Imagini ale paginilor

were carried out. Whenever he paid a visit to Normandy, he left a prime minister called a "justiciar" to rule while he was away. It was because of this stern policy that many people came from other countries and settled in England. Among them were weavers and farmers from Flanders, who not only grew rich themselves, but added to the wealth of the country. Monks were drawn thither and led self-denying lives among the poor, who were greatly blessed by their ministrations. They built numerous abbeys, such as Fountains and Tintern, whose ruins still remain.

In 1087, William was so angered by a jest of the French King upon his bulky, awkward figure, that he set out to lay waste the borderland between France and Normandy. While riding through the ruins of Mantes, his horse stumbled and so injured him that he died some six weeks after. His oldest son, Robert, had rebelled against his father, and was not by the bedside of the dying king. To William, his second son, the Conqueror gave a letter advising that he be made King of England to the exclusion of his elder brother. The moment young William received this doubtful heritage, he set out for England to claim it, not stopping even to close the dying eyes of his father.

Henry, the third son, was given a fortune, and he also sped away to make sure of the inheritance. Thus the dying conqueror was left alone, and scarce was the breath out of his body when, legend tells us, the very servants deserted him, first plundering the apartment and even stripping from the death-bed its rich coverings, and tumbling to the floor the body of the mighty monarch.

Later, as his followers were preparing his burial at St. Stephen's Church, which he had built, a man stepped forward and forbade the interment, because he said William had taken the land on which the church stood from his father by violence, and he would not permit the lowering of the bier until payment was made of the debt. The body had to wait until the matter could be arranged. In the words of the old chronicle, "He who had been a powerful King, and the lord of so many territories, possessed not then of all his lands more than seven feet of earth," and even that did not become his until it was paid for.

Three sons, as we have seen, survived William the Conqueror, besides a daughter Adela who married Stephen, Count of Blois, a prominent French nobleman. Robert, the eldest son, secured Normandy. He had long been in revolt against his father, and at one time was disinherited. There is a story that father and son encountered, unknown to each other, upon the field of battle. Robert unhorsed his father, and would have slain him, but suddenly recognizing his defeated foe, knelt and asked for pardon. A partial reconciliation followed. It was soon broken again, but Robert was allowed to inherit Normandy.

William, the second son, called Rufus because of the color of his hair,

[graphic][merged small]


England-William Rufus


was accepted as King in England on his sudden appearance there. He had all his father's ability, but not his conscience. He was elected and crowned King, September 26, 1087, and reigned until 1100. Most of that period was spent in warring with the barons. He was a blasphemous wretch who revelled in all species of vice and gloried in his shame. His pledge to impose no unjust taxes was broken before he had been on the throne a year. His chief adviser was a Norman priest, Ralf, who was nicknamed Flambard or the Torch, and was afterward made Bishop of Durham. All the brain and energy of this man was employed in grinding out taxes and raising money for his monarch. It was said that the assassin standing on the scaffold, with the rope round his neck, could have it removed and himself set free, if he would assure the King of payment for the grace. Three years after William's accession, Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, died, and, by the advice of Flambard, the King left the archbishopric vacant and used the revenues himself. He did the same thing with every office of the church, for which he expressed only scornful contempt.

Like the abject coward that he was, William had no sooner fallen grievously ill than he became terrified and hastened to undo to some extent the wrong he had done the priesthood. He sent for Anselm, the Abbot of Bec, deeply learned and holy, who was afterward canonized as a saint, and insisted upon his becoming archbishop. Anselm did not wish the honor, but his sense of duty impelled him to accept it. Then the King got well, and, as might have been expected, became the ferocious wretch he was before. The archbishop did not hesitate to reprove him as he deserved; there were several quarrels between them, and then Anselm withdrew and went to Rome.

It was during the reign of William that Christendom was filled with wrath by the news that the Saracens in the Holy Land treated with intolerable cruelty the multitudes of devout visitors, who were accustomed to make pilgrimages thither. The Pope proclaimed a Crusade, which set out in 1096 to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Mohammedans. Among those caught in the thrill of the general ardor was Robert of Normandy, who mortgaged his dominions for five years to his brother, in order to raise the expenses of his share in the Crusade. As you have learned elsewhere, he set out for Palestine, while Normandy dropped like ripe fruit into the hands of William Rufus.

The latter was passionately fond of hunting. On the 2d of August, 1100, he was engaged at his favorite pastime in New Forest, with a number of friends. Some time later, some of his attendants found him dying in agony, from the shaft of a crossbow that had deeply pierced his body. Walter Tyrell, one of the party, was suspected of launching the missile, and saved his life only by fleeing to France. He always denied having fired the bolt, though

suspicion attached to him all his life. A charcoal-burner carried the King's body to Winchester, where it was buried without any religious ceremony, for. even in those days of license and easy-going religion, it was considered a sacrilege to bestow any rites upon such a frightful wretch, who had died unrepentant in the midst of his sins. The most that can be said for the reign of William Rufus was, that it checked the aggressions of the barons and prevented his kingdom from falling into the anarchy that existed on the continent.

It was now the turn of Henry, third son of William the Conqueror, to ascend the throne, he being the first of the Norman kings who was born and educated in England. He had enough of his father's administrative genius to carry out and complete the governmental plans which the Conqueror had organized. He created a Supreme Court, composed of his secretaries and royal ministers with a chancellor at the head. Another body was formed, representing the royal vassals who had been accustomed to meet together three times a year. You have heard of the "Barons of the Exchequer," but I am sure do not suspect the origin of the name. The top of the table around which this board assembled, was marked like a checker-board, and it was from this that the title came. Still another body was composed of a class of lesser nobles, and served as a poise to the haughty old nobility.

Anselm was recalled as Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry, and he looked after the rights of the Church so closely that a good many people feared the Pope was acquiring too much power in England. Henry quarrelled with Anselm, but in the end had to give way to his uncompromising will, for, though the settlement was in the nature of a compromise, yet it was a great victory for any one to gain a concession from the King.

Rufus and Henry carried out the plan of their father for holding Wales in subjection. This consisted of building castles on the frontiers and placing them in charge of nobles, to whom were granted all the lands they could conquer from the Welsh. The sons, in addition to this method, planted a colony of Flemish emigrants in the district of Ross in Pembrokeshire, where they gained wealth by weaving cloth and tilling the ground, and defeated every effort of the Welsh princes to expel them.

His queen

A pathetic incident is connected with the reign of Henry. Matilda, died in 1118, leaving a daughter, Matilda, and an only son. The latter was a proud and vicious youth, whose oniy merit was the manner of his death. In 1120, when nineteen years old, the ship in which he was crossing the Channel was wrecked. He had put off from the sinking vessel, when the shrieks of his half-sister caused him to row back to her rescue. So many leaped into his boat that it went down, and he and all the noble company were drowned.


« ÎnapoiContinuă »