrender of the city.--Arrival
of King Harold.--Movements of Tostig.--Surprise of Tostig and his
allies.--Preparations for battle.--Negotiations between Tostig and his
brother.--The battle.--Death of Tostig.--The Norwegians retire.--Harold
attempts to surprise William.--His failure.--Advice of Harold's
counselors.--He rejects it.--Harold's encampment.--The country
alarmed.--Harold's brothers.--He proposes to visit William's
camp.--Harold's arrival at William's lines.--He reconnoiters the
camp.--Harold's despondency.--His spies.--Their report.--William's
embassadors.--Their propositions.--William's propositions
unreasonable.--Harold declines them.--Further proposals of
William.--Counter proposal of Harold.--Harold's forebodings.--Proposals
of his brothers.--Night before the battle.--Scenes in Harold's
camp.--Scenes in William's camp.--Religious ceremonies.--A martial
bishop.--William's war-horse.--Preliminary arrangements.--Battle of
Hastings.--Defeat of Harold.--He is slain.--Final subjugation of the
island.--William crowned at Westminster.--William's power.--His

The reader will doubtless recollect that the tidings which William first
received of the accession of King Harold were brought to him by Tostig,
Harold's brother, on the day when he was trying his bow and arrows in
the park at Rouen. Tostig was his brother's most inveterate foe. He had
been, during the reign of Edward, a great chieftain, ruling over the
north of England. The city of York was then his capital. He had been
expelled from these his dominions, and had quarreled with his brother
Harold in respect to his right to be restored to them. In the course of
this quarrel he was driven from the country altogether, and went to the
Continent, burning with rage and resentment against his brother; and
when he came to inform William of Harold's usurpation, his object was
not merely to arouse _William_ to action--he wished to act himself. He
told William that he himself had more influence in England still than
his brother, and that if William would supply him with a small fleet
and a moderate number of men, he would make a descent upon the coast and
show what he could do.

William acceded to his proposal, and furnished him with the force which
he required, and Tostig set sail. William had not, apparently, much
confidence in the power of Tostig to produce any great effect, but his
efforts, he thought, might cause some alarm in England, and occasion
sudden and fatiguing marches to the troops, and thus distract and weaken
King Harold's forces. William would not, therefore, accompany Tostig
himself, but, dismissing him with such force as he could readily raise
on so sudden a call, he remained himself in Normandy, and commenced in
earnest his own grand preparations, as is described in the last chapter.

Tostig did not think it prudent to attempt a landing on English shores
until he had obtained some accession to the force which William had
given him. He accordingly passed through the Straits of Dover, and then
turning northward, he sailed along the eastern shores of the German
Ocean in search of allies. He came, at length, to Norway. He entered
into negotiations there with the Norwegian king, whose name, too, was
Harold. This northern Harold was a wild and adventurous soldier and
sailor, a sort of sea king, who had spent a considerable portion of his
life in marauding excursions upon the seas. He readily entered into
Tostig's views. An arrangement was soon concluded, and Tostig set sail
again to cross the German Ocean toward the British shores, while Harold
promised to collect and equip his own fleet as soon as possible, and
follow him. All this took place early in September; so that, at the same
time that William's threatened invasion was gathering strength and
menacing Harold's southern frontier, a cloud equally dark and gloomy,
and quite as threatening in its aspect, was rising and swelling in the
north; while King Harold himself, though full of vague uneasiness and
alarm, could gain no certain information in respect to either of these

The Norwegian fleet assembled at the port appointed for the rendezvous
of it, but, as the season was advanced and the weather stormy, the
soldiers there, like William's soldiers on the coast of France, were
afraid to put to sea. Some of them had dreams which they considered as
bad omens; and so much superstitious importance was attached to such
ideas in those times that these dreams were gravely recorded by the
writers of the ancient chronicles, and have come down to us as part of
the regular and sober history of the times. One soldier dreamed that the
expedition had sailed and landed on the English coast, and that there
the English army came out to meet them. Before the front of the army
rode a woman of gigantic stature, mounted on a wolf. The wolf had in his
jaws a human body, dripping with blood, which he was engaged in
devouring as he came along. The woman gave the wolf another victim after
he had devoured the first.

Another of these ominous dreams was the following: Just as the fleet was
about setting sail, the dreamer saw a crowd of ravenous vultures and
birds of prey come and alight every where upon the sails and rigging of
the ships, as if they were going to accompany the expedition. Upon the
summit of a rock near the shore there sat the figure of a female, with a
stern and ferocious countenance, and a drawn sword in her hand. She was
busy counting the ships, pointing at them, as she counted, with her
sword. She seemed a sort of fiend of destruction, and she called out to
the birds, to encourage them to go. "Go!" said she, "without fear; you
shall have abundance of prey. I am going too."

It is obvious that these dreams might as easily have been interpreted to
portend death and destruction to their English foes as to the dreamers
themselves. The soldiers were, however, inclined--in the state of mind
which the season of the year, the threatening aspect of the skies, and
the certain dangers of their distant expedition, produced--to apply the
gloomy predictions which they imagined these dreams expressed, to
themselves. Their chief, however, was of too desperate and determined a
character to pay any regard to such influences. He set sail. His
armament crossed the German Sea in safety, and joined Tostig on the
coast of Scotland. The combined fleet moved slowly southward, along the
shore, watching for an opportunity to land.


They reached, at length, the town of Scarborough, and landed to attack
it. The inhabitants retired within the walls, shut the gates, and bid
the invaders defiance. The town was situated under a hill, which rose in
a steep acclivity upon one side. The story is, that the Norwegians went
upon this hill, where they piled up an enormous heap of trunks and
branches of trees, with the interstices filled with stubble, dried
bark, and roots, and other such combustibles, and then setting the whole
mass on fire, they rolled it down into the town--a vast ball of fire,
roaring and crackling more and more, by the fanning of its flames in the
wind, as it bounded along. The intelligent reader will, of course, pause
and hesitate, in considering how far to credit such a story. It is
obviously impossible that any mere _pile_, however closely packed, could
be made to roll. But it is, perhaps, not absolutely impossible that
trunks of trees might be framed together, or fastened with wet thongs or
iron chains, after being made in the form of a rude cylinder or ball,
and filled with combustibles within, so as to retain its integrity in
such a descent.

The account states that this strange method of bombardment was
successful. The town was set on fire; the people surrendered. Tostig and
the Norwegians plundered it, and then, embarking again in their ships,
they continued their voyage.

The intelligence of this descent upon his northern coasts reached Harold
in London toward the close of September, just as he was withdrawing his
forces from the southern frontier, as was related in the last chapter,
under the idea that the Norman invasion would probably be postponed
until the spring; so that, instead of sending his troops into their
winter quarters, he had to concentrate them again with all dispatch, and
march at the head of them to the north, to avert this new and unexpected

While King Harold was thus advancing to meet them, Tostig and his
Norwegian allies entered the River Humber. Their object was to reach the
city of York, which had been Tostig's former capital, and which was
situated near the River Ouse, a branch of the Humber. They accordingly
ascended the Humber to the mouth of the Ouse, and thence up the latter
river to a suitable point of debarkation not far from York. Here they
landed and formed a great encampment. From this encampment they advanced
to the siege of the city. The inhabitants made some resistance at first;
but, finding that their cause was hopeless, they offered to surrender,
and a treaty of surrender was finally concluded. This negotiation was
closed toward the evening of the day, and Tostig and his confederate
forces were to be admitted on the morrow. They therefore, feeling that
their prize was secure, withdrew to their encampment for the night, and
left the city to its repose.

It so happened that King Harold arrived that very night, coming to the
rescue of the city. He expected to have found an army of besiegers
around the walls, but, instead of that, there was nothing to intercept
his progress up to the very gates of the city. The inhabitants opened
the gates to receive him, and the whole detachment which was marching
under his command passed in, while Tostig and his Norwegian allies were
sleeping quietly in their camp, wholly unconscious of the great change
which had thus taken place in the situation of their affairs.

The next morning Tostig drew out a large portion of the army, and formed
them in array, for the purpose of advancing to take possession of the
city. Although it was September, and the weather had been cold and
stormy, it happened that, on that morning, the sun came out bright, and
the air was calm, giving promise of a warm day; and as the movement into
the city was to be a peaceful one--a procession, as it were, and not a
hostile march--the men were ordered to leave their coats of mail and all
their heavy armor in camp, that they might march the more unencumbered.
While they were advancing in this unconcerned and almost defenseless
condition, they saw before them, on the road leading to the city, a
great cloud of dust arising. It was a strong body of King Harold's
troops coming out to attack them. At first, Tostig and the Norwegians
were completely lost and bewildered at the appearance of so unexpected a
spectacle. Very soon they could see weapons glittering here and there,
and banners flying. A cry of "The enemy! the enemy!" arose, and passed
along their ranks, producing universal alarm. Tostig and the Norwegian
Harold halted their men, and marshaled them hastily in battle array. The
English Harold did the same, when he had drawn up near to the front of
the enemy; both parties then paused, and stood surveying one another.
Presently there was seen advancing from the English side a squadron of
twenty horsemen, splendidly armed, and bearing a flag of truce. They
approached to within a short distance of the Norwegian lines, when a
herald, who was among them, called out aloud for Tostig. Tostig came
forward in answer to the summons. The herald then proclaimed to Tostig
that his brother did not wish to contend with him, but desired, on the
contrary, that they should live together in harmony. He offered him
peace, therefore, if he would lay down his arms, and he promised to
restore him his former possessions and honors.

Tostig seemed very much inclined to receive this proposition favorably.
He paused and hesitated. At length he asked the messenger what terms
King Harold would make with his friend and ally, the Norwegian Harold.
"He shall have," replied the messenger, "seven feet of English ground
for a grave. He shall have a little more than that, for he is taller
than common men." "Then," replied Tostig, "tell my brother to prepare
for battle. It shall never be said that I abandoned and betrayed my ally
and friend."

The troop returned with Tostig's answer to Harold's lines, and the
battle almost immediately began. Of course the most eager and inveterate
hostility of the English army would be directed against the Norwegians
and their king, whom they considered as foreign intruders, without any
excuse or pretext for their aggression. It accordingly happened that,
very soon after the commencement of the conflict, Harold the Norwegian
fell, mortally wounded by an arrow in his throat. The English king then
made new proposals to Tostig to cease the combat, and come to some
terms of accommodation. But, in the mean time, Tostig had become himself
incensed, and would listen to no overtures of peace. He continued the
combat until he was himself killed. The remaining combatants in his army
had now no longer any motive for resistance. Harold offered them a free
passage to their ships, that they might return home in peace, if they
would lay down their arms. They accepted the offer, retired on board
their ships, and set sail. Harold then, having, in the mean time, heard
of William's landing on the southern coast, set out on his return to the
southward, to meet the more formidable enemy that menaced him there.

His army, though victorious, was weakened by the fatigues of the march,
and by the losses suffered in the battle. Harold himself had been
wounded, though not so severely as to prevent his continuing to exercise
the command. He pressed on toward the south with great energy, sending
messages on every side, into the surrounding country, on his line of
march, calling upon the chieftains to arm themselves and their
followers, and to come on with all possible dispatch, and join him. He
hoped to advance so rapidly to the southern coast as to surprise
William before he should have fully intrenched himself in his camp, and
without his being aware of his enemy's approach. But William, in order
to guard effectually against surprise, had sent out small reconnoitering
parties of horsemen on all the roads leading northward, that they might
bring him in intelligence of the first approach of the enemy. Harold's
advanced guard met these parties, and saw them as they drove rapidly
back to the camp to give the alarm. Thus the hope of surprising William
was disappointed. Harold found, too, by his spies, as he drew near, to
his utter dismay, that William's forces were four times as numerous as
his own. It would, of course, be madness for him to think of attacking
an enemy in his intrenchments with such an inferior force. The only
alternative left him was either to retreat, or else to take some strong
position and fortify himself there, in the hope of being able to resist
the invaders and arrest their advance, though he was not strong enough
to attack them.

Some of his counselors advised him not to hazard a battle at all, but
to fall back toward London, carrying with him or destroying every thing
which could afford sustenance to William's army from the whole breadth
of the land. This would soon, they said, reduce William's army to great
distress for want of food, since it would be impossible for him to
transport supplies across the Channel for so vast a multitude. Besides,
they said, this plan would compel William, in the extremity to which
he would be reduced, to make so many predatory excursions among the more
distant villages and towns, as would exasperate the inhabitants,
and induce them to join Harold's army in great numbers to repel
the invasion. Harold listened to these counsels, but said, after
consideration, that he could never adopt such a plan. He could not be
so derelict to his duty as to lay waste a country which he was under
obligations to protect and save, or compel his people to come to his aid
by exposing them, designedly, to the excesses and cruelties of so
ferocious an enemy.

Harold determined, therefore, on giving William battle. It was not
necessary, however, for him to attack the invader. He perceived at once
that if he should take a strong position and fortify himself in it,
William must necessarily attack _him_, since a foreign army, just landed
in the country, could not long remain inactive on the shore. Harold
accordingly chose a position six or seven miles from William's camp,
and fortified himself strongly there. Of course neither army was in
sight of the other, or knew the numbers, disposition, or plans of the
enemy. The country between them was, so far as the inhabitants were
concerned, a scene of consternation and terror. No one knew at what
point the two vast clouds of danger and destruction which were hovering
near them would meet, or over what regions the terrible storm which was
to burst forth when the hour of that meeting should come, would sweep in
its destructive fury. The inhabitants, therefore, were every where
flying in dismay, conveying away the aged and the helpless by any means
which came most readily to hand; taking with them, too, such treasures
as they could carry, and hiding, in rude and uncertain places of
concealment, those which they were compelled to leave behind. The
region, thus, which lay between the two encampments was rapidly becoming
a solitude and a desolation, across which no communication was made, and
no tidings passed to give the armies at the encampments intelligence of
each other.

Harold had two brothers among the officers of his army, Gurth and
Leofwin. Their conduct toward the king seems to have been of a more
fraternal character than that of Tostig, who had acted the part of a
rebel and an enemy. Gurth and Leofwin, on the contrary, adhered to his
cause, and, as the hour of danger and the great crisis which was to
decide their fate drew nigh, they kept close to his side, and evinced a
truly fraternal solicitude for his safety. It was they, specially, who
had recommended to Harold to fall back on London, and not risk his life,
and the fate of his kingdom, on the uncertain event of a battle.

As soon as Harold had completed his encampment, he expressed a desire
to Gurth to ride across the intermediate country and take a view of
William's lines. Such an undertaking was less dangerous then than it
would be at the present day; for now, such a reconnoitering party would
be discovered from the enemy's encampment, at a great distance, by means
of spy-glasses, and a twenty-four-pound shot or a shell would be sent
from a battery to blow the party to pieces or drive them away. The only
danger _then_ was of being pursued by a detachment of horsemen from the
camp, or surrounded by an ambuscade. To guard against these dangers,
Harold and Gurth took the most powerful and fleetest horses in the
camp, and they called out a small but strong guard of well-selected men
to escort them. Thus provided and attended, they rode over to the
enemy's lines, and advanced so near that, from a small eminence to which
they ascended, they could survey the whole scene of William's
encampment: the palisades and embankments with which it was guarded,
which extended for miles; the long lines of tents within; the vast
multitude of soldiers; the knights and officers riding to and fro,
glittering with steel; and the grand pavilion of the duke himself, with
the consecrated banner of the cross floating above it. Harold was very
much impressed with the grandeur of the spectacle.

After gazing on this scene for some time in silence, Harold said to
Gurth that perhaps, after all, the policy of falling back would have
been the wisest for them to adopt, rather than to risk a battle with so
overwhelming a force as they saw before them. He did not know, he added,
but that it would be best for them to change their plan, and adopt that
policy now. Gurth said that it was too late. They had taken their stand,
and now for them to break up their encampment and retire would be
considered a retreat and not a maneuver, and it would discourage and
dishearten the whole realm.

After surveying thus, as long as they desired to do so, the situation
and extent of William's encampment, Harold's party returned to their own
lines, still determined to make a stand there against the invaders, but
feeling great doubt and despondency in respect to the result. Harold
sent over, too, in the course of the day, some spies. The men whom he
employed for this purpose were Normans by birth, and they could speak
the French language. There were many Normans in England, who had come
over in King Edward's time. These Norman spies could, of course,
disguise themselves, and mingle, without attracting attention, among the
thousands of workmen and camp followers that were going and coming
continually around the grounds which William's army occupied. They did
this so effectually, that they penetrated within the encampment without
difficulty, examined every thing, and, in due time, returned to Harold
with their report. They gave a formidable account of the numbers and
condition of William's troops. There was a large corps of bowmen in the
army, which had adopted a fashion of being shaven and shorn in such a
manner that the spies mistook them for priests. They told Harold,
accordingly, on their return, that there were more _priests_ in
William's camp than there were soldiers in all his army.

During this eventful day, William too sent a body of horsemen across the
country which separated the two encampments, though his emissaries were
not spies, but embassadors, with propositions for peace. William had no
wish to fight a battle, if what he considered as rightfully his kingdom
could be delivered to him without it; and he determined to make one
final effort to obtain a peaceable surrender of it, before coming to the
dreadful resort of an appeal to arms. He accordingly sent his embassy
with _three_ propositions to make to the English king. The principal
messenger in this company was a monk, whose name was Maigrot. He rode,
with a proper escort and a flag of truce, to Harold's lines. The
propositions were these, by accepting either of which the monk said that
Harold might avoid a battle. 1. That Harold should surrender the kingdom
to William, as he had solemnly sworn to do over the sacred relics in
Normandy. 2. That they should both agree to refer the whole subject of
controversy between them to the pope, and abide by his decision. 3.
That they should settle the dispute by single combat, the two claimants
to the crown to fight a duel on the plain, in presence of their
respective armies.

It is obvious that Harold could not accept either of these propositions.
The first was to give up the whole point at issue. As for the second,
the pope had already prejudged the case, and if it were to be referred
to him, there could be no doubt that he would simply reaffirm his former
decision. And in respect to single combat, the disadvantage on Harold's
part would be as great in such a contest as it would be in the proposed
arbitration. He was himself a man of comparatively slender form and of
little bodily strength. William, on the other hand, was distinguished
for his size, and for his extraordinary muscular energy. In a modern
combat with fire-arms these personal advantages would be of no avail,
but in those days, when the weapons were battle-axes, lances, and
swords, they were almost decisive of the result. Harold therefore
declined all William's propositions, and the monk returned.

William seems not to have been wholly discouraged by this failure of his
first attempt at negotiation, for he sent his embassage a second time
to make one more proposal. It was, that if Harold would consent to
acknowledge William as King of England, William would assign the whole
territory to him and to his brother Gurth, to hold _as provinces_, under
William's general sway. Under this arrangement William would himself
return to Normandy, making the city of Rouen, which was his capital
there, the capital of the whole united realm. To this proposal Harold
replied, that he could not, on any terms, give up his rights as
sovereign of England. He therefore declined this proposal also. He,
however, now made a proposition in his turn. He was willing, he said, to
compromise the dispute, so far as it could be done by _the payment of
money_. If William would abandon his invasion and return to Normandy,
giving up his claims to the English crown, he would pay him, he said,
any sum of money that he would name.

William could not accept this proposal. He was, as he believed, the true
and rightful heir to the throne of England, and there was a point of
honor involved, as well as a dictate of ambition to be obeyed, in
insisting on the claim. In the mean time, the day had passed, while
these fruitless negotiations had been pending. Night was coming on.
William's officers and counselors began to be uneasy at the delay. They
said that every hour new re-enforcements were coming into Harold's camp,
while they themselves were gaining no advantage, and, consequently, the
longer the battle was delayed, the less was the certainty of victory. So
William promised them that he would attack King Harold in his camp the
very next morning.

As the time for the great final struggle drew near, Harold's mind was
oppressed more and more with a sense of anxiety and with foreboding
fears. His brothers, too, were ill at ease. Their solicitude was
increased by the recollection of Harold's oath, and of the awful
sanctions with which they feared the sacred relics might have invested
it. They were not sure that their brother's excuse for setting it aside
would save him from the guilt and curse of perjury in the sight of
Heaven. So they proposed, on the eve of the battle, that Harold himself
should retire, and leave them to conduct the defense. "We can not deny,"
they said, "that you did take the oath; and, notwithstanding the
circumstances which seem to absolve you from the obligation, it is best
to avoid, if possible, the open violation of it. It will be better, on
the whole, for you to leave the army and go to London. You can aid very
effectually in the defense of the kingdom by raising re-enforcements
there. We will stay and encounter the actual battle. Heaven can not be
displeased with us for so doing, for we shall be only discharging the
duty incumbent on all, of defending their native land from foreign

Harold would not consent to adopt this plan. He could not retire
himself, he said, at the hour of approaching danger, and leave his
brothers and his friends exposed, when it was _his_ crown for which
they were contending.

Such were the circumstances of the two armies on the evening before the
battle; and, of course, in such a state of things, the tendency of the
minds of men would be, in Harold's camp, to gloom and despondency, and
in William's, to confidence and exultation. Harold undertook, as men in
his circumstances often do, to lighten the load which weighed upon his
own heart and oppressed the spirits of his men, by feasting and wine. He
ordered a plentiful supper to be served, and supplied his soldiers with
abundance of drink; and it is said that his whole camp exhibited, during
the whole night, one wide-spread scene of carousing and revelry, the
troops being gathered every where in groups around their camp fires,
some half stupefied, others quarreling, and others still singing
national songs, and dancing with wild excitement, according to the
various effects produced upon different constitutions by the
intoxicating influence of beer and wine.

In William's camp there were witnessed very different scenes. There were
a great many monks and ecclesiastics in the train of his army, and, on
the night before the battle, they spent the time in saying masses,
reading litanies and prayers, chanting anthems, and in other similar
acts of worship, assisted by the soldiers, who gathered, in great
congregations, for this wild worship, in the open spaces among the tents
and around the camp fires. At length they all retired to rest, feeling
an additional sense of safety in respect to the work of the morrow by
having, as they supposed, entitled themselves, by their piety, to the
protection of Heaven.

In the morning, too, in William's camp, the first thing done was to
convene the army for a grand celebration of mass. It is a curious
illustration of the mingling of the religious, or, perhaps, we ought
rather to say, the superstitious sentiment of the times, with the
spirit of war, that the bishop who officiated in this solemn service of
the mass wore a coat of mail under his pontifical attire, and an
attendant stood by his side, while he was offering his prayers, with a
steel-pointed spear in his hand, ready for the martial prelate to assume
as soon as the service should be ended. Accordingly, when the religious
duty was performed, the bishop threw off his surplice, took his spear,
and mounting his white charger, which was also all saddled and bridled
beside him, he headed a brigade of horse, and rode on to the assault of
the enemy.

William himself mounted a very magnificent war-horse from Spain, a
present which he had formerly received from one of his wealthy barons.
The name of the horse was Bayard. From William's neck were suspended
some of the most sacred of the relics over which Harold had taken his
false oath. He imagined that there would be some sort of charm in them,
to protect his life, and to make the judgment of Heaven more sure
against the perjurer. The standard which the pope had blessed was borne
by his side by a young standard bearer, who was very proud of the honor.
An older soldier, however, on whom the care of this standard officially
devolved, had asked to be excused from carrying it. He wished, he said,
to do his work that day with the _sword_. While making these preliminary
arrangements for going into battle, William, with the party around him,
stood upon a gentle eminence in the middle of the camp, and in sight of
the whole army. Every one was struck with admiration at the splendid
figure which their commander made--his large and well-formed limbs
covered with steel, and his horse, whose form was as noble as that of
his master, prancing restlessly, as if impatient for the battle to

When all were ready, the Norman army advanced gayly and joyously to
attack the English lines; but the gayety and joyousness of the scene
soon disappeared, as corps after corps got fairly engaged in the awful
work of the day. For ten long hours there reigned over the whole field
one wide-spread scene of havoc and death--every soul among all those
countless thousands delivered up to the supreme dominion of the most
dreadful passions, excited to a perfect phrensy of hatred, rage, and
revenge, and all either mercilessly killing others, or dying themselves
in agony and despair. When night came, the Normans were every where
victorious. They were in full possession of the field, and they rode
triumphantly to and fro through Harold's camp, leaping their horses over
the bodies of the dead and dying which covered the ground. Those of King
Harold's followers that had escaped the slaughter of the day fled in
hopeless confusion toward the north, where the flying masses strewed the
roads for miles with the bodies of men who sank down on the way, spent
with wounds or exhausted by fatigue.

In the morning, William marshaled his men on the field, and called over
the names of the officers and men, as they had been registered in
Normandy, for the purpose of ascertaining who were killed. While this
melancholy ceremony was going on, two monks came in, sent from the
remains of the English army, and saying that King Harold was missing,
and that it was rumored that he had been slain. If so, his body must be
lying somewhere, they said, upon the field, and they wished for
permission to make search for it. The permission was granted. With the
aid of some soldiers they began to explore the ground, turning over and
examining every lifeless form which, by the dress or the armor, might
seem to be possibly the king's. Their search was for a long time vain;
the ghastly faces of the dead were so mutilated and changed that nobody
could be identified. At length, however, a woman who had been in
Harold's family, and knew his person more intimately than they, found
and recognized the body, and the monks and the soldiers carried it away.

       *       *       *       *       *

The battle of Hastings sealed and settled the controversy in respect to
the English crown. It is true that the adherents of Harold, and also
those of Edgar Atheling, made afterward various efforts to rally their
forces and recover the kingdom, but in vain. William advanced to London,
fortified himself there, and made excursions from that city as a centre
until he reduced the island to his sway. He was crowned at length, at
Westminster Abbey, with great pomp and parade. He sent for Matilda to
come and join him, and instated her in his palace as Queen of England.
He confiscated the property of all the English nobles who had fought
against him, and divided it among the Norman chieftains who had aided
him in the invasion. He made various excursions to and from Normandy
himself, being received every where throughout his dominions, on both
sides the Channel, with the most distinguished honors. In a word, he
became, in the course of a few years after he landed, one of the
greatest and most powerful potentates on the globe. How far all his
riches and grandeur were from making him happy, will appear in the
following chapter.



A.D. 1076-1077

William's oldest son.--His character.--William's conflicts with his
son Robert.--William Rufus.--William's son Henry.--Robert nicknamed
Short Boots.--Robert's betrothment.--William's motives.--Death
of Margaret.--More trouble.--Robert's political power.--His
ambition.--Robert claims Normandy.--William refuses it.--Castle at
L'Aigle.--Quarrel between Robert and William Rufus.--The combatants
parted.--Robert's rage.--Robert's rebellion.--Anxiety and distress of
Matilda.--Measures of Matilda.--Advantages of William.--Robert lays
down his arms.--Interview with his father.--Recriminations.--The
interview fruitless.--Robert goes to Flanders.--His treasonable
correspondence.--Action of Philip.--He sides with Robert.--Robert's
dissipation.--Matilda sends him supplies.--Matilda's secret
supplies.--She is discovered.--Matilda's messenger seized.--William's
reproaches.--Matilda's reply.--William's anger.--Sampson's
escape.--Things grow worse.--Preparations for war.--Matilda's
distress.--William wounded by his son.--The battle goes against
him.--Matilda's anguish.--The reconciliation.

Ambitious men, who devote their time and attention, through all the
early years of life, to their personal and political aggrandizement,
have little time to appropriate to the government and education of their
children, and their later years are often embittered by the dissipation
and vice, or by the unreasonable exactions of their sons. At least it
was so in William's case. By the time that his public enemies were
subdued, and he found himself undisputed master both of his kingdom and
his duchy, his peace and happiness were destroyed, and the tranquillity
of his whole realm was disturbed by a terrible family quarrel.

The name of his oldest son was Robert. He was fourteen years old when
his father set off on his invasion of England. At that time he was a
sort of spoiled child, having been his mother's favorite, and, as such,
always greatly indulged by her. When William went away, it will be
recollected that he appointed Matilda regent, to govern Normandy during
his absence. This boy was also named in the regency, so that he was
nominally associated with his mother, and he considered himself,
doubtless, as the more important personage of the two. In a word, while
William was engaged in England, prosecuting his conquests there, Robert
was growing up in Normandy a vain, self-conceited, and ungovernable
young man.

His father, in going back and forth between England and Normandy, often
came into conflict with his son, as usual in such cases. In these
contests Matilda took sides with the son. William's second son, whose
name was William Rufus, was jealous of his older brother, and was often
provoked by the overbearing and imperious spirit which Robert displayed.
William Rufus thus naturally adhered to the father's part in the family
feud. William Rufus was as rough and turbulent in spirit as Robert, but
he had not been so indulged. He possessed, therefore, more self-control;
he knew very well how to suppress his propensities, and conceal the
unfavorable aspects of his character when in the presence of his father.

There was a third brother, named Henry. He was of a more quiet and
inoffensive character, and avoided taking an active part in the
quarrel, except so far as William Rufus led him on. He was William
Rufus's friend and companion, and, as such, Robert considered him as his
enemy. All, in fact, except Matilda, were against Robert, who looked
down, in a haughty and domineering manner--as the oldest son and heir
is very apt to do in rich and powerful families--upon the comparative
insignificance of his younger brethren. The king, instead of restraining
this imperious spirit in his son, as he might, perhaps, have done by a
considerate and kind, and, at the same time, decisive exercise of
authority, teased and tormented him by sarcasms and petty vexations.
Among other instances of this, he gave him the nickname of _Short
Boots_, because he was of inferior stature. As Robert was, however,
at this time of full age, he was stung to the quick at having such a
stigma attached to him by his father, and his bosom burned with secret
sentiments of resentment and revenge.

He had, besides, other causes of complaint against his father, more
serious still. When he was a very young child, his father, according to
the custom of the times, had espoused him to the daughter and heiress of
a neighboring earl, a child like himself. Her name was Margaret. The
earldom which this little Margaret was to inherit was Maine. It was on
the frontiers of Normandy, and it was a rich and valuable possession. It
was a part of the stipulation of the marriage contract that the young
bride's domain was to be delivered to the father of the bridegroom, to
be held by him until the bridegroom should become of age, and the
marriage should be fully consummated. In fact, the getting possession of
this rich inheritance, with a prospect of holding it so many years, was
very probably the principal end which William had in view in contracting
for a matrimonial union so very premature.

If this was, in reality, William's plan, it resulted, in the end, even
more favorably than he had anticipated; for the little heiress died a
short time after her inheritance was put into the possession of her
father-in-law. There was nobody to demand a restoration of it, and so
William continued to hold it until his son, the bridegroom, became of
age. Robert then demanded it, contending that it was justly his. William
refused to surrender it. He maintained that what had passed between his
son in his infancy, and the little Margaret, was not a marriage, but
only a betrothment--a contract for a future marriage, which was to take
place when the parties were of age--that, since Margaret's death
prevented the consummation of the union, Robert was never her husband,
and could not, consequently, acquire the rights of a husband. The lands,
therefore, ought manifestly, he said, to remain in the hands of her
guardian, and whatever rights any other persons might have, claiming to
succeed Margaret as her natural heirs, it was plain that his son could
have no title whatever.

However satisfactory this reasoning might be to the mind of William,
Robert was only exasperated by it. He looked upon the case as one of
extreme injustice and oppression on the part of his father, who, not
content, he said, with his own enormous possessions, must add to them by
robbing his own son. In this opinion Robert's mother, Matilda, agreed
with him. As for William Rufus and Henry, they paid little attention to
the argument, but were pleased with the result of it, and highly enjoyed
their brother's vexation and chagrin in not being able to get possession
of his earldom.

There was another very serious subject of dispute between Robert and his
father. It has already been stated, that when the duke set out on his
expedition for the invasion of England, he left Matilda and Robert
together in charge of the duchy. At the commencement of the period of
his absence Robert was very young, and the actual power rested mainly in
his mother's hands. As he grew older, however, he began to exercise an
increasing influence and control. In fact, as he was himself ambitious
and aspiring, and his mother indulgent, the power passed very rapidly
into his hands. It was eight years from the time that William left
Normandy before his power was so far settled and established in England
that he could again take the affairs of his original realm into his
hands. He had left Robert, at that time, a mere boy of fourteen, who,
though rude and turbulent in character, was still politically powerless.
He found him, on his return, a man of twenty-two, ruder and more
turbulent than before, and in the full possession of political power.
This power, too, he found him very unwilling to surrender.

In fact, when William came to receive back the province of Normandy
again, Robert almost refused to surrender it. He said that his father
had always promised him the duchy of Normandy as his domain so soon as
he should become of age, and he claimed now the fulfillment of this
promise. Besides, he said that, now that his father was King of England,
his former realm was of no consequence to him. It did not add sensibly
to his influence or his power, and he might, therefore, without
suffering any sensible loss himself, grant it to his son. William, on
his part, did not acknowledge the force of either of these arguments. He
would not admit that he had ever promised Normandy to his son; and as to
voluntarily relinquishing any part of his possessions, he had no faith
in the policy of a man's giving up his power or his property to his
children until they were justly entitled to inherit it by his death; at
any rate, he should not do it. He had no idea, as he expressed it, "of
putting off his clothes before he was going to bed."

The irritation and ill-will which these dissensions produced grew deeper
and more inveterate every day, though the disagreement had been thus far
a private and domestic dispute, confined, in its influence, to the
king's immediate household. An occasion, however, now occurred, on which
the private family feud broke out into an open public quarrel. The
circumstances were these:

King William had a castle in Normandy, at a place called L'Aigle. He was
spending some time there, in the year 1076, with his court and family.
One day William Rufus and Henry were in one of the upper apartments of
the castle, playing with dice, and amusing themselves, in company with
other young men of the court, in various ways. There was a window in the
apartment leading out upon a balcony, from which one might look down
upon the court-yard of the castle below. Robert was in this court-yard
with some of _his_ companions, walking there in an irritated state of
mind, which had been produced by some previous disputes with his
brothers. William Rufus looked down from the balcony and saw him, and by
way, perhaps, of quenching his anger, poured some water down upon him.
The deed changed the suppressed and silent irritation in Robert's heart
to a perfect phrensy of rage and revenge. He drew his sword and sprang
to the stair-case. He uttered loud and terrible imprecations as he went,
declaring that he would kill the author of such an insult, even if he
_was_ his brother. The court-yard was, of course, immediately filled
with shouts and exclamations of alarm, and every body pressed forward
toward the room from which the water had been thrown, some to witness,
and some to prevent the affray.

The king himself, who happened to be in that part of the castle at the
time, was one of the number. He reached the apartment just in time to
interpose between his sons, and prevent the commission of the awful
crime of fratricide. As it was, he found it extremely difficult to part
the ferocious combatants. It required all his paternal authority, and
not a little actual force, to arrest the affray. He succeeded, however,
at length, with the help of the by-standers, in parting his sons, and
Robert, out of breath, and pale with impotent rage, was led away.

Robert considered his father as taking sides against him in this
quarrel, and he declared that he could not, and would not, endure such
treatment any longer. He found some sympathy in the conversation of his
mother, to whom he went immediately with bitter complainings. She tried
to soothe and quiet his wounded spirit, but he would not be pacified. He
spent the afternoon and evening in organizing a party of wild and
desperate young men from among the nobles of the court, with a view of
raising a rebellion against his father, and getting possession of
Normandy by force. They kept their designs profoundly secret, but
prepared to leave L'Aigle that night, to go and seize Rouen, the
capital, which they hoped to surprise into a surrender. Accordingly, in
the middle of the night, the desperate troop mounted their horses and
rode away. In the morning the king found that they were gone, and he
sent an armed force after them. Their plan of surprising Rouen failed.
The king's detachment overtook them, and, after a sharp contest,
succeeded in capturing a few of the rebels, though Robert himself,
accompanied by some of the more desperate of his followers, escaped over
the frontier into a neighboring province, where he sought refuge in the
castle of one of his father's enemies.

This result, as might have been expected, filled the mind of Matilda
with anxiety and distress. A civil war between her husband and her son
was now inevitable; and while every consideration of prudence and of
duty required her to espouse the father's cause, her maternal love, a
principle stronger far, in most cases, than prudence and duty combined,
drew her irresistibly toward her son. Robert collected around him all
the discontented and desperate spirits of the realm, and for a long
time continued to make his father infinite trouble. Matilda, while she
forbore to advocate his cause openly in the presence of the king, kept
up a secret communication with him. She sent him information and advice
from time to time, and sometimes supplies, and was thus, technically,
guilty of a great crime--the crime of maintaining a treasonable
correspondence with a rebel. In a moral point of view, however, her
conduct may have been entirely right; at any rate, its influence was
very salutary, for she did all in her power to restrain both the father
and the son; and by the influence which she thus exerted, she doubtless
mitigated very much the fierceness of the struggle.

Of course, the advantage, in such a civil war as this, would be wholly
on the side of the sovereign. William had all the power and resources of
the kingdom in his own hands--the army, the towns, the castles, the
treasures. Robert had a troop of wild, desperate, and unmanageable
outlaws, without authority, without money, without a sense of justice on
their side. He gradually became satisfied that the contest was vain. In
proportion as the activity of the hostilities diminished, Matilda became
more and more open in her efforts to restrain it, and to allay the
animosity on either side. She succeeded, finally, in inducing Robert to
lay down his arms, and then brought about an interview between the
parties, in hopes of a peaceful settlement of the quarrel.

It appeared very soon, however, at this interview, that there was no
hope of any thing like a real and cordial reconciliation. Though both
the father and son had become weary of the unnatural war which they had
waged against each other, yet the ambitious and selfish desires on both
sides, in which the contest had originated, remained unchanged. Robert
began the conference by imperiously demanding of his father the
fulfillment of his promise to give him the government of Normandy. His
father replied by reproaching him with his unnatural and wicked
rebellion, and warned him of the danger he incurred, in imitating the
example of Absalom, of sharing that wretched rebel's fate. Robert
rejoined that he did not come to meet his father for the sake of hearing
a sermon preached. He had had enough of sermons, he said, when he was a
boy, studying grammar. He wanted his father to do him justice, not
preach to him. The king said that he should never divide his dominions,
while he lived, with any one; and added, notwithstanding what Robert had
contemptuously said about sermons, that the Scripture declared that a
house divided against itself could not stand. He then proceeded to
reproach and incriminate the prince in the severest manner for his
disloyalty as a subject, and his undutifulness and ingratitude as a son.
It was intolerable, he said, that a son should become the rival and
bitterest enemy of his father, when it was to him that he owed, not
merely all that he enjoyed, but his very existence itself.

These reproaches were probably uttered in an imperious and angry manner,
and with that spirit of denunciation which only irritates the accused
and arouses his resentment, instead of awakening feelings of penitence
and contrition. At any rate, the thought of his filial ingratitude, as
his father presented it, produced no relenting in Robert's mind. He
abruptly terminated the interview, and went out of his father's presence
in a rage.

In spite of all his mother's exertions and entreaties, he resolved to
leave the country once more. He said he would rather be an exile, and
wander homeless in foreign lands, than to remain in his father's court,
and be treated in so unjust and ignominious a manner, by one who was
bound by the strongest possible obligations to be his best and truest
friend. Matilda could not induce him to change this determination; and,
accordingly, taking with him a few of the most desperate and dissolute
of his companions, he went northward, crossed the frontier, and sought
refuge in Flanders. Flanders, it will be recollected, was Matilda's
native land. Her brother was the Earl of Flanders at this time. The earl
received young Robert very cordially, both for his sister's sake, and
also, probably, in some degree, as a means of petty hostility against
King William, his powerful neighbor, whose glory and good fortune he

Robert had not the means or the resources necessary for renewing an open
war with his father, but his disposition to do this was as strong as
ever, and he began immediately to open secret communications and
correspondence with all the nobles and barons in Normandy whom he
thought disposed to espouse his cause. He succeeded in inducing them to
make secret contributions of funds to supply his pecuniary wants, of
course promising to repay them with ample grants and rewards so soon as
he should obtain his rights. He maintained similar communications, too,
with Matilda, though she kept them very profoundly secret from her

Robert had other friends besides those whom he found thus furtively in
Normandy. The King of France himself was much pleased at the breaking
out of this terrible feud in the family of his neighbor, who, from being
his dependent and vassal, had become, by his conquest of England, his
great competitor and rival in the estimation of mankind. Philip was
disposed to rejoice at any occurrences which tended to tarnish William's
glory, or which threatened a division and diminution of his power. He
directed his agents, therefore, both in Normandy and in Flanders, to
encourage and promote the dissension by every means in their power. He
took great care not to commit himself by any open and positive promises
of aid, and yet still he contrived, by a thousand indirect means, to
encourage Robert to expect it. Thus the mischief was widened and
extended, while yet nothing effectual was done toward organizing an
insurrection. In fact, Robert had neither the means nor the mental
capacity necessary for maturing and carrying into effect any actual
plan of rebellion. In the mean time, months passed away, and as nothing
effectual was done, Robert's adherents in Normandy became gradually
discouraged. They ceased their contributions, and gradually forgot their
absent and incompetent leader. Robert spent his time in dissipation and
vice, squandering in feasts and in the company of abandoned men and
women the means which his followers sent him to enable him to prepare
for the war; and when, at last, these supplies failed him, he would have
been reduced gradually to great distress and destitution, were it not
that one faithful and devoted friend still adhered to him. That friend
was his mother.

Matilda knew very well that whatever she did for her absent son must be
done in the most clandestine manner, and this required much stratagem
and contrivance on her part. She was aided, however, in her efforts at
concealment by her husband's absence. He was now for a time in England,
having been called there by some pressing demands of public duty. He
left a great minister of state in charge of Normandy, whose vigilance
Matilda thought it would be comparatively easy to elude. She sent to
Robert, in Flanders, first her own private funds. Then she employed for
this purpose a portion of such public funds as came into her hands. The
more she sent, however, the more frequent and imperious were Robert's
demands for fresh supplies. The resources of a mother, whether great or
small, are always soon exhausted by the insatiable requirements of a
dissolute and profligate son. When Matilda's money was gone, she sold
her jewels, then her more expensive clothes, and, finally, such objects
of value, belonging to herself or to her husband, as could be most
easily and privately disposed of. The minister, who was very faithful
and watchful in the discharge of his duties, observed indications that
something mysterious was going on. His suspicions were aroused. He
watched Matilda's movements, and soon discovered the truth. He sent
information to William. William could not believe it possible that his
minister's surmises could be true; for William was simply a statesman
and a soldier, and had very inadequate ideas of the absorbing and
uncontrollable power which is exercised by the principle of maternal

He, however, determined immediately to take most efficient measures to
ascertain the truth. He returned to Normandy, and there he succeeded in
intercepting one of Matilda's messengers on his way to Flanders, with
communications and money for Robert. The name of this messenger was
Sampson. William seized the money and the letters, and sent the
messenger to one of his castles, to be shut up in a dungeon. Then, with
the proofs of guilt which he had thus obtained, he went, full of
astonishment and anger, to find Matilda, and to upbraid her, as he
thought she deserved, for her base and ungrateful betrayal of her

The reproaches which he addressed to her were bitter and stern, though
they seem to have been spoken in a tone of sorrow rather than of anger.
"I am sure," he said, "I have ever been to you a faithful and devoted
husband. I do not know what more you could have desired than I have
done. I have loved you with a sincere and true affection. I have honored
you. I have placed you in the highest positions, intrusting you
repeatedly with large shares of my own sovereign power. I have confided
in you--committing my most essential and vital interests to your charge.
And now this is the return. You employ the very position, and power, and
means which your confiding husband has put into your hands, to betray
him in the most cruel way, and to aid and encourage his worst and most
dangerous enemy."

To these reproaches Matilda attempted no reply, except to plead the
irresistible impetuosity and strength of her maternal love. "I could not
bear," she said, "to leave Robert in distress and suffering while I had
any possible means of relieving him. He is my child. I think of him all
the time. I love him more than my life. I solemnly declare to you, that
if he were now dead, and I could restore him to life by dying for him, I
would most gladly do it. How, then, do you suppose that I could possibly
live here in abundance and luxury, while he was wandering homeless, in
destitution and want, and not try to relieve him? Whether it is right or
wrong for me to feel so, I do not know; but this I know, I _must_ feel
so: I can not help it. He is our first-born son; I can not abandon him."

William went away from the presence of Matilda full of resentment and
anger. Of course he could do nothing in respect to her but reproach her,
but he determined that the unlucky Sampson should suffer severely for
the crime. He sent orders to the castle where he lay immured, requiring
that his eyes should be put out. Matilda, however, discovered the
danger which threatened her messenger in time to send him warning. He
contrived to make his escape, and fled to a certain monastery which was
under Matilda's special patronage and charge. A monastery was, in those
days, a sanctuary into which the arm even of the most despotic authority
scarcely dared to intrude in pursuit of its victim. To make the safety
doubly sure, the abbot proposed that the trembling fugitive should join
their order and become a monk. Sampson was willing to do any thing to
save his life. The operation of putting out the eyes was very generally
fatal, so that he considered his life at stake. He was, accordingly,
shaven and shorn, and clothed in the monastic garb. He assumed the vows
of the order, and entered, with his brother monks, upon the course of
fastings, penances, and prayers which pertained to his new vocation; and
William left him to pursue it in peace.

Things went on worse instead of better after this discovery of the
mother's participation in the councils of the son. Either through the
aid which his mother had rendered, or by other means, there seemed to be
a strong party in and out of Normandy who were inclined to espouse
Robert's cause. His friends, at length, raised a very considerable
army, and putting him at the head of it, they advanced to attack Rouen.
The king, greatly alarmed at this danger, collected all the forces that
he could command, and went to meet his rebel son. William Rufus
accompanied his father, intending to fight by his side; while Matilda,
in an agony of terror and distress, remained, half distracted, within
her castle walls--as a wife and mother might be expected to be, on the
approach of a murderous conflict between her husband and her son. The
thought that one of them might, perhaps, be actually killed by the
other, filled her with dismay.

And, in fact, this dreadful result came very near being realized.
Robert, in the castle at L'Aigle, had barely been prevented from
destroying his brother, and now, on the plain of Archembraye, where this
battle was fought, his father _fell_, and was very near being killed, by
his hand. In the midst of the fight, while the horsemen were impetuously
charging each other in various parts of the field, all so disguised by
their armor that no one could know the individual with whom he was
contending, Robert encountered a large and powerful knight, and drove
his lance through his armor into his arm. Through the shock of the
encounter and the faintness produced by the agony of the wound, the
horseman fell to the ground, and Robert perceived, by the voice with
which his fallen enemy cried out in his pain and terror, that it was his
father that he had thus pierced with his steel. At the same moment, the
wounded father, in looking at his victorious antagonist, recognized
his son. He cursed his unnatural enemy with a bitter and terrible
malediction. Robert was shocked and terrified at what he had done. He
leaped from his horse, knelt down by the side of his father, and called
for aid. The king, distracted by the anguish of his wound, and by the
burning indignation and resentment which raged in his bosom against the
unnatural hostility which inflicted it, turned away from his son, and
refused to receive any succor from him.

Besides the misfortune of being unhorsed and wounded, the battle itself
went that day against the king. Robert's army remained masters of the
field. William Rufus was wounded too, as well as his father. Matilda was
overwhelmed with distress and mental anguish at the result. She could
not endure the idea of allowing so unnatural and dreadful a struggle to
go on. She begged her husband, with the most earnest importunities and
with many tears, to find some way of accommodating the dispute. Her
nights were sleepless, her days were spent in weeping, and her health
and strength were soon found to be wasting very rapidly away. She was
emaciated, wan, and pale, and it was plain that such distress, if long
continued, would soon bring her to the grave.

Matilda's intercessions at length prevailed. The king sent for his son,
and, after various negotiations, some sort of compromise was effected.
The armies were disbanded, peace was restored, and Robert and his father
once more seemed to be friends. Soon after this, William, having a
campaign to make in the north of England, took Robert with him as one of
the generals in his army.



A.D. 1078-1087

William's reign in England.--His difficulties.--Feelings of the
English people.--Rebellions.--Amalgamation of the English and
Normans.--William's labors.--Necessity of bringing a large Norman
force.--Providing for them.--The British realm Normanized.--O yes! O
yes! O yes!--Relics of the past.--Their future preservation.--Point
of view in which the Norman Conquest is regarded.--Domesday
Book.--Its great obscurity.--Specimen of the Domesday
Book.--Translation.--Matilda's health declines.--Death of her
daughter.--Matilda retires to her palace at Caen.--Her distress of
mind.--Matilda's health.--Memorials of her.--William's declining
years.--His fitfulness and discontent.--Philip ridicules
William.--William's rage.--William's threats.--Conflagration of
Mantes.--William's injury.--His great danger.--William's remorse.--His
last acts.--Robert absent.--He receives Normandy.--William Rufus
and Henry.--The king's will.--William's death.--Abandonment of
the body.--Apprehensions of the people.--The body removed to
Caen.--Extraordinary scenes.--The body conveyed to the monastery on
a cart.--The procession broken up.--Scene at the interment.--The
sarcophagus too small.--The body burst.--William Rufus obtains
possession of the English throne.

From the time of the battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066, to
that of William's death, which occurred in 1087, there intervened a
period of about twenty years, during which the great monarch reigned
over his extended dominions with a very despotic sway, though not
without a large share of the usual dangers, difficulties, and struggles
attending such a rule. He brought over immense numbers of Normans from
Normandy into England, and placed all the military and civil power of
the empire in their hands; and he relied almost entirely upon the
superiority of his physical force for keeping the country in subjugation
to his sway. It is true, he maintained that he was the rightful heir to
the English crown, and that, consequently, the tenure by which he held
it was the right of inheritance, and not the right of conquest; and he
professed to believe that the people of England generally admitted his
claim. This was, in fact, to a considerable extent, true. At least
there was probably a large part of the population who believed William's
right to the crown superior to that of Harold, whom he had deposed.
Still, as William was by birth, and education, and language a foreigner,
and as all the friends and followers who attended him, and, in fact,
almost the whole of the army, on which he mainly relied for the
preservation of his power, were foreigners too--wearing a strange dress,
and speaking in an unknown tongue--the great mass of the English people
could not but feel that they were under a species of foreign
subjugation. Quarrels were therefore continually breaking out between
them and their Norman masters, resulting in fierce and bloody struggles,
on their part, to get free. These rebellions were always effectually put
down; but when quelled in one quarter they soon broke out in another,
and they kept William and his forces almost always employed.

But William was not a mere warrior. He was well aware that the
permanence and stability of his own and his successor's sway in England
would depend finally upon the kind of basis on which the civil
institutions of the country should rest, and on the proper consolidation
and adjustment of the administrative and judicial functions of the
realm. In the intervals of his campaigns, therefore, William devoted a
great deal of time and attention to this subject, and he evinced a most
profound and statesmanlike wisdom and sagacity in his manner of treating

He had, in fact, a Herculean task to perform--a double task--viz., to
amalgamate two _nations_, and also to fuse and merge two _languages_
into one. He was absolutely compelled, by the circumstances under which
he was placed, to grapple with both these vast undertakings. If, at the
time when, in his park at Rouen, he first heard of Harold's accession,
he had supposed that there was a party in England in his favor strong
enough to allow of his proceeding there alone, or with a small Norman
attendance, so that he might rely mainly on the English themselves for
his accession to the throne, the formidable difficulties which, as it
was, he had subsequently to encounter, would all have been saved. But
there was no such party--at least there was no evidence that there was
one of sufficient strength to justify him in trusting himself to it. It
seemed to him, then, that if he undertook to gain possession of the
English throne at all, he must rely entirely on the force which he could
take with him from Normandy. To make this reliance effectual, the force
so taken must be an overwhelming one. Then, if Normans in great numbers
were to go to England for the purpose of putting him upon the English
throne, they must be rewarded, and so vast a number of candidates for
the prizes of honor and wealth could be satisfied only in England, and
by confiscations there. His possessions in Normandy would obviously be
insufficient for such a purpose. It was evident, moreover, that if a
large number of Norman adventurers were placed in stations of trust and
honor, and charged with civil offices and administrative functions all
over England, they would form a sort of class by themselves, and would
be looked upon with jealousy and envy by the original inhabitants, and
that there was no hope of maintaining them safely in their position
except by making the class as numerous and as strong as possible. In a
word, William saw very clearly that, while it would have been very well,
if it had been possible, for him to have brought _no_ Normans to
England, it was clearly best, since so many must go, to contrive every
means to swell and increase the number. It was one of those cases
where, being obliged to go far, it is best to go farther; and William
resolved on thoroughly _Normanizing_, so to speak, the whole British
realm. This enormous undertaking he accomplished fully and permanently;
and the institutions of England, the lines of family descent, the
routine of judicial and administrative business, and the very language
of the realm, retain the Norman characteristics which he ingrafted into
them to the present day.

It gives us a feeling akin to that of sublimity to find, even in our own
land, and in the most remote situations of it, the lingering relics of
the revolutions and deeds of these early ages, still remaining, like a
faint ripple rolling gently upon a beach in a deep and secluded bay,
which was set in motion, perhaps, at first, as one of the mountainous
surges of a wintery storm in the most distant seas. For example, if we
enter the most humble court in any remote and newly-settled country in
the American forests, a plain and rustic-looking man will call the
equally rustic-looking assembly to order by rapping his baton, the only
symbol of his office, on the floor, and calling out, in words mystic and
meaningless to him, "O yes! O yes! O yes!"[K] He little thinks that he
is obeying a behest of William the Conqueror, issued eight hundred years
ago, ordaining that his native tongue should be employed in the courts
of England. The irresistible progress of improvement and reform have
gradually displaced the intruding language again--except so far as it
has become merged and incorporated with the common language of the
country--from all the ordinary forms of legal proceedings. It lingers
still, however, as it were, on the threshold, in this call to order; and
as it is harmless there, the spirit of conservatism will, perhaps,
preserve for it this last place of refuge for a thousand years to come,
and "_O yes_" will be the phrase for ordaining silence by many
generations of officers, who will, perhaps, never have heard of the
authority whose orders they unwittingly obey.

[Footnote K: Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Norman French for Hearken! hearken!

The work of incorporating the Norman and English families with one
another, and fusing the two languages into one, required about a century
for its full accomplishment; and when at last it was accomplished, the
people of England were somewhat puzzled to know whether they ought to
feel proud of William's exploits in the conquest of England, or
humiliated by them. So far as they were themselves descended from the
Normans, the conquest was one of the glorious deeds of their ancestors.
So far as they were of English parentage, it would seem to be incumbent
on them to mourn over their fathers' defeat. It is obvious that from
such a species of perplexity as this there was no escape, and it has
accordingly continued to embarrass the successive generations of
Englishmen down to the present day. The Norman Conquest occupies,
therefore, a very uncertain and equivocal position in English history,
the various modern writers who look back to it now being hardly able to
determine whether they are to regard it as a mortifying subjugation
which their ancestors suffered, or a glorious victory which they gained.

One of the great measures of William's reign, and one, in fact, for
which it has been particularly famous in modern times, was a grand
census or registration of the kingdom, which the Conqueror ordered with
a view of having on record a perfect enumeration and description of all
the real and personal property in the kingdom. This grand national
survey was made in 1078. The result was recorded in two volumes of
different sizes, which were called the Great and the Little Domesday
Book. These books are still preserved, and are to this day of the very
highest authority in respect to all questions touching ancient rights of
property. One is a folio, and the other a quarto volume. The records are
written on vellum, in a close, abridged, and, to ordinary readers, a
perfectly unintelligible character. The language is Latin; but a modern
Latin scholar, without any means other than an inspection of the work,
would be utterly unable to decipher it. In fact, though the character is
highly wrought, and in some respects elegant, the whole style and
arrangement of the work is pretty nearly on a par, in respect to
scientific skill, with Queen Emma's designs upon the Bayeux tapestry.
About half a century ago, copies of these works were printed, by means
of type made to represent the original character. But these printed
editions were found unintelligible and useless until copious indexes
were prepared, and published to accompany them, at great expense of time
and labor.

Some little idea of the character and style of this celebrated record
may be obtained from the following specimen, which is as faithful an
imitation of the original as any ordinary typography will allow:


The passage, deciphered and expressed in full, stands thus--the letters
omitted in the original, above, being supplied in italics:

                                        IN BRIXISTAN HUND_redo_.

     Rex ten_et_ BERMUNDESYE. HERALD_US_ com_es_ tenuit. T_unc_ se
     def_en_d_ebat_ p_ro_ xiii. hid_is_, m_od_o pro xii. hid_is_. T_er_ra
     e_st_ viii. car_rucatarum_. In d_omi_nio e_st_ una car_rucata_ et
     xxv. vill_ani_ et xxxiii. bord_arii_ cu_m_ un_a_ car_rucata_. Ibi
     nova et pulchra eccl_esia_, et xx. ac_ræ_ p_ra_ti. Silva v. porc_is_
     de pasnag_io_.

The English translation is as follows:

                                        IN BRIXISTAN HUNDRED.

     The king holds BERMUNDESYE. Earl HERALD held it [before]. At that
     time it was rated at thirteen hides; now, at twelve. The arable
     land is eight carrucates [_or_ plow-lands]. There is one carrucate
     in demesne, and twenty-five villans, and thirty-three bordars, with
     one carrucate. There is a new and handsome church, with twenty
     acres of meadow, and woodland for five hogs in pasnage [pasturage]

But we must pass on to the conclusion of the story. About the year 1082,
Queen Matilda's health began seriously to decline. She was harassed by
a great many anxieties and cares connected with the affairs of state
which devolved upon her, and arising from the situation of her family:
these anxieties produced great dejection of spirits, and aggravated, if
they did not wholly cause, her bodily disease. She was at this time in
Normandy. One great source of her mental suffering was her anxiety in
respect to one of her daughters, who, as well as herself, was declining
in health. Forgetting her own danger in her earnest desires for the
welfare of her child, she made a sort of pilgrimage to a monastery which
contained the shrine of a certain saint, who, as she imagined, had power
to save her daughter. She laid a rich present on the shrine; she offered
before it most earnest prayers, imploring, with tears of bitter grief,
the intercession of the saint, and manifesting every outward symbol of
humility and faith. She took her place in the religious services of the
monastery, and conformed to its usages, as if she had been in the
humblest private station. But all was in vain. The health of her beloved
daughter continued to fail, until at length she died; and Matilda,
growing herself more feeble, and almost broken hearted through grief,
shut herself up in the palace at Caen.

It was in the same palace which William had built, within his monastery,
many long years before, at the time of their marriage. Matilda looked
back to that period, and to the buoyant hopes and bright anticipations
of power, glory, and happiness which then filled her heart, with sadness
and sorrow. The power and the glory had been attained, and in a measure
tenfold greater than she had imagined, but the happiness had never come.
Ambition had been contending unceasingly for twenty years, among all the
branches of her family, against domestic peace and love. She possessed,
herself, an aspiring mind, but the principles of maternal and conjugal
love were stronger in her heart than those of ambition; and yet she was
compelled to see ambition bearing down and destroying love in all its
forms every where around her. Her last days were embittered by the
breaking out of new contests between her husband and her son.

Matilda sought for peace and comfort in multiplying her religious
services and observances. She fasted, she prayed, she interceded for the
forgiveness of her sins with many tears. The monks celebrated mass at
her bed-side, and made, as she thought, by renewing the sacrifice of
Christ, a fresh propitiation for her sins. William, who was then in
Normandy, hearing of her forlorn and unhappy condition, came to see her.
He arrived just in time to see her die.

They conveyed her body from the palace in her husband's monastery at
Caen to the convent which she had built. It was received there in solemn
state, and deposited in the tomb. For centuries afterward, there
remained many memorials of her existence and her greatness there, in
paintings, embroideries, sacred gifts, and records, which have been
gradually wasted away by the hand of time. They have not, however,
wholly disappeared, for travelers who visit the spot find that many
memorials and traditions of Matilda linger there still.

William himself did not live many years after the death of his wife. He
was several years older than she. In fact, he was now considerably
advanced in age. He became extremely corpulent as he grew old, which, as
he was originally of a large frame, made him excessively unwieldy. The
inconvenience resulting from this habit of body was not the only evil
that attended it. It affected his health, and even threatened to end in
serious if not fatal disease. While he was thus made comparatively
helpless in body by the infirmities of his advancing age, he was
nevertheless as active and restless in spirit as ever. It was, however,
no longer the activity of youth, and hope, and progress which animated
him, but rather the fitful uneasiness with which age agitates itself
under the vexations which it sometimes has to endure, or struggles
convulsively at the approach of real or imaginary dangers, threatening
the possessions which it has been the work of life to gain. The dangers
in William's case were real, not imaginary. He was continually
threatened on every side. In fact, the very year before he died, the
dissensions between himself and Robert broke out anew, and he was
obliged, unwieldy and helpless as he was, to repair to Normandy, at the
head of an armed force, to quell the disturbances which Robert and his
partisans had raised.

Robert was countenanced and aided at this time by Philip, the king of
France, who had always been King William's jealous and implacable rival.
Philip, who, as will be recollected, was very young when William asked
his aid at the time of his invasion of England, was now in middle life,
and at the height of his power. As he had refused William his aid, he
was naturally somewhat envious and jealous of his success, and he was
always ready to take part against him. He now aided and abetted Robert
in his turbulence and insubordination, and ridiculed the helpless
infirmities of the aged king.

While William was in Normandy, he submitted to a course of medical
treatment, in the hope of diminishing his excessive corpulency, and
relieving the disagreeable and dangerous symptoms which attended it.
While thus in his physician's hands, he was, of course, confined to his
chamber. Philip, in ridicule, called it "being in the straw." He asked
some one who appeared at his court, having recently arrived from
Normandy, whether the old woman of England was still in the straw. Some
miserable tale-bearer, such as every where infest society at the present
day, who delight in quoting to one friend what they think will excite
their anger against another, repeated these words to William. Sick as he
was, the sarcasm aroused him to a furious paroxysm of rage. He swore by
"God's brightness and resurrection" that, when he got out again, he
would kindle such fires in Philip's dominions, in commemoration of his
delivery, as should make his realms too hot to hold him.

He kept his word--at least so far as respects the kindling of the fires;
but the fires, instead of making Philip's realms too hot to hold him, by
a strange yet just retribution, were simply the means of closing forever
the mortal career of the hand that kindled them. The circumstances of
this final scene of the great conqueror's earthly history were these:

In the execution of his threat to make Philip's dominions too hot to
hold him, William, as soon as he was able to mount his horse, headed an
expedition, and crossed the frontiers of Normandy, and moved forward
into the heart of France, laying waste the country, as he advanced, with
fire and sword. He came soon to the town of Mantes, a town upon the
Seine, directly on the road to Paris. William's soldiers attacked the
town with furious impetuosity, carried it by assault, and set it on
fire. William followed them in, through the gates, glorying in the
fulfillment of his threats of vengeance. Some timbers from a burning
house had fallen into the street, and, burning there, had left a
smoldering bed of embers, in which the fire was still remaining.
William, excited with the feeling of exultation and victory, was riding
unguardedly on through the scene of ruin he had made, issuing orders,
and shouting in a frantic manner as he went, when he was suddenly
stopped by a violent recoil of his horse from the burning embers, on
which he had stepped, and which had been concealed from view by the
ashes which covered them. William, unwieldy and comparatively helpless
as he was, was thrown with great force upon the pommel of the saddle. He
saved himself from falling from the horse, but he immediately found that
he had sustained some serious internal injury. He was obliged to
dismount, and to be conveyed away, by a very sudden transition, from the
dreadful scene of conflagration and vengeance which he had been
enacting, to the solemn chamber of death. They made a litter for him,
and a corps of strong men was designated to bear the heavy and now
helpless burden back to Normandy.


They took the suffering monarch to Rouen. The ablest physicians were
summoned to his bed-side. After examining his case, they concluded that
he must die. The tidings threw the unhappy patient into a state of
extreme anxiety and terror. The recollection of the thousand deeds of
selfish ambition and cruelty which he had been perpetrating, he said,
all his days, filled him with remorse. He shrunk back with invincible
dread from the hour, now so rapidly approaching, when he was to appear
in judgment before God, and answer, like any common mortal, for his
crimes. He had been accustomed all his life to consider himself as above
all law, superior to all power, and beyond the reach of all judicial
question. But now his time had come. He who had so often made others
tremble, trembled now in his turn, with an acuteness of terror and
distress which only the boldest and most high-handed offenders ever
feel. He cried bitterly to God for forgiveness, and brought the monks
around him to help him with incessant prayers. He ordered all the money
that he had on hand to be given to the poor. He sent commands to have
the churches which he had burned at Mantes rebuilt, and the other
injuries which he had effected in his anger repaired. In a word, he gave
himself very earnestly to the work of attempting, by all the means
considered most efficacious in those days, to avert and appease the
dreaded anger of heaven.

Of his three oldest sons, Robert was away; the quarrel between him and
his father had become irreconcilable, and he would not come to visit
him, even in his dying hours. William Rufus and Henry were there, and
they remained very constantly at their father's bed-side--not, however,
from a principle of filial affection, but because they wanted to be
present when he should express his last wishes in respect to the
disposal of his dominions. Such an expression, though oral, would be
binding as a will. When, at length, the king gave his dying directions
in respect to the succession, it appeared that, after all, he considered
his right to the English throne as very doubtful in the sight of God. He
had, in a former part of his life, promised Normandy to Robert, as his
inheritance, when he himself should die; and though he had so often
refused to surrender it to him while he himself continued to live, he
confirmed his title to the succession now. "I have promised it to him,"
he said, "and I keep my promise; and yet I know that that will be a
miserable country which is subject to his government. He is a proud and
foolish knave, and can never prosper. As for my kingdom of England," he
continued, "I bequeath it to no one, for it was not bequeathed to me. I
acquired it by force, and at the price of blood. I leave it in the hands
of God, only wishing that my son William Rufus may have it, for he has
been submissive to me in all things." "And what do you give _me_,
father?" asked Henry, eagerly, at this point. "I give you," said the
king, "five thousand pounds from my treasury." "But what shall I do with
my five thousand pounds," asked Henry, "if you do not give me either
house or land?" "Be quiet, my son," rejoined the king, "and trust in
God. Let your brothers go before you; your turn will come after theirs."

The object which had kept the young men at their father's bed-side
having been now attained, they both withdrew. Henry went to get his
money, and William Rufus set off immediately for England, to prepare the
way for his own accession to the throne, as soon as his father should be
no more.

The king determined to be removed from his castle in Rouen to a
monastery which was situated at a short distance from the city, without
the walls. The noise of the city disturbed him, and, besides, he thought
he should feel safer to die on sacred ground. He was accordingly removed
to the monastery. There, on the tenth of September, he was awakened in
the morning by hearing the city bells ringing. He asked what it meant.
He was told that the bells were ringing for the morning service at the
church of St. Mary. He lifted up his hands, looked to heaven, and said,
"I commend myself to my Lady Mary, the holy Mother of God," and almost
immediately expired.

The readers of history have frequent occasion to be surprised at the
sudden and total change which often takes place at the moment of the
death of a mighty sovereign, and even sometimes before his death, in the
indications of the respect and consideration with which his attendants
and followers regard him. In William's case, as has happened in many
other cases since, the moment he ceased to breathe he was utterly
abandoned. Every body fled, carrying with them, as they went, whatever
they could seize from the chamber--the arms, the furniture, the dresses,
and the plate; for all these articles became their perquisites on the
decease of their master. The almost incredible statement is made that
the heartless monsters actually stripped the dead body of their
sovereign, to make sure of all their dues, and left it naked on the
stone floor, while they bore their prizes to a place of safety. The
body lay in this neglected state for many hours; for the tidings of the
great monarch's death, which was so sudden at last, produced, as it
spread, universal excitement and apprehension. No one knew to what
changes the event would lead, what wars would follow between the sons,
or what insurrections or rebellions might have been secretly formed, to
break out suddenly when this crisis should have arrived. Thus the whole
community were thrown into a state of excitement and confusion.

The monk and lay brethren of the monastery at length came in, took up
the body, and prepared it for burial. They then brought crosses, tapers,
and censers, and began to offer prayers and to chant requiems for the
repose of the soul of the deceased. They sent also the Archbishop of
Rouen, to know what was to be done with the body. The archbishop gave
orders that it should be taken to Caen, and be deposited there in the
monastery which William had erected at the time of his marriage.

The tale which the ancient historians have told in respect to the
interment is still more extraordinary, and more inconsistent with all
the ideas we naturally form of the kind of consideration and honor which
the remains of so great a potentate would receive at the hands of his
household and his officers of state, than the account of his death. It
is said that all the members of his household, and all his officers,
immediately after his decease, abandoned the town--all eagerly occupied
in plans and maneuvers to secure their positions under the new reign.
Some went in pursuit of Robert, and some to follow William Rufus. Henry
locked up his money in a strong box, well ironed, and went off with it
to find some place of security. There was nobody left to take the
neglected body to the grave.

At last a countryman was found who undertook to transport the heavy
burden from Rouen to Caen. He procured a cart, and conveyed it from the
monastery to the river, where it was put on board a vessel, and taken
down the Seine to its mouth, and thence by sea to Caen. The Abbot of St.
Stephen's, which was the name of William's monastery there, came, with
some monks and a procession of the people, to accompany the body to the
abbey. As this procession was moving along, however, a fire broke out in
the town, and the attendants, actuated either by a sense of duty
requiring them to aid in extinguishing the flames, or by curiosity to
witness the conflagration, abandoned the funeral cortège. The
procession was broken up, and the whole multitude, clergy and laity,
went off to the fire, leaving the coffin, with its bearers, alone. The
bearers, however, went on, and conveyed their charge to the church
within the abbey walls.

When the time arrived for the interment, a great company assembled to
witness the ceremonies. Stones had been taken up in the church floor,
and a grave dug. A stone coffin, a sort of sarcophagus, had been
prepared, and placed in the grave as a receptacle for the body. When all
was ready, and the body was about to be let down, a man suddenly came
forward from the crowd and arrested the proceedings. He said that the
land on which the abbey stood belonged to him; that William had taken
forcible possession of it, for the abbey, at the time of his marriage;
that he, the owner, had been compelled thus far to submit to this wrong,
inasmuch as he had, during William's life-time, no means of redress, but
now he protested against a spoliation. "The land," he said, "is mine; it
belonged to my father. I have not sold it, or forfeited it, nor pledged
it, nor given it. It is my right. I claim it. In the name of God, I
forbid you to put the body of the spoiler there, or to cover him with my

When the excitement and surprise which this denunciation had awakened
had subsided a little, the bishops called this sudden claimant aside,
examined the proofs of his allegations, and, finding that the case was
truly as he stated it, they paid him, on the spot, a sum equal to the
value of ground enough for a grave, and promised to take immediate
measures for the payment of the rest. The remonstrant then consented
that the interment might proceed.

In attempting to let the body down into the place prepared for it, they
found that the sarcophagus was too small. They undertook to force the
body in. In attempting this, the coffin was broken, and the body,
already, through the long delays, advanced in decomposition, was burst.
The monks brought incense and perfumes, and burned and sprinkled them
around the place, but in vain. The church was so offensive that every
body abandoned it at once, except the workmen who remained to fill the

       *       *       *       *       *

While these things were transpiring in Normandy, William Rufus had
hastened to England, taking with him the evidences of his father's
dying wish that he should succeed him on the English throne. Before he
reached head-quarters there, he heard of his father's death, and he
succeeded in inducing the Norman chieftains to proclaim him king.
Robert's friends made an effort to advance his claims, but they could do
nothing effectual for him, and so it was soon settled, by a treaty
between the brothers, that William Rufus should reign in England, while
Robert was to content himself with his father's ancient domain of

                              THE END.


1. Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors, and to
ensure consistent spelling and punctuation in this etext; otherwise,
every effort has been made to remain true to the original book.

2. The chapter summaries in this text were originally published as
banners in the page headers, and have been moved to beginning of the
chapter for the reader's convenience.

3. Page numbering in the list of engravings for the "Map of Normandy"
has been changed from 189 to 190, to be consistent with the change
needed in the HTML version of this book.

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