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The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. X. by Jonathan Swift

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The most ancient account we have of Britain is, that the island was full
of inhabitants, divided into several petty kingdoms, as most nations of
the world appear to have been at first. The bodies of the Britons were
painted with a sky-coloured blue, either as an ornament or else for
terror to their enemies. In their religion they were heathens, as all
the world was before Christ, except the Jews.


Their priests were called Druids: These lived in hollow trees, and
committed not their mysteries to writing, but delivered them down by
tradition, whereby they were in time wholly lost.

The Britons had wives in common, so many to a particular tribe or
society, and the children were in common to that society.

About fifty years before Christ, Julius Caesar, the first Roman Emperor,
having conquered Gaul or France, invaded Britain rather to increase his
glory than conquests; for having overcome the natives in one or two
battles, he returned.


The next invasion of Britain by the Romans (then masters of most of the
known world) was in the reign of the Emperor Claudius; but it was not
wholly subdued till that of Nero. It was governed by lieutenants, or
deputies, sent from Rome, as Ireland is now by deputies from England;
and continued thus under the Romans for about 460 years; till that
empire being invaded by the Goths and Vandals, the Romans were forced
not only to recall their own armies, but also to draw from hence the
bravest of the Britons, for their assistance against those barbarians.

Picts' Wall.

The Roman conquests in this island reached no further northward than to
that part of Scotland where Stirling and Glasgow are seated: The region
beyond was held not worth the conquering: It was inhabited by a
barbarous people, called Caledonians and Picts; who, being a rough
fierce nation, daily infested the British borders. Therefore the Emperor
Severus built a wall, from Stirling to Glasgow, to prevent the invasions
of the Picts: It is commonly called the Picts' Wall.

A.D. 455. Saxons.

These Picts and Caledonians, or Scots, encouraged by the departure of
the Romans, do now cruelly infest and invade the Britons by sea and
land: The Britons choose Vortigern for their king, who was forced to
invite the Saxons (a fierce Northern people) to assist him against those
barbarians. The Saxons came over, and beat the Picts in several battles;
but, at last, pick quarrels with the Britons themselves; and, after a
long war, drive them into the mountains of Wales and Cornwall, and
establish themselves in seven kingdoms in Britain, (by them now called
England). These seven kingdoms are usually styled the Saxon Heptarchy.

A.D. 460. Arthur.

About this time lived King Arthur (if the whole story be not a fable)
who was so famous for beating the Saxons in several battles.

A.D. 600. Austin.

The Britons received Christianity very early, and, as is reported, from
some of the Disciples themselves: So that, when the Romans left Britain,
the Britons were generally Christians. But the Saxons were heathens,
till Pope Gregory the Great sent over hither Austin the monk, by whom
Ethelbert king of the South-Saxons, and his subjects, were converted to
Christianity; and the whole island soon followed the example.

A.D. 819. Egbert.

[Footnote 4: The edition of 1765 gives the date as 819, but according to
Dr. Stubbs, Egbert became _bretwalda_ in 828. [W.S.J.]]

After many various revolutions in this island among the kingdoms of the
Saxons, Egbert, descended from the West-Saxon kings, became sole monarch
of England.


The language in Britain was British, (now called Welsh) or Latin; but,
with the Saxons, English came in (although extremely different from what
it is now). The present names of towns, shires, &c. were given by them;
and the whole kingdom was called England from the Angles, who were a
branch of the Saxons.


As soon as the Saxons were settled, the Danes began to trouble and
invade them, as they (the Saxons) had before done the Britons.

These Danes came out of Germany, Denmark, and Norway, a rough warlike
people, little different from the Saxons to whom they were nigh


After many invasions from the Danes, Edgar King of England sets forth
the first navy. He was entitled King of all Albion, (an old name of this
island) and was the first absolute monarch.

He made peace with the Danes, and allowed them to live in his dominions
mixed with the English.

In this prince's time there were five kings in Wales, who all did him
homage for their country.

A.D. 978. Danes massacred.

These Danes began first to make their invasions here about the year 800,
which they after renewed at several times, and under several leaders,
and were as often repulsed. They used to come with vast numbers of
ships, burn and ravage before them, as the cities of London, Winchester,
&c. Encouraged by success and prey, they often wintered in England,
fortifying themselves in the northern parts, from whence they cruelly
infested the Saxon kings. In process of time they mixed with the English
(as was said before) and lived under the Saxon government: But Ethelred,
then King of England, growing weary of the Danish insolence, a
conspiracy is formed, and the Danes are massacred in one day all over


Four years after, Sweyn, King of Denmark, to revenge the death of his
subjects, invades England; and, after battles fought and much cruelty
exercised, he subdues the whole kingdom, forcing Ethelred to fly into


Sweyn dying, his son Canutus succeeds in the kingdom; but Ethelred
returning with an army, Canutus is forced to withdraw to Denmark for

Ethelred dies, and his son Edmond Ironside succeeds; but, Canutus
returning with fresh forces from Denmark, after several battles, the
kingdom is parted between them both. Edmond dying, his sons are sent
beyond sea by Canutus, who now is sole King of England.

King's evil.

Hardicanute, the last Danish king, dying without issue, Edward, son of
Ethelred, is chosen king. For his great holiness, he was surnamed the
Confessor, and sainted after his death. He was the first of our princes
that attempted to cure the king's evil by touching. He first introduced
what is now called the Common Law. In his time began the mode and
humour among the English gentry, of using the French tongue and
fashions, in compliance with the king, who had been bred up in Normandy.

The Danish government in England lasted but twenty-six years, under
three kings.


Edward the Confessor married the daughter of Earl Godwin, an English
nobleman of great power, but of Danish extraction; but, wanting issue,
he appointed Edgar Atheling, grandson to his brother, to succeed him,
and Harold, son of Earl Godwin, to be governor of the young prince. But,
upon Edward's death, Harold neglected Edgar Atheling, and usurped the
crown for himself.

Edward, while he was in Normandy, met so good reception, that it was
said he made a promise to that duke, that, in case he recovered his
kingdom, and died without issue, he would leave it to him. Edward dying,
William Duke of Normandy sends to Harold to claim the crown; but Harold,
now in possession, resolves to keep it. Upon which Duke William, having
prepared a mighty fleet and army, invades England, lands at Hastings,
and sets fire to his fleet, to cut off all hope from his men of
returning. To Harold he sent his messenger, demanding the kingdom and
his subjection: But Harold returned him this answer, "That, unless he
departed his land, he would make him sensible of his just displeasure."
So Harold advanced his forces into Sussex, within seven miles of his
enemy. The Norman Duke, to save the effusion of blood, sent these offers
to Harold; either wholly to resign the kingdom to him, or to try the
quarrel with him in single combat. To this Harold did not agree.

A.D. 1066.

Then the battle joined. The Normans had gotten the worst, if it had not
been for a stratagem they invented, which got them the day. In this
engagement Harold was killed, and William Duke of Normandy became King
of England, under the name of William the Conqueror.



At the time of the Conqueror's death, his eldest son Robert, upon some
discontent with his father, being absent in France,[5] William, the
second son, made use of this juncture, and without attending his
father's funeral, hastened to England, where, pursuant to the will of
the deceased prince,[6] the nobility, although more inclined to favour
Robert, were prevailed with to admit him King, partly by his promises to
abate the rigour of the late reign, and restore the laws and liberties
which had been then abolished, but chiefly by the credit and
solicitations of Lanfranc; for that prelate had formerly a share in his
education, and always a great affection for his person. At Winchester he
took possession of his father's treasure,[7] in obedience to whose
command, as well as to ingratiate himself with the people, he
distributed it among churches and religious houses, and applied it to
the redeeming of prisoners, and other acts of popularity.

[Footnote 5: He was then at Abbeville in Picardy. [D.S.]]

[Footnote 6: William the Conqueror left Normandy to his son Robert; but
said of England: "So it pleased God, he should be glad that William, his
obedient and best beloved son, should enjoy it after his death." [D.

[Footnote 7: Which was sixty thousand pounds in silver, besides gold,
jewels, and plate.--BROMPTON. [D.S.]]

In the mean time Robert returned to Normandy, took possession of that
duchy, with great applause and content of his people, and, spited at the
indignity done him by his father, and the usurpation of his brother in
consequence thereof, prepared a great fleet and army to invade England;
nor did there want an occasion to promote his interest, if the slowness,
the softness, and credulity of his nature, could have suffered him to
make a right improvement of it.

Odo Bishop of Bayeux,[8] of whom frequent mention is made in the
preceding reign,[9] a prelate of incurable ambition, either on account
of his age or character being restored to his liberty and possessions in
England, grew into envy and discontent, upon seeing Lanfranc preferred
before him by the new King in his favour and ministry. He therefore
formed a conspiracy with several nobles of Norman birth to depose the
King, and sent an invitation to Robert to hasten over. Mean time the
conspirators, in order to distract the King's forces, seized on several
parts of England at once; Bristol, Norwich, Leicester, Worcester,
Shrewsbury, Bath, and Durham, were secured by several noblemen: Odo
himself seized Rochester, reduced the coasts of Kent, and sent messages
to Robert to make all possible speed.

[Footnote 8: Odo was half brother to William the Conqueror. [D.S.]]

[Footnote 9: Sir W. Temple wrote "An Introduction to the History of
England." As it only extended to the death of William the Conqueror it
is probable that it is what is here referred to. It will be found in
vol. ii. of Sir W. Temple's "Works," edited by Swift. [W.S.J.]]

The King alarmed at these many and sudden defections, thought it his
best course to begin his defence by securing the good will of the
people. He redressed many grievances, eased them of certain oppressive
taxes and tributes, gave liberty to hunt in his forest, with other marks
of indulgence, which however forced from him by the necessity of the
time, he had the skill or fortune so to order as they neither lost their
good grace nor effect; for immediately after he raised great forces both
by land and sea, marched into Kent, where the chief body of his enemies
was in arms, recovered Tunbridge and Pevensey, in the latter of which
Odo himself was taken prisoner, and forced to accompany the King to
Rochester. This city refusing to surrender at the King's summons, Odo
undertook to prevail with the obstinacy of the inhabitants; but being
admitted into the town, was there detained, either by a real or seeming
force; however, the King provoked at their stubbornness and fraud, soon
compelled them to yield, retook his prisoner, and forcing him for ever
to abjure England, sent him into Normandy.

By these actions, performed with such great celerity and success, the
preparations of Duke Robert were wholly disappointed, himself, by the
necessity of his affairs, compelled to a treaty with his brother, upon
the terms of a small pension, and a mutual promise of succeeding to each
other's dominions on failure of issue, forced to resign his pretensions,
and return with a shattered fleet to Normandy.

About this time died Archbishop Lanfranc; by whose death the King,
loosed from that awe and constraint he was under, soon began to discover
those irregularities of his nature, which till then he had suppressed
and disguised, falling into those acts of oppression and extortion that
have made his name and memory infamous. He kept the see of Canterbury
four years vacant, and converted the revenues to his own use, together
with those of several other bishoprics and abbeys, and disposed all
church preferments to the highest bidder. Nor were his exactions less
upon the laity, from whom he continually extorted exorbitant fines for
pretended transgression of certain penal laws, and entertained informers
to observe men's actions and bring him intelligence.

It is here worth observation, that these corrupt proceedings of the
prince have, in the opinion of several learned men, given rise to two
customs, which are a long time grown to have the force of laws. For,
first the successors of this King, continuing the custom of seizing on
the accruing rents in the vacancy of sees and abbeys, it grew in process
of time to be exacted as a right, or acknowledgment to the King as
founder; whence the revenues of vacant bishoprics belong at this day to
the crown. The second custom had an original not unlike. Several
persons, to avoid the persecutions of the King's informers, and other
instruments of oppression, withdrew themselves and their effects to
foreign countries; upon which the King issued a proclamation, forbidding
all men to leave the kingdom without his licence; from whence, in the
judgment of the same authors, the writ _ne exeat regno_ had its

By these and the like arbitrary methods having amassed great treasures,
and finding all things quiet at home, he raised a powerful army to
invade his brother in Normandy; but upon what ground or pretext, the
writers of that age are not very exact; whether it were from a principle
frequent among unjust princes, That old oppressions are best justified
by new; or, whether having a talent for sudden enterprises, and justly
apprehending the resentments of Duke Robert, he thought it the wiser
course to prevent injuries than to revenge them. In this expedition he
took several cities and castles from his brother, and would have
proceeded further, if Robert had not desired and obtained the assistance
of Philip King of France, who came with an army to his relief. King
William not thinking it safe or prudent to proceed further against his
enemy supported by so great an ally, yet loth to lose the fruits of his
time and valour, fell upon a known and old expedient, which no prince
ever practised oftener, or with greater success, and that was, to buy
off the French King with a sum of money. This had its effect; for that
prince not able to oppose such powerful arms, immediately withdrew
himself and his forces, leaving the two brothers to concert the measures
of a peace.

This was treated and agreed with great advantages on the side of King
William; for he kept all the towns he had taken, obliged his brother to
banish Edgar Atheling out of Normandy, and, for a further security,
brought over with him to England the Duke himself to attend him in his
expedition against Malcolm King of Scotland, who during his absence had
invaded the borders. The King having raised great forces both by sea and
land, went in person to repel the inroads of the Scots: but the
enterprise was without success; for the greatest part of his fleet was
destroyed by a tempest, and his army very much diminished by sickness
and famine, which forced him to a peace of little honour; by which, upon
the condition of homage from that prince, the King of England agreed to
deliver him up those twelve towns (or manors) in England which Malcolm
had held under William the Conqueror; together with a pension of twelve
thousand marks.

At this time were sown the seeds of another quarrel between him and Duke
Robert, who soliciting the King to perform some covenants of the last
peace, and meeting with a repulse, withdrew in great discontent to

King William, in his return from Scotland, fell dangerously sick at
Gloucester, where, moved by the seasonable exhortations of his clergy,
or rather by the fears of dying, he began to discover great marks of
repentance, with many promises of amendment and retribution,
particularly for his injuries to the Church. To give credit to which
good resolutions, he immediately filled several vacant sees, giving that
of Canterbury to Anselm, a foreigner of great fame for piety and
learning. But as it is the disposition of men who derive their vices
from their complexions, that their passions usually beat strong and weak
with their pulses, so it fared with this prince, who upon recovery of
his health soon forgot the vows he had made in his sickness, relapsing
with greater violence into the same irregularities of injustice and
oppression, whereof Anselm, the new archbishop, felt the first effects.
This prelate, soon after his promotion, offered the King a sum of money
by way of present; but took care it should be so small, that none might
interpret it to be a consideration of his late preferment. The King
rejected it with scorn; and as he used but little ceremony in such
matters, insisted in plain terms for more. Anselm would not comply; and
the King enraged, sought all occasions to make him uneasy; until at
length the poor archbishop, tired out with perpetual usurpations (or at
least what was then understood to be such) upon his jurisdiction,
privileges, and possessions, desired the King licence for a journey to
Rome; and upon a refusal, went without it. As soon as he was withdrawn,
the King seized on all his revenues, converting them to his own use, and
the archbishop continued an exile until the succeeding reign.

The particulars of this quarrel between the King and archbishop are not,
in my opinion, considerable enough to deserve a place in this brief
collection, being of little use to posterity, and of less entertainment;
neither should I have mentioned it at all, but for the occasion it gives
me of making a general observation, which may afford some light into the
nature and disposition of those ages. Not only this King's father and
himself, but the princes for several successions, of the fairest
character, have been severely taxed for violating the rights of the
clergy, and perhaps not altogether without reason. It is true, this
character hath made the lighter impression, as proceeding altogether
from the party injured, the cotemporary writers being generally
churchmen: and it must be confessed, that the usurpations of the Church
and court of Rome were in those ages risen to such heights, as to be
altogether inconsistent either with the legislature or administration of
any independent state; the inferior clergy, both secular and regular,
insisting upon such immunities as wholly exempted them from the civil
power; and the bishops removing all controversies with the crown by
appeal to Rome: for they reduced the matter to this short issue, That
God was to be obeyed rather than men; and consequently the Bishop of
Rome, who is Christ's representative, rather than an earthly prince.
Neither doth it seem improbable that all Christendom would have been in
utter vassalage, both temporal and spiritual, to the Roman see, if the
Reformation had not put a stop to those exorbitancies, and in a good
measure opened the eyes even of those princes and states who still
adhere to the doctrines and discipline of that church.

While the King continued at Gloucester, Malcolm King of Scotland came to
his court, with intentions to settle and confirm the late peace between
them. It happened that a controversy arose about some circumstances
relating to the homage which Malcolm was to pay, in the managing whereof
King William discovered so much haughtiness and disdain, both in words
and gestures, that the Scottish prince, provoked by such unworthy
treatment, returned home with indignation; but soon came back at the
head of a powerful army, and, entering Northumberland with fire and
sword, laid all waste before him. But as all enterprises have in the
progress of them a tincture of those passions by which they were
spirited at first, so this invasion begun upon private revenge, which is
a blind ungovernable passion, was carried on with equal precipitation,
and proved to be ruinous in the event; for Robert Mowbray, Earl of
Northumberland, to prevent the destruction of his own country, where he
had great possessions, gathering what forces he could suddenly raise,
and without waiting any directions from the King, marched against the
Scots, who were then set down before Alnwick Castle: there, by an
ambush, Malcolm and his eldest son Edward were slain, and the army,
discouraged by the loss of their princes, entirely defeated. This
disaster was followed in a few days by the death of Queen Margaret, who,
not able to survive her misfortunes, died for grief. Neither did the
miseries of that kingdom end till, after two usurpations, the surviving
son of Malcolm, who had fled to England for refuge, was restored to his
crown by the assistance of King William.

About this time the hidden sparks of animosity between the two brothers,
buried but not extinguished in the last peace, began to flame out into
new dissensions. Duke Robert had often sent his complaints to the King
for breach of articles, but without redress, which provoked him to
expostulate in a rougher manner, till at length he charged the King in
plain terms with injustice and perjury, but no men are found to endure
reproaches with less temper than those who most deserve them, the King,
at the same time filled with indignation, and stung with guilt, invaded
Normandy a second time, resolving to reduce his brother to such terms as
might stop all further complaints. He had already taken several strong
holds, by force either of arms or of money, and intending entirely to
subdue the duchy, gave orders to have twenty thousand men immediately
raised in England, and sent over to him. The Duke, to defend himself
against these formidable preparations, had recourse again to his old
ally the King of France, who very readily advanced with an army to his
assistance, as an action wherein he could every way find his own
accounts, for, beside the appearance of glory and justice by protecting
the injured, he fought indeed his own battle, by preserving his
neighbouring state in the hands of a peaceful prince, from so powerful
and restless an enemy as the King of England, and was largely paid for
his trouble into the bargain, for King William, either loth to engage in
a long and dangerous war, or hastened back by intelligence of some
troubles from Wales, sent offers to his army, just ready to embark for
Normandy, that upon payment of ten shillings a man they might have leave
to return to their own homes.[10] This bargain was generally accepted,
the money was paid to the King of France, who immediately withdrew his
troops, and King William, now master of the conditions, forced his
brother to a peace upon much harder terms than before.

[Footnote 10: See reference to this incident in "The Examiner," No. 21
(vol. ix of this edition, p. 123) [W.S.J.]]

In this passage there are some circumstances which may appear odd and
unaccountable to those who will not give due allowance for the
difference of times and manners: that an absent prince, engaged in an
unjust war with his own brother, and ill-beloved at home, should have so
much power and credit, as by his commission to raise twenty thousand men
on a sudden, only as a recruit to the army he had already with him; that
he should have a fleet prepared ready, and large enough to transport so
great a number; that upon the very point of embarking he should send
them so disgraceful an offer; and that so great a number of common
soldiers should be able and willing to pay such a sum of money, equal to
at least twelve time as much in our times; and that, after being thus
deluded and spoiled at once, they should peaceably disband and retire to
their several homes. But all this will be less difficult to comprehend,
when we reflect on the method of raising and supporting armies, very
different from ours, which was then in use, and so continued for many
ages after. All men who had lands _in capite_ were bound to attend the
King in his wars with a proportioned number of soldiers, who were their
tenants on easy rents in consideration of military service. This was but
the work of a few days, and the troops consisted of such men as were
able to maintain their own charges either at home or abroad: neither was
there any reason to apprehend that soldiers would ever become
instruments for introducing slavery, who held so great a share in the

The King, upon his return from Normandy, made an unsuccessful expedition
against the Welsh, who upon the advantages of his absence had, according
to their usual custom, made cruel inroads upon the adjoining counties of
Chester, Shrewsbury, and Hereford. Upon the King's approach they fled
into their fastnesses among the mountains, where he pursued them for
some time with great rage and vexation, as well as the loss of great
numbers of his men, to no purpose. From hence he was recalled by a more
formidable enemy nearer home: for Robert Earl of Northumberland,
overrating his late services against the Scots, as much perhaps and as
unjustly as they were undervalued by the King, refused to come to his
court, which, in those days, was looked on as the first usual mark of
discontent in a nobleman; and was often charged by princes as a formal
accusation. The earl having disobeyed the King's summons, and concerted
matters with other accomplices, broke out into open rebellion, with
intentions to depose King William, and set up Stephen Earl of Albemarle,
son of a sister to William the Conqueror: but all was prevented by the
celerity of this active prince; who, knowing that insurrections are best
quelled in their beginnings, marched with incredible speed, and
surprised the rebels at Newcastle, took the castles of Tynemouth and
Bamburgh; where the obstinacy of the defendants provoked him, contrary
to his nature, to commit cruelties upon their persons, by cutting off
their hands and ears, and other the like inhumanities. The earl himself
was taken prisoner as he endeavoured to make his escape; but suffered no
other punishment than to be confined for the rest of his life.[11]

[Footnote 11: Which was thirty years. [D.S.]]

About this time began the Holy War for recovering of Palestine; which
having not been the enterprise of any one prince or state, but that
wherein most in Christendom had a share, it cannot with justice be
silently passed over in the history of any nation.

Pope Urban the Second, in a council at Clermont, made a pathetic
exhortation, shewing with what danger and indignity to Christendom the
Turks and Saracens had, for some ages, not only overrun all Asia and
Africa, where Christianity had long flourished; but had also made
encroachments into Europe, where they had entirely subdued Spain, and
some other parts; that Jerusalem, the holy city, where our Saviour did
so many miracles, and where His sepulchre still remained, to the scandal
of the Christian name, lay groaning under the tyranny of infidels; that
the swords which Christian princes had drawn against each other, ought
to be turned against the common enemy of their name and religion; that
this should be reckoned an ample satisfaction for all their past sins;
that those who died in this expedition should immediately go to Heaven,
and the survivors would be blessed with the sight of our Lord's

Moved by these arguments, and the influence of the person who delivered
them, several nobles and prelates immediately took upon them the cross;
and the council dissolving in this high fit of zeal, the clergy, upon
their return home, prevailed so far in their several countries, that in
most parts of Europe some great prince or lord became a votary for the
Holy Land; as Hugh the Great, brother to the King of France; Godfrey
Duke of Lorraine; Reimond Count of Toulouse; Robert Duke of Normandy,
and many others. Neither ought it to be forgotten, that most of these
noble and generous princes, wanting money to maintain the forces they
had raised, pawned their dominions to those very prelates who had first
engaged them in this enterprise: doubtless a notable mark of the force
of oratory in the churchmen of those ages, who were able to inspire that
devotion into others, whereof they seemed so little sensible themselves.

But a great share in the honour of promoting this religious war, is
attributed to the zeal and industry of a certain French priest, commonly
called Peter the Hermit; who being at Jerusalem upon pilgrimage some
time before, and entering often into private treaty with the patriarch
of that city, came back fully instructed in all the measures necessary
for such a war: to these was joined the artifice of certain dreams and
visions that might pass for divine admonition: all which, added to the
piety of his exhortations, gave him such credit with the Pope, and
several princes of Christendom, that he became in his own person the
leader of a great army against the infidels, and was very instrumental
for engaging many others in the same design.

What a spirit was thus raised in Christendom among all sorts of men,
cannot better be conceived than from the vast numbers of these warlike
pilgrims; who, at the siege of Nice, are said to have consisted of
600,000 foot, and 100,000 horse: and the success at first was answerable
to the greatness of their numbers, the valour of their leaders, and the
universal opinion of such a cause; for, besides several famous victories
in the field, not to mention the towns of less importance, they took
Nice, Antioch, and at last Jerusalem, where Duke Godfrey was chosen king
without competition. But zeal, with a mixture of enthusiasm, as I take
this to have been, is a composition only fit for sudden enterprises,
like a great ferment in the blood, giving double courage and strength
for the time, until it sink and settle by nature into its old channel:
for, in a few years the piety of these adventurers began to slacken, and
give way to faction and envy, the natural corruptions of all
confederacies: however, to this spirit of devotion there succeeded a
spirit of honour, which long continued the vein and humour of the times;
and the Holy Land became either a school, wherein young princes went to
learn the art of war, or a scene wherein they affected to shew their
valour, and gain reputation, when they were weary of peace at home.

The Christians held possession of Jerusalem above eighty years,[12] and
continued their expeditions to the Holy Land almost as many more, with
various events; and after they were entirely driven out of Asia, the
popes have almost in every age endeavoured in vain to promote new
crusades neither does this spirit seem quite extinct among us even to
this day; the usual projects of sanguine men for uniting Christendom
against the Turk, being without doubt a traditional way of talk derived
to us from the same fountain.

[Footnote 12: They held it eighty-eight years; from July, 1099, to
October, 1187. [D.S.]]

Robert, in order to furnish himself out for this war, pawned his duchy
to the King for 10,000 marks of gold;[13] which sum was levied with so
many circumstances of rigour and exaction, towards the Church and laity,
as very much increased the discontents of both against the prince.

[Footnote 13: Equal to L1,400,000, as money passes now. [D.S.]]


I shall record one act of this king's, which being chiefly personal, may
pass rather for a part of his character, than a point of history.

As he was hunting one day in the New Forest, a messenger express from
Normandy, brought him intelligence, that Helie, Count de la Fleche, had
laid close siege to Mans, and expected to carry the town in a few days;
the King leaving his chase, commanded some about him to point whereabout
Mans lay; and so rode straight on without reflection, until he came to
the coast. His attendants advised him to wait until he had made
preparations of men and money; to which he only returned; "They that
love me, will follow me." He entered the ship in a violent storm; which
the mariners beholding with astonishment, at length in great humility
gave him warning of the danger; but the King commanded them instantly to
put off to sea, and not be afraid; for he had never in his life heard of
any King that was drowned. In a few days he drove the enemy from before
the city, and took the count himself prisoner, who raging at his defeat
and captivity, exclaimed,[14] "That this blow was from Fortune; but
Valour could make reprisals, as he should shew, if ever he regained his
liberty." This being told the King, he sent for the count, let him
understand that he had heard of his menaces, then gave him a fine horse,
bid him begone immediately, and defied him to do his worst.

[Footnote 14: There is so much pleasantry and humour, as well as spirit
and heroism in this story, as we have it recorded by William de
Malmesbury, who represents the menace as thrown out in the King's
presence, that I shall make no apology for setting down his words at
length. "Auctor turbarum Helias capitur; cui ante se adducto rex
ludibundus, 'Habeo te, magister,' inquit. At ille, cujus alta nobilitas
nesciret in tanto etiam periculo sapere; 'Fortuitu,' inquit, 'me
cepisti: sed si possem evadere, novi quid facerem.' Tum Willelmus, prae
furore fere extra se positus, et obuncans Heliam, 'Tu,'inquit, 'nebulo!
tu, quid faceres? Discede; abi; fuge! Concede tibi ut facias quicquid
poteris: et, per vultum de Luca! nihil, si me viceris, pro hac venia
tecum paciscar." _I.e._ By the face of St. Luke, if thou shouldst have
the fortune to conquer me, I scorn to compound with thee for my release.

It would have been an injury to this prince's memory, to let pass an
action, by which he acquired more honour than from any other in his
life, and by which it appeared that he was not without some seeds of
magnanimity, had they been better cultivated, or not overrun by the
number or prevalency of his vices.

I have met with nothing else in this King's reign that deserved to be
remembered; for, as to an unsuccessful expedition or two against Wales,
either by himself or his generals; they were very inconsiderable both in
action and event, nor attended with any circumstances that might render
a relation of them of any use to posterity, either for instruction or

His death was violent and unexpected, the effect of casualty; although
this perhaps is the only misfortune of life to which the person of a
prince is generally less subject than that of other men. Being at his
beloved exercise of hunting in the New Forest in Hampshire, a large stag
crossed the way before him, the King hot on his game, cried out in haste
to Walter Tyrrel, a knight of his attendants, to shoot; Tyrrel,
immediately let fly his arrow, which glancing against a tree, struck the
King through the heart, who fell dead to the ground without speaking a
word. Upon the surprise of this accident, all his attendants, and
Tyrrel[15] among the rest, fled different ways; until the fright being a
little over, some of them returned, and causing the body to be laid in a
collier's cart, for want of other conveniency, conveyed it in a very
unbecoming contemptuous manner to Winchester, where it was buried the
next day without solemnity, and which is worse, without grief.

[Footnote 15: Yet Eadmer saith, that Tyrrel told him, he had not been in
the Forest that day. [D.S.]]

I shall conclude the history of this prince's reign, with a description
and character of his body and mind, impartially from the collections I
have made; which method I shall observe likewise in all the succeeding

He was in stature somewhat below the usual size, and big-bellied, but he
was well and strongly knit. His hair was yellow or sandy; his face red,
which got him the name of Rufus; his forehead flat; his eyes were
spotted, and appeared of different colours; he was apt to stutter in
speaking, especially when he was angry; he was vigorous and active, and
very hardy to endure fatigues, which he owed to a good constitution of
health, and the frequent exercise of hunting; in his dress he affected
gaiety and expense, which having been first introduced by this prince
into his court and kingdom, grew, in succeeding reigns, an intolerable
grievance. He also first brought in among us the luxury and profusion of
great tables. There was in him, as in all other men, a mixture of
virtues and vices, and that in a pretty equal degree, only the
misfortune was, that the latter, although not more numerous, were yet
much more prevalent than the former. For being entirely a man of
pleasure, this made him sacrifice all his good qualities, and gave him
too many occasions of producing his ill ones. He had one very singular
virtue for a prince, which was that of being true to his word and
promise: he was of undoubted personal valour, whereof the writers in
those ages produce several instances; nor did he want skill and conduct
in the process of war. But, his peculiar excellency, was that of great
dispatch, which, however usually decried, and allowed to be only a happy
temerity, does often answer all the ends of secrecy and counsel in a
great commander, by surprising and daunting an enemy when he least
expects it; as may appear by the greatest actions and events upon the
records of every nation.

He was a man of sound natural sense, as well as of wit and humour, upon
occasion. There were several tenets in the Romish Church he could not
digest; particularly that of the saints' intercession; and living in an
age overrun with superstition, he went so far into the other extreme, as
to be censured for an atheist. The day before his death, a monk relating
a terrible dream, which seemed to forebode him some misfortune, the King
being told the matter, turned it into a jest; said, "The man was a monk,
and dreamt like a monk, for lucre sake;" and therefore commanded
Fitzhamon to give him an hundred shillings, that he might not complain
he had dreamt to no purpose.

His vices appear to have been rather derived from the temper of his
body, than any original depravity of his mind; for being of a sanguine
complexion, wholly bent upon his pleasures, and prodigal in his nature,
he became engaged in great expenses. To supply these, the people were
perpetually oppressed with illegal taxes and exactions; but that sort of
avarice which arises from prodigality and vice, as it is always needy,
so it is much more ravenous and violent than the other, which put the
King and his evil instruments (among whom Ralph, Bishop of Durham, is of
special infamy) upon those pernicious methods of gratifying his
extravagances by all manner of oppression; whereof some are already
mentioned, and others are too foul to relate.

He is generally taxed by writers for discovering a contempt of religion
in his common discourse and behaviour; which I take to have risen from
the same fountain, being a point of art, and a known expedient, for men
who cannot quit their immoralities, at least to banish all reflections
that may disturb them in the enjoyment, which must be done either by not
thinking of religion at all; or, if it will obtrude, by putting it out
of countenance.

Yet there is one instance that might shew him to have some sense of
religion as well as justice. When two monks were outvying each other in
canting[16] the price of an abbey, he observed a third at some distance,
who said never a word; the King demanded why he would not offer; the
monk said, he was poor, and besides, would give nothing if he were ever
so rich; the King replied, "Then you are the fittest person to have it,"
and immediately gave it him. But this is, perhaps with reason enough,
assigned more to caprice than conscience; for he was under the power of
every humour and passion that possessed him for the present; which made
him obstinate in his resolves, and unsteady in the prosecution.

[Footnote 16: An Irish phrase for selling or buying by auction. It is
somewhat remarkable that so severe a critic should have used such a word
in historical composition. [S.]]

He had one vice or folly that seemed rooted in his mind, and of all
others, most unbefitting a prince: This was, a proud disdainful manner,
both in his words and gesture; and having already lost the love of his
subjects by his avarice and oppression, this finished the work, by
bringing him into contempt and hatred among his servants; so that few
among the worst of princes have had the luck to be so ill beloved, or so
little lamented.

He never married, having an invincible abhorrence for the state,
although not for the sex.

He died in the thirteenth year of his reign, the forty-third of his age,
and of Christ 1100, August 2.

His works of piety were few, but in buildings he was very expensive,
exceeding any King of England before or since, among which Westminster
Hall, Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, and the whole city of
Carlisle, remain lasting monuments of his magnificence.


This prince was the youngest son of William the Conqueror, and bred to
more learning than was usual in that age, or to his rank, which got him
the surname of Beauclerk; the reputation whereof, together with his
being born in England, and born son of a king, although of little weight
in themselves, did very much strengthen his pretensions with the people.
Besides, he had the same advantage of his brother Robert's absence,
which had proved before so successful to Rufus, whose treasures he
likewise seized on immediately at his death, after the same manner, and
for the same end, as Rufus did those of his father the Conqueror. Robert
had been now five years absent in the Holy War, where he acquitted
himself with great glory; and although he was now in Apulia, upon his
return homeward, yet the nobles pretending not to know what was become
of him, and others giving out that he had been elected King of
Jerusalem, Henry laid hold of the occasion, and calling together an
assembly of the clergy, nobles, and people of the realm at London, upon
his promises to restore King Edward's laws, and redress the grievances
which had been introduced by his father and brother, they consented to
elect him king. Immediately after his coronation, he proceeded upon
reforming the abuses of the late reign: he banished dissolute persons
from the court, who had long infested it under the protection and
example of Rufus: he restored the people to the use of lights in the
night, which the Conqueror had forbidden, after a certain hour, by the
ringing of a bell. Then he published his charter, and ordered a copy
thereof to be taken for every county in England. This charter was in
substance; The freedom of Mother Church from former oppressions; leave
to the heirs of nobles to succeed in the possession of their lands,
without being obliged to redeem them, only paying to the king a moderate
relief; abolition of fines for licence of marriage to their heiresses; a
promise of not refusing such licence unless the match proposed be with
the king's enemy,[17] &c.; the next of kin to be guardians of the lands
of orphans; punishments for coiners of false money; a confirmation of
St. Edward's laws; and a general amnesty.

[Footnote 17: _i.e._ with a traitor or malcontent. [D.S.]]

About the same time he performed two acts of justice, which, by
gratifying the revenge and the love of the people, gained very much upon
their affections to his person: the first was, to imprison Ralph Bishop
of Durham,[18] who having been raised by the late king from a mean and
sordid birth to be his prime confidant and minister, became the chief
instrument, as well as contriver, of all his oppressions: the second
was, in recalling and restoring Archbishop Anselm, who having been
forced by the continual persecutions of the same prince, to leave
England, had lived ever since in banishment, and deprived of all his

[Footnote 18: Le Neve says that Ralph Flambard, Bishop of Durham, was
imprisoned in the Tower, September, 1100, but escaped in February of the
following year, and fled to Normandy. ("Fasti," iii. 282-3). [W.S.J.]]

The King had not been many months on his throne, when the news came that
Duke Robert, returned from the Holy Land, was received by his subjects
with great marks of joy and honour, and in universal reputation for his
valour and success against the infidels: soon after which, Ralph Bishop
of Durham, either by the negligence or corruption of his keepers,
escaped out of prison, and fled over to the Duke; whom he stirred up to
renew and solicit his pretensions to the crown of England, by writing to
several nobles, who, either through old friendship, or new discontent,
or an opinion of his title, gave him promises of their assistance, as
soon as he should land in England: but the Duke having returned
exceeding poor from the Holy Land, was not yet in a condition for such
an undertaking, and therefore thought fit to defer it to a more
seasonable opportunity.

As the King had hitherto, with great industry, sought all occasions to
gratify his people, so he continued to do in the choice of a wife. This
was Matilda, daughter of Malcolm the late King of Scots; a lady of great
piety and virtue, who, by the power or persuasion of her friends, was
prevailed with to leave her cloister for a crown, after she had, as some
writers report, already taken the veil. Her mother was sister to Edgar
Atheling, the last heir-male of the Saxon race; of whom frequent mention
hath been made in the two preceding reigns: and thus the Saxon line, to
the great contentment of the English nation, was again restored.

Duke Robert, having now with much difficulty and oppression of his
subjects, raised great forces, and gotten ready a fleet to convey them,
resolved once more to assert his title to the crown of England: to which
end he had for some time held a secret correspondence with several
nobles, and lately received fresh invitations. The King, on the other
side, who had received timely intelligence of his brother's
preparations, gave orders to his admirals to watch the sea-ports, and
endeavour to hinder the enemy's landing: but the commanders of several
ships, whether Robert had won them by his bribes, or his promises,
instead of offering resistance, became his guides, and brought his fleet
safe into Portsmouth, where he landed his men, and from thence marched
to Winchester, his army hourly increasing by great numbers of people,
who had either an affection for his person, an opinion of his title, or
a hatred to the King. In the mean time Henry advanced with his forces,
to be near the Duke, and observe his motions; but, like a wise general,
forbore offering battle to an invader, until he might do it with
manifest advantage. Besides, he knew very well that his brother was a
person whose policy was much inferior to his valour, and therefore to be
sooner overcome in a treaty than a fight: to this end, the nobles on
both sides began to have frequent interviews; to make overtures; and at
last concert the terms of a peace; but wholly to the advantage of the
King, Robert renouncing his pretensions in consideration of a small
pension, and of succeeding to the crown on default of male issue in his

The defection of nobles and other people to the Duke was so great, that
men generally thought if it had come to a battle, the King would have
lost both the victory and his crown. But Robert, upon his return to
Normandy after this dishonourable peace, grew out of all reputation with
the world, as well as into perfect hatred and contempt among his own
subjects, which in a short time was the cause of his ruin.

The King having thus by his prudence got rid of a dangerous and
troublesome rival, and soon after by his valour quelled the
insurrections of the Earls of Shrewsbury and Mortaigne, whom he forced
to fly into Normandy, found himself in full peace at home and abroad,
and therefore thought he might venture a contention with the Church
about the right of investing bishops; upon which subject many other
princes at that time had controversy with their clergy: but, after long
struggling in vain, were all forced to yield at last to the decree of a
synod in Rome, and to the pertinacy of the bishops in the several
countries. The form of investing a bishop, was by delivery of a ring and
a pastoral staff; which, at Rome, was declared unlawful to be performed
by any lay hand whatsoever; but the princes of Christendom pleaded
immemorial custom to authorize them: and King Henry, having given the
investiture to certain bishops, commanded Anselm to consecrate them.
This the archbishop refused with great firmness, pursuant to what he
understood to be his duty, and to several immediate commands of the
Pope. Both sides adhering to their own sentiments, the matter was
carried to Rome, where Anselm went in person, by the King's desire; who,
at the same time, sent ambassadors thither to assert and defend his
cause; but the Pope still insisting, Anselm was forbidden to return to
England. The King seized on all his revenues, and would not restore him,
until upon other concessions of the Pope, Henry was content to yield up
his pretensions to the investiture; but, however, kept the right of
electing still in his own hands.

Whatever might have been the method of electing bishops, in the more
primitive ages, it seems plain to me that in these times, and somewhat
before, although the election was made _per clerum et populum_, yet the
king always nominated at first, or approved afterwards, and generally
both, as may be seen by the style in which their elections ran, as well
as by the persons chosen, who were usually Churchmen of the court, or in
some employment near the King. But whether this were a gradual
encroachment of the regal upon the spiritual power, I had rather leave
others to dispute.


About this time Duke Robert came to England, upon a visit to the King,
where he was received with much kindness and hospitality; but, at the
same time, the Queen had private directions to manage his easy temper,
and work him to a consent of remitting his pension: this was compassed
without much difficulty; but, upon the Duke's return to Normandy, he was
severely reproved for his weakness by Ralph Bishop of Durham, and the
two Earls of Mortaigne and Shrewsbury. These three having fled from
England for rebellion, and other treasons, lived exiles in Normandy;
and, bearing an inveterate hatred to the King, resolved to stir up the
Duke to a resentment of the injury and fraud of his brother. Robert, who
was various in his nature, and always under the power of the present
persuader, easily yielded to their incitements: reproached the King in
bitter terms, by letters and messages, that he had cozened and
circumvented him; demanding satisfaction, and withal threatening
revenge. At the same time, by the advice of the three nobles already
mentioned, he began to arm himself as formidably as he could, with
design to seize upon the King's possessions in Normandy: but as this
resolution was rashly taken up, so it was as faintly pursued, and ended
in his destruction: neither hath any prince reason to expect better
fortune, that engages in a war against a powerful neighbour upon the
counsel or instigation of exiles, who having no further view than to
serve their private interest, or gratify their revenge, are sure to
succeed in one or t'other, if they can embark princes in their quarrel,
whom they fail not to incite by the falsest representations of their own
strength, and the weakness of their enemy: for as the King was now
settled in his throne too firm to be shaken, so Robert had wholly lost
all credit and friendship in England; was sunk in reputation at home;
and, by his unlimited profuseness, reduced so low, that, having pawned
most of his dominions, he had offered Rouen, his capital city, in sale
to the inhabitants. All this was very well known to the King, who,
resolving to make his advantage thereof, pretended to be highly provoked
at the disgraceful speeches and menaces of his brother; which he made
the formal occasion of a quarrel: therefore he first sent over some
forces to ravage his country; and, understanding that the Duke was
coldly supported by his own subjects, many of whom came over to the
King's army, he soon followed in person with more; took several towns;
and, placing garrisons therein, came back to England, designing with the
first pretext or opportunity to return with a more potent army, and
wholly subdue the duchy to his obedience.

Robert, now grown sensible of his weakness, became wholly dispirited;
and following his brother into England, in a most dejected manner begged
for peace: but the King, now fully determined upon his ruin, turned away
in disdain, muttering at the same time some threatening words. This
indignity roused up once more the sinking courage of the Duke; who, with
bitter words, detesting the pride and insolence of Henry, withdrew in a
rage, and hasting back to Normandy, made what preparations he could for
his own defence. The King observing his nobles very ready to engage with
him in this expedition; and being assured that those in Normandy would,
upon his approach, revolt from the Duke, soon followed with a mighty
army, and the flower of his kingdom. Upon his arrival he was attended,
according to his expectation, by several Norman lords; and, with this
formidable force, sat down before Tinchebray: the Duke, accompanied by
the two exiled earls, advanced with what strength he had, in hopes to
draw the enemy from the siege of so important a place, although at the
hazard of a battle. Both armies being drawn out in battalia, that of the
King's, trusting to their numbers, began to charge with great fury, but
without any order.


The Duke, with forces far inferior, received the enemy with much
firmness; and, finding they had spent their first heat, advanced very
regularly against their main body, before they could recover themselves
from the confusion they were in. He attacked them with so much courage,
that he broke their whole body, and they began to fly on every side. The
King believing all was lost, did what he could by threats and gentle
words to stop the flight of his men, but found it impossible: then he
commanded two bodies of horse, which were placed on either wing, to
join, and, wheeling about, to attack the enemy in rear. The Duke, who
thought himself so near a victory, was forced to stop his pursuit; and
ordering his men to face about, began the fight anew; mean time the
scattered parts of the main body, which had so lately fled, began to
rally, and pour in upon the Normans behind, by which Duke Robert's army
was almost encompassed; yet they kept their ground awhile, and made
several charges, until at length, perfectly overborne by numbers, they
were utterly defeated. There Duke Robert, doing all the parts of a great
captain, was taken prisoner, together with the Earl of Mortaigne, and
almost his whole army: for being hemmed in on all sides, few of them
could make their escape. Thus, in the space of forty years; Normandy
subdued England, and England Normandy; which are events perhaps hardly
to be paralleled in any other ages or parts of the world.


The King, having stayed a while to settle the state of Normandy,
returned with his brother into England, whom he sent prisoner to Cardiff
Castle, with orders that he should be favourably used, which, for some
time, were duly observed; until being accused of attempting to make his
escape (whether it were real or feigned) he had his eyes put out with a
burning basin, by the King's express commands; in which miserable
condition he lived for six-and-twenty years.

It is believed the King would hardly have engaged in this unnatural and
invidious war, with so little pretence or provocation, if the Pope had
not openly approved and sanctified his cause, exhorting him to it as a
meritorious action; which seems to have been but an ill return from the
Vicar of CHRIST to a prince who had performed so many brave exploits for
the service of the Church, to the hazard of his person, and ruin of his
fortune. But the very bigoted monks, who have left us their accounts of
those times, do generally agree in heavily taxing the Roman court for
bribery and corruption. And the King had promised to remit his right of
investing bishops, which he performed immediately after his reduction of
Normandy, and was a matter of much more service to the Pope, than all
the achievements of Duke Robert in the Holy Land, whose merits, as well
as pretensions, were now antiquated and out of date.


About this time the Emperor Henry V. sent to desire Maud, the King's
daughter in marriage, who was then a child about eight years old: that
prince had lately been embroiled in a quarrel with the see of Rome,
which began upon the same subject of investing bishops, but was carried
to great extremities: for invading Italy with a mighty army, he took the
Pope prisoner, forced him to yield to whatever terms he thought fit to
impose, and to take an oath of fidelity to him between his hands:
however, as soon as Henry had withdrawn his forces, the Pope assembling
a council, revoked all his concessions, as extorted by compulsion, and
raised great troubles in Germany against the Emperor, who, in order to
secure himself, sought this alliance with the King.

About this time likewise died Archbishop Anselm, a prelate of great
piety and learning, whose zeal for the see of Rome, as well as for his
own rights and privileges, should in justice be imputed to the errors of
the time, and not of the man. After his death, the King, following the
steps of his brother, held the see vacant five years, contenting himself
with an excuse, which looked like a jest, That he only waited until he
could find another so good a man as Anselm.

In the fourteenth year of this King's reign, the Welsh, after their
usual manner, invaded the Marches with great fury and destruction; but
the King, hoping to put a final end to those perpetual troubles and
vexations given to his kingdom by that unquiet people, went in person
against them with a powerful army; and to prevent their usual stratagem
of retreating to their woods and mountains, and other fastnesses, he
ordered the woods to be cut down, beset all their places of security,
and hunting them like wild beasts, made so terrible a slaughter, that at
length observing them to fling down their arms, and beg for quarter, he
commanded his soldiers to forbear; then receiving their submissions, and
placing garrisons where he thought necessary, he returned, in great
triumph and satisfaction, to London.


The Princess Maud being now marriageable, was delivered to the Emperor's
ambassador; and for a portion to the young lady a tax was imposed of
three shillings upon every hide of land in England, which grew
afterwards into a custom,[19] and was in succeeding times confirmed by
Acts of Parliament, under the name of "Reasonable Aid for marrying the
King's Daughter," although levied after a different manner.

[Footnote 19: This was the first occasion of the feudal tax called
scutage being levied in England. [W.S.J.]]

As the institution of Parliaments in England is agreed by several
writers to be owing to this King, so the date of the first hath been
assigned by some to the fifteenth year of his reign; which however is
not to be affirmed with any certainty: for great councils were convoked
not only in the two preceding reigns, but for time immemorial by the
Saxon princes, who first introduced them into this island, from the same
original with the other Gothic forms of government in most parts of
Europe. These councils or assemblies were composed according to the
pleasure of the prince who convened them, generally of nobles and
bishops, sometimes were added some considerable commoners; but they
seldom met, except in the beginning of a reign, or in times of war,
until this King came to the crown; who being a wise and popular prince,
called these great assemblies upon most important affairs of his reign,
and ever followed their advice, which, if it proved successful, the
honour and advantage redounded to him, and if otherwise, he was free
from the blame: thus when he chose a wife for himself, and a husband for
his daughter, when he designed his expedition against Robert, and even
for the election of an archbishop to the see of Canterbury, he proceeded
wholly by the advice of such general assemblies, summoned for the
purpose. But the style of these conventions, as delivered by several
authors, is very various; sometimes it is _comites, barones, et
cleri_;[20] his marriage was agreed on, _consilio majorum natu et
magnatum terrae_. One author[21] calls it _concilium principum,
sacerdotum, et reliqui populi._ And for the election of an archbishop,
the Saxon Chronicle says, That he commanded by letters all bishops,
abbots, and thanes to meet him at Gloucester _ad procerum conventum_.
Lastly, some affirm these assemblies to have been an imitation of the
three estates in Normandy. I am very sensible how much time and pains
have been employed by several learned men to search out the original of
Parliaments in England, wherein I doubt they have little satisfied
others or themselves. I know likewise that to engage in the same
enquiry, would neither suit my abilities nor my subject. It may be
sufficient for my purpose, if I be able to give some little light into
this matter, for the curiosity of those who are less informed.

[Footnote 20: Brompton. [D.S.]]

[Footnote 21: Polydore Virgil. [D.S.]]

The institution of a state or commonwealth out of a mixture of the three
forms of government received in the schools, however it be derided as a
solecism and absurdity by some late writers on politics, hath been very
ancient in the world, and is celebrated by the gravest authors of
antiquity. For although the supreme power cannot properly be said to be
divided, yet it may be so placed in three several hands, as each to be a
check upon the other; or formed into a balance, which is held by him
that has the executive power, with the nobility and people in
counterpoise in each scale. Thus the kingdom of Media is represented by
Xenophon before the reign of Cyrus; so Polybius tells us, the best
government is a mixture of the three forms, _regno, optimatium, et
populi imperio_: the same was that of Sparta in its primitive
institution by Lycurgus, made up of _reges, seniores, et populus_; the
like may be asserted of Rome, Carthage, and other states: and the
Germans of old fell upon the same model, from whence the Goths their
neighbours, with the rest of those northern people, did perhaps borrow
it. But an assembly of the three estates is not properly of Gothic
institution: for these fierce people, when upon the decline of the Roman
Empire they first invaded Europe, and settled so many kingdoms in Italy,
Spain, and other parts, were all Heathens; and when a body of them had
fixed themselves in a tract of land left desolate by the flight or
destruction of the natives, their military government by time and peace
became civil; the general was king, his great officers were his nobles
and ministers of state, and the common soldiers the body of the people;
but these were freemen, and had smaller portions of land assigned them.
The remaining natives were all slaves; the nobles were a standing
council; and upon affairs of great importance, the freemen were likewise
called by their representatives to give their advice. By which it
appears, that the Gothic frame of government consisted at first but of
two states or assemblies, under the administration of a single person.
But after the conversion of these princes and their people to the
Christian faith, the Church became endowed with great possessions, as
well by the bounty of kings, as the arts and industry of the clergy,
winning upon the devotion of their new converts: and power, by the
common maxim, always accompanying property, the ecclesiastics began soon
to grow considerable, to form themselves into a body, and to call
assemblies or synods by their own authority, or sometimes by the command
of their princes, who in an ignorant age had a mighty veneration for
their learning as well as piety. By such degrees the Church arrived at
length, by very justifiable steps, to have her share in the
commonwealth, and became a third estate in most kingdoms of Europe; but
these assemblies, as we have already observed, were seldom called in
England before the reign of this prince, nor even then were always
composed after the same manner: neither does it appear from the writers
who lived nearest to that age, that the people had any representative at
all, beside the barons and other nobles, who did not sit in those
assemblies by virtue of their birth or creation, but of the lands or
baronies they held. So that the present constitution of the English
Parliament hath, by many degrees and alterations, been modelled to the
frame it is now in; which alterations I shall observe in the succeeding
reigns as exactly as I can discover them by a diligent search into the
histories of the several ages, without engaging in the controverted
points of law about this matter, which would rather perplex the reader
than inform him.


But to return, Louis the Gross King of France, a valiant and active
prince, in the flower of his age, succeeding to that crown that Robert
was deprived of, Normandy, grew jealous of the neighbourhood and power
of King Henry, and begun early to entertain designs either of subduing
that duchy to himself, or at least of making a considerable party
against the King in favour of William son of Robert, whom for that end
he had taken into his protection. Pursuant to these intentions, he soon
found an occasion for a quarrel: expostulating with Henry, that he had
broken his promise by not doing homage for the Duchy of Normandy, as
well as by neglecting to raze the castle of Gisors,[22] which was built
on the French side of the river Epte, the common boundary between both

[Footnote 22: Father Daniel says that for some years past it had been
agreed that Gisors "should be sequestered in the hands of a lord called
Pagan or Payen, who was to receive into it neither English or Norman,
nor French troops; and in case it should fall into the hands of either
of the two kings, it was stipulated, that the walls should be razed
within the space of forty days" ("Hist. of France," i. 369). [W.S.J.]

But an incident soon offered, which gave King Henry a pretext for
retaliating almost in the same manner: for it happened that upon some
offence taken against his nephew Theobald Count of Blois by the French
King, Louis in great rage sent an army to invade and ravage the earl's
territories. Theobald defended himself for a while with much valour; but
at length in danger to be overpowered, requested aid of his uncle the
King of England, who supported him so effectually with men and money,
that he was able not only to defend his own country, but very much to
infest and annoy his enemy. Thus a war was kindled between the two
kings; Louis now openly asserted the title of William the son of Robert,
and entering into an alliance with the Earls of Flanders and Anjou,
began to concert measures for driving King Henry out of Normandy.

The King having timely intelligence of his enemy's designs, began with
great vigour and dispatch to prepare himself for war: he raised, with
much difficulty and discontent of his people, the greatest tax that had
ever been known in England; and passing over into Normandy with a mighty
army, joined his nephew Theobald. The King of France, who had
entertained hopes that he should overrun the duchy before his enemy
could arrive, advanced with great security towards the frontiers of
Normandy; but observing an enemy of equal number and force already
prepared to engage him, he suddenly stopped his march. The two armies
faced one another for some hours, neither side offering battle; the rest
of the day was spent in light skirmishes begun by the French, and
repeated for some days following with various success; but the remainder
of the year passed without any considerable action.


At length the violence of the two princes brought it to a battle: for
Louis, to give a reputation to his arms, advanced towards the frontiers
of Normandy, and after a short siege took Gue Nicaise;[23] there the
King met him, and the fight began, which continued with great obstinacy
on both sides for nine hours. The French army was divided into two
bodies, and the English into three; by which means, that part where the
King fought in person, being attacked by a superior number, began to
give way; and William Crispin, a Norman baron, singling out the King of
England (whose subject he had been, but banished for treason) struck him
twice in the head with so much violence, that the blood gushed out of
his mouth. The King inflamed with rage and indignation, dealt such
furious blows, that he struck down several of his enemies, and Crispin
among the rest, who was taken prisoner at his horse's feet. The soldiers
encouraged by the valour of their prince, rallied and fell on with fresh
vigour, and the victory seemed doubtful, when William the son of King
Henry, to whom his father had entrusted the third body of his army,
which had not yet engaged, fell on with this fresh reserve upon the
enemy, who was already very much harassed with the toil of the day: this
quickly decided the matter; for the French, though valiantly fighting,
were overcome, with the slaughter of several thousand men; their King
quitted the field, and withdrew to Andely; but the King of England
recovering Gue Nicaise, returned triumphant to Rouen.

[Footnote 23: At that time reckoned an important fortress on the river
Epte. [D.S.]]

This important victory was followed by the defection of the Earl of
Anjou to King Henry, and the Earl of Flanders fell in the battle; by
which the King of France was at once deprived of two powerful allies.
However, by the intercession of the former, a peace was soon after made
between both crowns. William the King's son did homage to Louis for the
Dukedom of Normandy; and the other William, following the fortunes of
his father, was left to his pretensions and complaints.

It is here observable, that from this time until Wales was subdued to
the English crown, the eldest sons of England were called Dukes of
Normandy, as they are now Princes of Wales.


The King having stayed some time in Normandy, for the settlement of his
duchy after the calamities and confusions of a war, returned to England,
to the very great satisfaction of his people and himself. He had
enlarged his dominions by the conquest of Normandy; he had subdued all
his competitors, and forced even the King of France, their great
protector, after a glorious victory, to his own conditions of a peace;
he was upon very good terms with the Pope, who had a great esteem and
friendship for his person, and made him larger concessions than was
usual from that see, and in those ages. At home he was respected by the
clergy, reverenced by the nobles, and beloved by the people; in his
family he was blessed with a son of much hopes, just growing to years of
manhood, and his daughter was an empress; so that he seemed to possess
as great a share of happiness as human life is capable to admit. But the
felicity of man depends upon a conjunction of many circumstances, which
are all subject to various accidents, and every single accident is able
to dissolve the whole contexture; which truth was never verified more
than in this prince, who by one domestic misfortune, not to be prevented
or foreseen, found all the pleasure and content he proposed to himself
by his prudence, his industry, and his valour, wholly disappointed and
destroyed: for William the young prince having embarked at Barfleur some
time after his father, the mariners being all drunk, suffered the ship
to run upon a rock, where it was dashed to pieces: the prince made a
shift to get into the boat, and was making to the shore, until forced
back by the cries of his sister, whom he received into the boat, so many
others crowded in at the same time, that it was immediately overturned.
There perished, beside the prince, a natural son and daughter of the
King's, his niece, and many other persons of quality, together with all
their attendants and servants, to the number of a hundred and forty,
beside fifty mariners, but one person escaping.

Although the King survived this cruel misfortune many years, yet he
could never recover his former humour, but grew melancholy and morose;
however, in order to provide better for the peace and settlement of the
kingdom after his death, about five months after the loss of his son,
his former Queen having died three years before, he married Adeliza, a
beautiful young lady of the family of Lorraine,[24] in hopes of issue by
her, but never had any.

[Footnote 24: She was daughter of Godfrey Duke of Louvain, or the Lower
Lorraine. [D.S.]]


The death of the prince gave occasion to some new troubles in Normandy;
for the Earls of Meulant and Evreux, Hugh de Montfort, and other
associates, began to raise insurrections there, which were thought to be
privately fomented by the French King, out of enmity to King Henry, and
in favour of William the son of Robert, to whom the Earl of Anjou had
lately given his daughter in marriage. But William of Tankerville, the
King's lieutenant in Normandy, surprising the enemy's forces by an
ambush, entirely routed them, took both the earls prisoners, and sent
one of them (Meulant) to his master; but the Count d'Evreux made his


King Henry having now lost hope of issue by his new Queen, brought with
him, on his return to England, his daughter Maud, who by the Emperor's
death had been lately left a widow and childless; and in a Parliament or
general assembly which he had summoned at Windsor, he caused the crown
to be settled on her and her children, and made all his nobles take a
solemn oath to defend her title. This was performed by none with so much
forwardness as Stephen Earl of Boulogne, who was observed to shew a more
than ordinary zeal in the matter. This young lord was the King's nephew,
being second son of the Earl of Blois by Adela the Conqueror's daughter:
he was in high favour with the King his uncle, who had married him to
the daughter and heiress of the Earl of Boulogne, given him great
possessions in England, and made him indeed too powerful for a subject.

The King having thus fixed the succession of the crown in his daughter
by an Act of Settlement and an oath of fealty, looked about to provide
her with a second husband, and at length determined his choice in
Geoffrey Plantagenet Earl of Anjou, the son of Fulk lately deceased.

This prince, whose dominions confined on France and Normandy, was
usually courted for an ally by both Kings in their several quarrels; but
having little faith or honour, he never scrupled to change sides as
often as he saw or conceived it for his advantage. After the great
victory over the French, he closed in with King Henry, and gave his
daughter to the young prince William; yet at the same time, by the
private encouragement of Louis, he prevailed on the King of England to
be easy in the conditions of a peace. Upon the unfortunate loss of the
prince, and the troubles in Normandy thereupon, he fell again from the
King, gave his other daughter to William the son of Robert, and struck
up with France to take that prince again into protection. But dying soon
after, and leaving his son Geoffrey to succeed in that earldom, the King
was of opinion he could not anywhere bestow his daughter with more
advantage, both for the security and enlargement of his dominions, than
by giving her to this earl; by which marriage Anjou would become an
acquisition to Normandy, and this be a more equal match to so formidable
a neighbour as France. In a short time the marriage was concluded; and
this Earl Geoffrey had the honour to introduce into the royal family of
England the surname of Plantagenet, borne by so many succeeding Kings,
which began with Henry II. who was the eldest son of this marriage.

But the King of France was in great discontent at this match: he easily
foresaw the dismal consequences to himself and his successors from such
an increase of dominion united to the crown of England: he knew what
impressions might be made in future times to the shaking of his throne
by an aspiring and warlike king, if they should happen in a weak reign,
or upon any great discontents in that kingdom. Which conjectures being
highly reasonable (and since often verified by events) he cast about to
find some way of driving the King of England entirely out of France; but
having neither pretext nor stomach in the midst of a peace to begin an
open and formal quarrel, there fell out an accident which gave him
plausible occasion of pursuing his design.

Charles the Good Earl of Flanders having been lately murdered by some of
his subjects, upon private revenge, the King of France went in person to
take revenge of the assassins; which he performed with great justice and
honour. But the late earl leaving no heir of his body, and several
competitors appearing to dispute the succession, Louis rejected some
others who seemed to have a fairer title, and adjudged it to William the
son of Robert, the better to secure him to his interests upon any design
he might engage in against the King of England. Not content with this,
he assisted the Earl in person, subdued his rivals, and left him in
peaceable possession of his new dominion.

King Henry, on the other side, was very apprehensive of his nephew's
greatness, well knowing to what end it was directed; however, he seemed
not to regard it, contenting himself to give the Earl employment at home
by privately nourishing the discontents of his new subjects, and
abetting underhand another pretender: for William had so entirely lost
the hearts of his people, by his intolerable avarice and exactions, that
the principal towns in Flanders revolted from him, and invited Thierri
Earl of Alsace to be their governor. But the King of France generously
resolved to appear once more in his defence, and took his third
expedition into Flanders for that purpose. He had marched as far as
Artois, when he was suddenly recalled to defend his own dominions from
the fury of a powerful and provoked invader: for Henry King of England,
moved with indignation to see the French King in the midst of a peace so
frequently and openly supporting his most dangerous enemy, thought it
the best way to divert Louis from kindling a fire against him abroad, by
forcing him to extinguish one at home: he therefore entered into the
bowels of France, ravaging and laying waste all before him, and quickly
grew so formidable, that the French King to purchase a peace was forced
to promise never more to assist or favour the Earl of Flanders; however,
as it fell out, this article proved to be wholly needless; for the young
Earl soon after gave battle to Thierri, and put his whole army to the
rout; but pursuing his victory, he received a wound in his wrist, which,
by the unskilfulness of a surgeon, cost him his life.[24]

[Footnote 24: The lance passed through or under the ball of his thumb
into his wrist. The wound gangrening, he died within five days. [D.S.]]

This one slight inconsiderable accident did, in all probability, put a
stop to very great events; for if that young prince had survived his
victory, it is hardly to be doubted but through the justness of his
cause, the reputation of his valour, and the assistance of the King of
France, he would in a little time have recovered Normandy, and perhaps
his father's liberty, which were the two designs he had in agitation;
nor could he well have missed the crown of England after the King's
death, who was now in his decline, when he had so fair a title, and no
competitors in view but a woman and an infant.


Upon the King's return from Normandy, a great council of the clergy was
held at London, for the punishing of priests who lived in concubinage,
which was the great grievance of the Church in those ages, and had been
condemned by several canons. This assembly thinking to take a more
effectual course against that abomination, as it was called, decreed
severe penalties upon those who should be guilty of breaking it,
entreating the King to see the law put in execution; which he very
readily undertook, but performed otherwise than was expected, eluding
the force of the law by an evasion to his own advantage: for exacting
fines of the delinquent priests, he suffered them to keep their
concubines without further disturbance. A very unaccountable step in so
wise a body for their own concernments, as the clergy of those times is
looked upon to have been; and although perhaps the fact be not worth
recording, it may serve as a lesson to all assemblies never to trust the
execution of a law in the hands of those who will find it more to their
interests to see it broken than observed.


The Empress Maud was now happily delivered of a son, who was afterwards
King of England by the name of Henry the Second: and the King calling a
Parliament, had the oath of fealty repeated by the nobles and clergy to
her and her issue, which in the compass of three years they all broke or


I think it may deserve a place in this history to mention the last scene
of Duke Robert's life, who, either through the poorness or greatness of
spirit, having outlived the loss of his honour, his dominions, his
liberty, his eyesight, and his only son, was at last forced to sink
under the load of eighty years, and must be allowed for the greatest
example either of insensibility or contempt of earthly things, that ever
appeared in a sovereign or private person. He was a prince hardly
equalled by any in his time for valour, conduct, and courtesy; but his
ruin began from the easiness of his nature, which whoever knew how to
manage, were sure to be refused nothing they could ask. By such
profusion he was reduced to those unhappy expedients of remitting his
rights for a pension, of pawning his towns, and multiplying taxes, which
brought him into hatred and contempt with his subjects; neither do I
think any virtue so little commendable in a sovereign as that of
liberality, where it exceeds what his ordinary revenues can supply;
where it passes those bounds, his subjects must all be oppressed to shew
his bounty to a few flatterers, or he must sell his towns, or basely
renounce his rights, by becoming pensioner to some powerful prince in
the neighbourhood; all which we have lived to see performed by a late
monarch in our own time and country.


Since the reduction of Normandy to the King's obedience, he found it
necessary for his affairs to spend in that duchy some part of his time
almost every year, and a little before the death of Robert he made his
last voyage there. It was observable in this prince, that having some
years past very narrowly escaped shipwreck in his passage from Normandy
into England, the sense of his danger had made very deep impressions on
his mind, which he discovered by a great reformation in his life, by
redressing several grievances, and doing many acts of piety; and to shew
the steadiness of his resolutions, he kept them to the last, making a
progress through most parts of Normandy, treating his subjects in all
places with great familiarity and kindness, granting their petitions,
easing their taxes, and, in a word, giving all possible marks of a
religious, wise, and gracious prince.

Returning to St. Denys le Ferment from his progress a little indisposed,
he there fell into a fever upon a surfeit of lamprey, which in a few
days ended his life. His body was conveyed to England, and buried at
Reading in the abbey-church himself had founded.

It is hard to affirm anything peculiar of this prince's character; those
authors who have attempted it mentioning very little but what was common
to him with thousands of other men; neither have they recorded any of
those personal circumstances or passages, which only can discover such
qualities of the mind as most distinguish one man from another. These
defects may perhaps appear in the stories of many succeeding kings;
which makes me hope I shall not be altogether blamed for sometimes
disappointing the reader in a point wherein I could wish to be the most

As to his person, he is described to be of middle stature; his body
strong set and fleshy; his hair black; his eyes large; his countenance
amiable, and very pleasant, especially when he was merry. He was
temperate in meat and drink, and a hater of effeminacy, a vice or folly
much complained of in his time, especially that circumstance of long
artificial hair, which he forbade upon severe penalties. His three
principal virtues were prudence, valour, and eloquence. These were
counterbalanced by three great vices; avarice, cruelty, and lust; of
which the first is proved by the frequency of his taxes; the second by
his treatment of Duke Robert; and the last was notorious. But the proof
of his virtues doth not depend on single instances, manifesting
themselves through the whole course of a long reign, which was hardly
attended by any misfortune that prudence, justice, or valour could
prevent. He came to the crown at a ripe age, when he had passed thirty
years, having learned, in his private life, to struggle with hardships,
whereof he had his share, from the capriciousness and injustice of both
his brothers; and by observing their failures, he had learned to avoid
them in himself, being steady and uniform in his whole conduct, which
were qualities they both seemed chiefly to want. This likewise made him
so very tenacious as he was observed to be in his love and hatred. He
was a strict observer of justice, which he seems never to have violated,
but in that particular case, which political casuists are pleased to
dispense with, where the dispute is about a crown. In that he[25] * * *
* * *

[Footnote 25: Here the sentence breaks off short, and is left
unfinished. [D.S.]]

Consider him as a private man, he was perhaps the most accomplished
person of his age, having a facetious wit, cultivated by learning, and
advanced with a great share of natural eloquence, which was his peculiar
talent: and it was no doubt the sense he had of this last perfection in
himself, that put him so often upon calling together the great councils
of the nation, where natural oratory is of most figure as well as use.


The veneration which people are supposed naturally to pay to a right
line, and a lawful title in their kings, must be upheld by a long
uninterrupted succession, otherwise it quickly loses opinion, upon which
the strength of it, although not the justice, is entirely founded: and
where breaches have been already made in the lineal descent, there is
little security in a good title (though confirmed by promises and oaths)
where the lawful heir is absent, and a popular aspiring pretender near
at hand. This, I think, may pass for a maxim, if any consequences drawn
from history can pretend to be called so, having been verified
successively three times in this kingdom, I mean by the two preceding
kings, and by the prince whose reign we are now writing. Neither can
this observation be justly controlled by any instances brought of future
princes, who being absent at their predecessor's death, have peaceably
succeeded, the circumstances being very different in every case, either
by the weakness or justice of pretenders, or else by the long
establishment of lineal succession.


Stephen Earl of Boulogne, whose descent hath been already shewn in the
foregoing reign, was the second of three brothers, whereof the eldest
was Theobald Earl of Blois, a sovereign prince, and Henry the youngest
was Bishop of Winchester, and the Pope's legate in England. At the time
of King Henry's death, his daughter the Empress was with her husband the
Earl of Anjou, a grave and cautious prince, altogether unqualified for
sudden enterprises: but Earl Stephen, who had attended the King in his
last expedition, made so great dispatch for England,[26] that the
council had not time to meet and make any declaration about a successor.
When the lords were assembled, the legate had already, by his credit and
influence among them, brought over a great party to his brother's
interests; and the Earl himself, knowing with what success the like
methods were used by his two last predecessors, was very liberal of his
promises to amend the laws, support the Church, and redress grievances:
for all which the bishop undertook to be guarantee. And thus was Stephen
elected by those very persons who had so lately, and in so solemn a
manner, more than once sworn fealty to another.

[Footnote 26: Stephen was at Boulogne when he received the news of
Henry's death. [D.S.]]

The motives whereby the nobility was swayed to proceed after this
manner, were obvious enough. There had been a perpetual struggle between
them and their former kings in the defence of their liberties; for the
security whereof, they thought a king elected without other title, would
be readier to enter into any obligations, and being held in constant
dependence, would be less tempted to break them: therefore, as at his
coronation they obtained full security by his taking new and additional
oaths in favour of their liberties, their oath of fealty to him was but
conditional, to be of force no longer than he should be true to those

But other reasons were contrived and given out to satisfy the people:
they were told it was an indignity for so noble a nation to be governed
by a woman; that the late King had promised to marry his daughter within
the realm, and by consent of Parliament, neither of which was observed:
and lastly, Hugh Bigod, steward to King Henry, took a voluntary oath,
before the Archbishop of Canterbury, that his master, in his last
sickness, had, upon some displeasure, disinherited his daughter.

He received the crown with one great advantage that could best enable
him to preserve it: this was the possession of his uncle's treasures,
amounting to one hundred thousand pounds, and reckoned as a prodigious
sum in those days; by the help of which, without ever raising one tax
upon the people, he defended an unjust title against the lawful heir
during a perpetual contest of almost twenty years.

In order to defend himself against any sudden invasion, which he had
cause enough to expect, he gave all men licence to build castles upon
their lands, which proved a very mistaken piece of politics, although
grounded upon some appearance of reason. The King supposed that no
invader would venture to advance into the heart of his country without
reducing every castle in his way, which must be a work of much time and
difficulty, nor would be able to afford men to block them up, and secure
his retreat: which way of arguing may be good enough to a prince of an
undisputed title, and entirely in the hearts of his subjects: but
numerous castles are ill defenders of an usurpation, being the common
retreat of malcontents, where they can fly with security, and discover
their affections as they please: by which means the enemy, although
beaten in the field, may still preserve his footing in the bowels of a
country; may wait supplies from abroad; and prolong a war for many
years: nor, while he is master of any castles, can he ever be at mercy
by any sudden misfortune; but may be always in a condition of demanding
terms for himself. These, and many other effects of so pernicious a
counsel, the King found through the whole course of his reign; which was
entirely spent in sieges, revolts, surprises, and surrenders, with very
few battles, but no decisive action: a period of much misery and
confusion, which affords little that is memorable for events, or useful
for the instruction of posterity.


The first considerable enemy that appeared against him was David King of
Scots, who having taken the oath of fealty to Maud and her issue, being
further engaged by the ties of blood, and stirred up through the
persuasions of several English nobles, began to take up arms in her
cause; and invading the northern parts, took Carlisle and Newcastle; but
upon the King's speedy approach with his forces, a peace was presently
made, and the towns restored. However, the Scottish prince would, by no
means, renounce his fidelity to the Empress, by paying homage to
Stephen; so that an expedient was found to have it performed by his
eldest son: in consideration of which the King gave, or rather restored,
to him the Earldom of Huntingdon.

Upon his return to London from this expedition, he happened to fall sick
of a lethargy, and it was confidently given out that he was dead. This
report was, with great industry and artifice, dispersed by his enemies,
which quickly discovered the ill inclination of several lords, who,
although they never believed the thing, yet made use of it for an
occasion or pretext to fortify their castles, which they refused to
surrender to the King himself; but Stephen was resolved, as he said, to
convince them that he was alive and well; for coming against them before
he was expected, he recovered Exeter, Norwich,[27] and other fortified
places, although not without much difficulty.

[Footnote 27: Hugh Bigod had seized Norwich Castle. [D.S.]]

It is obvious enough to wonder how a prince of so much valour, and other
excellent endowments, elected by the Church and State, after a
compliance with all conditions they could impose on him, and in an age
when so little regard was had to the lineal descent, lastly confirmed by
the Pope himself, should be soon deserted and opposed by those very
persons who had been the most instrumental to promote him. But, beside
his defective title, and the undistinguished liberty of building
castles, there were three circumstances which very much contributed to
those perpetual revolts of the nobles against him: first, that upon his
coming to the crown he was very liberal in distributing lands and
honours to several young gentlemen of noble birth, who came to make
their court, whereby he hoped to get the reputation of a generous
prince, and to strengthen his party against the Empress: but, by this
encouragement, the number of pretenders quickly grew too fast upon him;
and when he had granted all he was able, he was forced to dismiss the
rest with promises and excuses, who, either out of envy or discontent,
or else to mend their fortunes, never failed to become his enemies upon
the first occasion that offered. Secondly, when he had reduced several
castles and towns which had given the first example of disaffection from
him, he hardly inflicted the least punishment on the authors; which
unseasonable mercy, that in another prince and another age would have
been called greatness of spirit, passed in him for pusillanimity and
fear, and is reckoned, by the writers of those times to have been the
cause of many succeeding revolts. The third circumstance was of a
different kind: for, observing how little good effect he had found by
his liberality and indulgence, he would needs try the other extreme,
which was not his talent. He began to infringe the articles of his
charter; to recall or disown the promises he had made; and to repulse
petitioners with rough treatment, which was the more unacceptable by
being new and unexpected.


Mean time the Earl of Anjou, who was not in a condition to assert his
wife's title to England, hearing Stephen was employed at home, entered
Normandy with small force, and found it no difficult matter to seize
several towns. The Normans, in the present distraction of affairs, not
well knowing what prince to obey, at last sent an invitation to Theobald
Earl of Blois, King Stephen's eldest brother, to accept their dukedom
upon the condition of protecting them from the present insults of the
Earl of Anjou. But before this matter could come to an issue, Stephen,
who, upon reduction of the towns already mentioned, had found a short
interval of quiet from his English subjects, arrived with unexpected
speed into Normandy; where Geoffrey of Anjou soon fled before him, and
the whole duchy came over to his obedience; for the further settlement
whereof he made peace with the King of France; constituted his son
Eustace Duke of Normandy; and made him swear fealty to that Prince, and
do him homage. His brother Theobald, who began to expostulate upon this
disappointment, he pacified with a pension of two thousand marks:[28]
and even the Earl of Anjou himself, who, in right of his wife, made
demands of Stephen for the kingdom of England, finding he was no equal
match at present, was persuaded to become his pensioner for five
thousand more.[29]

[Footnote 28: The mark of Normandy is to be understood here. Such a
pension in that age was equivalent to one of L31,000 sterling in the
present. [D.S.]]

[Footnote 29: Five thousand marks of silver coin was, in this reign, of
the same value as the sum of L77,500 modern currency, is now. Here again
the Norman mark seems to be used. [D.S.]]

Stephen, upon his return to England, met with an account of new troubles
from the north; for the King of Scots, under pretence of observing his
oath of fealty to the Empress, infested the Borders, and frequently
making cruel inroads, plundered and laid waste all before him.


In order to revenge this base and perfidious treatment, the King, in his
march northward, sat down before Bedford, and took it after a siege of
twenty days. This town was part of the Earldom of Huntingdon, given by
Stephen in the late peace to the eldest son of the Scottish King, for
which the young prince did homage to him; and it was upon that account
defended by a garrison of Scots. Upon intelligence of this surrender,
King David, overcome with fury, entered Northumberland, where, letting
loose the rage of his soldiers, he permitted and encouraged them to
commit all manner of inhumanities; which they performed in so execrable
a manner as would scarce be credible, if it were not attested by almost
the universal consent of writers: they ripped up women with child, drew
out the infants, and tossed them upon the points of their lances: they
murdered priests before the altars; then cutting the heads from off the
crucifixes, in their stead put on the heads of those they had murdered:
with many other instances of monstrous barbarity too foul to relate: but
cruelty being usually attended with cowardice, this perfidious prince,
upon the approach of King Stephen, fled into places of security. The
King of England, finding no enemy on whom to employ his revenge, marched
forward into the country, destroying with fire and sword all the
southern parts; and would, in all probability, have made terrible
impressions into the heart of Scotland, if he had not been suddenly
recalled by a more dangerous fire at home, which had been kindled in his
absence, and was now broken out into a flame.

Robert Earl of Gloucester, natural son of the late King, came into
England some time after the advancement of Stephen to the crown; and,
yielding to the necessity of the time, took the oath of fealty upon the
same condition used by the other nobles, to be of force so long as the
King should keep his faith with him, and preserve his dignity inviolate:
but, being in his heart wholly devoted to the interests of the Empress
his sister, and moved by the persuasions of several religious men, he
had, with great secrecy and application, so far practised upon the
levity or discontents of several lords, as to gain them to his party:
for the King had, of late, very much alienated the nobles against him;
first, by seizing several of their persons, and dispossessing them of
their lands; and, secondly, by taking into his favour William d'Ypres, a
Flemish commander, of noble birth, but banished by his prince. This man,
with many of his followers, the King employed chiefly both in his
councils and his armies, and made him Earl of Kent, to the great envy
and displeasure of his English subjects. The Earl of Gloucester,
therefore, and his accomplices, having prepared all things necessary for
an insurrection, it was agreed among them, that while the King was
engaged against the Scots, each of them should secure what towns and
castles they could, and openly declare for the Empress. Accordingly Earl
Robert suddenly fortified himself in Bristol; the rest followed his
example; Hereford, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Dover,[30] and many other places,
were seized by several lords, and the defection grew so formidable, that
the King, to his great grief, was forced to leave his Scottish
expedition unfinished, and return with all possible speed to suppress
the rebellion begun by his subjects; having first left the care of the
north to Thurstan Archbishop of York; with orders carefully to observe
the motions of the Scots.

[Footnote 30: Robert Earl of Gloucester had been entrusted by Stephen
with the custody of Dover Castle: but Robert lying now under heavy
suspicion, the King sent Matilda his queen to besiege it, in which she
was successful. [D.S.]]

Whilst the King was employed in the south in reducing his discontented
lords, and their castles, to his obedience, David, presuming upon the
distance between them, reentered England with more numerous forces, and
greater designs, than before: for, without losing more time than what
was necessary to pillage and destroy the country as he marched, he
resolved to besiege York, which, if he could force to surrender, would
serve as a convenient frontier against the English. To this end,
advancing near the city, and having pitched his tents, he sat down
before it with his whole army. In the mean time Archbishop Thurstan,
having already summoned the nobles and gentry of the shire and parts
adjacent, had, by powerful persuasions incited them to defend their
country against a treacherous, bloody, and restless enemy: so that
before the King of Scotland could make any progress in the siege, the
whole power of the north was united against him, under the Earl of
Albemarle, and several other nobles. Archbishop Thurstan happening to
fall sick, could not go in person to the army, but sent the Bishop of
Durham in his stead; by whose encouragements the English, although in
number far inferior, advanced boldly towards the enemy, and offered them
battle, which was as readily accepted by the Scots, who, sending out a
party of horse to secure the rising ground, were immediately attacked by
the English, and, after a sharp dispute, entirely defeated. In the heat
of the battle the King of Scots, and his son Henry Earl of Huntingdon,
gave many proofs of great personal valour. The young prince fell with
such fierceness upon a body of the English, that he utterly broke and
dispersed them; and was pursuing his victory, when a certain man,
bearing aloft the head of an enemy he had cut off, cried out, It was the
head of the Scottish King, which being heard and believed on both sides,
the English, who had lately fled, rallied again, assaulting their
enemies with new vigour; the Scots, on the other side, discouraged by
the supposed death of their Prince, began to turn their backs: the King
and his son used all endeavours to stop their flight, and made several
brave stands against the enemy; but the greatest part of their army
being fled, and themselves almost encompassed, they were forced to give
way to fortune, and with much difficulty made their escape.

The loss on the English side was inconsiderable; but of Scots, by
general consent of writers, ten thousand were slain. And thus ended the
War of the Standard, as it was usually called by the authors of that
age, because the English, upon a certain engine, raised the mast of a
ship, on the top whereof, in a silver box, they put the consecrated
wafer, and fastened the standards of St. Peter and other saints: this
gave them courage, by remembering they were to fight in the presence of
God; and served likewise for a mark where to reassemble when they should
happen to be dispersed by any accident or misfortune.


Mean time the King was equally successful against his rebellious lords
at home, having taken most of their castles and strong-holds; and the
Earl of Gloucester himself, no longer able to make any resistance,
withdrew into Normandy, to concert new measures with the Empress his
sister. Thus the King had leisure and opportunity for another expedition
into Scotland, to pursue and improve his victory, where he met with no
opposition: however, he was at length persuaded with much difficulty to
accept his own conditions of a peace; and David delivered up to him his
eldest son Henry, as hostage for performance of articles between them.

The King, in his return homeward, laid siege to Ludlow Castle, which had
not been reduced with the rest: here Prince Henry of Scotland, boiling
with youth and valour, and exposing his person upon all occasions, was
lifted from his horse by an iron grapple let down from the wall, and
would have been hoisted up into the castle, if the King had not
immediately flown to his assistance, and brought him off with his own
hands by main force from the enemy, whom he soon compelled to surrender
the castle.


Stephen having thus subdued his inveterate enemies the Scots, and
reduced his rebellious nobles, began to entertain hopes of enjoying a
little ease. But he was destined to the possession of a crown with
perpetual disturbance; for he was hardly returned from his northern
expedition, when he received intelligence that the Empress, accompanied
by her brother the Earl of Gloucester, was preparing to come for
England, in order to dispute her title to the kingdom. The King, who
knew by experience what a powerful party she already had to espouse her
interests, very reasonably concluded, the defection from him would be
much greater, when she appeared in person to countenance and reward it;
he therefore began again to repent of the licence he had granted for
building castles, which were now like to prove so many places of
security for his enemies, and fortifications against himself; for he
knew not whom to trust, vehemently suspecting his nobles ever since
their last revolt. He therefore cast about for some artifice to get into
his hands as many of their castles as he could: in the strength and
magnificence of which kind of structures, the bishops had far outdone
the rest, and were upon that, as well as other accounts, very much
maligned and envied by the temporal lords, who were extreme jealous of
the Church's increasing power, and glad upon all occasions to see the
prelates humbled. The King, therefore, having formed his project,
resolved to make trial where it would be least invidious, and where he
could foresee least danger in the consequences. At a Parliament or
assembly of nobles at Oxford, it was contrived to raise a quarrel
between the servants of some bishops and those of Alan Count of Dinan in
Bretagne, upon a contention of rooms in their inns. Stephen took hold of
this advantage, sent for the bishops, taxed them with breaking his
peace, and demanded the keys of their castles, adding threats of
imprisonment if they dared to disobey. Those whom the King chiefly
suspected, or rather who had built the most and strongest castles, were
Roger Bishop of Salisbury, with his nephew and natural son the Bishops
of Ely and Lincoln, whom the King, by many circumstances of rigour,
compelled to surrender, going himself in person to seize the Devizes,
then esteemed the noblest structure of Europe, and built by the
forementioned Bishop Roger, whose treasure, to the value of forty
thousand marks,[31] there likewise deposited, fell, at the same time,
into the King's hand, which in a few days broke the bishop's heart,
already worn with age and infirmity.

[Footnote 31: This prelate's treasure is doubtless computed by the
smaller or Saxon mark; the use of which still prevailed in England: and
even thus computed, it amounts to a vast sum, equal to about L116,350 of
modern money. [D.S.]]

It may, perhaps, not be thought a digression to say something of the
fortunes of this prelate, who, from the lowest beginnings, came to be,
without dispute, the greatest churchman of any subject in his age. It
happened that the late King Henry, in the reign of his brother, being at
a village in Normandy, wanted a priest to say mass before him and his
train, when this man, who was a poor curate thereabouts, offered his
service, and performed it with so much dexterity and speed, that the
soldiers who attended the prince recommended him to their master, upon
that account, as a very proper chaplain for military men; but it seems
he had other talents; for having gotten into the prince's service, he
soon discovered great application and address, much order and economy in
the management of his master's fortunes, which were wholly left to his
care. After Henry's advancement to the crown, this chaplain grew chief
in his favour and confidence; was made Bishop of Salisbury, Chancellor
of England, employed in all his most weighty affairs, and usually left
vicegerent of the realm while the King was absent in Normandy. He was
among the first that swore fealty to Maud and her issue; and among the
first that revolted from her to Stephen, offering such reasons in
council for setting her aside, as, by the credit and opinion of his
wisdom, were very prevalent. But the King, in a few years, forgot all
obligations, and the bishop fell a sacrifice in his old age to those
treasures he had been so long heaping up for its support. A just reward
for his ingratitude towards the Prince that raised him, to be ruined by
the ingratitude of another, whom he had been so very instrumental to

But Henry Bishop of Winchester, the Pope's legate, not able to endure
this violation of the Church, called a council of all the prelates to
meet at Winchester, where the King being summoned, appeared by his
advocate, who pleaded his cause with much learning; and the Archbishop
of Rouen coming to the council, declared his opinion, That although the
canons did allow the bishops to possess castles, yet in dangerous times
they ought to deliver them up to the King. This opinion Stephen followed
very steadily, not yielding a tittle, although the legate his brother
used all means, both rough and gentle, to work upon him.

The council of bishops broke up without other effect than that of
leaving in their minds an implacable hatred to the King, in a very
opportune juncture for the interests of Maud, who, about this time,
landed at Portsmouth with her brother Robert Earl of Gloucester. The
whole force she brought over for this expedition consisted but of one
hundred and forty knights;[32] for she trusted altogether in her cause
and her friends. With this slender attendance she went to Arundel, and
was there received into the castle by the widow of the late King; while
Earl Robert, accompanied only by twenty men, marched boldly to his own
city of Gloucester, in order to raise forces for the Empress, where the
townsmen turned out the King's garrison as soon as they heard of his

[Footnote 32: In these times none served on horseback but gentlemen or
knights, in right of their fiefs, or their representatives, called
_Men-at-arms;_ and each of these was attended by at least two servants
or retainers mounted and armed. [D.S.]]

King Stephen was not surprised at the news of the Empress's arrival,
being a thing he had always counted upon, and was long preparing himself
against. He was glad to hear how ill she was provided, and resolved to
use the opportunity of her brother's absence; for, hasting down to
Arundel with a sufficient strength, he laid siege to the castle, in
hopes, by securing her person, to put a speedy end to the war.

But there wanted not some very near about the King, who, favouring the
party of Maud, had credit enough to prevail with him not to venture time
and reputation against an impregnable fortress, but rather, by
withdrawing his forces, permit her to retire to some less fortified
place, where she might more easily fall into his hands. This advice the
King took against his own opinion; the Empress fled out of Arundel by
night; and, after frequent shifting her stages through several towns,
which had already declared in her favour, fixed herself at last at
Lincoln; where, having all things provided necessary for her defence,
she resolved to continue, and expect either a general revolt of the
English to her side, or the decision of war between the King and her

But Stephen, who had pursued the Empress from place to place, hearing
she had shut herself up in Lincoln, resolved to give her no rest; and to
help on his design, it fell out that the citizens in hatred to the Earl
of Chester, who commanded there for the Empress, sent a private
invitation to the King, with promise to deliver the town and their
governor into his hands. The King came accordingly, and possessed
himself of the town; but Maud and the Earl made their escape a few days
before. However, many great persons of Maud's party remained prisoners
to the King, and among the rest the Earl of Chester's wife, who was
daughter to the Earl of Gloucester. These two Earls resolving to attempt
the relief of their friends, marched with all their forces near Lincoln,
where they found the enemy drawn up and ready to receive them.

The next morning, after battle offered by the lords, and accepted by the
King, both sides made ready to engage. The King having disposed his
cavalry on each wing, placed himself at the head of his foot, in whom he
reposed most confidence. The army of the lords was divided in three
bodies; those whom King Stephen had banished were placed in the middle,
the Earl of Chester led the van, and the Earl of Gloucester commanded
the rear. The battle was fought at first with equal advantage, and great
obstinacy on both sides; at length the right wing of the King's horse,
pressed by the Earl of Chester, galloped away, not without suspicion of
treachery; the left followed the example. The King beheld their flight,
and encouraging those about him, fell with undaunted valour upon the
enemy; and being for some time bravely seconded by his foot, did great
execution. At length overpowered by numbers, his men began to disperse,
and Stephen was left almost alone with his sword in his hand, wherewith
he opposed his person against a whole victorious army, nor durst any be
so hardy to approach him; the sword breaking, a citizen of Lincoln put
into his hands a Danish battle-axe,[33] with which he struck to the
ground the Earl of Chester,[34] who presumed to come within his reach.
But this weapon likewise flying in pieces with the force of those
furious blows he dealt on all sides, a bold knight of the Empress's
party, named William de Keynes, laid hold on his helmet, and immediately
cried out to his fellows, "I have got the King." Then the rest ran in,
and he was taken prisoner.[35]

[Footnote 33: Sim. Dunelmensis. [D.S.]]

[Footnote 34: The Earl of Chester lived nevertheless to fight other
battles, and died twelve years afterwards by poison. [D.S.]]

[Footnote 35: Gervase. [D.S.]]

The King being thus secured, was presented to the Empress, then at
Gloucester, and by her orders conveyed to Bristol, where he continued in
strict custody nine months, although with honourable treatment for some
time, until either upon endeavouring to make his escape, or in malice to
the Londoners, who had a great affection for their King, he was, by
express command from the Empress, laid in irons, and used with other
circumstances of severity.

This victory was followed by a general defection of almost the whole
kingdom; and the Earl of Anjou, husband to the Empress, upon the fame of

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