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s If any one of my barons (he proceeds), or homagers, shall be sick and weak, according as he himself shall give or order any one to give his money, I grant it so to be given; but if he himself, being prevented either by arms or by sickness, hath neither given his money, nor disposed of it to give; then let his wife or children, or parents, and his lawful homagers, for his soul's health, divide as to them shall seem best." In the latter case, or the death of a person intestate, the right of disposing of property was subsequently transferred to the bishop of the diocese where the circumstance occurred.
William of Malmesbury asserts, that it was the custom in this reign to punish thefts, and other species of rapine, by removing the eye-balls of the offender from their sockets ; together with other severe inflictions. In the Janus Anglorum, Selden observes :
“ In the first times of the Normans, I perceive that the halter was the ill consequence of theft. Let it be lawful for the Abbot of that church, if he chance to come in, in the God speed, to acquit an highwayman or thief from the gallows. They are the words of the patent with which William the Conqueror, to expiate the slaughter of Harold, consecrated a monastery to St. Martin, near Hastings, on the sea coast of Sussex, and privileged it with choice and singular rights." It was not long after that, the jubeit or gallows
is mentioned to have stood in Smithfield, in a legend of St. Bartholomew's Priory, situated near that celebrated place.
Portions for the king's daughters were, for a long time, raised by a tribute exacted from every bide of land; which oppressive measure seems to have been derived from the suggestion of Henry Beauclerc, who demanded three shillings from each hide, to accumulate one for Maud on her marriage with the Emperor Henry.
Selden is of opinion, that the aid demanded by chiefs from their vassals, for the same purpose, is of far more antient origin; the Normans had this custom, and possibly received it from Italy. Henry has, besides, the credit of that law called the Courtesy of England, which transfers the estate of a wife to her husband during life, provided he has had one child by her. One of the blessings of successful invasion originated with this monarch, which was a heavy tax to preserve the Norman dominions from the aggressions of Louis King of France, and Baldwin Earl of Flanders. This then was the commencement of taxation for the prosecution of foreign hostilities. We are not acquainted exactly with its amount: we are certain, however, that the powers of numbers were equal to its calculation ; but who shall enable those powers to embrace the sums since wasted from London alone in this fruitless and endless pursuit ?
Henry I. was in many respects the reverse of his immediate predecessors. The effects of a good education, and his attachment to learning, gave a softness and placidity to his features, which, added to an athletic well-made person, rendered him the fine gentleman as well as the fine scholar ; the term given him by his subjects. His domestic duties being fulfilled with the most scrupulous regard to propriety, secured to his people the just administration of the affairs of the kingdom; and he was considered in the same light by the publick in which he was viewed by his children, as a facetious and affable parent. Strange and unnatural as it
may appear, there were dark shades in this otherwise excellent character. Henry had superior talents as a general and politician ; the former he exerted in ambitious projects, and the latter in procuring him vast sums in merciless exactions. When William Rufus fell by the arrow of Walter Tyrrel, Henry was hunting in the same forest. Policy and ambition united, prompted him to make immediate exertions to supersede Robert, who had the double claiin to the throne, of being his elder, and appointed by William, with the consent of his Nobles, as his successor. That he succeeded, is a sufficient condemnation of his conduct.
The ardent contest for the throne of England, carried on by King Stephen and the Empress Maud, being foreign to my plan, requires no par
ticular notice; but the consequences on the manners of the people demand attention. The year 1140 was passed in the most horrid of all pursuits, that of Civil War; and such were the violent effects of the struggle, all ranks of society seemed transformed into furies. The great Barons of the realm, and numbers of the inferior nobility, possessing strong castles in every part of the country, were, by each adopting their favourite Monarch, a series of intermixed inveterate enemies; whose whole employment consisted in endeavouring to excel in deep-laid stratagems to surprize their neighbours, and in contriving means to ruin and torture them and their adherents.
Antient authors, treating on this period, represent those Barons and their followers as nothing better than fiends, employed by their superior in wickedness to convert every village and church within their reach into ashes. Brutalised by their monstrous excesses, it requires but little strength of imagination to form a picture of the internal economy of the castle. The lord, constantly cased in armour, and commanding a ruthless gang in a successful sortie, returned to his residence inflated with insolent pride, and impatient to send his prisoners to the dreadful dungeons of the keep, or citadel, that himself and his men might revel in the midst of their spoils, and teach their offspring all the horrid licentiousness of their parents ; while the lady of the man
sion was confined, with her females, to a few dreary apartments, with loop-hole windows, and damp walls from nine to twelve feet in thickness, where they passed the gloomy day and long melancholy night, fearing the ills inflicted by her lord on others.
On the other hand, let us view the castle just surprized, stained with blood, and strewed with victims to the melted lead, boiling water and oil, poured on them from the chasms over the great gate, mashed to pieces by the fall of the ponderous portcullis, pierced with arrows from the various loop-holes of the walls, cut down by the sword, or cleft by the battle-axe. The shouts and cries of the combatants ring through the vaults of the apartments; fire and smoke roll through them, in dreadful resemblance of the volumes which consumed the cottages of the poor slaves, who tilled the land of the defeated Baron.
Such were the habits of society in the reign of Stephen : surely they must have driven from each mansion in the kingdom every thing which resembles our present customs. Dr. Henry has given a passage from “ Gesta Regis Stephani," containing a summary of the consequences of civil war, which may serve as a lesson for modern times :
“ All England in the mean time wore a face of misery and desolation. Multitudes abandoned their beloved country, and went into voluntary