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William the Conqueror by E. A. Freeman

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old and new, that it is hard to disentangle the few details of his
real history. His descent and birth-place are uncertain; but he
was assuredly a man of Lincolnshire, and assuredly not the son of
Earl Leofric. For some unknown cause, he had been banished in the
days of Edward or of Harold. He now came back to lead his
countrymen against William. He was the soul of the movement of
which the abbey of Ely became the centre. The isle, then easily
defensible, was the last English ground on which the Conqueror was
defied by Englishmen fighting for England. The men of the Fenland
were zealous; the monks of Ely were zealous; helpers came in from
other parts of England. English leaders left their shelter in
Scotland to share the dangers of their countrymen; even Edwin and
Morkere at last plucked up heart to leave William's court and join
the patriotic movement. Edwin was pursued; he was betrayed by
traitors; he was overtaken and slain, to William's deep grief, we
are told. His brother reached the isle, and helped in its defence.
William now felt that the revolt called for his own presence and
his full energies. The isle was stoutly attacked and stoutly
defended, till, according to one version, the monks betrayed the
stronghold to the King. According to another, Morkere was induced
to surrender by promises of mercy which William failed to fulfil.
In any case, before the year 1071 was ended, the isle of Ely was in
William's hands. Hereward alone with a few companions made their
way out by sea. William was less merciful than usual; still no man
was put to death. Some were mutilated, some imprisoned; Morkere
and other chief men spent the rest of their days in bonds. The
temper of the Conqueror had now fearfully hardened. Still he could
honour a valiant enemy; those who resisted to the last fared best.
All the legends of Hereward's later days speak of him as admitted
to William's peace and favour. One makes him die quietly, another
kills him at the hands of Norman enemies, but not at William's
bidding or with William's knowledge. Evidence a little better
suggests that he bore arms for his new sovereign beyond the sea;
and an entry in Domesday also suggests that he held lands under
Count Robert of Mortain in Warwickshire. It would suit William's
policy, when he received Hereward to his favour, to make him
exchange lands near to the scene of his exploits for lands in a
distant shire held under the lordship of the King's brother.

Meanwhile, most likely in the summer months of 1070, Malcolm
ravaged Cleveland, Durham, and other districts where there must
have been little left to ravage. Meanwhile the AEtheling Edgar and
his sisters, with other English exiles, sought shelter in Scotland,
and were hospitably received. At the same time Gospatric, now
William's earl in Northumberland, retaliated by a harrying of
Scottish Cumberland, which provoked Malcolm to greater cruelties.
It was said that there was no house in Scotland so poor that it had
not an English bondman. Presently some of Malcolm's English guests
joined the defenders of Ely; those of highest birth stayed in
Scotland, and Malcolm, after much striving, persuaded Margaret the
sister of Edgar to become his wife. Her praises are written in
Scottish history, and the marriage had no small share in the
process which made the Scottish kings and the lands which formed
their real kingdom practically English. The sons and grandsons of
Margaret, sprung of the Old-English kingly house, were far more
English within their own realm than the Norman and Angevin kings of
Southern England. But within the English border men looked at
things with other eyes. Thrice again did Malcolm ravage England;
two and twenty years later he was slain in his last visit of havoc.
William meanwhile and his earls at least drew to themselves some
measure of loyalty from the men of Northern England as the
guardians of the land against the Scot.

For the present however Malcolm's invasion was only avenged by
Gospatric's harrying in Cumberland. The year 1071 called William
to Ely; in the early part of 1072 his presence was still needed on
the mainland; in August he found leisure for a march against
Scotland. He went as an English king, to assert the rights of the
English crown, to avenge wrongs done to the English land; and on
such an errand Englishmen followed him gladly. Eadric, the
defender of Herefordshire, had made his peace with the King, and he
now held a place of high honour in his army. But if William met
with any armed resistance on his Scottish expedition, it did not
amount to a pitched battle. He passed through Lothian into
Scotland; he crossed Forth and drew near to Tay, and there, by the
round tower of Abernethy, the King of Scots swore oaths and gave
hostages and became the man of the King of the English. William
might now call himself, like his West-Saxon predecessors, Bretwalda
and Basileus of the isle of Britain. This was the highest point of
his fortune. Duke of the Normans, King of the English, he was
undisputed lord from the march of Anjou to the narrow sea between
Caithness and Orkney.

The exact terms of the treaty between William's royal vassal and
his overlord are unknown. But one of them was clearly the removal
of Edgar from Scotland. Before long he was on the continent.
William had not yet learned that Edgar was less dangerous in
Britain than in any other part of the world, and that he was safest
of all in William's own court. Homage done and hostages received,
the Lord of all Britain returned to his immediate kingdom. His
march is connected with many legendary stories. In real history it
is marked by the foundation of the castle of Durham, and by the
Conqueror's confirmation of the privileges of the palatine bishops.
If all the earls of England had been like the earls of Chester, and
all the bishops like the bishops of Durham, England would assuredly
have split up, like Germany, into a loose federation of temporal
and spiritual princes. This it was William's special work to
hinder; but he doubtless saw that the exceptional privileges of one
or two favoured lordships, standing in marked contrast to the rest,
would not really interfere with his great plan of union. And
William would hardly have confirmed the sees of London or
Winchester in the privileges which he allowed to the distant see of
Durham. He now also made a grant of earldoms, the object of which
is less clear than that of most of his actions. It is not easy to
say why Gospatric was deprived of his earldom. His former acts of
hostility to William had been covered by his pardon and
reappointment in 1069; and since then he had acted as a loyal, if
perhaps an indiscreet, guardian of the land. Two greater earldoms
than his had become vacant by the revolt, the death, the
imprisonment, of Edwin and Morkere. But these William had no
intention of filling. He would not have in his realm anything so
dangerous as an earl of the Mercian's or the Northumbrians in the
old sense, whether English or Norman. But the defence of the
northern frontier needed an earl to rule Northumberland in the
later sense, the land north of the Tyne. And after the fate of
Robert of Comines, William could not as yet put a Norman earl in so
perilous a post. But the Englishman whom he chose was open to the
same charges as the deposed Gospatric. For he was Waltheof the son
of Siward, the hero of the storm of York in 1069. Already Earl of
Northampton and Huntingdon, he was at this time high in the King's
personal favour, perhaps already the husband of the King's niece.
One side of William's policy comes out here. Union was sometimes
helped by division. There were men whom William loved to make
great, but whom he had no mind to make dangerous. He gave them
vast estates, but estates for the most part scattered over
different parts of the kingdom. It was only in the border earldoms
and in Cornwall that he allowed anything at all near to the
lordship of a whole shire to be put in the hands of a single man.
One Norman and one Englishman held two earldoms together; but they
were earldoms far apart. Roger of Montgomery held the earldoms of
Shrewsbury and Sussex, and Waltheof to his midland earldom of
Northampton and Huntingdon now added the rule of distant
Northumberland. The men who had fought most stoutly against
William were the men whom he most willingly received to favour.
Eadric and Hereward were honoured; Waltheof was honoured more
highly. He ranked along with the greatest Normans; his position
was perhaps higher than any but the King's born kinsmen. But the
whole tale of Waltheof is a problem that touches the character of
the king under whom he rose and fell. Lifted up higher than any
other man among the conquered, he was the one man whom William put
to death on a political charge. It is hard to see the reasons for
either his rise or his fall. It was doubtless mainly his end which
won him the abiding reverence of his countrymen. His valour and
his piety are loudly praised. But his valour we know only from his
one personal exploit at York; his piety was consistent with a base
murder. In other matters, he seems amiable, irresolute, and of a
scrupulous conscience, and Northumbrian morality perhaps saw no
great crime in a murder committed under the traditions of a
Northumbrian deadly feud. Long before Waltheof was born, his
grandfather Earl Ealdred had been killed by a certain Carl. The
sons of Carl had fought by his side at York; but, notwithstanding
this comradeship, the first act of Waltheof's rule in
Northumberland was to send men to slay them beyond the bounds of
his earldom. A crime that was perhaps admired in Northumberland
and unheard of elsewhere did not lose him either the favour of the
King or the friendship of his neighbour Bishop Walcher, a reforming
prelate with whom Waltheof acted in concert. And when he was
chosen as the single exception to William's merciful rule, it was
not for this undoubted crime, but on charges of which, even if
guilty, he might well have been forgiven.

The sojourn of William on the continent in 1072 carries us out of
England and Normandy into the general affairs of Europe. Signs may
have already showed themselves of what was coming to the south of
Normandy; but the interest of the moment lay in the country of
Matilda. Flanders, long the firm ally of Normandy, was now to
change into a bitter enemy. Count Baldwin died in 1067; his
successor of the same name died three years later, and a war
followed between his widow Richildis, the guardian of his young son
Arnulf, and his brother Robert the Frisian. Robert had won fame in
the East; he had received the sovereignty of Friesland--a name
which takes in Holland and Zealand--and he was now invited to
deliver Flanders from the oppressions of Richildis. Meanwhile,
Matilda was acting as regent of Normandy, with Earl William of
Hereford as her counsellor. Richildis sought help of her son's two
overlords, King Henry of Germany and King Philip of France. Philip
came in person; the German succours were too late. From Normandy
came Earl William with a small party of knights. The kings had
been asked for armies; to the Earl she offered herself, and he came
to fight for his bride. But early in 1071 Philip, Arnulf, and
William, were all overthrown by Robert the Frisian in the battle of
Cassel. Arnulf and Earl William were killed; Philip made peace
with Robert, henceforth undisputed Count of Flanders.

All this brought King William to the continent, while the invasion
of Malcolm was still unavenged. No open war followed between
Normandy and Flanders; but for the rest of their lives Robert and
William were enemies, and each helped the enemies of the other.
William gave his support to Baldwin brother of the slain Arnulf,
who strove to win Flanders from Robert. But the real interest of
this episode lies in the impression which was made in the lands
east of Flanders. In the troubled state of Germany, when Henry the
Fourth was striving with the Saxons, both sides seem to have looked
to the Conqueror of England with hope and with fear. On this
matter our English and Norman authorities are silent, and the
notices in the contemporary German writers are strangely unlike one
another. But they show at least that the prince who ruled on both
sides of the sea was largely in men's thoughts. The Saxon enemy of
Henry describes him in his despair as seeking help in Denmark,
France, Aquitaine, and also of the King of the English, promising
him the like help, if he should ever need it. William and Henry
had both to guard against Saxon enmity, but the throne at
Winchester stood firmer than the throne at Goslar. But the
historian of the continental Saxons puts into William's mouth an
answer utterly unsuited to his position. He is made, when in
Normandy, to answer that, having won his kingdom by force, he fears
to leave it, lest he might not find his way back again. Far more
striking is the story told three years later by Lambert of
Herzfeld. Henry, when engaged in an Hungarian war, heard that the
famous Archbishop Hanno of Koln had leagued with William Bostar--so
is his earliest surname written--King of the English, and that a
vast army was coming to set the island monarch on the German
throne. The host never came; but Henry hastened back to guard his
frontier against BARBARIANS. By that phrase a Teutonic writer can
hardly mean the insular part of William's subjects.

Now assuredly William never cherished, as his successor probably
did, so wild a dream as that of a kingly crowning at Aachen, to be
followed perhaps by an imperial crowning at Rome. But that such
schemes were looked on as a practical danger against which the
actual German King had to guard, at least shows the place which the
Conqueror of England held in European imagination.

For the three or four years immediately following the surrender of
Ely, William's journeys to and fro between his kingdom and his
duchy were specially frequent. Matilda seems to have always stayed
in Normandy; she is never mentioned in England after the year of
her coronation and the birth of her youngest son, and she commonly
acted as regent of the duchy. In the course of 1072 we see William
in England, in Normandy, again in England, and in Scotland. In
1073 he was called beyond sea by a formidable movement. His great
continental conquest had risen against him; Le Mans and all Maine
were again independent. City and land chose for them a prince who
came by female descent from the stock of their ancient counts.
This was Hugh the son of Azo Marquess of Liguria and of Gersendis
the sister of the last Count Herbert. The Normans were driven out
of Le Mans; Azo came to take possession in the name of his son, but
he and the citizens did not long agree. He went back, leaving his
wife and son under the guardianship of Geoffrey of Mayenne.
Presently the men of Le Mans threw off princely rule altogether and
proclaimed the earliest commune in Northern Gaul. Here then, as at
Exeter, William had to strive against an armed commonwealth, and,
as at Exeter, we specially wish to know what were to be the
relations between the capital and the county at large. The mass of
the people throughout Maine threw themselves zealously into the
cause of the commonwealth. But their zeal might not have lasted
long, if, according to the usual run of things in such cases, they
had simply exchanged the lordship of their hereditary masters for
the corporate lordship of the citizens of Le Mans. To the nobles
the change was naturally distasteful. They had to swear to the
commune, but many of them, Geoffrey for one, had no thought of
keeping their oaths. Dissensions arose; Hugh went back to Italy;
Geoffrey occupied the castle of Le Mans, and the citizens dislodged
him only by the dangerous help of the other prince who claimed the
overlordship of Maine, Count Fulk of Anjou.

If Maine was to have a master from outside, the lord of Anjou
hardly promised better than the lord of Normandy. But men in
despair grasp at anything. The strange thing is that Fulk
disappears now from the story; William steps in instead. And it
was at least as much in his English as in his Norman character that
the Duke and King won back the revolted land. A place in his army
was held by English warriors, seemingly under the command of
Hereward himself. Men who had fought for freedom in their own land
now fought at the bidding of their Conqueror to put down freedom in
another land. They went willingly; the English Chronicler
describes the campaign with glee, and breaks into verse--or
incorporates a contemporary ballad--at the tale of English victory.
Few men of that day would see that the cause of Maine was in truth
the cause of England. If York and Exeter could not act in concert
with one another, still less could either act in concert with Le
Mans. Englishmen serving in Maine would fancy that they were
avenging their own wrongs by laying waste the lands of any man who
spoke the French tongue. On William's part, the employment of
Englishmen, the employment of Hereward, was another stroke of
policy. It was more fully following out the system which led
Englishmen against Exeter, which led Eadric and his comrades into
Scotland. For in every English soldier whom William carried into
Maine he won a loyal English subject. To men who had fought under
his banners beyond the sea he would be no longer the Conqueror but
the victorious captain; they would need some very special
oppression at home to make them revolt against the chief whose
laurels they had helped to win. As our own gleeman tells the tale,
they did little beyond harrying the helpless land; but in
continental writers we can trace a regular campaign, in which we
hear of no battles, but of many sieges. William, as before,
subdued the land piecemeal, keeping the city for the last. When he
drew near to Le Mans, its defenders surrendered at his summons, to
escape fire and slaughter by speedy submission. The new commune
was abolished, but the Conqueror swore to observe all the ancient
rights of the city.

All this time we have heard nothing of Count Fulk. Presently we
find him warring against nobles of Maine who had taken William's
part, and leaguing with the Bretons against William himself. The
King set forth with his whole force, Norman and English; but peace
was made by the mediation of an unnamed Roman cardinal, abetted, we
are told, by the chief Norman nobles. Success against confederated
Anjou and Britanny might be doubtful, with Maine and England
wavering in their allegiance, and France, Scotland, and Flanders,
possible enemies in the distance. The rights of the Count of Anjou
over Maine were formally acknowledged, and William's eldest son
Robert did homage to Fulk for the county. Each prince stipulated
for the safety and favour of all subjects of the other who had
taken his side. Between Normandy and Anjou there was peace during
the rest of the days of William; in Maine we shall see yet another
revolt, though only a partial one.

William went back to England in 1073. In 1074 he went to the
continent for a longer absence. As the time just after the first
completion of the Conquest is spoken of as a time when Normans and
English were beginning to sit down side by side in peace, so the
years which followed the submission of Ely are spoken of as a time
of special oppression. This fact is not unconnected with the
King's frequent absences from England. Whatever we say of
William's own position, he was a check on smaller oppressors.
Things were always worse when the eye of the great master was no
longer watching. William's one weakness was that of putting
overmuch trust in his immediate kinsfolk and friends. Of the two
special oppressors, William Fitz-Osbern had thrown away his life in
Flanders; but Bishop Ode was still at work, till several years
later his king and brother struck him down with a truly righteous

The year 1074, not a year of fighting, was pro-eminently a year of
intrigue. William's enemies on the continent strove to turn the
representative of the West-Saxon kings to help their ends. Edgar
flits to and fro between Scotland and Flanders, and the King of the
French tempts him with the offer of a convenient settlement on the
march of France, Normandy, and Flanders. Edgar sets forth from
Scotland, but is driven back by a storm; Malcolm and Margaret then
change their minds, and bid him make his peace with King William.
William gladly accepts his submission; an embassy is sent to bring
him with all worship to the King in Normandy. He abides for
several years in William's court contented and despised, receiving
a daily pension and the profits of estates in England of no great
extent which the King of a moment held by the grant of a rival who
could afford to be magnanimous.

Edgar's after-life showed that he belonged to that class of men
who, as a rule slothful and listless, can yet on occasion act with
energy, and who act most creditably on behalf of others. But
William had no need to fear him, and he was easily turned into a
friend and a dependant. Edgar, first of Englishmen by descent, was
hardly an Englishman by birth. William had now to deal with the
Englishman who stood next to Edgar in dignity and far above him in
personal estimation. We have reached the great turning-point in
William's reign and character, the black and mysterious tale of the
fate of Waltheof. The Earl of Northumberland, Northampton, and
Huntingdon, was not the only earl in England of English birth. The
earldom of the East-Angles was held by a born Englishman who was
more hateful than any stranger. Ralph of Wader was the one
Englishman who had fought at William's side against England. He
often passes for a native of Britanny, and he certainly held lands
and castles in that country; but he was Breton only by the mother's
side. For Domesday and the Chronicles show that he was the son of
an elder Earl Ralph, who had been staller or master of the horse in
Edward's days, and who is expressly said to have been born in
Norfolk. The unusual name suggests that the elder Ralph was not of
English descent. He survived the coming of William, and his son
fought on Senlac among the countrymen of his mother. This treason
implies an unrecorded banishment in the days of Edward or Harold.
Already earl in 1069, he had in that year acted vigorously for
William against the Danes. But he now conspired against him along
with Roger, the younger son of William Fitz-Osbern, who had
succeeded his father in the earldom of Hereford, while his Norman
estates had passed to his elder brother William. What grounds of
complaint either Ralph or Roger had against William we know not;
but that the loyalty of the Earl of Hereford was doubtful
throughout the year 1074 appears from several letters of rebuke and
counsel sent to him by the Regent Lanfranc. At last the wielder of
both swords took to his spiritual arms, and pronounced the Earl
excommunicate, till he should submit to the King's mercy and make
restitution to the King and to all men whom he had wronged. Roger
remained stiff-necked under the Primate's censure, and presently
committed an act of direct disobedience. The next year, 1075, he
gave his sister Emma in marriage to Earl Ralph. This marriage the
King had forbidden, on some unrecorded ground of state policy.
Most likely he already suspected both earls, and thought any tie
between them dangerous. The notice shows William stepping in to
do, as an act of policy, what under his successors became a matter
of course, done with the sole object of making money. The bride-
ale--the name that lurks in the modern shape of bridal--was held at
Exning in Cambridgeshire; bishops and abbots were guests of the
excommunicated Roger; Waltheof was there, and many Breton comrades
of Ralph. In their cups they began to plot how they might drive
the King out of the kingdom. Charges, both true and false, were
brought against William; in a mixed gathering of Normans, English,
and Bretons, almost every act of William's life might pass as a
wrong done to some part of the company, even though some others of
the company were his accomplices. Above all, the two earls Ralph
and Roger made a distinct proposal to their fellow-earl Waltheof.
King William should be driven out of the land; one of the three
should be King; the other two should remain earls, ruling each over
a third of the kingdom. Such a scheme might attract earls, but no
one else; it would undo William's best and greatest work; it would
throw back the growing unity of the kingdom by all the steps that
it had taken during several generations.

Now what amount of favour did Waltheof give to these schemes?
Weighing the accounts, it would seem that, in the excitement of the
bride-ale, he consented to the treason, but that he thought better
of it the next morning. He went to Lanfranc, at once regent and
ghostly father, and confessed to him whatever he had to confess.
The Primate assigned his penitent some ecclesiastical penances; the
Regent bade the Earl go into Normandy and tell the whole tale to
the King. Waltheof went, with gifts in hand; he told his story and
craved forgiveness. William made light of the matter, and kept
Waltheof with him, but seemingly not under restraint, till he came
back to England.

Meanwhile the other two earls were in open rebellion. Ralph, half
Breton by birth and earl of a Danish land, asked help in Britanny
and Denmark. Bretons from Britanny and Bretons settled in England
flocked to him. King Swegen, now almost at the end of his reign
and life, listened to the call of the rebels, and sent a fleet
under the command of his son Cnut, the future saint, together with
an earl named Hakon. The revolt in England was soon put down, both
in East and West. The rebel earls met with no support save from
those who were under their immediate influence. The country acted
zealously for the King. Lanfranc could report that Earl Ralph and
his army were fleeing, and that the King's men, French and English,
were chasing them. In another letter he could add, with some
strength of language, that the kingdom was cleansed from the filth
of the Bretons. At Norwich only the castle was valiantly defended
by the newly married Countess Emma. Roger was taken prisoner;
Ralph fled to Britanny; their followers were punished with various
mutilations, save the defenders of Norwich, who were admitted to
terms. The Countess joined her husband in Britanny, and in days to
come Ralph did something to redeem so many treasons by dying as an
armed pilgrim in the first crusade.

The main point of this story is that the revolt met with no English
support whatever. Not only did Bishop Wulfstan march along with
his fierce Norman brethren Ode and Geoffrey; the English people
everywhere were against the rebels. For this revolt offered no
attraction to English feeling; had the undertaking been less
hopeless, nothing could have been gained by exchanging the rule of
William for that of Ralph or Roger. It might have been different
if the Danes had played their part better. The rebellion broke out
while William was in Normandy; it was the sailing of the Danish
fleet which brought him back to England. But never did enterprise
bring less honour on its leaders than this last Danish voyage up
the Humber. All that the holy Cnut did was to plunder the minster
of Saint Peter at York and to sail away.

His coming however seems to have altogether changed the King's
feelings with regard to Waltheof. As yet he had not been dealt
with as a prisoner or an enemy. He now came back to England with
the King, and William's first act was to imprison both Waltheof and
Roger. The imprisonment of Roger, a rebel taken in arms, was a
matter of course. As for Waltheof, whatever he had promised at the
bride-ale, he had done no disloyal act; he had had no share in the
rebellion, and he had told the King all that he knew. But he had
listened to traitors, and it might be dangerous to leave him at
large when a Danish fleet, led by his old comrade Cnut, was
actually afloat. Still what followed is strange indeed, specially
strange with William as its chief doer.

At the Midwinter Gemot of 1075-1076 Roger and Waltheof were brought
to trial. Ralph was condemned in absence, like Eustace of
Boulogne. Roger was sentenced to forfeiture and imprisonment for
life. Waltheof made his defence; his sentence was deferred; he was
kept at Winchester in a straiter imprisonment than before. At the
Pentecostal Gemot of 1076, held at Westminster, his case was again
argued, and he was sentenced to death. On the last day of May the
last English earl was beheaded on the hills above Winchester.

Such a sentence and execution, strange at any time, is specially
strange under William. Whatever Waltheof had done, his offence was
lighter than that of Roger; yet Waltheof has the heavier and Roger
the lighter punishment. With Scroggs or Jeffreys on the bench, it
might have been argued that Waltheof's confession to the King did
not, in strictness of law, wipe out the guilt of his original
promise to the conspirators; but William the Great did not commonly
act after the fashion of Scroggs and Jeffreys. To deprive Waltheof
of his earldom might doubtless be prudent; a man who had even
listened to traitors might be deemed unfit for such a trust. It
might be wise to keep him safe under the King's eye, like Edwin,
Morkere, and Edgar. But why should he be picked out for death,
when the far more guilty Roger was allowed to live? Why should he
be chosen as the one victim of a prince who never before or after,
in Normandy or in England, doomed any man to die on a political
charge? These are questions hard to answer. It is not enough to
say that Waltheof was an Englishman, that it was William's policy
gradually to get rid of Englishmen in high places, and that the
time was now come to get rid of the last. For such a policy
forfeiture, or at most imprisonment, would have been enough. While
other Englishmen lost lands, honours, at most liberty, Waltheof
alone lost his life by a judicial sentence. It is likely enough
that many Normans hungered for the lands and honours of the one
Englishman who still held the highest rank in England. Still
forfeiture without death might have satisfied even them. But
Waltheof was not only earl of three shires; he was husband of the
King's near kinswoman. We are told that Judith was the enemy and
accuser of her husband. This may have touched William's one weak
point. Yet he would hardly have swerved from the practice of his
whole life to please the bloody caprice of a niece who longed for
the death of her husband. And if Judith longed for Waltheof's
death, it was not from a wish to supply his place with another.
Legend says that she refused a second husband offered her by the
King; it is certain that she remained a widow.

Waltheof's death must thus remain a mystery, an isolated deed of
blood unlike anything else in William's life. It seems to have
been impolitic; it led to no revolt, but it called forth a new
burst of English feeling. Waltheof was deemed the martyr of his
people; he received the same popular canonization as more than one
English patriot. Signs and wonders were wrought at his tomb at
Crowland, till displays of miraculous power which were so
inconsistent with loyalty and good order were straitly forbidden.
The act itself marks a stage in the downward course of William's
character. In itself, the harrying of Northumberland, the very
invasion of England, with all the bloodshed that they caused, might
be deemed blacker crimes than the unjust death of a single man.
But as human nature stands, the less crime needs a worse man to do
it. Crime, as ever, led to further crime and was itself the
punishment of crime. In the eyes of William's contemporaries the
death of Waltheof, the blackest act of William's life, was also its
turning-point. From the day of the martyrdom on Saint Giles' hill
the magic of William's name and William's arms passed away.
Unfailing luck no longer waited on him; after Waltheof's death he
never, till his last campaign of all, won a battle or took a town.
In this change of William's fortunes the men of his own day saw the
judgement of God upon his crime. And in the fact at least they
were undoubtedly right. Henceforth, though William's real power
abides unshaken, the tale of his warfare is chiefly a tale of petty
defeats. The last eleven years of his life would never have won
him the name of Conqueror. But in the higher walk of policy and
legislation never was his nobler surname more truly deserved.
Never did William the Great show himself so truly great as in these
later years.

The death of Waltheof and the popular judgement on it suggest
another act of William's which cannot have been far from it in
point of time, and about which men spoke in his own day in the same
spirit. If the judgement of God came on William for the beheading
of Waltheof, it came on him also for the making of the New Forest.
As to that forest there is a good deal of ancient exaggeration and
a good deal of modern misconception. The word forest is often
misunderstood. In its older meaning, a meaning which it still
keeps in some parts, a forest has nothing to do with trees. It is
a tract of land put outside the common law and subject to a
stricter law of its own, and that commonly, probably always, to
secure for the King the freer enjoyment of the pleasure of hunting.
Such a forest William made in Hampshire; the impression which it
made on men's minds at the time is shown by its having kept the
name of the New Forest for eight hundred years. There is no reason
to think that William laid waste any large tract of specially
fruitful country, least of all that he laid waste a land thickly
inhabited; for most of the Forest land never can have been such.
But it is certain from Domesday and the Chronicle that William did
afforest a considerable tract of land in Hampshire; he set it apart
for the purposes of hunting; he fenced it in by special and cruel
laws--stopping indeed short of death--for the protection of his
pleasures, and in this process some men lost their lands, and were
driven from their homes. Some destruction of houses is here
implied; some destruction of churches is not unlikely. The popular
belief, which hardly differs from the account of writers one degree
later than Domesday and the Chronicle, simply exaggerates the
extent of destruction. There was no such wide-spread laying waste
as is often supposed, because no such wide-spread laying waste was
needed. But whatever was needed for William's purpose was done;
and Domesday gives us the record. And the act surely makes, like
the death of Waltheof, a downward stage in William's character.
The harrying of Northumberland was in itself a far greater crime,
and involved far more of human wretchedness. But it is not
remembered in the same way, because it has left no such abiding
memorial. But here again the lesser crime needed a worse man to do
it. The harrying of Northumberland was a crime done with a
political object; it was the extreme form of military severity; it
was not vulgar robbery done with no higher motive than to secure
the fuller enjoyment of a brutal sport. To this level William had
now sunk. It was in truth now that hunting in England finally took
the character of a mere sport. Hunting was no new thing; in an
early state of society it is often a necessary thing. The hunting
of Alfred is spoken of as a grave matter of business, as part of
his kingly duty. He had to make war on the wild beasts, as he had
to make war on the Danes. The hunting of William is simply a
sport, not his duty or his business, but merely his pleasure. And
to this pleasure, the pleasure of inflicting pain and slaughter, he
did not scruple to sacrifice the rights of other men, and to guard
his enjoyment by ruthless laws at which even in that rough age men

For this crime the men of his day saw the punishment in the strange
and frightful deaths of his offspring, two sons and a grandson, on
the scene of his crime. One of these himself he saw, the death of
his second son Richard, a youth of great promise, whose prolonged
life might have saved England from the rule of William Rufus. He
died in the Forest, about the year 1081, to the deep grief of his
parents. And Domesday contains a touching entry, how William gave
back his land to a despoiled Englishman as an offering for
Richard's soul.

The forfeiture of three earls, the death of one, threw their
honours and estates into the King's hands. Another fresh source of
wealth came by the death of the Lady Edith, who had kept her royal
rank and her great estates, and who died while the proceedings
against Waltheof were going on. It was not now so important for
William as it had been in the first years of the Conquest to reward
his followers; he could now think of the royal hoard in the first
place. Of the estates which now fell in to the Crown large parts
were granted out. The house of Bigod, afterwards so renowned as
Earls of Norfolk, owe their rise to their forefather's share in the
forfeited lands of Earl Ralph. But William kept the greater part
to himself; one lordship in Somerset, part of the lands of the
Lady, he gave to the church of Saint Peter at Rome. Of the three
earldoms, those of Hereford and East-Anglia were not filled up; the
later earldoms of those lands have no connexion with the earls of
William's day. Waltheof's southern earldoms of Northampton and
Huntingdon became the dowry of his daughter Matilda; that of
Huntingdon passed to his descendants the Kings of Scots. But
Northumberland, close on the Scottish border, still needed an earl;
but there is something strange in the choice of Bishop Walcher of
Durham. It is possible that this appointment was a concession to
English feeling stirred to wrath at the death of Waltheof. The
days of English earls were over, and a Norman would have been
looked on as Waltheof's murderer. The Lotharingian bishop was a
stranger; but he was not a Norman, and he was no oppressor of
Englishmen. But he was strangely unfit for the place. Not a
fighting bishop like Ode and Geoffrey, he was chiefly devoted to
spiritual affairs, specially to the revival of the monastic life,
which had died out in Northern England since the Danish invasions.
But his weak trust in unworthy favourites, English and foreign, led
him to a fearful and memorable end. The Bishop was on terms of
close friendship with Ligulf, an Englishman of the highest birth
and uncle by marriage to Earl Waltheof. He had kept his estates;
but the insolence of his Norman neighbours had caused him to come
and live in the city of Durham near his friend the Bishop. His
favour with Walcher roused the envy of some of the Bishop's
favourites, who presently contrived his death. The Bishop
lamented, and rebuked them; but he failed to "do justice," to
punish the offenders sternly and speedily. He was therefore
believed to be himself guilty of Ligulf's death. One of the most
striking and instructive events of the time followed. On May 14,
1080, a full Gemot of the earldom was held at Gateshead to deal
with the murder of Ligulf. This was one of those rare occasions
when a strong feeling led every man to the assembly. The local
Parliament took its ancient shape of an armed crowd, headed by the
noblest Englishmen left in the earldom. There was no vote, no
debate; the shout was "Short rede good rede, slay ye the Bishop."
And to that cry, Walcher himself and his companions, the murderers
of Ligulf among them, were slaughtered by the raging multitude who
had gathered to avenge him.

The riot in which Walcher died was no real revolt against William's
government. Such a local rising against a local wrong might have
happened in the like case under Edward or Harold. No government
could leave such a deed unpunished; but William's own ideas of
justice would have been fully satisfied by the blinding or
mutilation of a few ringleaders. But William was in Normandy in
the midst of domestic and political cares. He sent his brother Ode
to restore order, and his vengeance was frightful. The land was
harried; innocent men were mutilated and put to death; others saved
their lives by bribes. Earl after earl was set over a land so hard
to rule. A certain Alberie was appointed, but he was removed as
unfit. The fierce Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances tried his hand and
resigned. At the time of William's death the earldom was held by
Geoffrey's nephew Robert of Mowbray, a stern and gloomy stranger,
but whom Englishmen reckoned among "good men," when he guarded the
marches of England against the Scot.

After the death of Waltheof William seems to have stayed in
Normandy for several years. His ill luck now began. Before the
year 1076 was out, he entered, we know not why, on a Breton
campaign. But he was driven from Dol by the combined forces of
Britanny and France; Philip was ready to help any enemy of William.
The Conqueror had now for the first time suffered defeat in his own
person. He made peace with both enemies, promising his daughter
Constance to Alan of Britanny. But the marriage did not follow
till ten years later. The peace with France, as the English
Chronicle says, "held little while;" Philip could not resist the
temptation of helping William's eldest son Robert when the reckless
young man rebelled against his father. With most of the qualities
of an accomplished knight, Robert had few of those which make
either a wise ruler or an honest man. A brave soldier, even a
skilful captain, he was no general; ready of speech and free of
hand, he was lavish rather than bountiful. He did not lack
generous and noble feelings; but of a steady course, even in evil,
he was incapable. As a ruler, he was no oppressor in his own
person; but sloth, carelessness, love of pleasure, incapacity to
say No, failure to do justice, caused more wretchedness than the
oppression of those tyrants who hinder the oppressions of others.
William would not set such an one over any part of his dominions
before his time, and it was his policy to keep his children
dependent on him. While he enriched his brothers, he did not give
the smallest scrap of the spoils of England to his sons. But
Robert deemed that he had a right to something greater than private
estates. The nobles of Normandy had done homage to him as
William's successor; he had done homage to Fulk for Maine, as if he
were himself its count. He was now stirred up by evil companions
to demand that, if his father would not give him part of his
kingdom--the spirit of Edwin and Morkere had crossed the sea--he
would at least give him Normandy and Maine. William refused with
many pithy sayings. It was not his manner to take off his clothes
till he went to bed. Robert now, with a band of discontented young
nobles, plunged into border warfare against his father. He then
wandered over a large part of Europe, begging and receiving money
and squandering all that he got. His mother too sent him money,
which led to the first quarrel between William and Matilda after so
many years of faithful union. William rebuked his wife for helping
his enemy in breach of his orders: she pleaded the mother's love
for her first-born. The mother was forgiven, but her messenger,
sentenced to loss of eyes, found shelter in a monastery.

At last in 1079 Philip gave Robert a settled dwelling-place in the
border-fortress of Gerberoi. The strife between father and son
became dangerous. William besieged the castle, to undergo before
its walls his second defeat, to receive his first wound, and that
at the hands of his own son. Pierced in the hand by the lance of
Robert, his horse smitten by an arrow, the Conqueror fell to the
ground, and was saved only by an Englishman, Tokig, son of Wiggod
of Wallingford, who gave his life for his king. It seems an early
softening of the tale which says that Robert dismounted and craved
his father's pardon; it seems a later hardening which says that
William pronounced a curse on his son. William Rufus too, known as
yet only as the dutiful son of his father, was wounded in his
defence. The blow was not only grievous to William's feelings as a
father; it was a serious military defeat. The two wounded Williams
and the rest of the besiegers escaped how they might, and the siege
of Gerberoi was raised.

We next find the wise men of Normandy debating how to make peace
between father and son. In the course of the year 1080 a peace was
patched up, and a more honourable sphere was found for Robert's
energies in an expedition into Scotland. In the autumn of the year
of Gerberoi Malcolm had made another wasting inroad into
Northumberland. With the King absent and Northumberland in
confusion through the death of Walcher, this wrong went unavenged
till the autumn of 1080. Robert gained no special glory in
Scotland; a second quarrel with his father followed, and Robert
remained a banished man during the last seven years of William's

In this same year 1080 a synod of the Norman Church was held, the
Truce of God again renewed which we heard of years ago. The forms
of outrage on which the Truce was meant to put a cheek, and which
the strong hand of William had put down more thoroughly than the
Truce would do, had clearly begun again during the confusions
caused by the rebellion of Robert.

The two next years, 1081-1082, William was in England. His home
sorrows were now pressing heavily on him. His eldest son was a
rebel and an exile; about this time his second son died in the New
Forest; according to one version, his daughter, the betrothed of
Edwin, who had never forgotten her English lover, was now promised
to the Spanish King Alfonso, and died--in answer to her own
prayers--before the marriage was celebrated. And now the partner
of William's life was taken from him four years after his one
difference with her. On November 3, 1083, Matilda died after a
long sickness, to her husband's lasting grief. She was buried in
her own church at Caen, and churches in England received gifts from
William on behalf of her soul.

The mourner had soon again to play the warrior. Nearly the whole
of William's few remaining years were spent in a struggle which in
earlier times he would surely have ended in a day. Maine, city and
county, did not call for a third conquest; but a single baron of
Maine defied William's power, and a single castle of Maine held out
against him for three years. Hubert, Viscount of Beaumont and
Fresnay, revolted on some slight quarrel. The siege of his castle
of Sainte-Susanne went on from the death of Matilda till the last
year but one of William's reign. The tale is full of picturesque
detail; but William had little personal share in it. The best
captains of Normandy tried their strength in vain against this one
donjon on its rock. William at last made peace with the subject
who was too strong for him. Hubert came to England and received
the King's pardon. Practically the pardon was the other way.

Thus for the last eleven years of his life William ceased to be the
Conqueror. Engaged only in small enterprises, he was unsuccessful
in all. One last success was indeed in store for him; but that was
to be purchased with his own life. As he turned away in defeat
from this castle and that, as he felt the full bitterness of
domestic sorrow, he may have thought, as others thought for him,
that the curse of Waltheof, the curse of the New Forest, was ever
tracking his steps. If so, his crimes were done in England, and
their vengeance came in Normandy. In England there was no further
room for his mission as Conqueror; he had no longer foes to
overcome. He had an act of justice to do, and he did it. He had
his kingdom to guard, and he guarded it. He had to take the great
step which should make his kingdom one for ever; and he had,
perhaps without fully knowing what he did, to bid the picture of
his reign be painted for all time as no reign before or after has
been painted.


Of two events of these last years of the Conqueror's reign, events
of very different degrees of importance, we have already spoken.
The Welsh expedition of William was the only recorded fighting on
British ground, and that lay without the bounds of the kingdom of
England. William now made Normandy his chief dwelling-place, but
he was constantly called over to England. The Welsh campaign
proves his presence in England in 1081; he was again in England in
1082, but he went back to Normandy between the two visits. The
visit of 1082 was a memorable one; there is no more characteristic
act of the Conqueror than the deed which marks it. The cruelty and
insolence of his brother Ode, whom he had trusted so much more than
he deserved, had passed all bounds. In avenging the death of
Walcher he had done deeds such as William never did himself or
allowed any other man to do. And now, beguiled by a soothsayer who
said that one of his name should be the next Pope, he dreamed of
succeeding to the throne of Gregory the Seventh. He made all kinds
of preparations to secure his succession, and he was at last about
to set forth for Italy at the head of something like an army. His
schemes were by no means to the liking of his brother. William
came suddenly over from Normandy, and met Ode in the Isle of Wight.
There the King got together as many as he could of the great men of
the realm. Before them he arraigned Ode for all his crimes. He
had left him as the lieutenant of his kingdom, and he had shown
himself the common oppressor of every class of men in the realm.
Last of all, he had beguiled the warriors who were needed for the
defence of England against the Danes and Irish to follow him on his
wild schemes in Italy. How was he to deal with such a brother,
William asked of his wise men.

He had to answer himself; no other man dared to speak. William
then gave his judgement. The common enemy of the whole realm
should not be spared because he was the King's brother. He should
be seized and put in ward. As none dared to seize him, the King
seized him with his own hands. And now, for the first time in
England, we hear words which were often heard again. The bishop
stained with blood and sacrilege appealed to the privileges of his
order. He was a clerk, a bishop; no man might judge him but the
Pope. William, taught, so men said, by Lanfranc, had his answer
ready. "I do not seize a clerk or a bishop; I seize my earl whom I
set over my kingdom." So the Earl of Kent was carried off to a
prison in Normandy, and Pope Gregory himself pleaded in vain for
the release of the Bishop of Bayeux.

The mind of William was just now mainly given to the affairs of his
island kingdom. In the winter of 1083 he hastened from the death-
bed of his wife to the siege of Sainte-Susanne, and thence to the
Midwinter Gemot in England. The chief object of the assembly was
the specially distasteful one of laying on of a tax. In the course
of the next year, six shillings was levied on every hide of land to
meet a pressing need. The powers of the North were again
threatening; the danger, if it was danger, was greater than when
Waltheof smote the Normans in the gate at York. Swegen and his
successor Harold were dead. Cnut the Saint reigned in Denmark, the
son-in-law of Robert of Flanders. This alliance with William's
enemy joined with his remembrance of his own two failures to stir
up the Danish king to a yearning for some exploit in England.
English exiles were still found to urge him to the enterprise.
William's conquest had scattered banished or discontented
Englishmen over all Europe. Many had made their way to the Eastern
Rome; they had joined the Warangian guard, the surest support of
the Imperial throne, and at Dyrrhachion, as on Senlac, the axe of
England had met the lance of Normandy in battle. Others had fled
to the North; they prayed Cnut to avenge the death of his kinsman
Harold and to deliver England from the yoke of men--so an English
writer living in Denmark spoke of them--of Roman speech. Thus the
Greek at one end of Europe, the Norman at the other, still kept on
the name of Rome. The fleet of Denmark was joined by the fleet of
Flanders; a smaller contingent was promised by the devout and
peaceful Olaf of Norway, who himself felt no call to take a share
in the work of war.

Against this danger William strengthened himself by the help of the
tax that he had just levied. He could hardly have dreamed of
defending England against Danish invaders by English weapons only.
But he thought as little of trusting the work to his own Normans.
With the money of England he hired a host of mercenaries, horse and
foot, from France and Britanny, even from Maine where Hubert was
still defying him at Sainte-Susanne. He gathered this force on the
mainland, and came back at its head, a force such as England had
never before seen; men wondered how the land might feed them all.
The King's men, French and English, had to feed them, each man
according to the amount of his land. And now William did what
Harold had refused to do; he laid waste the whole coast that lay
open to attack from Denmark and Flanders. But no Danes, no
Flemings, came. Disputes arose between Cnut and his brother Olaf,
and the great enterprise came to nothing. William kept part of his
mercenaries in England, and part he sent to their homes. Cnut was
murdered in a church by his own subjects, and was canonized as
Sanctus Canutus by a Pope who could not speak the Scandinavian

Meanwhile, at the Midwinter Gemot of 1085-1086, held in due form at
Gloucester, William did one of his greatest acts. "The King had
mickle thought and sooth deep speech with his Witan about his land,
how it were set and with whilk men." In that "deep speech," so
called in our own tongue, lurks a name well known and dear to every
Englishman. The result of that famous parliament is set forth at
length by the Chronicler. The King sent his men into each shire,
men who did indeed set down in their writ how the land was set and
of what men. In that writ we have a record in the Roman tongue no
less precious than the Chronicles in our own. For that writ became
the Book of Winchester, the book to which our fathers gave the name
of Domesday, the book of judgement that spared no man.

The Great Survey was made in the course of the first seven months
of the year 1086. Commissioners were sent into every shire, who
inquired by the oaths of the men of the hundreds by whom the land
had been held in King Edward's days and what it was worth then, by
whom it was held at the time of the survey and what it was worth
then; and lastly, whether its worth could be raised. Nothing was
to be left out. "So sooth narrowly did he let spear it out, that
there was not a hide or a yard of land, nor further--it is shame to
tell, and it thought him no shame to do--an ox nor a cow nor a
swine was left that was not set in his writ." This kind of
searching inquiry, never liked at any time, would be specially
grievous then. The taking of the survey led to disturbances in
many places, in which not a few lives were lost. While the work
was going on, William went to and fro till he knew thoroughly how
this land was set and of what men. He had now a list of all men,
French and English, who held land in his kingdom. And it was not
enough to have their names in a writ; he would see them face to
face. On the making of the survey followed that great assembly,
that great work of legislation, which was the crown of William's
life as a ruler and lawgiver of England. The usual assemblies of
the year had been held at Winchester and Westminster. An
extraordinary assembly was held in the plain of Salisbury on the
first day of August. The work of that assembly has been already
spoken of. It was now that all the owners of land in the kingdom
became the men of the King; it was now that England became one,
with no fear of being again parted asunder.

The close connexion between the Great Survey and the law and the
oath of Salisbury is plain. It was a great matter for the King to
get in the gold certainly and, we may add, fairly. William would
deal with no man otherwise than according to law as he understood
the law. But he sought for more than this. He would not only know
what this land could be made to pay; he would know the state of his
kingdom in every detail; he would know its military strength; he
would know whether his own will, in the long process of taking from
this man and giving to that, had been really carried out. Domesday
is before all things a record of the great confiscation, a record
of that gradual change by which, in less than twenty years, the
greater part of the land of England had been transferred from
native to foreign owners. And nothing shows like Domesday in what
a formally legal fashion that transfer was carried out. What were
the principles on which it was carried out, we have already seen.
All private property in land came only from the grant of King
William. It had all passed into his hands by lawful forfeiture; he
might keep it himself; he might give it back to its old owner or
grant it to a new one. So it was at the general redemption of
lands; so it was whenever fresh conquests or fresh revolts threw
fresh lands into the King's hands. The principle is so thoroughly
taken for granted, that we are a little startled to find it
incidentally set forth in so many words in a case of no special
importance. A priest named Robert held a single yardland in alms
of the King; he became a monk in the monastery of Stow-in-Lindesey,
and his yardland became the property of the house. One hardly sees
why this case should have been picked out for a solemn declaration
of the general law. Yet, as "the day on which the English redeemed
their lands" is spoken of only casually in the case of a particular
estate, so the principle that no man could hold lands except by the
King's grant ("Non licet terram alicui habere nisi regis concessu")
is brought in only to illustrate the wrongful dealing of Robert and
the monks of Stow in the case of a very small holding indeed.

All this is a vast system of legal fictions; for William's whole
position, the whole scheme of his government, rested on a system of
legal fictions. Domesday is full of them; one might almost say
that there is nothing else there. A very attentive study of
Domesday might bring out the fact that William was a foreign
conqueror, and that the book itself was a record of the process by
which he took the lands of the natives who had fought against him
to reward the strangers who had fought for him. But nothing of
this kind appears on the surface of the record. The great facts of
the Conquest are put out of sight. William is taken for granted,
not only as the lawful king, but as the immediate successor of
Edward. The "time of King Edward" and the "time of King William"
are the two times that the law knows of. The compilers of the
record are put to some curious shifts to describe the time between
"the day when King Edward was alive and dead" and the day "when
King William came into England." That coming might have been as
peaceful as the coming of James the First or George the First. The
two great battles are more than once referred to, but only casually
in the mention of particular persons. A very sharp critic might
guess that one of them had something to do with King William's
coming into England; but that is all. Harold appears only as Earl;
it is only in two or three places that we hear of a "time of
Harold," and even of Harold "seizing the kingdom" and "reigning."
These two or three places stand out in such contrast to the general
language of the record that we are led to think that the scribe
must have copied some earlier record or taken down the words of
some witness, and must have forgotten to translate them into more
loyal formulae. So in recording who held the land in King Edward's
day and who in King William's, there is nothing to show that in so
many cases the holder under Edward had been turned out to make room
for the holder under William. The former holder is marked by the
perfectly colourless word "ancestor" ("antecessor"), a word as yet
meaning, not "forefather," but "predecessor" of any kind. In
Domesday the word is most commonly an euphemism for "dispossessed
Englishman." It is a still more distinct euphemism where the
Norman holder is in more than one place called the "heir" of the
dispossessed Englishmen.

The formulae of Domesday are the most speaking witness to the
spirit of outward legality which ruled every act of William. In
this way they are wonderfully instructive; but from the formulae
alone no one could ever make the real facts of William's coming and
reign. It is the incidental notices which make us more at home in
the local and personal life of this reign than of any reign before
or for a long time after. The Commissioners had to report whether
the King's will had been everywhere carried out, whether every man,
great and small, French and English, had what the King meant him to
have, neither more nor less. And they had often to report a state
of things different from what the King had meant to be. Many men
had not all that King William had meant them to have, and many
others had much more. Normans had taken both from Englishmen and
from other Normans. Englishmen had taken from Englishmen; some had
taken from ecclesiastical bodies; some had taken from King William
himself; nay King William himself holds lands which he ought to
give up to another man. This last entry at least shows that
William was fully ready to do right, according to his notions of
right. So also the King's two brothers are set down among the
chief offenders. Of these unlawful holdings of land, marked in the
technical language of the Survey as invasiones and occupationes,
many were doubtless real cases of violent seizure, without excuse
even according to William's reading of the law. But this does not
always follow, even when the language of the Survey would seem to
imply it. Words implying violence, per vim and the like, are used
in the legal language of all ages, where no force has been used,
merely to mark a possession as illegal. We are startled at finding
the Apostle Paul set down as one of the offenders; but the words
"sanctus Paulus invasit" mean no more than that the canons of Saint
Paul's church in London held lands to which the Commissioners held
that they had no good title. It is these cases where one man held
land which another claimed that gave opportunity for those personal
details, stories, notices of tenures and customs, which make
Domesday the most precious store of knowledge of the time.

One fruitful and instructive source of dispute comes from the way
in which the lands in this or that district were commonly granted
out. The in-comer, commonly a foreigner, received all the lands
which such and such a man, commonly a dispossessed Englishman, held
in that shire or district. The grantee stepped exactly into the
place of the antecessor; he inherited all his rights and all his
burthens. He inherited therewith any disputes as to the extent of
the lands of the antecessor or as to the nature of his tenure. And
new disputes arose in the process of transfer. One common source
of dispute was when the former owner, besides lands which were
strictly his own, held lands on lease, subject to a reversionary
interest on the part of the Crown or the Church. The lease or
sale--emere is the usual word--of Church lands for three lives to
return to the Church at the end of the third life was very common.
If the antecessor was himself the third life, the grantee, his
heir, had no claim to the land; and in any case he could take in
only with all its existing liabilities. But the grantee often took
possession of the whole of the land held by the antecessor, as if
it were all alike his own. A crowd of complaints followed from all
manner of injured persons and bodies, great and small, French and
English, lay and clerical. The Commissioners seem to have fairly
heard all, and to have fairly reported all for the King to judge
of. It is their care to do right to all men which has given us
such strange glimpses of the inner life of an age which had none
like it before or after.

The general Survey followed by the general homage might seem to
mark William's work in England, his work as an English statesman,
as done. He could hardly have had time to redress the many cases
of wrong which the Survey laid before him; but he was able to wring
yet another tax out of the nation according to his new and more
certain register. He then, for the last time, crossed to Normandy
with his new hoard. The Chronicler and other writers of the time
dwell on the physical portents of these two years, the storms, the
fires, the plagues, the sharp hunger, the deaths of famous men on
both sides of the sea. Of the year 1087, the last year of the
Conqueror, it needs the full strength of our ancient tongue to set
forth the signs and wonders. The King had left England safe,
peaceful, thoroughly bowed down under the yoke, cursing the ruler
who taxed her and granted away her lands, yet half blessing him for
the "good frith" that he made against the murderer, the robber, and
the ravisher. But the land that he had won was neither to see his
end nor to shelter his dust. One last gleam of success was, after
so many reverses, to crown his arms; but it was success which was
indeed unworthy of the Conqueror who had entered Exeter and Le Mans
in peaceful triumph. And the death-blow was now to come to him
who, after so many years of warfare, stooped at last for the first
time to cruel and petty havoc without an object.

The border-land of France and Normandy, the French Vexin, the land
of which Mantes is the capital, had always been disputed between
kingdom and duchy. Border wars had been common; just at this time
the inroads of the French commanders at Mantes are said to have
been specially destructive. William not only demanded redress from
the King, but called for the surrender of the whole Vexin. What
followed is a familiar story. Philip makes a foolish jest on the
bodily state of his great rival, unable just then to carry out his
threats. "The King of the English lies in at Rouen; there will be
a great show of candles at his churching." As at Alencon in his
youth, so now, William, who could pass by real injuries, was stung
to the uttermost by personal mockery. By the splendour of God,
when he rose up again, he would light a hundred thousand candles at
Philip's cost. He kept his word at the cost of Philip's subjects.
The ballads of the day told how he went forth and gathered the
fruits of autumn in the fields and orchards and vineyards of the
enemy. But he did more than gather fruits; the candles of his
churching were indeed lighted in the burning streets of Mantes.
The picture of William the Great directing in person mere brutal
havoc like this is strange even after the harrying of
Northumberland and the making of the New Forest. Riding to and fro
among the flames, bidding his men with glee to heap on the fuel,
gladdened at the sight of burning houses and churches, a false step
of his horse gave him his death-blow. Carried to Rouen, to the
priory of Saint Gervase near the city, he lingered from August 15
to September 7, and then the reign and life of the Conqueror came
to an end. Forsaken by his children, his body stripped and well
nigh forgotten, the loyalty of one honest knight, Herlwin of
Conteville, bears his body to his grave in his own church at Caen.
His very grave is disputed--a dispossessed antecessor claims the
ground as his own, and the dead body of the Conqueror has to wait
while its last resting-place is bought with money. Into that
resting-place force alone can thrust his bulky frame, and the rites
of his burial are as wildly cut short as were the rites of his
crowning. With much striving he had at last won his seven feet of
ground; but he was not to keep it for ever. Religious warfare
broke down his tomb and scattered his bones, save one treasured
relic. Civil revolution swept away the one remaining fragment.
And now, while we seek in vain beneath the open sky for the rifled
tombs of Harold and of Waltheof, a stone beneath the vault of Saint
Stephen's still tells us where the bones of William once lay but
where they lie no longer.

There is no need to doubt the striking details of the death and
burial of the Conqueror. We shrink from giving the same trust to
the long tale of penitence which is put into the mouth of the dying
King. He may, in that awful hour, have seen the wrong-doing of the
last one-and-twenty years of his life; he hardly threw his
repentance into the shape of a detailed autobiographical
confession. But the more authentic sayings and doings of William's
death-bed enable us to follow his course as an English statesman
almost to his last moments. His end was one of devotion, of
prayers and almsgiving, and of opening of the prison to them that
were bound. All save one of his political prisoners, English and
Norman, he willingly set free. Morkere and his companions from
Ely, Walfnoth son of Godwine, hostage for Harold's faith, Wulf son
of Harold and Ealdgyth, taken, we can hardly doubt, as a babe when
Chester opened its gates to William, were all set free; some indeed
were put in bonds again by the King's successor. But Ode William
would not set free; he knew too well how many would suffer if he
were again let loose upon the world. But love of kindred was still
strong; at last he yielded, sorely against his will, to the prayers
and pledges of his other brother. Ode went forth from his prison,
again Bishop of Bayeux, soon again to be Earl of Kent, and soon to
prove William's foresight by his deeds.

William's disposal of his dominions on his death-bed carries on his
political history almost to his last breath. Robert, the banished
rebel, might seem to have forfeited all claims to the succession.
But the doctrine of hereditary right had strengthened during the
sixty years of William's life. He is made to say that, though he
foresees the wretchedness of any land over which Robert should be
the ruler, still he cannot keep him out of the duchy of Normandy
which is his birthright. Of England he will not dare to dispose;
he leaves the decision to God, seemingly to Archbishop Lanfranc as
the vicar of God. He will only say that his wish is for his son
William to succeed him in his kingdom, and he prays Lanfranc to
crown him king, if he deem such a course to be right. Such a
message was a virtual nomination, and William the Red succeeded his
father in England, but kept his crown only by the help of loyal
Englishmen against Norman rebels. William Rufus, it must be
remembered, still under the tutelage of his father and Lanfranc,
had not yet shown his bad qualities; he was known as yet only as
the dutiful son who fought for his father against the rebel Robert.
By ancient English law, that strong preference which was all that
any man could claim of right belonged beyond doubt to the youngest
of William's sons, the English AEtheling Henry. He alone was born
in the land; he alone was the son of a crowned King and his Lady.
It is perhaps with a knowledge of what followed that William is
made to bid his youngest son wait while his eldest go before him;
that he left him landless, but master of a hoard of silver, there
is no reason to doubt. English feeling, which welcomed Henry
thirteen years later, would doubtless have gladly seen his
immediate accession; but it might have been hard, in dividing
William's dominions, to have shut out the second son in favour of
the third. And in the scheme of events by which conquered England
was to rise again, the reign of Rufus, at the moment the darkest
time of all, had its appointed share.

That England could rise again, that she could rise with a new life,
strengthened by her momentary overthrow, was before all things
owing to the lucky destiny which, if she was to be conquered, gave
her William the Great as her Conqueror. It is as it is in all
human affairs. William himself could not have done all that he
did, wittingly and unwittingly, unless circumstances had been
favourable to him; but favourable circumstances would have been
useless, unless there had been a man like William to take advantage
of them. What he did, wittingly or unwittingly, he did by virtue
of his special position, the position of a foreign conqueror
veiling his conquest under a legal claim. The hour and the man
were alike needed. The man in his own hour wrought a work, partly
conscious, partly unconscious. The more clearly any man
understands his conscious work, the more sure is that conscious
work to lead to further results of which he dreams not. So it was
with the Conqueror of England. His purpose was to win and to keep
the kingdom of England, and to hand it on to those who should come
after him more firmly united than it had ever been before. In this
work his spirit of formal legality, his shrinking from needless
change, stood him in good stead. He saw that as the kingdom of
England could best be won by putting forth a legal claim to it, so
it could best be kept by putting on the character of a legal ruler,
and reigning as the successor of the old kings seeking the unity of
the kingdom; he saw, from the example both of England and of other
lands, the dangers which threatened that unity; he saw what
measures were needed to preserve it in his own day, measures which
have preserved it ever since. Here is a work, a conscious work,
which entitles the foreign Conqueror to a place among English
statesmen, and to a place in their highest rank. Further than this
we cannot conceive William himself to have looked. All that was to
come of his work in future ages was of necessity hidden from his
eyes, no less than from the eyes of smaller men. He had assuredly
no formal purpose to make England Norman; but still less had he any
thought that the final outcome of his work would make England on
one side more truly English than if he had never crossed the sea.
In his ecclesiastical work he saw the future still less clearly.
He designed to reform what he deemed abuses, to bring the English
Church into closer conformity with the other Churches of the West;
he assuredly never dreamed that the issue of his reform would be
the strife between Henry and Thomas and the humiliation of John.
His error was that of forgetting that he himself could wield
powers, that he could hold forces in check, which would be too
strong for those who should come after him. At his purposes with
regard to the relations of England and Normandy it would be vain to
guess. The mere leaving of kingdom and duchy to different sons
would not necessarily imply that he designed a complete or lasting
separation. But assuredly William did not foresee that England,
dragged into wars with France as the ally of Normandy, would remain
the lasting rival of France after Normandy had been swallowed up in
the French kingdom. If rivalry between England and France had not
come in this way, it would doubtless have come in some other way;
but this is the way in which it did come about. As a result of the
union of Normandy and England under one ruler, it was part of
William's work, but a work of which William had no thought. So it
was with the increased connexion of every kind between England and
the continent of Europe which followed on William's coming. With
one part of Europe indeed the connexion of England was lessened.
For three centuries before William's coming, dealings in war and
peace with the Scandinavian kingdoms had made up a large part of
English history. Since the baffled enterprise of the holy Cnut,
our dealings with that part of Europe have been of only secondary

But in our view of William as an English statesman, the main
feature of all is that spirit of formal legality of which we have
so often spoken. Its direct effects, partly designed, partly
undesigned, have affected our whole history to this day. It was
his policy to disguise the fact of conquest, to cause all the
spoils of conquest to be held, in outward form, according to the
ancient law of England. The fiction became a fact, and the fact
greatly helped in the process of fusion between Normans and
English. The conquering race could not keep itself distinct from
the conquered, and the form which the fusion took was for the
conquerors to be lost in the greater mass of the conquered.
William founded no new state, no new nation, no new constitution;
he simply kept what he found, with such modifications as his
position made needful. But without any formal change in the nature
of English kingship, his position enabled him to clothe the crown
with a practical power such as it had never held before, to make
his rule, in short, a virtual despotism. These two facts
determined the later course of English history, and they determined
it to the lasting good of the English nation. The conservative
instincts of William allowed our national life and our national
institutions to live on unbroken through his conquest. But it was
before all things the despotism of William, his despotism under
legal forms, which preserved our national institutions to all time.
As a less discerning conqueror might have swept our ancient laws
and liberties away, so under a series of native kings those laws
and liberties might have died out, as they died out in so many
continental lands. But the despotism of the crown called forth the
national spirit in a conscious and antagonistic shape; it called
forth that spirit in men of both races alike, and made Normans and
English one people. The old institutions lived on, to be clothed
with a fresh life, to be modified as changed circumstances might
make needful. The despotism of the Norman kings, the peculiar
character of that despotism, enabled the great revolution of the
thirteenth century to take the forms, which it took, at once
conservative and progressive. So it was when, more than four
centuries after William's day, England again saw a despotism
carried on under the forms of law. Henry the Eighth reigned as
William had reigned; he did not reign like his brother despots on
the continent; the forms of law and freedom lived on. In the
seventeenth century therefore, as in the thirteenth, the forms
stood ready to be again clothed with a new life, to supply the
means for another revolution, again at once conservative and
progressive. It has been remarked a thousand times that, while
other nations have been driven to destroy and to rebuild the
political fabric, in England we have never had to destroy and to
rebuild, but have found it enough to repair, to enlarge, and to
improve. This characteristic of English history is mainly owing to
the events of the eleventh century, and owing above all to the
personal agency of William. As far as mortal man can guide the
course of things when he is gone, the course of our national
history since William's day has been the result of William's
character and of William's acts. Well may we restore to him the
surname that men gave him in his own day. He may worthily take his
place as William the Great alongside of Alexander, Constantine, and
Charles. They may have wrought in some sort a greater work,
because they had a wider stage to work it on. But no man ever
wrought a greater and more abiding work on the stage that fortune
gave him than he

"Qui dux Normannis, qui Caesar praefuit Anglis."

Stranger and conqueror, his deeds won him a right to a place on the
roll of English statesmen, and no man that came after him has won a
right to a higher place.

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