The History of The Kings of England 24

William of Malmesbury

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At that time, in a province of Wales, called Ros, was found the sepulchre of Walwin, the noble nephew of Arthur; he reigned, a most renowned knight, in that part of Britain which is still named Walwerth; but was driven from his kingdom by the brother and nephew of Hengist, (of whom I have spoken in my first book,) though not without first making them pay dearly for his expulsion. He deservedly shared, with his uncle, the praise of retarding, for many years, the calamity of his falling country. The sepulchre of Arthur is no where to be seen, whence ancient ballads fable that he is still to come. But the tomb of the other, as I have suggested, was found in the time of king Wilham, on the sea-coast, fourteen feet long: there, as some relate, he was wounded by his enemies, and suffered shipwreck; others say, he was killed by his subjects at a public entertainment. The truth consequently is doubtful; though neither of these men was inferior to the reputation they have acquired.

This, too, was the period in which Germany, for fifty years, bewailed the pitiable, and almost fatal government of Henry, of whom I have spoken in the history of William. He was neither unlearned nor indolent; but so singled out by fate for every person to attack, that whoever took up arms against him seemed, to himself, to be acting for the good of religion. He had two sons, Conrad and Henry: the first, not violating the rights of nature towards his father, having subjugated Italy, died at Arezzo, a city of Tuscany: the other, in his early age, attacking his parent when he was somewhat at rest from external molestation, compelled him to retire from the empire, and when he died shortly after, honoured him with an imperial funeral. He still survives, obstinately adhering to those very sentiments, on account of which he thought himself justified in persecuting his father; for he grants the investiture of churches by the staff and ring; and looks upon the pope as not legally elected without his concurrence; although Calixtus, who now presides over the papal see, has greatly restrained this man’s inordinate ambition: but let the reader wait my farther relation of these matters in their proper order.

Moreover, pope Hildebrand dying, as I have said, and Urban being elected by the cardinals, the emperor persisted in his intention of preferring Guibert, of proclaiming him pope, and of bringing him to Rome, by the expulsion of the other. The army, however, of the marchioness Matilda, a woman, who, forgetful of her sex, and comparable to the ancient Amazons, used to lead forth her hardy troops to battle, espoused the juster cause, as it seemed, by her assistance, in succeeding time. Urban obtaining the papal throne, held quiet possession of it for eleven years. After him Paschal was appointed by the Romans, who held Henry’s concurrence in contempt. Guibert yet burdened the earth with his existence, the only sower of sedition, who never, during his whole life, laid aside his obstinacy, nor conformed to justice; saying, that the decision of the emperor ought to be observed; not that of the assassins, or parchmentmongers of Rome. In consequence, both of them being excommunicated in several councils, they treated the sentence with ridicule. Notwithstanding these circumstances, there were many tilings praiseworthy in the emperor: he was eloquent, of great abilities, well read, actively charitable; had many good quahties, both of mind and person: was ever prepared for war, insomuch that he was sixty-two times engaged in battle; was equitable in adjusting differences; and when matters were unsuccessful, he would prefer his griefs to heaven, and wait for redress from thence. Many of his enemies perished by untimely deaths.

I have heard a person of the utmost veracity relate, that one of his adversaries, a weak and factious man, while reclining at a banquet, was, on a sudden, so completely surrounded by mice, as to be unable to escape. So great was the number of these little animals, that there could scarcely be imagined more in a whole province. It was in vain, that they were attacked with clubs and fragments of the benches which were at hand: and though they were for a long time assailed by all, yet they wreaked their deputed curse on no one else; pursuing him only with their teeth, and with a kind of dreadful squeaking. And although he was carried out to sea about a javelin’s cast by the servants, yet he could not by these means escape their violence; for immediately so great a multitude of mice took to the water, that you would have sworn the sea was strewed with chaff. But when they began to gnaw the planks of the ship, and the water, rushing through the chinks, threatened inevitable shipwreck, the servants turned the vessel to the shore. The animals, then also swimming close to the ship, landed first. Thus the wretch, set on shore, and soon after entirely gnawed in pieces, satiated the dreadful hunger of the mice.

I deem this the less wonderful, because it is well known, that in Asia, if a leopard bite any person, a party of mice approach directly, to discharge their urine on the wounded man; and that a filthy deluge of their water attends his death; but if, by the care of servants driving them off, the destruction can be avoided during nine days; then medical assistance, if called in, may be of service. My informant had seen a person wounded after this manner, who, despairing of safety on shore, proceeded to sea, and lay at anchor; when immediately more than a thousand mice swam out, wonderful to relate, in the rinds of pomegranates, the insides of which they had eaten; but they were disowned through the loud shouting of the sailors. “For the Creator of all things has made nothing destitute of sagacity; nor any pest without its remedy.”

During this emperor’s reign flourished Marianus Scotus, first a monk of Fulda, afterwards a recluse at Mentz, who, by renouncing the present life, secured the happiness of that which is to come. During his long continued leisure, he examined the writers on Chronology, and discovered the disagreement of the cycles of Dionysius the Little with the evangelical computation.

Wherefore reckoning every year from the beginning of the world, he added twenty-two, which were wanting, to the above mentioned cycles; but he had few, or no followers of his opinion. Wherefore I am often led to wonder, why such unhappiness should attach to the learned of our time, that in so great a number of scholars and students, pale with watching, scarcely one can obtain unqualified commendation for knowledge. So much does ancient custom please, and so little encouragement, though deserved, is given to new discoveries, however consistent with truth. All are anxious to-grovel in the old track, and everything modern is contemned; and therefore, as patronage alone can foster genius, when that is withheld, every exertion languishes.

But as I have mentioned the monastery of Fulda, I will relate what a reverend man. Walker, prior of Malvern, whose words if any disbelieve he offends against holiness, told me had happened there. “Not more than fifteen years have elapsed,” said he, “since a contagious disease attacked the abbot of that place, and afterwards destroyed many of the monks. The survivors, at first, began each to fear for himself, and to pray, and give alms more abundantly than usual. In process of time, however, for such is the nature of man, their fear gradually subsiding, they began to omit them; the cellarer more especially: who publicly and absurdly exclaimed, that the stock of provision was not adequate to such a consumption; that he had lately hoped for some reduction of expense from so many funerals, but that his hopes were at an end, if the dead consumed what the living could not. It happened on a certain night, when, from some urgent business, he had deferred going to rest for a long time, that having at length despatched every concern, he went towards the dormitory. And now you shall hear a strange circumstance: he saw in the chapterhouse, the abbot, and all who had died that year, sitting in the order they had departed: when affrighted and endeavouring to escape, he was detained by force. Being reproved and corrected, after the monastic manner, with a scourge, he heard the abbot speak precisely to the following effect: that it was foolish to look for advantage by another’s death, when all were subject to one common fate; that it was an impious thing, that a monk who had passed his whole life in the service of the church should be grudged the pittance of a single year after his death; that he himself should die very shortly, but that whatever others might do for him, should redound only to the advantage of those whom lie had defrauded; that he might now go and correct, by his example, those whom he had corrupted by his expressions.” He departed, and demonstrated that he had seen nothing imaginary, as well by his recent stripes, as by his death, which shortly followed.

In the meantime, while employed on other subjects, both matter and inclination have occurred for the relation of what was determined in William’s time, concerning the controversy still existing between the archbishops of Canterbury and York. And that posterity may be fully informed of this business, I will subjoin the opinions of the ancient fathers.

Pope Gregory to Augustine, first archbishop of Canterbury. “Let your jurisdiction not only extend over the bishops you shall have ordained, or such as have been ordained by the bishop of York, but also over all the priests of Britain, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Boniface to Justus, archbishop of Canterbury. “Far be it from every Christian, that anything concerning the city of Canterbury be diminished or changed, in present or future times, which was appointed by our predecessor pope Gregory, however human circumstances may be changed: but more especially, by the authority of St. Peter the prince of apostles, we command and ordain, that the city of Canterbury shall ever hereafter be esteemed the metropolitan see of all Britain; and we decree and appoint, immutably, that all the provinces of the kingdom of England shall be subject to the metropolitan church of the aforesaid see. And if any one attempt to injure this church, which is more especially under the power and protection of the holy Roman church, or to lessen the jurisdiction conceded to it, may God expunge him from the book of life; and let him know, that he is bound by the sentence of a curse.”

Alexander to William, king of England. “The cause of Alric, formerly called bishop of Chichester, we have entrusted to our brother bishop, Lanfranc, to be by him diligently reconsidered and determined. We have also commended to him the labour of deciding the dispute which has arisen between the archbishop of York, and the bishop of Dorchester, on matters belonging to their dioceses; strictly ordering him to examine this cause most diligently and bring it to a just termination. Besides, we have so fully committed to him the authority of our personal and pontifical power in considering and settling causes, that whatever he shall, according to justice, have determined, shall be regarded as firm and indissoluble hereafter, as though it had been adjudged in our presence.”

“In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ’s incarnation 1072, of the pontificate of pope Alexander the eleventh, and of the reign of William, glorious king of England, and duke of Normandy, the sixth; by the command of the said pope Alexander, and permission of the same king, in presence of himself, his bishops, and abbots, the question was agitated concerning the primacy which Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, claimed in right of his church, over that of York; and concerning the ordination of certain bishops, of which it was not clearly evident, to whom they especially pertained; and at length, after some time it was proved and shown by the distinct authority of various writings, that the church of York ought to be subject to that of Canterbury, and to be obedient to the appointments of its archbishop, as primate of all England, in all such matters as pertained to the Christian religion. But the homage of the bishop of Durham, that is of Lindisfarne, and of all the countries beyond the limits of the bishop of Lichfield, and the great river Humber, to the farthest boundaries of Scotland, and whatever on this side of the aforesaid river justly pertains to the diocese of the church of York, the metropolitan of Canterbury allowed for ever to belong to the archbishop of York and his successors: in such sort, that if the archbishop of Canterbury chose to call a council, wherever he deemed fit, the archbishop of York was bound to be present at his command, with all his suffragan bishops, and be obedient to his canonical injunctions. And Lanfranc the archbishop proved from the ancient custom of his predecessors, that the archbishop of York was bound to make profession, even with an oath, to the archbishop of Canterbury; but through regard to the king, he dispensed with the oath from Thomas, archbishop of York; and received his written profession only: but not forming a precedent for his successors who might choose to exact the oath, together with the profession, from Thomas’s successors. If the archbishop of Canterbury should die, the archbishop of York shall come to Canterbury; and, with the other bishops of the church aforesaid, duly consecrate the person elect as his lawful primate. But if the archbishop of York shall die, his successor, accepting the gift of the archbishopric from the king, shall come to Canterbury, or where the archbishop of Canterbury shall appoint, and shall from him receive canonical ordination. To this ordinance consented the king aforesaid, and the archbishops, Lanfranc of Canterbury, and Thomas of York; and Hubert subdeacon of the holy Roman church, and legate of the aforesaid pope Alexander; and the other bishops and abbots present. This cause was first agitated at the festival of Easter in the city of Winchester, in the royal chapel, situated in the castle; afterwards in the royal town called Windsor, where it received its termination, in the presence of the king, the bishops, and abbots of different orders, who were assembled at the king’s court on the festival of Pentecost.

” The signature of William the king: the signature of Matilda the queen.
” I Hubert, subdeacon of the holy Roman church, and legate from pope Alexander, have signed.
” I Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, have signed.
” I Thomas, archbishop of York, have signed. ‘
” I William, bishop of London, have assented.
” I Herman, bishop of Sherborne, have signed.
” I Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, have signed.
” I Walter, bishop of Hereford, have assented.
” I Giso, bishop of Wells, have assented.
” I Remigius, bishop of Dorchester, have signed.
” I Walkelin, bishop of Winchester, have signed.
” I Herefast, bishop of Helmham, have signed.
” I Stigand, bishop of Chichester, have assented.
” I Siward, bishop of Rochester, have assented.
” I Osberne, bishop of Exeter, have assented.
” I Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent, have assented.
” I Gosfrith, bishop of Coutances and one of the nobles of England, have assented.
” I Scotland, abbot of St. Augustine’s monastery, have assented.
” I Thurstan, abbot of the monastery which is situated in the isle of Ely, have assented.
” I Ailnoth, abbot of Glastonbury, have assented.
” I Elfwin, abbot of the monastery of Ramsey, have assented.
” I Wulnoth, abbot of Chertsey, have assented.
” I Ailwyn, abbot of Evesham, have assented.
‘ I Frederic, abbot of St. Alban’s, have assented.
” 1 Goffrid, abbot of the monastery of St. Peter, near London, have assented.
” I Baldwin, abbot of St. Edmund’s monastery, have assented.
” I Turald, abbot of Burgh, have assented.
” I Adelelm, abbot of Abingdon, have assented.
” I Ruald, abbot of the New minster at Winchester, have assented.

“It becomes every Christian to be subject to Christian laws, and by no means to run counter to those things which have been wholesomely enacted by the holy fathers. For hence arise strifes, dissensions, envyings, contentions, and other things, which plunge the lovers of them into eternal punishment. And the more exalted the rank of any person is, so much the more exact should be his obedience to divine commands: wherefore I Thomas, now ordained metropolitan bishop of the church of York, hearing and knowing your authorities, make unlimited profession of canonical obedience to you, Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, and your successors; and I promise to observe whatever shall be canonically enjoined me, either by you or them. Of this matter I was doubtful, while I was yet about to be ordained by you: wherefore I promised obedience unconditionally to you, but conditionally to your successors.”

The archbishop of Canterbury, as I remember to have observed in my first book, originally had subject to him, these bishops: London, Winchester, Rochester, Sherborne, Worcester, Hereford, Lichfield, Selsey, Leicester, Helmham, Sidnacester, Danwich; in the time of king Edward the Elder were added, Cornwall, Crediton, Wells in West Saxony, and Dorchester in Mercia, as I noticed in my second book.

The archbishop of York had all the bishops on the farther side of the Humber subject to him, as Ripon, Hexham, Lindisfame, Candida Casa, which is now called Whitherne; and all the bishops of Scotland and the Orkneys; as the archbishop of Canterbury had those of Ireland and Wales. The bishoprics of Ripon and Hexham have long since perished by hostile ravages; Leicester, Sidnacester, and Dunwich, by means that I cannot account for; and, in the time of king Edward the Simple, Cornwall and Crediton were united, and the bishopric translated to Exeter. In king William’s time, at this council, it was determined that, according to the decrees of the canons, the bishops should quit the villages, and fix their abode in the cities of their dioceses; Lichfield therefore migrated to Chester, which was anciently called the City of Legions; Selsey to Chichester; Helmham first to Thetford, and now, by bishop Herbert, to Norwich; Sherborne to Sahsbury; Dorchester to Lincoln. For Lindisfarne had long before passed to Durham, and lately Wells to Bath.

In this assembly Lanfranc, who was yet uninstructed in English matters, inquired of the elder bishops, what was the order of sitting in council, as originally appointed. They, alleging the difficulty of the question, deferred their answer till the next day; when, carefully calling circumstances to mind, they asserted that they had seen the arrangement as follows: that the archbishop of Canterbury, presiding at the council, should have, on the right hand, the archbishop of York, and next him the bishop of Winchester; and on his left, the bishop of London. But should it ever happen, through necessity, that the primate of Canterbury should be absent, or should he be dead, the archbishop of York, presiding at the council, should have the bishops of London on his right hand, and of Winchester on his left; and the rest should take their seats according to the time of their ordination.

At that time, too, the claim of the archbishop of York on the see of Worcester and Dorchester was decided and set at rest. For he said that they ought to be subject to his jurisdiction; which, after having pondered for some time in secret, when he proceeded to Rome with Lanfranc to receive their palls from the pope, he brought publicly before the Roman court. Lanfranc, though for the most part unmoved by injury, could not help betraying, by his countenance, his emotion at such a wanton and unheard-of attack, though he for some time refrained from speaking. But pope Alexander, who felt much for Lanfranc’s distress, for he had even condescendingly risen from his seat when he approached, professing that he paid him this mark of respect, not from honour to the archbishop but regard to his learning, removed from himself the unpleasant task of deciding, and referred the adjudication of it to an English council. In consequence, as I have related, the matter, after deep investigation, came to this termination in the present council; that, as these bishops were on this side of the Humber, they should belong to Canterbury, but all beyond that river to York.

Here the pious simplicity of St. Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, and his noble confidence in God, demand praise and approbation. For when called in question as well concerning this business, as on his slender attainments in learning, he had retired to consider more carefully what answer he should make, his mind undisturbed by tumult: “Believe me,” said he, “we have not yet sung the service for the sixth hour: let us sing the service therefore.” And, on his companions suggesting the necessity of first expediting the business they had met upon; that there was ample time for singing, and that the king and the nobility would laugh at them, if they heard of it: “Truly,” said he, “let us first do our duty towards God, and afterwards settle the disputes of men.” Having sung the service, he directly proceeded towards the council-chamber, without devising any subterfuge, or any attempt to disguise the truth. To his dependants, who were desirous of withholding him, and who could not be persuaded but their cause was in danger, he said, “Know for certain, that I here visibly perceive those holy archbishops, Dunstan of Canterbury, and Oswald of York; who, defending me this day with their prayers, will darken the understandings of my gainsayers.” Then giving his benediction to a monk, a man of little eloquence, but somewhat acquainted with the Norman language, on summing up his cause, he obtained that he, who was before thought unworthy of the management of his own diocese, should be humbly entreated by the archbishop of York, to condescend to visit those parts of his province, which himself, through dread of enemies, or ignorance of the language, had refrained from approaching. But I will no longer torture the patience of my readers, who perhaps do not regard this matter with pleasure, as they are in expectation of the history of William’s successors; though, if I am not too partial to myself, a variety of anecdote can be displeasing to no one, unless he be morose enough to rival the superciliousness of Cato. But whoever is so inclined, will find such other matters in the fourth and fifth book, for here the third shall terminate.

William of Malmesbury

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