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1073.] False reportsMatilda's jealousy.

49 her sovereign; and not content with doing everything in her power to incite his Norman subjects to revolt, she had thought proper to cast the most injurious aspersions on his character as a husband, and insinuated that he had made an attempt on her virtue.

Githa, the mother of Harold, eagerly caught at these reports, which she took great pleasure in circulating. She communicated them to Sweno, king of Denmark, and added, that the reason why Merleswen, a Kentish noble of some importance, had joined the late revolt in England was, because the Norman tyrant had dishonoured his fair niece, the daughter of one of the canons of Canterbury. This tale, whether false or true, came in due course to Matilda's ears, and caused the first conjugal difference that had ever arisen between her and her lord. She was by no means of a temper to take any affront of the kind patiently, and it is said that she caused the unfortunate damsel to be put to death, with circumstances of great cruelty? Hearne, in his notes to Robert of Gloucester, furnishes us with a curious sequel to this tale extracted from a very ancient chronicle among the Cottonian MSS., which, after relating " that the priest's daughter was privily slain by a confidential servant of Matilda, the queen,” adds,

" that the Conqueror was so enraged at the barbarous revenge taken by his consort, that, on his return to Normandy, he beat her with his bridle so severely, that she soon after died.” Now, it is certain Matilda lived full ten years after the period at which this matrimonial discipline is said to have been inflicted upon her by the strong arm of the Conqueror; and the worthy chronicler himself, merely relates it as one of the current rumours of the day. We are willing to hope that the story altogether has originated from the scandalous reports of that malign busybody of the eleventh century, the lady Grantmesnil; though, at the same time, it is to be feared, that the woman who was capable of inflicting such deadly vengeance on the unfortunate Saxon nobleman who had been the object of her earliest affections, would not have been very scrupulous in her dealings with a female whom she suspected of having rivalled her in her husband's regard. William

of Malmesbury bears testimony to the conjugal affection which subsisted between the Conqueror and Matilda, “ whose obedience to her husband, and fruitfulness in bringing him so many children,” he says, “excited in his mind the tenderest regard towards her." "If any cause of anger or mistrust had occurred, during their long separation, to interrupt the conjugal happiness of Matilda and her husband, it was but a passing cloud, for historians all agree that they were living together in a state of the most affectionate union during the year 1074, great part of which was spent by the Conqueror with his

family in Normandy.

Henderson. Ord. Vit.

2 She caused her to be hamstrung.-Rapin, Henderson says laulda ordered her jaws to be slit."

3 Ord. Vit Wm. ot Malms. Saxon Annals,

E

VOL. I.

a

It was at this period that Edgar Atheling came to the court at Caen, to make a voluntary submission to the Norman sovereign, and to entreat his forgiveness for the several insurrections in which he had been engaged. The Conqueror freely accorded an amnesty, treated him with great kindness, and pensioned him with a daily allowance of a pound of silver, in the hope that this amicable arrangement would secure his government in England from all future disturbances. He was mistaken : fresh troubles had already broken out in that quarter, but this time they proceeded from his own turbulent Norman chiefs; one of them, withal, was the son of his great favourite and trusty kinsman, FitzOsborn, who was defeated and taken prisoner by the nobles and prelates of Worcester. The Danish fleet, which had vainly hovered on the coast, waiting for a signal to land troops to assist the conspirators, was fain to retreat without effecting its object. As for the great Saxon earl

, Waltheof, who had been drawn into the plot and betrayed by his Norman wife, Judith, to her uncle the Conqueror, he was, after a long suspense, beheaded on a rising ground just without the gates of Winchester ; being the first English nobleman who had died by the hand of a public executioner.3

William next pursued his Norman traitor, Ralph de Guader, to the continent, and besieged him in the city of Dol, where he had taken refuge. The young duke of Bretagne, Alan Fergeant, assisted by the king of France, came with a powerful army to the succour of the besieged earl; and William was not only compelled to raise the siege; but to abandon his tents and baggage, to the value of fifteen thousani pounds. His diplomatic talents, however, enabled him to extricate himself from the embarrassing strait in which he had been placed, by a marriage between Alan and his daughter Constance. This alliance was no less advantageous to the princely bridegroom, than agreeable to William and Matilda. The nuptials were celebrated with great pomp, and the bride was dowered with all the lands of Chester, once the possessions of the unfortunate earl Edwin, who had formerly been contracted to one of her sisters.*

At the close of this year died Edith, the widow of Edward the Confessor. She had retired to a convent, but was treated with the respect and honour of a queen-dowager, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was long survived by her unfortunate sister-in-law, Edith 1 Saxon Annals. Wm. of Malms. Bromp- large fire to be made, and, in the presence of

the messenger, burned the rich garments 2 Fitz-Osborn was a relation of his sove- one by one, with the most insolent expreso reign, and, before this act of contumacy, sions of contempt. William was very angry stood high in his favour. He was only at the manner in which his unwonted grlpunished with imprisonment for his share in ciousness was received by his vassal kins the conspiracy. After a time his royal mas- man, but inflicted no severer punishment ter, as a token.that he was disposed to pardon than a lengthened term of imprisonment.him, sent him a costly suit of clothes; but Fitz-Osborn, instead of tendering his grateful acknowledgments for this present, ordered a

ton.

Henderson. 3 Ord. Vit.
4 Saxon Annals.

S. Dunelm,
Malms.

Wm. of

1

1075.] Matilda's eldest daughter professed a nun.

51 or Algitha, the widow of Harold, the other Saxon queen-dowager, who, having had woful experience of the calamities of greatness and the vanity of earthly distinctions, voluntarily resigned her royal title, and passed the residue of her days in obscurity.

In the year 1075, William and Matilda, with their family, kept the festival of Easter with great pomp at Fescamp, and attended in person the profession of their eldest daughter Cecilia, who was there veiled a nun by the archbishop John. “ This royal maid had been educated with great care in the convent of Caen, where she was instructed in all the learning of the age, and several sciences. She was consecrated to the holy and indivisible Trinity, took the veil under the venerable abbess Matilda, and faithfully conformed to all the rules of conventual discipline. Cecilia succeeded this abbess in her office, having, for fourteen years, maintained the highest reputation for sanctity and wisdom. From the moment that she was dedicated to God by her father, she became a true servant of the Most High, and continued a pure and holy virgin, attending to the pious rules of her order for a period of fifty-two years.”

Soon after the profession of the lady Cecilia, those fatal divisions began to appear in the royal family, of which Matilda had sown the seeds by the injurious partiality she had shown for Robert, her first-born. This prince, having been associated with his royal mother in the regency of Normandy from the age of fourteen, had been brought more into public than was perhaps desirable at a period of life when presumptuous ideas of self-importance are only too apt to inflate the mind. Robert, during his father's long absence, was not only emancipated from all control, but had accustomed himself to exercise the functions of a sovereign in Normandy by anticipation, and to receive the homage and fattery of all ranks of people in the dominions to which he was the heir. The Conqueror, it seems, had promised that he would one day bestow the duchy of Normandy on him; and Robert having represented the ducal majesty for nearly eight years, considered himself

an injured person when his royal father took the power into his own hands once more, ană exacted from him the obedience of a subject, and the duty of a son.” There was also a jealous rivalry between Robert and his two younger brothers

, William-Rufus and Henry. William-Rufus, notwithstanding his rude

, boisterous manners, and the apparent recklessness of his disposition, had an abundant share of world-craft, and well knew how to adapt himself to his father's humour, so that he was no less a favourite with the Conqueror than Robert was with Matilda. Robert had been in bis infancy espoused to Margaret

, the niece of Herbert, the last earl of Maine. Margaret died while they were yet children, and William of Normandy, who had taken her lands under his wardship, annexed them

Ord. Vit. Wm. of Malms.

2 Ord. Vit.

to his own dominions after her death. When the juvenile widower became of age, he considered himself entitled to the earldom and lands of Maine in right of his deceased wife, and claimed them of his father, who put him off with fair words, but withheld the territory ; though the people of Maine demanded Robert for their lord, and, at the surrender of the revolted city of Mans, it was among the articles of capitulation that he should receive the investiture of the earldom. This condition was violated by the Conqueror, who had no mind to part with any portion of his acquisitions during his life; verifying in this, as in every other action, the predictions of the gossips at his birth," that he would grasp everything within his reach, and that which he had once grasped he would keep."

While Matilda and William were with their family at the castle of l’Aigle, their two younger. sons, William ard Henry, in wanton play, threw dirty water from the balcony of an upper apartment on Robert and some of his partisans, who were walking in the court below. The fiery heir of Normandy construed this act of boyish folly into an act of studied contempt; and being just then in an irritable and excited frame of mind, he drew his sword and rushed up stairs, with a threat of taking deadly vengeance on the youthful transgressors who had offered this insult to him before the whole court. This occasioned a prodigious tumult and uproar in the castle, and nothing but the presence and stern authority of the king, who, hearing the alarm, burst into the room with his drawn sword in his hand, could have prevented fatal consequences. Robert, not obtaining the satisfaction he expected for the affront he had received, privately retired from the court that very evening, followed by a party of the young nobility whom he had attached to his cause.

Richard, the second son of William and Matilda, does not appear have taken any part in these quarrels. He was the pupil of the learned Lanfranc, and was probably occupied with studious pursuits, as he is said to have been a prince of great promise, and of an amiable disposition. He died in England, in the flower of his youth. According popular tradition, he was gored by a stag, while hunting in the New Forest, which caused his death ; but some historians record that he died of a fever, occasioned by the malaria in the depopulated district of Hampshire, at the time when so many thousands of the unfortunate Saxons perished by famine, in consequence of having been driven from their homes when the Conqueror converted that once fertile part of England into a chase, for the enjoyment of his favourite amusement of hunting. Prince Richard was buried in Winchester Cathedral: a slab of stone, marked with his name, is still seen there.

The Saxon chronicle comments on the oppressive statutes enacted by

to

1 Ord. Vit.

2 Ibid.

3 Wm. of Malms,

4 Camden, Sax. Chron.

1079.] Feud between Matilda's eldest son and the Conquercr. 53 the Norman conqueror for the preservation of game in an eloquent strain of indignant irony, and says, “ he loved the tall deer as if he had been their father.” That game-laws were in existence at a much earlier period, is most certain ; but it was during this reign that they were rendered a grievance to the people, and assumed the character of a moral wrong in the legislature of the country. The more enlightened policy of modern jurisprudence has in some degree ameliorated the rigorous penalties enacted by our Norman line of sovereigns against poaching in its various departments, but the bitterness engendered by the spirit of those laws remains in full force in the hearts of those classes against whom the statutes are supposed to point, and is constantly acted upon by persons assuming the office of political agitators, for the purpose of creating divisions between the people and their rulers.

CHAPTER III. The feud between her royal husband and their first-born was very painful to Matilda, whose anxious attempts to effect a reconciliation were unavailing. When Robert's passion was somewhat cooled, he consented to see his father, but the interview was anything but friendly.

Robert assumed a very high tone, and repeated his demand of being invested with the duchies of Normandy and Maine. The Conqueror sternly bade his ambitious heir “ remember the fate of Absalom, and not to listen to the evil counsellors who wished to seduce him from the paths of duty.” On which Robert insolently replied, “That he did not come there to listen to sermons, with which he had been nauseated by his tutors when he was learning grammar, but to claim the investiture which had been promised to him. Answer me positively,"

are not these things my right? Have you not promised to bestow them on me?”_" It is not my custom to strip till I go to bed,” replied the Conqueror; “and as long as I live, I will not deprive myself of my

native realm, Normandy ; neither will I divide it with another, for it is written in the holy evangelists, ‘Every kingdom that is divided against itself shall become desolate." I won England by

good sword; the vicar of Christ placed the diadem of its

on my brow and the sceptre in mine hand, and I swear that all the world combined shall not compel me to delegate my power to another. It is not to be borne, that he who owes his existence to me should aspire to be my rival in mine own dominions." Robert scomfully rejoined, with equal pride and disrespect, “ If it be incontenient for you to keep your word, I will withdraw from Normandy Ord. Vit. Hemmingford. Walsingham.

'* Ord. Vit. S. Dunelm. P. Daniel.

continued he;

mine own ancient kings

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