The History of The Kings of England 22

William of Malmesbury

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Thus possessed of Flanders, he often irritated king William, by plundering Normandy. His daughter married Canute king of the Danes, of whom was born Charles, who now rules in Flanders. He made peace with king Philip, giving him his daughter-in-law in marriage, by whom he had Lewis, who at present reigns in France; but not long after, being heartily tired of the match, because his queen was extremely corpulent, he removed her from his bed, and in defiance of law and equity, married the wife of the earl of Anjou. Robert, safe by his affinity with these princes, encountered nothing to distress him during his government; though Baldwin, the brother of Arnulph, who had an earldom in the province of Hainault and in the castle of Valenciennes, by William’s assistance made many attempts for that purpose. Three years before his death, when he was now hoary headed, he went to Jerusalem, for the mitigation of his transgressions. After his return he renounced the world, calmly awaiting his dissolution with Christian earnestness. His son was that Robert so universally famed in the expedition into Asia, which, in our limes, Europe undertook against the Turks; but through some mischance, after his return home, he tarnished that noble exploit, being mortally wounded in a tournament, as they call it. Nor did a happier fate attend his son Baldwin, who, voluntarily harassing the forces of Henry king of England, in Normandy, paid dearly for his youthful temerity: for, being struck on the head with a pole, and deceived by the professions of several physicians, he lost his life; the principality devolving on Charles, of whom we have spoken before.

Now, king William conducting himself with mildness towards the obedient but with severity to the rebellious, possessed the whole of England in tranquillity, holding all the Welsh tributary to him. At this time too, beyond sea, being never unemployed, he nearly annihilated the county of Maine, leading thither an expedition composed of English; who, though they had been easily conquered in their own, yet always appeared invincible in a foreign country. He lost multitudes of his men at Dol, a town of Brittany, whither, irritated by some broil, he had led a military force. He constantly found Philip king of France, the daughter of whose aunt he had married, unfaithful to him; because he was envious of the great glory of a man who was vassal both to his father and to himself But William did not the less actively resist his attempts, although his first-born son Robert, through evil counsel, assisted him in opposition to his father. Whence it happened, that in an attack at Gerborai, the son became personally engaged with his father; wounded him and killed his horse: William, the second son, departed with a hurt also, and many of the king’s party were slain. In all other respects, during the whole of his life, he was so fortunate, that foreign and distant nations feared nothing more than his name. He had subdued the inhabitants so completely to his will, that without any opposition, he first caused an account to be taken of every person; compiled a register of the rent of every estate throughout England; and made all free men, of every description, take the oath of fidelity to him. Canute, king of the Danes, who was most highly elevated both by his affinity to Robert Friso and by his own power, alone menaced his dignity; a rumour being generally prevalent, that he would invade England, a country due to him from his relationship to the ancient Canute: and indeed he would have effected it, had not God counteracted his boldness by an unfavourable wind. But this circumstance reminds me briefly to trace the genealogy of the Danish kings, who succeeded after our Canute; adding at the same time, somewhat concerning the Norwegians.

As it has been before observed, Harold succeeded in England; Hardecanute, and his sons, in Denmark: for Magnus the son of Olave, whom I have mentioned in the history of our Canute, as having been killed by his subjects, had recovered Norway, which Canute had subdued. Harold dying in England, Hardecanute held both kingdoms for a short time. On his decease, Edward the Simple succeeded, who, satisfied with his paternal kingdom, despised his foreign dominions as burdensome and barbarous. One Sweyn, doubtlessly a most exalted character, was then made king of the Danes. When his government had prospered for several years, Magnus, king of the Norwegians, with the consent of some of the Danes, expelled him by force, and subjected the land to his own will. Sweyn, thus expelled, went to the king of Sweden, and collecting, by his assistance, Swedes, Vandals, and Goths, he returned, to regain the kingdom: but, through the exertions of the Danes, who were attached to the government of Magnus, he experienced a repetition of his former ill-fortune. This was a great and memorable battle among those barbarous people: on no other occasion did the Danes ever experience severer conflict, or happier success. Indeed, to this very time, they keep unbroken the vow, by which they had bound themselves, before the contest, that they would consecrate to future ages the vigil of St. Lawrence, for on that day the battle was fought, by fasting and alms; and then also Sweyn fled, but soon after, on the death of Magnus, he received his kingdom entire.

To Magnus, in Norway, succeeded one Sweyn, surnamed Hardhand; not elevated by royal descent, but by boldness and cunning: to him Olave, the uncle of Magnus, whom they call a saint; to Olave, Harold Harvagre, the brother of Olave, who had formerly, when a young man, served under the emperor of Constantinople. Being, at his command, exposed to a lion, for having debauched a woman of quality, he strangled the huge beast by the bare vigour of Ids arras. He was slain in England by Harold, the son of Godwin. His sons, Olave and Magnus, divided the kingdom of their father; but Magnus dying prematurely, Olave seized the whole. To him succeeded his son Magnus, who was lately miserably slain in Ireland, on which he had rashly made a descent. They relate, that Magnus, the elder son of Harold, was, after the death of his father, compassionately sent home by Harold, king of England; and that in return for this kindness, he humanely treated Harold, the son of Harold, when he came to him after William’s victory: tha he took him with him, in an expedition he made to England, in the time of William the younger, when he conquered the Orkney and Mevanian Isles, and meeting with Hugo, earl of Chester, and Hugo, earl of Shrewsbury, put the first to flight, and the second to death. The sons of the last Magnus, Hasten and Siward, yet reign conjointly, having divided the empire: the latter, a seemly and spirited youth, shortly since went to Jerusalem, passing through England, and performed many famous exploits against the Saracens; more especially in the siege of Si don, whose inhabitants raged furiously against the Christians through their connection with the Turks.

But Sweyn, as I have related, on his restoration to the sovereignty of the Danes, being impatient of quiet, sent his son Canute twice into England; first with three hundred, and then with two hundred, ships. His associate in the former expedition was Osbern, the brother of Sweyn; in the latter, Hacco: but, being each of them bribed, they frustrated the young man’s designs, and returned home without effecting their purpose. In consequence, becoming highly disgraced by king Sweyn for bartering their fidelity for money, they were driven into banishment. Sweyn, when near his end, bound all the inhabitants by oath, that, as he had fourteen sons, they should confer the kingdom on each of them in succession, as long as his issue remained. On his decease, his son Harold succeeded for three years: to him Canute, whom his father had formerly sent into England. Remembering his original failure, he prepared, as we have heard, more than a thousand vessels against England: his father-in-law, Eobert Friso, the possessor of six hundred more, supporting him. But being detained, for almost two years, by the adverseness of the wind, he changed his design, affirming, that it must be by the determination of God, that he could not put to sea: but afterwards, misled by the suggestions of some persons, who attributed the failure of their passage to the conjurations of certain old women, he sentenced the chiefs, whose wives were accused of this transgression, to an intolerable fine; cast his brother, Olave, the principal of the suspected faction into chains, and sent him into exile to his father-in-law. The barbarians in consequence, resenting this attack upon their liberty, killed him while in church, clinging to the altar, and promising reparation. They say that many miracles were shown from heaven at that place; because he was a man strictly
observant of fasting and almsgiving, and pursued the transgressors of the divine laws more rigorously than those who offended against himself; from which circumstance, he was consecrated a martyr by the pope of Rome. After him, the murderers, that they might atone for their crime by some degree of good, redeemed Olave from captivity, for ten thousand marks. After ignobly reigning during eight years, he left the government to his brother Henry: who living virtuously for twenty-nine years, went to Jerusalem, and breathed his last at sea. Nicholas, the fifth in the sovereignty, still survives. The king of Denmark then, as I have said, was the only obstacle to William’s uninterrupted enjoyment: on whose account he enlisted such an immense multitude of stipendiary soldiers out of every province on this side the mountains, that their numbers oppressed the kingdom. But he, with his usual magnaminity, not regarding the expense, had engaged even Hugo the Great, brother to the king of France, with his bands to serve in his army. He was accustomed to stimulate and incite his own valour, by the remembrance of Robert Guiscard; saying it was disgraceful to yield, in courage, to him whom he surpassed in rank. For Robert, born of middling parentage in Normandy, that is, neither very low nor very high, had gone, a few years before William’s arrival in England, with fifteen knights, into Apulia, to remedy the narrowness of his own circumstances, by entering into the service of that inactive race of people. Not many years elapsed, ere, by the stupendous assistance of God, he reduced the whole country under his power. For where his strength failed, his ingenuity was alert: first receiving the towns, and after, the cities into confederacy with him. Thus he became so successful, as to make himself duke of Apulia and Calabria; his brother Richard, prince of Capua; and his other brother, Roger, earl of Sicily. At last, giving Apulia to his son Roger, he crossed the Adriatic with his other son Boamund, and taking Durazzo, was immediately proceeding against Alexius, emperor of Constantinople, when a messenger from pope Hildebrand stopped him in the heat of his career. For Henry, emperor of Germany, son of that Henry we have before mentioned, being incensed against the pope, for having excommunicated him on account of the ecclesiastical investitures, led an army against Rome; besieged it; expelled Hildebrand, and introduced Guibert of Ravenna. Guiscard learning this by the letter of the expelled pope, left his son Boamund, with the army, to follow up his designs, and returned to Apulia; where quickly getting together a body of Apulians and Normans, he proceeded to Rome. Nor did Henry wait for a messenger to announce his approach; but, affrighted at the bare report, fled with his pretended pope. Rome, freed from intruders, received its lawful sovereign; but soon after again lost him by similar violence. Then too, Alexius, learning that Robert was called home by the urgency of his affairs, and hoping to put a finishing hand to the war, rushed against Boamund, who commanded the troops which had been left. The Norman youth, however, observant of his native spirit, though far inferior in number, turned to flight, by dint of military skill, the undisciplined Greeks and the other collected nations. At the same time, too, the Venetians, a people habituated to the sea, attacking Guiscard, who having settled the object of his voyage was now sailing back, met with a similar calamity: part were drowned or killed, the rest put to flight. He, continuing his intended expedition, induced many cities, subject to Alexius, to second his views. The emperor took off, by crime, the man he was unable to subdue by arms: falsely promising his wife an imperial match. By her artifices, he drank poison, which she had prepared, and died; deserving, had God so pleased, a nobler death: for he was unconquerable by the sword of an enemy, but fell a victim to domestic treachery. He was buried at Venusium in Apuha, having the following epitaph:

Here Guiscard lies, the terror of the world, Who from the Capitol Rome’s sovereign hurled. No band collected could Alexis free, Flight only; Venice, neither flight nor sea.

And since mention has been made of Hildebrand, I shall relate some anecdotes of him, which I have not heard trivially, but from the sober relation of a person who would swear that he had learned them from the mouth of Hugo abbot of Clugny; whom I admire and commend to notice, from the consideration, that he used to declare the secret thoughts of others by the prophetic intuition of his mind. Pope Alexander, seeing the energetic bent of his disposition, had made him chancellor of the holy see. In consequence, by virtue of his office, he used to go through the provinces to correct abuses. All ranks of people flocked to him, requiring judgement on various affairs; all secular power was subject to him, as well out of regard to his sanctity as his office. Whence it happened, one day, when there was a greater concourse on horseback than usual, that the abbot aforesaid, with his monks, was gently proceeding in the last rank; and beholding at a distance the distinguished honour of this man, that so many earthly rulers awaited his nod, he was revolving in his mind sentiments to the following effect: “By what dispensation of God was this fellow, of diminutive stature and obscure parentage, surrounded by a retinue of so many rich men ? Doubtless, from having such a crowd of attendants, he was vain-glorious, and conceived loftier notions than were becoming.” Scarcely, as I have said, had he imagined this in his heart, when the archdeacon, turning back his horse, and spurring him, cried out from a distance, beckoning the abbot, “You,” said he, “you have imagined falsely, wrongly deeming me guilty of a thing of which I am innocent altogether; for I neither impute this as glory to myself, if glory that can be called which vanishes quickly, nor do I wish it to be so imputed by others, but to the blessed apostles, to whose servant it is exhibited.” Reddening with shame, and not daring to deny a tittle, he replied only, “My lord, I pray thee, how couldst thou know the secret thought of my heart which I have communicated to no one?” “All that inward sentiment of yours,” said he, “was brought from your mouth to my ears, as though by a pipe.”

Again, entering a country church, in the same province, they prostrated themselves before the altar, side by side. When they had continued their supplications for a long period, the archdeacon looked on the abbot with an angry countenance. After they had prayed some time longer, he went out, and asking the reason of his displeasure, received this answer, “If you love me, do not again attack me with an injury of this kind; my Lord Jesus Christ, beautiful beyond the sons of men, was visibly present to my entreaties, listening to what I said and kindly looking assent; but, attracted by the earnestness of your prayer, he left me and turned to you. I think you will not deny it to be a species of injury to take from a friend the author of his salvation. Moreover, you are to know that mortality of mankind and destruction hang over this place; and the token by which I formed such a conclusion was my seeing the angel of the Lord standing upon the altar with a naked sword, and waving it to and fro: I possess a more manifest proof of the impending ruin, from the thick, cloudy air which, as you see, already envelopes that province. Let us make haste to escape, then, lest we perish with the rest.” Having said this, they entered an inn for refreshment; but, as soon as food was placed before them, the lamentations of the household took away their famished appetites: for first one, and then another, and presently many of the family suddenly lost their lives by some unseen disaster. The contagion then spreading to the adjoining houses, they mounted their mules, and departed, fear adding wings to their flight.

Hildebrand had presided for the pope at a council in Gaul, where many bishops being degraded, for having formerly acquired their churches by simony, gave place to better men. There was one, to whom a suspicion of this apostacy attached, but he could neither be convicted by any witnesses, nor confuted by any argument. When it was supposed he must be completely foiled, still like the slippery snake he eluded detection, so skilled was he in speaking, that he baffled all. Then said the archdeacon, “Let the oracle of God be resorted to, let man’s eloquence cease; we know for certain that episcopal grace is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that whosoever purchases a bishopric, supposes the gift of the Holy Ghost may be procured by money. Before you then, who are assembled by the will of the Holy Ghost, let him say, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and if he shall speak it articulately, and without hesitation, it will be manifest to me that he has obtained his office, not by purchase, but legally.” He willingly accepted the condition, supposing nothing less than any difficulty in these words; and indeed he perfectly uttered, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,” but he hesitated at the “Holy Ghost.” A clamour arose on all sides, but he was never able, by any exertion, either at that time or for the remainder of his life, to name the Holy Spirit. The abbot so often mentioned was a witness of this miracle; who taking the deprived bishop with him into different places, often laughed at the issue of the experiment. Any person doubting the certainty of this relation, must be confuted by all Europe, which is aware that the numbers of the Clugniac order were increased by this abbot.

On the death of Alexander, therefore, Hildebrand, called Gregory the Seventh, succeeded. He openly asserted what others had whispered, excommunicating those persons who, having been elected, should receive the investiture of their churches, by the ring and staff, through the hands of the laity. On this account Henry, emperor of Germany, being incensed that he should so far presume without his concurrence, expelled him from Rome, as I observed, after the expiration of eleven years, and brought in Guibert. Not long after, the pope, being seized with that fatal disease which he had no doubt would be mortal, was requested by the cardinals to appoint his successor; referring him to the example of St. Peter, who, in the church’s earliest infancy, had, while yet living, nominated Clement. He refused to follow this example, because it had anciently been forbidden by councils: he would advise, however, that if they wished a person powerful in worldly matters, they should choose Desiderius, abbot of Cassino, who would quell the violence of Guibert successfully and opportunely by a military force; but if they wanted a religious and eloquent man, they should elect Odo bishop of Ostia. Thus died a man, highly acceptable to God, though perhaps rather too austere towards men. Indeed it is affirmed, that in the beginning of the first commotion between him and the emperor, he would not admit him within his doors, though barefooted, and carrying shears and scourges, despising a man guilty of sacrilege, and of incest with his own sister. The emperor, thus excluded, departed, vowing that this repulse should be the death of many a man. And immediately doing all the injury he was able to the Roman see, he excited thereby the favourers of the pope, on every side, to throw off their allegiance to himself; for one Rodulph, revolting at the command of the pope, who had sent him a crown in the name of the apostles, he was immersed on all sides in the tumult of war. But Henry, ever superior to ill fortune, at length subdued him and all others faithlessly rebelling. At last, driven from his power, not by a foreign attack, but the domestic hatred of his son, he died miserably. To Hildebrand succeeded Desiderius, called Victor, who at his first mass fell down dead, though from what mischance is unknown; the cup, if it be possible to credit such a thing, being poisoned. The election then fell upon Odo, a Frenchman by birth, first archdeacon of Rheims, then prior of Clugny, afterwards bishop of Ostia, lastly pope by the name of Urban.

Thus far I shall be pardoned, for having digressed, as from the mention of William’s transactions, some things occurred which I thought it improper to omit: now, the reader, who is so inclined, shall learn the more common habits of his life, and his domestic manners. Above all then, he was humble to the servants of God; affable to the obedient; inexorable to the rebellious. He attended the offices of the Christian religion, as much as a secular was able; so that he daily was present at mass, and heard vespers and matins. He built one monastery in England, and another in Normandy; that at Caen first, which he dedicated to St. Stephen, and endowed with suitable estates, and most magnificent presents. There he appointed Lanfranc, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, abbot: a man worthy to be compared to the ancients, in knowledge, and in religion: of whom it may be truly said, “Cato the third is descended from heaven; “so much had an heavenly savour tinctured his heart and tongue; so much was the whole Western world excited to the knowledge of the liberal arts, by his learning; and so earnestly did the monastic profession labour in the work of religion, either from his example, or authority. No sinister means profited a bishop in those days; nor could an abbot procure advancement by purchase. He who had the best report for undeviating sanctity, was most honoured, and most esteemed both by the king and by the archbishop. William built another monastery near Hastings, dedicated to St. Martin, which was also called Battle, because there the principal church stands on the very spot, where, as they report, Harold was found in the thickest heaps of the slain. When little more than a boy, yet gifted with the wisdom of age, he removed his uncle Malger, from the archbishopric of Rouen. He was a man not ordinarily learned, but, through his high rank, forgetful of his profession, he gave too much attention to hunting and hawking; and consumed the treasures of the church in riotous living. The fame of this getting abroad, he never, during his whole life-time, obtained the pall, because the holy see refused the distinction of that honour, to a man who neglected his sacred office. Wherefore being frequently cited, his nephew reprehending his offences, and still conducting himself in the same manner, he was, from the urgency of the case, ultimately degraded. Some report that there was a secret reason for his being deprived: that Matilda, whom William had married, was very nearly related to him: that Malger, in consequence, through zeal for the Christian faith, could not endure that they should riot in the bed of consanguinity; and that he hurled the weapon of excommunication against his nephew, and his consort: that, when the anger of the young man was roused by the complaints of his wife, an occasion was sought out, through which the persecutor of their crime might be driven from his see: bat that afterwards, in riper years, for the expiation of their offence, he built the monastery to St. Stephen at Caen; and she also one, in the same town, to the Holy Trinity; each of them choosing the inmates according to their own sex.

To Malger succeeded Maurilius of Feschamp; a monk commendable for many virtues, but principally for his abstinence. After a holy and well-spent life, when he came, by the call of God, to his end, bereft of vital breath, he lay, as it were, dead for almost half a day. Nevertheless, when preparation was made to carry him into the church, recovering his breath, he bathed the by-standers in tears of joy, and comforted them, when lost in amazement, with this address: “Let your minds be attentive while you hear, the last words of your pastor. I have died a natural death, but I am come back, to relate to you what I have seen; yet shall I not continue with you long, because it delights me to sleep in the Lord. The conductors of my spirit were adorned with every elegance both of countenance and attire; the gentleness of their speech accorded with the splendour of their garments; so much so, that I could wish for nothing more than the attentions of such men. Delighted therefore with their soothing approbation, I went, as it appeared to me, towards the east. A seat in paradise Avas promised me, which I was shortly to enter. In a moment, passing over Europe and entering Asia, we came to Jerusalem; where, having worshipped the saints, we proceeded to Jordan. The residents on the hither bank joining company with my conductors, made a joyful party. I was now hastening to pass over the river, through longing desire to see what was beyond it, Avhen my companions informed me, that God had commanded, that I must first be terrified by the sight of the demons; in order that the venial sins, which I had not wiped out by confession, might be expiated, by the dread of terrific forms. As soon as this was said, there came opposite to me, such a multitude of devils, brandishing pointed weapons, and breathing out fire, that the plain appeared like steel, and the air like flame. I was so dreadfully alarmed at them, that had the earth clave asunder, or the heaven opened, I should not have known whither to have betaken myself for safety. Thus panic-struck, and doubting whither to go, I suddenly recovered my life, though instantaneously about to lose it again, that by this relation I might be serviceable to your salvation, unless you neglect it: “and almost as soon as he had so said, he breathed out his soul. His body, then buried under ground, in the church of St. Mary, is now, by divine miracle, as they report, raised up more than three feet above the earth.

Moreover, William, following up the design he had formerly begun in Normandy, permitted Stigand, the pretended and false archbishop, to be deposed by the Roman cardinals and by Ermenfred bishop of Sion. Walkelin succeeded him at Winchester, whose good works, surpassing fame, will resist the power of oblivion, as long as the episcopal see shall there continue: in Kent succeeded Lanfranc, of whom I have before spoken, who was, by the gift of God, as resplendent in England,

As Lucifer, who bids the stars retire,
Day’s rosy harbinger with purple fire;

so much did the monastic germ sprout by his care, so strongly grew the pontifical power while he survived. The king was observant of his advice in such Aise, that he deemed it proper to concede whatever Lanfranc asserted ought to be done. At his instigation also was abolished the infamous custom of those ill-disposed people who used to sell their slaves into Ireland. The credit of this action, I know not exactly whether to attribute to Lanfranc, or to Wulstan bishop of Worcester; who would scarcely have induced the king, reluctant from the profit it produced him, to this measure, had not Lanfranc commended it, and Wulstan, powerful from his sanctity of character, commanded it by episcopal authority: Wulstan, than whom none could be more just; nor could any in our time equal him in the power of miracles, or the gift of prophecy: of which I propose hereafter to relate some particulars, should it meet his most holy approbation.

William of Malmesbury

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29 January, 2015

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