Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the governor. Besides these there were, a stewardt, a master of the hawks, a judge of the household, a master of the horse, a chamberlain, a chief musician, a silentiary (an officer who enforced silence during the royal meals), a master of the huntsmen, a mead-maker, a physician, a butler, a porter, master cook, master of the lights, and several others, exclusive of some appropriated to the Queen. The peculiar provinces of the officers enumerated, are explained by the names of their offices : but there was one attached to the Welsh princes who had the title of the King's foot-bearer; and, if the “ Leges Wallicæ" may be credited, he was literally so, by seating himself with his back to the fire, and cherishing the royal feet in his bosom, during meals.

Willielmus de Regibus relates an anecdote of Ethelburga which illustrates our very early history. Ive is said, by the writer just mentioned, to have appointed his cousin, Ethelardus, regent of his dominions, while he made a pilgrimage to Rome; which was caused by the piety and eccentricity of his consort, who had frequently endeavoured to convince the King of the necessity of providing for his future happiness, by rejecting the adulation, luxury, and embellishments of his regal state, and assuming that degree of humility which we are taught by religion to practise in every station of life. Failing in her attempts, she had recourse to the following stratagem: pre

vailing

vailing with him to change his residence for a short time, she ordered all the apartments they had used to be deprived of their ornaments and hangings; in place of which every kind of defilement was introduced, even to the extent of entertaining a sow and her litter of pigs, in their private chamber: she then urged him to retu.., which he did, and beheld the palace in utter amazement. Ethelburga immediately said, “I pray you, my Lord, where be now these rich hangings and curtains, either for state or ornament? Where is all the glittering pomp and rich array, tending to nothing else save gluttony and luxury? Alas, how suddenly are they all vanished! Shall not, my Lord, this beauty of ours so fade, and this frail flesh even so fall away?" Surprized and affected, the pilgrimage took place; after which, we are told, he resigned his kingdom to his nephew, and retired to a monastery. Ethelburga, having accomplished her purpose, went to the abbey at Barking, where her sister had previously been Abbess.

William of Normandy, pretending a right to the throne of England, invaded this country in 1066, and obtained the Sovereignty by the battle of Hastings. This, then, is another æra; whence we are to date a change in the habits and customs of our country

Amongst the other horrors attending the conquest of a nation, none is more distressing to the

suffering

suffering party, than the insolent contempt they experience from their invaders. When the fatal battle of Hastings made the Normans masters of England, those people had not the generous

feelings of admiration for unfortunate courage, which Alexander experienced for the family of Darius. It was not sufficient that confiscation, plunder, and violation, spread throughout the land, but indignity accompanied it in every possible form of insult. The English were termed Barbarians; and a Norman could not more grossly offend one of his countrymen, than by calling him an Englishman.

Many circumstances, casually mentioned by historians, convince us, that the manners of the conquerors were rude and disgusting, even amongst the rich. That disagreeable custom of covering the floors of their wooden dwellings with straw and rushes existed in the time of William; and even the twigs and foliage of trees were used for this purpose. The ideas which naturally occur to a modern on this subject, preclude any enlargement on my part, further than the observation, that frequent fires must have been the consequence.

One advantage might have resulted to the English from the conquest of their country, had they been inclined to imitate the temperance and sobriety of the Normans : this does not, however, appear to be the fact, from the severe terms used against them in this respect

by

[ocr errors]

by William of Malmesbury and others ; on the contrary, we have reason to suppose that the latter people insensibly adopted their pernicious customs of wasting days and nights in gratifying the palate. Before they were assimilated with the natives, the Normans were remarkable for their playfulness of disposition, which they indulged even in moments little calculated to excite cheerfulness in our view of things. This description of temperament made them generous and liberal, both in forming their conclusions, and rewarding their followers or dependants ; had they acquired what they gave in a more commendable way, we should have been more inclined to applaud their spirit: and, perhaps, successful rapacity produced a kind of spendthrift profusion, which little resembled the conduct of their countrymen who remained in their native place. Much might be said of their sense of delicacy, and consciousness of their superior military talents : but it is enough to add, that the Normans despised and insulted the English, when they spurned at insult from others; and persuaded the world into a belief that they were altogether invincible, by the most absurd speeches to their soldiers previous to battle. It is true, repeated instances are upon record of the superb and liberal presents they were in the habit of making: but whence were they obtained ? From Northumberland, where William appeared in the character of a spirit of evil; gratifying an

inexhaustible

[ocr errors]

inexhaustible revenge upon men, women, and children, indiscriminately murdered by his soldiers, by the light of the fires, which consumed their immorable property, and, afterwards, collected by the Barons of his nation, who erected their castles, and made them the receptacles of stolen property. Matthew Paris asserts, “ that such was the general dread of these licensed banditti, that the peasantry had a form of prayer, which they solemnly pronounced every night, to protect them from those who should have been their preservers."

The meals of the Normans were confined to two each day, and their hours of eating them precisely answer to our breakfast and dinner, though they termed them a dinner and supper: the family assembled to the former at nine in the morning, and to the latter at five in the after

The tables on these occasions are said to have exhibited every British and foreign viand which the abilities of the Monarch or his lords could procure; after which

after which it will not surprise the reader to hear that midnicht sometimes separated the supper guests; and he may hence conclude, that the temperance attributed to the Normans was greatly relaxed, or was entirely confined to those who could not obtain the good things of this life. Many animals and birds were eaten as dainties at that time, and long after, which we should be disgusted at the idea of at

present;

noon.

« ZurückWeiter »