« ZurückWeiter »
and good opinion. Henry, who had betaken himself to the ecclesiastical profession, was created abbot of Glastenbury and bishop of Winchester ; and though these dignities were considerable, Stephen had, from his uncle's liberality, attained establishments still more solid and durable. The king had married him to Matilda, who was daughter and heir of Eustace Count of Boulogne, and who brought him, besides that feudal sovereignty in France, an immense property in England, which in the distribution of lands had been conferred by the conqueror on the family of Boulogne. Stephen also by this marriage acquired a new connection with the royal family of England; as Mary, his wife's mother, was sister to David, the reigning king of Scotland, and to Matilda, the first wife of Henry, and mother of the empress. The king, still imagining that he strengthened the interests of his family by the aggrandizement of Stephen, took pleasure in enriching him by the grant of new possessions ; and he conferred on him the great estate forfeited by Robert Mallet in England, and that forfeited by the earl of Mortaigne in Normandy. Stephen, in return, professed great attachment to his uncle ; and appeared so zealous for the succession of Matilda, that, when the barons swore fealty to that princess, he contended with Robert earl of Gloucester, the king's natural son, who should first be admitted to give her this testimony of devoted zeal and fidelity. Meanwhile he continued to cultivate, by every art of popularity, the friendship of the English nation ; and many virtues with which he seemed to be endowed, favoured the success of his intentions. By his bravery, activity, and vigour, he acquired the esteem of the barons. By his generosity, and by an affable and familiar address, unusual in that age among men of his high quality, he obtained the affections of the people, particularly of the Londoners. And though he dared not to take any steps towards his farther grandeur, lest he should expose himself to the jealousy of so penetrating a prince as Henry ; he still hoped that, by accumulating riches and power, and by acquiring popularity, he might in time be able to open his way to the throne.
No sooner had Henry breathed his last than Stephen, insensible to all the ties of gratitude and fidelity, and blind to danger, gave full reins to his criminal ambition, and trusted that, even without any previous intrigue, the celerity of his eriterprise, and the boldness of his attempt, might overcome the weak attachment which the English and Normans in that age bore to the laws and to the rights of their sovereign. He hastened over to England ; and though the citizens of Dover, and those of Canterbury, apprised of his purpose, shut their gates against him, he stopped not till he arrived at London, where some of the lower rank, instigated by his emissaries, as well as moved by his general popularity, immediately saluted him king. His next point was to acquire the good will of the clergy ; and by performing the ceremony of his coronation, to put himself in possession of the throne, from which he was confident it would not be easy afterwards to expel him. His brother, the bishop of Winchester, was usefill in these capital articles, having gained Roger, bishop of Salisbury, who, though he owed a great fortune and advancement to the favour of the late king, preserved no sense of gratitude to that prince's family; he applied, in conjunction with that prelate, to William Archbishop of Canterbury, and required him in virtue of his office, to give the royal unction to Stephen. The primate, who, as all the others, had sworn fealty to Matilda, refused to perform this ceremony ; but his opposition was overcome by an expedient equally dishonourable with the other steps by which this revolution was affected. Hugh Bigod, steward of the household, made oath before the primate, that the late king on his death-bed bad shown a dissatisfaction with his daughter Matilda, and had expressed his intention of leaving the Count of Boulogne heir to all his dominions. William, either believing, or feigning to believe Bigod's testimony, anointed
Stephen, and put the crown upon his head; and from this religious ceremony that prince, without any shadow either of hereditary title or consent of the nobility or people, was allowed to proceed to the exercise of sovereign authority. Very few barons attended his coronation ; but none opposed his usurpation, however unjust or flagrant. The sentiment of religion, which, if corrupted into superstition, has often little efficacy in fortifying the duties of civil society, was not affected by the multiplied oaths taken in favour of Matilda, and only rendered the people obedient to a prince who was countenanced by the clergy, and who had received from the primate the right of royal unction and consecration.
Stephen, that he might farther secure his tottering throne, passed a charter in which he made liberal promises to all orders of men ; to the clergy, that he would speedily fill all vacant benifices, and would never levy the rents of any of them during the vacancy; to the nobility, that he would reduce the royal forests to their ancient boundaries, and correct all encroachments; and to the people, that he would remit the tax of Danegelt, and restore the laws of King Edward. The late king had a great treasure at Winchester, amounting to a hundred thousand pounds ; and Stephen, by seizing this money, immediately turned against Henry's family the precaution which that prince had employed for their grandeur and security : event which naturally attends the policy of amassing treasures. By means of this money the usurper insured the compliance, though not the attachment, of the principal clergy and nobility ; but not trusting to this frail security, he invited over from the continent, particularly from Britanny and Flanders, great numbers of those bravoes or disorderly soldiers, with whom every country in Europe, by reason of the general ill police and turbulent government, extremely abounded. These mcrcenary troops guarded his throne by the terrors of the sword ; and Stephen, that he might also overawe all malcontents by new and additional terrors of religion, procured a bull from Rome which ratified his title, and which the pope, seeing this prince in possession of the throne, and pleased with an appeal to his authority in secular controversies, very readily granted him.
Matilda, and her husband Geoffrey, were as unfortunate in Normandy as they had been in England. The Norman nobility, moved by an hereditary animosity against the Angevins, first applied to Theobald count of Blois, Stephen's elder brother, for protection and assistance ; but hearing afterwards that Stephen had got possession of the English crown, and having many of them the same reasons as formerly for desiring a continuance of their union with that kingdom, they transferred their allegiance to Stephen and put him in possession of their government. Lewis the younger, the reigning King of France, accepted the homage of Eustace, Stephen's eldest son, for the duchy; and the more to corroborate his connexion with that family, he betrothed his sister Constantia to the young prince. The count of Blois resigned all his pretensions, and received in lieu of them an annual pension of two thousand marks ; and Geoffrey himself was obliged to conclude a truce for two years with Stephen, on condition of the King's paying him during that time, a pension of five thousand. Stephen who had taken a journey to Normandy, finished all these transactions in person, and soon after returned to England.
Robert Earl of Gloucester, natural son of the late king, was a man of honour and abilities; and as he was much attached to the interests of his sister Matilda, and zealous for the lineal succession, it was chiefly from his intrigues and resistance that the King had reason to dread a new revolution of government. This nobleman, who was in Normandy when he received intelligence of Stephen's accession, found himself much embarrassed concerning the measures which he should pursue in that difficult emergency. To swear allegiance to the usurper appeared to him dishonourable, and a breach of his oath to Matilda : To refuse giving this pledge of
his fidelity, was to banish himself from England, and be totally incapacitated from serving the royal family, or contributing to their restoration. He offered Stephen to do him homage, and to take the oath of fealty ; but with an express condition that the King should maintain all his stipulations, and should never invade any of Robert's rights or dignities : and Stephen, though sensible that this reserve, so unusual in itself, and so unbefitting the duty of a subject, was ineant only to afford Robert a pretence for a revolt on the first favourable opportunity, was obliged, by the numerous friends and retainers of that nobleman, to receive him on those terms. The clergy, who could scarcely at this time be deemed subjects to the crown, imitated that dangerous example : They annexed to their oath of allegiance this condition, that they were only bound so long as the King defended the ecclesiastical liberties, and supported the discipline of the church. The barons, in return for their submission, exacted terms still more destructive of public peace, as well as of royal authority : many of them required the right of fortifying their castles, and of putting themselves in a posture of defence ; and the King found himself totally unable to refuse his consent to this exorbitant demand. All England was immediately filled with these fortresses, which the noblemen garrisoned either with their vassals, or with licentious soldiers, who flocked to them from all quarters. Unbounded rapine was exercised upon the people for the maintenance of these troops ; and private animosities, which had with difficulty been restrained by law, now breaking out without controul, rendered England a scene of uninterrupted violence and devastation. Wars between the nobles were carried on with the utmost fury in every quarter; the barons even assumed the right of coining money,and of exercising, without appeal, every act of jurisdiction ; and the inferior gentry, as. well as the people, finding no defence from the laws during this total dissolution of sovereign authority, were obliged, for their immediate safety, to pay court to some neighbouring chieftain, and to purchase his protection, both by submitting to his exactions, and by assisting him in his rapine upon others. The erection of one castle proved the immediate cause of building many others; and even those who obtained not the King's permission, thought that they were entitled by the great principle of self-preservation, to put themselves on an equal footing with their neighbours, who commonly were also their enemies and rivals. The aristocratical power, which is usually so oppressive in the feudal governments, had now risen to its utmost height during the reign of a prince who, though endowed with vigour and abilities, had usurped the throne without the pretence of a title, and who was necessitated to tolerate in others the same violence to which he himself bad been beholden for his sovereignty.”
56.- NO NORMANS!
THIERRY Stephen of Blois was very popular with the Anglo-Normans, on account of his tried bravery, and his affable and liberal spirit. He promised, on receiving the crown, to restore to each noble the enjoyment and free use of the forests that king Henry, following the example of the two Williams, had appropriated to himself. The first years of the new reign were peaceful and happy, at least for the Norman
The king was prodigal and magnificent ; he gave much to those about him; and drew largely from the treasure that the Conqueror had amassed, and his two successors had added to. He alienated, and distributed as fiefs, the estates that William I. had reserved as his share of the Conquest, and which were known as the royal domains ; he created earls and independant governors of districts, formerly occupied, for the sole profit of the king, by royal prefects. Geoffrey of Anjou, the husband of Matilda, sold him peace for an annual pension of five thousand marks ; and Robert of Gloucester, the natural son of the late king, who, at first, had manifested an intention of asserting the rights of his sister, founded upon the oath of the barons, took at the hands of Stephen the oaths of fidelity and homage.
But this calm did not last long ; and, about the year 1137, some young barons, who had vainly demanded of the new king some of his lands and castles, set about taking them by force of arms. `Hugh Bigod seized the fortress of Norwich ; ono Robert took that of Badington ; tho king compelled them to restore them, but the spirit of opposition, once kindled, spread rapidly. Henry's illegitimate son suddenly broke the peace that he had sworn to Stephen ; he sent a message of defiance from Normandy, renouncing his homage to him. “Robert was incited to this course," says a contemporary writer, “by the advice of several ecclesiastics whom he consulted, and above all by a decree of the pope, enjoining him to perform the oath that he had sworn to his sister Matilda, in the presence of their father.” Thus was annulled the brief of the same pope, in favour of Stephen, and war alone could decide between the two competitors. The malcontents, encouraged by the defection of the late king's son, were on the alert throughout England, and preparing for the confiict. “They have made me king,” said Stephen, “and now they desert me; but, by the birth of God, they shall never call me the deposed king." In order to have an army in which he might place confidence, he called together auxiliaries from every part of Gaul: "as he promised good pay, soldiers came with great eagerness to enlist under his banner, cavalry, and light foot soldiers, principally Flemings and Bretons.”
The conquerors in England were once more divided into two hostile factions. The state of things became the same as in the two preceding reigns, when the sons of the vanquished had mixed themselves up in the quarrels of their masters, and had thrown the balance on one side or the other, in the vain hope of bettering their own condition. When similar conjunctions occurred in the reign of Stephen, the Saxons kept themselves apart, rendered wise by past experience. In the quarrel between Stephen and the partisans of Matilda, they declared neither for the reigning king, who pretended that his cause was that of order and peace, nor for the daughter of the Norman and his Saxon wife : they resolved to act for themselves; and there again sprang up in England what had never been seen since the destruction of the canıp of Ely, a national conspiracy to obtain the freedom of the country. appointed day," says a contemporary, "a general massacre of the Normans was to take place.”
The historian does not relate how this plot had been arranged, who were the leaders, what class of men joined it, nor in what place, or on what sigos it was to break out. We only learn from him that the conspirators of 1137 had renewed the ancient alliance of the English patriots with the inhabitants of Wales and Scotland ; and that they even intended to place at the head of their liberated kingdom a Scotchman, who was, perhaps, David the reigning king of that country, the son of Margaret and Malcolm, in whom the Saxon blood flowed without any mixture of the Norman. The plot failed in consequence of some of the conspirators, in confessing to Richard Lenoir, Bishop of Ely, suffering him to conceive a suspicion of their design, or perhaps even avowing it to him. At this period, the boldest spirits never exposed themselves to an apparent danger of death without first settling the state of their conscience ; and when the concourse of penitents was larger than usual, it was an almost certain indication of some political movement : by scrutinising the conduct of the Saxons in this particular, the superior clergy of the Norman race accomplished the principal object of their intrusion into England : for, by means of insidious questions put during the outpourings of the confessional, it was easy to discover the least intention of revolting, and those who were thus
- On an
questioned by the priest, were seldom able to keep their secret from a man whom they believed to have the power of binding and loosing them as well on earth as in heaven. The bishop of Ely made known his discovery to the other bishops and to the higher authorities, but, in spite of the promptitude of their measures, many of the principal conspirators, says the contemporary writer, had time to make their escape. They withdrew to Wales, hoping to excite this people to war against the Normans.
This event took place sixty-six years after the last defeat of the insurgents of Ely, and seventy-two years after the battle of Hastings. Whether it may be that the chroniclers have not reported all that occurred, or that the link which bound the Saxons together, and made them a distinct people, could not after this be again cemented, we do not find, in the succeeding periods, any project conceived by the common accord of all the classes of the Anglo-Saxon population. The ancient English cry of “No Normans !" is no longer met with in the annals of history.
57.-THE BATTLE OF THE STANDARD.
THIERRY, For a long time numbers of emissaries of the English people had flocked to the court of the Scotch kings, who were nephews of the last of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs, to implore them, by the memory of their uncle Edgar, to come to the assistance of the oppressed nation, to whom they were bound by the ties of kindred. But the sons of Malcolm Kenmore were kings, and as such were little disposed, without any motive of personal interest, to support a nation in a revolt against royal authority. They were deaf to the complaints of the English, and to the suggestions of their own courtiers, during the life-time of Henry I., with whom they were also connected by his wife Matilda, the daughter of Malcolm.
When Henry made the Norman barons swear to give the kingdom, after his death, to his daughter by Matilda, David, then king of Scotland, was present at the assembly, and took the oath with the Normans, as the vassal of Henry I.; but when the nobles of England, regardless of their vow, chose Stephen of Blois instead of Matilda, the king of Scotland began to think that the Saxon cause was the best ; he promised to assist them in their plot of exterminating all the Normans, and it may have been as a reward for this vague promise, that he stipulated, according to the rumour of the time, that if the enterprise succeeded he should be made king of England.
The enfranchisement of the English did not take place, as we have seen, thanks to the vigilance of a bishop ; nevertheless the king of Scotland, who had only allied himself to this people because he entertained, on his own part, hostile views against the Anglo-Normans, assembled an army and marched towards the south. It was not in the name of the oppressed Saxon race that he made his entry into England, but in the name of his cousin Matilda, dispossessed, he said, by Stephen of Blois, usurper of the kingdom.
The English people had no more affection for the wife of Geoffrey of Anjou, than for Stephen of Blois, but nevertheless the population nearest the borders of Scotland, the men of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and of all the valleys watered by the rivers that flow into the Tweed, impelled by the instinct which causes men to seize eagerly every means of relief, received the Scotch as friends, and joined their forces. The valleys, difficult of access, and hardly yet in subjection to the Normans, were in great part peopled by the Saxons, whose fathers had been banished in the time of the conquest. They came to the Scotch camp in great numbers, and without any order, op little mountain ponies, which were their only property.
In general, with the exception of the knights of Norman or French origin, that