The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 05

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  • 1905
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With a staff of specialists



An Outline Narrative of the Great Events CHARLES F. HORNE

Feudalism: Its Frankish Birth and English Development (9th to 12th Century)

Decay of the Frankish Empire
Division into Modern France, Germany, and Italy (A.D. 843-911)

Career of Alfred the Great (A.D. 871-901) THOMAS HUGHES

Henry the Fowler Founds the Saxon Line of German Kings Origin of the German Burghers or Middle Classes (A.D. 911-936) WOLFGANG MENZEL

Conquest of Egypt by the Fatimites (A.D. 969) STANLEY LANE-POOLE

Growth and Decadence of Chivalry (10th to 15th Century) LEON GAUTIER

Conversion of Vladimir the Great
Introduction of Christianity into Russia (A.D. 988-1015) A. N. MOURAVIEFF

Leif Ericson Discovers America (A.D. 1000) CHARLES C. RAFN

Mahometans In India
Bloody Invasions under Mahmud (A.D. 1000) ALEXANDER DOW

Canute Becomes King of England (A.D. 1017) DAVID HUME

Henry III Deposes the Popes (A.D. 1048) The German Empire Controls the Papacy

Dissension and Separation of the Greek and Roman Churches (A.D. 1054)

Norman Conquest of England
Battle of Hastings (A.D. 1066)

Triumphs of Hildebrand
“The Turning-point of the Middle Ages” Henry IV Begs for Mercy at Canossa (A.D. 1073-1085) ARTHUR R. PENNINGTON

Completion of the Domesday Book (A.D. 1086) CHARLES KNIGHT

Decline of the Moorish Power in Spain Growth and Decay of the Almoravide and Almohade Dynasties (A.D. 1086-1214)

The First Crusade (A.D. 1096-1099)

Foundation of the Order of Knights Templars (A.D. 1118) CHARLES G. ADDISON

Stephen Usurps the English Crown
His Conflicts with Matilda
Decisive Influence of the Church (A.D. 1135-1154) CHARLES KNIGHT

Antipapal Democratic Movement
Arnold of Brescia
St. Bernard and the Second Crusade (A.D. 1145-1155) JOHANN A. W. NEANDER

Decline of the Byzantine Empire
Ravages of Roger of Sicily (A.D. 1146) GEORGE FINLAY

Universal Chronology (A.D. 843-1161)






The three centuries which follow the downfall of the empire of Charlemagne laid the foundations of modern Europe, and made of it a world wholly different, politically, socially, and religiously, from that which had preceded it. In the careers of Greece and Rome we saw exemplified the results of two sharply opposing tendencies of the Aryan mind, the one toward individualism and separation, the other toward self-subordination and union.

In the time of Charlemagne’s splendid successes it appeared settled that the second of these tendencies was to guide the Teutonic Aryans, that the Europe of the future was to be a single empire, ever pushing out its borders as Rome had done, ever subduing its weaker neighbors, until the “Teutonic peace” should be substituted for the shattered “Roman peace,” soldiers should be needed only for the duties of police, and a whole civilized world again obey the rule of a single man.

Instead of this, the race has since followed a destiny of separation. Europe is divided into many countries, each of them a vast camp bristling with armies and arsenals. Civilization has continued hag-ridden by war even to our own day, and, during at least seven hundred of the years that followed Charlemagne, mankind made no greater progress in the arts and sciences than the ancients had sometimes achieved in a single century. We do indeed believe that at last we have entered on an age of rapid advance, that individualism has justified itself. The wider personal liberty of to-day is worth all that the race has suffered for it. Yet the retardation of wellnigh a thousand years has surely been a giant price to pay.


This mighty change in the course of Teutonic destiny, this breakdown of the Frankish empire, was wrought by two destroying forces, one from within, one from without. From within came the insubordination, the still savage love of combat, the natural turbulence of the race. It is conceivable that, had Charlemagne been followed on the throne by a son and then a grandson as mighty as he and his immediate ancestors, the course of the whole broad earth would have been altered. The Franks would have grown accustomed to obey; further conquest abroad would have insured peace at home; the imperial power would have become strong as in Roman days, when the most feeble emperors could not be shaken. But the descendants of Charlemagne sank into a decline. He himself had directed the fighting energy of the Franks against foreign enemies. His son and successor had no taste for war, and so allowed his idle subjects time to quarrel with him and with one another. The next generation, under the grandsons of Charlemagne, devoted their entire lives to repeated and furious civil wars, in which the empire fell apart, the flower of the Frankish race perished, and the strength of its dominion was sapped to nothingness.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _Decay of Frankish Empire_, page 22.]

There were three of these grandsons, and, when their struggle had left them thoroughly exhausted, they divided the empire into three. Their treaty of Verdun (843) is often quoted as beginning the modern kingdoms of Germany, France, and Italy. The division was in some sense a natural one, emphasized by differences of language and of race. Italy was peopled by descendants of the ancient Italians, with a thin intermingling of Goths and Lombards; France held half-Romanized Gauls, with a very considerable percentage of the Frankish blood; while Germany was far more barbaric than the other regions. Its people, whether Frank or Saxon, were all pure Teuton, and still spoke in their Teutonic or German tongue.

The Franks themselves, however, did not regard this as a breaking of their empire. They looked on it as merely a family affair, an arrangement made for the convenience of government among the descendants of the great Charles. So firm had been that mighty hero’s grasp upon the national imagination, that the Franks accepted as matter of course that his family should bear rule, and rallied round the various worthless members of it with rather pathetic loyalty, fighting for them one against the other, reuniting and redividing the various fragments of the empire, until the feeble Carlovingian race died out completely.

It is thus evident that there was a strong tendency toward union among the Franks. But there was also an outside influence to disrupt their empire. Charlemagne had not carried far enough their career of conquest. He subdued the Teutons within the limits of Germany, but he did not reach their weaker Scandinavian brethren to the north, the Danes and Norsemen. He chastised the Avars, a vague non-Aryan people east of Germany, but he could not make provision against future Asiatic swarms. He humbled the Arabs in Spain, but he did not break their African dominion. From all these sources, as the Franks grew weaker instead of stronger, their lands became exposed to new invasion.


Let us take a moment to trace the fortunes of these outside races, though the main destiny of the future still lay with Teutonic Europe.

In speaking of the followers of Mahomet, we might perhaps at this period better drop the term Arabs, and call them Saracens. They were thus known to the Christians; and their conquests had drawn in their train so many other peoples that in truth there was little pure Arab blood left among them. The Saracens, then, had begun to lose somewhat of their intense fanaticism. Feuds broke out among them. Different chiefs established different kingdoms or “caliphates,” whose dominion became political rather than religious. Spain had one ruler, Egypt[2] another, Asia a third. In the eleventh century an army of Saracens invaded India[3] and added that strange and ancient land to their domain. Europe they had failed to conquer; but their fleets commanded the Mediterranean. They held all its islands, Sicily, Crete, Sardinia, and Corsica. They plundered the coast towns of France and Italy. There was a Saracenic ravaging of Rome.

[Footnote 2: See _Conquest of Egypt by the Fatimites_, page 94.]

[Footnote 3: See _Mahometans in India_, page 151.]

On the whole, however, the wave of Mahometan conquest receded. In Spain the remnants of the Christian population, Visigoths, Romans, and still older peoples, pressed their way down from their old-time, secret mountain retreats and began driving the Saracens southward.[4] The decaying Roman Empire of the East still resisted the Mahometan attack; Constantinople remained a splendid city, type and picture of what the ancient world had been.

[Footnote 4: See _Decline of the Moorish Power in Spain_, page 296.]

While the Saracens were thus laying waste the Frankish empire along its Mediterranean coasts, a more dangerous enemy was assailing it from the east. Toward the end of the ninth century the Magyars, an Asiatic, Turanian people, burst on Europe, as the Huns had done five centuries before. Indeed, the Christians called these later comers Huns also, and told of them the same extravagant tales of terror. The land which the Magyars settled was called Hungary. They dwell there and possess it even to this day, the only instance of a Turanian people having permanently established themselves in an Aryan continent and at the expense of Aryan neighbors.

From Hungary the Magyars soon advanced to the German border line, and made fierce plundering inroads upon the more civilized regions beyond. They came on horseback, so that the slower Teutons could never gather quickly enough to resist them. The marauding parties, as they learned the wealth and weakness of this new land, grew bigger, until at length they were armies, and defeated the German Franks in pitched battles, and spread desolation through all the country. They returned now every year. Their ravages extended even to the Rhine and to the ancient Gallic land beyond. The Frankish empire seemed doomed to reenact, in a smaller, far more savage way, the fate of Rome.

Yet more widespread in destruction, more important in result than the raids of either Saracens or Magyars, were those of the Scandinavians or Northmen. These, the latest, and perhaps therefore the finest, flower of the Teutonic stock, are closer to us and hence better known than the early Goths or Franks. Shut off in their cold northern peninsulas and islands, they had grown more slowly, it may be, than their southern brethren. Now they burst suddenly on the world with spectacular dramatic effect, wild, fierce, and splendid conquerors, as keen of intellect and quick of wit as they were strong of arm and daring of adventure.

We see them first as sea-robbers, pirates, venturing even in Charlemagne’s time to plunder the German and French coasts. One tribe of them, the Danes, had already been harrying England and Ireland. Only Alfred,[5] by heroic exertions, saved a fragment of his kingdom from them. Later, under Canute,[6] they become its kings. The Northmen penetrate Russia and appear as rulers of the strange Slavic tribes there; they settle in Iceland, Greenland, and even distant and unknown America.[7]

[Footnote 5: See _Career of Alfred the Great_.]

[Footnote 6: See _Canute Becomes King of England_.]

[Footnote 7: _Leif Ericson Discovers America_.]

Meanwhile, after Charlemagne’s death they become a main factor in the downfall of his empire. Year after year their little ships plunder the undefended French coast, until it is abandoned to them and becomes a desert. They build winter camps at the river mouths, so that in the spring they need lose less time and can hurry inland after their retreating prey. Sudden in attack, strong in defence, they venture hundreds of miles up the winding waterways. Paris is twice attacked by them and must fight for life. They penetrate so far up the Loire as to burn Orleans.

It was under stress of all these assaults that the Franks, grown too feeble to defend themselves as Charlemagne would have done, by marching out and pursuing the invaders to their own homes, developed instead a system of defence which made the Middle Ages what they were. All central authority seemed lost; each little community was left to defend itself as best it might. So the local chieftain built himself a rude fortress, which in time became a towered castle; and thither the people fled in time of danger. Each man looked up to and swore faith to this, his own chief, his immediate protector, and took little thought of a distant and feeble king or emperor. Occasionally, of course, a stronger lord or king bestirred himself, and demanded homage of these various petty chieftains. They gave him such service as they wished or as they must. This was the “feudal system.”[8]

[Footnote 8: See _Feudalism: Its Frankish Birth and English Development_.]

The inclination of each lesser lord was obviously to assert as much independence as he could. He naturally objected to paying money or service without benefit received; and he could see no good that this “overlord” did for him or for his district. It seemed likely at this time that instead of being divided into three kingdoms, the Frankish empire would split into thousands of little castled states.

That is, it seemed so, after the various marauding nations were disposed of. The Northmen were pacified by presenting them outright with the coast lands they had most harried. Their great leader, Rolf, accepted the territory with some vague and ill-kept promise of vassalage to the French King, and with a very firmly held determination that he would let no pirates ravage his land or cross it to reach others. So the French coast became Normandy, and the Northmen learned the tongue and manners of their new home, and softened their harsh name to “Norman,” even as they softened their harsh ways, and rapidly became the most able and most cultured of Frenchmen.

As for the Saracens, being unprogressive and no longer enthusiastic, they grew ever feebler, while the Italian cities, being Aryan and left to themselves, grew strong. At length their fleets met those of the Saracens on equal terms, and defeated them, and gradually wrested from them the control of the Mediterranean. Invaders were thus everywhere met as they came, locally. There was no general gathering of the Frankish forces against them.

The repulse of the Huns proved the hardest matter of all. Fortunately for the Germans, their line of Carlovingian emperors died out. So the various dukes and counts, practically each an independent sovereign, met and elected a king from among themselves, not really to rule them, but to enable them to unite against the Huns. After their first elected king had been soundly beaten by one of his dukes, he died, and in their next choice they had the luck to light upon a leader really great. Henry the Fowler, more honorably known as Henry the City-builder,[9] taught them how to defeat their foe.

[Footnote 9: See _Henry the Fowler Founds the Saxon Line of German Kings_.]

Much to the disgust of his simple and war-hardened comrades, he first sent to the Hungarians and purchased peace and paid them tribute. Having thus secured a temporary respite, Henry encouraged and aided his people in building walled cities all along the frontier. He also planned to meet the invaders on equal terms by training his warriors to fight on horseback. He instituted tournaments and created an order of knighthood, and is thus generally regarded as the founder of chivalry, that fairest fruit of mediaeval times, which did so much to preserve honor and tenderness and respect for womankind.[10]

[Footnote 10: See _Growth and Decadence of Chivalry_.]

When he felt all prepared, Henry deliberately defied and insulted the Hungarians, and so provoked from them a combined national invasion, which he met and completely overthrew in the battle of Merseburg (933). A generation later the Huns felt themselves strong enough to try again; but Henry’s son, Otto the Great, repeated the chastisement. He then formed a boundary colony or “East-mark” from which sprang Austria; and this border kingdom was always able to keep the weakened Huns in check.

At the same time there was growing up in Russia a Slavic civilization, which received Christianity[11] from the South as it had received Teutonic dominion from the North, and so developed along very similar lines to Western Europe. The Russian states served as a barrier against later Asiatic hordes; and this, combined with the civilizing of the last remnants of the Scandinavians in the North, and the fading of Saracenic power in the South, left the tottering civilization of the West free from further barbarian invasion. We shall find destruction threatened again in later ages by Tartar and by Turk; but the intruders never reach beyond the frontier. The Teutons and the half-Romanized ancients with whom they had assimilated were left to work out their own problems. All the ingredients, even to the last, the Northmen, had been poured into the caldron. There remains to see what the intermingling has brought forth.

[Footnote 11: See _Conversion of Vladimir the Great_.]


We have here, then, somewhere about the middle of the tenth century, a date which may be regarded as marking a distinctly new era. The ceaseless work of social organization and improvement, which seems so strong an instinct of the Aryan mind, had been recommenced again and again from under repeated deluges of barbarism. To-day for nearly a thousand years it has progressed uninterrupted, except by disturbances from within; nor does it appear possible, with our present knowledge of science and of the remoter corners of the globe, that our civilization will ever again be even menaced by the other races.

Chronologists frequently adopt as a convenient starting-point for this modern development the year 962, in which Otto the Great, conqueror of the Huns, felt himself strong enough to march a German army to Rome and assume there the title of emperor, which had been long in abeyance. To be sure, there was still an Emperor of the East in Constantinople, but nobody thought of him; and, to be sure, the power of Otto and the later emperors was purely German, with scarce a pretence of extending beyond their own country and sometimes Italy. Yet here was at least one restored influence that made toward unity and, by its own devious and erratic ways, toward peace.

It must not be supposed, of course, that there was no more war. But, as it became a private affair between relatives, or at least acquaintances, its ravages were greatly reduced. It was accepted as the “pastime of gentlemen,” “the sport of kings;” and though we may quote the phrases to-day with kindling sarcasm, yet they open a very different vision from that of the older inroads by unknown hordes, frenzied with the passion and the purpose of the brute. The usefulness of the common people was recognized, and they were allowed to continue to live and cultivate the ground; while all the great dukes and even the lesser nobles, having secured as many castles as possible, intrenched themselves in their strongholds and defied all comers.

They asserted their right of “private war” and attacked each other upon every conceivable provocation, whether it were the disputed succession to some vast estate or the ravage spread by a reckless cow in a foreign field. Indeed, it is not always easy to distinguish these private wars from mere robberies or plundering expeditions; and it is not probable that the wild barons exercised any very delicate discrimination. Even Otto the Great had little real influence or authority over such lords as these. His immediate successors found themselves with even less.

In short, it was the golden age of feudalism, of the individual feudal lords. In Italy there was no central authority whatever, nor among the little Christian states gradually arising in Spain. In France and England the title of king was but a name. France was really composed of a dozen or more independent counties and dukedoms. For a while its lords elected a king as the Germans did; and gradually the title became hereditary in the Capet family, the counts of Paris, who had fought most valiantly against the Northmen. But the entire power of these so-called kings lay in their own estates, in the fact that they were counts of Paris, and by marriage or by force were slowly adding new possessions to their old. Any other noble might have been equally fortunate in his investments, and wrested from them their purely honorary title. In fact, there was more than once a king of Aquitaine.

Yet, in 1066, William the Conqueror was able to form for a moment a strong and centralized monarchy in England.[12] With him we reach the period of the second Northmen, or now Norman, outbreak. The marauders had grown polished, but not peaceful, in their French home. They had become more numerous and more restless, until we find them again taking to their ships and seeking newer lands to master. Only they go now as a civilizing as well as a devastating influence.

[Footnote 12: See _Norman Conquest of England_.]

Most famed of their undertakings, of course, was William’s Conquest of England. But we find them also sailing along the Spanish coast, entering the Mediterranean, seizing the Balearic Isles, making out of Sicily and most of Southern Italy a kingdom which lasted until 1860, and finally ravaging the Eastern Empire, and entering Constantinople itself.[13] Last and mightiest of the wandering races, they accomplished what all their predecessors had failed to do.

[Footnote 13: See _Decline of the Byzantine Empire_, page 353.]

In England, William, with the shrewdness of his race, recognized the tendencies of the age, and erected a state so planned that there could be no question as to who was master. He gave fiefs liberally to his followers; but he took care that the gifts should be in small and scattered parcels. No one man controlled any region sufficiently extensive to give him the faintest chance of defying the King. William had the famous _Domesday Book_[14] compiled, that he might know just what every freeman in his dominions owned and for what he could be held accountable. The England of the later days of the Conqueror seemed far advanced upon our modern ways.

[Footnote 14: See _Completion of the Domesday Book_, page 242.]

But what can one man, however able and advanced, do against the current of his age? History shows us constantly that the great reformers have been those who felt and followed the general feeling of their times, who became mouthpieces for the great mass of thought and effort behind them, not those who struggled against the tide. William’s successors failed to comprehend what he had done, or why. By the time of Stephen (1135)[15] we find the barons of England wellnigh as powerful as those of other lands. A civil war arises in which Stephen and his rival Matilda are scarce more than pawns upon the board. The lords shift sides at will, retreat to safety in their strong castles, plunder the common folk, and make private war quite as they please.

[Footnote 15: See _Stephen Usurps the English Crown_, page 317.]

If any sage before the reign of the Emperor Barbarossa, that is, before the middle of the twelfth century, had studied to predict the course of society, he would probably have said that the empire was wholly destroyed, and that the principle of separation was becoming ever more insistent, that even kings were mere fading relics of the past, and that the future world would soon see every lordship an independent state.


Amid all this turmoil of the upper classes, one would like much to know what was the condition, what the lives, of the common people. Unfortunately, the data are very slight. We see dimly the peasant staring from his field as the armed knights ride by; we see him fleeing to the shelter of the forests before more savage bandits. We see the people of the cities drawing together, building walls around their towns, and defying in their turn their so-called “overlords.” We see Henry the City-builder thus become champion of the lower classes, despite the strenuous warning of his conservative and not wholly disinterested barons. We see shadowy troops of armed merchants drift along the unsafe roads. And, most interesting perhaps of all, we see one Arnold of Brescia,[16] an Italian monk, advocating a democracy, actually urging a return to what he supposed early Rome to have been, a government by the masses. Arnold, too, you see, was in advance of his time. He was executed by the advice of even so good and wise a man as St. Bernard. But the principle of modern life was there, the germ seems to have been planted. These humble people of the cities, “citizens,” grow to be rulers of the world.

[Footnote 16: See _Antipapal Democratic Movement_ page 340.]

There was a revival, too, of learning in this quieter age. Schools and universities become clearly visible. Abelard teaches at the great University of Paris, lectures to “forty thousand students,” if one chooses to believe in such carrying power of his voice, or such radiating power of his influence at second hand through those who heard.

The arts spring up, great cathedrals are begun, the wonder and despair of even twentieth-century resources. Royal ladies work on tapestries, queer things in their way, but certainly not barbaric. Musical notation is improved. Manuscripts are gorgeously illumined. Paintings and mosaics, though of the crudest, reappear on long-barren walls. Civilization begins to advance with increasing stride.


Of all the influences that through these wandering and desolate ages had sustained humanity and helped it onward, the mightiest has been left to speak of last. It was Christianity, a Christianity which had by now taken definite form as the Roman Catholic Church. Strongest of all the institutions bequeathed by the ancient empire to her conquerors was this Church. Indeed, it has been said that Rome had influenced Christianity quite as much as Christianity did Rome. The legal-minded Romans insisted on the laying out of exact doctrines and creeds, on the building of a definite organization, a priesthood, a hierarchy. They lent the weight of law to what had been but individual belief and impulse. Thus the Church grew hard and strong.

In the same manner that the early emperors had ordered the persecution of Christianity, so the later ones ordered the persecution of heathendom, nor had the Church grown civilized or Christian enough to oppose this method of conversion. Luckily for all parties, however, the heathen were scarce sufficiently enthusiastic to insist on martyrdom, and so the persecuting spirit which man ultimately imparted to even the purest of religions remained latent.

With the downfall of Rome there came another interval in which the Church was weak, and was trampled on by barbarians, and was heroic. Then the bishops of Rome joined forces with Pepin and Charlemagne. Christianity became physically powerful again. The Saxons were converted by the sword. So, also, in Henry the Fowler’s time, were the Slavic Wends. These Roman bishops, or “popes,” were accepted unquestioned throughout Western Europe as the leaders of a militant Christianity, a position never after denied them until the sixteenth century. In the East, however, the bishops of Constantinople insisted on an equal, if not higher, authority, and so the two churches broke apart.[17]

[Footnote 17: See _Dissension and Separation of the Greek and Roman Churches_.]

In the West, Christianity undoubtedly did great good. Its teachings, though applied by often fallible instruments and in blundering ways, yet never completely lost sight of their own higher meanings of mercy and peace. From the Abbey of Cluny originated that quaint mediaeval idea of the “truce of God,” by which nobles were very widely persuaded to restrict their private wars to the middle of the week, and reserve at least Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as days of brotherly love and religious devotion. The Church also, from very early days, founded monasteries, wherein learning and the knowledge of the past were kept alive, where pity continued to exist, where the oppressed found refuge. It is from these monasteries that all the arts and scholarship of the eleventh century begin dimly to emerge.

Moreover, the fact that the Teutons were all of a common religion undoubtedly held them much closer together, made them more merciful among themselves, more nearly a unit against the outside world. Perhaps in this respect more important even than the religion was the Church; that is, the hierarchy, the vast army of monks and priests, abbots and bishops, spread over all kingdoms, yet looking always toward Rome. Here at least was one common centre for Western civilization, one mighty influence that all men acknowledged, that all to some faint extent obeyed.


The power thus concentrating in the Roman papacy made the office one to attract eager ambition. It has a political history of its own. At first the Christian populace that continued to dwell in Rome despite the repeated spoliations, elected, from among themselves, their own pope or bishop, regarding him not only as their spiritual guide, but as their earthly leader and protector also. Naturally, in their distress, they chose the very ablest man they could, their wisest and their noblest. It was no pleasant task being pope in those dark days; and sometimes the bravest shrank from the position.

But centuries of war and self-defence developed a Roman populace more fierce and savage and degenerate, while the growing importance of their pope beyond the city’s walls brought wealth and splendor to his office. The result was that some very unsaintly popes were elected amid unseemly squabbles. The conditions surrounding the high office became so bad that they were felt as a disgrace throughout all Christendom; and in 1046 the German emperor Henry III took upon himself to depose three fiercely contending Romans, each claiming to be pope. He appointed in their stead a candidate of his own, not a dweller in the city at all, but a German. Henry, therefore, must have considered the duties of the pope as bishop of the Romans to be far less important than his duties as head of the Church outside of Rome.[18]

[Footnote 18: See _Henry III Deposes the Popes_.]

So necessary had this interference by the Emperor become that it was everywhere approved. Yet as he continued to appoint pope after pope, churchmen realized that in the hands of an evil emperor this method of securing their head might prove quite as dangerous and unsatisfactory as the former one. So the Church took the matter in hand and declared that a conclave of its own highest officials should thereafter choose the man who was to lead them.

Under this surely more suitable arrangement, the papal office rose at once in dignity. It was held for a time by true leaders, earnest prelates of the highest worth and ability. We have said that the rank of the bishop of Rome as head of the Church had never been seriously questioned among the Teutons; but now the popes asserted a political authority as well. They regarded themselves, theoretically, as supreme heads of the entire Christian world. They claimed and even partly exercised the right to create and depose kings and emperors. To such a supremacy as this, however, the Teutons were still too rude and warlike to submit. Much is made of the fact that the Emperor Henry IV was compelled to come as a suppliant to Pope Gregory at Canossa, 1077.[19] But this submission was only forced on him by quarrels with his barons, who welcomed the Pope as a chance ally. It proved the power of feudalism rather than that of religion. Still we may trace here the beginnings of a later day when spirit was really to dominate bodily force, when ideas should prove stronger than swords.

[Footnote 19: See _Triumphs of Hildebrand_.]


Under these aroused and able popes, the Western world was stirred to the first widespread religious enthusiasm since the ancient days of persecution. Jerusalem, long in the hands of a tolerant sect of Saracens who welcomed the coming of Christian worshippers as a source of revenue, was captured in 1075 by another more fanatic Mahometan sect, and word came back to Europe that pilgrimage was stopped.

The crusades followed. A great mass of warriors from every nation of the West, men who certainly had never intended to go on pilgrimage themselves, were roused to what seems a somewhat perverse anger of religious devotion. Under the lead of Godfrey of Bouillon they marched eastward, saw the wonders of Constantinople, marvellous indeed to their ruder eyes, defeated the sultans of Asia Minor and of Antioch, and ended by storming Jerusalem, and erecting there a Christian kingdom where Mahometanism had ruled for nearly five hundred years.[20]

[Footnote 20: See _The First Crusade_, page 276.]

Of course, a great flow of pilgrims followed them. Religious orders of knighthood were formed[21] to help defend the shrine of Christ and to extend Christian conquest farther through the surrounding regions. Travel began again. Europe, after having forgotten Asia for seven centuries, was introduced once more to its languor, its splendor, and its vices. The Aryan peoples had at last filled full their little world of Western Europe. They had reached among themselves a state of law and union, confused and weak, perhaps, yet secure enough to enable them once more to overflow their boundaries and become again the aggressive, intrusive race we have seen them in earlier days.

[Footnote 21: See _Foundation of the Order of Knights Templars_, page 301.]




(That social system–however varying in different times and places–in which ownership of land is the basis of authority is known in history as feudalism. From the time of Clovis, the Frankish King, who died in A.D. 511, the progress of the Franks in civilization was slow, and for more than two centuries they spent their energies mainly in useless wars. But Charles Martel and his son, Pepin the Short–the latter dying in 768–built up a kingdom which Charlemagne erected into a powerful empire. Under the predecessors of Charlemagne the beginnings of feudalism, which are very obscure, may be said vaguely to appear. Charles Martel had to buy the services of his nobles by granting them lands, and although he and Pepin strengthened the royal power, which Charlemagne still further increased, under the weak rulers who followed them the forces of the incipient feudalism again became active, and the State was divided into petty countships and dukedoms almost independent of the king.

The gift of land by the king in return for feudal services was called a feudal grant, and the land so given was termed a “feud” or “fief.” In the course of time fiefs became hereditary. Lands were also sometimes usurped or otherwise obtained by subjects, who thereby became feudal lords. By a process called “subinfeudation,” lands were granted in parcels to other men by those who received them from the king or otherwise, and by these lower landholders to others again; and as the first recipient became the vassal of the king and the suzerain of the man who held next below him, there was created a regular descending scale of such vassalage and suzerainty, in which each man’s allegiance was directly due to his feudal lord, and not to the king himself. From the king down to the lowest landholder all were bound together by obligation of service and defence; the lord to protect his vassal, the vassal to do service to his lord.

These are the essential features of the social system which, from its early growth under the later Carlovingians in the ninth century, spread over Europe and reached its highest development in the twelfth century. At a time midway between these periods it was carried by the Norman Conquest into England. The history of this system of distinctly Frankish origin–a knowledge of which is absolutely essential to a proper understanding of history and the evolution of our present social system–is told by Stubbs with that discernment and thoroughness of analysis which have given him his rank as one of the few masterly writers in this field.)

Feudalism had grown up from two great sources–the _beneficium_, and the practice of commendation–and had been specially fostered on Gallic soil by the existence of a subject population which admitted of any amount of extension in the methods of dependence.

The beneficiary system originated partly in gifts of land made by the kings out of their own estates to their kinsmen and servants, with a special undertaking to be faithful; partly in the surrender by land-owners of their estates to churches or powerful men, to be received back again and held by them as tenants for rent or service. By the latter arrangement the weaker man obtained the protection of the stronger, and he who felt himself insecure placed his title under the defence of the church.

By the practice of commendation, on the other hand, the inferior put himself under the personal care of a lord, but without altering his title or divesting himself of his right to his estate; he became a vassal and did homage. The placing of his hands between those of his lord was the typical act by which the connection was formed; and the oath of fealty was taken at the same time. The union of the beneficiary tie with that of commendation completed the idea of feudal obligation– the twofold engagement: that of the lord, to defend; and that of the vassal, to be faithful. A third ingredient was supplied by the grants of immunity by which in the Frank empire, as in England, the possession of land was united with the right of judicature; the dwellers on a feudal property were placed under the tribunal of the lord, and the rights which had belonged to the nation or to its chosen head were devolved upon the receiver of a fief. The rapid spread of the system thus originated, and the assimilation of all other tenures to it, may be regarded as the work of the tenth century; but as early as A.D. 877 Charles the Bald recognized the hereditary character of all benefices; and from that year the growth of strictly feudal jurisprudence may be held to date.

The system testifies to the country and causes of its birth. The beneficium is partly of Roman, partly of German origin; in the Roman system the usufruct–the occupation of land belonging to another person–involved no diminution of status; in the Germanic system he who tilled land that was not his own was imperfectly free; the reduction of a large Roman population to dependence placed the two classes on a level, and conduced to the wide extension of the institution.

Commendation, on the other hand, may have had a Gallic or Celtic origin, and an analogy only with the Roman clientship. The German _comitatus_, which seems to have ultimately merged its existence in one or other of these developments, is of course to be carefully distinguished in its origin from them. The tie of the benefice or of commendation could be formed between any two persons whatever; none but the king could have _antrustions_. But the comitatus of Anglo-Saxon history preserved a more distinct existence, and this perhaps was one of the causes that distinguished the later Anglo-Saxon system most definitely from the feudalism of the Frank empire.

The process by which the machinery of government became feudalized, although rapid, was gradual.

The weakness of the Carlovingian kings and emperors gave room for the speedy development of disruptive tendencies in a territory so extensive and so little consolidated. The duchies and counties of the eighth and ninth centuries were still official magistracies, the holders of which discharged the functions of imperial judges or generals. Such officers were of course men whom the kings could trust, in most cases Franks, courtiers or kinsmen, who at an earlier date would have been _comites_ or antrustions, and who were provided for by feudal benefices. The official magistracy had in itself the tendency to become hereditary, and when the benefice was recognized as heritable, the provincial governorship became so too. But the provincial governor had many opportunities of improving his position, especially if he could identify himself with the manners and aspirations of the people he ruled. By marriage or inheritance he might accumulate in his family not only the old allodial estates which, especially on German soil, still continued to subsist, but the traditions and local loyalties which were connected with the possession of them. So in a few years the Frank magistrate could unite in his own person the beneficiary endowment, the imperial deputation, and the headship of the nation over which he presided. And then it was only necessary for the central power to be a little weakened, and the independence of duke or count was limited by his homage and fealty alone, that is, by obligations that depended on conscience only for their fulfilment.

It is in Germany that the disruptive tendency most distinctly takes the political form; Saxony and Bavaria assert their national independence under Swabian and Saxon dukes who have identified the interests of their subjects with their own. In France, where the ancient tribal divisions had been long obsolete, and where the existence of the allod involved little or no feeling of loyalty, the process was simpler still; the provincial rulers aimed at practical rather than political sovereignty; the people were too weak to have any aspirations at all. The disruption was due more to the abeyance of central attraction than to any centrifugal force existing in the provinces. But the result was the same; feudal government, a graduated system of jurisdiction based on land tenure, in which every lord judged, taxed, and commanded the class next below him, of which abject slavery formed the lowest, and irresponsible tyranny the highest grade, and private war, private coinage, private prisons, took the place of the imperial institutions of government.

This was the social system which William the Conqueror and his barons had been accustomed to see at work in France. One part of it–the feudal tenure of land–was perhaps the only kind of tenure which they could understand; the king was the original lord, and every title issued mediately or immediately from him. The other part, the governmental system of feudalism, was the point on which sooner or later the duke and his barons were sure to differ. Already the incompatibility of the system with the existence of the strong central power had been exemplified in Normandy, where the strength of the dukes had been tasked to maintain their hold on the castles and to enforce their own high justice. Much more difficult would England be to retain in Norman hands if the new king allowed himself to be fettered by the French system.

On the other hand the Norman barons would fain rise a step in the social scale answering to that by which their duke had become a king; and they aspired to the same independence which they had seen enjoyed by the counts of Southern and Eastern France. Nor was the aspiration on their part altogether unreasonable; they had joined in the Conquest rather as sharers in the great adventure than as mere vassals of the duke, whose birth they despised as much as they feared his strength. William, however, was wise and wary as well as strong. While, by the insensible process of custom, or rather by the mere assumption that feudal tenure of land was the only lawful and reasonable one, the Frankish system of tenure was substituted for the Anglo-Saxon, the organization of government on the same basis was not equally a matter of course.

The Conqueror himself was too strong to suffer that organization to become formidable in his reign, but neither the brutal force of William Rufus nor the heavy and equal pressure of the government of Henry I could extinguish the tendency toward it. It was only after it had, under Stephen, broken out into anarchy and plunged the whole nation in misery; when the great houses founded by the barons of the Conquest had suffered forfeiture or extinction; when the Normans had become Englishmen under the legal and constitutional reforms of Henry II–that the royal authority, in close alliance with the nation, was enabled to put an end to the evil.

William the Conqueror claimed the crown of England as the chosen heir of Edward the Confessor. It was a claim which the English did not admit, and of which the Normans saw the fallacy, but which he himself consistently maintained and did his best to justify. In that claim he saw not only the justification of the Conquest in the eyes of the church, but his great safeguard against the jealous and aggressive host by whose aid he had realized it; therefore, immediately after the battle of Hastings he proceeded to seek the national recognition of its validity. He obtained it from the divided and dismayed _witan_ with no great trouble, and was crowned by the archbishop of York–the most influential and patriotic among them–binding himself by the constitutional promises of justice and good laws. Standing before the altar at Westminster, “in the presence of the clergy and people he promised with an oath that he would defend God’s holy churches and their rulers; that he would, moreover, rule the whole people subject to him with righteousness and royal providence; would enact and hold fast right law and utterly forbid rapine and unrighteous judgments.” The form of election and acceptance was regularly observed and the legal position of the new King completed before he went forth to finish the Conquest.

Had it not been for this the Norman host might have fairly claimed a division of the land such as the Danes had made in the ninth century. But to the people who had recognized William it was but just that the chance should be given them of retaining what was their own. Accordingly, when the lands of all those who had fought for Harold were confiscated, those who were willing to acknowledge William were allowed to redeem theirs, either paying money at once or giving hostages for the payment. That under this redemption lay the idea of a new title to the lands redeemed may be regarded as questionable. The feudal lawyer might take one view, and the plundered proprietor another. But if charters of confirmation or regrant were generally issued on the occasion to those who were willing to redeem, there can be no doubt that, as soon as the feudal law gained general acceptance, these would be regarded as conveying a feudal title. What to the English might be a mere payment of _fyrdwite_, or composition for a recognized offence, might to the Normans seem equivalent to forfeiture and restoration.

But however this was, the process of confiscation and redistribution of lands under the new title began from the moment of the coronation. The next few years, occupied in the reduction of Western and Northern England, added largely to the stock of divisible estates. The tyranny of Odo of Bayeux and William Fitzosbern, which provoked attempts at rebellion in 1067; the stand made by the house of Godwin in Devonshire in 1068; the attempts of Mercia and Northumbria to shake off the Normans in 1069 and 1070; the last struggle for independence in 1071, in which Edwin and Morcar finally fell; the conspiracy of the Norman earls in 1074, in consequence of which Waltheof perished–all tended to the same result.

After each effort the royal hand was laid on more heavily; more and more land changed owners, and with the change of owners the title changed. The complicated and unintelligible irregularities of the Anglo-Saxon tenures were exchanged for the simple and uniform feudal theory. The fifteen hundred tenants-in-chief of _Domesday Book_ take the place of the countless land-owners of King Edward’s time, and the loose, unsystematic arrangements which had grown up in the confusion of title, tenure, and jurisdiction were replaced by systematic custom. The change was effected without any legislative act, simply by the process of transfer under circumstances in which simplicity and uniformity were an absolute necessity. It was not the change from allodial to feudal so much as from confusion to order. The actual amount of dispossession was no doubt greatest in the higher ranks; the smaller owners may to a large extent have remained in a mediatized position on their estates; but even _Domesday_, with all its fulness and accuracy, cannot be supposed to enumerate all the changes of the twenty eventful years that followed the battle of Hastings. It is enough for our purpose to ascertain that a universal assimilation of title followed the general changes of ownership. The king of _Domesday_ is the supreme landlord; all the land of the nation, the old folkland, has become the king’s; and all private land is held mediately or immediately of him; all holders are bound to their lords by homage and fealty, either actually demanded or understood to be demandable, in every case of transfer by inheritance or otherwise.

The result of this process is partly legal and partly constitutional or political. The legal result is the introduction of an elaborate system of customs, tenures, rights, duties, profits, and jurisdictions. The constitutional result is the creation of several intermediate links between the body of the nation and the king, in the place of or side by side with the duty of allegiance.

On the former of these points we have very insufficient data; for we are quite in the dark as to the development of feudal law in Normandy before the invasion, and may be reasonably inclined to refer some at least of the peculiarities of English feudal law to the leaven of the system which it superseded. Nor is it easy to reduce the organization described in _Domesday_ to strict conformity with feudal law as it appears later, especially with the general prevalence of military tenure.

The growth of knighthood is a subject on which the greatest obscurity prevails, and the most probable explanation of its existence in England–the theory that it is a translation into Norman forms of the _thegnage_ of the Anglo-Saxon law–can only be stated as probable.

Between the picture drawn in _Domesday_ and the state of affairs which the charter of Henry I was designed to remedy, there is a difference which the short interval of time will not account for, and which testifies to the action of some skilful organizing hand working with neither justice nor mercy, hardening and sharpening all lines and points to the perfecting of a strong government.

It is unnecessary to recapitulate here all the points in which the Anglo-Saxon institutions were already approaching the feudal model; it may be assumed that the actual obligation of military service was much the same in both systems, and that even the amount of land which was bound to furnish a mounted warrior was the same however the conformity may have been produced. The _heriot_ of the English earl or _thegn_ was in close resemblance with the _relief_ of the Norman count or knight. But however close the resemblance, something was now added that made the two identical. The change of the heriot to the relief implies a suspension of ownership, and carries with it the custom of “livery of seisin.” The heriot was the payment of a debt from the dead man to his lord; his son succeeded him by allodial right. The relief was paid by the heir before he could obtain his father’s lands; between the death of the father and livery of seisin to the son the right of the “overlord” had entered; the ownership was to a certain extent resumed, and the succession of the heir took somewhat of the character of a new grant. The right of wardship also became in the same way a reentry, by the lord, on the profits of the estate of the minor, instead of being, as before, a protection, by the head of the kin, of the indefeasible rights of the heir, which it was the duty of the whole community to maintain.

There can be no doubt that the military tenure–the most prominent feature of historical feudalism–was itself introduced by the same gradual process which we have assumed in the case of the feudal usages in general. We have no light on the point from any original grant made by the Conqueror to a lay follower, but judging by the grants made to the churches we cannot suppose it probable that such gifts were made on any expressed condition, or accepted with a distinct pledge to provide a certain contingent of knights for the king’s service. The obligation of national defence was incumbent, as of old, on all land-owners, and the customary service of one fully armed man for each five hides of land was probably the rate at which the newly endowed follower of the king would be expected to discharge his duty. The wording of the _Domesday_ survey does not imply that in this respect the new military service differed from the old; the land is marked out, not into knights’ fees, but into hides, and the number of knights to be furnished by a particular feudatory would be ascertained by inquiring the number of hides that he held, without apportioning the particular acres that were to support the particular knight.

It would undoubtedly be on the estates of the lay vassals that a more definite usage would first be adopted, and knights bound by feudal obligations to their lords receive a definite estate from them. Our earliest information, however, on this as on most points of tenure, is derived from the notices of ecclesiastical practice. Lanfranc, we are told, turned the _drengs_, the rent-paying tenants of his archiepiscopal estates, into knights for the defence of the country; he enfeoffed a certain number of knights who performed the military service due from the archiepiscopal barony. This had been done before the _Domesday_ survey, and almost necessarily implies that a like measure had been taken by the lay vassals. Lanfranc likewise maintained ten knights to answer for the military service due from the convent of Christ Church, which made over to him, in consideration of the relief, land worth two hundred pounds annually. The value of the knight’s fee must already have been fixed at twenty pounds a year.

In the reign of William Rufus the abbot of Ramsey obtained a charter which exempted his monastery from the service of ten knights due from it on festivals, substituting the obligation to furnish three knights to perform service on the north of the Thames–a proof that the lands of that house had not yet been divided into knights’ fees. In the next reign, we may infer–from the favor granted by the King to the knights who defended their lands _per loricas_ (that is, by the hauberk) that their demesne lands shall be exempt from pecuniary taxation–that the process of definite military infeudation had largely advanced. But it was not even yet forced on the clerical or monastic estates. When, in 1167, the abbot of Milton, in Dorset, was questioned as to the number of knights’ fees for which he had to account, he replied that all the services due from his monastery were discharged out of the demesne; but he added that in the reign of Henry I, during a vacancy in the abbacy, Bishop Roger, of Salisbury, had enfeoffed two knights out of the abbey lands. He had, however, subsequently reversed the act and had restored the lands, whose tenure had been thus altered, to their original condition of rent-paying estate or “socage.”

The very term “the new feoffment,” which was applied to the knights’ fees created between the death of Henry I and the year in which the account preserved in the _Black Book_ of the exchequer was taken, proves that the process was going on for nearly a hundred years, and that the form in which the knights’ fees appear when called on by Henry II for “scutage” was most probably the result of a series of compositions by which the great vassals relieved their lands from a general burden by carving out particular estates, the holders of which performed the services due from the whole; it was a matter of convenience and not of tyrannical pressure. The statement of Ordericus Vitalis that the Conqueror “distributed lands to his knights in such fashion that the kingdom of England should have forever sixty thousand knights, and furnish them at the king’s command according to the occasion,” must be regarded as one of the many numerical exaggerations of the early historians. The officers of the exchequer in the twelfth century were quite unable to fix the number of existing knights’ fees.

It cannot even be granted that a definite area of land was necessary to constitute a knight’s fee; for although at a later period and in local computations we may find four or five hides adopted as a basis of calculation, where the extent of the particular knight’s fee is given exactly, it affords no ground for such a conclusion. In the _Liber Niger_ we find knights’ fees of two hides and a half, of two hides, of four, five, and six hides. Geoffrey Ridel states that his father held one hundred and eighty-four _carucates_ and a _virgate_, for which the service of fifteen knights was due, but that no knights’ fees had been carved out of it, the obligation lying equally on every carucate. The archbishop of York had far more knights than his tenure required. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the extent of a knight’s fee was determined by rent or valuation rather than acreage, and that the common quantity was really expressed in the twenty _librates_, the twenty pounds’ worth of annual value which until the reign of Edward I was the qualification for knighthood.

It is most probable that no regular account of the knights’ fees was ever taken until they became liable to taxation, either in the form of _auxilium militum_ under Henry I, or in that of scutage under his grandson. The facts, however, which are here adduced, preclude the possibility of referring this portion of the feudal innovations to the direct legislation of the Conqueror. It may be regarded as a secondary question whether the knighthood here referred to was completed by the investiture with knightly arms and the honorable accolade. The ceremonial of knighthood was practised by the Normans, whereas the evidence that the English had retained the primitive practice of investing the youthful warrior is insufficient; yet it would be rash to infer that so early as this, if indeed it ever was the case, every possessor of a knight’s fee received formal initiation before he assumed his spurs. But every such analogy would make the process of transition easier and prevent the necessity of any general legislative act of change.

It has been maintained that a formal and definitive act, forming the initial point of the feudalization of England, is to be found in a clause of the laws, as they are called, of the Conqueror; which directs that every freeman shall affirm, by covenant and oath, that “he will be faithful to King William within England and without, will join him in preserving his lands and honor with all fidelity, and defend him against his enemies.” But this injunction is little more than the demand of the oath of allegiance which had been taken to the Anglo-Saxon kings and is here required not of every feudal dependent of the King, but of every freeman or freeholder whatsoever.

In that famous council of Salisbury of 1086, which was summoned immediately after the making of the _Domesday_ survey, we learn from the _Chronicle_ that there came to the King “all his witan, and all the landholders of substance in England whose vassals soever they were, and they all submitted to him, and became his men and swore oaths of allegiance that they would be faithful to him against all others.” In this act have been seen the formal acceptance and date of the introduction of feudalism, but it has a very different meaning. The oath described is the oath of allegiance, combined with the act of homage, and obtained from all land-owners, whoever their feudal lord might be. It is a measure of precaution taken against the disintegrating power of feudalism, providing a direct tie between the sovereign and all freeholders which no inferior relation existing between them and the mesne lords would justify them in breaking. The real importance of the passage as bearing on the date of the introduction of feudal tenure is merely that it shows the system to have already become consolidated; all the land-owners of the kingdom had already become, somehow or other, vassals, either of the king or of some tenant under him. The lesson may be learned from the fact of the _Domesday_ survey.

The introduction of such a system would necessarily have effects far wider than the mere modification of the law of tenure; it might be regarded as a means of consolidating and concentrating the whole machinery of government; legislation, taxation, judicature, and military defence were all capable of being organized on the feudal principle, and might have been so had the moral and political results been in harmony with the legal. But its tendency when applied to governmental machinery is disruptive. The great feature of the Conqueror’s policy is his defeat of that tendency. Guarding against it he obtained recognition as the King of the nation and, so far as he could understand them and the attitude of the nation allowed, he maintained the usages of the nation. He kept up the popular institutions of the hundred court and the shire court. He confirmed the laws which had been in use in King Edward’s days, with the additions which he himself made for the benefit, as he especially tells us, of the English.

We are told, on what seems to be the highest legal authority of the next century, that he issued in his fourth year a commission of inquiry into the national customs, and obtained from sworn representatives of each county a declaration of the laws under which they wished to live. The compilation that bears his name is very little more than a reissue of the code of Canute; and this proceeding helped greatly to reconcile the English people to his rule. Although the oppressions of his later years were far heavier than the measures taken to secure the immediate success of the Conquest, all the troubles of the kingdom after 1075, in his sons’ reigns as well as in his own, proceeded from the insubordination of the Normans, not from the attempts of the English to dethrone the king. Very early they learned that, if their interest was not the king’s, at least their enemies were his enemies; hence they are invariably found on the royal side against the feudatories.

This accounts for the maintenance of the national force of defence, over and above the feudal army. The _fyrd_ of the English, the general armament of the men of the counties and hundreds, was not abolished at the Conquest, but subsisted even through the reigns of William Rufus and Henry I, to be reformed and reconstituted under Henry II; and in each reign it gave proof of its strength and faithfulness. The _witenagemot_ itself retained the ancient form, the bishops and abbots formed a chief part of it, instead of being, as in Normandy, so insignificant an element that their very participation in deliberation has been doubted. The king sat crowned three times in the year in the old royal towns of Westminster, Winchester, and Gloucester, hearing the complaints of his people, and executing such justice as his knowledge of their law and language and his own imperious will allowed. In all this there is no violent innovation, only such gradual essential changes as twenty eventful years of new actors and new principles must bring, however insensibly the people themselves–passing away and being replaced by their children–may be educated to endurance.

It would be wrong to impute to the Conqueror any intention of deceiving the nation by maintaining its official forms while introducing new principles and a new race of administrators. What he saw required change he changed with a high hand. But not the less surely did the change of administrators involve a change of custom, both in the church and in the state. The bishops, ealdormen, and sheriffs of English birth were replaced by Normans; not unreasonably, perhaps, considering the necessity of preserving the balance of the state. With the change of officials came a sort of amalgamation or duplication of titles; the ealdorman or earl became the _comes_ or count; the sheriff became the _vicecomes_; the office in each case receiving the name of that which corresponded most closely with it in Normandy itself. With the amalgamation of titles came an importation of new principles and possibly new functions; for the Norman count and viscount had not exactly the same customs as the earls and sheriffs. And this ran up into the highest grades of organization; the King’s court of counsellors was composed of his feudal tenants; the ownership of land was now the qualification for the witenagemot, instead of wisdom; the earldoms became fiefs instead of magistracies, and even the bishops had to accept the status of barons. There was a very certain danger that the mere change of persons might bring in the whole machinery of hereditary magistracies, and that king and people might be edged out of the administration of justice, taxation, and other functions of supreme or local independence.

Against this it was most important to guard; as the Conqueror learned from the events of the first year of his reign, when the severe rule of Odo and William Fitzosbern had provoked Herefordshire. Ralph Guader, Roger Montgomery, and Hugh of Avranches filled the places of Edwin and Morcar and the brothers of Harold. But the conspiracy of the earls in 1074 opened William’s eyes to the danger of this proceeding, and from that time onward he governed the provinces through sheriffs immediately dependent on himself, avoiding the foreign plan of appointing hereditary counts, as well as the English custom of ruling by viceregal ealdormen. He was, however, very sparing in giving earldoms at all, and inclined to confine the title to those who were already counts in Normandy or in France.

To this plan there were some marked exceptions, which may be accounted for either on the ground that the arrangements had been completed before the need of watchfulness was impressed on the King by the treachery of the Normans, or on that of the exigencies of national defence. In these cases he created, or suffered the continuance of, great palatine jurisdictions; earldoms in which the earls were endowed with the superiority of whole counties, so that all the land-owners held feudally of them, in which they received the whole profits of the courts and exercised all the “regalia” or royal rights, nominated the sheriffs, held their own councils, and acted as independent princes except in the owing of homage and fealty to the King. Two of these palatinates, the earldom of Chester and the bishopric of Durham, retained much of their character to our own days. A third, the palatinate of Bishop Odo in Kent, if it were really a jurisdiction of the same sort, came to an end when Odo forfeited the confidence of his brother and nephew. A fourth, the earldom of Shropshire, which is not commonly counted among the palatine jurisdictions, but which possessed under the Montgomery earls all the characteristics of such a dignity, was confiscated after the treason of Robert of Belesme by Henry I. These had been all founded before the conspiracy of 1074; they were also, like the later lordships of the marches, a part of the national defence; Chester and Shropshire kept the Welsh marches in order, Kent was the frontier exposed to attacks from Picardy, and Durham, the patrimony of St. Cuthbert, lay as a sacred boundary between England and Scotland; Northumberland and Cumberland were still a debatable ground between the two kingdoms. Chester was held by its earls as freely by the sword as the King held England by the crown; no lay vassal in the county held of the King, all of the earl. In Shropshire there were only five lay tenants _in capite_ besides Roger Montgomery; in Kent, Bishop Odo held an enormous proportion of the manors, but the nature of his jurisdiction is not very clear, and its duration is too short to make it of much importance. If William founded any earldoms at all after 1074 (which may be doubted), he did it on a very different scale.

The hereditary sheriffdoms he did not guard against with equal care. The Norman viscounties were hereditary, and there was some risk that the English ones would become so too; and with the worst consequences, for the English counties were much larger than the bailiwicks of the Norman viscount, and the authority of the sheriff, when he was relieved from the company of the ealdorman, and was soon to lose that of the bishop, would have no check except the direct control of the King. If William perceived this, it was too late to prevent it entirely; some of the sheriffdoms became hereditary, and continued to be so long after the abuse had become constitutionally dangerous.

The independence of the greater feudatories was still further limited by the principle, which the Conqueror seems to have observed, of avoiding the accumulation in any one hand of a great number of contiguous estates. The rule is not without some important exceptions, and it may have been suggested by the diversity of occasions on which the fiefs were bestowed, but the result is one which William must have foreseen. An insubordinate baron whose strength lay in twelve different counties would have to rouse the suspicions and perhaps to defy the arms of twelve powerful sheriffs, before he could draw his forces to a head. In his manorial courts, scattered and unconnected, he could set up no central tribunal, nor even force a new custom upon his tenants, nor could he attempt oppression on any extensive scale. By such limitation the people were protected and the central power secured.

Yet the changes of ownership, even thus guarded, wrought other changes. It is not to be supposed that the Norman baron, when he had received his fief, proceeded to carve it out into demesne and tenants’ land as if he were making a new settlement in an uninhabited country. He might indeed build his castle and enclose his chase with very little respect to the rights of his weaker neighbors, but he did not attempt any such radical change as the legal theory of the creation of manors seems to presume. The name “manor” is of Norman origin: but the estate to which it was given existed, in its essential character, long before the Conquest; it received a new name as the shire also did, but neither the one nor the other was created by this change. The local jurisdictions of the thegns who had grants of _sac_ and _soc_, or who exercised judicial functions among their free neighbors, were identical with the manorial jurisdictions of the new owners.

It may be conjectured with great probability that in many cases the weaker freemen, who had either willingly or under constraint attended the courts of their great neighbors, were now, under the general infusion of feudal principle, regarded as holding their lands of them as lords; it is not less probable that in a great number of grants the right to suit and service from small land-owners passed from the king to the receiver of the fief as a matter of course; but it is certain that even before the Conquest such a proceeding was not uncommon; Edward the Confessor had transferred to St. Augustine’s monastery a number of allodiaries in Kent, and every such measure in the case of a church must have had its parallel in similar grants to laymen. The manorial system brought in a number of new names; and perhaps a duplication of offices. The _gerefa_ of the old thegn, or of the ancient township, was replaced, as president of the courts, by a Norman steward or seneschal; and the _bydel_ of the old system by the bailiff of the new; but the gerefa and bydel still continued to exist in a subordinate capacity as the _grave_ or reeve and the _bedell_; and when the lord’s steward takes his place in the county court, the reeve and four men of the township are there also. The common of the township may be treated as the lord’s waste, but the townsmen do not lose their customary share.

The changes that take place in the state have their resulting analogies in every village, but no new England is created; new forms displace but do not destroy the old, and old rights remain, although changed in title and forced into symmetry with a new legal and pseudo-historical theory. The changes may not seem at first sight very oppressive, but they opened the way for oppression; the forms they had introduced tended, under the spirit of Norman legality and feudal selfishness, to become hard realities, and in the profound miseries of Stephen’s reign the people learned how completely the new theory left them at the mercy of their lords; nor were all the reforms of his successor more stringent or the struggles of the century that followed a whit more impassioned than were necessary to protect the English yeoman from the men who lived upon his strength.

In attempting thus to estimate the real amount of change introduced by the feudalism of the Conquest, many points of further interest have been touched upon, to which it is necessary to recur only so far as to give them their proper place in a more general view of the reformed organization. The Norman king is still the king of the nation. He has become the supreme landlord; all estates are held of him mediately or immediately, but he still demands the allegiance of all his subjects. The oath which he exacted at Salisbury in 1086, and which is embodied in the semi-legal form already quoted, was a modification of the oath taken to Edmund, and was intended to set the general obligation of obedience to the king in its proper relation to the new tie of homage and fealty by which the tenant was bound to his lord.

All men continued to be primarily the king’s men, and the public peace to be his peace. Their lords might demand their service to fulfil their own obligations, but the king could call them to the _fyrd_, summon them to his courts, and tax them without the intervention of their lords; and to the king they could look for protection against all foes. Accordingly the king could rely on the help of the bulk of the free people in all struggles with his feudatories, and the people, finding that their connection with their lords would be no excuse for unfaithfulness to the king, had a further inducement to adhere to the more permanent institutions.

In the department of law the direct changes introduced by the Conquest were not great. Much that is regarded as peculiarly Norman was developed upon English soil, and although originated and systematized by Norman lawyers, contained elements which would have worked in a very different way in Normandy. Even the vestiges of Carlovingian practice which appear in the inquests of the Norman reigns are modified by English usage. The great inquest of all, the _Domesday_ survey, may owe its principle to a foreign source; the oath of the reporters may be Norman, but the machinery that furnishes the jurors is native; “the king’s barons inquire by the oath of the sheriff of the shire, and of all the barons and their Frenchmen, and of the whole hundred, the priest, the reeve, and six _ceorls_ of every township.”

The institution of the collective Frank pledge, which recent writers incline to treat as a Norman innovation, is so distinctly colored by English custom that it has been generally regarded as purely indigenous. If it were indeed a precaution taken by the new rulers against the avoidance of justice by the absconding or harboring of criminals, it fell with ease into the usages and even the legal terms which had been common for other similar purposes since the reign of Athelstan. The trial by battle, which on clearer evidence seems to have been brought in by the Normans, is a relic of old Teutonic jurisprudence, the absence of which from the Anglo-Saxon courts is far more curious than its introduction from abroad.

The organization of jurisdiction required and underwent no great change in these respects. The Norman lord who undertook the office of sheriff had, as we have seen, more unrestricted power than the sheriffs of old. He was the king’s representative in all matters judicial, military, and financial in his shire, and had many opportunities of tyrannizing in each of those departments: but he introduced no new machinery. From him, or from the courts of which he was the presiding officer, appeal lay to the king alone; but the king was often absent from England and did not understand the language of his subjects. In his absence the administration was intrusted to a _judiciar_, a regent, or lieutenant, of the kingdom; and the convenience being once ascertained of having a minister who could in the whole kingdom represent the king, as the sheriff did in the shire, the judiciar became a permanent functionary. This, however, cannot be certainly affirmed of the reign of the Conqueror, who, when present at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, held great courts of justice as well as for other purposes of state; and the legal importance of the office belongs to a later stage. The royal court, containing the tenants-in-chief of the crown, both lay and clerical, and entering into all the functions of the witenagemot, was the supreme council of the nation, with the advice and consent of which the King legislated, taxed, and judged.

In the one authentic monument of William’s jurisprudence, the act which removed the bishops from the secular courts and recognized their spiritual jurisdictions, he tells us that he acts “with the common council and counsel of the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and all the princes of the kingdom.” The ancient summary of his laws contained in the _Textus Roffensis_ is entitled “_What William, King of the English, with his Princes enacted after the Conquest of England_”; and the same form is preserved in the tradition of his confirming the ancient laws reported to him by the representatives of the shires. The _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ enumerates the classes of men who attended his great courts: “There were with him all the great men over all England, archbishops and bishops, abbots and earls, thegns and knights.”

The great suit between Lanfranc as Archbishop of Canterbury and Odo as Earl of Kent, which is perhaps the best reported trial of the reign, was tried in the county court of Kent before the King’s representative, Gosfrid, bishop of Coutances; whose presence and that of most of the great men of the kingdom seem to have made it a witenagemot. The archbishop pleaded the cause of his Church in a session of three days on Pennenden Heath; the aged South-Saxon bishop, Ethelric, was brought by the King’s command to declare the ancient customs of the laws; and with him several other Englishmen skilled in ancient laws and customs. All these good and wise men supported the archbishop’s claim, and the decision was agreed on and determined by the whole county. The sentence was laid before the King, and confirmed by him. Here we have probably a good instance of the principle universally adopted; all the lower machinery of the court was retained entire, but the presence of the Norman justiciar and barons gave it an additional authority, a more direct connection with the king, and the appearance at least of a joint tribunal.

The principle of amalgamating the two laws and nationalities by superimposing the better consolidated Norman superstructure on the better consolidated English substructure, runs through the whole policy.

The English system was strong in the cohesion of its lower organism, the association of individuals in the township, in the hundred, and in the shire; the Norman system was strong in its higher ranges, in the close relation to the Crown of the tenants-in-chief whom the King had enriched. On the other hand, the English system was weak in the higher organization, and the Normans in England had hardly any subordinate organization at all. The strongest elements of both were brought together.



A.D. 843-911


(The period with which the following article deals may be said to mark the end of distinctively Frankish history. A striking mixture of races entered into the formation of this people, and the beginnings of the great modern nations into which the Frankish empire was divided brought to them varied elements of strength and a diversity of constituents that were to be commingled in new national characters and careers.

In 840 Charles the Bald became King of France, and his reign, both as king and afterward as emperor, continued for thirty-seven years, during which he proved himself to be lacking in those qualities which his responsibilities and the wants of his people demanded. He had great obstacles to contend against; for besides the ambitions of various districts for separate nationality, which led to insurrections in many quarters, Greek pirates ravaged the South, where the Saracens also wrought havoc, while in the North and West the Northmen burned and pillaged, laying waste a wide region and leaving many towns in ruins.

It was an age of turbulence in Europe, and the violence of predatory invaders brought woes upon many peoples. On the east of Charles’ empire the Hungarians, successors of the Huns, began to threaten. In the midst of all these distractions and dangers, assailed by enemies without and within, Charles found it a task far beyond his abilities to construct a state upon foundations of unity. He bore many titles and held several crowns, but his actual dominion was narrowly restricted, and his nominal subjects were in a state of political subdivision almost amounting to dismemberment. After various futile efforts during his later years to unify his empire, Charles died from an illness which seized him in 877, on his return to France from a fruitless campaign of subjugation and pillage in Italy. In the subsequent division of the empire, according to the terms of the treaty of Verdun, the several portions included Italy, the nucleus of France, and that of the present Germany.

Already suffering from the devastating expeditions of the Norse or Northmen, the Carlovingian empire, now weakened by division, became an easier prey for the invaders. Emboldened by success, the Northmen at length commenced to settle in the regions they invaded, no longer returning, as formerly, to their northern homes in winter. Among chieftains of the early Norman invaders who settled in France was Hastings, who became Count of Chartres; later came Rou, Rolf, or Rollo the Rover, to whom Charles the Simple of France gave Normandy, whence sprang the conquerors and rulers of England, who laid the foundation of the English-speaking nations of today.)

The first of Charlemagne’s grand designs, the territorial security of the Gallo-Frankish and Christian dominion, was accomplished. In the East and the North, the Germanic and Asiatic populations, which had so long upset it, were partly arrested at its frontiers, partly incorporated regularly in its midst. In the South, the Mussulman populations which, in the eighth century, had appeared so near overwhelming it, were powerless to deal it any heavy blow. Substantially France was founded. But what had become of Charlemagne’s second grand design, the resuscitation of the Roman Empire at the hands of the barbarians that had conquered it and become Christians?

Let us leave Louis the Debonair his traditional name, although it is not an exact rendering of that which was given him by his contemporaries. They called him Louis the Pious. And so, indeed, he was, sincerely and even scrupulously pious; but he was still more weak than pious, as weak in heart and character as in mind; as destitute of ruling ideas as of strength of will, fluctuating at the mercy of transitory impressions or surrounding influences or positional embarrassments. The name of _Debonnaire_ is suited to him; it expresses his moral worth and his political incapacity both at once.

As king of Aquitaine in the time of Charlemagne, Louis made himself esteemed and loved; his justice, his suavity, his probity, and his piety were pleasing to the people, and his weaknesses disappeared under the strong hand of his father. When he became emperor, he began his reign by a reaction against the excesses, real or supposed, of the preceding reign. Charlemagne’s morals were far from regular, and he troubled himself but little about the license prevailing in his family or his palace. At a distance, he ruled with a tight and heavy hand. Louis established at his court, for his sisters as well as his servants, austere regulations. He restored to the subjugated Saxons certain of the rights of which Charlemagne had deprived them. He sent out everywhere his commissioners with orders to listen to complaints and redress grievances, and to mitigate his father’s rule, which was rigorous in its application and yet insufficient to repress disturbance, notwithstanding its preventive purpose and its watchful supervision.

Almost simultaneously with his accession, Louis committed an act more serious and compromising. He had, by his wife Hermengarde, three sons, Lothair, Pepin, and Louis, aged respectively nineteen, eleven, and eight. In 817, Louis summoned at Aix-la-Chapelle the general assembly of his dominions; and there, while declaring that “neither to those who were wisely minded nor to himself did it appear expedient to break up, for the love he bare his sons and by the will of man, the unity of the empire, preserved by God himself,” he had resolved to share with his eldest son, Lothair, the imperial throne. Lothair was in fact crowned emperor; and his two brothers, Pepin and Louis, were crowned king, “in order that they might reign, after their father’s death and under their brother and lord, Lothair, to wit: Pepin, over Aquitaine and a great part of Southern Gaul and of Burgundy; Louis, beyond the Rhine, over Bavaria and the divers peoples in the east of Germany.” The rest of Gaul and of Germany, as well as the kingdom of Italy, was to belong to Lothair, Emperor and head of the Frankish monarchy, to whom his brothers would have to repair year by year to come to an understanding with him and receive his instructions. The last-named kingdom, the most considerable of the three, remained under the direct government of Louis the Debonair, and at the same time of his son Lothair, sharing the title of emperor. The two other sons, Pepin and Louis, entered, notwithstanding their childhood, upon immediate possession, the one of Aquitaine and the other of Bavaria, under the superior authority of their father and their brother, the joint emperors.

Charlemagne had vigorously maintained the unity of the empire, for all that he had delegated to two of his sons, Pepin and Louis, the government of Italy and Aquitaine with the title of king. Louis the Debonair, while regulating beforehand the division of his dominion, likewise desired, as he said, to maintain the unity of the empire. But he forgot that he was no Charlemagne.

It was not long before numerous mournful experiences showed to what extent the unity of the empire required personal superiority in the emperor, and how rapid would be the decay of the fabric when there remained nothing but the title of the founder.

In 816 Pope Stephen IV came to France to consecrate Louis the Debonair emperor. Many a time already the popes had rendered the Frankish kings this service and honor. The Franks had been proud to see their King, Charlemagne, protecting Adrian I against the Lombards; then crowned emperor at Rome by Leo III, and then having his two sons, Pepin and Louis, crowned at Rome, by the same Pope, kings respectively of Italy and of Aquitaine. On these different occasions Charlemagne, while testifying the most profound respect for the Pope, had, in his relations with him, always taken care to preserve, together with his political greatness, all his personal dignity. But when, in 816, the Franks saw Louis the Pious not only go out of Rheims to meet Stephen IV, but prostrate himself, from head to foot, and rise only when the Pope held out a hand to him, the spectators felt saddened and humiliated at the sight of their Emperor in the posture of a penitent monk.

Several insurrections burst out in the empire; the first among the Basques of Aquitaine; the next in Italy, where Bernard, son of Pepin, having, after his father’s death, become king in 812, with the consent of his grandfather Charlemagne, could not quietly see his kingdom pass into the hands of his cousin Lothair at the orders of his uncle Louis. These two attempts were easily repressed, but the third was more serious. It took place in Brittany among those populations of Armorica who were still buried in their woods, and were excessively jealous of their independence. In 818 they took for king one of their principal chieftains, named Morvan; and, not confining themselves to a refusal of all tribute to the King of the Franks, they renewed their ravages upon the Frankish territories bordering on their frontier. Louis was at that time holding a general assembly of his dominions at Aix-la-Chapelle; and Count Lantbert, commandant of the marches of Brittany, came and reported to him what was going on. A Frankish monk, named Ditcar, happened to be at the assembly: he was a man of piety and sense, a friend of peace, and, moreover, with some knowledge of the Breton king Morvan, as his monastery had property in the neighborhood. Him the Emperor commissioned to convey to the King his grievances and his demands. After some days’ journey the monk passed the frontier and arrived at a vast space enclosed on one side by a noble river, and on all the others by forests and swamps, hedges and ditches. In the middle of this space was a large dwelling, which was Morvan’s. Ditcar found it full of warriors, the King having, no doubt, some expedition on hand. The monk announced himself as a messenger from the Emperor of the Franks. The style of announcement caused some confusion at first, to the Briton, who, however, hastened to conceal his emotion under an air of good-will and joyousness, to impose upon his comrades. The latter were got rid of; and the King remained alone with the monk, who explained the object of his mission. He descanted upon the power of the emperor Louis, recounted his complaints, and warned the Briton, kindly and in a private capacity, of the danger of his situation, a danger so much the greater in that he and his people would meet with the less consideration, seeing that they kept up the religion of their pagan forefathers. Morvan gave attentive ear to this sermon, with his eyes fixed on the ground, and his foot tapping it from time to time. Ditcar thought he had succeeded; but an incident supervened. It was the hour when Morvan’s wife was accustomed to come and look for him ere they retired to the nuptial couch. She appeared, eager to know who the stranger was, what he had come for, what he had said, what answer he had received. She preluded her questions with oglings and caresses; she kissed the knees, the hands, the beard, and the face of the King, testifying her desire to be alone with him. “O King and glory of the mighty Britons, dear spouse of mine! what tidings bringeth this stranger? Is it peace, or is it war?”

“This stranger,” answered Morvan, with a smile, “is an envoy of the Franks; but bring he peace or bring he war is the affair of men alone; as for thee, content thee with thy woman’s duties.” Thereupon Ditcar, perceiving that he was countered, said to Morvan: “Sir King, ’tis time that I return; tell me what answer I am to take back to my sovereign.”

“Leave me this night to take thought thereon,” replied the Breton chief, with a wavering air. When the morning came, Ditcar presented himself once more to Morvan, whom he found up, but still half drunk and full of very different sentiments from those of the night before. It required some effort, stupefied and tottering as he was with the effects of wine and the pleasures of the night, to say to Ditcar: “Go back to thy King, and tell him from me that my land was never his, and that I owe him naught of tribute or submission. Let him reign over the Franks; as for me, I reign over the Britons. If he will bring war on me, he will find me ready to pay him back.”

The monk returned to Louis the Debonair and rendered account of his mission. War was resolved upon, and the Emperor collected his troops–Alemannians, Saxons, Thuringians, Burgundians, and Aquitanians, without counting Franks or Gallo-Romans. They began their march, moving upon Vannes; Louis was at their head, and the Empress accompanied him, but he left her, already ill and fatigued, at Angers. The Franks entered the country of the Britons, searched the woods and morasses, found no armed men in the open country, but encountered them in scattered and scanty companies, at the entrance of all the defiles, on the heights commanding pathways, and wherever men could hide themselves and await the moment for appearing unexpectedly. The Franks heard them, from amid the heather and the brushwood, uttering shrill cries, to give warning one to another or to alarm the enemy. The Franks advanced cautiously, and at last arrived at the entrance of the thick wood which surrounded Morvan’s abode. He had not yet set out with the pick of the warriors he had about him; but, at the approach of the Franks, he summoned his wife and his domestics, and said to them: “Defend ye well this house and these woods; as for me, I am going to march forward to collect my people; after which to return, but not without booty and spoils.” He put on his armor, took a javelin in each hand, and mounted his horse. “Thou seest,” said he to his wife, “these javelins I brandish: I will bring them back to thee this very day dyed with the blood of Franks. Farewell.” Setting out he pierced, followed by his men, through the thickness of the forest, and advanced to meet the Franks.

The battle began. The large numbers of the Franks who covered the ground for some distance dismayed the Britons, and many of them fled, seeking where they might hide themselves. Morvan, beside himself with rage and at the head of his most devoted followers, rushed down upon the Franks as if to demolish them at a single stroke; and many fell beneath his blows. He singled out a warrior of inferior grade, toward whom he made at a gallop, and, insulting him by word of mouth, after the ancient fashion of the Celtic warriors, cried: “Frank, I am going to give thee my first present, a present which I have been keeping for thee a long while, and which I hope thou wilt bear in mind;” and launched at him a javelin which the other received on his shield. “Proud Briton,” replied the Frank, “I have received thy present, and I am going to give thee mine.” He dug both spurs into his horse’s sides and galloped down upon Morvan, who, clad though he was in a coat of mail, fell pierced by the thrust of a lance. The Frank had but time to dismount and cut off his head when he fell himself, mortally wounded by one of Morvan’s young warriors, but not without having, in his turn, dealt the other his deathblow. It spreads on all sides that Morvan is dead; and the Franks come thronging to the scene of the encounter. There is picked up and passed from hand to hand a head all bloody and fearfully disfigured. Ditcar the monk is called to see it, and to say whether it is that of Morvan; but he has to wash the mass of disfigurement, and to partially adjust the hair, before he can pronounce that it is really Morvan’s. There is then no more doubt; resistance is now impossible; the widow, the family and the servants of Morvan arrive, are brought before Louis the Debonair, accept all the conditions imposed upon them, and the Franks withdraw with the boast that Brittany is henceforth their tributary.

On arriving at Angers, Louis found the empress Hermengarde dying; and two days afterward she was dead. He had a tender heart which was not proof against sorrow; and he testified a desire to abdicate and turn monk. But he was dissuaded from his purpose; for it was easy to influence his resolutions. A little later, he was advised to marry again, and he yielded. Several princesses were introduced; and he chose Judith of Bavaria, daughter of Count Welf (Guelf), a family already powerful and in later times celebrated. Judith was young, beautiful, witty, ambitious, and skilled in the art of making the gift of pleasing subserve the passion for ruling. Louis, during his expedition into Brittany, had just witnessed the fatal result of a woman’s empire over her husband; he was destined himself to offer a more striking and more long-lived example of it. In 823, he had, by his new empress Judith, a son, whom he called Charles, and who was hereafter to be known as Charles the Bald. This son became his mother’s ruling, if not exclusive, passion, and the source of his father’s woes. His birth could not fail to cause ill-temper and mistrust in Louis’ three sons by Hermengarde, who were already kings. They had but a short time previously received the first proof of their father’s weakness. In 822, Louis, repenting of his severity toward his nephew, Bernard of Italy, whose eyes he had caused to be put out as a punishment for rebellion, and who had died in consequence, considered himself bound to perform at Attigny, in the church and before the people, a solemn act of penance; which was creditable to his honesty and piety, but the details left upon the minds of the beholders an impression unfavorable to the Emperor’s dignity and authority. In 829, during an assembly held at Worms, he, yielding to his wife’s entreaties, and doubtless also to his own yearnings toward his youngest son, set at naught the solemn act whereby, in 817, he had shared his dominions among his three elder sons; and took away from two of them, in Burgundy and Alemannia, some of the territories he had assigned to them, and gave them to the boy Charles for his share. Lothair, Pepin, and Louis thereupon revolted. Court rivalries were added to family differences. The Emperor had summoned to his side a young southron, Bernard by name, duke of Septimania and son of Count William of Toulouse, who had gallantly fought the Saracens. He made him his chief chamberlain and his favorite counsellor. Bernard was bold, ambitious, vain, imperious, and restless. He removed his rivals from court, and put in their places his own creatures. He was accused not only of abusing the Emperor’s favor, but even of carrying on a guilty intrigue with the empress Judith. There grew up against him, and, by consequence, against the Emperor, the Empress, and their youngest son, a powerful opposition, in which certain ecclesiastics, and, among them, Wala, abbot of Corbie, cousin-german and but lately one of the privy counsellors of Charlemagne, joined eagerly. Some had at heart the unity of the empire, which Louis was breaking up more and more; others were concerned for the spiritual interests of the Church, which Louis, in spite of his piety and by reason of his weakness, often permitted to be attacked. Thus strengthened, the conspirators considered themselves certain of success. They had the empress Judith carried off and shut up in the convent of St. Radegonde at Poitiers; and Louis in person came to deliver himself up to them at Compiegne, where they were assembled. There they passed a decree to the effect that the power and title of emperor were transferred from Louis to Lothair, his eldest son; that the act whereby a share of the empire had but lately been assigned to Charles was annulled; and that the act of 817, which had regulated the partition of Louis’ dominions after his death, was once more in force. But soon there was a burst of reaction in favor of the Emperor; Lothair’s two brothers, jealous of his late elevation, made overtures to their father; the ecclesiastics were a little ashamed at being mixed up in a revolt; the people felt pity for the poor, honest Emperor; and a general assembly, meeting at Nimeguen, abolished the acts of Compiegne, and restored to Louis his title and his power. But it was not long before there was revolt again, originating this time with Pepin, King of Aquitaine. Louis fought him, and gave Aquitaine to Charles the Bald. The alliance between the three sons of Hermengarde was at once renewed; they raised an army; the Emperor marched against them with his; and the two hosts met between Colmar and Bale, in a place called _le Champ rouge_ (“the Field of Red”). Negotiations were set on foot; and Louis was called upon to leave his wife Judith and his son Charles, and put himself under the guardianship of his elder sons. He refused; but, just when the conflict was about to commence, desertion took place in Louis’ army; most of the prelates, laics, and men-at-arms who had accompanied him passed over to the camp of Lothair; and the “Field of Red” became the “Field of Falsehood” (_le Champ du Mensonge_). Louis, left almost alone, ordered his attendants to withdraw, “being unwilling,” he said, “that any one of them should lose life or limb on his account,” and surrendered to his sons. They received him with great demonstrations of respect, but without relinquishing the prosecution of their enterprise. Lothair hastily collected an assembly, which proclaimed him Emperor, with the addition of divers territories to the kingdoms of Aquitaine and Bavaria: and, three months afterward, another assembly, meeting at Compiegne, declared the emperor Louis to have forfeited the crown, “for having, by his faults and incapacity, suffered to sink so sadly low the empire which had been raised to grandeur and brought into unity by Charlemagne and his predecessors.” Louis submitted to this decision; himself read out aloud, in the Church of St. Medard at Soissons, but not quite unresistingly, a confession, in eight articles, of his faults, and, laying his baldric upon the altar, stripped off his royal robe, and received from the hands of Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims, the gray vestment of a penitent.

Lothair considered his father dethroned for good, and himself henceforth sole Emperor; but he was mistaken. For years longer the scenes which have just been described kept repeating themselves again and again; rivalries and secret plots began once more between the three victorious brothers and their partisans; popular feeling revived in favor of Louis; a large portion of the clergy shared it; several counts of Neustria and Burgundy appeared in arms, in the name of the deposed Emperor; and the seductive and able Judith came afresh upon the scene, and gained over to the cause of her husband and her son a multitude of friends. In 834, two assemblies, one meeting at St. Denis and the other at Thionville, annulled all the acts of the assembly of Compiegne, and for the third time put Louis in possession of the imperial title and power. He displayed no violence in his use of it; but he was growing more and more irresolute and weak, when, in 838, the second of his rebellious sons, Pepin, king of Aquitaine, died suddenly. Louis, ever under the sway of Judith, speedily convoked at Worms, in 839, once more and for the last time, a general assembly, whereat, leaving his son Louis of Bavaria reduced to his kingdom in Eastern Europe, he divided the rest of his dominions into two nearly equal parts, separated by the course of the Meuse and the Rhone. Between these two parts he left the choice to Lothair, who took the eastern portion, promising at the same time to guarantee the western portion to his younger brother Charles. Louis the Germanic protested against this partition, and took up arms to resist it. His father, the Emperor, set himself in motion toward the Rhine, to reduce him to submission; but, on arriving close to Mayence, he caught a violent fever, and died on the 20th of June, 840, at the castle Ingelheim, on a little island in the river. His last acts were a fresh proof of his goodness toward even his rebellious sons and of his solicitude for his last-born. He sent to Louis the Germanic his pardon, and to Lothair the golden crown and sword, at the same time bidding him fulfil his father’s wishes on behalf of Charles and Judith.

There is no telling whether, in the credulousness of his good nature, Louis had, at his dying hour, any great confidence in the appeal he made to his son Lothair, and in the impression which would be produced on his other son, Louis of Bavaria, by the pardon bestowed. The prayers of the dying are of little avail against violent passions and barbaric manners. Scarcely was Louis the Debonair dead, when Lothair was already conspiring against young Charles, and was in secret alliance, for his despoilment, with Pepin II, the late King of Aquitaine’s son, who had taken up arms for the purpose of seizing his father’s kingdom, in the possession of which his grandfather Louis had not been pleased to confirm him. Charles suddenly learned that his mother Judith was on the point of being besieged in Poitiers by the Aquitanians; and, in spite of the friendly protestations sent to him by Lothair, it was not long before he discovered the plot formed against him. He was not wanting in shrewdness or energy; and, having first provided for his mother’s safety, he set about forming an alliance, in the cause of their common interests, with his other brother, Louis the Germanic, who was equally in danger from the ambition of Lothair. The historians of the period do not say what negotiator was employed by Charles on this distant and delicate mission; but several circumstances indicate that the empress Judith herself undertook it; that she went in quest of the King of Bavaria; and that it was she who, with her accustomed grace and address, determined him to make common cause with his youngest against their eldest brother. Divers incidents retarded for a whole year the outburst of this family plot, and of the war of which it was the precursor. The position of the young king Charles appeared for some time a very bad one; but “certain chieftains,” says the historian Nithard, “faithful to his mother and to him, and having nothing more to lose than life or limb, chose rather to die gloriously than to betray their King.” The arrival of Louis the Germanic with his troops helped to swell the forces and increase the confidence of Charles; and it was on the 21st of June, 841, exactly a year after the death of Louis the Debonair, that the two armies, that of Lothair and Pepin on the one side, and that of Charles the Bald and Louis the Germanic on the other, stood face to face in the neighborhood of the village of Fontenailles, six leagues from Auxerre, on the rivulet of Audries. Never, according to such evidence as is forthcoming, since the battle on the plains of Chalons against the Huns, and that of Poitiers against the Saracens, had so great masses of men been engaged. “There would be nothing untruthlike,” says that scrupulous authority, M. Fauriel, “in putting the whole number of combatants at three hundred thousand; and there is nothing to show that either of the two armies was much less numerous than the other.” However that may be, the leaders hesitated for four days to come to blows; and while they were hesitating, the old favorite, not only of Louis the Debonair, but also, according to several chroniclers, of the empress Judith, held himself aloof with his troops in the vicinity, having made equal promise of assistance to both sides, and waiting, to govern his decision, for the prospect afforded by the first conflict. The battle began on the 25th of June, at daybreak, and was at first in favor of Lothair; but the troops of Charles the Bald recovered the advantage which had been lost by those of Louis the Germanic, and the action was soon nothing but a terribly simple scene of carnage between enormous masses of men, charging hand to hand, again and again, with a front extending over a couple of leagues. Before midday the slaughter, the plunder, the spoliation of the dead–all was over; the victory of Charles and Louis was complete; the victors had retired to their camp, and there remained nothing on the field of battle but corpses in thick heaps or a long line, according as they had fallen in the disorder of flight or steadily fighting in their ranks…. “Accursed be this day!” cries Angilbert, one of Lothair’s officers, in rough Latin verse; “be it unnumbered in the return of the year, but wiped out of all remembrance! Be it unlit by the light of the sun! Be it without either dawn or twilight! Accursed, also, be this night, this awful night in which fell the brave, the most expert in battle! Eye ne’er hath seen more fearful slaughter: in streams of blood fell Christian men; the linen vestments of the dead did whiten the champaign even as it is whitened by the birds of autumn!”

In spite of this battle, which appeared a decisive one, Lothair made zealous efforts to continue the struggle; he scoured the countries wherein he hoped to find partisans; to the Saxons he promised the unrestricted reestablishment of their pagan worship, and several of the Saxon tribes responded to his appeal. Louis the Germanic and Charles the Bald, having information of these preliminaries, resolved to solemnly renew their alliance and, seven months after their victory at Fontenailles, in February, 842, they repaired both of them, each with his army, to Argentaria, on the right bank of the Rhine, between Bale and Strasburg, and there, at an open-air meeting, Louis first, addressing the chieftains about him in the German tongue, said: “Ye all know how often, since our father’s death, Lothair hath attacked us, in order to destroy us, this my brother and me. Having never been able, as brothers and Christians, or in any just way, to obtain peace from him, we were constrained to appeal to the judgment of God. Lothair was beaten and retired, whither he could, with his following; for we, restrained by paternal affection and moved with compassion for Christian people, were unwilling to pursue them to extermination. Neither then nor aforetime did we demand aught else save that each of us should be maintained in his rights. But he, rebelling against the judgment of God, ceaseth not to attack us as enemies, this my brother and me; and he destroyeth our peoples with fire and pillage and the sword. That is the cause which hath united us afresh; and, as we trow that ye doubt the soundness of our alliance and our fraternal union, we have resolved to bind ourselves afresh by this oath in your presence, being led thereto by no prompting of wicked covetousness, but only that we may secure our common advantage in case that, by your aid, God should cause us to obtain peace. If, then, I violate–which God forbid–this oath that I am about to take to my brother, I hold you all quit of submission to me and of the faith ye have sworn to me.”

Charles repeated this speech, word for word, to his own troops, in the Romance language, in that idiom derived from a mixture of Latin and of the tongues of ancient Gaul, and spoken, thenceforth, with varieties of dialect and pronunciation, in nearly all parts of Frankish Gaul. After this address, Louis pronounced and Charles repeated after him, each in his own tongue, the oath couched in these terms: “For the love of God, for the Christian people and for our common weal, from this day forth and so long as God shall grant me power and knowledge, I will defend this my brother and will be an aid to him in everything, as one ought to defend his brother, provided that he do likewise unto me; and I will never make with Lothair any covenant which may be, to my knowledge, to the damage of this my brother.”

When the two brothers had thus sworn, the two armies, officers and men, took, in their turn, a similar oath, going bail, in a mass, for the engagements of their kings. Then they took up their quarters, all of them, for some time, between Worms and Mayence, and followed up their political proceeding with military fetes, precursors of the knightly tournaments of the Middle Ages. “A place of meeting was fixed,” says the contemporary historian Nithard, “at a spot suitable for this kind of exercises. Here were drawn up, on one side, a certain number of combatants, Saxons, Vasconians, Austrasians, or Britons; there were ranged, on the opposite side, an equal number of warriors, and the two divisions advanced, each against the other, as if to attack. One of them, with their bucklers at their backs, took to flight as if to seek, in the main body, shelter against those who were pursuing them; then suddenly, facing about, they dashed out in pursuit of those before whom they had just been flying. This sport lasted until the two kings, appearing with all the youth of their suites, rode up at a gallop, brandishing their spears and chasing first one lot and then the other. It was a fine sight to see so much temper among so many valiant folk, for, great as was the number and the mixture of different nationalities, no one was insulted or maltreated, though the contrary is often the case among men in small numbers and known one to another.”

After four or five months of tentative measures or of incidents which taught both parties that they could not, either of them, hope to completely destroy their opponents, the two allied brothers received at