« ÎnapoiContinuă »
the king of Scotland brought in his train, and who wore complete and uniform suits of mail ; the great part of his troops presented a most disorderly variety of arms and habilaments. The inhabitants of the eastern part of the lowlands, men of Danish or Saxon descent, formed the heavy infantry, armed with cuirasses, and great spears. The inhabitants of the west, and especially of Galloway, who still retained strong marks of their British descent, were, like the ancient Britons, without defensive armour, and carried long sharp-pointed javelins, with slender fragile shafts ; lastly, the true Scottish race, both mountaineers and islanders, wore bonnets adorned with the feathers of wild birds, and with large plaids fastened round the body by a shoulder-belt of leather, to which hung a broad-sword, called the claymore; they carried on the left arm a round buckler of light wood, covered with a thick hide ; and some of the island clans had armed themselves with two-handed battle-axes, in the manner of the Scandinavians ; the armour of the chiefs was the same as that of the clansmen, the only distinctive mark being their longer and lighter plumes, waving more gracefully than those of their retainers.
The troops of the Scottish king, which were numerous and undisciplined, held unresisted possession of all the country situated between the Tweed and the northern limit of the county of York. The Norman kings had not yet built in that country those imposing fortresses which they erected there at a later period, and therefore no obstacle obstructed the progress of the Scotch ants, as an old author calls them. This army appears to have committed many cruelties in the places which it traversed ; historians speak of the murder of women and priests, of chil. dren thrown into the air, and received on the lances' point ; but as they speak with little precision, we have no certainty whether these barbarities were inflicted only upon the men of Norman descent, and were the revenge taken by the English for their wrongs, or whether the inherent animosity of the Gallic nation against the inhabitants of England, without distinction of origin, vented itself indiscriminately upon the serf and his master, the rich and the poor, the Saxon and the Norman. The principal Normans in the north, and especially Toustain, the Archbishop of York, took advantage of the reports of these barbarities, which were spread in a vague and exaggerated form, to prevent the minds of the Saxon inhabitants of the banks of the Humber, from being inspired with the interest which they would naturally feel in the cause of the enemies of their enemies.
In order to induce their subjects to join them against the Scotch king, the Normans also were cunning enough to re-awaken the ancient local superstitions ; they invoked the names of the saints of the English race, that they themselves had formerly treated with so much contempt; they made them, in a manner, generalissimos of their army, and Archbishop Toustain unfurled the banners of St. Cuthbert of Durham, St. John of Beverley, and St. Wilfred of Rippon.
The popular standards, which, since the conquest, had probably hardly ever seen the light of day, were dragged out from the dust of the churches to be carried to Elfertun (now Allerton), thirty-two miles north of York, the place at which the Norman chiefs resolved to await the enemy. William Piperel, and Walter Espee of the county of Nottingham, Gilbert de Lacy and his brother Walter, of the county of York were the commanders. The Archbishop was prevented by illness from being there, and he sent in his place Raoul, bishop of Durham, who had probably been expelled from his church by the invasion of the Scotch. An instinct, half religious, half patriotic, caused a great number of the English inhabitants of the neighbouring towns and plains to flock to the camp at Allerton, and to enlist themselves under the Saxon banners erected by the lords of a foreign race. They no longer carried the great battle-axe, the favourite weapon of their ancestors, but were armed with large bows, and arrows two cubits long. The conquest had effected
this change, in two different ways : such of the natives as had submitted to serve in battle under their foreign masters, for bread, and for pay, had of course accustomed themselves to Norman tactics ; and those who, being more independent, had embraced the life of guerillas on the roads, and free hunters in the forests, had in the same manner laid aside the arms suitable for close combat, for others more capable of reaching the Norman knights, or the king's deer. The sons of each having been, since their infancy, exercised in drawing the low, England had become, in less than a century, the land of good archers, as Scotland was that of good spcarsmen.
Whilst the Scotch army was passing the river Tees, the Normans were actively preparing to receive its attack. They set up the mast of a ship on four wheels, and on it placed a small box containing the consecrated elements, and around this box were hung the banners which were to excite the English to fight with spirit. This standard of a kind very common in the middle ages, occupied the centre of the army during the battle. The flower of the Norman chivalry, says an ancient historian, stationed themselves around it, after having confederated together by faith and oath, and having sworn to remain united in defence of their territory, in life, and to the death. The Saxon archers flanked the two wings of the main body, and formed the front ranks. On the rumour of the approach of the Scots who were advancing in great disorder, but with rapidity, the Norman Raoul, bishop of Durham, mounted upon an eminence, and, in the French tongue, spoke as follows :“Noble lords of Norman birth, you who make France tremble, and have conquered England, behold the Scots, after having done homage to you, now undertaking to drive you from your
lands. But if our fathers, few in number, have subjected a great part of Gaul, shall we not vanquish these half-naked men, who have nothing to oppose to our lances and our swords but the skin of their own bodies, or a buckler of calf-skin. Their spears are long, it is true, but the wood is fragile, and the steel badly tempered. These inhabitants of Galloway have been heard to say, in their boasting, that the sweetest beverage to them was the blood of a Norman. Do you behave so that not one of them shall return to boast of having killed any Normans.”
The Scotch army, with only a lance for standard, marched divided into several bodies. Young Henry, the son of the Scotch king, commanded the Lowlanders, and the English volunteers of Cumberland and Northumberland; the king himself was at the head of all the mountain and island clans, and the knights of Norman origin, completely armed, formed his guard. One of these, called Robert de Brus, a man of advanced age, who held for the Scotch king, by reason of his fief of Annandale, and had no cause for personal enmity against his countrymen of England, approached the king at the moment when he was about to give the signal of attack, and with an air of melancholy, thus spoke to him, “Oh, king, hast thou considered against whom thou art going to fight? It is against the Normans and the English, who have always served thee so well with advice and arms, and have assisted thee to bring in subjection thy people of the Gallic race. Thou thinkest thyself quite sure of the submission of these tribes ; thou hopest to be able to maintain them in subjection with the assistance only of thy Scotch men-at-arms; but reflect that it is we who have reduced them to obedience, and that this is the cause of the hatred with which they are animated against our countrymen.” This discourse appeared to make a great impression upon the king of Scotland. But his nephew William, exclaimed impatiently, “These are the words of a traitor !” The old Norman only replied to this affront by immediately retracting, according to the forms of the age, his oath of fealty and homage, and gallopped towards the enemy.
Then the Highlanders who surrounded the king, raising their voices, shouted the
ancient name of their country, Alben! Alben ! This was the signal for the combat. The men of Cumberland, and of Liddisdale, and Teviotdale, made a firm quick charge upon the centre of the Norman army, and, as an ancient narrator expresses it, broke it like a cobweb. But, being ili-supported by the other Scotch divisious, they could not reach the standard of the Anglo-Normans; these latter formed again, and repulsed the assailants with loss, and, in the second charge, the long javelins of the Scots of the south-west were broken against the mailed hauberks and the shields of the Normans. The Highlanders then drew their broadswords to come to close combat ; but the Saxon archers, extending themselves on the flanks, assailed them with a shower of arrows, whilst the Norman knights charged them in the front, in close ranks, and with lances couched. “It was a fine sight,” says a contemporary, " to see these stinging flies start buzzing from the bows of the southern men, and darken the air like thick dust."
The Gaels, hardy and brave, but little practised in regular evolutions, dispersed immediately that they found themselves incapable of breaking the enemy's ranks. The whole Scotch army, forced to make a retreat, drew back towards the Tyne. The conquerors did not pursue them beyond that river ; and the extent of country which had revolted on the approach of the Scotch, remained, notwithstanding their defeat, free from the Norman dominion. For a long time after this battle, Westmorcland and Northumberland were part of the Scotch kingdom; the new political state of these three provinces prevented the Anglo-Saxon character from dying out there so quickly as in the southern parts of England. The national traditions and popular romances, survived and were perpetuated north of the Tyne ; from thence the old English poetry, all traces of which had been lost in all places inhabited by the Normans, in which a foreign poetry had replaced it, again appeared, at a later time, in the southern provinces.
58.—THE INVASION OF MAUD.
THIERRY. Having been invited into England by her friends, Matilda disembarked on the 22nd of September in the year 1139, threw herself into Arundel Castle, on the coast of Sussex, and from thence reached Bristol Castle, which was held by her illegitimate brother, Robert, Earl of Gloucester. At the news of the arrival of the pretendress, many secret discontents and intrigues came to light. The greater part of the nobles of the north and west made a solemn renunciation of their homage and allegiance to Stephen of Blois, and renewed the oath that they had taken to the daughter of King Henry. The whole Norman race in England seemed to have been divided, in one moment, into two factions, who regarded each other with defiance, before coming to an engagement. “Suspicion,” says the historian of that time, was roused in the breast of each man, even of his neighbour, his friend, or his brother.”
Fresh bands of Brabanion soldiers, engaged by one or other of the rival parties, came with arms and baggage, by different ports, and various roads, to the gathering points fixed by the King or by Matilda : each side promised them, for their pay, the lands of the opposite faction. In order to bear the cost of this civil war, the Normans sold and under-sold their domains, their villages, and their townships, together with the inhabitants and their possessions. Several of them made incursions on the domains of their adversaries, and carried off the horses, the oxen, the sheep, and the English, whom they seized even in the villages, and took away in chains. The general terror was such, that if the inhabitants of any city or town
saw three or four horsemen approaching in the distance, they immediately took flight.
This extreme alarm arose from the horrible reports which were spread of the fate of the men whom the Normans had seized and imprisoned in their castles. “ They carried off," says the Saxon chronicle, “ all who they thought possessed any property, men and women, by day and by night; and whilst they kept them imprisoned, they inflicted on them tortures, such as po martyr ever underwent, in order to obtain gold and silver from them. Some were suspended by their feet, their heads hanging over smoke, others were hung by their thunbs, with fire under their feet; they pressed the heads of some with a cord, so tight as to force in the skull; others were thrown into pits full of snakes, toads, and all kinds of reptiles; others were placed in the chambre-d-crucir, the name that was given, in the Norman language to a short, narrow kind of chest, very shallow, and lined with sharp stones, in which the sufferer was pressed, until his limbs were all dislocated.
“In most of the castles they kept a set of chains so heavy that two or three men could hardly lift them ; the unhappy being upon whom they were laid, was held up by an iron collar fixed in a post, and could neither sit, lie down, nor sleep. They killed many thousands of persons by hunger. They imposed tribute after tribute upon the towns and villages, calling this in their tongue, tenserie. When the citizens had nothing more to give them, they plundered and burnt their town. You might have travelled a whole day without finding a single soul in the towns, or a cultivated field. The poor died of hunger, and those who had formerly been well-off now begged their bread from door to door. Whoever had it in his power to leave England, did so. Never was a country delivered up to so many miseries and misfortunes, even in the invasions of the pagans it suffered less than now. Neither the cemeteries nor the churches were spared, they seized all they could, and then set fire to the church : to till the ground was useless. It was openly reported that Christ and his saints were sleeping."
The greatest terror reigned in the environs of Bristol, where the empress Matilda and her Angevins had established their head quarters. All the day through there were being brought into the town men bound and gagged, either with a pi?ce of wood, or with a notched iron bit. There as constantly went out troops of soldiers in disguise, who, concealing their arms and their language under the English habit, scattered themselves over the populous districts, and mixed with the crowd, in the markets and in the streets ; suddenly they would seize any one who seemed from their appearance to be in easy circumstances, and carry them to their head-quarters, to set a ransom on them. King Stephen led his army first against Bristol ; this town, which was strong and well-defended, resisted the royal army, and the soldiers, in revenge, devastated and burnt the environs. The king then attacked, one by one, and with more success, the Normau castles situated on the borders of Wales, nearly all the lords of which had declared against him.
Whilst he was engaged in this long and harassing war, an insurrection broke out on the eastern side ; the fens of Ely, which had served as a refuge to the last of the free Saxons, became a camp for the Normans of the Anjou faction. Baldwin de Revier and Lenoir, bishop of Ely raised entrenchments of stone and cement against Stephen, in the very place where Hereward had erected a fort of wood against king William. This locality, always formidable to the Norman authorities, on account of the facilities which it afforded for union and defence, had been placed, by Henry I. under the control of a bishop, who was to aid the count and viscount in their superintendance of the province. The first bishop of the new diocese of Ely was that Hervé whom the Welsh had expelled from Bangor: the second was Lenoir, or Nigel, who frustrated the great conspiracy of the English, in 1137. It
was not for any personal zeal for king Stephen, but in a spirit of patriotism, as a Norman, that he then served the king against the Saxons, and as soon as the Normans declared against Stephen, Lenoir joined them, and undertook to make the islands in his diocese a gathering-place for Matilda's partisans.
Stephen attacked his enemies in this camp, in the same manner that the Conqueror had formerly attacked the Saxon refugees in that place. He constructed bridges of boats, over which his cavalry passed, and completely routed the soldiers of Baldwin of Reviers, and bishop Lenoir. The bishop fled to Gloucester, where the daughter of Henry I. then was, with her principal adherents. All her party in the west, encouraged by the king's absence, repaired the breaches in their castles ; or, converting the towers of the great churches into fortresses, filled them with engines of war ; they dug trenches round, in the churchyards even, so that the corpses were uncovered and the bones of the dead scattered about. The Norman bishops did not scruple to take part in these military operations; nor were they less active than others in torturing the English, to extract ransom from them. They were seen, as in the first years of the conquest, mounted on war-horses, completely armed, with a lance or baton in their hands, superintending the works and the attacks, or drawing lots for a share of the booty.
The bishops of Chester and of Lincoln distinguished themselves amongst the most warlike. The latter rallied the troops dispersed at the camp of Ely, and formed another army in the eastern coast, which king Stephen attacked, but with less success than the first; his troops, victorious at Ely, were routed near Lincoln; abandoned by all around him, the king defended himself single-handed for some time, but was at last obliged to surrender ; he was taken to Gloucester, the quarters of the Countess of Anjou, who, by the advice of her council of war, had him imprisoned in the dungeon of Bristol Castle. This defeat was a death-blow to the royal cause. Stephen's Norman partisans, seeing him vanquished and a captive, went over in crowds to Matilda's side. His own brother, Henry, bishop of Winchester declared for the victorious faction ; and the Saxon peasants, who detested both parties equally, took advantage of the misfortunes of the conquered side to plunder and maltreat them in their rout.
The grand-daughter of the conqueror made her triumphal entry into Winchester: bishop Henry received her at the gates, at the head of the clergy of all the churches, She took possession of the regalia, as well as the treasure belonging to Stephen, and convoked a great council of Norman prelates, counts, barons, and knights. The assembly made Matilda queen, and the bishop who presided pronounced the following form : “Having first, as is our duty, invoked the assistance of Almighty God, we elect as lady of England and Normandy, the daughter of the glorious, rich, good, and pacific king Henry, and promise to render her fealty and support.” But Queen Matilda's good fortune soon made her disdainful and arrogant; she ceased to take the advice of her old friends, and treated harshly such of her adversaries, who desired to be at peace with her. The authors of her elevation often met with a refusal to any request they might make, and if they bowed down before her, says an old historian, she did not rise to them. This conduct chilled the zeal of her most devoted adherents, and the greater number withdrew from her, without, however, declaring for the dethroned king, passively awaiting the final issue of events.
From Winchester the new queen proceeded to London. She was the daughter of a Saxon, and the Saxon citizens, from a kind of national sympathy, regarded her presence in their city with greater favour than that of the king, who was of entirely foreign descent; but the good will of these men, enslaved by the conquest, made little impression on the proud heart of the wife of the count of Anjou, and her first notice of the people of London, was the demand of an enormous poll-tax. The