The History of The Kings of England 36

William of Malmesbury

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”The affectionate Lord who scourges every son whom he receives, — who promises the just, that they shall be partakers of his sufferings as well as of his consolation; permitted Lanzo to approach his death by such bitter sickness, during three days, that if any spot from earthly intercourse had adhered to his pure soul, it must no doubt have been wiped away by that suffering. For, as that great apostle, who reclined on the breast of our Lord, says, ‘If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; and since Christ will judge every sin, either lightly here or more severely hereafter, he was unwilling that any offence should be in the way of him after death, whom he knew to have loved him with all his heart. Wherefore, if there was anything which he thought worthy of examination in Lanzo, he was desirous of consuming it in his lifetime. To this assertion his confidence in death bore witness. For when in full health, on the fifth day of the week before the passion of our Lord, having read the psalter, according to the daily custom of Lent, and being about to celebrate mass at the third hour, he had robed himself to the chasuble, and had proceeded in the service till mass was on the eve of beginning, he was suddenly seized with such an acute disorder, that himself laying aside the garments he had put on, he left them not even folded up. Departing from the oratory, he was afflicted for two days, without intermission, that is, till the Saturday, having no rest either sitting, walking, standing, lyng, or sleeping. During the nights, however, he never spoke to his brethren, though entreating him to break silence; but to this he did not consent, beseeching them not to sully the purity of his vow; for since he had assumed the monastic habit, whenever he had gone out from complines, he had never spoken till primes of the ensuing day. But on the Saturday, though so convulsed as to expect dissolution every moment, he commanded the brethren, now rising for matins, to come and anoint him: and when he was anxious to kiss them, after being anointed, as is the custom, through excess of love he saluted them, not lying or sitting, but, though agonized to death, standing, supported in their arms. At dawn, being conducted to the chapter-house, when he had taken his seat, he asked all the brethren to come before him, and giving them the paternal benediction and absolution, he entreated the like from them. He then instructed them what they were to do in case he died: and so, returning whence he came, he passed the rest of the day with the succeeding Sunday, rather more tranquilly; but, behold, after this, that is, after Sunday, signs of approaching death were discovered; and having his hands washed, and his hair combed, he entered the oratory to hear mass; and receiving the body and blood of the Lord retired to his bed. After a short time he became speechless, gave his benediction to the brethren singly as they came before him, and in like manner to the whole society. But lifting his eyes to heaven, he attempted with both hands to bless the abbot, with all committed to his charge. Being entreated by the fraternity to be mindful of them with the Lord, to whom he was going, he most kindly assented by an inclination of his head. After he had done thus, he beckoned for the cross to be presented to him, which, adoring with his head and indeed with his whole body, and embracing with his hands, he appeared to salute with joyful lips and to kiss with fond affection, when he distressed the standers-by with signs of departing, and, being caught up in their arms, was carried yet alive into the presbytery before the altar of St. Pancras. Here, surviving yet a time, and pleasing from the rosy hue of his countenance, he departed to Christ, pure, and freed eternally from every evil, at the same hour of the day on which, for his purification, he had been stricken with disease. And behold how wonderfully all things corresponded; the passion of the servant with the passion of the Lord; the hour of approaching sickness with the hour of approaching eternal happiness; the five days of illness which he endured for purifying the five senses of the body, through which none can avoid sin. Moreover, from his dying ere the completion of the fifth day, I think it is signified that he had never sinned in the last sense which is called the touch. And what else can the third hour of the day, in which he fell sick, and by dying entered into eternal life, signify, than that the same grace of the Holy Spirit, by which we know his whole life was regulated, was evidently present to him, both in his sickness and his death. Besides, we cannot doubt but that he equalled our fathers Odo and Odilo, both in virtue and in its reward, as a remarkable circumstance granted to them was allowed to him also. For as the Lord permitted them to die on the octaves of those festivals which they loved beyond all other, as St. Odo chiefly loved the feast of St. Martin, and St. Odilo the nativity of our Lord, and each died on the octaves of these tides, so to Lanzo, who beyond all of this age observed the rule of St. Benedict, and venerated the holy mother of God and her solemnities with singular regard, it happened that, as, according to his usual custom, both on the demise of St. Benedict, and on the festival of St. Mary, which is called the Annunciation, he celebrated high mass in the convent: so on the eighth from the aforesaid anniversary of St. Benedict, being stricken with sickness, he also on the eighth day from the annunciation departed to Christ. Wherefore, he who is unacquainted with the life of Lanzo, may learn from his death, how pleasing it was to God, and will believe with us that these things, which I have mentioned, did not happen after the common course of dying persons, as he was a man surpassed by none, in the present times, for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Nor ought the memory of Godfrey, prior of Winchester, to decay, who was celebrated in these times for his learning and his piety: his learning is attested by many works and epistles composed in his familiar and pleasing style, but principally by his epigrams, written after the manner of satires, and his verses in celebration of the chief personages of England. Indeed he restored every divine office to its native grace, from the manner in which he treated it, though before it had become obsolete from antiquity. The laws of religion and of hospitality, already happily traced out, he strongly impressed on the monks, who to this day so closely follow the footsteps of the prior in both, that they deserve all or nearly all possible commendation; indeed in this house there is a place of entertainment to any extent, for travellers of every description by sea or land, with boundless expense and ceaseless attention. Among other things this holy man was noted for his humility, so that nothing but what savoured of modesty and sweetness proceeded from this singular depository of philosophy. How great indeed must this commendation seem ? for there is hardly any one, even the least tinctured with learning, who does not appear to consider others beneath his dignity, by his haughty gestures and proud gait proclaiming the consciousness of his own erudition. However, that no perfection might be wanting to his pure soul, he kept his lowly bed for many years, equally consuming his vitals and his transgressions in the furnace of lasting sickness.

But why should I enlarge on such characters? There were, indeed, at that time in England many persons illustrious both for learning and for piety, whose virtue was the more commendable in proportion to its constancy and vigour in these degenerate times. By a blameless life, therefore, they gave credibility to ancient histories, and freed them from any suspicion of falsehood, as they produced modern example of the possibility of doing what was there recorded. Moreover, were there any prelates apparently degenerating from the sanctity of ancient times, that is to say, skilled in secular, indolent in spiritual matters? If there were such, I say, they endeavoured to shade their failings by costly ornaments for their cathedrals. Each of them erected new churches, and adorned the bodies of their saints with silver and gold; lavish of expense to secure the good opinion of the beholders. Among these is Ranulf before mentioned, who, being made bishop of Durham, purchased some glory for his name, by new buildings for the monks, and by regard to St. Cuthbert. His fame is exalted by his translation of the holy body, which when taken from its resting-place he exhibited to all who wished to behold it. Radulf, at that time bishop of Sees, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, with fortunate temerity, handled and displayed the uncorrupted body; for it had become matter of doubt with certain persons whether the miracle of the incorruption of the corpse, which had formerly been reported, still had effect. About the same time, in the monastery of Ely, under abbot Richard, the virgin reliques of St. Etheldritha, subjects of amaze and reverence to the beholders, were seen entire. This monastery, lately changed by king Henry into a bishopric, had Hervey, as its first prelate; who, from the scantiness of its revenues, had deserted Bangor, where he had been enthroned. And that the bishop of Lincoln might not complain of the mutilation of his diocese, the king made up his loss, out of the possessions of Ely, and satisfied his claim. Indeed, whatever, in his time, was unjustly purloined, or violently taken, from the primacy of the two metropolitans of Canterbury and York, I will relate in its proper place. For having now ended the series of the kings, it seems incumbent on me, to speak of that of the bishops of all England: and here I wish I had abundant matter for relation, in order that such splendid luminaries of the country might no longer be lost in obscurity. Moreover, there will perhaps be many in different parts of England, who may say, that they have heard and read some things differently related from the mode in which I have recorded them: but if they judge candidly, they will not, on this account, brand me with censure: since, following the strict laws of history, I have asserted nothing but what I have learned either from relators, or writers, of veracity. But be these matters as they may, I especially congratulate myself on being, through Christ’s assistance, the only person, or at least the first, who, since Bede, have arranged a continued history of the English. Should any one, therefore, as I already hear it intimated, undertake, after me, a work of a similar nature, he may be indebted to me for having collected materials, though the selection from them must depend upon himself.

Thus much then, my venerated lord, I have had to relate, concerning the history of the English, from their first arrival in this country, till the twentieth year of your father’s most happy reign: the remainder will occupy a separate volume, if you condescend a kind regard to these. For when I had finished this work, after contemplating many characters, I determined that it ought more especially to be dedicated to you: as, when I examine others, I observe nobility in one; in another military science; in a third learning; justice in a fourth; but munificence in few indeed. Thus, I admire some things in one, some in another; but in you the aggregate of all. For, if ever any man was truly noble, you certainly excel in that quality; being descended from the most glorious kings and earls, and resembling them in your disposition. From the Normans, therefore, you derive your military skill; from the Flemings your personal elegance; from the French your surpassing munificence. Of your activity in war, who can doubt, when your most excellent father himself looks up to it ? For whenever any tumults are reported in Normandy, he despatches you before him, in order that, what is suspicious may be dispelled by your valour, and peace may be restored by your sagacity. When he returns to his kingdom, he brings you with him, as a safeguard to him abroad, a delight at home, and an ornament every where. So devoted are you to literature, that though distracted by such a mass of business, you yet snatch some hours to yourself, for the purpose either of reading, or of hearing others. Justly do you regulate, indeed, your exalted rank in life, neither omitting the toils of war for literature, nor contemning literature, as some do, for military service. Here, also, the excess of your learning appears; for, whilst you love books, you manifest how deeply you have drunk of the stream. For many things, indeed, are eagerly desired when not possessed, but no person will love philosophy, who shall not have imbibed it thoroughly. The fame of your justice reaches even our parts; for a false sentence has never been extorted from you, either by elevation of rank, or by scantiness of fortune. The person who wishes to subvert justice, finds in your breast nothing conducive to his design, either by the offering of presents, or by the charm of favour. Your munificence and disregard of money, is amply shown by the monastery of Tewkesbury; from which, as I hear, you not only do not extort presents but even return its voluntary offerings. You must be well aware, how noble such a proceeding is, more especially at the present time; how much it redounds to your glory among men, how productive of the favour of God. Happy, then, according to Plato, is the republic whose ruler is a philosopher, whose sovereign delights not in gifts. More could I add on such subjects, did not the suspicion of flattery on my part, and commendable modesty on yours, restrain my tongue. In truth, my design was, not to pass by in silence the things I have uttered, in order that, by my agency, your worth might reach posterity; and that it may continue to proceed from virtue to virtue. Moreover, it was long since my intention, at the instance of certain persons, to subjoin to this work, whatever I may deem of importance, according to the successive years: but it appears advisable rather to form another volume of such matters, than to be perpetually adding to that already completed. Nor can any one say, that I engage in a superfluous work, if I record the transactions of the most celebrated among the kings of his time. Indeed my lowly condition is much indebted to his greatness, and will be still more so, were it for nothing else, than his being able to pride himself on such a son. For, when he had most auspiciously begotten, he first commanded you to be instructed, not superficially, as plainly appears at the present day, in science; he next made you master of a most princely fortune; and, at this moment he reposes his paternal regards upon you. Let this volume then, whatever its merits or defects, be altogether dedicated to your fame; in the next my life and my history will terminate together. Farther, kindly accept this my offering, that I, whose judgment has not erred in its choice, may be gratified by the good wishes of my patron.

To his most loving lord, Eobert, son of king Henry, and earl of Gloucester, William, librarian of Malmesbury, wishes, after completing his victorious course on earth, eternal triumph in heaven. Many of the transactions of your father, of glorious memory, I have not omitted to record, both in the fifth book of my Regal History, and in those three smaller volumes, which I have intituled Chronicles. Your highness is now desirous that those events which, through the miraculous power of God, have taken place in modern time, in England, should be transmitted to posterity: truly, like all your other desires, a most noble one. For what more concerns the advancement of virtue; what more conduces to justice; than to recognize the divine favour towards good men, and his vengeance upon the wicked ? What, too, can be more grateful, than to commit to the page of history, the exploits of brave men, by whose example others may shake off their indolence, and take up arms in defence of their country ? As this task is committed to my pen, I think the narrative will proceed with exacter order, if, going back a little, I trace the series of years from the return of the empress into England, after the death of her husband. First, therefore, invoking the help of God, as is fitting, and purposing to write the truth, without listening to enmity, or sacrificing to favour, I shall begin as follows.

In the twenty-sixth year of Henry king of England, which was A.D. 1126, Henry, emperor of Germany, to whom Matilda the aforesaid king’s daughter had been married, died in the very bloom of his life and of his conquests. Our king was at that time residing in Normandy, to quell whatever tumults might arise in those parts. As soon as he heard of the death of his son-in-law, he recalled his daughter by honourable messengers despatched for that purpose. The empress, as they say, returned with reluctance, as she had become habituated to the country which was her dowry, and had large possessions there. It is well known, that several princes of Lorraine and Lombardy came, during succeeding years, repeatedly into England, to demand her as their sovereign; but they lost the fruit of their labours, the king designing, by the marriage of his daughter, to procure peace between himself and the earl of Anjou. He was certainly, in an extraordinary degree, the greatest of all kings in the memory either of ourselves, or of our fathers: and yet nevertheless, he ever, in some measure, dreaded the power of the earls of Anjou. Hence it arose, that he broke off and annulled the espousals which William, his nephew, afterwards earl of Flanders, was said to be about to contract with the daughter of Fulco, earl of Anjou, who was afterwards king of Jerusalem. Hence, too, it arose, that he united a daughter of the same earl to his son William, while yet a stripling; and hence it was, that he married his daughter, of whom we began to speak, after her imperial match, to a son of the same Fulco, as my narrative will proceed to disclose.

In the twenty-seventh year of his reign, in the month of September, king Henry came to England, bringing his daughter with him. But, at the ensuing Christmas, convening a great number of the clergy and nobility at London, he gave the county of Salop to his wife, the daughter of the earl of Louvain, whom he had married after the death of Matilda. Distressed that this lady had no issue, and fearing lest she should be perpetually childless, with well-founded anxiety, he turned his thoughts on a successor to the kingdom. On which subject, having held much previous and long-continued deliberation, he now at this council compelled all the nobility of England, as well as the bishops and abbots, to make oath, that, if he should die without male issue, they would, without delay or hesitation, accept his daughter Matilda, the late empress, as their sovereign: observing, how prejudicially to the country fate had snatched away his son William, to whom the kingdom by right had pertained: and, that his daughter still survived, to whom alone the legitimate succession belonged, from her grandfather, uncle, and father, who were kings; as well as from her maternal descent for many ages back: inasmuch as from Egbert, king of the West Saxons, who first subdued or expelled the other kings of the island, in the year of the incarnation 800, through a line of fourteen kings, down to a.d. 1043, in which king Edward, who lies at Westminster, was elevated to the throne, the line of royal blood did never fail, nor falter in the succession. Moreover, Edward, the last, and at the same time the most noble, of that stock, had united Margaret, his grand-niece by his brother Edmund Ironside, to Malcolm, king of Scotland, whose daughter Matilda, as was well known, was the empress’s mother. All therefore, in this council, who were considered as persons of any note, took the oath: and first of all William, archbishop of Canterbury; next the other bishops, and the abbots in like manner. The first of the laity, who swore, was David, king of Scotland, uncle of the empress; then Stephen, earl of Moreton and Boulogne, nephew of king Henry by his sister Adala; then Robert, the king’s son, who was born to him before he came to the throne, and whom he had created earl of Gloucester, bestowing on him in marriage Mabil, a noble and excellent woman; a lady devoted to her husband, and blessed in a numerous and beautiful offspring. There was a singular dispute, as they relate, between Robert and Stephen, contending with rival virtue, which of them should take the oath first; one alleging the privilege of a son, the other the dignity of a nephew. Thus all being bound by fealty and by oath, they, at that time, departed to their homes; but after Pentecost, the king sent his daughter into Normandy, ordering her to be betrothed, by the archbishop of Rouen, to the son of Fulco aforesaid, a youth of high nobility and noted courage. Nor did he himself delay setting sail for Normandy, for the purpose of uniting them in wedlock. Which being completed, all declared prophetically, as it were, that, after his death, they would break their plighted oath. I have frequently heard Roger, bishop of Salisbury, say, that he was freed from the oath he had taken to the empress: for that he had sworn conditionally, that the king should not marry his daughter to any one out of the kingdom without his consent, or that of the rest of the nobility: that none of them advised the match, or indeed knew of it, except Robert, earl of Gloucester, and Brian Fitzcount, and the bishop of Louviers. Nor do I relate this merely because I believe the assertion of a man who knew how to accommodate himself to every varying time, as fortune ordered it; but, as an historian of veracity, I write the general belief of the people.

The remaining years of the life and reign of Henry, I must review briefly, in order that posterity may neither be defrauded of a knowledge of these events, nor that I may seem to dwell on topics little relevant to this history. In his twenty-eighth year, the king returned from Normandy; in his twenty-ninth, a circumstance occurred in England which may seem surprising to our long-haired gallants, who, forgetting what they were born, transform themselves into the fashion of females, by the length of their locks. A certain English knight, who prided himself on the luxuriancy of his tresses, being stung by conscience on the subject, seemed to feel in a dream as though some person strangled him with his ringlets. Awaking in a fright, he immediately cut off all his superfluous hair. The example spread throughout England; and, as recent punishment is apt to affect the mind, almost all military men allowed their hair to be cropped in a proper manner, without reluctance. But this decency was not of long continuance; for scarcely had a year expired, ere all who thought themselves courtly, relapsed into their former vice: they vied with women in length of locks, and wherever they were defective, put on false tresses; forgetful, or rather ignorant, of the saying of the apostle, “If a man nurture his hair, it is a shame to him.”

In his thirtieth year, king Henry went into Normandy. Pope Honorius dying in this year, the church of Rome was agitated by great contentions about electing his successor. There were, at that time, in the city, two very celebrated cardinals, Gregory, deacon of St. Angelo, and Peter, cardinal-priest, son of Leo, prince of the Romans; both noted for learning, and activity, nor could the people easily discern which of them more justly ought to be elected by the clergy. The party, however, which favoured Gregory took the lead, and ordaining him pope, called him Innocent. Moreover a rumour was disseminated among the people, that Honorius was still just alive, and had commanded this to be done. The promoters of this choice were, William, bishop of Praeneste, Matthew of Albano, Conrad of Sabina, John of Ostia, Peter of Crema, cardinal of St. Chrysogonus, and Haimer the chancellor. But the other party, after Honorius was buried, at the instigation of Peter’s brothers, who were the most opulent and powerful of the Romans, having elected and consecrated him, gave him the name of Anaclet. The chief adviser and instigator to this ordination was Peter, bishop of Porto, whose letter, if I subjoin it, will disclose the whole controversy; although it inclines rather to Anaclet.

“Peter, bishop of Porto, to the four bishops, William of Prjeneste, Matthew of Albano, Conrad of Sabina, John of Ostia. How great is the tribulation of my heart for you, he only knows, who knows all things; indeed, you would have already been acquainted with it, in part, by my letters, did not the sentence and the common authority of the church prohibit. Of the praise or dispraise of those persons, concerning whom various discourses are at present held, it is not of this world to judge: there is who may seek and judge. But if any be ready to accuse, one will be ready, and who is also bound, to reply; more especially when both in your and my sight, and in that of the whole church, each of them has lived discreetly and honestly; and has hitherto executed his office impartially. It rather concerns you to abstain from idle language and the words of haste. If the question be of report, the business is far different from what your letters to me declare. In addition to this, if you regard the accounts you have published, and the order of proceeding, with due reverence be it spoken, by what boldness, by what assurance, do you presume to call that usurpation of yours an election ? Why do you call that man of yours ordained, when there was no order whatever in his case ? Have you so learned to elect a pope ? What, in a corner, in a hidden place, in darkness, and in the shadow of death ? If you were desirous that a living should succeed to a dead pope, why would you give out that the deceased was still alive? It were much better, surely, to pay the last sad offices to the dead, and in this manner provide for the succour of the living: but, behold, while you seek succour for the living from the dead, you destroy both the living and the dead at the same time. Lastly, it was neither your office nor mine to elect; but rather to refuse, or to approve, when elected by the brethren. Since, therefore, in neglect of the ritual, contempt of the canon, and disregard of the very anathema, framed by yourselves; without consulting me, your superior, or your elder brethren and superiors, or even summoning, or waiting for them; when you were inexperienced, and but very few in. number, you have presumed to do this; you must be sensible, from your own estimation of the case, that it must be considered void and of no avail whatever. The Lord, however, was quickly present to us, and pointed out a method whereby to obviate your error. For, indeed, your brethren the cardinals, who possess the chief power of electing, together with the whole clergy, at the request of the people, and with the consent of the nobility, openly, in the light of day, have unanimously, and heartily, elected the noble cardinal Peter, as Roman pontiff, by the title of Anaclet. I have witnessed this election canonically celebrated; and confirmed it by the authority of God. The church accepts and venerates him; and, by the grace of God, the bishops and abbots, chief princes and barons, some by themselves, and others by their delegates, acknowledge him in our presence. The robbery and cruelty you mention, I do not perceive: whoever goes to him for consultation, or on business, is kindly received, and still more kindly dismissed. Return, then, return to your understanding, do not make a schism in the church, to the perdition of souls: do not persist any farther; let the fear of God possess you, not worldly shame: does any sleep, will he not add, that he must rise again? Cease now from lies, in which the wicked put their hope. The lord Tiburtius hath testified by oath, in writing, that I have deemed the deacon of St. Angelo, the only fit person for the office of pope: let him look to what he hath said: I have spoken nothing in secret; no person hath ever heard such a word as this from my mouth. My opinion always was, that till the pope was buried no mention should be made of his successor. I have held, and will hold, the unity of the church; I will be careful to adhere to truth and justice; confidently hoping, that truth and justice will set me free.”

William of Malmesbury

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29 January, 2015
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