Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

A council was held at Winchester in 1070, at which Stigand was deposed from his archbishopric. Lanfranc, a Norman abbot, who was appointed his successor, held the see till his death in 1089.

Some of the Saxons maintained their independence for a considerable time in the Camp of Refuge in the island of Ely, which, from the surrounding morass, was nearly inaccessible. They were headed by Hereward, the son of the Lord of Brunn (Bourn, in Lincolnshire) ; but William gained possession of their stronghold in 1071. The ultimate fate of Hereward, who escaped at its capture, is uncertain.

One of the most illustrious of the native nobility who submitted to the Conqueror was Waltheof, who received from him the earldoms of Huntingdon and Northampton, and the hand of his niece Judith. Unfortunately he was induced to join two Norman earls in a conspiracy against William ; and, though he almost inimediately revealed the plot, he was executed in 1075 mainly through the influence of his heartless wife, who wished to marry one of the Norman nobles.

Besides enemies among his subjects, the Conqueror had foes in his own household. His eldest son, Robert, irritated because he would not perform the promise he had previously made that he would put the government of Normandy into his hands, left his father's court, and fixed his residence at the castle of Gerberoi, which the King of France had bestowed on him. He supported himself and his retainers by plundering his father's territory, and on that account William laid siege to the castle in 1079. In an action that took place outside the walls, Robert and his father, who were both enveloped in armour, accidently met in single combat, and the latter was unhorsed. A cry which escaped the king led his son to recognise him, and he solicited his pardon, which was subsequently accorded through the entreaties of his mother, Matilda.

In the autumn of 1087, William entered into a war with Philip I, King of France, and captured by surprise the town of Mantes. He either directed or allowed his soldiers to set fire to the town ; and while riding through, his horse trod upon some embers, and plunged so violently as to inflict upon him serious injuries, which led to his death.

About the middle of his reign (1079), William formed the New Forest in Hampshire as a hunting ground; and one of the chroniclers says that the towns and churches were destroyed for a space of more than thirty miles. Very severe laws were enacted for the protection of the beasts of the chase : as a specimen of which it is sufficient to mention that any unauthorized person who slew a hart or a hind was liable to lose his eyes.

To the Conqueror the origin of the feudal system, as established in England, is ascribed. According to this system, all the lands in the country were considered primarily to belong to the sovereign, who, when he bestowed estates on his followers, required that they should, if called upon, furnish him with as many knights, to attend him in his wars for forty days annually, as there were knights' fees in their estates. These fees, of which there were 60,215 in England, comprised as much land as was necessary to maintain a knight. The chief proprietors or barons granted out portions of their estates to other persons, who were required to render to them services similar to those which they themselves rendered to the king. The development of the feudal system caused a large portion of the ordinary population to be placed in a condition of villenage or serfdom ; they were compelled to cultivate the land of the nobleman on whose estate they resided, nor could they leave their abode unless he granted them their freedom.

In order to ascertain the nature, extent, etc., of the landed property in the country, William directed a general survey to be made ; and in 1086 the two volumes containing the result of the investigation were compiled. These invaluable records, known as the Domesday Book, are still preserved in the chapter house at Westminster.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Among the new customs introduced by the Conqueror was the curfew (couvre feu, i.e., cover fire). Every night a bell was rung at eight o'clock, at which time all fires and candles were to be extinguished. This was not merely a device to prevent the people from holding secret meetings for conspiracy, but was intended to preserve good order and regular habits throughout the community.

William erected the Tower of London, and many other castles, and made regulations by which the Cinque Portsthen Hastings, Hythe, Romney, Dover, and Sandwich-should furnish within forty days, if required, a certain number of ships for the naval defence of the country.

Death.After the king's injury at Mantes he was conveyed to Rouen, and died in the abbey of St. Gervais in its suburbs, on the 9th of September, 1087. He was carried to Caen to be buried in the church of St. Stephen ; but when his body was placed on the bier, and the funeral oration pronounced, one Asselin Fitz-Arthur cried out, “He whom you have praised is a robber. The very land on which you stand is mine. By violence he took it from my father, and in the name of God I forbid you to bury him in it !” As it was found that his claim was just, sixty shillings were paid him for the grave, and the ceremony was concluded without further disturbance.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

WILLIAM II (Rufus).

Reigned from 1087 to 1100
Birth.--William, who, either from the colour of his hair or
the floridness of his complexion, was surnamed Rufus, or the
Red, was born about 1060.

Descent.--He was the third son of William I.

Important Events.-William hastened from the bed of his dying parent to England ; and by the exertions of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, the English were induced to recognise him as king. His coronation took place, Sept. 26, 1087.

In the spring of the ensuing year, Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, William, Bishop of Durham, Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury, and several other barons, who were anxious that the king's brother, Robert, Duke of Normandy, should become sovereign of England, entered into a conspiracy against William ; but their efforts were unavailing, as the king, by promising that the Anglo-Saxon population should be equitably governed, secured their aid. The two prelates were expelled the kingdom, and the lands of most of the conspirators were confiscated.

In 1090 William made war upon his brother, and attempted, though unsuccessfully, the capture of Rouen; but hostilities were at last terminated by a treaty agreed to at Caen, by which the king obtained several towns and castles in Normandy, while he, on his part, promised to restore the forfeited estates to the late conspirators (1091).

Shortly after the treaty of Caen, Robert and William, having disagreed with their brother Henry, who had taken refuge in the castle of Mount St. Michael, a lofty rock on the coast of Normandy, besieged him there ; and the want of water compelled him to agree to a surrender (1091).

Two years later (1093) Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, invaded the north of England ; and, being attacked unawares in the neighbourhood of ALNWICK, by Robert Mowbray, both he and his eldest son were slain. His queen, Margaret, the sister of Edgar Atheling, on receiving the sad tidings became seriously ill, and died in a few days.

The conquest of Palestine by the Turks, and their illtreatment of the pilgrims at this period, aroused the attention of the Christians in Europe ; and, mainly through the persevering endeavours of Peter the Hermit, a council was held at Clermont, in Auvergne, under the presidency of Pope Urban II, where it was agreed that a crusade should be undertaken (1095). The chief leaders were Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond of Toulouse, Hugh of Vermandois, Stephen of Chartres, Bohemond of Tarentum, his nephew Tancred, and Robert of Normandy,

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

who mortgaged his duchy to his brother William for five years in consideration of the sum of 10,000 marks. More than 600,000 armed fanatics, not to mention women and children, set out on the crusade ; but a great portion of them perished before reaching the Holy Land. Jerusalem, however, was captured by the remnant (1099); and the heroic Godfrey was made the first sovereign of the new kingdom of which that city was the capital. It remained in the hands of the Christians till 1187.

In 1098, Magnus, King of Norway, after conquering the Orkneys and the Isle of Man, ravaged Anglesea, but was repulsed by Hugh, Earl of Shrewsbury. This is the last recorded instance of the Scandinavians making an attempt upon England.

Lanfranc died in 1089, but his see was not filled up till 1093, when a serious illness under which William laboured led him to appoint Anselm. On his restoration to health, he refused to grant the archbishop the temporalities of the see; and further disputes led Anselm to withdraw from the country. During a considerable part of the reign, Ralph, surnamed the Flambard (destructive torch), was the king's chief minister; and in 1099 this notoriously profligate priest was consecrated Bishop of Durham.

William built a wall round the tower, and a bridge over the Thames, He also erected Westminster Hall upon the site of the present noble edifice. During his reign structures of unusual magnificence arose in all parts of the realm ; and the most wealthy proprietors sought to distinguish themselves by the castles which they erected, and the monasteries which they founded.

Death.-He met with his death in the New Forest, August 2, 1100. William of Malmesbury tells us that he was accidentally shot by his special favourite, Sir Walter Tyrrel, while hunting ; but it is equally probable that the arrow came from a hostile bow. “ The king,” says the Saxon chronicle," was

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »