History of England, Part I For the use of Middle Forms of Schools

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York


CHAPTER I: William the Conqueror 1066-1087

1. [1] While was still lying in the south resting his army and awaiting fresh troops, and came to London, and the Wise Men met and chose the child , 's nephew, for king. Whereupon the two earls, whether from disgust or fear, went north again, leaving the city and the south of England to its fate. The duke had now got , Canterbury, and , and was ready to move; so marching up the past London, ravaging the land as he went, he crossed it at Wallingford and turned east so as to cut off all help from the north. Seeing no hope left Eadgar, the archbishop and the best men of London went to him at Berkhamstead and

"bowed to him for need."

And at Westminster on Midwinter Day, in the midst of an uproar (caused by the Norman soldiers taking the cheers of the English for the beginning of an attack on them and the king), Ealdred of hallowed him king, making him swear before he set the crown on his head that he would keep his people as well as ever the best king before him had if they would be true to him. The landholders then came to him, paid dues, and bought back their land. But the lands of those that had fallen in fight against him or fled from England were given to Normans and Frenchmen, many of whom also were married to English heiresses and widows. But no new laws were made, the old courts were kept up, and in all things 's ways were followed.


2. [2] Next year took the Etheling and most of the English nobles with him, and went to visit his own land, leaving England in charge of , his brother, and William Fitz-Osbern, his friend. They began to oppress the English and to build castles all over the land, and as only the south-east of England was really in the king's own power, all those who had not yet felt his heavy hand rose against him. Castle was attacked, took up arms, and in the west Eadric the Wild (nephew of Eadric the Grasper) called in the Welsh. Messengers were also sent for help to Norway, Denmark, and Germany, and when the king came back the greater part of the country had to be conquered bit by bit: a task which, in spite of the folly and quarrels of the English leaders, took him four years to finish.

was completely overpowered by the fall of , which 's sons and their grandmother Gytha had long held against . 's sons indeed escaped to Ireland, and twice afterwards attempted to land in the west, but they were easily driven off.

With the north the king had far more trouble. Eadgar Etheling had fled with his sister Margaret and many English nobles to Scotland, where King received them kindly, and made give him his sister to wife. The Northumbrians, hoping for help from Scotland, chose for king and rose in force. himself was forced to go north against them, drive the Etheling away, and, building castles in and , garrison them with Norman soldiers to hold the province. But better help than 's was at hand. Swegen of Denmark sent his brother Asbeorn and his sons with 240 ships, who, coming into the Humber, were eagerly welcomed and joined by Waltheof, son of Siward the Stout, and the other English earls. The French garrison at plundered the city and minster, and shut themselves up in the castle, but the Danes and English took it with great slaughter and drove the captive Normans as slaves to the ships. It was in these fights that Waltheof did the deeds that made him famous all over England. Once he kept a gate single-handed against a whole troop of Frenchmen, smiting down every one that came near him with his great axe. But when came up for the third time, the earls fled, the Danes took to their ships, and the people were left to their fate. determined to stop these northern risings for ever, and laid waste the whole land between the Humber and Tees, burning


every cottage and slaying every living thing, so that for nine years not a yard of land was tilled in this awful desert. Having thus set a barrier which the Scots could not easily cross, he held his Christmas at in state. The Danish fleet lay all the winter off the Humber, but were got rid of in the spring by being allowed to plunder the Golden Minster, Peterborough, after which they agreed to leave the country.

The Welsh border being still in arms, directly after Yule, in the depth of winter and the worst of weather, the king led his army across the wild hills to Chester, took it and stamped out the revolt, setting an earl as Constable to hold the city and keep the Welsh quiet.

The last struggle came about in the east, where and turned traitors again, took to the woods, gathered hundreds of Englishmen to them, and set up a Camp of Refuge at in the midst of the Fens. was murdered by his own men, but and Ethelwine (one of the bishops whom had dethroned) and the famous held the island valiantly against and all his army, till the king built a causeway across the Fens, so that his men could assault the camp in force. Then and the bishop surrendered, the former being pardoned for the sake of his brother , for whose fate (who only wept twice in his life) shed tears, though the handsome open-handed young earl had three times broken his oath to him. cut his way through the Normans and got away, and lived to be reconciled to the king, who admired his skill, and gave him part of his army to command in France in . Many stories are told of 's adventures. He met his death at the hands of a band of Bretons led by Ralph of Tewkesbury, who, being jealous of his favour with and the gifts he had given him, came upon the English captain and his faithful follower Winter unawares one day as they lay asleep in an orchard and slew them, not without a struggle, in which seventeen of the cowardly assailants were killed. was angry at this evil deed, and swore that if there had but been three other Englishmen as good as , the Normans would have been driven out of England.

In , overawed by 's approach at the head of a great army, did homage to him at Abernethy on Tay, and persuaded the Etheling to make friends with him also. So that henceforth 's hold on the English was secure.

3.[3] As early as had set about the reform of the English Church, Ealdred was dead, Stigand and others were deposed, and seven vacant sees and many abbotships were filled at the Council of London by foreigners, mostly learned and pious men with the good of the Church at heart, but there were some among them whose zeal led them into cruelty towards their English flocks. Thus at Thurstan and his monks fell out over the new chants the abbot wished them to learn; they prayed him to treat them gently and promised obedience. But he threatened them all the more, and one day sent for soldiers to come full-weaponed into the chapter- house upon the poor monks, who fled frightened into the minster, locking the doors behind them.

"But a rueful thing fell out that day! The Frenchmen broke into the choir and shot towards the altar where the monks were, and some of the knights went up into the gallery, and kept shooting downwards with arrows thence towards the sacrament, so that many arrows struck upon the rood that stood above the altar. And the wretched monks lay about the altar, and some crept under it, and called earnestly upon God, praying for mercy from Him, since they could get no mercy from men. What can we say? But that they kept on shooting, and the others broke the doors down and went in and slew some of the monks outright, and wounded many there in the chancel; so that the blood ran from the altar upon the steps, and from the steps on to the floor."

Such men as Thurstan, who was removed by the king, did great harm, but the new archbishop, , was one of the best men that ever filled the See of . His career had been a strange one. Born at Pavia and bred to the law, having heard that good clerks could get on in Normandy, he came to Avranches and opened a school, to which his scholarship and eloquence soon assured great success. Suddenly he resolved to turn monk, and going to Bec, a little retreat set up by Herlwin, a pious Norman knight, took the cowl. Here learned much from the old soldier's simple piety, and showed the greatest humility and earnestness in his new calling. Once as he was reading at dinner according to rule to his fellow-monks, the ignorant prior wished him to say docere instead of docere as he rightly read it, and he complied without a word, telling his better-taught fellows afterwards that it was worse to disobey than make a false quantity. And to this sweet temper he owed his advancement. Arguing against 's marriage with his cousin


Matilda, he was banished from Normandy. As he rode slowly away on a sorry hackney the monks had lent him he met the duke and all his train, and seeing that knew him, told him that if he had had a better steed he should have been out of his way hours ago. The duke laughed at his quiet humour, and told him to turn back with him. And when he saw the wisdom and learning of the monk, he took him into his service and treated him as a dear friend, paying great respect to his advice.

did not like the way some of the English clergy mixed in government and lawsuits and worldly affairs, nor the gluttony and laziness of others, so he advised to let the Church have courts of its own, where all matters of church law and discipline might be dealt with by the clergy, instead of by all the people at the moots. He also forbade the clergy to attend or plead at any Lay Court. He moved the bishops' stools from places which had sunk into mere hamlets to towns where their influence might be of greater use. In many small matters too he brought the English Church into conformity with the churches abroad. But neither he nor wished to put the Church wholly under the Pope, nor let it meddle with matters of State; and the king forbade any Pope to be acknowledged as such, or his bulls (decrees) read, or any orders of the Church Assemblies to be enforced, or any layman to be punished by the Church without his leave, nor would he pay homage to the Pope. made collections of books for his library at Canterbury, and corrected many manuscripts with his own hand; he also wrote several pious and learned treatises. Like , he was fond of building, and by the help of his friend Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, the architect of the White Tower and Rochester Cathedral, he rebuilt part of Minster. One of s sayin s was that it was better for a man to spend his money on the poor than in, what was then thought most meritorious, going a pilgrimage.

4. [4] For the rest of his reign 's troubles arose from the faithlessness of his Norman nobles, the turbulence of his sons, and the hatred of his enemies in France. William Fitz-Osbern, his faithful friend, had fallen fighting for his wife's heritage in Flanders. His son Roger, an ambitious man, now set a plot on foot against the king on the marriage of his sister Emma to Ralf, Earl of Norfolk, at the wedding feast at Exning, to which he had bidden Earl Waltheof and many great men.

"There was that 'brideale, that was many men's bale!"


Here the two kinsmen spoke against ; calling him base-born and no rightful ruler, cruel, unjust, and treacherous to his nobles; saying that he had rewarded the knights who won him his crown with the worst lands and kept the best himself; and proposing to oust him by the help of the English (who, they said, would be glad to get revenge, though they seemed to think of little but eating and drinking), setting one of themselves in his place, while the other two should be dukes in the old way, as when ruled with his earls. Waltheof would not join them, though he promised secrecy; Ralf and Roger, however, gathered troops, hired Bretons from abroad, sent for help from Denmark, and raised their standards: but the English took arms against them, and the Norman garrisons were true to the king. Ralf fled over sea, leaving his bride to hold , which she did bravely, only surrendering on condition of the garrison being allowed to leave England unharmed; Roger was taken; Waltheof gave himself up, and the Bretons were made prisoners. The Danish fleet, 240 strong, came when all was over, and, not daring to meet , made a hasty raid on , where they burned the minster (a deed which brought ill-luck on all that took part in it, and death to Earl Hakon's son, their leader), and sailed off to Flanders. The Bretons were judged at Westminster, at the Christmas Great Moot.

"Some were blinded : and some banished. So were


's : traitors treated !"

The innocent Waltheof was put to death next year, either through the lies of his wicked wife (Judith, the king's niece) or because was afraid of his popularity and influence in England, Scotland, and Denmark. Early on the morning of May 31 the young earl was led to a little hill near Winchester to die. He took off his rich robes and gave them to the poor, knelt down at the block and prayed earnestly, till the headsman, fearing a rescue, cut off his head while the words

"deliver us from evil !"

were yet in his mouth. His body was buried at his beloved Abbey of Crowland, where miracles were wrought at his tomb, as the English believed, and it was said that none of 's plans ever prospered after the Martyr-Earl's death. A Norwegian poet who had known Waltheof says in his dirge on him-

"Yea, he that, sailing northward, clove the cold sea, and blood-red

Dyed many a sword in battle--William-slew Waltheof foully.

Bravest of knights my lord was; never died doughtier champion !

Ah ! 'twill be long ere slaughter ceases out of England !"


Judith soon fell into deserved disgrace, but Maud, Waltheof's daughter, was allowed to keep her father's earldom of Huntingdon, and at last wedded the King of Scots' son.

5. [5] After a war with his vassals, the Bretons, who got help from the French king, ever jealous of the Normans, and defeated for the first time at Dol, taking his camp and treasure, and obliging him to accept their terms of peace, a worse disaster followed. Robert Curthose, 's eldest son, a brave young man, but ill-advised, asked for the heritage, Normandy and Maine, which his father had promised him. said the king, and refused him. Whereupon, getting the help of King Philip and those Norman barons who disliked 's just rule and longed for the licence the lazy good-nature of Robert would allow them, the headstrong young man took up arms. At Gerberoi () he met his father in battle, and, not knowing who he was, wounded him in the hand. The king's horse was shot under him, and but for a brave Englishman, Tostig, who fell struck through by an arblast bolt as he brought him another charger, he would most likely have been killed. When Robert heard his father's voice and knew him, he dismounted, threw himself at his feet, and begged his forgiveness. A peace was patched up, and Robert came to England, where he built Newcastle for his father as a Border fortress against the Scots in .

's glorious progress through South Wales to S. David's, receiving the homage of the Welsh princes and making them free their English captives (many hundred souls), showed his power; but the end of his reign was gloomy. He lost his son Richard and his much-loved wife Matilda, a good, pious woman, whose foolish fondness for the misguided Robert was her only fault. He was obliged to imprison his brother , who had ruled badly and greedily, and was now gathering an army to go to Rome to try and be made Pope, having spent vast sums in bribing the Roman people. Moreover, the Danes were again threatening England, , their king, had married a daughter of William Fitz-Osbern's foe, now Earl of Flanders, and in alliance with him and the King of Norway, had gathered a fleet to conquer England. was obliged to summon soldiers from abroad,

" so many that men wondered how the land might feed them all,"

quarter them on the English, and raise Danegild to pay them. He also let waste the whole east coast for miles inland, so that no foe could find meat


or shelter or landing. , however, was slain by his own men, so that his plans came to nought. But , wishing to find out exactly the resources of his kingdom, so that it might be defended in the least burdensome way if ever there were danger again,

"took great thought, and held deep speech with his Wise Men"

at Gloster, ; and being advised to make a survey of the whole country, sent commissioners into every shire to find out how much land of every sort there was, how many landholders, cottars, and slaves, and what was the worth of the land and cattle in every manor. Inquest was held in every village and evidence taken on oath;

"so narrowly did he make them seek out all this, that there was not a single hyde or yard of land (shameful it is to tell, though he thought it no shame to do), nor one ox, nor one cow, nor one swine left out, that was not set down in his rolls, and all these rolls were afterwards brought to him."

From them was made the great Domesday Book, which tells us more of the history, state, and condition of England than can be known of any other country for hundreds of years afterwards, and gives us cause to bless 's wisdom rather than blame his greed.

With the results of this great Inquest before him, summoned all the landholders of England, mediate and immediate (whether holding of other lords or directly of him), to meet him at Sarum, where he made them swear, according to the old English custom, to be faithful to him, for he did not wish the Norman ideas, that a man was only bound to be faithful to him whose tenant he was, disregarding the overlord's rights altogether, to grow up in England. It was also a sign that he would uphold the free English customs and moots, and not suffer the lords' power to override them. The distress caused by the heavy taxes, bad harvests and consequent famines, and several great fires (in one of which S. Paul's in London was burned), besides the heavy rule of the Norman landlords, all made Englishmen believe that their sins had brought God's heavy wrath upon them.

6. [6] In , raging against the French king for a coarse on his stoutness, left England for the last time, and marching to Mantes, a frontier town, burned it, minsters and all. As he rode round the flaming city, his horse reared and threw him against the pommel of his saddle, giving him a hurt of which he died on Tuesday, September 9, . On his deathbed he called his sons to him and told them the whole story of his life. he said, and prayed them all to pay heed to his mistakes and sins and rule uprightly. Then leaving Normandy and Maine to Robert, his first-born, prophesying ill-luck for him, he said, To Henry he gave £ 5000, bidding him trust in the Lord, for that in the end he should have all his father ever held. Then he forgave all his enemies, set free all his prisoners of state, and commended his soul to the Lord Jesus with his last breath as the morning bell rang out from the steeple of Rouen Minster. Thence they bore him to his own abbey at Cæn, where, but in little state, and not till the knight from whom he had seized the land for his foundation had been paid for the grave, he was laid.

One who knew him well says of this great king that he was mightier and wiser than any of his forerunners; a pious man that built many minsters and loved God's servants; so stern a man that he would not spare his own brother if he did wrong; so just that the good peace he made cannot be forgotten; and so mighty that he held Normandy and Brittany, won England and Maine, made Scotland and Wales bow to him, and would, had he lived two years longer, have won Ireland by his mere renown, without need of weapon. But he was also greedy of gold, proud and hard-hearted, as when he made the Great Deer-parks,

"and ordered that whoso slew hart or hind, him men should blind, and forbade men to slay deer or bear, and made the hare go free, for he loved the big game as if he were their father,"

recking nought of the poor that he oppressed. In person was tall and stout, skilled in horsemanship, and so strong that no man could bend his bow. His face was handsome, but stern-looking; he had an aquiline nose, quick grey eyes, a high brow, and dark hair, but became bald in middle age. A man of few words, but able to speak well; passionate, but never losing his head; crafty, but true to his pledged word; a far-sighted statesman, a skilful general, and a just judge, no king of England was better gifted for the hard evil days in which his rule was cast.


[1] William chosen king, 1066.

[2] The English resistance, 1067-1070.

[3] Reforms in the English Church. Lanfranc, 1070.

[4] The bridal of Norwich, 1075.

[] [1075-1085.]

[5] William's troubles at home and abroad.

[] [1085-1087.]

[6] William's death and character.

  • In-text illustrations for this text are cataloged in MS004/002.001#DO01.
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