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Title: William the Conqueror - And the Rule of the Normans
Author: Stenton, F. M. (Frank Merry)
Language: English
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                         Heroes of the Nations

A Series of Biographical Studies presenting the lives and work of
certain representative historical characters, about whom have gathered
the traditions of the nations to which they belong, and who have, in the
majority of instances, been accepted as types of the several national


             12°, Illustrated, cloth, each            $1.50

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                     Heroes of the Nations

                               EDITED BY
                        H. W. C. Davis

                  GLORIA RERUM—-OVID, IN LIVIAM, 255.
                     THE HERO’S DEEDS AND HARD-WON
                            FAME SHALL LIVE.

                         WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR





And the Rule of the Normans



Late Scholar of Keble College, Oxford

G. P. Putnam’S Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1908
G. P. Putnam’S Sons

The Knickerbocker Press, New York


In attempting to write a life of William the Conqueror, one is
confronted, at the outset, by a question of considerable urgency. The
mere details of the King’s history, if full discussion were given to all
matters which have been the subjects of controversy, would far exceed
the possible limits of a volume to be included in the series to which
the present book belongs. On the other hand, a life of William the
Conqueror which ignored the changes in constitutional organisation and
social life which followed the events of 1066 would obviously be a very
imperfect thing. Accordingly, I have reserved the last three chapters of
the book for some examination of these questions; and I hope that the
footnotes to the text may serve as, in some sort, a guide to the more
difficult problems arising out of the Conqueror’s life and reign.

There is no need to enter here upon a description of the authorities on
which the following book is based. For the most part they have been the
subjects of thorough discussion; and, with one exception, they are
sufficiently accessible in modern editions. The writs and charters
issued over England by William I. are only to be found scattered among a
great number of independent publications; and the necessity of forming a
collection of these documents has materially delayed the appearance of
the present work.

It remains that I should here tender my thanks to all those who have
rendered assistance to me during the writing of this book. In particular
I would express my gratitude to my friend Mr. Roland Berkeley-Calcott,
and to the general editor of this series, Mr. H. W. C. Davis. To Mr.
Davis I am indebted for invaluable help and advice given to me both
during the preparation of the book and in the correction of the
proof-sheets. To those modern writers whose works have re-created the
history of the eleventh century in England and Normandy I hope that my
references may be a sufficient acknowledgment.

                                                            F. M. S.

        August 27, 1908.



 INTRODUCTION                                                          1

                                CHAPTER I


                               CHAPTER II

 REBELLION AND INVASION                                               96

                               CHAPTER III

 THE CONQUEST OF MAINE AND THE BRETON WAR                            126

                               CHAPTER IV

 THE PROBLEM OF THE ENGLISH SUCCESSION                               143

                                CHAPTER V


                               CHAPTER VI

 FROM HASTINGS TO YORK                                               211

                               CHAPTER VII

 THE DANISH INVASION AND ITS SEQUEL                                  267

                              CHAPTER VIII

 THE CENTRAL YEARS OF THE ENGLISH REIGN                              304

                               CHAPTER IX

 THE LAST YEARS OF THE CONQUEROR                                     344

                                CHAPTER X

 WILLIAM AND THE CHURCH                                              376

                               CHAPTER XI

 ADMINISTRATION                                                      407

                               CHAPTER XII

 DOMESDAY BOOK                                                       457

 INDEX                                                               503



 SEAL OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR                            _Frontispiece_

             From Rymer’s _Fœdera_ (published 1704).

 JUMIÈGES ABBEY—FAÇADE                                                66

             Reproduced by permission of Levy et ses
               Fils, Paris.

 JUMIÈGES ABBEY—INTERIOR                                              80

             Reproduced by permission of Levy et ses
               Fils, Paris.

 THE SIEGE OF DINANT                                                 140


             From _Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of
               Antiquaries of London_ (published 1819).

 SEAL OF EDWARD THE CONFESSOR                                        148

             From Rymer’s _Fœdera_ (published 1704).

 HAROLD ENTHRONED                                                    158


             From _Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of
               Antiquaries of London_ (published 1819).

 HAROLD’S OATH                                                       162


             From _Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of
               Antiquaries of London_ (published 1819).

 THE BUILDING OF HASTINGS CASTLE                                     188


             From _Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of
               Antiquaries of London_ (published 1819).

 THE DEATH OF HAROLD                                                 198


             From _Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of
               Antiquaries of London_ (published 1819).

 FOSSE DISASTER, BATTLE OF HASTINGS                                  204


             Reproduced from _Vetusta Monumenta of the
               Society of Antiquaries of London_
               (published 1819).

 ST. JOHN’S CHAPEL, IN THE TOWER OF LONDON                           228

 CHARTER OF WILLIAM I. TO THE LONDONERS                              230


             Facsimile prepared by F. Madan, M. A.,
               Reader in Palæography in the University
               of Oxford.

 THE BAILE HILL, YORK                                                270


             Reproduced from Traill’s _Social England_.



             Reproduced from a photograph by Pitcher,
               Gloucester, England.

 WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR                                               360


             The original of this picture, now lost, was
               painted by an artist when the tomb of the
               Conqueror was opened in 1522. A copy
               executed in 1708, is preserved in the
               sacristy of St Etienne’s Church at Caen;
               the present illustration is from a
               photograph of that copy.


             Reproduced from _Liber Vitæ of New Minster
               and Hyde Abbey, Winchester_. Edited by W.
               de Gray Birch.

 GAMEL SON OF ORME’S SUNDIAL                                         388

             From _A Short Account of Saint Gregory’s
               Minster, Kirkdale_, by Rev. F. W. Powell,

 WILLIAM’S WRIT TO COVENTRY                                          420

             From _Facsimiles of Royal and Other
               Charters in the British Museum_. Edited
               by George F. Warner and Henry J. Ellis.

 PLAN OF GREAT CANFIELD CASTLE, ESSEX                                440

             From _Victoria History of the Counties of


             Reproduced from _Palæographical Society’s
               Facsimiles of Manuscripts and

 A PORTION OF A PAGE OF DOMESDAY BOOK                                458


             Facsimiles prepared by F. Madan, M.A.,
               Reader in Palæography in the University
               of Oxford.

 A PORTION OF A PAGE OF DOMESDAY BOOK                                466


             Facsimiles prepared by F. Madan, M.A.,
               Reader in Palæography in the University
               of Oxford.


 [1]PENNY OF EDWARD THE CONFESSOR                                     62

 [2]DENIER OF GEOFFREY MARTEL                                         95

 [2]DENIER OF HENRY I. OF FRANCE                                     125

 [2]DENIER OF CONAN II. OF BRITTANY                                  142

 [2]PENNY OF HAROLD HARDRADA                                         179

 [1]PENNY OF HAROLD II.                                              210

 [2]DENIER OF BALDWIN OF LILLE                                       266

 [2]PENNY OF SWEGN ESTUTHSON                                         303

 [2]DENIER OF ROBERT LE FRISON                                       343

 [2]DENIER OF PHILIP I. OF FRANCE                                    375

 [3]PENNY OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR                                   406

 [3]PENNY OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR                                   456

 [3]PENNY OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR                                   501

                   GENEALOGICAL CHARTS                       FACING PAGE











 MAP OF YORKSHIRE IN 1066–1087                                       268

 MAP OF WESTERN NORMANDY                                             360

 MAP OF ENGLAND IN 1087                                              374

 MAP OF EARLDOMS, MAY, 1068                                          412

 MAP OF EARLDOMS, JANUARY, 1075                                      414

 MAP OF EARLDOMS, SEPTEMBER, 1087                                    416


Footnote 1:

  From the Catalogue of English Coins in the British Museum, Anglo-Saxon

Footnote 2:

  From the _Traité de Numismatique du Moyen Age_, by Arthur Engel and
  Raymond Serrure.

Footnote 3:

  From the Handbook of the Coins of Great Britain and Ireland in British


                         WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR



Since the current of barbarian immigration which overthrew the
civilisation of Rome in the West, probably no national movement of the
kind has more profoundly affected the general course of history than the
expansion of Scandinavia which fills the ninth and tenth centuries.
Alike in their constructive and destructive work, in the foundation of
new communities on conquered soil, as in the changes produced by
reaction in the states with which they came in contact, the Northmen
were calling into being the most characteristic features of the
political system of medieval Europe. Their raids, an ever-present danger
to those who dwelt near the shores of the narrow seas, wrecked the
incipient centralisation of the Carolingian Empire, and gave fresh
impetus to the forces which were already making for that organisation of
society which we describe as feudalism; and yet in other lands the
Northmen were to preserve their own archaic law and social custom longer
than any other people of Germanic stock. The Northmen were to bring a
new racial element into the life of Western Europe, but whether that
element should adapt itself to the conditions of its new environment, or
whether it should develop new forms of political association for itself,
was a question determined by the pre-existing facts of history and

For the geographical extent of Scandinavian enterprise is as remarkable
as its political influence. At the close of the third quarter of the
tenth century it seemed likely that the future destinies of northern
Europe would be controlled by a great confederation of Scandinavian
peoples. In the parent lands of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden three strong
kingdoms had been created by Harold Fair Hair, Gorm the Old, and Eric of
Upsala; the Orkneys and Shetlands formed a Norwegian earldom, and a
number of vigorous Norse principalities had been planted along the east
coast of Ireland. In the extreme north Scandinavian adventurers were
already settling the inhospitable shores of Greenland, and lawless
chieftains from Norway had created the strange republic of Iceland,
whose stormy life was to leave an imperishable memorial in the wonderful
literature of its sagas. Normandy was still the “pirates’ land” to the
ecclesiastical writers of France, and the designation was correct in so
far that the duchy still maintained frequent relations with the
Scandinavian homeland and had as yet received no more than a superficial
tincture of Latin Christianity. England, at the date we have chosen, was
enjoying a brief respite between two spasms of the northern peril, but
the wealthiest portion of the land was Scandinavian in the blood of its
inhabitants, and within twenty years of the close of the century the
whole country was to be united politically to the Scandinavian world.

The comparative failure of this great association of kindred peoples to
control the subsequent history of northern Europe was due in the main to
three causes. In the first place, over a great part of this vast area
the Scandinavian element was too weak in mere numbers permanently to
withstand the dead weight of the native population into which it had
intruded itself. It was only in lands such as Iceland, where an
autochthonous population did not exist, or where it was reduced to utter
subjugation at the outset, as in the Orkneys, that the Scandinavian
element permanently impressed its character upon the political life of
the community. And in connection with this there is certainly to be
noted a distinct decline in the energy of Scandinavian enterprise from
about the middle of the eleventh century onward. For fully a hundred
years after this time the Northern lands continued to send out sporadic
bodies of men who raided more peaceful countries after the manner of the
older Vikings, but Scandinavia produced no hero of more than local
importance between Harold Hardrada and Gustavus Vasa. The old spirit was
still alive in the North, as the stories of the kings of Norway in the
_Heimskringla_ show; but the exploits of Magnus Bareleg and Sigurd the
Jerusalem-farer are of far less significance in general history than the
exploits of Swegen Forkbeard and Olaf Tryggvasson, and trade and
exploration more and more diverted the energy which in older times would
have sought its vent in warlike adventure. And of equal importance with
either of the causes which have just been described must be reckoned the
attraction of Normandy within the political system of France. By this
process Normandy was finally detached from its parent states; it
participated ever more intimately in the national life of France, and
the greatest achievement of the Norman race was performed when, under
the leadership of William the Conqueror, it finally drew England from
its Scandinavian connections, and united it to the richer world of
western Europe. It was the loss of England which definitely compelled
Scandinavia to relapse into isolation and comparative political

But the Norman Conquest of England was a many-sided event, and its
influence on the political destiny of Scandinavia is not its most
important aspect. The events of 1066 derive their peculiar interest from
the fact that they supply a final answer to the great problem which
underlies the whole history of England in the eleventh century—the
problem whether England should spend the most critical period of the
Middle Ages in political association with Scandinavia or with France.
The mere fact that the question at issue can be stated in this simple
form is of itself a matter of much significance; for it implies that the
continuance of the independent life of England had already in 1000
become, if not an impossibility, at least a very remote contingency. To
explain why this was so will be the object of the following pages, for
it was the weakness of the Anglo-Saxon polity which permitted the
success of William of Normandy, as it gave occasion of conquest to Cnut
of Denmark before him, and the ill governance on which their triumph was
founded takes its main origin from events which happened a hundred years
before the elder of them was born.

At the beginning of the third quarter of the ninth century, England was
in a state of utter chaos under the terrible strain of the Danish wars.
Up to the present it has not been possible to distinguish with any
certainty between the various branches of the great Scandinavian race
which co-operated in the attack on England, nor is the question of great
importance for our immediate purpose. The same may be said of the
details of the war, the essential results of which were that the midland
kingdom of Mercia was overrun and divided in 874 into an English and a
Danish portion; that England, north of the Humber, became a Danish
kingdom in or about 875; and that Wessex, after having been brought to
the brink of ruin by that portion of the Northern host which had not
founded a permanent settlement in the north, was saved by its King
Alfred in a victory which he won over the invaders at Edington in
Wiltshire, in 878. As a result of this battle, and of some further
successes which he gained at a later date, Alfred was enabled to add to
his dominions that half of the old kingdom of Mercia which the Danes had
not already appropriated[4]; a district which included London and the
shires west of Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, and
Derbyshire. For the first half of the tenth century, the main interest
of English history centres round the relations between the rulers of
Wessex and its Mercian dependency, and the people of the Danelaw.

As the final result of twenty years of incessant warfare, the Danes had
succeeded in establishing three independent states on English soil.
Guthrum, the leader with whom Alfred had fought at Edington, founded in
East Anglia and the eastern midlands a short-lived kingdom which had
been reconquered by Edward the Elder before his death in or about 924.
To the north of Guthrum’s kingdom came the singular association of the
Five Boroughs of Derby, Nottingham, Lincoln, Leicester, and Stamford,
whose territory most probably comprised the shires to which the first
four of them have given name, together with Rutland and north-east
Northamptonshire. Apart from its anomalous government, of which nothing
is really known, this district is distinguished from Guthrum’s kingdom
by the fact that the Danish invaders settled there in great numbers,
founded many new villages, and left their impress upon the
administrative and fiscal arrangements of the country. The Five Boroughs
were occupied by Edward the Elder and conquered by his son Edmund, but
their association was remembered in common speech as late as the time of
the wars of Ethelred and Swegen, and the district, as surveyed in
_Domesday Book_, is distinguished very sharply from the shires to its
south and west.[5]

Beyond the Humber the Northmen had founded the kingdom of York, which
maintained its independent existence down to Athelstan’s time and which
was only connected with the south of England by the slackest of
political ties when William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey. In this
kingdom, whose history is very imperfectly known, but of which abundant
numismatic memorials remain, the Norwegian element appears to have
predominated over the Danish and its kings were closely connected with
the rulers of the Norse settlements in Ireland. But the peculiar
importance of this Northumbrian kingdom lies in the persistent
particularism which it continued to display long after it had been
nominally merged in the kingdom of the English. Its inhabitants were
barbarous beyond the ordinary savagery of the Anglo-Saxons, and bitterly
resented any attempt to make them conform to the low standard of order
which obtained elsewhere in the land. Among so anarchical a people, it
would be useless to look for any definite political ideas, and the
situation was complicated by the union of Scandinavian Yorkshire with
English Bernicia in one earldom, so that it is difficult to say how far
the separatist spirit of Northumbria was due to the racial differences
which distinguished it from the rest of the land, how far to surviving
memories of the old kingdom which had existed before the wars of the
ninth century, and how far to simple impatience of ordered rule by
whomsoever administered. But the existence of such a spirit is beyond
all doubt; it manifested itself in 957 when Northumbria joined with
Mercia in rejecting King Edwy of Wessex; it is strikingly illustrated in
the northern legend which represents the sons of Ethelred the Unready as
offering Northumbria to Olaf of Norway as the price of his assistance in
their struggle with Cnut; it came to the front in 1065, when the
northern men rebelled against their southern earl, Tostig Godwinsson; it
culminated in the resistance which they offered to William of Normandy,
and was finally suppressed in the harrying to which he subjected their
province in the winter of 1069. For a century and a half the men of
Northumbria had persisted in sullen antagonism to the political
supremacy of Wessex.

But the fact remained that within fifty years of Alfred’s death the
house of Wessex had succeeded in extending its sway, in name at least,
over all the Scandinavian settlers within the limits of England. The
“Rex Westsaxonum” had become the “Rex Anglorum,” and Edmund and Edgar
ruled over a kingdom which to all appearance was far more coherent than
the France of Louis d’Outremer and Hugh Capet. But the appearance was
very deceptive, and the failure of the kings of Wessex was so intimately
connected with the success of William the Conqueror that its causes
demand attention here.

In the first place, the assimilation of the Scandinavian settlers into
the body of the English nation should not hide from us the fact that a
new and disturbing element had in effect been intruded into the native
population. This amalgamation was very far from resulting in a
homogeneous compound. The creation of the “Danelaw” in its legal
sense—that is, a district whose inhabitants obeyed a new law perfectly
distinct from that of any native kingdom—was an event of the greatest
consequence. It imposed a tangible obstacle to the unification of the
country which was never overcome until the entire system of old English
law had become obsolete. The very fact that the geographical area of the
Danelaw did not correspond with that of any English kingdom or group of
kingdoms makes its legal individuality all the more remarkable. The
differences of customary practice which distinguished the east from the
west and south were a permanent witness to the success of the Danes in
England and they applied to just those matters which concerned most
deeply the ordinary life of the common people. A man of Warwickshire
would realise the fact that his limbs were valued at a higher or lower
rate than those of his neighbour of Leicestershire, when he would be
profoundly indifferent to the actions of the ruler of both counties in
the palace at Winchester.

More important for our purpose than these general legal peculiarities
were the manifold anomalies of the Old English land law. Were it not for
the existence of Domesday Book we should be in great part ignorant of
the main features of this system; as it is we need have no hesitation in
carrying back the tenurial customs which obtained in 1066 well beyond
the beginning of the century. So far as the evidence before us at
present goes, it suggests that for an indefinite period before the
Norman Conquest the social structure of the English people had remained
in a condition of unstable equilibrium; in a state intermediate between
the primitive organisation of Anglo-Saxon society and the feudalism,
though rudimentary, of contemporary France. However strong the tie of
kindred may have been in drawing men together into agrarian communities
in former days, by the eleventh century at latest its influence had been
replaced by seignorial pressure and the growth of a manorial economy. Of
itself this was a natural and healthy process, but in England, from a
variety of causes it had been arrested at an early stage. The
relationship between lord and man was the basis of the English social
order, but this relationship over a great part of the country was still
essentially a personal matter; its stability had not universally
acquired that tenurial guarantee which was the rule in the Frankish
kingdom. The ordinary free man of inferior rank was expected to have
over him a lord who would be responsible for his good behaviour, but the
evidence which proves this proves also that in numberless cases the
relationship was dissoluble at the will of the inferior party. In the
Domesday survey of the eastern counties, for example, no formula occurs
with more striking frequency than that which asserts that such and such
a free man “could depart with his land whither it pleased him”; a
formula implying clearly enough that the man in question could withdraw
himself and his land from the control of his temporary lord, and seek,
apparently at any time, another patron according to the dictate of his
own fancy. In such a system there is room for few only of the ideas
characteristic of continental feudalism; it is clear that the man in no
effective sense holds his land of his lord, nor is the former’s tenure
conditional upon the rendering of service to the latter. The tie between
lord and man was that of patronage rather than vassalage; and its
essential instability meant that the whole of the English social order
was correspondingly weak and unstable. The Old English state had
accepted the principle that a man must needs look for protection to
someone stronger than himself, but it had not advanced to the further
idea that, for the mere sake of social cohesion, the relationship thus
created must be made certain, permanent, and, so far as might be,
uniform throughout the whole land.

On the whole it is probable that this result was mainly due to the
peculiar settlement which the Danish question had received in the early
tenth century. Had the Danes conquered Wessex in Alfred’s time, so that
the whole of England had been parcelled out among four or five
independent Scandinavian states, the growth of seignorial control over
free men and their land might have been indefinitely postponed. Had
Alfred’s successors been able to effect the incorporation of the Danelaw
with the kingdom of Wessex, the incipient manorialism of the south might
have been extended to the east and a rough uniformity of custom in this
way secured, giving scope for the gradual development of feudalism
according to the continental model. But the actual course of history
decided that the native kingdom of Wessex should survive, assert its
superiority over the Scandinavian portion of the land, and yet be unable
to achieve the conformity of its alien subjects to its own social
organisation. Such at least is the conclusion suggested to us by the
evidence of Domesday Book. Broadly speaking, Wessex and its border
shires had presented in 1066 social phenomena which Norman lawyers were
able to co-ordinate with the prevailing conditions of their native land.
In Wessex each village would probably belong to a single lord, its land
would fall into the familiar divisions of demesne and “terra
villanorum,” its men would owe labour service to their master. But
beyond the Warwick Avon and the Watling Street, the Normans encountered
agrarian conditions which were evidently unfamiliar to them, and to
which they could not easily apply the descriptive formula which so
admirably suited the social arrangements of the south. They had no
previous knowledge of wide tracts of land whose inhabitants knew no lord
of lower rank than king, earl, or bishop; of villages which furnished a
meagre subsistence to five, eight, or ten manorial lords; of estates
whose owner could claim service from men whose dwellings were scattered
over half a county. In twenty years the Normans, by conscious
alterations, had done more to unify the social custom of England than
had been accomplished by the gradual processes of internal development
in the previous century; but it was the social division, underlying the
obvious political decentralisation of the country, which had sent down
the Old English state with a crash before the first attack of the
Normans themselves.

But social evils of this kind do their work beneath the surface of a
nation’s history, and it is the complete decentralisation of the Old
English commonwealth which first occurs to our minds when we wish to
explain the double conquest which the land sustained in the eleventh
century; a decentralisation expressed in the creation of the vast
earldoms which controlled the politics of England in the last years of
its independence. The growth of these earldoms is in many respects
obscure; to a limited extent they represent old kingdoms which had lost
their independence, but in the main they are fortuitous agglomerations
of territory, continually changing their shape as the intrigues of their
holders or the political sense of the king of Wessex might from time to
time determine. From the narrative of the Danish war presented by the
_Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, it seems certain that each county south of
Thames possessed an earl of its own in the ninth century; but this
arrangement appears to have been modified by Edward the Elder, and it
has been estimated that from the accession of Edward to the close of the
tenth century Wessex and English Mercia were divided into a group of
earldoms whose number never exceeded eight, a change which inevitably
magnified the importance of the individual earl. In the meantime,
Northumbria and the territory of the Five Boroughs were being ruled by
men of Scandinavian blood, who claimed the title of earl but are very
rarely found in attendance at the courts of the King of Wessex.[6] In
the wars of Ethelred II. and Edmund Ironside with Swegen and Cnut, the
issue of each campaign is decided by the attitude of such men as
Aelfric, ealdorman of Hampshire, or Eadric of Mercia, to whom it
belonged of right to lead the forces of their respected earldoms, and
who seem to have carried their troops from one side to the other without
being influenced in the smallest degree by any tie of allegiance which
would bind them permanently to either the English or the Danish king. To
Cnut himself is commonly attributed a reorganisation of the earldoms, in
which their number was temporarily reduced to four, and in which for the
first time Wessex as a whole was placed on an equality with the other
provincial governments. The simplicity of this arrangement was soon
distorted by the occasional dismemberment of the West Saxon and Mercian
earldoms, and by the creation of subordinate governments within their
limits; but throughout the reign of Edward the Confessor it is the earls
of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria who direct the policy of
the kingdom.

The privileges and powers inherent in the dignity of an earl were very
considerable. We have already referred to his military authority, but he
also seems to have enjoyed a judicial prerogative overriding the
competence of the local assemblies of the hundred. His wergild was
seemingly fixed at a higher rate than that of the ordinary noble, and
the fine paid to him for a breach of his peace was half the amount which
would be paid to the king, and double the amount paid to the thegn on
account of a similar offence.[7] More important from the standpoint of
politics was the fact that in every shire certain lands seem to have
been appurtenant to the comital office,[8] and these lands formed a
territorial nucleus around which an unscrupulous man like Godwine could
gather the vast estates of which _Domesday_ reveals him to have been in
possession. In practice, too, it was the earls who seem to have gained
more than any other men of rank by the growth of that system of
patronage which has been described in a preceding paragraph; the natural
influence of their position attracted to them the unattached free men of
their spheres of government, and they became possessed of a body of
personal retainers who might be expected to fight for them at any crisis
in their fortunes and who would not be unduly scrupulous as to the
causes of a quarrel in which they might be called upon to take part.
Fortified by such advantages, the earls were able at an early date to
make their dignities hereditary under all normal circumstances, and the
attempt of Ethelred to nominate an earl of his own choice to Mercia in
the person of Eadric Streona, and of Edward the Confessor to displace
the house of Godwine in Wessex in 1051, led to disaster in each case,
though the occasion of the respective disasters was somewhat different.

Just as the power of the great earls limited the executive freedom of
the monarchy, so in general matters of policy the king’s will was
circumscribed by the opinion of the body of his counsellors, his
Witanagemot. Now and then a strong king might perhaps enforce the
conformity of his witan to his personal wishes; but the majority of the
later Anglo-Saxon kings were not strong, and when, on rare occasions, we
obtain a glimpse into the deliberations of the king and the wise men, it
is the latter who decide the course of action which shall be pursued.[9]
That this was a serious evil cannot possibly be disputed. The political
supremacy of the Witanagemot bears no analogy to constitutional
government in the modern sense of the term: the witan were not
responsible to the nation; they were not, in fact, responsible to
anybody, for a king who tried to insist on their obedience to his will
might find himself, like Ethelred II., deserted by his leading nobles at
some critical moment. Also, if we estimate the merit of a course of
policy by its results, we shall not be disposed to rate the wisdom of
the wise men very highly. In 1066 England was found with an obsolete
army, a financial system out of all relation to the facts on which it
was nominally based, and a social order lacking the prerequisites of
stability and consistency; that the country had recently received a
comprehensive restatement of its ancient laws was due not to its wise
men, but to its Danish conqueror Cnut. The composition of the
Witanagemot—a haphazard collection of earls, bishops, royal officials,
and wealthy thegns—afforded no security that its leading spirits would
be men of integrity and intelligence; if it gave influence to men like
Dunstan and Earl Leofric of Mercia, men who were honestly anxious to
further the national welfare, it gave equal influence to unscrupulous
politicians like Eadric Streona and Godwine of Wessex. The results of
twenty-five years of government by the Witanagemot would supply a
justification, if one were needed, for the single-minded autocracy of
the Anglo-Norman kings.

The early history of the Witanagemot, like that of so many departments
of the Anglo-Saxon constitution, is beset by frequent difficulties; but
it seems certain that the period following the middle of the tenth
century witnessed a great extension of its actual influence. In part, no
doubt, this is due to the increasing power of its individual members, on
which we have already commented in the case of the earls, but we
certainly should not fail to take into account the personal character of
the kings of England during this time. The last members of the royal
house of Wessex are a feeble folk. Their physical weakness is
illustrated less by the rapidity with which king succeeded king in the
tenth century—for Edmund and Edward the Martyr perished by violence—than
by the ominous childlessness of members of the royal house. Of the seven
kings whose accession falls within the tenth century, four died without
offspring. The average fertility of the royal house is somewhat raised
by the enormous family of Ethelred the Unready; but fifty years after
his death his male line was solely represented by an old man and a boy,
neither of whom was destined to leave issue. Nor do the kings of this
period appear in a much more favourable light when judged by their
political achievements. Edward the Elder, Athelstan, and Edmund make a
creditable group of sovereigns enough, though their success in the work
they had in hand, the incorporation of Scandinavian England into the
kingdom of Wessex, was, as we have seen, extremely limited. Edred, the
next king, crippled as he was by some hopeless disease, made a brave
attempt to assert the supremacy of Wessex over the midlands and north,
but Edwy his successor was a mere child, and under him the southern
kingdom once more becomes bounded by the Thames and Bristol Avon. The
reign of Edgar was undoubtedly regarded by the men of the next
generation as a season of good law and governance, and the king himself
is portrayed as a model prince by the monastic historians of the twelfth
century; but on the one hand the long misery of Ethelred’s time of
itself made men look back regretfully to Edgar’s twenty years of
comparative quiet, and also there can be no doubt that the king’s
association with St. Dunstan gave him a specious advantage in the eyes
of posterity.[10] Nothing in Edgar’s recorded actions entitles him to be
regarded as a ruler of exceptional ability. The short reign of Edward
the Martyr is fully occupied by the struggle between the monastic party
and its opponents, in which the young king cannot be said to play an
independent part at all, and the twenty years during which Ethelred II.
misconducted the affairs of England form a period which for sheer
wretchedness probably has no equal in the national history. Had Ethelred
been a ruler of some political capacity, his title of “the Unready,” in
so far as it implies an unwillingness on his part to submit to the
dictation of the Witanagemot, would be a most honourable mark of
distinction; but the series of inopportune acts[11] and futile
expedients which mark the exercise of his royal initiative were the
immediate causes of a national overthrow comparable only to the Norman
conquest itself. With Edmund Ironside we reach a man who has deservedly
won for himself a place in the accepted list of English heroes and we
may admit his claim to be reckoned a bright exception to the prevailing
decadence of the West Saxon house, while at the same time we realise
that the circumstances of his stormy career left him no opportunity of
showing how far he was capable of grappling with the social and
political evils which were the undoing of his country. And then, after
twenty-five years of Danish rule, the mysterious and strangely
unattractive figure of Edward the Confessor closes the regnal line of
his ancient dynasty. Of Edward we shall have to speak at more length in
the sequel, noting here only the fact that under his ineffective rule
all the centrifugal tendencies which we have considered received an
acceleration which flung the Old English state into fragments before the
first impact of the Norman chivalry.

It follows from all this that, according to whatever standard of
political value we make our judgment, the England of the tenth and
eleventh centuries will be found utterly lacking in all qualities which
make a state strong and keep it efficient. The racial differences which
existed within the kingdom were stereotyped in its laws. The principles
which underlay its social structure were inconsistent and incoherent. It
possessed no administrative system worthy of the name and the executive
action of its king was fettered by the independence of his counsellors
and rendered ineffective by the practical autonomy of the provincial
governments into which the land was divided. The ancient stock of its
kings had long ceased to produce rulers capable of rectifying the
prevailing disorganisation and was shortly to perish through the
physical sterility of its members. Nor were these political evils
counterbalanced by excellence in other fields of human activity. Great
movements were afoot in the rest of Europe. The Normans were
revolutionising the art of war. The Spanish kingdoms were trying their
young strength in the first battles of the great crusade which fills
their medieval history; in Italy the great conception of the church
purified, and independent of the feudal world, was slowly drawing
towards its realisation. England has nothing of the kind to show; her
isolation from the current of continental life was almost complete, and
the great Danish struggle of the ninth century had proved to be the last
work undertaken by independent England for the cause of European
civilisation. In Alfred, the protagonist of that struggle, the royal
house of Wessex had given birth to a national hero, but no one had
completed the task which he left unfulfilled.


On turning from the history of England between 950 and 1050 to that of
Normandy during the same period, one is conscious at once of passing
from decadence to growth; and this although the growth of the Norman
state was accompanied by an infinity of disorder and oppression, and the
decadence of England was relieved by occasional manifestations of the
older and more heroic spirit of the race. Nothing is more wonderful in
Norman history than the rapidity with which the pirates’ land became
transformed into a foremost member of the feudal world of France, and
the extraordinary rapidity of the process seems all the more remarkable
from the sparseness of our information with regard to it. The story of
the making of Normandy, as told by the Norman historians, is so infected
with myth that its barest outlines can scarcely now be recovered. We
can, however, see that during the ninth century the north and west
coasts of France had been subjected to an incessant Scandinavian attack
similar in character to the contemporary descents which the Northmen
were making upon England. It is also certain that the settlement of what
is now Normandy did not begin until thirty or forty years after the
conquest of the English Danelaw, and that for a considerable, if
indefinite, term of years new swarms of Northmen were continually
streaming up the valleys which debouch on the Channel seaboard. Of
Rollo, the traditional founder of the Norman state, nothing is
definitely known. The country from which he derives his origin is quite
uncertain. Norwegian sagamen claimed him for one of their own race, the
Normans considered him to be a Dane, and a plausible case has been made
out for referring him to Sweden.[12] His followers were no doubt
recruited from the whole of the Scandinavian north, but it is probable
that the great mass of the original settlers of Normandy were of Danish
origin, and therefore closely akin to the men who in the previous
century had found a home in the valleys of the Yorkshire Ouse and Trent.
As in the case of Guthrum in East Anglia the conquests of Rollo were
defined by a treaty made between the invading chief and the native
potentate of greatest consequence; and the agreement known in history as
the treaty of Claire sur Epte is the beginning of Norman history. Great
obscurity overhangs the terms of this settlement, and we cannot define
with any approach to certainty the extent of territory ceded by it to
the Northmen.[13] On the east it is probable that the boundary line ran
up the Epte, thence to the Bresle, and so down that stream to the port
of Eu; but the extension of the original Normandy towards the west is
very uncertain, and with regard to its southern frontier there was still
room in the eleventh century for border disputes in which William the
Conqueror became engaged at an early date. The succeeding history,
however, proves clearly enough that the Bessin, Cotentin, and Avranchin
formed no parts of Normandy as delimited at Claire sur Epte, and it was
in this last quarter, peopled by an influx of later immigrants, that the
Scandinavian element in the duchy presented the most obstinate
resistance to Romance influences.

The prince with whom Rollo had concluded this memorable treaty was
Charles III., king of the West Franks, and the reputed descendant of
Charlemagne. The importance of the settlement of Claire sur Epte lay in
the future, and in its immediate significance it was little more than an
episode in a struggle which had been carried on for nearly half a
century between the Carolingian sovereign and the powerful house of the
counts of Paris, of which the head at this time was Robert, the
grandfather of Hugh Capet. The conquests of Rollo had been made at the
expense of Count Robert, and Charles III. in his session of Normandy,
like Alfred in the treaty of Wedmore, was abandoning to an invading host
a district which had never been under his immediate rule. It was certain
that the counts of Paris would sooner or later attempt to recover the
valley of the lower Seine, and this fact produced an alliance between
the first two dukes of Normandy and their Carolingian overlords which
lasted for twenty years. The exact nature of the legal tie which united
the earliest dukes of Normandy to the king of France is a disputed
question, but we may well doubt whether Rollo had done more than commend
himself personally to Charles III., and it is not even certain that the
Viking leader had received baptism at the time when he performed the act
of homage. As a final question which still awaits settlement, we may
note that the date of the treaty of Claire sur Epte is itself uncertain,
but that 921 seems the year to which with most probability it may be

If this is so, the conclusion of this settlement must have been the last
event of importance in the reign of Charles III., for in 922 he was
overthrown by his enemy Robert of Paris, and spent the remaining eight
years of his life in prison. Robert thereupon assumed the title of king,
but was killed in 923; and the crown passed to Rudolph of Burgundy, who
held it until 936. On his death the royal title was offered to Hugh,
surnamed the Great, count of Paris, but he preferred to restore the
Carolingian line, rather than to draw upon himself the enemity of all
his fellow-nobles by accepting the precarious throne himself. Charles
III. had married Eadgifu, one of the many daughters of Edward the Elder
of Wessex, and Louis the Carolingian heir was residing at Athelstan’s
court when Hugh of Paris called on him to accept his inheritance. The
refusal of Hugh the Great to accept the crown did not materially improve
the relations existing between the Carolingian house and the Parisian
county, and Louis “from beyond the sea” found it expedient to maintain
the alliance which his father had founded with the Norman lords of
Rouen. But, long before the accession of Louis d’Outremer, Rollo the old
pirate had died, and William Longsword, his son, felt himself less
vitally dependent on the support of the king of the Franks. In the
confused politics of the period William was able to assert a freedom in
making and breaking treaties and in levying external war no less
complete than that which was enjoyed by the other princes of France. In
general he remained true to the Carolingian friendship; and at the close
of his reign Normandy and the French monarchy were jointly opposed to
the Robertian house, leagued with the counties of Vermandois and
Flanders. The latter county, in particular, was directly threatened by
the growth of a powerful state within striking distance of her southern
borders; and in 943 William Longsword was murdered by Arnulf of
Flanders, the grandson of Alfred of England.

We should naturally wish to know in what way the foundation of Normandy
was regarded by the contemporary rulers of England. It is generally
assumed, and the assumption is reasonable enough, that Athelstan feared
the assistance which the Normans might give to the men of the Danelaw,
and that he endeavoured to anticipate any movement on the part of the
former by forming a series of marriage alliances with powers capable of
forcing Normandy to remain on the defensive. It is probable that
Athelstan’s sister Eadhild married Hugh the Great,[14] the natural enemy
of William Longsword, and we know that Athelstan lent his support to
Alan Barbetorte, who at this time was struggling with indifferent
success to preserve Brittany from being overrun by Norman invaders. On
the other hand, it would be easy to exaggerate the solidarity of feeling
which existed between the Northmen in Normandy and in England; nor do
our authorities countenance the belief that the various continental
marriages of Athelstan’s sisters formed part of any consistent scheme of
policy. There is no evidence that direct political intercourse existed
at any time between Athelstan and William Longsword; although we know
that the Englishmen who were appointed by the king to negotiate for the
reception of Louis d’Outremer in France paid a visit to the court of

The murder of William Longsword was followed by the first of the two
minorities which occur in Norman history, for Richard the illegitimate
heir of the late duke was only a child of ten on his father’s death. The
opportunity was too good to be missed, and Louis d’Outremer succeeded
for a brief period in making himself master of Normandy, not improbably
asserting as a pretext for his intervention a claim to the guardianship
of the young duke. Whatever its legal foundation Louis’s action outraged
the political individuality of the duchy, and when Richard came to years
of discretion he abandoned the traditional Carolingian friendship and
attached himself to the Robertian house. He commended himself to Hugh
the Great, and thus began a friendship between the lords of Paris and
their Norman neighbours which continued for nearly a century and was not
the least among the causes which enabled the Robertian house in 987 to
crown its existing pre-eminence with the royal title. The reign of
Richard I. lasted for more than fifty years, and the history of Normandy
during this period is extremely obscure, but there can be no question
that it witnessed the gradual consolidation of the duchy, and its no
less gradual absorption into the political system of France.

The seventh year of the reign of Richard II. was marked by an event of
the first importance for the history of both England and Normandy—the
marriage of Ethelred II. and Emma the duke’s sister. England was at the
time in the very centre of the great Danish war which marks the close of
the tenth and the beginning of the eleventh century, and it is
distinctly possible that the match may have been prompted by a desire on
Ethelred’s part to close the Norman harbours to his enemies’ ships. But,
apart from all dubious attributions of political motive, the importance
of the marriage lies in the fact that Normandy remains thenceforward a
permanent factor in English politics. The marriage must have produced an
immediate immigration of Normans into England; so early as 1003 we find
a French reeve of Queen Emma in charge of the city of Exeter. The mere
union of the dynasties—the marriage of the representative of the ancient
and decadent royal house of Wessex to the great-granddaughter of the
pirate chief Rollo—was alone a sufficiently striking event. But by
chance it happened that the strain of Norman blood in the offspring of
the marriage came of itself to produce political results of the gravest
consequence. No one in 1002 could foresee that the new queen would bear
a son whose early life would be passed in exile in his mother’s land,
and who would return thence to his father’s inheritance saturated with
Norman ideas of the art of government; still less could anyone foresee
that in virtue of this marriage a Norman duke would one day claim the
throne of England by right of inheritance. But less striking results of
the new alliance would soon enough become apparent. The ubiquitous
Norman trader would become a more frequent visitor to the English ports,
and Normandy would at once become a friendly land to Englishmen crossing
the Channel for purposes of trade or pilgrimage. Nor should the marriage
be considered exclusively from the English standpoint. The reception of
a Norman princess as queen of England proved at least that the Norman
duke was no longer a barbarian intruder among the higher nobility of
France; he might not be a sovereign prince as yet, but he was certainly
a ruler of greater consequence beyond the borders of the French kingdom
than were any of his fellow-vassals of the French crown. It is true that
the alliance of 1002 marks no immediate change in the French relations
of the duke of Normandy; his energies were still confined to the petty
struggles which he, like his father and grandfather, carried on with
varying success against this neighbour or that. But events were soon to
prove how strong a state had really been created in Normandy by the
obscure dukes of the tenth century, and the marriage of Ethelred and
Emma pointed to the quarter in which the strength of Normandy would find
its field at last.

It must be owned that we can only describe the internal condition of
Normandy, as it existed at the beginning of the eleventh century, in
very general terms. Normandy, like the rest of the French kingdom, was
passing through a phase in which the legislative power of the sovereign
was in abeyance; and in default of written laws we can only rely upon
the incidental information afforded by legal documents or by the casual
expressions of later chroniclers.[15] But the main features of Norman
feudalism at this time are fairly certain, and sufficient to point a
contrast with the contemporary constitution of England in almost every
particular in which the details of the two systems are known to us.[15]

In the first place, vassalage had become localised in Normandy. The
relationship between lord and man would in most cases imply that the
latter held his land of the former. So far as we can tell, the course of
Norman feudalism started from a point of departure different from that
with which the English system takes its origin. The history of the terms
employed to designate dependent tenure seems to make this clear. At an
early date a great man’s vassal will hold of him a _precarium_; he will
be a tenant at will, his tenure will be revocable at his lord’s
instance. To the _precarium_ succeeds the _beneficium_; a term which
sufficiently expresses the fact that the tenant’s rights over his land
are derivable from his lord, although it does not, like the older word,
imply their temporary character. In the meantime, the hereditary
principle in regard to dependent tenure is continually securing a wider
extension, and the _feudum_, the fee, the term which ultimately
supplanted the _precarium_ and _beneficium_, denotes an estate which
will in the normal course of things descend to a tenant’s heir. Some
such succession of ideas can distinctly be traced in the Frankish
kingdom, and the Anglo-Saxon land books here and there contain words and
phrases which suggest that the English land law would have followed a
similar development, had it not been arrested by the general dislocation
of society occasioned by the wars of the ninth century. The wide estates
with which the newly converted kings of Wessex, the Hwicce and the
Middle Angles, endowed the churches founded in their dominions afforded
an excellent field for the growth of dependent tenure, which was not
neglected by thegn and free man, anxious to participate in the wealth of
the saints by virtue of discharging military obligations which monks and
clerks could not perform in person. But the Danish wars stripped the
eastern churches of their possessions and peopled the eastern counties
with settlers of approximately equal rank; and when in the century
before the Norman Conquest the land loan reproduces many of the features
of the continental _precarium_, it appears as an exotic institution
rather than as a normal development of previous tenurial custom. It
would be very easy to exaggerate the distinction which exists between
England and Normandy in this matter; the mass of our contemporary
information about Old English land tenure relates to ecclesiastical
estates; but with _Domesday Book_ before us we cannot doubt that the
distinction was very real and of deep importance in connection with the
other divergent features of the Anglo-Saxon social organisation.

Everything, then, seems to show that, for at least a hundred years
before 1086, dependent tenure and the hereditary descent of fiefs had
been recognised features of the land system of Normandy. We also know
that these principles had, long before the conquest of England, produced
their corollaries in the rights of wardship, marriage, and relief, which
a lord would enjoy upon occasion with reference to his vassals.[16]
Women were capable of inheriting land and Norman custom allowed at least
to the duke the privilege of choosing a husband for his female vassal.
The rights of assuming the guardianship of a minor’s land, and of
receiving a money payment upon the succession of a new heir, were
obvious developments of the originally precarious character of the fief,
and we shall see that King Henry of France exercised the former right
over Normandy itself upon the death of Duke Robert in 1035. There does
not seem to be any direct evidence for the existence of the relief as a
Norman custom before 1066, but its appearance in England immediately
after the Conquest is sufficient proof of its previous recognition by
the feudal law of Normandy. None of these customs, so far as we can
tell, had found a place in the social system of independent England.

Private jurisdiction was undoubtedly an essential feature of Norman
feudalism, though we may well doubt whether the principles on which it
was based had ever been defined by Norman lawyers. It is also clear that
the duke possessed upon occasion the power of overruling the judgment of
his barons, and that his exercise of this power was applauded by all who
were interested in the welfare of the humbler classes of society. The
military character of feudalism made it imperative that there should be
some power in the land capable of vindicating right by force, and the
stronger dukes of Normandy were not slow in the assertion of their
judicial supremacy. How far the ubiquitous manorial court of Norman
England represents an imitation of continental practice, and how far it
is referable to the “sake and soke” possessed by Anglo-Saxon thegns, is
a difficult question, and the explanation given by the legal writers of
the generation succeeding the Conquest must be reserved for a later

It is, however, clear, that one custom which to modern ideas would be
ruinous to any social order distinguishes Norman life from that of
England in the eleventh century. Private war was a recognised custom in
Normandy. For obvious reasons this custom was fenced round with
stringent regulations; the duke’s license was necessary before a
campaign could be opened and its conduct was subject to his general
supervision. But private war is separated by no certain barrier from
anarchy, and under a weak duke or during a minority the barons of
Normandy would take the law into their own hands. Herein lay the real
cause of the disorders which prevailed during the minority of William
the Conqueror; and in the abeyance of state intervention the church
endeavoured with considerable success to confine the practice within
reasonable limits. The Truce of God, in the limitations which it
enforced upon the operations of war, made life more tolerable for
peasant and burgess, but it was at best an inefficient substitute for
the hand of a strong ruler. William the Conqueror made good peace in
Normandy, as well as in England, and we may well doubt whether even
private war, so long as its legal sanctions were respected, was not less
harmful to the well-being of a community than were the savage outbreaks
of internal strife which from time to time occurred under the helpless
government of Edward the Confessor.

The exact nature of the feudal tie which bound the duke of Normandy to
the king of France is a very difficult question.[17] It undoubtedly
comprised all those obligations which were implied in the performance of
the act of homage, but these would vary indefinitely in stringency
according to the status of the parties concerned. An oath of fealty and
service was certain to be kept only so long as the man to whom the oath
was sworn could compel its observance by the threat of confiscation.
When made between two parties who were for effective purposes equal in
power, there was no certainty that the oath would imply more than an
assertion of dependence on the part of the man who swore. On the other
hand, it would be an error to regard the homage which a duke of Normandy
paid to his overlord merely as a ceremonial form. Even in the early
feudal times the sense of personal honour would generally serve to
prevent a man from wantonly attacking his lord. William the Conqueror,
whenever possible, refrained from violating the fealty which he had
sworn to King Henry; and if put on his defence for his conduct at
Varaville, he would probably have pleaded that the necessity of
self-preservation outweighed all other considerations. But in earlier
times the maintenance of feudal relations between Normandy and France
was less dependent upon the personal loyalty of the reigning duke.
Occasionally, the king of France will confirm the grants of land with
which the duke of Normandy endowed some religious house; he may, as we
have seen, claim the right of wardship over a duchy during a minority.
Also, it should not be forgotten that in the case of the dukes between
Richard I. and Robert I. the traditional alliance between Normandy and
the Capetian dynasty disguised the practical autonomy of the former. So
long as the knights of Normandy were at the disposal of the king of
France for an attack upon Flanders or Blois, the king would not be
concerned to argue the question whether they were furnished to him in
obedience to his claim to feudal service, or merely in pursuance of the
territorial interests of his vassal.

Within the limits of his territory, the duke of the Normans enjoyed an
almost absolute sovereignty. The external limitation of his
authority—the suzerainty of the king of France—was at its strongest very
ineffectual, and within the duchy the barons were to an exceptional
degree subject to the ducal power. All the members of the Norman
baronage stood very much on a level in regard to the extent of their
fiefs, and the political influence which any individual baron might from
time to time exercise depended mainly on his personal favour with the
duke. Here and there among the mass of the Norman nobility we meet with
a family claiming a more ancient origin and a purer descent than that of
the ducal house, and disposed towards insurrection thereby; but such
cases are highly exceptional, and the names which are of most
significance in the history of William the Conqueror are those of men
who held official positions at his court, or were personally related to
his line. In Normandy there were no baronies of the first rank, and the
number of counties was small; also most of them, by the policy of dukes
Richard I. and II., had been granted on appanages to junior members of
the reigning family. One striking exception to the territorial
significance of the Norman baronage existed in the great fief of
Bellême, which lay on the border between Normandy and Maine, and was
regarded as dependent on the French crown.[18] The lords of Bellême in
early times are certainly found behaving as sovereign princes, but it
fortunately happened that the male line of the family became extinct
during William’s reign, and a standing obstacle to the centralisation of
the duchy was removed when Mabel, the heiress of this formidable house,
carried its vast possessions to her husband, the duke’s loyal friend,
Roger de Montgomery.

The ecclesiastical, like the lay, baronage of Normandy had no members
fitted by their territorial influence to lead an opposition to the ducal
power. The greater abbeys of Normandy, Fécamp, St. Wandrille, Jumièges,
had been founded or refounded by the dukes themselves, and the
restoration of the western bishoprics had mainly been the pious work of
Richard I. The re-establishment of the Norman episcopate after the
disorder of the settlement could never have been effected had it not
been for the countenance afforded to the movement by successive dukes,
and the connection between church and state in Normandy was peculiarly
intimate. The rights of patronage, elsewhere jealously guarded by the
king of the French, in Normandy belonged to the duke, and his power of
nominating the official leaders of the church enabled him to govern the
whole ecclesiastical policy of the land. Naturally, there occur from
time to time gross instances of nepotism, as when Odo, Duke William’s
brother, was thrust into the see of Bayeux at the age of ten; but in
general the dukes of Normandy were at pains to select worthy candidates
for bishoprics and abbeys, and in 1066 the spiritual quality of the
Norman episcopate was extraordinarily high. Over the independent
ecclesiastical jurisdiction which had arisen in the duchy under the
influence of the great Cluniac movement the duke kept a steady control;
when in England the Conqueror is found insisting that no ecclesiastical
law shall be introduced into the country without his sanction, he was
but asserting a principle which had governed his conduct in regard to
those matters in Normandy.

This intimate connection of church and state had, even before the
accession of William, produced a powerful indirect result upon the
ecclesiastical culture of Normandy. In Normandy, as in England, the
Danish wars of the previous century had been fatal to the monastic life
of the districts affected, and with monasticism perished such elements
of literary culture as the Carolingian age could show. It was nearly a
century after the treaty of Claire-sur-Epte before monasticism revived
in Normandy, and this revival was due almost entirely to the importation
of foreign monks into the duchy under the patronage of Richard II. and
his successors. In connection with the newly founded monasteries there
arose schools, some of which in a surprisingly short time rivalled the
older institutions of Chartres and Tours, and participated to the full
in the cosmopolitan culture which underlay the development of medieval
scholasticism. Of these schools, the most famous was undoubtedly that of
Bec, the rise of which well illustrates the character of the revival of
learning in Normandy.[19] The abbey of Bec itself was only a recent
institution, having been founded in 1034 by an unlettered knight, named
Herlwin, who was desirous of living a monastic life in association with
a few chosen companions. Nothing in any way distinguished Bec from half
a dozen other abbeys founded during the same decade, and the house owes
its unique distinction to the circumstance that in 1042 an able young
Italian jurist and grammarian, Lanfranc of Pavia, undertook the
direction of its school. As a logical and speculative theologian
Lanfranc is said to display small original ability, but no one was
better fitted than he by nature to superintend the early development of
an institution to which we may conveniently, if inaccurately, apply the
designation of a university. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the
reputation of the individual teacher was a matter of much greater
importance than were the traditions of the school which he taught, and
the school of Bec, under Lanfranc’s guidance, rapidly became the
education centre of eastern Normandy. Its fame was vastly increased by
the fact that its leader became involved in a theological controversy in
which the whole of the Catholic Church was interested. A famous
theologian, Berengar, a teacher in the school of Tours, had taken upon
himself the task of controverting the received opinion as to the nature
of the Eucharist, and Lanfranc stepped forward as the leading
controversialist on the conservative side. In the dialectical struggle
which followed, the honours of debate fell to Lanfranc; Berengar’s
opinions were condemned both by a provincial synod under Archbishop
Maurilius, of Rouen, and also by a general council held at Rome in 1056,
and Lanfranc, to the men of his time, appeared to be the foremost
theologian in Normandy. But wider duties than the charge of the school
of Bec rapidly devolved upon him as the friend and intimate counsellor
of the duke, and on his translation to the newly founded abbey of St.
Stephen’s, at Caen, his place was taken by a man of greater subtlety of
mind if no less administrative capacity. The career of Anselm of Aosta,
who succeeded Lanfranc in the priorate of Bec, raises issues which lie
beyond the life and reign of William the Conqueror, but reference should
certainly be made to the educational work which Anselm performed in the
days before his name was famous as the champion of Hildebrandine ideas
in the ecclesiastical polity of England. As a teacher, it is probable
that Anselm had no rival among the men of his time, and if his
educational efforts were solely directed at the production of learned
and zealous monks, this does not in the least detract from the greatness
of the work to which the prime of his life was devoted. It is under
Anselm, rather than under Lanfranc, that the influence of the school of
Bec reaches its height, and the gentle character and deep philosophical
insight of the monk from Aosta supply a pleasant contrast to the
practical and at times unscrupulous activity of his predecessor at Bec
and Canterbury.


It must be owned that we possess very little information as to the
causes which towards the close of the tenth century led to a revival of
the Scandinavian raids upon England. No consistent tradition upon this
matter was preserved in the north, and the first descent of the Vikings
upon England in 981 provokes no especial comment from the native
chroniclers who have recorded it. Now, as in the previous century, the
Danes had the command of the sea, and the settlements of the
ninth-century Vikings in the east of England offered to their
descendants an excellent base of operations in the heart of the realm.
For the first ten or twelve years after 980 the Danish and Norse raiders
contented themselves with plunder and tribute, and the definite conquest
of England was not achieved before 1013, when Swegen Forkbeard, king of
Denmark, expelled Ethelred from his kingdom and enjoyed a few months’
uncontested reign as the uncrowned king of the land. The English
reaction under Edmund Ironside is a brief although brilliant episode in
the war, but the superior numbers of the enemy told in the end, and from
1016 to 1042 England remained politically united to the Scandinavian

The rule of Cnut, Swegen’s son, met with no opposition on the part of
his English subjects. But although Cnut ruled England with such
strictness and justice that on the eve of the Norman Conquest his reign
was still regarded as a model of good government, his rule was
nevertheless that of a Scandinavian king.[20] All the surviving sons of
Ethelred met with death or banishment at his hands, and his marriage
with Ethelred’s widow was much more probably the result of passion than
of policy. In the personnel of the local government of England his reign
witnessed a complete change. His earldoms were given either to the
companions of his early warfare, such as Eric of Northumbria[21] and his
son Hakon of Worcestershire, or to new men, such as Godwine of Wessex,
whom he had raised from insignificance and could depose at pleasure. So
far as we know only one native family of ancient rank received favour
from the foreign king. The earldom of Mercia, which had been left vacant
by the summary execution of Eadric Streona early in 1017, was given to
Leofwine, a representative of a noble midland family and the father of
the more famous Leofric, the wisest of the counsellors of Edward the
Confessor. Such Englishmen as received secular promotion at Cnut’s hand
received it for the most part in Scandinavia, where the honour which
they enjoyed had apparently become a cause of discontent to the Danes
before Cnut’s death. In general policy also Cnut’s attention was
directed towards the north rather than towards the Romance lands, with
which Ethelred’s marriage had brought England into contact. It is very
probable that Cnut dreamed of an empire which should include England and
the whole of Scandinavia, and it is certain that in 1028 he conquered
Norway and claimed the submission of the king of Sweden. In all this
Cnut was behaving as the heir of Harold Blue-tooth and Swegen Forkbeard,
rather than as the successor of Edgar and Ethelred. His rule brought
peace to England and Englishmen needed no more to induce them to submit
to it.

In the machinery of the English government, it does not appear that
Cnut’s reign marks any changes of importance. He governed England, as he
governed Norway, through viceroys; and if his earls bear more the
character of royal officials than did Ethelred’s ealdormen, this was due
rather to Cnut’s superior power than to any fundamental change in the
character of their positions. Under Edward the Confessor the provincial
governments became again as autonomous as ever. It was a matter of great
importance that Cnut ordered the compilation of a general code of the
law current at this time, a work which may be held to earn for him the
title of the greatest legislator of the eleventh century.[22] When the
battle of Hastings was fought, Cnut’s code was still the newest and most
explicit statement of Old English custom, and the additions which the
Conqueror made to it were few and for the most part of minor importance.

Cnut’s death was followed by the immediate disruption of his empire.
Norway passed to Swegen, his eldest son; and on his death after a brief
and troubled reign was rapidly conquered by Magnus, the son of Cnut’s
Norwegian rival Olaf the Holy. Denmark was taken by Harthacnut, a son of
Cnut and Emma of Normandy, and Harold, the third surviving brother,
secured England and held it for five years. His short reign was marked
by a dramatic event which is of importance as furnishing one of the
ostensible motives assigned by the Conqueror’s apologists for his
invasion of England. In 1036 the Etheling Alfred, son of Ethelred and
Emma, left his secure exile in Normandy and came to England. His object,
we are told, was to visit his mother, the lady Emma, and to take council
with her how he might best endeavour to gain the kingdom for himself. He
therefore landed with but few companions, and before he had seen his
mother he was met by Godwine, the Earl of Wessex, who received him
peaceably and entertained him with lavish hospitality at Guildford.
Thereupon Godwine’s name vanishes from the story, but the same night the
etheling and his party were surrounded by King Harold’s men and taken
prisoners; Alfred was so horribly blinded that he soon died from his
injuries, and his companions were mutilated, imprisoned, or sold as
slaves according to the king’s fancy. The whole affair was clearly the
result of foul treachery and it is impossible to doubt that the surprise
at Guildford was Godwine’s work.[23] The traitorous earl, indeed,
skilfully evaded the penalty of his crime, but when William of Normandy
was about to cross the sea, he was careful to appear as the avenger of
the wrongs which his cousin had suffered thirty years before.

At some time between the death of Cnut in 1035 and the death of Harold
I. in 1040, the latter’s brother Harthacnut, as king of Denmark, had
made a treaty with Magnus of Norway which served as the pretext for
twenty years of war between the two states, and as the foundation of the
Norwegian claims on England which were asserted by Harold Hardrada in
the campaign which ended at Stamfordbridge. The secession of Norway
under Magnus from the Danish connection was not likely to pass
uncontested, and the host of both nations prepared to try the matter in
a great battle at the Elf in the winter following Magnus’s succession.
On both sides, however, there was a strong party in favour of peace, and
a compromise was arranged by which the kings swore brotherhood and
promised that in the event of either dying without a son to succeed him
his dominions should pass to the survivor or his heir.[24] The
succession of Harthacnut to England in 1040 took place without protest
from Magnus, but on the former’s childless death in 1042 the treaty
should have come into operation, and Magnus was careful to claim the
crown of England from Edward the Confessor. Edward denied the Norwegian
king’s right, and he was so strongly supported by the leading men of the
land that Magnus deemed it best to let him reign in peace, but the claim
was undoubtedly present to the mind of Magnus’s heir, Harold Hardrada,
when he started on his memorable expedition in 1066,[25] and it accounts
for the alarm which noblemen of Scandinavian tendencies were able to
arouse in England during the earliest years of Edward’s rule.

The man who had played the leading part in the events which led to the
acceptance of Edward as king of England, was undoubtedly Earl Godwine;
and the chief interest of Edward’s reign lies in the varying fortunes of
the family of which Godwine was the founder. With notable skill the earl
used the influence which he possessed as King Edward’s protector to
further the territorial interests of his family, and within three years
of Edward’s accession Godwine and his sons were in possession of a belt
of earldoms which extended without a break along the south coast of
England, from the Wash to the Bristol Channel. By 1050 the whole of
England was divided between Godwine and his two eldest sons, Swegen and
Harold, Leofric of Mercia, Siward of Northumbria, and Ralf of Mantes, a
nephew of King Edward, who had received from his uncle the earldom of
Hereford, and was making of that distant shire an outpost of Norman
influence already before the middle of the century.

In 1051 the power of the house of Godwine was suddenly overthrown for a
time by an unexpected revolution. The immediate cause of the catastrophe
was very trivial, but there can be little doubt that it was really due
to the jealousy which the king felt at the inordinate power possessed by
the Earl of Wessex. Godwine in 1042 had played the part of a king-maker;
but, like other king-makers, he found that the sovereign whom he had
created began to resent his influence. In the summer of 1051 Count
Eustace of Boulogne, who had married King Edward’s sister, paid a visit
to his brother-in-law, and on his return prepared to cross the Channel
from Dover to the capital of his own country. Arrived at Dover, Eustace
demanded from the citizens entertainment for himself and his suite; a
demand which was seemingly quite in accordance with the custom by which
the inhabitants of a town in the eleventh century were liable to find
quarters for the retinue of a king, or for persons whom the king might
send down to them.[26] On the present occasion, however, the men of
Dover showed signs of disallowing the custom, and a fight ensued in the
streets of the town, in which each side lost some twenty men. Eustace
immediately returned to the king’s court, and demanded the punishment of
the citizens, which was granted to him, and its execution entrusted to
Godwine, within whose earldom Dover lay. The earl flatly refused to
carry out the king’s orders, whether through a magnanimous objection to
the justice of the sentence or through fear of incurring local
unpopularity by enforcing it. Thereupon, Edward for once asserted his
royal independence, and events proved that for the moment at least he
had reserves of strength upon which Godwine and his party cannot have
counted. The king summoned a meeting of the Witanagemot to be held at
Gloucester, at which, among other charges, Godwine was to be accused of
complicity in the death of Alfred the Etheling, fifteen years before.
Godwine refused to stand his trial, and proceeded to collect troops from
all the family earldoms, a move which was discovered by a similar levy
made on the king’s behalf by the earls of Hereford, Mercia, and
Northumbria. Civil war was averted by the moderation of the chiefs of
the king’s party, who arranged a postponement of the charges against
Godwine until the next Michaelmas, when a gemot was to be held in London
for their discussion. Godwine agreed to this; and, that he might not be
taken unawares, he moved from the west country to Southwark, where he
took up his abode supported by a great host drawn from his earldom. But
the delay was fatal to his cause: his troops lost heart and deserted,
and before long the king was able to decree summary banishment for the
earl and all the family. The earl fled to Flanders, Harold to the Ostmen
of Dublin,[27] and for a year Edward remained the undisputed master of
his own realm.

The royalist party which had achieved this memorable success was in the
main recruited from two sources. The hostility of Mercia and Northumbria
to the domination of a West Saxon earl brought over to the king’s side a
vast number of supporters who were doubtless no more loyal in reality to
the king than were Godwine and his men, but who welcomed so fair an
opportunity of striking a blow at the rule of the southern family. On
the other hand, it is clear that racial feeling entered into the
quarrel, and that the Norman settlers whom Edward had invited to take
land and lordship in England were the avowed enemies of Godwine and his
party. It is only natural to infer that Edward, in addition to the
predilection which he must have felt for men of the race among which he
had found shelter in the days of his exile, should wish to find in them
some counterpoise to the power of the Earl of Wessex and his associates.
It is certain that there was a powerful Norman element at court, and in
the country, which contributed very materially to the king’s success in
1051. The archbishopric of Canterbury and the sees of London and
Dorchester were held by Norman priests, and in Herefordshire, under the
jurisdiction of Earl Ralf, a flourishing Norman colony had been planted
on the Welsh border. Under this Norman influence the art of
castle-building was introduced into England, to the infinite disgust of
the country folk in the neighbourhood of the new fortresses, and the
Earl of Hereford tried very unsuccessfully to induce the local militia,
of which he was the official leader, to serve on horseback in their
campaigns against the Welsh. In another direction, the king’s
“chancery,” which was gradually becoming an organised medium for the
discharge of the king’s legal business, was largely staffed by Norman
clerks, and the service of the royal chapel was in part, at least,
conducted by priests from across the Channel. In the sphere of commerce
the connection between England and Normandy, which can be traced already
in the time of King Ethelred, was steadily becoming closer and more
permanent; before 1066 at least five of the ports of Sussex were in
Norman hands, and Norman merchants possessed a haven of their own in the
estuary of the Thames. We can never hope to form an exact estimate of
the extent of Norman influence in the last days of the Anglo-Saxon
state, but there can be no doubt either of its general significance or
of its importance in lessening the shock occasioned by the rapid
Normanisation of England after 1066.

For the present, however, the Normans in England were not strong enough
permanently to assume the direction of the commonwealth, and in 1052
Godwine and his sons made a triumphant return. The old earl had no
difficulty in recruiting a powerful force in Flanders, and Harold in
Danish Ireland found numbers of adventurers only too eager to follow the
fortunes of a leader who could promise excitement and booty. In the
middle of 1052, Harold, acting no doubt in concert with his father, set
sail from Ireland with nine ships, landed on the coast of Somerset at
Porlock, and there proceeded to slay and harry in true Viking fashion,
passing on round the Land’s End and so along the Channel. In the
meantime Godwine with his Flemish pirates had reached the Isle of Wight
and plundered it until the inhabitants were driven to pay whatever
ransom the earl might demand. Off the Isle of Wight Harold joined forces
with his father, and the earls sailed on past Pevensey and Hastings and
along the Kentish shore, drawing many volunteers from the friendly ports
at which they called, while their crews indulged in sporadic devastation
elsewhere. Without serious opposition the exiles entered the Thames, and
sailed up the river as far as London Bridge; Godwine disembarked at
Southwark and the feeling of the city declared itself unmistakably on
his side. The archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Dorchester made
a hurried escape from the town and rode for their lives to the Essex
coast, where they crossed to Normandy. The king, powerless to protect
his friends in the moment of the reaction, had no option but to restore
Godwine and his family to all their honours and offices, and he was
forced to declare outlaw “all Frenchmen who had raised disorder and
proclaimed bad law and had plotted evil against the land.” He was,
however, even allowed to retain about his person such Normans as
Godwine’s party chose to consider loyal to the king and his people; and
indeed it does not appear that the triumph of the nationalists in 1052
was followed by any considerable exodus of foreign settlers from the

Godwine had thus secured an unequivocal victory, but he and his friends
proceeded to make a false move, the result of which was to throw the
whole influence of the church on to the side of the Norman invader in
1066. The flight of the archbishop of Canterbury had left the
metropolitan see at the mercy of Godwine’s party, and it was immediately
given to Stigand, bishop of Winchester, the leading ecclesiastical
partisan of the earl of Wessex. The act was a gross violation of law and
decency, for the exiled archbishop had been deposed by no clerical
tribunal, and Stigand did not improve his position by continuing to hold
the see of Winchester in plurality with that of Canterbury. The Curia
refused to recognise him as metropolitan, and in 1058 Stigand aggravated
his guilt by accepting the pallium, the badge of the archiepiscopal
rank, from an antipope, thereby in effect giving defiance to that
section of the church which represented its highest ideals, and was
destined to exercise most influence in the coming years. Before long
Stigand’s political associates perceived the mistake that had been made,
and for the next fifteen years the province of Canterbury was, in
matters of spiritual jurisdiction, left without a head. Between 1058 and
1066 Stigand never consecrated a bishop, and at ecclesiastical
ceremonies of especial importance his place was taken by the primate of
York. To all strict churchmen the nominal head of the church in England
was a schismatic, disowned by his own suffragans and banned by the Holy
See; and it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of this
fact in preparing the public opinion of Europe to support the enterprise
of William of Normandy in 1066.

Godwine survived his restoration for little more than a year, and on his
death in 1053 his earldom of Wessex passed to Harold as his eldest
surviving son. For thirteen years it is probable that Harold was the
real head of the English government. Until the very close of this period
the internal history of England is almost barren of recorded events, and
its significance lies in the steady aggrandisement of the family of
which Harold was now the head. By the beginning of 1065 the wealthiest
and most warlike parts of the country were divided into earldoms held by
members of the house of Godwine. Wessex, Harold kept under his own rule,
with the addition of the shires of Gloucester and Hereford; Leofwine,
his youngest brother, governed a province comprising Essex, Hertford,
Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex; Gyrth, a third brother, held East
Anglia; to which was added the midland shire of Oxford.[28] Even
Northumbria had been secured by an earl of the family, for Tostig, the
only one of Godwine’s sons for whom King Edward seems to have felt
personal affection, had received the government of that lawless land
upon the death of its native earl, Siward, in 1055. Less obvious, but
equally suggestive of the general trend of Harold’s policy, is the
enormous amount of land of which he held direct possession at the
Confessor’s death. There was scarcely a shire in which a certain number
of estates were not held by the earl of Wessex in 1066; and _Domesday
Book_, in recording the fact of his ownership, will often also record
that it had been acquired by force or injustice. Harold, like his
father, was quite unscrupulous in the advancement of his interests, and
his greed for land and revenue is one of the few traits in his character
of which we can be certain. Of his brothers, Gyrth and Leofwine are very
imperfectly known to us, although in the Norman traditions of the
twelfth century the former is represented as the real hero of the
campaign of Hastings on the English side. But Tostig, the earl of
Northumbria, was a man of stronger character, and the circumstances of
his fall from power demand a brief account in this place.

Tostig’s appointment in 1055 had been an experiment and a rash one. From
the overthrow of the Northumbrian kingdom by Edred, down to the last
year of Harthacnut, a dynasty of native earls had presided over the
north. The succession in the southern half of the earldom, between Tees
and Humber, had been broken in the reign of Cnut, but the ancient family
continued to rule in Bernicia until in 1041 Ealdwulf II., the last earl
of the house, was murdered by Siward the Danish ruler of Yorkshire.
Siward thereupon reunited the two halves of the Northumbrian earldom,
gaining in local eyes some title to the government by his marriage with
Aelflaed, the niece of his victim Eadwulf; and for fourteen years his
ruthless severity kept his province in comparative quiet. In Tostig,
Siward’s successor, the Northumbrians for the first time were expected
to obey a south-country stranger, and hence there was no qualification
to the hatred which Tostig caused by his imitation of his predecessor’s
methods of government. As a personal favourite of the king, Tostig was
absent from his province for long spaces of time, and it is not easy to
understand why the Northumbrians submitted for ten years to the
spasmodic tyranny of a stranger. But at last, in 1064, Tostig entrapped
and murdered two leading thegns of the north, named Gamel the son of
Orm, and Ulf; and at Christmas time in the same year Gospatric, the last
male descendant of the ancient earls of Bernicia, was slain at the
king’s court in Tostig’s interest.[29] For nine months there was ominous
peace in Northumbria, and then, very unexpectedly, in October, 1065, a
great revolt burst out. Two hundred thegns marched to York, held a
meeting in which we may possibly recognise a Northumbrian _gemot_,
deposed Tostig, and offered the earldom to Morcar, brother of Edwin the
reigning earl of Mercia, and grandson of Leofric. These events were
followed by a general massacre of Tostig’s adherents in York, and then
the rebel army, with Morcar, the new earl, at its head, rolled
southwards to force a confirmation of its revolutionary acts from the

At the moment of the outbreak Tostig was absent in Hampshire, hunting
with King Edward. Events had now passed quite beyond his control; Morcar
had been joined by his brother Earl Edwin with the fyrd of Mercia, and a
contingent of Welshmen, and the combined force had reached Northampton,
their line of advance being marked with wholesale ravages which can be
traced very clearly in the pages of the Northamptonshire _Domesday_.[30]
At Northampton the rebels were met by Harold bearing a message from the
king to the effect that, if they were to disperse, their charges against
Tostig should be heard and decided in lawful manner. They returned a
blank refusal to accept Tostig again as their earl, swept on down the
Cherwell Valley, and next appear in occupation of Oxford. In the
meantime Edward had called a council at Bretford near Salisbury, at
which there was a long and angry debate, and Harold was roundly accused
of stirring up the present rising for his own advantage. The earl
cleared himself of the charge with an oath, and the discussion turned to
the measures to be adopted to restore order. Edward himself was for
putting down the revolt by force; but his counsellors urged the
difficulty of conducting a campaign in winter, and the king was seized
with a sudden illness which left the immediate control of affairs in the
hands of Harold. Accordingly Harold paid a second visit to the rebels’
camp, this time at Oxford, and formally granted their demands. Tostig
was outlawed, Morcar was recognised as earl of Northumbria, and
Waltheof, the son of Siward, who might consider himself aggrieved by
this alienation of his father’s earldom, was portioned off with the
midland shires of Northampton, Huntington, Bedford, and Cambridge.
Tostig himself, to the king’s great regret, took ship for Flanders, and
spent the winter at St. Omer.

The above course of events is clear, and attested by good contemporary
authority, but there is evidently much beneath the surface which is not
explained to us. The revolt must clearly have been planned and organised
some time before its actual outbreak, but who was really responsible for
it? It would be natural enough to lay the blame on Edwin and Morcar, and
on any showing they can hardly be acquitted, but it is at least doubtful
whether the causes of the rising do not lie deeper. It is hard to avoid
suspicion that the men who accused Harold in the council at Bretford may
have had knowledge of the facts behind their accusation. It is quite
certain that Harold was forming plans for his own succession to the
throne upon Edward’s death—would those plans be furthered by the
substitution of Morcar for Tostig as earl of Northumbria? From this
point we are in the region of conjecture, but our authorities give us
certain hints which are significant. It was certain that the last wishes
of the king would be a most powerful factor in determining the choice of
his successor; Tostig was Edward’s favourite, Harold might well feel
anxious about the manner in which the old king would use his influence
when the end came. Then, too, there is evidence that Harold about this
time was trying to conciliate the great Mercian family; and the
suspicion is raised that Edwin’s acquiescence in Harold’s schemes in
1066 was not unconnected with Morcar’s elevation in 1065. Lastly,
Harold’s action in granting the demands of the rebels, the moment that
Edward’s illness had given him a free hand, is itself suggestive of some
collusion with the authors of the rising. If Harold’s policy had been
strictly honourable his conduct should hardly have given rise to doubts
like these; and if on the evidence before us we may hesitate to condemn
him outright, we may at least acknowledge that his contemporary accusers
deserved a respectful hearing.

More important and less conjectural than the nature of Harold’s conduct
is the picture given by these events of the conditions of England in
1065. All the symptoms of political disorganisation on which we have
already commented—the independence of the great earls, the importance of
the executive, the fatuity of the royal counsellors, the personal
weakness of the king—are illustrated by the narrative of Tostig’s
expulsion. For just another year the Old English state was to stand
trembling to its fall, and then the final test of political stability
would be applied and a conquering race would slowly rebuild the social
fabric which it had overthrown.

[Illustration: Penny of Edward the Confessor]

                               CHAPTER I

Among the famous stories which enliven the history of the early dukes of
Normandy there stands out prominently the tale of the romantic
circumstances which led to the birth of Duke William II., the greatest
of his line. The substantial truth of the legend has never been called
in question, and we may still read in safety how Robert, the young count
of the Hiesmois, the Son of Duke Richard I. and the fourth in descent
from Rollo, was riding towards his capital of Falaise when he saw
Arlette, the daughter of a tanner in the town, washing linen in a
stream, according to one account—dancing, according to another; how he
fell in love at first sight, and carried her off straightway to his
castle; and how the connection thus begun lasted unbroken until Robert’s
death seven or eight years later. The whole course of William’s early
history was determined by the fact of his illegitimacy, and the main
points of the story as we have it must already have been known to the
citizens of Alençon when they cried out “Hides for the tanner” as the
duke came up to their defences in the famous siege of 1049. In fact, the
tale itself is thoroughly in keeping with the sexual irregularity which
was common to the whole house of Rollo, with the single exception of the
great Conqueror himself, and we may admit that there is a certain
dramatic fitness in this unconventional origin of the man who more than
any other of his time could make very unpromising conditions the prelude
to brilliant results.[31] The exact date of William’s birth is not
certain; it is very probable that it fell between October and December,
1027, but in any case it cannot be placed later than 1028, a fact which
deserves notice, for even at the latter date Robert himself cannot
possibly have been older than eighteen and may very well have been at
least a year younger.


  and the border Counties]

The reign of Robert I., by some caprice of historical nomenclature
surnamed the Devil, was a brilliant period of Norman history. Succeeding
to the ducal throne on the sudden, perhaps suspiciously sudden, death of
his brother Richard III., in 1028, Robert, in the six years of his rule,
won for the duchy an unprecedented influence in the affairs of the
French kingdom. The first duty of a Norman duke, that of keeping his
greater vassals in order, Robert seems to have performed very
effectively; we may perhaps measure the strength of his hand by the
outburst of anarchy which followed the news of his death. And his
intervention in the general feudal politics of France, interesting
enough in itself, gains in importance when viewed with reference to the
history of his greater son. William the Conqueror inherited the
rudiments of a policy from his father; throughout much of his reign he
was following lines of action which had been suggested between 1028 and

This was so with reference to the greatest of all his achievements, the
conquest of England. There seems no reason to doubt that Robert had gone
through the form of marriage with Estrith, the sister of Cnut, and there
is a strong probability that he planned an invasion of England on behalf
of the banished sons of Ethelred. The marriage of Robert’s aunt, Emma,
first to Ethelred and then to Cnut,[32] began, as we have seen, that
unbroken connection between England and Normandy which culminated in the
Norman Conquest. Norman enterprise was already in Robert’s reign
extending beyond the borders of the French kingdom to Spain and Italy;
that it should also extend across the Channel would not be surprising,
for Normandy was connected with England by commercial as well as
dynastic ties. And William of Jumièges, writing within fifty years of
the event, has given a circumstantial account of Robert’s warlike
preparations. According to him the invasion of England was only
prevented by a storm, which threw the duke and his cousin Edward, who
was accompanying him, on to the coast of Jersey. Robert does not seem to
have repeated the attempt, and before it was made again England had
suffered a more subtle invasion of Norman ideas under the influence of
Edward the Confessor.

Nor was Norman intervention lacking at the time beyond the western
border of the duchy. Robert had inherited old claims to suzerainty over
Brittany, and he tried to make them a reality. For some time past
Normandy and Brittany had been drawing nearer to each other; Robert was
himself a Breton on his mother’s side, and if one aunt of his was queen
of England, another was the dowager countess of Brittany. Breton
politics were never quite independent of one or other of the great
powers of north France, Normandy, Anjou, or Blois, each of which could
put forward indeterminate feudal claims over the peninsula. Anjou, under
its restless, aggressive counts, was here as elsewhere a formidable
rival to Normandy, and in face of its competition Robert could not allow
his claims on Brittany to lapse. Hence, when Count Alan repudiated his
homage, a Norman invasion followed, the result of which was a fresh
recognition of Robert’s overlordship, and the establishment of still
closer relations between the two states.[33] Alan is found acting as one
of the guardians of William’s minority—in fact he died, probably from
poison, while besieging the revolted Norman castle of Montgomery in his
ward’s interest—and his successor Conan was never really friendly
towards Normandy. Yet, notwithstanding his hostility, Norman influence
steadily gained the upper hand in Brittany during William’s life. It is
significant that he drew more volunteers for his invasion of England
from Brittany than from any other district not under his immediate rule.


The relations of Robert with the French crown were still more important.
The ancient alliance between the dukes of Normandy and the Capetian
dynasty which William inherited, and which was to be his chief safeguard
during the first fifteen years of his reign, had been greatly
strengthened by the action taken by Robert in the internal affairs of
the Isle de France. One of the few threads of consistent policy which
run through the complicated history of this period is the persistent
mistrust of successive kings of France towards their formidable
neighbours, the counts of Blois. The possessions of the latter lay
astride the royal demesne in two great blocks, the county of Blois,
which bordered it on the west, and the county of Troyes or Champagne,
which lay along its eastern frontier. The whole territorial group far
exceeded the royal possessions in extent and resources, and its
geographical position gave its lords the strategical advantage as well.
Accordingly, the French kings were driven to seek countervailing support
among their greater vassals, and at this time they found it in the duchy
of Normandy. A similar alliance had been formed in the tenth century
against the Carolingians; the traditional friendship was readily adapted
to new conditions.

Its value was clearly proved by the events which followed the death of
King Robert the Pious. Henry, his eldest surviving son, had been
associated with him in the kingship and designated as his successor, but
Constance the queen dowager intrigued against the eldest brother in
favour of her younger son Robert. Odo II., the able and ambitious count
of Blois, took the side of the latter and drove Henry out of the royal
demesne. He fled to Normandy and was well received by Robert; there
exists a charter of the latter to the abbey of St. Wandrille which Henry
attests as a witness in company with his fellow-exiles, Edward,
afterwards king and confessor, and Edward’s unlucky brother the Etheling
Alfred.[34] Well supported with Norman auxiliaries Henry returned and
conquered the royal demesne piecemeal; and, in return for Robert’s help,
we are told that the king ceded to him the Vexin Français, the district
between the Epte and the Oise.[35]

The internal condition of Normandy at this period might perhaps compare
favourably with that of any of the greater fiefs of north France. A
succession of able dukes had, for the time being, reduced the Norman
baronage to something like order. Other countries also at this time
offered a fairer field for the exercise of superfluous activity; the
more unquiet spirits went off to seek their fortune in Spain or Italy.
But in Normandy, as elsewhere, everything depended on the head of the
state. All the familiar features of feudal anarchy, from the illicit
appropriation of justice and the right of levying taxes to simple
oppression and private war, were still ready to break out under a weak
ruler. And there existed an additional complication in the large extent
of territory which was in the hands of members of the ducal house. The
lax matrimonial relations of the early dukes had added a very dangerous
element to the Norman nobility in the representatives of illegitimate or
semi-legitimate lines of the reigning family. They are collectively
described by William of Jumièges as the “Ricardenses,” and he tells us
with truth that it was these oblique kinsmen of William who felt most
aggrieved at, and offered most opposition to, his accession. They were
especially formidable from the practice, which had been followed by the
early dukes, of assigning counties to younger brothers of the intended
heir. Duke Robert himself had before his accession held the county of
the Hiesmois. Of the illegitimate sons of Richard I., Robert, archbishop
of Rouen, the eldest, held in his lay capacity the county of Evreux; his
next brother, Malger, the county of Mortain; his youngest brother,
William, the county of Eu; while William, the youngest son of Richard
II., possessed the county of Arques. It is noteworthy that each of these
appanages was, at one period or another in the life of William, the
scene of a real or suspected revolt against him.

Such was the general condition of the Norman state when Robert, in the
winter of 1034, meditating a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, held a council
at Fécamp to decide who should be his successor in case of misadventure,
and brought with him in that capacity his seven-year-old son
William.[36] Notwithstanding the discreet reticence of the later writers
who describe the scene, we can see that the proposal was intensely
distasteful to the Norman baronage. To any law-abiding section of the
assembly it must have meant entrusting the welfare of the duchy to the
most doubtful of hazards, and it was a direct insult to the family pride
of the older Norman nobility. Had there existed at this time any member
of the ducal house who combined legitimacy of birth with reasonable
proximity in the scale of succession, Duke Robert would undoubtedly have
had the greatest difficulty in carrying his point. But among his many
kinsmen there was not one who did not labour under some serious
disqualification. Nicholas, the illegitimate son of Richard III., would
have been a possible claimant, but Duke Robert had taken the precaution
of compelling him, child as he was, to become a monk, and he was now
safely bestowed in the ducal monastery of Fécamp.[37] Guy of Brionne,
the son of Robert’s sister, was legitimate indeed, but was younger than
William, and would be counted a member of a foreign house; Malger and
William, Robert’s two surviving brothers, were both illegitimate, and
the former was a churchman. Members of the older line, descending from
Richard I., probably stood too far back from the line of succession to
admit of their appearance as serious competitors, and after all there
was a strong probability that the question would not become a matter of
immediate importance. Pilgrimages to Jerusalem were not infrequent
events at this time[38] and Robert’s age was considerably under thirty.
He had previously secured the assent of his overlord King Henry to his
proposed heir, and the end of the deliberations at Fécamp was the
recognition of William by the Normans as their future duke.

As it happened, Duke Robert’s pilgrimage turned out ill; he died on the
homeward journey, at Nicea, on the second of July, 1035, and the
government fell to William, or rather to the guardians whom his father
had provided for him before his departure. Of these the highest in rank
was Count Alan of Brittany, William’s cousin,[39] with whom were
associated Count Gilbert of Brionne, the ancestor of the mighty house of
Clare,[40] Osbern the seneschal of Normandy, and a certain Thorold or
Thurcytel de Neufmarché, the latter having personal charge of the young
duke. It was an ominous circumstance that each of these men came to a
violent end within five years of William’s accession. The house of
Montgomery alone accounted for two of them: Osbern the seneschal was cut
down in William’s bedroom by William, son of Roger de Montgomery; Count
Alan met his death, as we have seen, during the siege of Montgomery
Castle itself. The assassins of Thurcytel de Neufmarché are not recorded
by name, and a certain amount of confusion hangs over the end of Count
Gilbert of Brionne; but William of Jumièges, a good authority, states
that he fell a victim to murderers hired by Ralf de Wacy, the son of
Archbishop Robert of Rouen. It is at least certain that shortly after
this last event Ralf de Wacy was chosen by William himself, acting, as
is said, upon the advice of his chief men, as his guardian and the
commander of the Norman army.

More important than this list of crimes is the general question of the
relations which existed at this critical period between William and the
king of France. We have seen that Duke Robert had secured the king’s
consent to his nomination of William as the heir of Normandy; and we
have good reason for believing that William after his accession was, in
the feudal sense of the phrase, under the guardianship of his overlord.
Weak as the French monarchy seems to be at this time it had not, thus
early in the eleventh century, finally become compelled to recognise the
heritable character of its greater fiefs. Its chances of interfering
with credit would vary with each occasion. If a tenant in chief were to
die leaving a legitimate son of full age, the king in normal cases would
not try to change the order of inheritance; but a dispute between two
heirs, or the succession of a minor, would give him a fair field for the
exercise of his legal rights. Now William of Normandy was both
illegitimate and a minor and his inheritance was the greatest fief of
north France; by taking up the office of guardian towards him the king
would at once increase the prestige of the monarchy, and also strengthen
the ancient friendship which existed between Paris and Rouen. Nor are we
left without direct evidence on this point. William of Malmesbury, in
describing the arrangements made at Fécamp, tells us that Count Gilbert
of Brionne, the only one of William’s guardians whom he mentions by
name, was placed under the surveillance of king Henry[41]; and Henry of
Huntingdon incidentally remarks that in 1035 William was residing with
the king of France and that the revenues of Normandy were temporarily
annexed to the royal exchequer. In view of the statements of these
independent writers, combined with the antecedent probability of the
case, we may consider it probable that William, on his father’s death,
became the feudal ward of his suzerain,[42] and that very shortly after
his own accession he spent some time in attendance at the royal court.

It must be confessed that we know very little as to the events of the
next ten years of William’s life. They were critical years, for in them
William was growing up towards manhood and receiving the while a severe
initiation into the art of government. The political conditions of the
eleventh century did not make for quiet minorities; they left too much
to the strength and discretion of the individual ruler. Private war, for
instance, might be a tolerable evil when duly regulated and sanctioned
by a strong duke; under the rule of a child the custom merely supplied a
formal excuse for the prevailing anarchy. Later writers give various
incidental illustrations of the state of Normandy at this period. We
read, for instance, how Roger de Toeny, a man of most noble lineage, on
returning to Normandy from a crusade against the Moors in Spain, started
ravaging the land of his neighbours in sheer disgust at the accession of
a bastard to the duchy, and was killed in the war which he had
provoked.[43] But such stories only concern the history of William the
Conqueror in so far as they indicate the nature of the evils the
suppression of which was to be his first employment in the coming years.
To turn the fighting energy inherent in feudal life from its thousand
unauthorised channels, and to direct it towards a single aim controlled
and determined by himself, was to be the work which led to his greatest
achievements. In the incessant tumults of the first ten years of his
reign we see the aimless stirring of that national force which it is
William’s truest glory to have mastered and directed to his own ends.

We get one glimpse of William at this time in a charter[44] which must
have been granted before 1037, as it is signed by Archbishop Robert of
Rouen, who died in that year. The document is of interest as it shows us
the young duke surrounded by his court, perhaps at one of the great
church festivals of the year. Among the witnesses we find Counts Waleran
of Meulan, Enguerrand of Ponthieu, and Gilbert of Brionne; the
archbishop of Dol, as well as his brother metropolitan of Rouen; Osbern
the seneschal, and four abbots, including the head of the house of
Fécamp, in whose favour the charter in question was granted. The
presence of the count of Ponthieu and the archbishop of Dol is important
as showing that even at this stormy time the connection between Normandy
and its neighbours to east and west had not been wholly severed; and it
is interesting to see two of William’s unlucky guardians actually, in
attendance on their lord. It may also be noted that at least one other
charter[45] has survived, probably a little later in date, but granted
at any rate in or before 1042, in which among a number of rather obscure
names we find the signature of “Haduiardus Rex,” which strange
designation undoubtedly describes Edward of England, then nearing the
end of his long exile at the court of Normandy.

To this difficult period of William’s reign must apparently be assigned
a somewhat mysterious episode which is recorded by William of Jumièges
alone among our authorities. One of the strongest border fortresses of
Normandy was the castle of Tillières, which commanded the valley of the
Arve and was a standing menace to the county of Dreux. The latter was at
this time in the hands of the crown, but in the tenth century it had
been granted to Richard the Fearless, duke of Normandy. He had ceded it
to Count Odo of Blois as the marriage portion of his daughter Mahaut,
but on her speedy death without issue Odo had refused to return it to
his father-in-law; and in the border warfare which followed, the duke
founded the castle of Tillières as a check upon his acquisitive
neighbour.[46] On Odo’s death in 1018 the county of Dreux passed to his
overlord the king of France, but Tillières continued to threaten this
latest addition to the royal demesne. We know very little as to what
went on in the valley of the Arve during the twenty years that followed
Odo’s death, but by the beginning of William’s reign it seems certain
that the Norman claims on Dreux itself had been allowed to lapse, and
the present dispute centres round Tillières alone. At some unspecified
period in William’s minority we find King Henry declaring that, if
William wished to retain his friendship, Tillières must be dismantled or
surrendered. The young duke himself and some of his barons thought the
continued support of the king of France more valuable than a border
fortress and were willing to surrender the castle; but its commander,
one Gilbert Crispin, continued to hold out against the king. Tillières
was thereupon besieged by a mixed force of Frenchmen and Normans, and
William, possibly appearing in person, ordered Gilbert Crispin to
capitulate. He obeyed with reluctance and the castle was at once burned
down, the king swearing not to rebuild it within four years, but within
the stipulated period it seems that the treaty was broken on the French
side. The king at first retired, but not long afterwards he recrossed
the border, passed across the Hiesmois, burned Argentan, and then
returning rebuilt the castle of Tillières in defiance of his oath, while
at the same time it would appear that the viscount of the Hiesmois, one
Thurstan surnamed “Goz,” was in revolt against William and had
garrisoned Falaise itself with French troops. Falaise was at once
invested, William again appearing on the scene to support Ralf de Wacy,
the commander of his army, and it seemed probable that the castle would
be taken by storm; but Thurstan Goz was allowed to come to terms with
the duke and was banished from Normandy, his son Richard continuing in
William’s service as viscount of Avranches. The family is of great
interest in English history, for Hugh the son of the latter Richard was
to become the first earl “palatine” of Chester. And so it may be well to
note in passing that the rebel Thurstan is described by William of
Jumièges as the son of Ansfrid “The Dane,” a designation which is of
interest both as proving the Scandinavian origin of the great house of
which he was the progenitor, and also as suggesting that a connection,
of which we have few certain traces, may have been maintained between
Normandy and its parent lands for upwards of a century after the treaty
of Claire-sur-Epte.

The above is the simplest account that we can give of these
transactions, which are not very important in themselves, but have been
considered to mark the rupture of the old friendship between the
Capetian dynasty and the house of Rollo.[47] But the whole subject is
obscure. The king’s action, in particular, is not readily explicable on
any theory, for there is good reason to believe that at this time he was
actually William’s feudal guardian and certainly a few years later he
appears as fully discharging the duties of that office on the field of
Val-es-dunes; so that it is not easy to see why on the present occasion
he should inflict gratuitous injury on his ward by sacking his towns and
burning his castles. The affair of Tillières would be quite intelligible
if it stood by itself: it was only natural that the king should take
advantage of his position to secure the destruction or surrender of a
fortress which threatened his own frontier, and the fact that William
himself appears as ordering the surrender would alone suggest that he
was acting under the influence of his overlord. But the raid on Argentan
is a more difficult matter. We do not know, for instance, whether there
was any connection between the revolt of Thurstan Goz and the king’s
invasion of the Hiesmois; the mere fact that the rebel commander of
Falaise took French knights into his pay, by no means proves that he was
acting in concert with the French king. The story as we have it suggests
that there may have been two parties in Normandy at this time, one
disposed to render obedience to the king of France as overlord, the
other maintaining the independence of the Norman baronage; a state of
affairs which might readily lead to the armed intervention of the king
of France, half in his own interest, half in that of his ward. But
considering the fact that we owe our knowledge of these events to one
chronicler only, and that he wrote when the rivalry between Normandy and
France had become permanent and keen, we may not improbably suspect that
he antedated the beginning of strife between these two great powers, and
read the events of William’s minority in the light of his later history.

The revolt of western Normandy which took place in the year 1047 marks
the close of this obscure and difficult period in William’s life; it is
in the crisis of this year that something of the personality of the
future Conqueror is revealed to us for the first time. With the battle
of Val-es-dunes William attained his true majority and became at last
the conscious master of his duchy, soon to win the leading place among
the greater vassals of the French crown. For ten years more, indeed, he
was to be confronted, at first by members of his own family, whose
ill-will became at times something more than passive disaffection, and
afterwards by his overlord made jealous by his increasing power, but the
final issue was never again in serious doubt after his barons had once
tried conclusions with him in pitched battle and had lost the game.


For all this, the revolt of 1047 came near putting a summary close to
William’s career and life. Normandy at this time was far from being a
homogeneous state; apart from the general tendency of feudalism towards
the isolation of individual barons, the greater divisions of the duchy
had as yet little real cohesion; and a line of cleavage which is
all-important in this revolt is marked by the river Dive, which
separates Rouen and its territory, where the ducal power might be
expected to be at its strongest, from the lands of the Bessin and
Cotentin, which were always predisposed to local independence. These
districts, as we have seen, formed no part of the territory ceded to
Rollo by the treaty of Claire-sur-Epte, and it is quite possible that
the course of events in the present year may have been affected by the
distinction between the Gallicised Northmen of the Rouennais and Evrècin
and the more primitive folk of the lands west of Dive. At any rate it
was from the latter quarter that the main strength of the rising was
drawn. The Bessin and Cotentin revolted under their respective
viscounts, Randolf de Brichessart and Neel de Saint Sauveur, the latter
being the most prominent leader in the whole affair; and with them were
associated one Hamo, nicknamed “Dentatus,” the lord of Thorigny and
Creuilly, and Grimbald the seigneur of Plessis. The nominal head of the
revolt was William’s cousin Guy, son of Reginald, count of the
Burgundian Palatinate by Adeliz, daughter of Duke Richard II. of
Normandy, a young man, who up to this time had been the constant
companion of William, and had received from him Brionne and Vernon, two
of the most important castles of eastern Normandy. Guy was one of the
few legitimate members of the ducal family, and he and his confederates
found a justification for their rising in the stain which rested upon
William’s birth. We are told that their ultimate object was to divide
the duchy among themselves, and we may suppose that Guy would have taken
Rouen and the surrounding country with the title of duke, leaving the
western lords in practical independence. The latter took an oath to
support his claims and to depose William, and they put their castles
into a state of defence.

When the revolt broke out William was in the heart of the enemies’
country at Valognes, a town which seems to have been his favourite
hunting seat in the west of Normandy. The opportunity was too good to be
missed, and a plot was laid for his capture which came within an ace of
success, and according to later tradition was only discovered, on the
point of its execution, by Gallet, William’s fool. The duke had gone to
bed when Gallet burst into his room and called on him to escape for his
life. Clad in such garments as came to hand William sprang on horseback,
and rode away through the dead of night eastwards towards his native and
loyal town of Falaise. He took the coast road, crossing the estuary of
the Vire at low water, and by day-break he had covered the forty miles
which separate Valognes from Rye. It so chanced that Hubert the lord of
Rye was standing between his castle mound and the neighbouring church as
the duke came riding by, and recognising his lord he asked the reason of
his haste. Upon learning of his danger Hubert called three of his sons
and bade them escort the duke to Falaise; but even in the capital of his
native province William made no delay, and hastened across the borders
of his duchy to ask help of his overlord and guardian, King Henry of
France.[48] The king and the duke met at Poissy, and a French army
prepared to enter Normandy under the leadership of the king in person,
while on his part William summoned the men of Rouen, Auge, Lisieux,
Evreux, and the Hiesmois, men, that is, from all Normandy east of the
Dive and from the territory belonging to Falaise, west of that river.
The Normans assembled in the latter district and concentrated on the
Meance near Argences; the French army drew together on the Laison
between Argences and Mezidon. King Henry heard mass and arranged his
troops at Valmeray, then crossed the Olne on to the plain of
Val-es-dunes and drew up his men on the bank of the river. In that
position he was joined by William, who had crossed at the ford of
Berangier, and the combined force prepared for battle, the Frenchmen
forming the left wing and the Normans the right.[49]

In the meantime the revolt had spread apace. The rebels had seized the
duke’s demesne and, it would seem, were prepared to invade the loyal
country across the Dive, for they had reached Val-es-dunes before the
king and the duke had arrived there. Like their opponents, they drew up
their army in two divisions, the men of the Cotentin forming the right
wing and those of the Bessin the left. The battle seems to have begun by
a charge of the Cotentin men on the French, but of the struggle which
followed we have only a confused and indefinite account; it appears to
have been a simple cavalry encounter, calling for no special tactical
skill in the leaders of either side. Even in most of the Norman accounts
of the battle William plays a part distinctly secondary to that of his
overlord, although the latter had the ill luck to be unhorsed twice
during the day, once by a knight of the Cotentin and once by the rebel
leader Hamo “Dentatus.” Before long the fight was going decisively in
favour of the loyal party. The rebel leaders seem to have mistrusted
each other’s good faith. In particular Ralf of Brichessart began to fear
treachery; he suspected that Neel de Saint Sauveur might have left the
field, while one of his own most distinguished vassals had been cut down
before his eyes, by the duke’s own hand as later Norman tradition said.
Accordingly, long before the fight was over he left the field, but the
western men were still held together by Neel, who made a determined
stand on the high ground by the church of St. Lawrence. At last he too
gave way, the flight became general, and it was at this point that the
rebel force suffered its heaviest losses, for the broken army tried to
make its way into the friendly land of the Bessin, and the river Olne
lay immediately to the west of the plateau of Val-es-dunes. Large
numbers of the rebels perished in the river and the rest escaped between
Alegmagne and Farlenay, while Guy himself, who had been wounded in the
battle, fled eastward to his castle of Brionne.

The reduction of this fortress must have been for William the most
formidable part of the whole campaign. Even in the middle of the
eleventh century the art of fortification was much more fully developed
than the art of attack, and at Brionne the site of the castle materially
aided the work of defence. The castle itself stood on an island in the
river Risle, which at that point was unfordable, and it was
distinguished from the wooden fortifications common at the time by the
fact that it contained a stone “hall,” which was evidently considered
the crowning feature of its defences.[50] Immediately, it would seem,
after the battle of Val-es-dunes King Henry retired to France, while
William hastened to the siege of Brionne. A direct attack on the castle
being impossible, William built counterworks on either bank of the Risle
and set to work to starve the garrison into surrender. By all accounts
the process took a long time,[51] but at last the failure of supplies
drove Guy to send and ask for terms with William. These were
sufficiently lenient; Guy was required to surrender Brionne and Vernon,
but was allowed to live at William’s court if he pleased. No very
drastic measures were taken with regard to the rebels of lower rank, but
William, realising with true instinct where his real danger had lain,
dismantled the castles which had been fortified against him; and with
the disappearance of the castles the fear[52] of civil war vanished from
Normandy for a while. The capital punishment of rebellious vassals was
not in accordance with the feudal custom of the time.[53] The legal
doctrine of sovereignty, which made the levying of war against the head
of the state the most heinous of all crimes, was the creation of the
revived study of Roman law in the next century; and a mere revolt, if
unaggravated by any special act of treason, could still be atoned for by
the imprisonment of the leaders and the confiscation of their lands. To
this we must add that William as yet was no king, the head of no feudal
hierarchy; the distance that separated him from a viscount of Coutances
was far less than the distance that came to separate a duke of Somerset
from Edward IV. The one man who was treated with severity on the present
occasion was Grimbald of Plessis, on whom was laid the especial guilt of
the attempt on William’s life at Valognes. He was sent into perpetual
imprisonment at Rouen, where he shortly died, directing that he should
be buried in his fetters as a traitor to his lord.[54] Guy of Burgundy
seems to have become completely discredited by his conduct in the war,
life in Normandy became unbearable to him, and of his own free will he
retired to Burgundy, and vanishes from Norman history.

The war was over, and William’s future in Normandy was secured, but the
revolt had indirect results which extended far beyond the immediate
sequence of events. It was William’s duty and interest to return the
service which King Henry had just done to him, and it was this which
first brought him into hostile relations with the rising power on the
lower Loire, the county of Anjou. The history of Anjou is in great part
the record of a continuous process of territorial expansion, which, even
by the beginning of the eleventh century had raised the petty lordship
of Angers to the position of a feudal power of the first rank. Angers
itself, situated as it was in the centre of the original Anjou, was an
excellent capital for a line of aggressive feudal princes, who were
enabled to strike at will at Brittany, Maine, Touraine, or Saintonge,
and made the most of their strategical advantage. With Normandy the
counts of Anjou had not as yet come into conflict; the county of Maine
had up to the present separated the two states, and the collision might
have been indefinitely postponed had not the events of 1047 compelled
William of Normandy to bear his part in a quarrel which shortly
afterwards broke out between the king of France and Count Geoffrey II.
of Anjou.

The first five years of William’s minority had coincided, in the history
of Anjou, with the close of the long reign of Count Fulk Nerra, who for
more than fifty years had been extending the borders of his county with
unceasing energy and an entire absence of moral scruple, and has justly
been described as the founder of the Angevin state. His son and
successor Geoffrey, commonly known in history, as to his contemporaries,
under the significant nickname of Martel, continued his father’s work of
territorial aggrandisement. He had three distinct objects in view: to
round off his hereditary possessions by getting possession of Touraine,
and to extend his territory to the north and south of the Loire at the
expense of the counts of Maine and Poitou respectively. His methods, as
described by Norman historians, were elementary; his favourite plan was
to seize the person of his enemy and allow him to ransom himself by the
cession of the desired territory. This simple device proved effective
with the counts of Poitou and Blois; from the former, even before the
death of Fulk Nerra, Geoffrey had extorted the cession of Saintonge, and
from the latter, after a great victory at Montlouis in 1044, he gained
full possession of the county of Touraine. The conquest of Touraine was
undertaken with the full consent of the king of France; the counts of
Blois, as we have seen, were ill neighbours to the royal demesne, and
King Henry and his successors were always ready to ally themselves with
any power capable of making a diversion in their favour. On the other
hand their policy was not, and could not be, consistent in this respect;
the rudimentary balance of power, which was all that they could hope to
attain at this time, was always liable to be overthrown by the very
means which they took to preserve it; a count of Anjou in possession of
Saintonge and Touraine could be a more dangerous rival to the monarchy
than the weakened count of Blois. Accordingly, less than four years
after the battle of Montlouis, we find King Henry in arms against
Geoffrey Martel, and William of Normandy attracted by gratitude and
feudal duty into the conflict.[55]

When William, archdeacon of Lisieux, the Conqueror’s first biographer,
was living, an exile as he styles himself, in Poitou shortly after this
time, the prowess of the young duke in this campaign was a matter of
current conversation.[56] The Frenchmen, we are told, were brought to
realise unwillingly that the army led by William from Normandy was
greater by far than the whole force supplied by all the other potentates
who took part in the war. We are also told that King Henry had the
greatest regard for his protégé, took his advice on all military
matters, and remonstrated with him affectionately on his too great
daring in the field. William seems in his early days to have possessed a
full share of that delight in battle which is perhaps the main motive
underlying the later romances of chivalry, and his reputation rose
rapidly and extended far. Geoffrey Martel himself said that there could
nowhere be found so good a knight as the duke of Normandy. The princes
of Gascony and Auvergne and even the kings of Spain sent him presents of
horses and tried to win his favour.[57] Also it must have been about
this time that William made overtures to Baldwin, count of Flanders, for
the hand of his daughter, while in 1051 we know that he made a journey,
fraught with memorable consequences, to the court of Edward the
Confessor. In fact, with the subjugation of his barons and his first
Angevin war William sprang at a bound into fame; the political stage of
France lacked an actor of the first order, and William in the flush of
his early manhood was an effective contrast to the subtle and dangerous
count of Anjou.

At some undetermined point in the war an opportunity presented itself
for Geoffrey Martel to gain a foothold in Norman territory. On the
border between Normandy and Maine stand the towns of Domfront and
Alençon, each commanding a river valley and a corresponding passage from
the south into Normandy. Domfront formed part of the great border fief
of Bellême, and at this time it was included in the county of Maine,
over which, as we shall see later, Geoffrey Martel was exercising rights
of suzerainty. Alençon was wholly Norman, but its inhabitants found
William’s strict justice unbearable, and being thus predisposed for
revolt they admitted a strong Angevin garrison sent by Geoffrey Martel.
William decided to retaliate by capturing Domfront, leaving Alençon to
be retaken afterwards.[58] The plan was reasonable, but it nearly led to
William’s destruction, for a traitor in the Norman army gave information
as to his movements to the men of Domfront, and it was only through his
personal prowess that William escaped an ambush skilfully laid to
intercept him as he was reconnoitring near the city. The siege which
followed was no light matter. It was winter, Geoffrey had thrown a body
of picked men into the castle, and, unlike Brionne, Domfront was a hill
fortress, accessible at the time only by two steep and narrow paths. It
would thus be difficult to carry the place by sudden assault; so
William, as formerly at Brionne and later at Arques, established
counterworks and waited for the result of a blockade, harassing the
garrison meanwhile by incessant attacks on their walls. The
counterworks, we are told, consisted of four “castles,” presumably
arranged so as to cover the base of the hill on which Domfront stands,
and William contented himself for the present with securing his own
supplies and preventing any message being carried from the garrison to
the count of Anjou, in the meantime making use of the opportunities for
sport which the neighbouring country offered. At last the men of Domfort
contrived to get a messenger through the Norman lines and Geoffrey
advanced to the relief of his allies with a large army. What followed
may be told in the words of William of Poitiers:

  “When William knew this he hastened against him [Geoffrey], entrusting
  the maintenance of the siege to approved knights, and sent forward as
  scouts Roger de Montgomery and William fitz Osbern, both young men and
  eager, who learned the insolent intention of the enemy from his own
  words. For Geoffrey made known by them that he would beat up William’s
  guards before Domfront at dawn the next day, and signified also what
  manner of horse he would ride in the battle and what should be the
  fashion of his shield and clothing. But they replied that he need
  trouble himself no further with the journey which he designed, for he
  whom he sought would come to him with speed, and then in their turn
  they described the horse of their lord, his clothing and arms. These
  tidings increased not a little the zeal of the Normans, but the duke
  himself, the most eager of all, incited them yet further. Perchance
  this excellent youth wished to destroy a tyrant, for the senate of
  Rome and Athens held such an act to be the fairest of all noble deeds.
  But Geoffrey, smitten with sudden terror, before he had so much as
  seen the opposing host sought safety in flight with his whole army,
  and lo! the path lay open whereby the Norman duke might spoil the
  wealth of his enemy and blot out his rival’s name with everlasting

It is painful to pass from this rhapsody to what is perhaps the grimmest
scene in William’s life. The retreat of Geoffrey, to whatever cause it
is to be assigned, exposed Alençon to William’s vengeance. Leaving a
sufficient force before Domfront to maintain the siege, in a single
night’s march he crossed the water-parting of the Varenne and the
Sarthe, and approached Alençon as dawn was breaking. Facing him was the
fortified bridge over the Sarthe, behind it lay the town, and above the
town stood the castle, all fully defended. On the bridge certain of the
citizens had hung out skins, and as William drew near they beat them,
shouting “Hides for the tanner.”[60] With a mighty oath the young duke
swore that he would prune those men as it were with a pollarding knife,
and within a few hours he had executed his threat. The bridge was
stormed and the town taken, William unroofing the houses which lay
outside the wall and using the timber as fuel to burn the gates, but the
castle still held out. Thirty-two of the citizens were then brought
before the duke; their hands and feet were struck off and flung
straightway over the wall of the castle among its defenders.[61] With
the hasty submission of the castle which followed William was free to
give his whole attention to the reduction of Domfront, and on his return
he found the garrison already demoralised by the news of what had
happened at Alençon, and by the ineffective departure of Geoffrey
Martel. They made an honourable surrender and Domfront became a Norman
possession,[62] the first point gained in the struggle which was not to
end until a count of Anjou united the thrones of Normandy, Maine, and

[Illustration: Denier of Geoffrey Martel]


Footnote 4:

  The boundary of the Danelaw in its full extent is proved by certain
  twelfth-century lists of shires which divide England into
  “Westsexenelage,” “Mirchenelage,” and “Danelage.” With regard to
  earlier times, the territory of the Five Boroughs is delimited by the
  fiscal peculiarities described below (Chapter XII.), and the kingdom
  of Northumbria substantially corresponds with Yorkshire as surveyed in
  _Domesday Book_, but it is very uncertain how far Guthrum’s kingdom
  extended westward after his final peace with Alfred. London was
  annexed to Wessex, but the boundary does not seem to have coincided in
  any way with the later county divisions.

Footnote 5:

  See below, Chapter XII.

Footnote 6:

  Chadwick, _Studies in Anglo-Saxon Institutions_, chapter v.

Footnote 7:

  Chadwick, _op. cit._

Footnote 8:

  Maitland, _Domesday Book and Beyond_, 167.

Footnote 9:

  See the account of the council at Bretford, below, page 61.

Footnote 10:

  See Plummer, _Life and Times of Alfred the Great_, 67.

Footnote 11:

  “Unready” here represents the A. S. _unrædig_—“devoid of counsel”—and
  is applied to Ethelred because of his independence of the advice of
  the witan.

Footnote 12:

  _E. H. R._, vii., 209.

Footnote 13:

  See Eckel, _Charles le Simple_.

Footnote 14:

  This identification cannot be considered certain. See Flodoard, ed. P.

Footnote 15:

  The main features of Norman society in the eleventh century are
  described in outline by Pollock and Maitland, _History of English
  Law_, i., chapter iii., on which the following sketch is founded.

Footnote 16:

  The scanty evidence which exists on this matter is summarised by
  Pollock and Maitland, _H. E. L._, chapter iii., and by Haskins, _E. H.
  R._, Oct., 1907.

Footnote 17:

  See on this matter F. Lot, _Fidèles ou Vassaux_.

Footnote 18:

  See _Histoire Général de France, Les Premiers Capetiens_, p. 90; also
  Sœhnée, _Catalogue des Actes d’Henri I^{er} No. 38._

Footnote 19:

  See Bohmer’s _Kirche und Staat in England und in der Normandie_, 20.

Footnote 20:

  The fullest account of Cnut’s reign is given by Freeman. _Norman
  Conquest_ i., chapter vi. Freeman was disposed to underrate the value
  of Scandinavian evidence, and hence considered Cnut’s reign almost
  exclusively from the English standpoint.

Footnote 21:

  See the lives of Earls Eric and Eglaf in the notes to the _Crawford
  Charters_, No. xii.

Footnote 22:

  P. and M., i., 20.

Footnote 23:

  The most recent discussion in detail of this episode is that of
  Plummer, _Two Saxon Chronicles_, ii. Freeman’s attempt to clear
  Godwine of complicity was marked by a very arbitrary treatment of the
  contemporary authorities.

Footnote 24:

  _Heimskringla_, trans. Morris and Magnusson, vol. iii., p. 10.

Footnote 25:

  _Op. cit._, p. 181.

Footnote 26:

  This is the duty of “hospitium,” exemption from which was frequently
  granted in Anglo-Norman charters.

Footnote 27:

  Swegen, Godwine’s eldest son, went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and
  died on his way back.

Footnote 28:

  See the map of the earldoms in 1066 given by Freeman, _Norman
  Conquest_, ii.

Footnote 29:

  In the next generation there was a tradition that Gospatric had been
  murdered by Queen Edith on her brother’s behalf, Florence of
  Worcester, 1065.

Footnote 30:

  _Victoria History of Northamptonshire_, i., 262–3.

Footnote 31:

  In addition to the future Conqueror one other child was born to Robert
  and Arlette—a daughter named Adeliz, who married Count Enguerrand of
  Ponthieu; and after Robert’s death Arlette herself became the lawful
  wife of a Norman knight named Herlwin of Conteville, whose two sons,
  Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and Robert, count of Mortain, play a
  considerable part in the succeeding history.

Footnote 32:

  Ralf Glaber, iv., 6.

Footnote 33:

  _De la Borderie_, _Histoire de Bretagne_, iii., 8–12.

Footnote 34:

  Round, _Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, 526.

Footnote 35:

  This grant rests solely on the authority of Ordericus Vitalis, but it
  is accepted by Flach, _Les origines de l’ancienne France_, 528–530.

Footnote 36:

  The meeting place of this council is only recorded by William of
  Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, ii., 285.

Footnote 37:

  Ordericus Vitalis, iii., 431.

Footnote 38:

  Among contemporaries who made the journey may be mentioned Count Fulk
  Nerra of Anjou and Archbishop Ealdred of York.

Footnote 39:

  Ordericus, ii., 369. Tutorem sui, Ducis.

Footnote 40:

  _Gesta Regum_, ii., 285.

Footnote 41:

  _Gesta Regum_, ii., 285. “Normannia fiscus regalis erat.” Henry of
  Huntingdon, 189.

Footnote 42:

  This is the opinion of Luchaire, _Institutions monarchiques_, ii., 17.

Footnote 43:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 3.

Footnote 44:

  Round, _Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, No. 37.

Footnote 45:

  Round, _Calendar_, No. 251.

Footnote 46:

  Luchaire, _Institutions monarchiques_, ii., 233.

Footnote 47:

  This is asserted very strongly by Freeman, ii., 201, and is implied by
  Luchaire, _Les Premières Capétiens_, 163.

Footnote 48:

  The whole story of the duke’s ride from Valognes to Falaise rests upon
  the sole authority of Wace, and is only given here as a matter of

Footnote 49:

  The topography of the battle is derived from Wace.

Footnote 50:

  William of Poitiers, 81.

Footnote 51:

  Ordericus Vitalis (iii., 342) makes a pointed reference to the length
  of time occupied by the present siege in comparison with the capture
  of Brionne in a single day by Robert of Normandy in 1090. But it is
  impossible to accept his statement that the resistance of Guy of
  Burgundy was protracted for three years.

Footnote 52:

  William of Poitiers, 81: “Bella domestica apud nos in longum sopivit.”

Footnote 53:

  In the imperfectly feudalised state of England a stricter doctrine
  seems to have prevailed: see, on Waltheof’s case below, page 338.

Footnote 54:

  This rests on no better authority than Wace. We know with more
  certainty that the lands which Grimbald forfeited were bestowed by
  William upon the See of Bayeux, of which Odo, the duke’s brother,
  became bishop in 1048.—_Eng. Hist. Rev._, xxii., 644.

Footnote 55:

  “Vicissitudinem post hæc ipse Regi fide studiosissima reddidit.”

Footnote 56:

  William of Poitiers, 82.

Footnote 57:

  William of Poitiers, 82.

Footnote 58:

  William of Poitiers, 87.

Footnote 59:

  William of Poitiers, 88.

Footnote 60:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 18.

Footnote 61:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 18. The duke’s oath is given by Wace:
  _Roman de Rou_, 9468.

Footnote 62:

  William of Poitiers, 89.

                               CHAPTER II
                         REBELLION AND INVASION

Between the first Angevin war and the outbreak of overt hostilities
between Normandy and France, there occurs a period of five or six years
the historical interest of which lies almost entirely in the internal
affairs of the Norman state. It was by no means an unimportant time; it
included one external event of great importance, William’s visit to
England in 1051, but its real significance lay in the gradual
consolidation of his power in Normandy and its results. On the one hand
it was in these years that William finally suppressed the irreconcilable
members of his own family; on the other hand the gradual dissolution of
the traditional alliance between Normandy and the Capetian house runs
parallel to this process and is essentially caused by it. From the very
time when William attained his majority these two powers begin steadily
to drift apart; the breach widens as William’s power increases, and the
support given by the king of France in these years to Norman rebels such
as William Busac and William of Arques is naturally followed by his
invasions of Normandy in 1054 and 1058. As compensation for this
William’s marriage with Matilda of Flanders falls within the same
period, and events ruled that the alliance thus formed was to neutralise
the enmity of the Capetian house at the critical moment of the invasion
of England. There is indeed a sense in which we may say that it was
William’s success in these six years which made the invasion of England
possible; whether consciously or not, William was making indispensable
preparation for his supreme endeavour when he was taking the castles of
his unquiet kinsmen and banishing them from Normandy.

The first of them to go was William surnamed “the Warling,” count of
Mortain and grandson of Duke Richard the Fearless. His fall was sudden
and dramatic. As we have only one narrative of these events it may be
given here at length:

  “At that time William named the Warling, of Richard the Great’s line,
  was count of Mortain. One day a certain knight of his household,
  called Robert Bigot, came to him and said, ‘My Lord, I am very poor
  and in this country I cannot obtain relief; I will therefore go to
  Auplia, where I may live more honourably.’ ‘Who,’ said William, ‘has
  advised you thus?’ ‘The poverty which I suffer,’ replied Robert. Then
  said William, ‘Within eight days, in Normandy itself, you shall be
  able in safety to seize with your own hands whatever you may require.’
  Robert therefore, submitting to his lord’s counsel, bided his time,
  and shortly afterwards, through Richard of Avranches his kinsman,
  gained the acquaintance of the duke. One day they were talking in
  private when Robert among other matters repeated the above speech of
  Count William. The duke thereupon summoned the count and asked him
  what he meant by talk of this kind, but he could not deny the matter,
  nor did he dare to tell his real meaning. Then said the duke in his
  wrath: ‘You have planned to confound Normandy with seditious war, and
  wickedly have you plotted to rebel against me and disinherit me,
  therefore it is that you have promised booty to your needy knight.
  But, God granting it, the unbroken peace which we desire shall remain
  to us. Do you therefore depart from Normandy, nor ever return hither
  so long as I live.’ William thus exiled sought Apulia wretchedly,
  accompanied by only one squire, and the duke at once promoted Robert
  his brother and gave him the county of Mortain. Thus harshly did he
  abuse the haughty kindred of his father and honourably exalt the
  humble kindred of his mother.”[63]

The moral of the story lies in its last sentence. The haughty kindred of
the duke’s father were beginning to show themselves dangerous, and
William threw down the challenge to them once for all when he
disinherited the grandson of Richard the Great in favour of the grandson
of the tanner of Falaise. But, apart from the personal questions
involved, the tale is eminently illustrative of William’s conception of
his duty as a ruler. By policy as well as prepossession he was driven to
be the stern maintainer of order; the men who would stir up civil war in
Normandy wished also to disinherit its duke, and from this followed
naturally that community of interest between the ruler and his meaner
subjects as against the greater baronage which was typical of the early
Middle Ages in Normandy and England alike. It is inadvisable to
scrutinise too narrowly the means taken by William to secure his
position; if on the present occasion he exiled his cousin on the mere
information of a single knight, he had already been taught the wisdom of
striking at the root of a rebellion before it had time to grow to a
head. We must not expect too much forbearance from the head of a feudal
state in his dealings with a suspected noble when the banishment of the
latter would place a dangerous fief at the former’s disposal. Lastly, we
may notice the way in which Apulia is evidently regarded as a land of
promise at this time by all who seek better fortune than Normandy can
give them. In the eleventh century, as in the fifteenth, Italy was
exercising its perennial attraction for the men of the ruder north, and
under the leadership of the sons of Tancred of Hauteville a new Normandy
was rising on the wreck of the Byzantine Empire in the West by the
shores of the Ionian Sea.

Probably about this time, and possibly not without some connection with
the disaffection of William the Warling, there occurred another abortive
revolt, of which the scene was laid, as usual, in one of the
semi-independent counties held by members of the ducal house. In the
north-east corner of Normandy the town of Eu with its surrounding
territory had been given by Duke Richard II. to his illegitimate brother
William. The latter had three sons, of whom Robert, the eldest,
succeeded him in the county, Hugh, the youngest, subsequently becoming
bishop of Lisieux. The remaining brother, William, surnamed Busac, is a
mysterious person whose appearance in history is almost confined to the
single narrative which we possess of his revolt. The latter is not free
from difficulty; William was not his father’s eldest son, and yet at the
period in question he appears in possession of the castle of Eu, and,
which is much more remarkable, he is represented as laying claim to the
duchy of Normandy itself. At present this is inexplicable, but it is
certain that the duke besieged and took Eu and drove William Busac into
exile. The place of refuge which he chose is very suggestive. He went to
France and attached himself to King Henry, who married him to the
heiress of the county of Soissons, where his descendants were ruling at
the close of the century.[64] It is plain that the king’s opportunist
policy has definitely turned against William of Normandy, when we find a
Norman rebel received with open arms and given an important territorial
position on the border of the royal demesne.[65]

The third and last of this series of revolts can be definitely assigned
to the year 1053. It arose like the revolt of William Busac in the land
east of Seine, and its leader was again one of the “_Ricardenses_,” a
member of a collateral branch of the ducal house. William count of
Arques was an illegitimate son of Duke Richard II., and therefore
brother by the half blood to Duke Robert I., and uncle to William of
Normandy. With the object of conciliating an important member of his
family the latter had enfeoffed his uncle in the county of Arques, the
district between Eu and the Pays de Caux. Before long, however,
relations between the duke and the count became strained; William of
Arques was said to have failed in his feudal duty at the siege of
Domfront, and when a little later he proceeded to fortify the capital of
his county with a castle, it was known that his designs were not
consonant with loyalty towards the interests of his lord and nephew. In
the hope of anticipating further trouble the duke insisted on his legal
right of garrisoning the castle with his own troops, but the precaution
proved to be quite futile, for the count soon won over the garrison,
defied his nephew, and spread destruction over as wide an area as he
could reach from his base of operations. At this time, as at the similar
crisis of 1047, William seems to have been at Valognes; he was certainly
somewhere in the Cotentin when the news of what was happening at Arques
was brought to him.[66] Without a moment’s delay he rode off towards the
scene of the revolt, crossing the Dive estuary at the ford of St.
Clement and so past Bayeux, Caen, and Pont Audemer to the Seine at
Caudebec, and then to Baons-le-Comte and Arques, his companions dropping
off one by one in the course of his headlong ride until only six were
left. Near to Arques, however, he fell in with a party of three hundred
horsemen from Rouen, who had set out with the object of preventing the
men of Arques from carrying supplies into the castle. William had not
yet outgrown the impetuosity which called forth King Henry’s admonitions
in the campaign of 1048: he insisted on delivering an instant attack,
believing that the rebels would shrink from meeting him in person, and
dashed on to the castle regardless of the remonstrances of the Rouen
men, who counselled discretion. Charging up the castle mound he drove
the count and his men within the fortress as he had anticipated, and we
are given to understand that but for their hastily shutting the gates
against him the revolt would have been ended then and there.

The surprise assault having failed, nothing was left but a blockade, and
accordingly William established a counterwork at the base of the castle
and entrusted it to Walter Giffard, lord of the neighbouring estate of
Longueville, while he himself went off, “being called by other
business,” as his panegyrist tells us. As a matter of fact it is
probable that he withdrew from a sense of feudal propriety,[67] for no
less a person than King Henry of France was advancing to the relief of
the garrison. On all grounds it was desirable for William to refrain
from setting a bad example to his barons by actually appearing in arms
against his own overlord, and so the operations against the king were
left to the direction of others. At the outset they were fortunate.
There were still a few barons in the county of Arques who had not joined
the rebels, and one of them, Richard of Hugleville, possessed a castle,
a few miles from Arques itself, at St. Aubin, which lay on the line of
march of the French king. Possibly it was this fact which suggested to
the besiegers the idea of intercepting the king before he reached
Arques; at any rate, they formed a plan of the kind, which proved
successful and curiously anticipates one of the most famous episodes in
the greater battle of Hastings. The king, who had been marching
carelessly with a convoy of provisions intended for the garrison within
Arques, halted near to St. Aubin. In the meantime the Normans before
Arques had sent out a detachment which they divided into two parts, the
greater part secreting itself not far from St. Aubin, while the rest
made a feint attack on the royal army. After a short conflict the latter
division turned in pretended flight, drew out a number of the king’s
army in pursuit, and enticed them past the place where the trap was
laid, whereupon the hidden Normans sallied out, fell on the Frenchmen,
and annihilated them, slaying Enguerrand, count of Ponthieu, and many
other men of note. Notwithstanding this check, the king hurried on to
Arques, and succeeded in throwing provisions into the castle, and then,
eager to avenge the disaster at St. Aubin, he made a savage attack on
the counterwork at the foot of the hill. But its defences were strong
and its defenders resolute: so the king, to avoid further loss, beat a
hasty retreat to St. Denis, and with his withdrawal Duke William
reappeared upon the scene.[68] Then the blockade was resumed in earnest,
and we are told that its severity convinced the count of Arques of his
folly in claiming the duchy against his lord. Repeated messages to King
Henry begging for relief found him unwilling to risk any further loss of
prestige, and at last hunger did its work. The garrison surrendered,
asking that life and limb might be guaranteed to them, but making no
further stipulation, and William of Poitiers gleefully describes the
ignominious manner of their exit from the castle.[69] Here, as after
Val-es-dunes, it was not the duke’s policy, if it lay in his power, to
proceed to extremities against the beaten rebels, and William was
notably lenient to his uncle, who was deprived of his county and his
too-powerful castle, but was granted at the same time a large estate in
Normandy. However, like Guy of Burgundy, he declined to live in the
country over which he had hoped to rule and he went into voluntary exile
at the court of Eustace of Boulogne.

One outlying portion of the duchy remained in revolt after the fall of
Arques. On the south-western border of Normandy the fortress of Moulins
had been betrayed to the king by Wimund, its commander, and had received
a royal garrison under Guy-Geoffrey, brother of the duke of Aquitaine.
The importance of this event lay in the fact that Moulins in unfriendly
hands threatened to cut off communications between the Hiesmois and the
half-independent county of Bellême. Fortunately for the integrity of the
duchy, the fate of Moulins was determined by the surrender of Arques;
the garrison gave up their cause as hopeless, and retired without
attempting to stand a siege.[70]

At some indefinite point in the short interval of peace which followed
the revolt of William of Arques, William of Normandy was married to
Matilda, daughter of Baldwin count of Flanders, in the minster at Eu. On
William’s part the consummation of the marriage was an act of simple
lawlessness noteworthy in so faithful a son of Holy Church, for in 1049
the General Council of Rheims had solemnly forbidden Count Baldwin to
give his daughter to William of Normandy, and had simultaneously
inhibited William from receiving her.[71] A mystery which has not been
wholly solved hangs over the motives which underlay this prohibition;
for genealogical research has hitherto failed to discover any tie of
affinity which might furnish an impediment, reasonable or otherwise, to
the proposed marriage, while at the middle of the eleventh century the
provisions of the canon law on the subject of the prohibited degrees
were much less rigid and fantastic than they subsequently became. Yet
the decree is duly entered among the canons of the Council of Rheims,
and it served to keep William and his chosen bride apart for four years.
Early in 1053, however, Pope Leo IX. had been taken prisoner by the
Normans in Italy at the battle of Aversa, and the coincidence of his
captivity with William’s defiance of the papal censure has not escaped
the notice of historians.[72] By all churchmen of the stricter sort a
marriage celebrated under such conditions was certain to be regarded as
a scandal. Normandy was laid under an interdict, and in the duchy itself
the opposition was headed by two men of very different character.
Malger, the archbishop of Rouen at the time, was a brother of the fallen
count of Arques, and the excommunication which he pronounced against his
erring nephews was probably occasioned as much by the political
grievances of his family as by righteous indignation at the despite done
to the Council of Rheims. William speedily came to an understanding with
the Pope by means of which he was enabled to remove Malger from his
archbishopric, but the marriage was also condemned by the man who both
before and after that event held above all others the place of the
duke’s familiar friend. The career of Lanfranc of Pavia, at this moment
prior of Bec, will be more fittingly considered elsewhere, but his
opposition to William’s marriage was especially significant because of
his great legal knowledge and the disinterestedness of his motives, and
the uncompromising attitude of his most intimate counsellor cut the duke
to the quick. In the outburst of his anger William savagely ordered that
the lands of the monastery of Bec should be harried, and that Lanfranc
himself should instantly depart from Normandy. A chance meeting between
the duke and the prior led to a reconciliation, and Lanfranc was
thereupon employed to negotiate with the papal court for a recognition
of the validity of the marriage. Nevertheless five years passed before
Pope Nicholas II. in 1059 granted the necessary dispensation,
accompanied by an injunction that William and his wife should each build
and endow a monastery by way of penance for their disobedience; and the
reasons for this long delay are almost as difficult to understand as are
the grounds for the original prohibition in 1049. But it is probable
that William, having once taken the law into his own hands and gained
possession of his bride, was well content that the progress of his suit
at Rome should drag its slow length along, trusting that time and the
chances of diplomatic expediency might soften the rigours of the canon
law, and bring the papal curia to acquiescence in the accomplished fact.

The county of Flanders, with which Normandy at this time became
intimately connected, held a unique position among the feudal states of
the north. Part only of the wide territory ruled by Baldwin IV. owed
feudal service to the king of France, for the eastern portion of the
county was an imperial fief, and the fact of his divided allegiance
enabled the count of Flanders to play the part of an international
power. By contemporary writers Count Baldwin is occasionally graced with
the higher title of Marquis,[73] and the designation well befitted the
man who ruled the wealthiest portion of the borderland between the
French kingdom and the German empire. The constant jealousy of his two
overlords secured him in practical independence, and in material
resources it is probable that no prince between the English Channel and
the Alps could compete with the lord of Bruges and Ghent; for the great
cities of Flanders were already developing the wealth and commercial
influence which in the next generation were to give them the lead in the
movement for communal independence. For some thirty years we find
Baldwin cultivating the friendship of England, as became a ruler whose
subjects were already finding their markets in English ports; and as the
political situation unfolded itself, the part he chose to take in the
strife of parties across the Channel became a matter of increasing
concern for English statesmen. “Baldwin’s land,” as the English
chronicler terms it, was the customary resort of political exiles from
England, and in 1066 it was the attitude of the count of Flanders which,
as we shall see, really turned the scale in favour of William of
Normandy. At the early date with which we are dealing no one could have
foreseen that this would be so, but the value of a Flemish alliance was
already recognised in England by the aggressive house with which William
was at last to come into deadly conflict. In 1051, Tosig, son of Earl
Godwine of Wessex, wedded Judith, Count Baldwin’s sister,[74] and this
fact inevitably gave a political complexion to William’s marriage to
Matilda, two years later. Godwine, as leader of the English
nationalists, and William as ultimate supporter of the Normans in
England, were each interested to secure the alliance of a power which
might intervene with decisive effect on either side and could not be
expected to preserve strict neutrality in the event of war. William was
too shrewd a statesman to ignore these facts; yet after all he probably
regarded his marriage rather as the gratification of a personal desire
than as a diplomatic victory.

Long before the political results of William’s marriage had matured
themselves, the relations between the duke of Normandy and the king of
France had entered upon a new phase. The event of the war of 1053 had
shewn that it was eminently in the interests of the French monarchy that
the growth of the Norman power should be checked before it could proceed
to actual encroachment on the royal demesne; and also that if this were
to be accomplished it would no longer suffice for King Henry to content
himself with giving support to casual Norman factions in arms against
their lawful ruler. This plan had led to ignominious failure, and it was
clear that in future it would be necessary for King Henry to appear as a
principal in the war and test whether the Norman duke was strong enough
to withstand the direct attack of his suzerain. These considerations
produced a phenomenon rarely seen at this date, for the king proceeded
to collect an army in which, through the rhetoric in which our one
contemporary writer veils its composition, we must recognise nothing
less than the entire feudal levy of all France. So rarely does French
feudalism combine to place its military resources at the disposal of its
sovereign that the fact on this occasion is good evidence of the current
opinion as to the strength of Normandy under its masterful duke. In the
war which followed, the territorial principles which found their fullest
expression in the policy of the dukes of Normandy gained a signal
victory over incoherent feudalism represented by the king of France at
the head of the gathered forces of his heterogeneous vassals. Not until
successive kings had reduced the royal demesne to such unity as had
already been reached by Normandy in the eleventh century, could the
French crown attempt successful aggressive war.

In addition to their feudal duty, certain of the king’s associates in
the forthcoming campaign had their individual reasons for joining in an
attack on Normandy. The ducal house of Aquitaine would naturally be
attracted into the quarrel by the failure of Guy-Geoffrey to hold
Moulins in the late war; Guy of Ponthieu had to avenge his brother’s
death at St. Aubin. Little as the several feudal princes of France may
have loved their suzerain, their jealousy would readily be roused by the
exceptional power of one of their own number, and the king seems to have
found little difficulty in collecting forces from every corner of his
realm. From the Midi the counts of Poitou and Auvergne and the
half-autonomous dukes of Aquitaine and Gascony sent contingents; north
of the Loire, every state from Brittany to the duchy of Burgundy was
represented in the royal army with one singular exception. Whatever the
reason of his absence, Geoffrey Martel, William’s most formidable rival,
does not appear in the list of the king’s associates as given by William
of Poitiers.[75] This may be due to a mere oversight on the latter’s
part, or more probably it may be that Geoffrey was too independent to
take part in an expedition which, although directed against his personal
enemy, was commanded by his feudal lord. But with or without his aid the
army which obeyed the king’s summons was to all seeming overwhelmingly
superior to any force which the duke of Normandy could put into the

With so great an army at his disposal, the king could well afford to
divide his forces and make a simultaneous invasion of Normandy at two
different points. The lower course of the Seine supplied a natural line
of demarcation between the spheres of operation of the two invading
armies, and accordingly the royal host mustered in two divisions, one
assembling in the Beauvoisis to ravage the Pays de Caux, the other
assembling at Mantes, and directed at the territory of Evreux, Rouen,
and Lisieux. The first division was drawn from those lands between the
Rhine and the Seine, which owed allegiance to the French crown, and was
placed under the command of Odo the king’s brother and Reginald of
Clermont. The army which gathered at Mantes comprised the Aquitanian
contingent, together with troops drawn from the loyal provinces north of
Loire and west of Seine, and was led by the king in person. The general
plan of campaign is thus intelligible enough, but its ultimate purpose
is not so clear, perhaps because the king himself had formed no plans
other than those which related to the actual conduct of the war. On his
part William formed a scheme of defence corresponding to his enemies’
plan of attack. He took the field in person with the men of the Bessin,
Cotentin, Avranchin, Auge, and Hiesmois, the districts, that is, which
were threatened by the king and his southern army, entrusting the
defence of the Pays de Caux to leaders chosen on account of their local
influence, Count Robert of Eu, Hugh of Gournai, Hugh de Montfort, Walter
Giffard, and Gilbert Crispin, the last a great landowner in the Vexin.
William’s object was to play a purely defensive game, a decision which
was wise as it threw upon the king and his brother the task of
provisioning and keeping together their unwieldly armies in hostile
territory. The invading force moved across the country, laying it waste
after the ordinary fashion of feudal warfare, William hanging on the
flank and rear of the king’s army, cutting off stragglers and foraging
parties and anticipating the inevitable devastation of the land by
removing all provisions from the king’s line of advance. The king had
penetrated as far as the county of Brionne when disaster fell on the
allied army across the Seine. Thinking that William was retiring in
front of the king’s march the leaders of the eastern host ignored the
local force opposed to themselves in the belief, we are told, that all
the knights of Normandy were accompanying the duke. But the count of Eu
and his fellow-officers were deliberately reserving their blow until the
whole of their army had drawn together, and the French met little
opposition until they had come to the town of Mortemer, which they
occupied and used as their headquarters while they ravaged the
neighbourhood in detail at their leisure. Spending the day in plunder
they kept bad watch at night, and this fact induced the Norman leaders
to try the effect of a surprise. Finding out the disposition of the
French force through spies, they moved up to Mortemer by night and
surrounded it before daybreak, posting guards so as to command all the
exits from the town; and the first intimation which the invaders
received of their danger was the firing of the place over their heads by
the Normans. Then followed a scene of wild confusion. In the dim light
of the wintry dawn the panic-struck Frenchmen instinctively made for the
roads which led out of the town, only to be driven in again by the
Normans stationed at these points. Some of course escaped; Odo the
king’s brother and Reginald of Clermont got clear early in the day, but
for some hours the mass of the French army was steadily being compressed
into the middle of the burning town. The Frenchmen must have made a
brave defence, but they had no chance and perished wholesale, with the
exception of such men of high rank as were worth reserving for their
ransoms. Among these last was Count Guy of Ponthieu, whose brother
Waleran perished in the struggle, and who was himself kept for two years
as a prisoner at Bayeux before he bought his liberty by acknowledging
himself to be William’s “man.” The victory was unqualified, and William
knew how to turn it to fullest account.

He received the news on the night following the battle, and instantly
formed a plan, which, even when described by his contemporary
biographer, reads like a romance. As soon as he knew the result of the
conflict he summoned one of his men and instructed him to go to the
French camp and bring to the king himself the news of his defeat. The
man fulfilled his directions, went off, climbed a high tree close to the
king’s tent, and with a mighty voice proclaimed the event of the battle.
The king, awakened by these tidings of disaster from the air, was struck
with terror, and, without waiting for the dawn, broke up his camp, and
made with what haste he might for the Norman border. William, seeing
that his main purpose was in a fair way of achievement, refrained from
harassing the king’s disorderly retreat; the French were anxious to end
so unlucky a campaign, and peace was soon made. According to the treaty
the prisoners taken at Mortemer were to be released on payment of their
ransoms, while the king promised to confirm William in the possession of
whatever conquests he had made, or should thereafter make, from the
territory of Geoffrey of Anjou.[76] Herein, no doubt King Henry in part
was constrained by necessity, but in view of his defeat it was not
inappropriate that he should make peace for himself at the expense of
the one great vassal who had neglected to obey the summons to his
army.[77] And it should be noted that William, though he has the French
king at so great a disadvantage, nevertheless regards the latter’s
consent to his territorial acquisitions as an object worth stipulation;
King Henry, to whatever straits he might be reduced, was still his
overlord, and could alone give legal sanction to the conquests made by
his vassals within the borders of his kingdom.

It would, however, be a mistake to regard this treaty as marking a
return to the state of affairs which prevailed in 1048, when the king
and the duke of Normandy were united against the count of Anjou in the
war which ended with the capture of Alençon. The peace of 1054 was
little more than a suspension of hostilities, each party mistrusting the
other. The first care of the duke, now that his hands were free, was to
strengthen his position against his overlord, and one of the border
fortresses erected at this time was accidentally to become a name of
note in the municipal history of England. Over against Tillières, the
border post which King Henry had taken from Normandy in the stormy times
of William’s minority, the duke now founded the castle of Breteuil, and
entrusted it to William fitz Osbern, his companion in the war of
Domfront.[78] Under the protection of the castle, by a process which was
extremely common in French history, a group of merchants came to found a
trading community or _bourg_. The burgesses of Breteuil, however,
received special privileges from William fitz Osbern and when he, their
lord, became earl of Hereford these privileges were extended to not a
few of the rising towns along the Welsh border. The “laws of Breteuil,”
which are mentioned by name in Domesday Book, and were regarded as a
model municipal constitution for two centuries after the conquest of
England, thus take their origin from the rights of the burgesses who
clustered round William’s border fortress on the Iton.[79]

Another castle built at this time was definitely intended to mark the
reopening of hostilities against the count of Anjou. At Ambrières, near
the confluence of the Mayenne and the Varenne, William selected a
position of great natural strength for the site of a castle which should
command one of the chief lines of entry from Normandy into the county of
Maine. The significance of this will be seen in the next chapter, and
for the present we need only remark that in 1051, on the death of Count
Hugh IV., Geoffrey Martel, by a brilliant _coup d’état_ had secured his
recognition by the Manceaux as their immediate lord, and was therefore
at the present moment the direct ruler of the whole county. On the other
hand, the widow of the late count had sought refuge at William’s court,
and her son Herbert, the last male of the old line of the counts of
Maine, had commended himself and his territory to the Norman duke. For
three years, therefore, William had possessed a good legal pretext for
interference in the internal affairs of Maine; and but for the unquiet
state of Normandy during this time, followed by the recent French
invasion, it is probable that he would long ago have challenged his
rival’s possession of the territory which lay between them. That the
foundation of the castle of Ambrières was regarded as something more
than a mere casual acquisition on William’s part, is shewn by the action
of Geoffrey of Mayenne, one of the chief barons of the county of Maine,
on hearing the news of its intended fortification. With the
punctiliousness which distinguishes all William’s dealings with Geoffrey
Martel, William had sent word to the count of Anjou that within forty
days he would enter the county of Maine and take possession of
Ambrières. Geoffrey of Mayenne, whose fief lay along the river Mayenne
between Ambrières and Anjou, thereupon went to his lord and explained to
him that if Ambrières once became a Norman fortress his own lands would
never be safe from invasion. He received a reassuring answer;
nevertheless, on the appointed day, William invaded Maine and set to
work on the castle according to his declaration; and, although rumour
had it that Geoffrey Martel would shortly meet him, the days passed
without any sign of his appearance. In the meantime, however, the Norman
supplies began to run short, so that William thought it the safest plan
to dismiss the force which he had in the field, and to content himself
with garrisoning and provisioning Ambrières, leaving orders that his men
should hold themselves in readiness to reassemble immediately on
receiving notice from him. Geoffrey Martel, who had probably been
counting on some action of the kind, at once seized his opportunity,
and, as soon as he heard that the Norman army had broken up, he marched
on Ambrières, having as ally his stepson William, duke of Aquitaine, and
Éon, count of Penthievre, the uncle of the reigning duke of Brittany.
With William still in the neighbourhood and likely to return at any
moment, it was no time for a leisurely investment, so Geoffrey made
great play with his siege engines, and came near to taking the place by
storm. His attack failed, however, and William, drawing his army
together again, as had been arranged, compelled the count to beat a
hasty retreat. Shortly afterwards Geoffrey of Mayenne was taken
prisoner; and William, with a view to further enterprises in Maine,
seeing the advantage of placing a powerful feudatory of that county in a
position of technical dependence upon himself, kept him in Normandy
until he consented to do homage to his captor.[80] It is also probable
that on this occasion William still further strengthened his position
with regard to Maine by founding on the Sarthon the castle of
Roche-Mabille, which castle was entrusted to Roger of Montgomery, and
derives its name from Mabel, the heiress of the county of Bellême, and
the wife of the castellan.

Three years of quiet followed these events, about which, as is customary
with regard to such seasons, our authorities have little to relate to
us. In 1058 came the third and last invasion of Normandy by King Henry
of France, with whom was associated once more Count Geoffrey of Anjou.
No definite provocation seems to have been given by William for the
attack, but in the interests of the French crown it was needful now as
it had been in 1053 to strike a blow at this over-mighty vassal, and the
king was anxious to take his revenge for the ignominious defeat he had
sustained in the former year. Less formidable in appearance than the
huge army which had obeyed the king’s summons in the former year, the
invading force of 1058 was so far successful that it penetrated into the
very heart of the duchy, while, on the other hand, the disaster which
closed the war was something much more dramatic in its circumstances and
crushing in its results than the daybreak surprise of Mortemer. This
expedition is also distinguished from its forerunner by the fact that
the king does not seem to have aimed at the conquest or partition of
Normandy: the invasion of 1058 was little more than a plunder raid on a
large scale, intended to teach the independent Normans that in spite of
his previous failures their suzerain was still a person to be feared.
The king’s plan was to enter Normandy through the Hiesmois; to cross the
Bessin as far as the estuary of the Dive and to return after ravaging
Auge and the district of Lisieux. Now, as five years previously, William
chose to stand on the defensive; he put his castles into a state of
siege and retired to watch the king’s proceedings from Falaise. It was
evidently no part of the king’s purpose to attempt the detailed
reduction of all the scattered fortresses belonging to, or held on
behalf of, the duke[81]; and this being the case it was best for William
to bide his time, knowing that if he could possess his soul in patience
while the king laid waste his land, the trouble would eventually pass
away of its own accord. And so King Henry worked his will on the unlucky
lands of the Hiesmois and the Bessin as far as the river Seule, at which
point he turned, crossed the Olne at Caen, and prepared to return to
France by way of Varaville and Lisieux. William in the meantime was
following in the track of the invading army. The small body of men by
which he must have been accompanied proves that he had no thought of
coming to any general engagement at the time, but suddenly the
possibilities of the situation seem to have occurred to him, and he
hastily summoned the peasantry of the neighbourhood to come in to him
armed as they were. With the makeshift force thus provided he pressed on
down the valley of the Bavent after the king, who seems to have been
quite unaware of his proximity, and came out at Varaville at the very
moment when the French army was fully occupied with the passage of the
Dive. The king had crossed the river with his vanguard[82]; his
rearguard and baggage train had yet to follow. Seizing the opportunity,
which he had probably anticipated, William flung himself upon the
portion of the royal army which was still on his side of the river and
at once threw it into confusion. The Frenchmen who had already passed
the ford and were climbing up the high ground of Bastebourg to the right
of the river, seeing the plight of their comrades, turned and sought to
recross; but the causeway across the river mouth was old and unsafe and
the tide was beginning to turn. Soon the passage of the river became
impossible, the battle became a mere slaughter, and the Norman poet of
the next century describes for us the old king standing on the hill
above the Dive and quivering with impotent passion as he watched his
troops being cut to pieces by the rustic soldiery of his former ward.
The struggle cannot have taken long; the rush of the incoming tide made
swimming fatal, and the destruction of the rearguard was complete. With
but half an army left to him it was hopeless for the king to attempt to
avenge the annihilation of the other half; he had no course but to
retrace his steps and make the best terms he could with his victorious
vassal. These terms were very simple—William merely demanded the
surrender of Tillières, the long-disputed key of the Arve valley.[83]
With its recovery, the tale of the border fortresses of Normandy was
complete; the duchy had amply vindicated its right to independence, and
was now prepared for aggression.

Thus by the end of 1058 King Henry had been definitely baffled in all
his successive schemes for the reduction of Normandy. With our knowledge
of the event, our sympathies are naturally and not unfairly on the side
of Duke William, but they should not blind us to the courage and
persistency with which the king continued to face the problems of his
difficult situation. In every way, of course, the weakest of the early
Capetians suffers by comparison with the greatest of all the dukes of
Normandy. The almost ludicrous disproportion between the king’s legal
position and his territorial power, his halting, inconsistent policy,
and the ease with which his best-laid plans were turned to his
discomfiture by a vassal who studiously refrained from meeting him in
battle, all make us inclined to agree with William’s panegyrical
biographer as he contemptuously dismisses his overlord from the field of
Varaville. And yet the wonder is that the king should have maintained
the struggle for so long with the wretched resources at his disposal.
With a demesne far less in area than Normandy alone, surrounded by the
possessions of aggressive feudatories and itself studded with the
castles of a restive nobility, the monarchy depended for existence on
the mutual jealousy of the great lords of France and on such vague,
though not of necessity unreal, respect as they were prepared to show to
the successor of Charlemagne. The Norman wars of Henry I. illustrated
once for all the impotence of the monarchy under such conditions, and
the kings who followed him bowed to the limitations imposed by their
position. Philip I. and Louis VI. were each in general content that the
monarchy should act merely as a single unit among the territorial powers
into which the feudal world of France was divided, satisfied if they
could reduce their own demesne to reasonable obedience and maintain a
certain measure of diplomatic influence outside. Accordingly from this
point a change begins to come over the relations between Normandy and
France; neither side aims at the subjugation of the other, but each
watches for such advantages as chance or the shifting feudal
combinations of the time may present. Within a decade from the battle of
Varaville the duke of Normandy had become master of Maine and England,
but in these great events the French crown plays no part.

[Illustration: Denier of Henry I. of France]


Footnote 63:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 19.

Footnote 64:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 20.

Footnote 65:

  The visit of William to England in 1051 will be considered below,
  Chapter IV., in its bearing upon the general question of the English

Footnote 66:

  William of Poitiers, 92.

Footnote 67:

  This is definitely asserted by William of Malmesbury.

Footnote 68:

  See on this episode, Round, _Feudal England_, 382–385.

Footnote 69:

  Page 95.

Footnote 70:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 7.

Footnote 71:

  _Labbè Concilia_, xi., 1412.

Footnote 72:

  For example, Freeman, _N. C._, iii., 92.

Footnote 73:

  Count Baldwin III. assumed the title of Marquis on the coins which he

Footnote 74:

  _Vita Eadwardi_ (R.S.), 404.

Footnote 75:

  Page 97. On this question there is a conflict of evidence William of
  Jumièges, whose authority is only second to that of William of
  Poitiers, definitely asserts Geoffrey’s participation in the campaign.
  See Halphen, _Conté d’Anjou_, 77. On the other hand, although the
  argument from the silence of William of Poitiers should not be pressed
  too far, the terms of the treaty of 1053 (see below) certainly suggest
  that the king held Geoffrey guilty of a breach of feudal duty, and
  later writers, such as Orderic, cannot be trusted implicitly in regard
  to the detailed history of this period.

Footnote 76:

  William of Poitiers, 99.

Footnote 77:

  See note, page 112 above.

Footnote 78:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 25.

Footnote 79:

  See _The Laws of Breteuil_, by Miss M. Bateson, _Eng. Hist. Rev._, xx.

Footnote 80:

  William of Poitiers, 99, 100.

Footnote 81:

  In a charter abstracted by Round, _Calendar of Documents Preserved in
  France_, No. 1256, there is a reference to a knight named Richard who
  was seized by mortal illness while defending the frontier post of
  Châteauneuf-en-Thimerais in this campaign.

Footnote 82:

  William of Poitiers, 101. Wace gives topographical details.

Footnote 83:

  William of Jumièges, vii., 28. The battle of Varaville led to the
  king’s retreat, but a sporadic war lasted till 1060. It is probable
  that Norman chroniclers have attached more importance to the battle
  than it really possessed.

                              CHAPTER III

By a curious synchronism both King Henry of France and Count Geoffrey
Martel died in the course of the year 1060; and, with the disappearance
of his two chief enemies of the older generation, the way was clear for
William to attempt a more independent course of action than he had
hitherto essayed. Up to this year his policy had in great measure been
governed by the movements of his overlord and the count of Anjou, both
of them men who were playing their part in the political affairs of
France at the time when he himself was born. From this date he becomes
the definite master of his own fortunes, and the circumstances in which
the king and the count left their respective territories removed any
check to his enterprise and aggression which might otherwise have come
from those quarters. The king was succeeded by his son Philip, at this
time a child of scarcely seven years old, and the government of France
during his minority was in the hands of Baldwin of Flanders, William’s
father-in-law. In Anjou a war of succession broke out which reduced that
state to impotence for ten years. Geoffrey Martel had left no sons, but
had designated as his successor another Geoffrey, nicknamed “_le
Barbu_,” the elder son of his sister Hermengarde by Geoffrey count of
the Gatinais.[84] The younger son, however, Fulk “_le Rechin_,” had
determined to secure the Angevin inheritance for himself, and by the
time that he had accomplished his purpose most of the territorial
acquisitions of Geoffrey Martel had been torn from Anjou by the
neighbouring powers. Saintonge and the Gatinais fell respectively into
the possession of the duke of Aquitaine and the king of France; and,
more important than all, the Angevin acquisition of Maine, the greatest
work of Geoffrey Martel, was reversed when in 1063 William of Normandy
entered Le Mans and made arrangements for the permanent annexation of
the country.

The counts of Maine had never enjoyed such absolute sovereignty over
their territory as was possessed by the greater feudatories of the
French crown.[85] In addition to the usual vague claims which both
Normandy and Anjou were always ready to assert over their weaker
neighbours, and which nobody would take seriously when there was no
immediate prospect of their enforcement, the suzerainty of the king of
France was much more of a reality over Maine than over Flanders or
Aquitaine. In particular the patronage of the great see of Le Mans
rested with the king for the first half of the eleventh century; and
this was an important point, for the bishops of the period are prominent
in the general history of the county. For the most part they are good
examples of the feudal type of prelate, represented in Norman history by
Odo of Bayeux and Geoffrey of Coutances; and several of them were drawn
from a house fertile in feudal politicians, that of the counts of
Bellême, whose great fief lay on the border between Maine and Normandy.
This connection of the episcopate of Le Mans with a great Norman family
might be taken as itself implying some extension of Norman influence
over Maine were it not that the house of Bellême, half independent and
altogether unruly, was quite as likely to work against its overlord as
in his favour. In fact, it was largely through the Bellême bishops of Le
Mans that Angevin power came to be established in Maine for a while; the
bishops were steadily opposed to the line of native counts, and looked
to Anjou for a counterpoise. In particular, Bishop Gervase (1036–1058)
brought it about that King Henry made a grant of all the royal rights
over the see to Count Geoffrey Martel for the term of his life, the
bishop taking this step in pursuance of an intrigue against the guardian
of the reigning count, who was at the time a minor. Having served his
turn Gervase quickly fell into disfavour with Geoffrey and endured a
seven years’ imprisonment at his hands; but it was through his false
step that Geoffrey first secured a definite legal position in Mancel

The counts of Maine themselves are rather shadowy people, but it is
necessary to get a clear idea of their mutual relationships. Count
Herbert, surnamed “_Eveille Chien_,” the persistent enemy of Fulk Nerra
of Anjou and the last of his line to play a part of his own in French
affairs, had died in 1035, leaving a son, Hugh IV., and a daughter,
Biota, married to Walter of Mantes, count of the Vexin Français. Hugh,
being under age, was placed under the governance of his father’s uncle,
Herbert “Bacco,” the regent with whom Bishop Gervase was at enmity. When
the above-mentioned grant of the patronage of the bishopric of Le Mans
to Geoffrey Martel had given the latter a decent pretext for
interference in the quarrel, the expulsion of Herbert Bacco quickly
followed; and while the bishop was in captivity Geoffrey ruled the
country in the name of the young count. Upon his death, in 1051,
Geoffrey himself, in despite of the claims of Hugh’s own children, was
accepted by the Manceaux as count of Maine—for it should be noted in
passing that the Mancel baronage was always attached to Anjou rather
than to Normandy. The date at which these events happened is also worthy
of remark, for it shows that during that rather obscure war in the
Mayenne valley which was described in the last chapter William of
Normandy was really fighting against Geoffrey Martel in his position as
count of Maine. A legal foundation for Norman interference lay in the
fact, which we have already noticed, that Bertha of Blois, the widow of
Hugh III., had escaped into Normandy, and that by her advice her son
Herbert, the heir of Maine, had placed himself and his inheritance under
the protection of his host. William, seeing his advantage, was
determined to secure his own position in the matter. He made an
arrangement with his guest by which the latter’s sister Margaret was
betrothed to his own son Robert, who here makes his first appearance in
history, with the stipulation that if Hugh were to die without children
his claims over Maine should pass to his sister and her husband. We do
not know the exact date at which this compact was made, but it is by no
means improbable that some agreement of the kind underlay that clause in
the treaty concluded with King Henry after Mortemer by which William was
to be secured in all the conquests which he might make from Geoffrey of

On the latter’s death in 1060 Norman influence rapidly gained the upper
hand in Maine.[86] The war of succession in Anjou prevented either of
the claimants from succeeding to the position of Geoffrey Martel in
Maine; and if Count Herbert ruled there at all during the two years
which elapsed between 1060 and his own death, in 1062, it must have been
under Norman suzerainty. With his death the male line of the counts of
Maine became extinct, and there instantly arose the question whether the
county should pass to Walter, count of Mantes, in right of his wife
Biota, the aunt of the dead Herbert, or to William of Normandy in trust
for Margaret, Herbert’s sister, and her destined husband, Robert,
William’s son. In the struggle which followed, two parties are clearly
to be distinguished: one—and judging from events the least
influential—in favour of the Norman succession, the other, composed of
the nationalists of Maine, supporting the claims of Biota and Walter.
The latter was in every way an excellent leader for the party which
desired the independence of the county. As count of the Vexin Français,
Walter had been steadily opposed to the Norman suzerainty over that
district, which resulted from the grant made by Henry I. to Robert of
Normandy in 1032. His policy had been to withdraw his county from the
Norman group of vassal states, and to reunite it to the royal demesne;
he acknowledged the direct superiority of the king of France over the
Vexin, and he must have co-operated in the great invasion of Normandy in
1053; for it was at his capital that the western division of the royal
host assembled before its march down the Seine valley. Even across the
Channel the interests of his house clashed with those of William. Walter
was himself the nephew of Edward the Confessor, and his brother Ralph
who died in 1057 had been earl of Hereford. The royal descent of the
Vexin house interfered seriously with any claim which William might put
forward to the inheritance of Edward the Confessor on the ground of
consanguinity. It is only by placing together a number of scattered
hints that we discover the extent of the opposition to William which is
represented by Walter of Mantes and his house, but there can be no doubt
of its reality and importance.

In Maine itself the leaders of the anti-Norman party seem to have been
William’s own “man” Geoffrey of Mayenne and the Viscount Herbert, lord
of Sainte-Suzanne. There is no doubt that the mass of the baronage and
peasantry of the county were on their side, and this fact led William to
form a plan of operations which singularly anticipates the greater
campaign of the autumn of 1066. William’s ultimate objective was the
city of Le Mans, the capital of Maine and its strongest fortress, the
possession of which would be an evident sanction of his claims over the
county. But there were weighty reasons why he should not proceed to a
direct attack on the city. Claiming the county, as he did, in virtue of
legal right, it was not good policy for him to take steps which, even if
successful, would give his acquisition the unequivocal appearance of a
conquest; nor from a military point of view was it advisable for him to
advance into the heart of the county with the castles of its hostile
baronage unreduced behind him. He accordingly proceeded to the reduction
of the county in detail, knowing that the surrender of the capital would
be inevitable when the whole country around was in his hands. The
initial difficulties of the task were great, and the speed with which
William wore down the resistance of a land bristling with fortified
posts proves by how much his generalship was in advance of the
leisurely, aimless strategy of his times. We know few particulars of the
war, but it is clear that William described a great circle round the
doomed city of Le Mans, taking castles, garrisoning them where necessary
with his own troops, and drawing a belt of ravaged land closer and
closer round the central stronghold of the county. By these deliberate
measures the defenders of Le Mans were demoralised to such an extent
that William’s appearance before their walls led to an immediate
surrender. From the historical point of view, however, the chief
interest of these operations lies in the curiously close parallel which
they present to the events which followed the battle of Hastings. In
England, as in Maine, it was William’s policy to gain possession of the
chief town of the country by intimidation rather than by assault, and
with the differences which followed from the special conditions of
English warfare his methods were similar in both cases. London submitted
peaceably when William had placed a zone of devastation between the city
and the only quarters from which help could come to her; Le Mans could
not hope to resist when the subject territory had been wasted by
William’s army, and its castles surrendered into his hands. Nor can we
doubt that the success of this plan in the valleys of the Sarthe and
Mayenne was a chief reason why it was adopted in the valley of the

At Le Mans, as afterwards at London, William, when submission had become
necessary, was received with every appearance of joy by the citizens;
here, as in his later conquest, he distrusted the temper of his new
subjects, and made it his first concern to secure their fidelity by the
erection of a strong fortress in their midst—the castle which William
planted on the verge of the precincts of the cathedral of Le Mans is the
Mancel equivalent of the Tower of London. And, as afterwards in England,
events showed that the obedience of the whole country would not of
necessity follow from the submission of its chief town; it cost William
a separate expedition before the castle of Mayenne surrendered. But the
parallel between the Norman acquisition of Maine and of England should
not be pressed too far; it lies rather in the circumstances of the
respective conquests than in their ultimate results. William was
fighting less definitely for his own hand in Maine than afterwards in
England; nominally, at least, he was bound to respect the rights of the
young Countess Margaret, and her projected marriage with Robert of
Normandy proves that Maine was to be treated as an appanage rather than
placed under William’s immediate rule. And to this must be added that
the conquest of Maine was far less permanent and thorough than the
conquest of England. The Angevin tendencies of the Mancel baronage told
after all in the long run. Before twelve years were past William was
compelled to compromise with the claims of the house of Anjou, and after
his death Maine rapidly gravitated towards the rival power on the Loire.

While the body of the Norman army was thus employed in the reduction of
Maine, William despatched a force to make a diversion by ravaging Mantes
and Chaumont, the hereditary demesne of his rival,—an expedition in its
way also anticipating the invasion which William was to lead thither in
person in 1087, and in which he was to meet his death. Most probably it
was this invasion, of which the details are entirely unknown, which
persuaded Walter of Mantes to acquiesce in the _fait accompli_ in Maine;
at least we are told that “of his own will he agreed to the surrender
[of Le Mans], fearing that while defending what he had acquired by wrong
he might lose what belonged to him by inheritance.” Within a short time
both he and his wife came to a sudden and mysterious end, and there was
a suspicion afloat that William himself was not unconcerned in it. It
was one of the many slanders thrown upon William by Waltheof and his
boon companions at the treasonable wedding feast at Exning in 1075 that
the duke had invited his rival and his wife to Falaise and that while
they were his guests he poisoned them both in one night. Medieval
credulity in a matter of this kind was unbounded; and a sinister
interpretation of Walter’s death was inevitably suggested by the fact of
his recent hostilities against his host.

One check to the success of William’s plans followed hard on the death
of Walter and Biota. Margaret, the destined bride of Robert of Normandy,
died before the marriage could be consummated. In 1063 Robert himself
could not have been more than nine years old; while, although Margaret
must have reached the age of twelve, the whole course of the history
suggests that she was little more than a child, a fact which somewhat
tends to discount the pious legend, in which our monastic informants
revel, that the girl shrank from the thought of marriage and had already
begun to practise the austerities of the religious profession. She left
two sisters both older than herself, whose marriage alliances are
important for the future history of Maine[87]; but their claims for the
present were ignored, and William himself adopted the title of count of

Somewhere about the time of these events (the exact date is unknown)
William was seized with a severe illness, which brought him to the point
of death. So sore bestead was he that he was laid on the ground as one
about to die, and in his extreme need he gave the reliquary which
accompanied him on his progresses to the church of St. Mary of
Coutances. No chronicler has recorded this episode, of which we should
know nothing were it not that the said reliquary was subsequently
redeemed by grants of land to the church which had received it in
pledge; yet the future history of France and England hung on the event
of that day.[88]

It was probably within a year of the settlement of Maine that William
engaged in the last war undertaken by him as a mere duke of the Normans,
the Breton campaign which is commonly assigned to the year 1064. As in
the earlier wars with Anjou, a border dispute seems to have been the
immediate occasion of hostilities, though now as then there were grounds
of quarrel between the belligerents which lay deeper. Count Alan of
Rennes, William’s cousin and guardian, had been succeeded by his son
Conan, who like his father was continually struggling to secure for his
line the suzerainty of the whole of Brittany as against the rival house
of the counts of Nantes, a struggle which, under different conditions
and with additional competitors at different times had now been going on
for more than a century. The county of Nantes at this particular time
was held by a younger branch of the same family, and there are some
slight indications that the counts of Nantes, perhaps through enmity to
their northern kinsmen, took up a more friendly attitude towards
Normandy than that adopted by the counts of Rennes. However this may be,
Count Conan appears in the following story as representing Breton
independence against Norman aggression; and when William founded the
castle of Saint James in the south-west angle of the Avranchin as a
check on Breton marauders, Conan determined on an invasion of Normandy,
and sent word to William of the exact day on which he would cross the

By the majority of Frenchmen it would seem that Brittany was regarded as
a land inhabited by savages; in the eleventh century the peninsula stood
out as distinct from the rest of France as it stands to-day. Its
inhabitants had a high reputation for their courage and simplicity of
life, but they were still in the tribal stage of society, and their
manners and customs were regarded with abhorrence by the ecclesiastical
writers of the time. Like most tribal peoples they had no idea of
permanent political unity; and the present war was largely influenced by
the fact that within the county of Rennes a Celtic chief named Rhiwallon
was holding the town of Dol against his immediate lord on behalf of the
duke of Normandy.[89] Instead of invading Normandy as he had threatened,
Conan was driven to besiege Dol, and it was William’s first object in
the campaign to relieve his adherent there.

What gives exceptional interest to the somewhat unimportant expedition
which followed is the undoubted presence in William’s army of his future
rival for the crown of England, Harold the earl of Wessex.[90] The
reason for, and the incidents connected, with, his visit to Normandy
will have to be considered in a later chapter, but there cannot be any
question as to its reality; and in a famous section, the Bayeux
tapestry, our best record of this campaign, shows us Harold rescuing
with his own hand a number of Norman soldiers who were being swept away
by the Coesnon as the army crossed the border stream of Brittany. On the
approach of the Norman army Conan abandoned the siege of Dol and fell
back on his capital of Rennes; but relations soon seem to have become
strained between Rhiwallon and his formidable ally, for we find
Rhiwallon remarking to William that it mattered little to the country
folk around Dol whether their substance were to be consumed by a Norman
or a Breton army. Possibly it may have been the remonstrances of
Rhiwallon which induced William to retire beyond the Norman border, but
we are told that as he was in the act of leaving Brittany word was
brought to him that Geoffrey (_le Barbu_) count of Anjou had joined
himself to Conan with a large army and that both princes would advance
to fight him on the morrow. It does not appear that William gave them
the opportunity, but the tapestry records what was probably a sequel to
this campaign in the section which represents William as besieging Conan
himself in the fortress of Dinan. From the picture which displays Conan
surrendering the keys of the castle on the point of his spear to the
duke it is evident that the place was taken, but we know nothing of the
subsequent fortunes of the war nor of the terms according to which peace
was made. Within two years of these events, if we are right in assigning
them to 1064, Conan died suddenly,[91] and was succeeded by his
brother-in-law Hoel, count of Cornouaille, who united in his own person
most of the greater lordships into which Brittany had hitherto been


It may be well at this point briefly to review the position held by
William at the close of 1064. With the exception of his father-in-law of
Flanders, no single feudatory north of the Loire could for a moment be
placed in comparison with him. Anjou and the royal demesne itself were,
for different reasons, as we have seen, of little consequence at this
time. The influence of Champagne under its featureless rulers was always
less than might have been expected from the extent and situation of the
county; and just now the attention of Count Theobald III. was directed
towards the recovery of Touraine from the Angevin claimants rather than
towards any rivalry with the greater power of Normandy. Brittany indeed
had just shown itself hostile, but the racial division between _Bretagne
Brettonante_ and the Gallicised east, which always prevented the duchy
from attaining high rank among the powers of north France, rendered it
quite incapable of competing with Normandy on anything like equal terms.
With the feudal lords to the east of the Seine and upper Loire William
had few direct relations, but they, like the princes of Aquitaine, had
received a severe lesson as to the power of Normandy in the rout of the
royal army which followed the surprise of Mortemer. On the other hand,
Normandy, threaded by a great river, with a long seaboard and good
harbours, with a baronage reduced to order and a mercantile class hardly
less prosperous than the men of the great cities of Flanders, would have
been potentially formidable in the hands of a ruler of far less power
than the future conqueror of England. Never before had Normandy attained
so high a relative position as that in which she appears in the seventh
decade of the eleventh century; and, kind as was fortune to the mighty
enterprise which she was so soon to undertake, its success and even its
possibility rested on the skilful policy which had guided her history in
the eventful years which had followed Val-es-dunes.

[Illustration: Denier of Conan II. of Brittany]


Footnote 84:

  See Halphen, _Comté d’Anjou_, p. 133.

Footnote 85:

  The history of Maine at this period has recently been discussed by
  Flach, _Les origines de l’ancienne France_, vol. iii., p. 543–9.

Footnote 86:

  The native Mancel authorities have little to say about the war of
  1063, the course of which is described by William of Poitiers, 103 _et

Footnote 87:

  See the table on page 506.

Footnote 88:

  Round. _Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, No. 937.

Footnote 89:

  Rhiwallon was brother of Junquené, the archbishop of Dol, whose
  presence at the Norman court during William’s minority has been noted
  above. De la Borderie, iii., p. [missing].

Footnote 90:

  William of Poitiers (109–112) is the sole authority for this war and
  he gives no dates. He definitely asserts the presence of Harold and
  his companions in the Norman army, and his narrative contains nothing
  irreconcilable with the relevant scenes in the Bayeux tapestry. The
  war was probably intended to enforce Norman suzerainty over Brittany,
  and the rising of Rhiwallon of Dol probably gave William his
  opportunity. De la Borderie, _Histoire de Bretagne_, iii., p.

Footnote 91:

  The canons of Chartres celebrated his obit on December 11th, a fact
  which discounts the story in William of Jumièges that Conan was
  poisoned by an adherent of William. If William had wished to remove
  Conan the latter would certainly have died before William had sailed
  for England.

                               CHAPTER IV

The idea of a Norman conquest of England was no new thing when the
actual blow fell in the autumn of 1066. The fateful marriage of Ethelred
and Emma, sixty years before, had made it impossible that the politics
of the island and the duchy should ever again be independent of each
other; it led directly to the English expedition of Robert of Normandy
in 1034, and in Edward the Confessor it gave England a king who was half
a Norman in blood, and whose ideas of government were derived from the
political conditions of his mother’s land. To whatever aspect of the
history of this period we may turn, this Norman influence will sooner or
later become apparent; in religion and commerce, as in the narrower
field of politics, the Norman is working his way into the main current
of English national life.

All this, however, is somewhat apart from the question as to the date at
which Duke William began to lay plans for carrying out the conquest of
England in his own person. There are two unknown quantities in the
problem: the date at which it was generally recognised that Edward the
Confessor would leave no direct heir to the English throne, and the
king’s own subsequent intentions with respect to the succession. Had
such an heir been forthcoming in 1066 we may be sure that his
inheritance would have been undisturbed from the side of Normandy, for
William’s claim to succeed his childless cousin by right of
consanguinity was something more than a matter of form. Now Edward was
married in 1045, being then in the very prime of life, and we must
certainly allow for the passage of a reasonable period of time before we
can feel certain that the politicians of England and Normandy were
treating the succession as an open question. In particular it is
difficult to be confident that in 1049, when the negotiations for the
marriage of William and Matilda of Flanders were in progress, the
ultimate childlessness of Edward the Confessor was known to be

A similar uncertainty hangs over the plans which the Confessor formed in
the latter event for the future of his kingdom. His Norman blood, his
early residence in the duchy, and the marked predilection which he
showed for men of Norman race, very naturally lead to the impression
that, in the earlier part of his reign at least, his desire was to
provide for the transmission of his inheritance to his mother’s family.
But even this conclusion is not beyond question. Edward on his accession
in 1042 occupied a most difficult position. After twenty-five years of
Danish rule a very distinct party in the state wished to maintain the
Scandinavian connection. Edward’s recognition as king was mainly the
work of Earl Godwine and his party, and the earl expected and could
enforce full payment for his services. Edward would have shown less than
the little intelligence with which he is to be credited if he had failed
to see that some counterpoise to the power of his overmighty subject
might be found by giving wealth and influence to strangers from across
the Channel. Hence arose that stream of Norman immigration which
distinguishes the reign and the consequent formation of a royalist,
non-national party; for each individual settler must have understood
that all he might possess in the island depended on the king’s favour.
Such a policy was bound sooner or later to produce a reaction on the
part of Godwine and his associates; and thus arose the famous crisis of
the autumn of 1051. Godwine, trying to reassert his influence in the
state, fails to carry with him the other earls of England in an attack
on the king’s favourites and is driven to flee the country. What Godwine
resented was clearly the existence of a rival power at court, and the
apathy in his cause of such men as Leofric of Mercia and Siward of
Northumbria suggests that he was not recognised by them as in any real
sense the champion of national as against foreign influences. With his
flight the first period of the reign of Edward the Confessor ends, and
in the interval before his restoration William of Normandy made his
first appearance on the shores of England.

Of this visit we know very little; the native chronicler of Worcester
simply tells us that “Earl William came from over sea with a great
company of Frenchmen, and the king received him and as many of his
companions as pleased him and let them go again.” The question at once
presents itself, did Edward at this time make any promise of the English
crown to William? If he ever did make an explicit promise to this effect
it can scarcely be placed at any other date, for this was the only
occasion after Edward’s departure from Normandy in 1042 on which the
king and the duke are known to have met in person. The fact that such a
promise forms an essential part of the story of the Conquest as told by
all Norman writers is an argument in its favour which would more than
counterbalance the natural silence of the English authorities, were they
much better informed upon matters of high policy than is actually the
case. But, after all, the question is really of secondary importance,
for in the next year Godwine returned to power, and Edward for the rest
of his reign seems to have made no serious attempt to disturb the
ascendency of the English party.

The death of Godwine in 1053 made little immediate difference to the
political situation in general nor to the existing relations between
Normandy and England. The succession of his son Harold to the earldom of
Wessex provokes no comment on the part of the contemporary chroniclers;
the semi-hereditary character of the great earldoms was by this time
recognised for all working purposes. Nevertheless, we can see that the
accession of Harold to a provincial government of the first rank, and
most probably to the unofficial primacy in the state which had been held
by Earl Godwine, takes place among the chief events in the sequence of
causes which ended in the great overthrow of 1066. On the other hand we
should not be led by the actual cause of the history into the assumption
that Harold’s designs upon the crown had already begun at this early
date. With all his personal weakness, King Edward’s own wishes were
likely to be the decisive factor in the choice of his successor, nor
have we any record that Harold opposed the candidate whom we know to
have received the king’s favour shortly after this time.

This candidate, whose appearance in the field with the king’s sanction
was likely to prove fatal to any aspirations to the throne in which
either William or Harold might have begun to indulge, was Edward the
Etheling, son of the famous Edward Ironside, and therefore nephew by the
half-blood to the Confessor. He had been sent by Cnut into remote exile,
and the summons which brought him back to England as its destined heir
was the work of King Edward himself. By a strange chance, immediately on
his arrival in 1057, and before he had even seen the king, the etheling
fell ill and died,[93] and, although there was something about his end
which was rather mysterious, there is nothing to suggest that it was
accelerated in the interest of any other pretender to the crown. With
his death there really passed away the one promising chance of
perpetuating the old English dynasty, for Edgar, the son of the dead
etheling, who was to live until 1126 at least, can only have been the
merest child in 1057.


It would seem then that 1057 is the earliest possible year from which
the rivalry of William of Normandy and Harold Godwinson for the throne
of England can be dated. The recall of Edward the Etheling suggests that
it cannot be placed earlier, while the state of preparedness in which
both parties are found at the beginning of 1066 shows that their plans
must have been formed for some years at least before the Confessor’s
death. And there is one mysterious episode which may very possibly have
some connection with the change in the succession question caused by the
death of Edward the Etheling. In or about 1058 Earl Harold made a tour
on the continent, reaching as far as Rome, but also including Normandy
and North France generally, and we are told that he made arrangements
for receiving help from certain French powers if he should need it at
any time.[94] The passage in which we are told of these negotiations is
very obscure, but it is by no means improbable that Harold, when the
death of the etheling had opened for him a possibility of succeeding to
the crown, may have tried to find allies who would hamper the movements
of his most formidable rival when the critical time came. Also it is not
without significance that 1058 is the year of Varaville, a date at which
French jealousy of Norman power would be at its height. At any rate we
may at this point stop to consider the relative position occupied by the
earl and the duke respectively with respect to their chances of
succeeding to the splendid inheritance of the oldest dynasty in Western

The first point which deserves discussion is the nature of the title to
the English crown. “Hereditary” and “elective,” the words which one
naturally contrasts in this connection, are terms of vague and
fluctuating meaning in any case, while it has always been recognised
that neither can be employed in relation to the tenure of the crown at
any period of English history without due qualification. To say simply
that the English monarchy was “elective” at the period with which we are
dealing, is an insufficient statement unless we also consider the limits
within which the choice lay on any given occasion, the process involved
in the act of election, and the body which exercised the elective right.
With regard to the first of these matters there undoubtedly existed an
ancient and deep-seated feeling that a king should only be chosen from a
kingly stock; in the eleventh century the sentiment still survived with
which at an earlier period the nation had demanded that its rulers
should have sprung from the blood of the gods. This idea was far older
than any feeling of nationality, to which it might from time to time run
counter—it helps, for instance, to explain the ease with which the
English had accepted the royal Dane Cnut for their ruler—but with this
highly important reservation it is very improbable that the succession
was determined by anything which could be called general principles. The
crown would naturally pass to the most popular kinsman of the late
ruler, and the question of the exact relationship between the dead king
and his heir would be a secondary matter.

William of Normandy was of sufficiently noble birth to satisfy the
popular sentiment in the former respect, for Rollo himself was the scion
of an ancient line of Norwegian chieftains. Harold on his mother’s side
inherited royal blood, for Gytha, Earl Godwine’s wife, was descended
from the family of the kings of Sweden; but whereas no writer near the
time remarks on this feature in Harold’s descent, the origin of the
“jarls of Normandy” was still a living memory in the north. Far more
important in every way, however, was the undoubted kinship between
William and King Edward, a fact which William made the very foundation
of his claim and which was undoubtedly recognised by the men of the time
as giving him an advantage which could not be gainsaid. At the present
day, indeed, it is rather difficult to understand the influence
exercised by the somewhat distant relationship which was all that united
William and Edward, especially in view of the fact that Edgar, son of
Edward the Etheling, still continued the male line of the royal house of
Wessex. We can only explain it on the ground that in 1066 Edgar was
under the age at which he would be competent to rule independently, and
that the public opinion of the time would not accept a minor as king so
long as there existed another candidate connected with the royal house
and capable of taking up the reins of government in his own hands. In
fact, of the three candidates between whom the choice lay on the
Confessor’s death William, after all, was the one who combined the
greatest variety of desirable qualifications. Edgar was nearest to the
throne by order of birth, but his youth placed him at a fatal
disadvantage; Harold was a man of mature years and of wide experience in
the government, but his warmest supporters could not pretend that he was
a kinsman of King Edward; William was already a ruler whose fame had
spread far beyond the borders of his own duchy, and in the third
generation he could claim a common ancestor with the dead king. Lastly,
we should remember that the fact which under modern conditions would
outweigh all other considerations, the fact that William was a
foreigner, was less important in the eleventh century than at any later
time. It was certainly a disadvantage, but one which was shared in a
less degree by both William’s competitors: if he was a pure Norman,
Harold was half a Dane, Edgar was half a German. The example of Cnut
showed that there was nothing to prevent a man of wholly foreign blood
from receiving general acceptance as king of England; and if the racial
differences which existed in the country prepared the way for his
reception, something of the same work was done for William by those
Normans who had flocked into England under King Edward’s protection.

In all those cases in which the late king had left no single, obvious,
heir to the throne, the succession would naturally be settled by the
great men of the land—by that informal, fluctuating body known as the
“witan.” So far as we can tell, the witan would be guided in part by the
prevailing popular opinion, but more effectually by the known wishes of
the dead sovereign with respect to his successor; we know, for instance,
that both these influences contributed to the election of Edward the
Confessor himself.[95] It is, however, probable that, so far from the
elective nature of the monarchy having been a main principle of English
institutions from the earliest date, the idea was really an importation
of the eleventh century. It has recently been suggested that the action
of the witan in early times with regard to the choice of a new king was
something which would be much better described as “recognition” than as
election in any modern sense, that there is no evidence to prove that
the witan behaved as a united body, and that it was the adhesion of
individual nobles to the most likely heir which really invested him with
the royal power.[96] According to this account, such traces of election
in the wider sense as are discernible in the eleventh century may with
probability be set down to Danish influence, for the three Scandinavian
nations had advanced much further than other Teutonic peoples in the
development of their native institutional forms. But, even so, there is
much in the history of the year 1066 to suggest that the older ideas
still prevailed: William claimed the throne by hereditary right and it
was the submission of Stigand, Edwin, Morcar, Edgar the Etheling, and
the citizens of London, not the vote of any set assembly, which gave
sanction to his claim.

In the light of this anticipation we may now consider the most
perplexing question in William’s life, the truth underlying the famous
story of Harold’s visit to Normandy and the oath which he there swore to
William. Unlike most questions relating to the eleventh century, the
difficulty in the present case arises from the wealth of our information
on the subject; with the exception of those purely English writers
Florence of Worcester and the authors of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, the
significance of whose silence will be seen shortly, every historical
writer of the fifty years succeeding the Conquest tells the story at
length, and no two writers tell the same story. And yet we cannot safely
reject the tale as fabulous for two reasons: the silence of those who
wrote with native sympathies proves that there was an element of truth
in the Norman story which they did not feel themselves at liberty to
deny, while the rapid diffusion of the tale itself among writers widely
separated in point of place and circumstance would be unintelligible if
it were the result of sheer invention. Nor is a story necessarily
suspicious because its details are romantic.

The skeleton of the tale is that Harold, happening, for reasons
diversely stated, to be sailing in the Channel, was driven by a storm on
to the coast of Ponthieu, and that being thereby regarded as the lawful
prey of the count he was thrown into prison at Beaurain, evidently to be
held to ransom. While Harold was in prison the Duke of Normandy became
apprised of the fact, and sending to Count Guy, who had become his
feudal dependant after the battle of Mortemer, William had Harold
brought with all honour into the duchy. For an indefinite time the earl
stayed at the court of the duke, and even accompanied him on the Breton
expedition which was described in the last chapter; but before his
departure he placed himself under some obligation to his host, the
nature of which is the key to the whole matter, but with regard to which
scarcely any two writers are in unison. There is no doubt that Harold
became William’s man, and it would seem certain that he took an oath
which bore some reference to the rivalry for the English throne in which
both were evidently engaged. Most writers make the essence of the oath
to be a promise on the part of Harold to do all in his power to secure
the crown for William upon Edward’s death, and there is a powerful
current of tradition which asserts that Harold pledged himself to marry
one of William’s daughters. In other words, Harold undertook to
recognise William as king of England in due season, and to secure for
him the adhesion of such of the English nobility as were under his
influence; his marriage with William’s daughter being doubtless intended
to guarantee his good faith when the critical moment came. Such an
agreement would still leave Harold obviously the first man in England;
indeed the relationship which would have been created between William
and Harold, if it had been carried into effect, would in some respects
have reproduced the relationship in which Edward the Confessor had stood
with regard to Earl Godwine in 1042. This fact makes it difficult to
believe that Harold was necessarily acting under compulsion when he took
the oath; he had many rivals and enemies in England, and it was well
worth his while to secure his position in the event of Edward’s death
before his own plans were mature.[97]

William on his part had everything to gain by causing Harold to enter
into such an engagement. If the oath were kept William would have turned
a probable rival into an ally; if it were broken he would secure all the
moral advantage which would accrue to him from the perjury of his
opponent. But there is no reason to believe that he insisted on Harold
taking the oath merely in order that he might break it, nor is there any
good authority for the famous story that William entrapped Harold into
taking a vow of unusual solemnity by concealing a reliquary beneath the
chest on which the latter’s hand rested while he swore. It was
inevitable that an incident of this kind should gather round it a
mythical accretion: but the whole course of the history proves that some
such episode really took place. William’s apologists could put it in the
forefront of their narratives of the Conquest, and all subsequent
writers have dwelt upon it as a main cause of the invasion; yet,
although scepticism is from time to time expressed upon this detail or
that, not one of the historians of the next century, some of whom were
possessed of distinct critical powers, and had access to good sources of
information, has given a hint that the whole story was a myth.

On January 5, 1066, King Edward died, and on Thursday, January 6th, Earl
Harold was chosen as king by the Witan assembled at Westminster for the
Christmas feast, and crowned that same day by Ealdred, archbishop of
York. We possess a circumstantial account of the last days of Edward,
written only a few years after these events, which describes how the
King, within an hour of his death, had emphatically commended his wife
and his kingdom to the care of Harold.[98] With little debate, as it
would seem, the last wishes of the last king of the line of Egbert were
carried into effect; Harold was chosen king forthwith, and on the same
day the sanction of the church made the step irrevocable. England was
now committed to the rule of a king whose title to the crown depended
solely upon the validity of the elective principle, and whose success or
failure would depend upon the recognition which this principle would
obtain among foreign powers, and upon the support which those who had
chosen to accept him as their lord were prepared to extend to him,
should his claim be challenged. Under the circumstances the choice of
Harold was perhaps inevitable. The dying wish of Edward could not with
decency be disregarded; the scene of the election lay in just that part
of the country where the interest of the house of Godwine was at its
strongest; and if traditional custom were to be disregarded and the
royal line forsaken no stronger native candidate could have been found.
On the other hand, there could be no doubt that the event of that
memorable Epiphany was fraught with danger on every side. Even if it had
not thrown defiance to the most formidable prince in Europe, it founded
an ominous precedent, it showed that the royal dignity was not beyond
the grasp of an aspiring subject, it exposed the crown to intrigues of a
class from which England, weak at the best as was its political
structure, had hitherto been exempt. The Norman Conquest was an awful
catastrophe; but at least it saved England from the perils of an
elective monarchy.



The impression which the coronation of Harold made upon the politicians
of Europe was unmistakable. From Rome to Trondheim every ruler to whom
the concerns of England were a matter of interest realised that a
revolutionary step had been taken. From the crude narrative of the Latin
historian of the Norwegian kings, as from the conventional periods of
the papal chancery, we gather that the accession of Harold was regarded
as an act of usurpation, although there is no unanimity as to the
personality of the rightful heir whom he had supplanted. Old claims,
long dormant, were revived; the kings of Norway and Denmark remembered
that England had once belonged to the Scandinavian world. Had Edgar the
Etheling or William of Normandy been elected, murmurings from this
quarter at least would no doubt have been heard, but they would have
lost half their force: the former could have appealed to the prevailing
sentiment in favour of hereditary right; the latter could in addition
have poured at once into England a military force sufficient to meet all
possible invaders on equal terms. Harold had neither of these
safeguards, and his oath to William had given to the most powerful
section of his opponents an intelligible ground on which to base their
quarrel. Seldom in any country has a new dynasty been inaugurated under
circumstances so full of foreboding.

All this, of course, meant a corresponding increase of strength to
William. Vague as is our knowledge of the negotiations with the several
powers whose good-will was desirable for his enterprise, we can see that
he brought them at least into a general attitude of friendly neutrality.
We are told that the Emperor Henry IV. promised the unqualified support
of Germany if it should be needed,[99] and also that Swegen Estrithson
of Denmark joined William’s side, though our informant adds that the
Danish king proved himself in effect the friend of William’s enemies.
The French crown was, as we have seen, under the influence of Baldwin of
Flanders, William’s father-in-law; and so long as a war of succession
distracted Anjou, William need fear no danger from that quarter. Maine
was a dependency of the Norman duchy. Nothing, in fact, in William’s
history is more remarkable than the way in which, at the very moment of
his great attempt, the whole political situation was in his favour. No
invasion of England would have been possible before 1060, when King
Henry of France and Geoffrey Martel were removed from William’s path,
while the growth of King Philip to manhood and the formation of Flanders
into an aggressive anti-Norman state under Robert the Frisian would have
increased William’s difficulties a thousandfold if Edward the Confessor
had lived for five years longer. In great part William’s advantageous
position in 1066 was due to his own statesmanship; in no small degree it
resulted from the discredit which the national cause of England suffered
in the eyes of Europe from the election of Harold; but above all it must
be set down to William’s sheer good luck. William the Conqueror, like
Napoleon, might have believed in his star without incurring the reproach
of undue superstition.

Of all William’s negotiations that which was most characteristic of the
temper in which he pursued his claim was an appeal to the head of the
church to decide between his right and that of Harold:

  “That no rashness might stain his righteous cause he sent to the Pope,
  formerly Anselm, bishop of Lucca, asserting the justice of the war he
  had undertaken with all the eloquence at his command. Harold neglected
  to do this; either because he was too proud by nature, or because he
  mistrusted his own cause, or because he feared that his messengers
  would be hindered by William and his associates, who were watching all
  the ports. The Pope weighed the arguments of both sides, and then sent
  a banner to William as an earnest of his kingdom.”[100]

The nature of this transaction should not be misunderstood. By inviting
the papal arbitration William was in no sense mortgaging any of the
royal prerogatives in the island which he hoped to conquer. His action,
that is, does not in any way resemble the step which his descendent John
took a hundred and fifty years later, when he surrendered his kingdom to
Innocent III. to be held thenceforward as a papal fief.[101] William was
simply submitting his cause to the court which was the highest
recognised authority in all matters relating to inheritance, and which
was doubly competent to try the present case, involving as it did all
the questions of _laesio fidei_ which arose out of Harold’s oath. Nor
need we doubt that the verdict given represented the justice of the case
as it would be presented to the pope and his advisers; we know at least,
on the authority of Hildebrand himself, that it was not without an
acrimonious discussion that judgment was given in favour of William. It
would seem, in fact, that it required all the personal influence that
Hildebrand could exercise to persuade the leaders of the church to
commit themselves to the support of claims which, if prosecuted, must
inevitably lead to bloodshed. And in later years Hildebrand told William
that his action had been governed by his knowledge of the latter’s
character, and by the hope that when raised to a higher dignity he would
continue to show himself a dutiful subject of the church.[102]
Hildebrand added that he had not been disappointed; and in fact the
attraction of the great island of the west within the influence of the
ideas of the reformed papacy was worth the suppression of a few scruples
on the part of the Curia.



Seventy years afterwards the papal court was again called upon to
adjudicate in a dispute relating to the succession to the English
throne, and this under circumstances which deserve notice here as
illustrating the nature of William’s appeal. In 1136, immediately, it
would seem, after the coronation of Stephen, his rival, the Empress
Matilda sent envoys to Pope Innocent II. to protest against the
usurpation. Stephen, wiser in his generation than Harold, replied by
sending his own representative, and the case was argued in detail before
a council specially convened for the purpose by the pope. Just as in the
more famous episode of 1066, the point on which the plaintiff’s
advocates grounded their case was the fact that the defendant had taken
an oath to secure the succession of his rival; and it rested with the
pope to decide whether this oath were valid. It is with reference to
this last point that the parallel between the events of 1066 and 1136
ceases: in the latter case the pope by refusing to give judgment tacitly
acquitted Stephen of the guilt of perjury; in 1066 Harold’s neglect to
lay a statement of his case before the papal court produced its natural
result in the definite decision which was given against him.[103] In
either case it will be seen that what is submitted to the Curia is a
question of law, not of politics; the pope is not regarded as having any
right to dispose of the English crown; he is merely asked to consider
the respective titles of two disputants.

Armed thus with the sanction of the church there lay before William the
serious task of raising an army sufficiently large to meet the military
force at his rival’s command on something like equal terms. Such an army
could not possibly be derived from Normandy alone, great as was the
strength of the duchy in comparison with its area. However favourable
the general outlook might be for William’s plans, he cannot have thought
for an instant of staking the whole resources of Normandy upon a single
venture; a venture of which the possible results might be very brilliant
but of which the immediate risk was very great. Nor was it possible for
William by any stretch of feudal law to summon his vassals and their men
to follow him across the Channel as a matter of right and duty; if he
were to obtain their support he was bound to place the expedition before
them as a voluntary enterprise. Thus stated there can have been little
doubt as to the response which would be made to his appeal. The Norman
conquest of Naples and the Norman exploits in Spain had proclaimed to
the world the mighty exploits of which the race was capable, nor need we
believe that the Normans themselves mistrusted their reputation. And
although William’s contemporary biographer, anxious to display the
magnanimity of his hero, has represented the latter’s subjects as
viewing the enterprise with dismay,[104] it is not really probable that
the Norman knighthood was seriously deterred from adventuring itself for
unlimited gains in the rich and neighbouring island by the prospect of
having to fight hard for them.

In the early part of 1066, but most probably after the termination of
William’s cause at Rome, a council of the Norman baronage met at
Lillebonne[105] to discuss the proposed invasion of England. It is plain
that what most exercised the minds of William and his barons was the
difficulty of building, equipping and manning a number of ships
sufficient for the transport of the army within a reasonable time. In
fact it seems probable that one special purpose of the council was to
ascertain the number of ships which each baron was prepared to
contribute towards the fleet—a matter which lay altogether outside the
general question of military service and could only be solved by
amicable agreement between the duke and his vassals taken individually.
William stipulated that the ships should be ready within the year; a
demand which to some at least appeared impossible of fulfilment; and,
indeed, the creation of an entire fleet of transport vessels within six
months is a wonderful illustration of the energy with which the Norman
nobility adopted the cause of the duke. Transport vessels the ships
were, and nothing else, as is evident from the representation of them in
the Bayeux tapestry, and we are bound to conclude that it was well for
William that his passage of the Channel met with no serious opposition
on the part of Harold. As might be expected, the number of ships
actually provided is very variously given by different writers.
Curiously enough the most probable, because the lowest, estimate is made
by a very late authority, the Norman poet Wace, who says that when he
was a boy his father told him that six hundred and ninety-six ships
assembled at St. Valery. There have also come down to us several
statements of the contribution which the greater barons of Normandy made
to the fleet, which are probably true in substance although the lists
differ among themselves and the totals which they imply exceed the
modest figures presented by Wace.[106] It would appear that William’s
two half-brothers headed the list; Robert of Mortain giving a hundred
and twenty ships, Odo of Bayeux a hundred. The counts of Evreux and Eu,
both members of the ducal family, furnished eighty and sixty ships
respectively. William Fitz Osbern, Roger de Beaumont, Roger de
Montgomery, and Hugh d’Avranches gave sixty ships each; Hugh de
Montfort, fifty. Two men who do not appear in the subsequent history, a
certain Fulk the Lame and one Gerald, who, although styled the
seneschal, is difficult to identify at William’s court, gave forty ships
each. Thirty ships were given by Walter Giffard and by Vulgrin, bishop
of Le Mans; and Nicholas, abbot of St. Ouen, and the son of Duke Richard
III. contributed twenty. An interesting figure in the list is Remi, the
future bishop of Lincoln, who in 1066 was only almoner of Fécamp abbey,
but nevertheless provided a ship and manned it with twenty knights. The
Duchess Matilda herself supplied the ship, named the _Mora_, which was
to carry her husband. One fact stands out clearly enough on the surface
of this list—the great bulk of the fleet was supplied by William’s
kinsmen and by men whom we know to have enjoyed his immediate
confidence, and it is significant that we can recognise in this brief
account just those men who received the greatest spoils of the conquered
land. Among these few names the future earldoms of Kent, Shrewsbury,
Hereford, Chester, Buckingham, Warwick, and Leicester are represented.
Doubtless the rest of the Norman nobility in one way or another
contributed in proportion to its wealth, but we have just accounted for
nearly eight hundred vessels, and it is clear that in the all-important
matter of the fleet William found his fullest support among his
relatives and personal friends.

How far this statement would hold good in relation to the army of the
Conquest is a question which we have no detailed means of answering.
Doubtless the lords of Montfort, Longueville, Montgomery, and their
fellows brought the full complement of their vassals to the duke’s
muster, but the essential fact in the composition of William’s army lies
in the width of the area from which it was recruited. From every quarter
of the French kingdom, and from not a few places beyond its borders,
volunteers crowded in to swell the Norman host. Brittany supplied the
largest number of such volunteers, and next to Brittany came Flanders,
but the fame of William’s expedition had spread beyond the Alps, and the
Norman states in South Italy and Sicily sent their representatives.[107]
And this composite character of the army which fought at Hastings had
deep and abiding results. A hundred years after the Conquest, Henry II.
will still be sending out writs addressed to his barons and lieges
“French and English,” and the terminology here expresses a fact of real
importance. The line of racial distinction which was all-important in
later eleventh-century England was not between Englishmen and Normans,
but between Englishmen and Frenchmen. England fell, not before any
province, however powerful, of the French kingdom, but, in effect,
before the whole of French-speaking Europe, and, by her fall, she
herself became part of that whole. For nearly a hundred years England
had been oscillating between the French and the Scandinavian world; the
events of 1066 carried her finally within the influence of Southern
ideas in religion, politics, and culture.

The French auxiliaries of William have often been described as
adventurers, and adventurers in a sense no doubt they were. But the word
should not be pressed so as to imply that they belonged to a social rank
inferior either to their Norman associates or to the English thegnhood
whom they were to displace,—there should be no talk of “grooms and
scullions from beyond the sea”[108] in this connection. Socially there
was little to distinguish a knight or noble from Brittany or Picardy
from Normans like Robert d’Oilly or Henry de Ferrers; nor, rude as their
ideas of comfort and refinement must seem to us, have we any warrant for
supposing that Wigod of Wallingford or Tochi the son of Outi had been in
advance of either in this respect. Like the Normans themselves the
Frenchmen varied indefinitely in point of origin. Some of them were the
younger sons of great houses, some belonged to the lesser baronage, some
to the greater; Count Eustace of Bologne might by courtesy be described
as a reigning prince. Some of the most famous names in the succeeding
history can be traced to this origin—Walter Tirel was lord of Poix in
Ponthieu, Gilbert of Ghent was the ancestor of the medieval earls of
Lincoln. But the best way of realising the prevalence of this non-Norman
element among the conquerors of England is to work through one of the
schedules which the compilers of Domesday Book prefixed to the survey of
each county, giving the names of its land-owners, and to note the
proportion of “Frenchmen” to pure Normans. In Northamptonshire, for
example, among forty-three lay tenants there occur six Flemings, three
Bretons, and two Picards, and Northamptonshire in this respect is a
typical county.

At or about the time of the council of Lillebonne there is reason to
believe that messages were passing between William and Harold concerning
the fulfilment of the fateful oath. It is fairly certain that William
demanded the surrender of the crown and Harold’s immediate marriage to
his daughter, agreeing in return to confirm him in his earldom of
Wessex, which last is probably what is meant when our rhetorical
informants tell us that William promised to grant half the kingdom to
his rival. Such negotiations were bound to fall through; Harold had gone
too far to withdraw, even if he had been so minded, and William’s object
in making these proposals could only have been to maintain in the eyes
of the world the appearance of a lawful claimant deprived of his
inheritance. Also we may be quite sure that the building of the fleet
was not interrupted during the progress of the negotiations.

The difficulties of Harold’s reign began early. The weakness of his
position was revealed at the outset by the refusal of Northumbria to
accept him as king, a refusal very possibly prompted by Earl Morcar, who
could not be expected to feel much loyalty towards the new dynasty. By
making a special journey to York, Harold succeeded in silencing the
opposition for the moment, and his marriage with Ealdgyth, the sister of
Earls Edwin and Morcar, which may be dated with probability to about
this time,[109] was very possibly intended to conciliate the great
midland house. It would certainly serve as a definite assertion that
Harold had no intention of fulfilling that part of his oath to William
which pledged him to a marriage with the duke’s daughter, nor can we
doubt that Harold realised the expediency of providing an heir to his
crown with the least possible delay. At any rate he seems to have been
enjoying a few weeks of tranquillity after his visit to York when he
received an unmistakable intimation of the coming storm, which was none
the less ominous because its immediate results were insignificant.

Tostig, the dispossessed earl of Northumbria, had spent the winter of
1065–6, as we have seen, with Baldwin of Flanders,[110] a fact which is
suggestive when we remember the relations between Baldwin and William of
Normandy. It is evident that Tostig was spending the period of his
banishment in forming schemes for his restoration, and the fact that his
brother on becoming king dare not or would not recall him made him
inevitably a willing tool of William’s policy. Accordingly, early in
1066 Tostig moved from Flanders into Normandy, appeared at the duke’s
court, and urged him on to an invasion of England. It is quite possible
that he was present at the assembly of Lillebonne; one writer goes so
far as to say that the arguments of Tostig contributed largely to
persuade the Norman nobility to undertake the enterprise,[111] and
William may have derived some little advantage from the fact that he
could point to one man of high rank among the English nation as an
adherent. But it would seem that Tostig was unwilling to await the
development of his host’s plans, and in May he set off from the Cotentin
on an expedition of his own intended to ravage the English coasts. He
landed first in the Isle of Wight, where the inhabitants bought him off
with money and provisions, and then sailed, ravaging the coast of Sussex
and Kent, until he came to Sandwich. At Sandwich he raised a small force
of sailors, but at the same time the news of his expedition was brought
to his brother in London, who at once set out for the Kentish coast.
Before he could reach Sandwich, however, Tostig had started northward
again and finally entered the Humber with sixty ships, harrying the
coast of Lindsey. Upon receiving the news Earls Edwin and Morcar, having
called out the local fyrd, marched with it to the Humber and compelled
Tostig to take refuge in his ships. At this point Tostig was deserted by
the men of Sandwich whom he had impressed, and, his fleet being now
reduced to twelve ships, he made his way to Scotland and spent the
summer, we are told, with King Malcolm.[112]

Tostig’s futile raid has an interest of its own in the glimpse which it
gives us of the English defences just before the Norman invasion. The
evidence of Domesday Book shows that an Anglo-Saxon king had some sort
of naval force permanently at his disposal, and we know that Harold
built and manned a number of ships to keep the Channel against his
Norman rival, but, from whatever cause, the English navy in this
critical year proved itself miserably ineffective.[113] A mere
adventurer, with no foreign aid of any consequence and no local support
in England, Tostig could still spread devastation with impunity along
half the English coast. The story of Tostig’s expedition reads like a
revival of one of the Danish raids of the ninth century—the enemy sacks
a town, the fyrd are summoned and hurry to the spot to find that the
raiders have just left to plunder the nearest unprotected locality.
Clearly the coast defences of England, for all the bitter experience of
the Danish wars, had made no real advance since the days of Alfred, and
it is not unfair to remark that this fact reflects little credit upon
the statesmanship of Harold. He had himself been an exile and had made a
bid for power by a piratical descent upon England very similar to the
present expedition of Tostig’s. If he really possessed the power, during
the last ten years of the Confessor’s reign, with which he is usually
credited, it should not have been impossible for him to create a naval
force strong enough to counteract such attempts for the future. The
events of 1066 are an excellent illustration of the influence of sea
power in history; wind and weather permitting, an invader could land an
army in England at whatever time and place best suited him. As for
Tostig himself, his expedition had been ignominious enough, but before
the year was out he was to earn immortality by his association with the
last great Scandinavian invasion of England and by the part which he is
made to play in the magnificent saga of Stamfordbridge.

The summer visit of Tostig to Scotland must have been interrupted by
another voyage of greater distance and followed by most momentous
consequences. Very possibly he was dissatisfied with the amount of
immediate support which his claims had received from William of
Normandy; at all events he now made application to a prince of higher
rank, more restless spirit, and still more varied experience in the art
of war. Although there are chronological difficulties in the story which
cannot be discussed here, there can be little real doubt that Tostig in
person sailed to Norway, was received by Harold Hardrada, and incited
the most warlike king in Europe to an invasion of England. As a matter
of fact it is probable that Harold Hardrada, like William of Normandy,
would have made his attempt even if Tostig had never come upon the
scene; the passage of the English crown to a subject house, coming at a
time when there was a temporary lull in the chronic warfare between the
three Scandinavian powers, might remind the king of Norway that he could
himself, if he chose, put forward a decent pretext for an adventure
which would be certain to bring him fame and might rival the exploits of
Swegen and Cnut.[114] The extent of the preparations which Harold
Hardrada had evidently made for his enterprise would of itself suggest
that they were independent of the representations of the banished earl
of Northumbria, while on the other hand Tostig plays too prominent a
part in the Norwegian traditions of the expedition for us to reject his
voyage to Norway as mere myth, and his presence may have had some
influence in determining the objective of the invaders when once they
had touched the shores of England.

After making his appeal to Harold Hardrada, Tostig returned to Scotland
and began to raise a force of volunteers there on his own account. Early
in September the king of Norway set sail from the Sogne Fiord near
Bergen, due west to the subject earldom of the Orkneys and Shetlands,
where he was joined by Paul and Erling, the two joint earls, and by a
large reinforcement of the islanders.[115] From the Orkneys Harold
sailed on without recorded incident as far as the Tyne, where he was
joined, according to agreement, by Tostig with his Scottish auxiliaries,
and then the combined force made for the Yorkshire coast and began
offensive operations by a harrying of Cleveland. Passing southward the
invaders encountered an ineffectual resistance at Scarborough and along
the coast of Holderness, but were able to round Spurn Head without any
opposition from the English fleet. The Humber and the inland waters of
Yorkshire lay open to Harold, and it would seem that as the Norwegian
fleet sailed up the Ouse the English fleet retreated up the Wharfe, for
Harold chose to disembark at Riccall, a village some five miles below
the confluence of these rivers. Riccall was chosen as the headquarters
of the fleet, which could easily block at this point any attempt on the
part of the English vessels to break out to the open sea while Harold
and his army marched straight on York. At Fulford, two miles from the
city, the invaders met the fyrd of Yorkshire under Earls Edwin and
Morcar, and the defeat of the local force led to the surrender of York
four days afterwards. The city was not put to the sack; hostages[116]
were exchanged between Harold and the men of York, and it was very
possibly to await the delivery of further sureties from the rest of the
shire that the king moved out of his new conquest to the otherwise
undistinguished village of Stamfordbridge.

On the following day King Harold of England himself arrived at York.
News of what was happening in Yorkshire must have been brought to London
with extraordinary rapidity, for the battles of Fulford and
Stamfordbridge were fought, as men remarked at the time, within five
days of each other. Harold possessed the permanent nucleus of an army in
the famous body of “huscarles” who resided at his court, and with them
he dashed up the great road from London to York, taking along with him
so much of the local militia of the counties through which he passed as
happened to fall in with his line of march. At Tadcaster, where the
north road crosses the Wharfe, he found and inspected the English
“fleet,” and on Monday, the 25th of September, one day after Harold
Hardrada had entered the capital of Northumbria, it opened its gates to
Harold of England. At this time Harold can have done scarcely more than
pass through the city for the same day he covered the ten miles which
separate York from Stamfordbridge and fell unexpectedly upon the
Norwegian army scattered in utter unpreparedness along either bank of
the Derwent. The Norwegians on the right, or York, bank of the Derwent
were driven into the river by the English attack, and then occurred a
strange incident of which the record, curiously enough, is only
preserved in the chronicle of the distant monastery of Abingdon. It was
essential for the English to get possession of the bridge which spanned
the unfordable river before the Norwegians on the left bank should have
time to form up in line of battle, and we are told:

  “There was one of the Norwegians who withstood the Englishmen so that
  they could not climb over the bridge and gain the victory. Then one of
  the Englishmen shot with an arrow and that did nothing, and then came
  another under the bridge and stabbed him underneath his coat of mail,
  and then Harold king of the English came over the bridge and his army
  with him.”[117]

We have no details of the struggle which must have raged along the
rising ground on which the modern village of Stamfordbridge stands, nor
do we know with certainty how Harold Hardrada and Tostig fell, but it is
clear that the result of that day’s fighting was an unequivocal victory
for the English; the men who had been left in charge of the Norwegian
fleet at Riccall were willing to accept peace at Harold’s hands and were
allowed to depart with their ships to Norway. Harold indeed in this
great fight had proved himself a worthy inheritor of the crown of the
West Saxon kings, and it was a strange destiny which ruled that the last
victory in the struggle of three centuries between Englishman and
Northman should fall to no descendant of Egbert or Alfred, but to an
English king who was half a Northman himself by blood. But a stranger
destiny was it which ruled that one week should see the overthrow of the
last great invader from the north and the opening of a new era for
England in the entry of the greater invader from beyond the Channel.
Harold Hardrada fell at Stamfordbridge on Monday, William of Normandy
landed at Pevensey on Thursday.

[Illustration: Penny of Harold Hardrada]


Footnote 92:

  The scheme of policy which Green (_Conquest of England_, 522–524, ed.
  1883) founded in relation to their marriage rests upon this

Footnote 93:

  Poem in _Worcester Chronicle_, 1057.

Footnote 94:

  _Vita Eadwardi Confessoris_ (R. S.), 410.

Footnote 95:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1042: “All the people chose Edward and received
  him for King, as it belonged to him by right of birth.”

Footnote 96:

  Chadwick, _Studies in Anglo-Saxon Institutions_, Excursus iv., p. 355.

Footnote 97:

  The one contemporary account of Harold’s oath which we possess is that
  given by William of Poitiers (ed. Giles, 108). According to this
  Harold swore (1) to be William’s representative (_vicarius_) at
  Edward’s court; (2) to work for William’s acceptance as king upon
  Edward’s death; (3) in the meantime to cause Dover castle to receive a
  Norman garrison, and to build other castles where the duke might
  command in his interest. In a later passage William of Poitiers
  asserts that the duke wished to marry Harold to one of his daughters.
  In all this there is nothing impossible, and to assume with Freeman
  that the reception of a Norman garrison into a castle entrusted to
  Harold’s charge would have been an act of treason is to read much
  later political ideas into a transaction of the eleventh century.
  William was Edward’s kinsman and we have no reason to suppose that the
  king would have regarded with disfavour an act which would have given
  his cousin the means of making good the claim to his succession which
  there is every reason to believe that he himself had sanctioned twelve
  years before.

Footnote 98:

  _Vita Edwardi Confessoris_ (R. S.), 432.

Footnote 99:

  William of Poitiers, 123.

Footnote 100:

  William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, ii., 299.

Footnote 101:

  The statement that William promised, if successful, to hold England as
  a fief of the papacy is made by no writer earlier than Wace, who has
  no authority on a point of this kind.

Footnote 102:

  _Monumenta Gregoriana._

Footnote 103:

  Round, _Geoffrey de Mandeville_, 8.

Footnote 104:

  William of Poitiers, 124.

Footnote 105:

  William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_.

Footnote 106:

  The list followed here is that printed by Giles as an appendix to the
  _Brevis Relatio_. _Scriptores_, p. 21.

Footnote 107:

  Guy of Amiens, 34: “Appulus et Caluber, Siculus quibus jacula fervet.”

Footnote 108:

  Kingsley, _Hereward the Wake_, ed. 1889, p. 368.

Footnote 109:

  This was Freeman’s final view. _N. C._, iii., 625.

Footnote 110:

  Florence of Worcester, 1066.

Footnote 111:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 120.

Footnote 112:

  _Chronicles of Abingdon, Peterborough, and Worcester_, 1066.

Footnote 113:

  John of Oxenedes, a thirteenth-century monk of St. Benet of Holme,
  asserts that Harold entrusted the defence of the coast to Ælfwold,
  abbot of that house. The choice of an East Anglian abbot suggests that
  his appointment was intended as a precaution against the Scandinavian

Footnote 114:

  See Introduction, above, page 48.

Footnote 115:

  _Heimskringla_, page 165.

Footnote 116:

  Simeon of Durham, 1066.

Footnote 117:

  This episode forms the last entry in the Abingdon version of the
  _Chronicle_, and it is described in a northern dialect.

                               CHAPTER V

The spring and summer of 1066 must have been a time of restless activity
on the part of William and of those who were associated with him in the
preparations for the great enterprise of the autumn. The building of the
fleet was being pushed forward, and volunteers from kindred states were
continually arriving to be incorporated in the Norman army; this much we
may infer from the fact that by August both fleet and army were ready
for the expedition, but we know scarcely anything as to William’s own
movements in the interval. On the fifteenth of June a council was held
at Bonneville at which Lanfranc was appointed abbot of William’s new
foundation of St. Stephen’s Caen, and three days later Cicely, the
eldest daughter of William and Matilda, was formally dedicated to the
religious life at the consecration of her mother’s house, the sister
monastery of the Holy Trinity. The motives which prompted the duke and
duchess to complete their religious undertakings were widely felt among
the Norman baronage. The conquerors of England appear in a somewhat
unaccustomed light as we read the charters by which they gave or
confirmed land, each to his favoured monastery, “when Duke William was
setting out across the sea.” It was fully realised that the enterprise
might end in utter disaster; the prudent abbot of Marmoutier, for
instance, in case of accidents, secured from Robert, the heir of
Normandy, at his father’s request, a confirmation of all the grants
which the latter had made to the house during his reign.[118]

The temporal affairs of Normandy were also discreetly arranged at this
time. Matilda was appointed regent, and was supported by a council
presided over by Roger de Beaumont, a man of age and experience, and a
personal friend of the duke. No doubt if William had perished in England
Robert would have succeeded him, but, although he was now of sufficient
age to make a voluntary confirmation of his father’s grants of land, he
was clearly not old enough to undertake the government of the duchy
during an interregnum. The fact that the expedition itself provided
employment for the great mass of the fighting men of Normandy would
promise a quiet rule for Matilda and her advisers, nor indeed do we hear
of any disturbances taking place in the duchy while William was across
the Channel.

Before the close of August the fleet was ready at last, and lay at the
mouth of the Dive ready to set sail at any moment.[119] The army also
was ready for embarkation, and the only thing which was lacking to the
expedition was a south wind to carry the fleet to the Sussex coast. But
for six weeks at least that south wind refused to blow, and every week
of delay increased William’s difficulties a hundredfold. Nothing could
have been more discouraging to an army of adventurers than week after
week of compulsory inaction; and the fact that William was able to keep
perfect order, among a force part only of which owed direct allegiance
to him as feudal lord, suggests that he possessed qualities of
leadership which were not very common among the captains of his day. At
more than one crisis in his life William had already shown that he could
possess his soul in patience until the moment arrived at which it was
possible to strike, and he must have succeeded in imparting something of
this spirit to his troops in their vigil by the Dive. In the more
definite work of commissariat we know that he proved himself a master;
for no shortage of provisions was felt at any time during the unexpected
delay, and few eleventh-century armies could have remained for a month
in the same quarters without being driven to find their own means of
subsistence in plunder. William’s biographer was justified in remarking
on the fact that the unarmed folk of the neighbourhood could pass to and
fro without trembling when they saw a body of soldiers;[120] and before
the task of provisioning the army by regular means had become an
impossibility, a west wind served to carry the fleet to a point which
offered a shorter passage across into England than that which was
presented by its original station on the Dive.

Within the county of Ponthieu, which had become a member of the Norman
group of vassal states when Count Guy became William’s “man” after the
battle of Mortemer, the estuary of the Somme supplied an excellent
natural harbour beneath the town of Saint Valery. The passage from the
mouth of the Dive seems to have been accomplished without incident, and
William and his forces took possession of their new quarters on the
twelfth day of September. For more than a fortnight the situation did
not seem to have improved in any way; the wind which was carrying Harold
Hardrada down the coast of Yorkshire kept William locked in the mouth of
the Somme. The weather was cold and squally and we have a contemporary
description of the way in which William kept watching the weathercock on
the church tower and of his joy if for a moment the gale drove it to
point northward.[121] The strain of suspense was now beginning to tell
upon the army:

  “The common soldiers, as frequently happens, began to murmur in their
  tents that the man must be mad to wish to conquer a foreign country,
  that his father had proposed to do the same and had been baffled in
  the same way, that it was the destiny of the family to try for things
  beyond their reach and to find God for their enemy.”[122]

It was clearly necessary to do something to relieve the prevailing
tension, and the expedient chosen was characteristic of the time; the
relics of the patron saint of the town were brought with great solemnity
out of the church, and the casket which contained them was exhibited to
receive the prayers and offerings of the duke and his army. The result
was a convincing proof of the virtue of the bones of St. Valery; without
further delay the south wind blew.[123]

The same day saw the embarkation of the Norman army, the work being
carried through as quickly as possible in evident fear that the wind
might slip round again to its former quarter. Night was falling before
all was ready, and before the duke, after a final visit to the church of
St. Valery, had given his last orders on the Norman shore. It was
important that the fleet should be prevented from scattering in the
darkness, so each vessel was ordered to carry a light, a lantern of
special power adorning the masthead of the duke’s own ship. With the
same object it was directed that the fleet should anchor as soon as it
was clear of the estuary of the Somme, and await further orders. Through
the dead of night the fleet hung outside the harbour, and it was still
dark when the expedition ventured out at last into the open waters of
the Channel. The great body of the ships, each of which carried a heavy
load of horses in addition to its freight of men-at-arms, was inevitably
outstripped by the unimpeded galley which bore William to his destiny;
and when the dawn began to break, the duke found himself out of sight of
the rest of the fleet, and not yet within view of the English shore. In
these circumstances William cast anchor and breakfasted “as it had been
in his own hall,” says one of his companions; and, under the influence
of the wine with which the _Mora_ was well supplied, his spirits rose,
the prospects of his enterprise seemed golden in the morning light, and
he spoke words of encouragement to his companions. And at last the
sailors reported that the rest of the fleet began to come in sight; the
four ships which first appeared together upon the horizon grew more and
more until the man on the look-out could be made by our imaginative
informant to remark that the masts of the fleet showed like a forest
upon the sea.[124] Then the duke weighed anchor for the last time, and
the south wind still holding carried him and his fleet into Pevensey bay
at nine in the morning; the day being St. Michael’s Eve—by an
appropriate chance, for the archangel was highly honoured in the Norman

William’s landing was entirely undisputed; the good luck which, as we
have noticed, waited on his expedition in its diplomatic antecedents,
attended its military details also. During the summer months, Harold,
making what use he could of the antiquated military system of England,
had called out the fyrd, and lined the south coast with troops, which,
however helpless they might be in a pitched battle with the Norman
chivalry, might have brought considerable inconvenience to William, if
they had been in evidence at the moment of his landing. From May to
September the Sussex coast in general, Hastings and Pevensey in
particular, were guarded by the rural forces of the shire.[125] At last,
about the time when William was moving from the Dive to St. Valery, the
patience and provisions of the fyrd gave out together; the rustics had
been kept away from their homes for four times the customary period of
service without anything happening, and they refused to stay on guard
any longer. They probably would not have made any difference to the
ultimate result in any case, nor need we blame Harold for being unable
to keep them together; but the fact is another illustration of the
hopeless inefficiency of the old English state. And then, one week
before William’s landing, Harold had gathered the whole of such
professional soldiers as England contained, and had spent them in the
life-and-death struggle at Stamfordbridge. Harold Hardrada had fallen,
but his overthrow had gone far to exhaust the military resources of
England, and it was a shattered, if victorious, army which was resting
with Harold Godwinson, at York, when a fugitive from Sussex arrived to
tell that William of Normandy had landed, and that the south lay at his

William’s first movements in England were very deliberate. His immediate
care was to fortify his position at Pevensey and so protect his fleet
against surprise. At Pevensey, as afterwards at Lincoln, a line of Roman
walling could be turned to account in the construction of a castle,[126]
which was run up in the course of the day; and having thus, like his
Scandinavian ancestors, secured for himself a base of operations if
events turned out ill, William marched to Hastings, which was to be his
base of operations for the rest of the campaign.[127] At Hastings,
therefore, another castle was thrown up, the building, like nearly all
the castles built during the twenty years which followed the Conquest,
consisting merely of a mound, with wooden defences on the top and a
ditch and one or more outer works below. Hastings is a point of
departure for many roads; a fact which no doubt very largely accounts
for William’s choice of the town as his headquarters; for it could
easily be provisioned by supplies from the neighbouring country, and it
lay very conveniently as a base for an attack on London.

The men of east Sussex were not long before they felt the pressure of
the invading army. Most of the villages in the neighbourhood of Hastings
are recorded in Domesday to have been “waste” at some period between the
death of King Edward and 1066, and the connection between these signs of
ravage and William’s camp at Hastings is sufficiently obvious. But it is
not probable that William attempted any systematic harrying of this
district such as that which three years afterwards he carried out with
grim success in the country beyond the Humber; the Sussex villages, as a
rule, had quite recovered their former prosperity by the date of the
great survey. The passage of foraging parties over the land demanding
provisions, which would be none too readily granted, and the other
incidents of a medieval war of invasion, are enough to account for
depreciation of the kind recorded. Harold himself, as he drew towards
Hastings, left traces of his march in similar cases of temporary
devastation, and there is no reason to suppose that William undertook a
deliberate harrying of Sussex in order to provoke Harold to a general


William, indeed, as yet can hardly have known the result of
Stamfordbridge with any degree of certainty. Rumours of the great battle
in the north would no doubt gradually filter down into Sussex during the
week following the event, but for some days after his arrival at
Hastings William cannot have ignored the possibility that it might be a
Norwegian host which would ultimately appear upon the edge of the downs.
Definite news, however, at some unspecified date, was brought to William
by a message from an unexpected quarter.[129] Robert, the son of Wymarc,
a Breton knight, who in some unknown way could claim kindred with both
William and Edward, had been “staller” or master of the horse to the
latter, and had stood together with Harold and Stigand by the king’s
deathbed. Whether he had actually been present at the battle of
Stamfordbridge is uncertain; but shortly after the fight he sent a
messenger to William to advise a speedy withdrawal to Normandy before
something worse happened to him. The message ran that Harold had
destroyed the huge forces of the king of Norway, himself the bravest man
in the world, and that now, inspired by victory, he was turning upon the
duke with a great and enthusiastic army. Rather unwisely Robert went on
to add that the Normans were no match for the English, either in numbers
or bravery, and that William, who had always shown himself discreet
hitherto, would do well to retire at once, or at all events to keep
within his fortifications and avoid a battle in the open field. To this
well-meaning person William replied that his one desire was to come to
blows with Harold, that although Robert’s advice might have been better
expressed yet he thanked him for it, and that if he had with him but ten
thousand instead of sixty thousand men[130] he would never retire
without wreaking vengeance on his enemy. It is not unlikely that
Robert’s message was really inspired by Harold himself, and from one or
two turns of expression in William’s reply we may perhaps gather that he
suspected as much; although it might be thought that Harold, who had
seen something of his rival in past years, cannot have had much hope of
getting rid of him by mere intimidation. However this may be, it is
interesting to find Robert, a prominent member of a class which has
suffered much abuse because of an assumed lack of patriotism towards its
adopted country, playing a part which so admirably saves his duty to his
king and his kinsman alike.

We have two poetical accounts of the way in which the news of William’s
landing was brought to Harold at York. Wace, the Norman poet of the
twelfth century, tells how a Sussex “chevalier” heard the shouting of
the “peasants and villeins” as the fleet drew in to the shore, and how,
attracted by the noise, he came out, hid behind a hill and lay there
until the work of disembarkation was over and the castle at Pevensey
thrown up; then riding off with lance and sword, night and day, to York,
to tell the king the news of what he had seen.[131] Guy, bishop of
Amiens, who wrote within a short time of the event, makes the news of
the Norman arrival be borne by a rustic from Hastings, not Pevensey; and
the details which are told to Harold relate to the devastation caused by
the invaders near Hastings, not to the landing itself.[132] Perhaps
these two stories are not quite incompatible with each other; but we
need not attempt to reconcile them here, in view of the undoubted fact
that Harold was informed of William’s landing within some three days of
the event.

At this crisis Harold acted with astonishing energy. Taking with him his
faithful huscarles, a body sadly thinned by the battle of a few days
before, he hurried southwards by way of Tadcaster, Lincoln, Stamford,
and Huntingdon, the same route which in the reverse direction he had
followed in the previous week; now as then drawing into his force the
fyrd of the shires through which he passed. Edwin and Morcar were
directed to raise the levies of their respective earldoms, and in their
expected absence the government of the north was entrusted to
Marleswegen, the sheriff of Lincolnshire,[133] an Englishman who remains
little more than a name in the narrative of the Conquest, but who, if
Harold had triumphed at Hastings might probably have played an important
part in the history of the following years. How far Harold really
believed in the fidelity of the northern earls is uncertain; they had
shown no overt signs of disaffection during the last months since he had
married their sister. On the other hand, considering the long-standing
rivalry between his house and theirs, and their probable share in the
Northumbrian difficulties at the beginning of his reign, Harold was
perhaps not altogether surprised that Edwin and Morcar, in the words of
Florence of Worcester, “withdrew themselves and their men from the
conflict.” With the best intentions they would have found it difficult
to join him in time for the battle; it would not have been easy for them
to raise the fyrd from all the shires between the Humber and the Tweed
on the one part and between the fens and the Severn on the other, and to
bring the troops to London within the five days which Harold spent
there. For on October 11th,[134] a fortnight after the battle of
Stamfordbridge, Harold set out from London on his last march towards the
Sussex downs.

It is an interesting, but not very profitable, speculation how far
Harold was justified in staking his all upon the result of a single
battle with the invader. With our knowledge of what happened it is
natural to condemn him; he was condemned by the general opinion of the
historians of the next generation, and very possibly their sentence is
right. On the other hand we cannot but feel that we know very little of
the real facts of the case; even the essential question of the relative
numbers of the English and Norman armies cannot be answered with any
degree of accuracy. It may be argued with much plausibility that the
wisest course for Harold would have been to let William work his will
upon the unfortunate inhabitants of Sussex, trusting to time and the
national feeling likely to be aroused by the ravages of an invader to
bring an overwhelming superiority in numbers over to his side. This, we
may be sure, would have been the course taken by William himself in such
a case, but Harold was probably by nature incapable of playing a waiting
game of this kind. His ability, so far as we can tell, lay in sudden
assaults and surprises; the more deliberate processes of generalship
were foreign to his temperament. And then there remains the fact that
the loyalty of Mercia and Northumbria was at least doubtful; delay on
Harold’s part might only mean that Edwin and Morcar with their forces
would have time to come over effectively to William’s side, while
another great victory so soon after Stamfordbridge would have placed
Harold in a position from which, for the time being, he could defy all
rivals. At any rate he took the step, and paid the penalty of failure.

But, whatever we may think of the general wisdom of Harold’s strategy,
it is impossible to deny that he showed a general’s appreciation of the
tactical possibilities of the ground on which he chose to put the fate
of England to the test. After a forced march through the thick woods
which at that time covered the Sussex downs, the king halted his army on
a barren ridge of ground seven miles north-east of the town of Hastings.
It is plain from all the narratives of the forthcoming encounter that
the ridge in question was quite unoccupied at the time of the battle;
and when the English chroniclers wish to describe its site they can only
tell us that Harold and William came together “by the hoar
apple-tree.”[135] The strength of the position was determined, not so
much by the general elevation of the ground, which at no point reaches a
greater height than 300 feet above sea level, as by the fact that it was
surrounded by country very hilly and much broken by streams, and that
its physical features lent natural support to the disposition of an army
which relied for success on its capacity for stolid resistance. The
position was undoubtedly chosen by Harold with the object of forcing his
enemy to an immediate battle; for William could not move either east or
west from Hastings without exposing his base to an English attack; and
Harold, who knew that the main strength of a Norman army lay in its
troops of mailed horsemen, had been careful to offer battle on a site in
which the cavalry arm would be placed by the ground at a natural

From the nature of the case it has come about that we possess very
little information either as to the numbers of the English army or as to
the details of its formation on the day of battle. The Norman writers,
on whom we are compelled to rely, have naturally exaggerated the former,
nor did any survivor from the English army describe the order of its
battle array to the chroniclers of Worcester or Peterborough. In recent
studies of the great battle there is manifested a strong unwillingness
to allow to either the English or the Norman host more than a small
proportion of the numbers which used to be assigned to it thirty years
ago.[137] It is very improbable that William led more than 6000 men into
action on October 15, 1066, and there is good reason for doubting
whether the knightly portion of his army can have exceeded 5000. Small
as this last number may appear, every man included in it was an
efficient combatant; but the English force was largely composed of
rustics impressed from the shires through which Harold had rushed on his
great march from York to London after the battle of Stamfordbridge, and
even so, it is far from certain that the native force was materially
stronger than the army of invasion. With regard to its distribution, we
know that the English line of battle seemed convex to the Normans on
their approach from the south-east,[138] and it is probable that it ran
for some 800 yards along the hill of battle, the flanks being thrown
well back so as to rest upon the steep bank which bounds the ridge
towards the north. It is certain that the English troops were drawn up
in extremely close order, and it is a natural assumption that Harold
would place the kernel of his army, the huscarles who had survived
Stamfordbridge, in the front rank; stationing his inferior troops in the
rear so as to support the huscarles in resisting the impact of the
Norman cavalry.[139] On the highest point of the whole line, a spot now
marked by the high altar of the Abbey church of Battle, Harold planted
his standard; and it was round the standard that the fight was most
stoutly contested, and that, after seven hours of struggle, the king at
last fell.

In speaking of the generalship displayed by Harold’s rival on this
occasion, it is important to beware of the associations aroused by
modern military terminology. At least if we speak of him as a strategist
or tactician, we should be careful to remember that strategy and tactics
themselves had attained to but a rudimentary stage of development in
Northern Europe in the eleventh century. Recent studies of the battle of
Hastings, the one fight of the period in regard to which we possess a
considerable amount of detailed information, have brought out the fact
that William’s host was far too stiff and unwieldy a body to perform the
complicated evolutions by which it used to be assumed that the day was
won.[140] We should be committing a grave error if we were to suppose
that the Norman army possessed that mobility and capacity for concerted
action among its several divisions which belonged to the forces led by
Turenne or Marlborough. Feudal battles were determined more by the event
of simple collisions of large masses of men than by their manœuvres
when in the field: the skill of a great feudal captain lay chiefly in
his ability to choose his ground so as to give his side the preliminary
advantage in the shock of battle; apart from the example of his personal
valour he had but little influence upon the subsequent fortunes of the
day. On the present occasion William was compelled to fight on the
ground of his opponent’s choice; and this initial disadvantage cost the
Norman leader an indefinite number of his best troops, and, even after
the issue of the battle had been decided, protracted the English
resistance until nightfall had put an end to the struggle. On the other
hand, there was one fatal weakness in the English host which must have
been recognised by the other side already before the fight had begun.
The fact that Harold, for all effective purposes, was totally unprovided
with either archers or cavalry exposed his army to a method of attack
which he was quite unable to parry, and the arrangement of the Norman
line of battle shows that William from the first relied for success on
this advantage. The battle of Hastings was won by the combination of
archery and cavalry against infantry whose one chance of success lay in
the possibility that it might keep its formation unbroken until the
strength of the offensive had been exhausted.[141]



In the early morning of the 14th of October the Norman army moved out of
Hastings and advanced across the seven miles of broken country which lay
between the English army and the sea. The march must have been a
toilsome business, and the rapidity with which it was accomplished is
remarkable.[142] At the point marked by the modern village of Telham,
the road from Hastings to Battle passes over a hill which rises to some
350 feet above sea-level, and commands a view of the English position.
On the far side of this hill it is probable that William halted, waited
for his scattered troops to come together, and then drew them out in
order of battle. In his first line he placed his light-armed infantry,
who probably formed a very inconsiderable portion of his army, and were
unprovided with defensive harness. To these inferior troops succeeded
infantry of a higher class, protected by armour, but, like the
light-armed skirmishers in the front rank, armed only with bows and
arrows and slings. The function of the infantry in the coming encounter
was to harass the English with their missiles and tempt them to break
their ranks. Lastly came the main body of the Norman army, the squadrons
of cavalry, on whom it rested to attack the English line after it had
been shaken by the missiles of the previous ranks.[143] The whole army
was further arranged in three great divisions, the native Normans
composing the centre, the Bretons, under the command of Alan, son of
Count Éon of Penthievre, forming the left wing, and the French
volunteers the right.[144] In the centre of the whole line of advance,
the Norman counterpart of the English standard, there was borne the
consecrated banner which William had received from the pope.[145]

So quickly had the march from Hastings been made that the actual
fighting was opened at about nine in the morning[146] by an advance of
the Norman foot. Galled by a heavy fire from the archers, which could
only be answered very ineffectively by the spears and stones which were
almost the sole missile weapons of the English, numbers of the native
troops broke away from their line, in defiance of the strict orders
issued by Harold to the effect that no man should leave his post. In the
meantime, the Norman cavalry had been steadily making its way to the
front in order to take immediate advantage of the disorder caused in the
English ranks by the fire of the archers. But the knights could only
move their horses slowly up the hill; the solidity of the English
formation had not been seriously affected as yet, and the cavalry were
compelled to attack an unbroken line. The result was disaster. The
Breton auxiliaries on the left fell back, the confusion spread rapidly,
and the English, seizing their advantage, sallied forth and drove the
entire Norman line before them in headlong flight down the hill.[147]
Fortunately William had not joined in this first attack in person, and
when in their panic the Normans believed that their leader had fallen,
they were soon recalled to their senses by the sight of the duke with
bared head, laying about him with his spear, and shouting words of
reproof and encouragement.[148] Mounted as they were, the flying knights
could have but little difficulty in outstripping their pursuers, but, if
we may trust the Bayeux tapestry, a number of English and Normans
perished together in the course of the flight, by falling into a deep
depression in the ground situated somewhere between the base of the hill
and the duke’s post. According to the same authority, the bishop of
Bayeux did good service at this moment, restoring order among the
baggage-carriers and camp-followers, who were apparently becoming
infected with the panic which had seized their masters.[149] Between the
duke and his brother, the flight was checked, and then the knights,
eager to avenge their disgrace, rallied, turned, and cut off their
pursuers from their comrades on the hill, making a wholesale slaughter
of them.[150] Mainly through William’s self-possession the Norman rout
had ended after all in a distinct success gained for his side.

As soon as the cavalry had re-formed, the attack on the English position
was resumed; this time under the immediate leadership of the duke. The
struggle at the foot of the hill had given its defenders time to close
their ranks, and the English continued to present an impenetrable front
to the Norman cavalry. All along the line a desperate struggle raged for
some hours, but of its details no tale can be told, although it is
probable that it was at this point in the battle that Gyrth and
Leofwine, Harold’s brothers, fell, and there is good reason for
believing that the former was struck down by the hand of the duke
himself. William, indeed, in all our authorities is represented as the
life and soul of the attack, “more often calling to his men to come on
than bidding them advance” says William of Poitiers; he had three horses
killed under him before the day was over, and he did all that might be
done by a feudal captain to keep his troops together and to inspire them
by his example. But notwithstanding his exertions it is evident that the
English were more than holding their own,[151] and a second repulse
suffered thus late in the day by the Norman cavalry would almost
certainly have passed into a rout of the whole army. At this crisis it
occurred to some cunning brain, whether that of the duke or another,
that it might be possible by feigning flight to tempt the English troops
to break their formation, and then, by turning on suitable ground, to
repeat the success which had ended the real flight in the forenoon. The
movement was easily carried out; a body of Normans rode away, and a
crowd of Englishmen, regardless of everything except the relief from the
immediate strain of keeping their ranks, hurled themselves down the hill
shouting curses and cries of victory. No discipline could have been kept
under the circumstances, and when the galloping knights suddenly spread
out their line, wheeled around their horses, and surrounded the
disordered mob of their pursuers the latter were ridden down and cut to
pieces by scores.[152]



It is, of course, impossible to estimate the actual extent of the loss
which the English sustained in the episode of the feigned flight, but
there can be little doubt that its success marks the turning-point in
the fortune of the day. No incident in the great battle made a deeper
impression upon the historians who have described it for us, and the
tale of the feigned flight is told in different narratives with great
variety of circumstance and detail. But from the writers who lived
nearest to the time we may infer with tolerable certainty that the
manœuvre in question was a sudden expedient, devised and acted upon
without previous organisation, and also that it was a simple, not a
combined movement. The whole business of decoying the English from the
hill, turning upon, and then surrounding them, was the work of one and
the same body of knights. On the other hand, it is probably incorrect to
speak of the feigned flight in the singular, for our best authority
distinctly asserts that the same stratagem was used twice[153]; fighting
was going on along a front of at least half a mile in length, and
different sections of the Norman army may very well have carried out the
movement at different times, and in complete independence of each other.
However this may be, the effect of the manœuvre was soon apparent.
The English line, though shrunken in numbers, closed its ranks and kept
its formation, wedged together so tightly that the wounded could not
fall behind to the rear, nor even the dead bodies drop to the ground.
But the superior endurance of the Norman troops was beginning to tell;
the English were rapidly losing heart,[154] and the consummation of
William’s victory only waited for the destruction of King Harold, and of
the warriors who fought with him round the standard.

The attack which finally beat down the resistance of the English line
seems to have been delivered from some point to the south-east of the
hill.[155] The battle had already continued for seven or eight hours,
and twilight was beginning to fall,[156] but its approach could only
remind the shaken remnant of the native host that the day was lost, and
the end of the great fight was now very near. It was in the last
confused struggle which raged round the standard in the fading light
that Harold met his death; and then his companions, tired out and
hopeless of reinforcement, yielded the ground they had defended for so
long, and broke away to the north-west along the neck of land which
connects the hill of battle with the higher ridges of the downs beyond
it. The victors followed in hot pursuit; but a strange chance gave to
Harold, in the very hour of his death, a signal revenge over the men at
whose hands he had just fallen. A little to the west of the original
position of the English army one of the head-waters of the Asten had cut
a deep ravine, of which the eastern face was so steep as to be a
veritable trap for any incautious horsemen who might attempt to ride
down it. In the gathering darkness knight after knight, galloping after
the English fugitives in secure ignorance of the ground, crashed down
into this gully; and the name Malfosse, borne throughout the Middle Ages
by the ravine in question, bears witness to the extent of the disaster
which the victorious army suffered at this point.[157] Harold, after he
had lost life and kingdom, was still justified of the ground which he
had chosen as the place of battle.

Late in the night William returned to the battlefield and pitched his
tent there. There could be no doubt that he had gained an unequivocal
victory; his rival was dead, the native army annihilated; he could well
afford to give his troops the rest they needed. The early part of the
following day was spent in the burial of the Norman dead; the work being
carried out under the duke’s immediate care. The English folk of the
neighbourhood soon came in numbers to the battlefield and begged for the
bodies of their fallen kinsfolk, which they were allowed to carry away
for burial; but the unclaimed corpses were left strewn about the hill.
Before long the bodies of Harold, Gyrth and Leofwine were found lying
close together; but Harold’s corpse had been horribly mangled, and,
according to the later romantic story, it was only identified by means
of certain marks upon the body which were known and recognised by the
dead man’s mistress, Edith the Swan-necked. Towards the close of the
morrow of the battle, William returned to his castle at Hastings,
bearing Harold’s body with him for burial upon the shore in
unconsecrated ground as befitted an excommunicate, and an urgent message
from Gytha, Godwine’s widow, offering for her son’s body its weight in
gold, did nothing to shake his purpose.[158] With characteristic irony
William remarked that it was but fitting that Harold in death should be
appointed guardian of the shore and sea, which he had tried to defend in
life; and the dead king’s body, wrapped in a purple robe, was laid out
of sight somewhere among the rocks along the shore of Hastings bay.
Later tradition indeed asserted that Harold before long was translated
from this unhallowed grave to a tomb in the minster of the Holy Cross at
Waltham, which he had founded three years before[159]; but the authority
on which this story depends is none of the best, and, for all that we
really know to the contrary, the last native king of England is still
the guardian of the Sussex shore.

Harold, above all kings in English history with the possible exceptions
of Richard III. and Charles I., was happy in the circumstances of his
death. He gained thereby an immediate release from the performance of an
impossible task, and he was enabled to redeem the personal ambitions
which governed his past life by associating them in the moment of his
fall with the cause of the national independence of England. It has been
possible for historians to regret the outcome of the battle of Hastings
only because it overthrew Harold before he could prove the hopelessness
of the position in which he had placed himself. What chance had he, a
man of uncertain ancestry and questionable antecedents, of completing
the work which had overcome every king before him: the work of
reconciling the antagonism of north to south, of making the royal word
supreme in the royal council, of making the provincial nobility of
England and its dependents the subjects of the king and of the king
only? It may well be that such a task would have proved beyond the power
of any native king, though descended from the immemorial line of Cerdic;
how could it be completed by an ambitious earl, invested indeed with the
royal authority, but crippled in its exercise by the bitter rivalry of
men who had formerly been his fellow-subjects; whose birth was more
noble, whose wealth was scarcely less, who, in opposition to his rule,
could rely upon endless reserves of local patriotism, the one source of
political strength which the land contained? To genius, indeed, all
things are possible, but to ascribe genius to this commonplace,
middle-aged earl would be to do sheer violence to the meaning of words.
Harold will always hold a noble place in the record of English history;
but he owes that place solely to the events of his last month of life,
when the terrible necessity of straining every faculty he possessed in
the support of his trembling throne roused in him a quickness of
perception and a rapidity of action which his uneventful career as earl
of Wessex could never have called into being. Harold was undoubtedly the
best captain that England had seen since the death of Edmund Ironside,
just fifty years before the battle of Hastings; but the work which
Harold had undertaken would have called for quite other powers than
those which he revealed so unexpectedly on the eve of his death. William
the Conqueror, endowed as he was by nature with the faculties of a great
ruler to an extent perhaps without parallel in English history; superior
by the fact that he came in by conquest to all the local jealousies
which distracted Anglo-Saxon politics; and with unique opportunities of
recasting the social and tenurial features of English life; could only
create a strong and uniform government in England after three years of
almost incessant war, the reduction of a third of England to a
wilderness, and the remodelling in principle of the whole fabric of the
English administration, civil and military. When it is remembered that
the resistance to William was made essentially on grounds not of
national feeling, but of local particularism, and that these forces
would undoubtedly have conspired against Harold as they afterwards
conspired against his rival, we can only conclude that fate was kind
which slew Harold in the heat of battle in a noble cause, instead of
condemning him to witness the disintegration of his kingdom, in virtual
impotence, varied only by spasmodic outbreaks of barren civil war.

[Illustration: Penny of Harold II.]

                               CHAPTER VI
                         FROM HASTINGS TO YORK

Catastrophic as the battle of Hastings seems to us now, in view of the
later history, its decisive character was not recognised at once by the
national party. The very incoherence of the Anglo-Saxon polity brought a
specious advantage to the national cause, in that the defeat of one part
of the nation by an invader left the rest of the country comparatively
unaffected by the fact. The wars of Edmund Ironside and Cnut, fifty
years before, show us groups of shires one after the other making
isolated attempts to check the progress of the enemy, and few men could
already have realised that the advent of William of Normandy meant the
introduction of new processes of warfare which would render hopeless the
casual methods of Anglo-Saxon generalship. Neither side, in fact,
understood the other. William, on his part expecting that the total
overthrow of the English king with his army would imply the immediate
submission of the whole land, took up his quarters at Hastings on the
day after the battle to receive the homage of all those Englishmen who
might come in person to accept him as their lord. The passage of five
days without a single surrender taught him that the fruits of victory
would not fall into his hands without further shaking, and meanwhile the
English nobility began to form plans for a continued resistance to his
pretensions in the name of another national king.

Who that king should be was the first question which demanded
settlement. There was no hope of preserving the English crown in the
house of Godwine: the events of the past three weeks had been fatal to
all the surviving sons of the old earl, with the exception of Wulfnoth
the youngest, and he was most likely a prisoner or hostage in
Normandy.[160] Harold’s one legitimate son was most probably as yet
unborn; he had at least three illegitimate sons of sufficient age, but
their candidature, if any one had suggested it, would certainly have
been inacceptable to the churchmen on whom it rested to give ultimate
sanction to any choice which might be made. Two alternatives remained:
either a return might be made to the old West Saxon line in the person
of Edgar the Etheling, or a new dynasty might be started again by the
election of Edwin or Morcar. The one advantage which the former
possessed, now as earlier in the year, was the fact that his election
would not outrage the local particularism of any part of the country; it
might not be impossible for Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria to unite
round him in a common cause. Nor was it unnatural that in this hour of
crushing disaster men’s minds should involuntarily turn to the last male
heir of their ancient kings. Apart from these considerations, there was
something to be said in favour of the choice of one of the northern
earls. It must have been clear that Mercia and Northumbria would have to
bear the brunt of any resistance which might subsequently be made to the
invader, whose troops were already occupying the eastern shires of the
earldom of Wessex, and who would be certain before long to strike a blow
at London itself. But the success of Harold’s reign had not been such as
to invite a repetition of the experiment of his election. Edgar the
Etheling was chosen king, and the two brother earls withdrew to
Northumbria, imagining in their own minds, says William of Malmesbury,
that William would never come thither.[161]

This motive gives an interest to their withdrawal which is lost if we
regard it as a mere act of treachery to the national cause. There can be
little doubt that what Edwin and Morcar intended was a partition of the
kingdom between themselves and William, and it is at least questionable
whether such a plan had not a better prospect of success than an attempt
to recover the whole land for a king who had no personal qualities of
leadership, and who could never hope to attach to himself any of that
local sentiment in which lay the only real strength of the national
party. The idea of a divided kingdom was by no means chimerical. Old men
still living could remember the partition made by the treaty of Alney
between Edmund Ironside and Cnut, and it was not a sign of utter folly
for any man to suppose, within a week of the battle of Hastings, that
William, having settled his score with Harold, might content himself
with his rival’s patrimonial earldom of Wessex, leaving the north of
England to its existing rulers. No one at this date could be expected to
understand the extent to which William’s political ideas differed from
those of Cnut; nor need we suppose that Edwin and Morcar were mistaken
as to the reality, though they may have overestimated the military
value, of the feeling for local independence in their two great
earldoms. In the case of Northumbria, indeed, even after William’s
presence had been felt in every part of the land, so acute an observer
as Archbishop Lanfranc insisted on the subordination of the see of York
to that of Canterbury on the ground that an independent archbishop of
York might canonically consecrate an independent king of the
Northumbrians.[162] What was lacking to the plan was not local
separatism, but the skill and consistency of purpose which alone could
turn it to account. Neither the ignominious failure of Edwin and Morcar,
on the one hand, nor the grandiose phrases of chancery clerks about the
“Empire of Britain,” on the other, should blind us to the fact that
England was united only in name until the strong rule of its Norman
lords had made the king’s word as truly law in Yorkshire as in

While the English leaders were disposing of their crown William was
pursuing his deliberate course towards London by a route roughly
parallel with the coast of Kent and Sussex. His delay at Hastings had
not been time wasted; it allowed his troops to recover from the strain
and excitement of the great battle, and it gave him the opportunity of
receiving badly needed reinforcements from Normandy. On the 20th of
October, six days after the battle, the second stage of the conquest
began; William, with the main body of his army, moved out of Hastings,
leaving a garrison in the newly built castle, and marched across the
border of Kent to Romney. The men of the latter place had cut off a body
of Norman soldiers who had landed there by mistake before the battle of
Hastings; and the most famous sentence written by the Conqueror’s first
biographer relates how William at Romney “took what vengeance he would
for the death of his men.”[163] Having thus suggested by example the
impolicy of resistance, a march of fifteen miles between the Kentish
downs and the sea brought William to the greatest port and strongest
fortress in south England, the harbour and castle of Dover. The
foundation of the castle had probably been the work of Harold while earl
of Wessex, and, standing on the very edge of the famous cliffs
overhanging the sea, the fortress occupied a site which to Englishmen
seemed impregnable, and which was regarded as very formidable by the
Norman witnesses of this campaign.[164] The castle was packed with
fugitives from the surrounding country, but its garrison did not wait
for a formal demand for its surrender. Very probably impressed by what
had happened on the previous day at Romney, they met William half way
with the keys of the castle, and the surrender was duly completed when
the army arrived at Dover. It was William’s interest and intention to
treat a town which had submitted so readily as lightly as possible, but
the soldiers, possibly suspecting that the booty of the rich seaport was
to be withheld from them, got out of hand for once, and the town was set
on fire. William attempted to make good the damage to the citizens, but
found it impossible to punish the offenders as he wished, and ended by
expelling a number of Englishmen from their houses, and placing members
of his army in their stead.[165] Eight days were spent at Dover, during
which the fortifications of the castle were brought up to an improved
standard, and then William set out again “thoroughly to crush those whom
he had conquered.” But before his departure he appointed the castle as a
hospital for the invalided soldiers; for dysentery, which was set down
at the time to over-indulgence in fresh meat and strange water, had
played havoc with the army.[166]

With the surrender of Dover William’s communications with Normandy were
firmly secured, and he now struck out directly towards his destined
capital, along the Roman road which then, as at every period of English
history, formed the main line of communication between London and the
Kentish ports. Canterbury was the first place of importance on the way,
and its citizens followed the prudent example of the men of Dover.
Before William had gone far from Dover, the Canterbury men sent
messengers who swore fealty to him, and gave hostages, and—an act which
was a more unequivocal recognition of his title to the crown—brought him
the customary payment due yearly from the city to the king. From this
point, indeed, William had little reason to complain of the paucity of
surrenders; the Kentishmen, we are told, crowded into his camp and did
homage “like flies settling on a wound.”[167] But the even course of his
success was suddenly interrupted. On the last day of October, he took up
his quarters at a place vaguely described by William of Poitiers as the
“Broken Tower,” and was there seized by a violent illness, which kept
him for an entire month incapable of moving from the neighbourhood of
Canterbury. But, if we can trust the chronology of our authorities, it
was during this enforced delay that William received the submission of
the capital of Wessex. Winchester at this time had fallen somewhat from
its high estate under the West Saxon kings; along with certain other
towns it had been given by Edward the Confessor to his wife Eadgyth as
part of her marriage settlement, and it was now little more than the
residence of the dowager queen. On this account, we are told that
William thought it would be unbecoming in him to march and take the town
by force and arms, so he contented himself with a polite request for
fealty and “tribute.” Eadgyth complacently enough agreed, took counsel
with the leading citizens, and added her gifts to those which were
brought to William on behalf of the city.[168] This ready submission was
a fact of considerable importance. Winchester lay off the track of an
invader whose objective was London, and apart from his illness William
could scarcely have afforded to part with a detachment of his small army
sufficiently large to make certain the capture of the town. Yet the old
capital was a most ancient and honourable city, containing the hall of
the Saxon kings, in which probably were deposited the royal treasure and
regalia; and its surrender with the ostentatious approval of King
Edward’s widow was a useful recognition of William’s claim to be the
true heir of the Saxon dynasty. In his dealings with Winchester the
Conqueror’s example was followed by William Rufus, Henry I., and
Stephen, though the paramount necessity for them of seizing the royal
hoard at the critical moment of their disputed successions made them
each visit the royal city in person.[169]

On his recovery, at or near the beginning of December, William resumed
his advance on London. Doubtless Rochester made a peaceful surrender,
but we have no information as to this, nor as to any further details of
the long march until it brought the Conqueror within striking distance
of London. London, it is plain, was prepared for resistance; and the
narrow passage of the bridge, the only means of crossing the river at
this point, made the city virtually impregnable from the south. William
was not the man to waste valuable troops in a series of hopeless
assaults when a less expensive method might prevail, and on the present
occasion he merely sent out a body of five hundred knights to
reconnoitre. A detachment of the English was tempted thereby to make a
sally, but was driven back across the bridge with heavy loss, Southwark
was burned to the ground,[170] and William proceeded to repeat the plan
which had proved so successful in Maine three years before. Abandoning
all attempt to take the city by storm, he struck off on a great loop to
the west, and his passage can be traced clearly enough in Domesday Book
by the devastation from which a great part of Surrey and Berkshire had
not fully recovered twenty years afterwards. The Thames was crossed at
last at Wallingford, and it was there that William received the
submission of the first Englishman of high rank who realised that the
national cause was doomed. Stigand, the schismatic archbishop of
Canterbury, did homage and swore fealty, explicitly renouncing his
allegiance to Edgar the Etheling, in whose ill-starred election he had
played a leading part.[171] The weakness of Stigand’s canonical
position, which was certain to be called in question if William should
ever be firmly seated on the throne, made it advisable for him to make a
bid for favour by an exceptionally early submission, and it was no less
William’s policy graciously to accept the homage of the man who was at
least the nominal head of the church in England. Probably neither party
was under any misapprehension as to the other’s motives; but in being
suffered to enjoy his pluralities and appropriated church lands for
three years longer Stigand was not unrewarded for his abandonment of the
national cause at the critical moment.

The exact time and place at which the remaining English leaders gave in
their allegiance are rather uncertain. There is some reason, in the
distribution of the lands which Domesday implies to have undergone
deliberate ravage about this time, to suppose that, even when William
was on the London side of the Thames, he did not march directly on the
city, but continued to hold a north-easterly course, not turning
southwards until he had spread destruction across mid-Buckinghamshire
and south-west Bedfordshire. The next distinct episode in the process of
conquest occurred at a place called by the _Worcester Chronicle_
“Beorcham,” where allegiance was sworn to William on a scale which
proved that now at last his deliberate policy had done its intended
work, and that the party of his rival had fallen to pieces without
daring to contest the verdict given at Hastings in the open field. Edgar
the king-elect, and Archbishop Ealdred of York, with the bishops of
Worcester and Hereford, and a number of the more important citizens of
London “with many others met him [William], gave hostages, made their
submission, and swore fealty to him.” And William of Poitiers tells us
that when the army had just come in sight of London the bishop and other
magnates came out, surrendered the city, and begged William to assume
the crown, saying that they were accustomed to obey a king, and that
they wished to have a king for their lord. One is naturally tempted to
combine these two episodes, but this can only be done by abandoning the
old identification of “Beorcham” with Great Berkhampstead, thirty miles
from London, and by assuming the surrender to have taken place when the
army appeared on the edge of the Hertfordshire Chilterns overlooking the
Thames Valley, fifteen miles away, from the high ground of Little
Berkhampstead near Hertford.[172]

Whatever the exact place at which the offer of the crown was made to
William, it was straightway submitted by him to the consideration of the
chiefs of his army. Two questions were laid before them: whether it was
wise for William to allow himself to be crowned with his kingdom still
in a state of distraction, and—this last rather a matter of personal
feeling than of policy—whether he should not wait until his wife could
be crowned along with him. Apart from these considerations, the
assumption of the English crown was a step which concerned William’s own
Normans scarcely less intimately than his future English subjects. The
transformation of the duke of the Normans into the king of the English
was a process which possessed a vital interest for all those Normans who
were to become members of the English state, and William could not well
do less than consult them on the eve of such a unique event. As to the
ultimate assumption of the crown by William, no two opinions were
possible: Hamon, viscount of Thouars, an Aquitanian volunteer of
distinction, in voicing the sentiments of the army, began by remarking
that this was the one object of the enterprise; but he went on to
advocate a speedy coronation on the ground that were William once
crowned king resistance to him would be less likely undertaken and more
easily put down. With quite unintentional irony he added that the wisest
and most noble men of England would surely never have chosen William for
their king, unless they had seen in him a suitable ruler and one under
whom their own possessions and honours would probably be increased. To
guard against any wavering on the part of these “prudentissimi et optimi
viri,” William immediately sent on a detachment to take possession of
London and to build a castle in the city, while he himself, during the
few days which had to pass before the Christmas feast for which he had
fixed his coronation, devoted himself to sport in the wooded country of
south Hertfordshire.[173]

Of the deliberations within London which led to this unconditional
surrender on the part of the national leaders, we know little with any
certainty, but it is not improbable that at some stage in his great
march William had entered into negotiations with some of the chief men
in the etheling’s party. Our most strictly contemporary account of these
events[174] makes the final submission the result of a series of
messages exchanged between the duke and a certain “Esegar” the Staller,
on whom as sheriff of London and Middlesex fell the burden of providing
for the defence of the city. We are given to understand that William
sent privately to “Esegar” asking that he should be recognised as king
and promising to be guided in all things by the latter’s advice. On
receiving the message Esegar decided, rather unwisely, as the event
proved, to try and deceive William; so he called an assembly of the
eldest citizens and, laying the duke’s proposal before them, suggested
that he should pretend to agree with it and thus gain time by making a
false submission. We are not told the exact words of the reply which was
actually sent, but we are informed that William saw through the plan and
contrived to impress the messenger with his own greatness and the
certain futility of all resistance to him to such an extent that the
messenger on his return, by simply relating his experiences, induced the
men of London to abandon the etheling’s cause straightway. The tale
reads rather like an improved version of some simpler negotiations, but
that is no reason for its complete rejection, and we may not
unreasonably believe that, in addition to intimidating the city by his
ravages in the open country, William tried to accelerate matters by
tampering with some at least of those who were holding his future
capital against him.

On Christmas day William was crowned King of England in Westminster
Abbey by Archbishop Ealdred of York, a clear intimation that Stigand’s
opportunist submission would not avail to restore to him all the
prerogatives of the primacy. The ceremony was conducted with due regard,
as it would seem, to all the observances which had usually attended the
hallowing of the Anglo-Saxon kings, only on the present occasion it was
necessary to ask the assembled people in French as well as in English
whether they would accept William as their king. The archbishop of York
put the question in English, Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, that in
French, and the men of both races who were present in the Abbey gave a
vociferous assent. Unfortunately the uproar within the church was
misunderstood by the guard of Norman horsemen who were stationed
outside, and they, imagining that the new subjects of their duke were
trying to cut him down before the altar, sought to relieve his immediate
danger by setting fire to the wooden buildings around,[175] and so
creating a diversion. In this they were quite successful; amid
indescribable confusion the congregation rushed headlong out of the
church, some to save their own property, and some to take advantage of
so exceptional an opportunity of unimpeded plunder. The duke and the
officiating clergy were left almost alone; and in the deserted abbey
William, quivering with excitement,[176] became by the ritual of unction
and coronation the full and lawful successor of Alfred and Athelstan.
But before the crown was placed upon his head the Conqueror swore in
ancient words, which must have sounded ironical amid the noise and
tumult, that he would protect God’s churches and their rulers, would
govern all the people subjected to him with justice, would decree and
keep right law, and would quite forbid all violence and unjust
judgments.[177] And so the seal of the Church was set upon the work
which had been in fact begun on that morning, three months before, when
William and his army disembarked on the shore of Pevensey.

The disorder which had attended the coronation was actually the result
of a misapprehension on the part of William’s own followers, but he
evidently felt that the possibility of a sudden rising on the part of
the rich and independent city was a danger which should not be ignored.
Accordingly, to avoid all personal risk, while at the same time keeping
in close touch with his capital, William moved from London to Barking,
and stayed there while that most famous of all Norman fortresses, the
original “Tower of London,” was being built. Most probably it was during
this stay at Barking that William received the homage of such leading
Englishmen as had not been present at the submission on the
Hertfordshire downs. In particular Edwin and Morcar would seem to have
recognised the inevitable at this time[178]; the coronation of William
as king of all England by the metropolitan of York may have taught them
that a division of the kingdom no longer lay within the range of
practical politics. At any rate William did not think that it would be
well for him to let them out of his sight for a season, and within a few
days of the New Year they are found accompanying him as hostages into

Our sole knowledge of the general state of the country at this most
critical time comes from certain scattered writs which can be proved to
have been issued during the few weeks immediately following the
coronation. The information which they give is but scanty; they were of
course not intended to convey any historical information at all, but
they nevertheless help us to answer the important question how much of
England had really submitted for the time to William’s rule by the end
of 1066, and they do this in two ways. On the one hand, they were
witnessed by some of the more important men, English as well as Normans,
who were present in William’s court; on the other hand, we may safely
acquit William of the folly of sending his writs into counties in which
there was no probability that they would be obeyed. Foremost among the
documents comes a writ referring to land on the border of Wiltshire and
Gloucestershire, which shows us King William, like King Edward before
him, sending his orders to the native authorities of the shire—in the
present case the bishops of Ramsbury and Worcester, and two thegns named
Eadric and Brihtric, with whom, however, Count Eustace of Boulogne is
significantly associated.[179] From the other side of the country comes
a more famous document in which William, “at the request of Abbot
Brand,” grants to the said abbot and his monks of Peterborough the free
and full possession of a number of lands in Lincolnshire and
Nottinghamshire. Leofric, abbot of Peterborough, had been mortally
wounded at the battle of Hastings, and on his death the monks had chosen
their provost Brand as his successor. He, not discerning the signs of
the times, had gone and received confirmation from Edgar the Etheling,
of whose inchoate reign this is the only recorded event; and it required
the mediation of “many good men” and the payment of ten marks of gold to
appease the wrath of William at such an insult to his claim. The present
charter is the sign of William’s forgiveness, but for us its special
interest lies in the fact that it shows us the king’s word already
current by the Trent and Humber, while the appearance among its
witnesses of “Marleswegen the sheriff” shows that the man to whom Harold
had entrusted the command of the north did not see fit to continue
resistance to the new king of England.[180]


Much more evidence, if we can trust it, pointing in the same direction,
can be derived from a number of writs in English, which were apparently
granted at this time in favour of Westminster Abbey.[181] Nothing could
be more natural than that William at this time should show especial
favour to the great religious house within whose precincts he had so
recently been crowned, and although the language of these documents is
very corrupt, and the monks of Westminster Abbey were practised and
successful manufacturers of forged charters, there is not sufficient
reason for us to condemn the present writs as spurious. And if genuine,
and correctly dated, they add to the proof that William’s rule was
accepted in many shires which had never yet seen a Norman army. The king
greets Leofwine, bishop of Lichfield and Earl Edwin and all the thegns
of Staffordshire in one writ; Ealdred, archbishop, and Wulfstan, bishop,
and Earl William and all the thegns of Gloucestershire and
Worcestershire in another; and if his rule was accepted in these three
western shires, and also in the eastern counties represented by the
Peterborough document, the submission of the midlands and in fact of the
whole earldom of Mercia would seem to follow as a matter of course. It
is also worth noting that no document relating to Northumbria, the one
part of the country which offered a really protracted resistance to the
Norman Conquest, can be referred to this early period in William’s



All this, therefore, should warn us against underrating the immediate
political importance of the battle of Hastings. It did much more than
merely put William into possession of the lands under the immediate rule
of the house of Godwine; the overthrow of the national cause which it
implied brought about so general a submission to the Conqueror that,
with the possible exception of the Northumbrian risings, all subsequent
resistance to him may with sufficient accuracy be described as
rebellion. William, it would seem, at the time of his coronation, was
the accepted king of all England south of the Humber, and the evidence
which suggests this conclusion suggests also that at the outset of his
reign he wished to interfere as little as possible with the native
system of administration. Even in the counties which had felt his
devastating march, English sheriffs continued to be responsible for the
government of their wasted shires. Edmund, the sheriff of Hertfordshire,
and “Sawold,” the sheriff of Oxfordshire, may be found in other writs of
the Westminster series on which we have just commented. The Norman
Conquest was to be followed by an almost complete change in the
personnel of the English administration, but that change was first felt
in the higher departments of government; the sheriffs of Oxfordshire and
Gloucestershire were not displaced, but Earl William Fitz Osbern, Count
Eustace of Boulogne, and Bishop Odo of Bayeux begin to be held
responsible for the execution of the king’s will in the shires where
they had influence.

To the close of 1066 or the beginning of 1067 must also be assigned a
charter of exceptional form and some especial constitutional interest in
which King William grants Hayling Island, between Portsmouth and
Chichester, to the monastery of Jumièges. In this document William is
made to describe himself as lord of Normandy and “basileus” of England
by hereditary right, and to say that, “having undertaken the government
of England, he has conquered all his enemies.” One of these enemies,
namely Earl Waltheof, attests the charter in question, and is flanked in
the list of witnesses by Bishop Wulfwig of Dorchester, who died in 1067,
and by one Ingelric, a Lotharingian priest who is known to have enjoyed
William’s favour in the earliest years of his reign.[182] But it is the
phrase “hereditario jure” which deserves particular attention. Rarely
used in formal documents in later years, when the chancery formulas had
become stereotyped, the words have, nevertheless, a prospective as well
as a reflexive significance. They contain not only an enunciation of the
claims in virtue of which King William had “undertaken the government of
England,” but also a statement of the title by which that government
would be handed down to his descendants. For, whatever may have been the
title to the crown in the old English state, from the Norman Conquest
onwards it has clearly become “hereditary” in the only sense in which
any constitutional meaning can be attached to the word. Not a little of
the evidence which has been adduced in favour of an “elective” tenure of
the crown in Anglo-Norman and Angevin times is really the creation of an
arbitrary construction of the terms employed. “Hereditary right” is not
a synonym for primogeniture; the former words imply no more than that in
any case of succession the determining factors would be the kinship of
the proposed heir to the late ruler and the known intentions of the
latter with respect to his inheritance. Disputed successions there were
in plenty in the hundred and fifty years which followed the Conquest,
but the essence of the dispute in each case was the question which of
two claimants could put forward the best title which did not run counter
to hereditary principles. The strictest law of inheritance is liable to
be affected by extraneous complications when the crown is the stake at
issue, and the disqualification which in 1100 attached to Robert of
Normandy as an incapable absentee, in 1135 to Matilda the empress as a
woman and the wife of an unpopular foreigner, in 1199 to Arthur as an
alien and a minor, should not be allowed to mask the fact that in none
of these cases did the success of a rival claimant contravene the
validity of hereditary ideas. It was inevitable that, where the very
rules of inheritance themselves were vague and fluctuating, the
application made of them in any given instance should be guided by
expediency rather than by a rigid adherence to the strict forms of law;
yet nevertheless we may be sure that William Rufus and Henry I., like
William the Conqueror, would claim to hold the throne of England not
otherwise than “hereditario jure.”

At Barking the submission of the leading Englishmen went on apace.
Besides Edwin and Morcar, Copsige, a Northumbrian thegn, and three other
Englishmen called Thurkill, Siward, and Ealdred, were considered by
Norman writers men of sufficient importance to deserve mention by name,
and in addition to these shadowy figures we are told that many other
“nobles” also came in at this time.[183] No apparent notice was taken by
William of the tardiness of their submissions; all were received to
favour, and among them must very probably be included the victim of the
one great tragedy which stands out above all the disaster of the
Conquest, Waltheof, the son of Siward. Waltheof was confirmed in his
midland earldom of Northampton, and received a special mark of grace in
being allowed to marry the Conqueror’s niece Judith, daughter of
Enguerrand, the count of Ponthieu who had perished in the ambuscade at
St. Aubin in 1054, by Adeliz, the daughter of Robert of Normandy and
Arlette. Nor was this an isolated measure of conciliation, for one of
William’s own daughters was promised to Earl Edwin, and in general it
would seem that at this time any Englishman might look for favour if he
liked to do homage and propitiate the new king with a money gift. The
latter was essential, and from an incidental notice in the _Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle_, and a chance expression in the Domesday of Essex, it has
been inferred that a formal “redemption” of their lands on the part of
the English took place at this time.[184] The direct evidence for so
far-reaching an event is certainly slight, but it would fall in well
with the general theory of the Conquest if all Englishmen by the mere
fact of their nationality were held to have forfeited their lands.
William, it must always be remembered, claimed the throne of England by
hereditary right. He had been defrauded of his inheritance by the
usurpation of Harold, in whose reign, falsely so called according to the
Norman theory, all Englishmen had acquiesced, and might therefore justly
incur that confiscation which was the penalty, familiar alike to both
races, for treason. Stern and even grotesque as this theory may seem to
us, it was something more than a legal fiction, and we should be driven
to assume for ourselves some idea of the kind even if we did not possess
these casual expressions of the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ and the Domesday
scribe. On the one hand, all Englishmen had rejected William’s claim,
and so many as could be hurried down to Hastings in time had resisted
him in the open field; on the other hand, the number of Englishmen who
were still holding land of the king twenty years after the Conquest was
infinitesimal in comparison with the number who had suffered
displacement. It would be natural to connect these two facts, but
nothing is more probable in itself than that, before repeated rebellions
on the part of the English had sharpened the edge of the Norman theory,
the conquered race was given an opportunity of compounding for its
original sin by making a deprecatory payment to the new lord of the

Nevertheless, it is to this period that we must undoubtedly assign the
initial stages of the process which, before twenty years were over, was
to substitute an alien baronage for the native thegnhood of England. It
was clearly necessary that William should give some earnest at least of
the spoils of war to his leading followers, and the amount of land
already at his disposal must have been very considerable. The entire
possessions of the house of Godwine were in his hands, and the one form
of statecraft which that family had pursued with consistency and success
had been the acquisition of landed property, nor do the dubious methods
by which much of that property had been originally acquired seem to have
invalidated King William’s tenure of it. The battle of Hastings,
moreover, had been very fatal to the land-owning class of the southern
shires, and no exception could be taken to William’s right to dispose of
the lands of men who had actually fallen whilst in arms against him.
Even in this simple way, the king had become possessed of no small
territory out of which he could reward his followers, and the
complicated nature of the Anglo-Saxon land-law assisted him still
further in this respect. If, for instance, a thegn of Surrey had
“commended” himself and his land to Harold as earl of Wessex, King
William would naturally inherit all the rights and profits which were
involved in the act of commendation: he could make a grant of them to a
Norman baron, and thus, without direct injury being done to any man, the
Norman would become possessed of an interest in the land in question,
which, under the influence of the feudal ideas which accompanied the
Conquest, would rapidly harden into direct ownership. In fact, there
exists a considerable quantity of evidence which would suggest that a
portion at least of the old English land-owning class was not displaced
so much as submerged; that the Norman nobility was superimposed upon it
as it were, and that the processes of thought which underlay feudal law
invested the newcomers with rights and duties which made them in the
eyes of the state the only recognised owners of the lands they held. We
possess no detailed account of the great “confiscation” earlier than the
Domesday Survey of twenty years after the battle of Hastings, and apart
from the changes which must have occurred in the course of nature in
that time, the great survey is not the sort of authority to which we
should look for an accurate register of the fluctuating and inconsistent
principles of a law of ownership which was derived from, and had to be
applied to, conditions which were unique in Western Europe. But _a
priori_ it is not probable that all the thousands of cases in which an
English land-owner has disappeared, and is represented by a Norman
successor, should be explained by exactly the same principle in every
instance. In one case the vanished thegn may have set out with Harold to
the place of battle, and his holding have been given outright by the new
king to some clamorous follower; in another, a dependent of the English
earl of Mercia may have become peaceably enough a dependent of the
Norman earl of Shrewsbury, and have sunk into the undifferentiated
peasant class before the time arrived for Domesday to take cognisance of
him; a third Englishman may have made his way to the court at Barking
and bought his land of the Conqueror for his own life only, leaving his
sons to seek their fortunes in Scotland or at Constantinople. The
practical completeness of the actual transfer from the one race to the
other should not lead us to exaggerate the simplicity of the measures by
which it was brought about.[185]

One word should perhaps be said here about the character of the
Anglo-Saxon thegnhood, on which the Conqueror’s hand fell so heavily. It
was far from being a homogeneous class. At one end of the scale were
great men like Esegar the Staller or Tochi the son of Outi, whose wide
estates formed the bulk of the important Domesday fiefs of Geoffrey de
Mandeville and Geoffrey Alselin. But, on the other hand, a very large
proportion of the total number of men styled “thegns” can have been
scarcely superior to the great mass of the peasantry whom the Norman
lawyers styled collectively “villeins.” When we find in a
Nottinghamshire village five thegns, each in his “hall,” owning between
them land worth only ten shillings a year,[186] we see that we must
beware of the romantic associations aroused by the word “thegn.” These
men can have been distinguished from the peasantry around them by little
except a higher personal status expressed in a proportionately higher
_wergild_, and their depression into the peasant class would be rendered
fatally easy by the fact that the law of status was the first part of
the Anglo-Saxon social system to become antiquated. When the old rules
about _wer_ and _wite_ had been replaced by the new criminal
jurisprudence elaborated by the Norman conquerors, the one claim of
these mean thegns to superior social consideration vanished. And lastly,
it should be noted that where the Domesday Survey does reveal members of
the thegnly class continuing to hold land directly of the king in 1086,
it shows us at the same time that the class is very far from being
regarded as on an equality with the Norman baronage. The king’s thegns
are placed after the tenants in chief by military service, even after
the king’s servants or “sergeants” of Norman birth; they are only
entered as it were on sufferance, under a heading to themselves, at the
very end of the descriptions of the several shires in which they are to
be found.[187] They belonged in fact to an order of society older than
the Norman military feudalism which supplanted them, and by the date of
the Domesday Survey they were rapidly becoming extinct as a class in the
shires south of the Humber, but no financial record like Domesday Book
could be expected to tell us what became of them. Mere violent
dispossession would no doubt be a great part of the story if told, but
much of the change would have to be set down to the silent processes of
economic and social reorganisation.

There remains one other legal document, more famous than any of these
which we have considered, which was most probably granted at or about
this time. The city of London had to be rewarded for its genuine, if
belated, submission, and the form of reward which would be likely to
prove most acceptable to the citizens would be a written security that
their ancient customs and existing property should be respected by the
new sovereign. And so “William the king greets William the bishop and
Geoffrey the port-reeve and all the burghers, French and English, within
London,” and tells them that they are to enjoy all the customs which
they possessed in King Edward’s time, that each man’s property shall
descend to his children, and that the king himself will not suffer any
man to do them wrong.[188] Yet, satisfactory as this document may have
been as a pledge of reconciliation between the king and his capital, it
nevertheless bears witness in its formula of address to a significant
change. Geoffrey the port-reeve is a Norman; he is very probably the
same man as Geoffrey de Mandeville, the grandfather of the turbulent
earl of Essex of Stephen’s day,[189] and his appearance thus early in
the place of Esegar the Staffer suggests that the latter had gained
little by his duplicity in the recent negotiations. It was of the first
importance for William to be able to feel that London at least was in
safe hands; he could not well entrust his capital and its new fortress
to a man who had so recently held the city against him.

William’s rule in England was by this time so far accepted that he could
afford to recross the Channel and show himself to his old subjects
invested with his new dignities. The regency of Matilda and her advisers
had, as far as we know, passed in perfect order, but it was only fitting
that William should take the earliest opportunity of proving to the men
of the duchy the perfect success of the enterprise, the burden of which
they had borne with such notable alacrity. It was partly no doubt as an
ostensible mark of confidence in English loyalty that, before crossing
the Channel, William dismissed so many of his mercenary troops as wished
to return home[190]; but their dismissal coincides in point of time with
a general foundation of castles at important strategic points all over
the south of England. The Norman castle was even more repugnant than the
Norman man-at-arms to the Anglo-Saxon mind, and when the native
chronicler gives us his estimate of William’s character and reign he
breaks out into a poetic declamation as he describes the castles which
the king ordered to be built and the oppression thereby caused to poor
men.[191] But deeper than any memory of individual wrong must have
rankled the thought that it was these new castles which had really
rendered hopeless for ever the national cause of England; that local
discontent might seethe and murmur in every shire without causing the
smallest alarm to the alien lords ensconced in their stockaded mounds.
The Shropshire-born Orderic, writing in his Norman monastery, gives us
the true military reason for the final overthrow of his native country
when he tells us that the English possessed very few of those
fortifications which the Normans called castles, and that for this
reason, however brave and warlike they might be, they could not keep up
a determined resistance to their enemies. William himself had learned in
Normandy how slow and difficult a task it was to reduce a district
guarded by even the elementary fortifications of the eleventh century;
he might be confident that the task would be impossible for scattered
bodies of rustic Englishmen, in revolt and without trained leadership.

But for the present there seems to have been no thought of revolt; the
castles were built with a view to future emergencies. No very elaborate
arrangements were made for the government of England in William’s
absence. It was entrusted jointly to William Fitz Osbern, the duke’s
oldest friend, and Odo of Bayeux, his half-brother, who were to be
assisted by such distinguished leaders of the army of invasion as Hugh
de Grentmaisnil, Hugh de Montfort, and William de Warenne. The bishop of
Bayeux was made primarily responsible for the custody of Kent, with its
all-important ports, and the formidable castle of Dover. Hugh de
Grentmaisnil appears in command of Hampshire with his headquarters at
Winchester; his brother-in-law, Humphrey de Tilleul, had received the
charge of Hastings castle when it was built and continued to hold it
still; William Fitz Osbern, who had previously been created earl of
Hereford, seems to have been entrusted with the government of all
England between the Thames and the earldom of Bernicia, with a possible
priority over his colleagues.[192] On his part, William took care to
remove from the country as many as possible of the men round whom a
national opposition might gather itself. Edgar the Etheling, earls
Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof, with Archbishop Stigand, and a prominent
Kentish thegn called Ethelnoth, were requested to accompany their new
king on his progress through his continental dominions.[193] We cannot
but suspect that William must have felt the humour as well as the policy
of attaching to his train three men each of whom had hoped to be king of
the English himself; but it would have been impossible for the native
leaders to refuse to grace the protracted triumphs of their conqueror,
and early in the year the company set sail, with dramatic fitness, from

In the accounts which we possess of this visit, it appears as little
more than a series of ecclesiastical pageants. William was wisely
prodigal of the spoils of England to the churches of his duchy. The
abbey church of Jumièges, whose building had been the work of Robert,
the Confessor’s favourite, was visited and dedicated on the 1st of July,
but before this the king had kept a magnificent Easter feast at
Fécamp[194] where, thirty-two years before, Duke Robert of Normandy had
prevailed upon the Norman baronage to acknowledge his seven-year-old
illegitimate son as his destined successor. The festival at Fécamp was
attended by a number of nobles from beyond the Norman border, who seem
to have regarded Edwin and Morcar and their fellows as interesting
barbarians, whose long hair gave unwonted picturesqueness to a formal
ceremony. At St.-Pierre-sur-Dive, where William had spent four weary
weeks in the previous autumn, waiting for a south wind, another great
assembly was held on the 1st of May, to witness the consecration of the
new church of Notre Dame. Two months later came the hallowing of
Jumièges; and the death of Archbishop Maurilius of Rouen, early in
August, seems to have given occasion for another of these great councils
to meet and confirm the canonical election of his successor. The monks
of Rouen cathedral had chosen no less a person than Lanfranc of Caen as
their head, but he, possibly not without a previous consultation with
his friend and lord King William, declined the office, and when on a
second election John, bishop of Avranches, was chosen, Lanfranc went to
Rome and obtained the pallium for him.[195] Whether Lanfranc’s journey
possessed any significance in view of impending changes in the English
Church, is unfortunately uncertain for lack of evidence; but his refusal
of the metropolitan see of Normandy suggests that already he was
privately reserved for greater things. In any case, he is the man to
whom we should naturally expect William to entrust such messages as he
might think prudent to send to the Pope concerning his recent
achievements and future policy in England.

From his triumphal progress in Normandy, William was recalled by bad
news from beyond the Channel. Neither of his lieutenants seems to have
possessed a trace of the more statesmanlike qualities of his chief.
William Fitz Osbern, good soldier and faithful friend to William as we
may acknowledge him to have been, did not in the least degree understand
the difficult task of reconciling a conquered people to a change of
masters, and Bishop Odo has left a sinister memory on English soil.
William’s departure for Normandy was signalised by a general outbreak of
the characteristic vices of an army of occupation, in regard to which
the regents themselves, according to the Norman account, were not a
little to blame. Under the stimulus of direct oppression, and in the
temporary absence of the dreaded Conqueror, the passive discontent of
the English broke out into open revolt in three widely separated parts
of the kingdom.

Of the three risings, that in the north was perhaps the least
immediately formidable, but the most suggestive of future difficulties
for the Norman rulers. Copsige, the Northumbrian thegn who had submitted
at Barking, had been invested with the government of his native
province, but the men of that district continued to acknowledge an
English ruler in Oswulf, the son of Eadwulf, who had been subordinate
earl of Bernicia under Morcar. Copsige in the first instance was able to
dispossess his rival, but the latter bided his time, collected around
him a gang of outlaws, and surprised Copsige as he was feasting one day
at Newburn-on-Tyne. The earl escaped for a moment, and took sanctuary in
the village church; but his refuge was betrayed, the church was
immediately set on fire, and he himself was cut down as he tried to
break away from the burning building.[196] The whole affair was not so
much a deliberate revolt against the Norman rule as the settlement of a
private feud after the customary Northumbrian fashion, and it may quite
possibly have taken place before William had sailed for Normandy. Oswulf
was able to maintain himself through the following summer, but then met
his end in an obscure struggle with a highway robber, and the province
was left without an earl until the end of the year, when Gospatric, the
son of Maldred, a noble who possessed an hereditary claim to the title,
came to court and bought the earldom outright from William.[197] In the
meantime, however, the Northumbrians were well content with a spell of
uncontested anarchy, and they made no attempt to assist the insurgents
elsewhere in the country.

The leader of the western rising was a certain Edric, nicknamed the
“Wild,” whom the Normans believed to be the nephew of Edric Streona, the
famous traitor of Ethelred’s time. This man had submitted to the
Conqueror, but apparently refused to accompany him into Normandy, and
the Norman garrison of Hereford castle began to ravage his lands. In
this way he was driven into open revolt, and he thereupon invited
Bleddyn and Rhiwallon, the kings of Gwynedd and Powys, to join him in a
plundering expedition over Herefordshire, which devastated that country
as far as the river Lugg, but cannot have done much to weaken the Norman
military possession of the shire.[198] Having secured much booty, Edric
withdrew into the hills with his Welsh allies, and next appears in
history two years later, when he returned to play a part in the general
tumult which disquieted England in 1069.

The most formidable of the three revolts which marked the period of
William’s absence had for its object the recovery of Dover castle from
its Norman garrison.[199] It is the one rising of the three which has an
intelligible military motive, and it contains certain features which
suggest that it was planned by some one possessed of greater political
ability than can be credited to the ordinary English thegn. Count
Eustace of Boulogne, the man of highest rank among the French
auxiliaries of the Conqueror, had already received an extensive grant of
land in England as the reward for his services in the campaign of
Hastings, but he had somehow fallen into disfavour with the king and had
left the country. The rebel leaders knowing this, and judging the count
to be a competent leader, chose for once to forget racial differences in
a possible chance of emancipation, and invited him to cross the Channel
and take possession of Dover castle. Eustace, like Stephen of Blois, a
more famous count of Boulogne, found it an advantage to control the
shortest passage from France to England; he embarked a large force of
knights on board a number of vessels which were at his command, and made
a night crossing in the hope of finding the garrison within the castle
off their guard. At the moment of his landing Odo of Bayeux and Hugh de
Montfort happened to have drawn off the main body of their troops across
the Thames; a fact which suggests that the rebels had observed unusual
secrecy in planning their movements. The count was therefore able to
occupy the town, and to lay siege to the castle without hindrance, but
failed to take the garrison by surprise, as he had hoped, and met a
spirited resistance. The assault lasted for some hours, but the garrison
more than held their own, and at last Eustace gave his troops the signal
to retire to their ships, although it was known that a delay of two days
would have brought large reinforcements to the side of the insurgents.
It must also have been known that the same time would have brought Odo
of Bayeux with his trained troops within dangerous proximity to Dover;
and the impossibility in the eleventh century of successfully conducting
a siege against time is some excuse for Eustace’s rather ignominious
withdrawal. The first sign of retreat, however, was turned to the
advantage of the garrison, who immediately made a sally and threw the
besiegers into a state of confusion which was heightened by a false
rumour that the bishop of Bayeux was at hand. A large part of the
Boulogne force was destroyed in a desperate attempt to reach the ships,
a number of men apparently trying to climb down the face of the cliffs
on which Dover castle stands. Count Eustace himself, who knew the
neighbourhood, became separated from his men and escaped on horseback to
an unrecorded port, where he was fortunate enough to find a ship ready
to put out to sea. The English, thus deprived of their leader, dispersed
themselves over the country, and so avoided the immediate consequences
of their rout, since the Norman force in Dover was not strong enough to
hunt down the broken rebels along all their scattered lines of

With his kingdom outwardly restored to order, but simmering with
suppressed revolt, William set sail from Dieppe on the 6th of December,
and landed at Winchelsea on the following day. Queen Matilda was still
left in charge of Normandy, but her eldest son, Robert, was now
associated with her in the government, and Roger de Beaumont, who had
been the leading member of her council during her regency in 1066, on
this occasion accompanied his lord to England.[201] The king kept his
Christmas feast at Westminster; a ceremony in which the men of both
races joined on an equal footing, and for the moment there may have
seemed a possibility that the recent disorders had really been the last
expiring efforts of English nationalism. Yet the prospect for the new
year was in reality very threatening. The political situation in England
at this time is well described by Ordericus Vitalis, who tells us that
every district of which William had taken military possession lay at his
command, but that in the extreme north and west men were only prepared
to render such obedience as pleased themselves, wishing to be as
independent of King William as they had formerly been independent of
King Edward and his predecessors.[202] This attitude, which supplies a
partial explanation of the overthrow of England in 1066, and a partial
justification of the harrying of Northumbria in 1069, supplies also a
clue to the purpose underlying William’s ceaseless activity during the
next two years. At Exeter, Stafford, and York, William was, in effect,
teaching his new subjects that he would be content with nothing less
than the unqualified submission of the whole land; that England was no
longer to be a collection of semi-independent earldoms, but a coherent
state, under the direct rule of a king identified with Wessex no more
than with Northumbria or East Anglia. The union of England, thus brought
at last into being, was no doubt achieved almost unconsciously under the
dictation of the practical expediency of the moment, but this does not
detract from the greatness of the work itself, nor from the strength and
wisdom of the Conqueror whose memorial it is.

Meanwhile, danger from a distant quarter was threatening the Norman
possession of England. Events which were matters of very recent history
had proved that English politics were still an object of interest to the
rulers of Norway and Denmark; and the present was an opportunity which
could not fail to attract any Scandinavian prince who would emulate the
glory of the great kings of the last generation. The death of Harold
Hardrada, which had thrown the Norwegian claims on England into abeyance
for a time, had left Swegn Estrithson, king of Denmark, unquestionably
the most considerable personage in the Scandinavian world; and to him
accordingly the English leaders, or such at least of them as were at
liberty, had appealed for help during the preceding months.[203] As a
Dane himself and the nephew of Cnut, Swegn Estrithson could command the
particular sympathy of the men of Northumbria and would not be
unacceptable to the men of the southern Danelaw; no native claimant
possessed similar advantages in respect to anything like so large a part
of England. Swegn indeed, whose prevailing quality was a caution which
contrasts strangely with the character of his Danish ancestors and of
his great Norwegian rival, had delayed taking action up to the present,
but it was the fear that a northern fleet might suddenly appear in the
Humber which had really been the immediate cause of William’s return
from Normandy.

At this moment, with the imminent probability of invasion hanging over
the north and east of his kingdom, William was called away from his
head-quarters at London by the necessity of suppressing a dangerous
rising in the extreme west. It is probable that William’s rule had not
yet been commonly recognised beyond the eastern border of Devonshire,
although on the evidence of writs we know that Somerset was already
showing him ostensible obedience. But the main interest of the following
episode lies in the strangely independent attitude adopted by the city
of Exeter. In the eleventh century the capital of Devon could
undoubtedly claim to rank with York, Norwich, and Winchester among the
half-dozen most powerful cities in England. With its strong
fortifications which made it in a sense the key of the Damnonian
peninsula, commanding also important trade routes between England,
Ireland, and Brittany, Exeter in English hands would be a standing
menace to the Norman rule scarcely less formidable than an independent
York. The temper of the citizens was violently anti-Norman, and they
proceeded to take energetic measures towards making good their defence,
going so far as to impress into their service such foreign merchants
within the city as were able to bear arms. We are also told that they
tried to induce other cities to join them in resisting the foreign king,
and it is not impossible that they may have drawn reinforcements from
the opposite shore of Brittany. It was of the first importance for
William to crush a revolt of this magnitude before it had time to
spread, but before taking action, and probably in order to test the
truth of the reports which had come to him as to what was going on in
Devonshire, he sent to demand that the chief men of Exeter should take
the oath of allegiance to him. They in reply proposed a curious
compromise, saying that they were willing to pay the customary dues of
their city to the king, but that they would not swear allegiance to him
nor admit him within their walls. This was almost equivalent to defiance
and elicited from William the remark that it was not his custom to have
subjects on such terms. Negotiations in fact ceased; Devonshire became a
hostile country, and William marched from London, making the experiment,
doubly bold at such a crisis, of calling out the native fyrd to assist
in the reduction of their countrymen.

The men of Exeter, on hearing the news of William’s approach, began to
fear that they had gone too far; and, as the king drew near, the chief
men of the city came out to meet him, bringing hostages and making a
complete capitulation. William halted four miles from the city, but the
envoys on their return found that their fellow-citizens, unwilling
apparently to trust to the king’s mercy, were making preparations for a
continued resistance, and they threw in their lot with their townsmen.
William was filled with fury on hearing the news. His position was
indeed sufficiently difficult. It was the depth of winter; part of his
army was composed of Englishmen whose loyalty might not survive an
unexpected check to his arms, and Swegn of Denmark might land in the
east at any moment. Before investing the city William tried a piece of
intimidation, and when the army had moved up to the walls, one of the
hostages was deliberately blinded in front of the gate. But it would
seem that the determination of the citizens was only strengthened by the
ghastly sight, and for eighteen days William was detained before the
gates of Exeter, despite his constant endeavours either to carry the
walls by assault or to undermine them.

At last, after many of his men had fallen in the attack, it would seem
that the Conqueror for once in his life was driven to offer terms to the
defenders of a revolted city. The details of the closing scene of the
siege are not very clear; but it is probable that the more important
citizens were now, as earlier in the struggle, in favour of submission,
and that they persuaded their fellows to take advantage of King
William’s offer of peace. They had indeed a particular reason for trying
to secure the royal favour, for the chief burden of taxation in any town
fell naturally upon its wealthier inhabitants, and on the present
occasion William seems to have given a promise that the customary
payments due to the king from the town should not be increased. The
poorer folk of Exeter secured a free pardon and a pledge of security for
life and property, but the conduct of their leaders undoubtedly implies
a certain lack of disinterested zeal for the national cause; and the
native chronicler significantly remarks that the citizens gave up the
town “because the thegns had betrayed them.” The other side of the
picture is shown by Ordericus Vitalis, who describes how “a procession
of the most beautiful maidens, the elders of the city, and the clergy
carrying their sacred books and holy vessels” went out to meet the king,
and made submission to him. It has been conjectured with great
probability that the real object of the procession was to obtain from
the king an oath to observe the terms of the capitulation sworn on the
said “sacred books and holy vessels,” and in any case the witness of
Domesday Book shows that Exeter suffered no fiscal penalty for its
daring resistance. To keep the men of Exeter in hand for the future a
castle was built and entrusted to Baldwin de Meules, the son of Count
Gilbert of Brionne, but this was no mark of particular disfavour, for it
was universally a matter of policy for William to guard against civic
revolts by the foundation of precautionary fortresses.[204]

One immediate consequence of the fall of Exeter was the flight and final
exile of one of the two greatest ladies in England at this time. Gytha,
the niece of Cnut, and the widow of Earl Godwine, through whom Harold
had inherited a strain of royal blood, had taken refuge in Exeter, and
now, before William had entered the city, made her escape by water with
a number of other women, who probably feared the outrages which were
likely to occur upon the entry of the northern army. They must have
rounded the Land’s End, and sailed up the Bristol Channel, for they next
appear as taking up their quarters on a dismal island known as the Flat
Holme, off the coast of Glamorgan. Here they stayed for a long while,
but at last in despair the fugitives left their cheerless refuge and
sailed without molestation to Flanders, where they landed, and were
hospitably entertained at St. Omer. Nothing more is recorded of the
countess; but her daughter Gunhild entered the monastic life and died in
peace in Flanders in 1087, some two months before the great enemy of her
house expired at Rouen.

It is likely enough that Gytha chose the Flat Holme as her place of
refuge with the hope of joining in a movement which at this time was
gathering head among the English exiles in Ireland. It is at least
certain that, before the summer was over, three of Harold’s illegitimate
sons, who had spent the previous year with the king of Dublin, suddenly
entered the Devon seas with fifty-four ships. They harassed the south
coast of the Bristol Channel, and even made bold to enter the Avon and
attack Bristol itself, but were driven off without much difficulty by
the citizens of the wealthy port, and sailing back disembarked at some
unknown point on the coast of Somerset. Here they were caught and
soundly beaten by the Somersetshire natives under the leadership of
Ednoth, an Englishman who had been master of the horse to Edward the
Confessor, but who was clearly ready to do loyal service to the new
king. Ednoth was killed in the battle, but the raiders were compelled to
take to their ships, and after a brief spell of desultory ravage along
the coast they sailed back to Ireland, having done nothing to weaken the
Norman grip upon the south-west of England, but gaining sufficient
plunder to induce them to repeat their expedition in the course of the
following year.[205]

It was well for William that even at the cost of some loss of prestige
he had gained possession of Exeter in the first months of 1068, for the
remainder of the year saw a general outburst of revolt against the
Norman rule. Before returning to the east of England, William made an
armed demonstration in Cornwall; and it was very possibly at this time
that he established his half-brother, Count Robert of Mortain, in a
territorial position in that Celtic land which shows that the Conqueror
was quite willing upon occasions to create compact fiefs according to
the continental model. Count Robert was never invested with any formal
earldom of Cornwall, but in the western peninsula he occupied a position
of greater territorial strength, if of lower official rank, than that
held by his brother, Bishop Odo, in his distant shire of Kent. The
revolt of Exeter had no doubt taught William that it would be advisable
to take any future rising in Devonshire in the rear by turning Cornwall
into a single Norman estate, and his own presence with an army in the
west at this time would go far to simplify the preliminary work of

His Cornish progress over, King William marched eastwards, disbanded the
fyrd, and kept his Easter feast (March 23d) at Winchester. For a few
weeks the land was at peace, and during this breathing space the Duchess
Matilda came across into England, and was crowned at Westminster on
Whitsunday (May 11th), by Ealdred, archbishop of York. The event was a
clear expression of William’s desire to reign as an English king, for
Matilda stayed in England, and her fourth son, Henry, who was born early
in the next year, possessed in English eyes the precedence, which by
Anglo-Saxon custom belonged to the son of a crowned king and his lady,
born in the land. Robert, the destined heir of Normandy, seems to have
remained in charge of the duchy, and Richard, the Conqueror’s second
son, probably accompanied his mother across the Channel. By a fortunate
chance, we happen to know with exactitude the names of those who were
present at the Whitsuntide festival,[206] and the list is significant.
Among the members of the clerical estate the Norman hierarchy supplied
the bishops of Bayeux, Lisieux, and Coutances, but the arch-bishops of
Canterbury and York and the bishops of Exeter, Ramsbury, Wells, and
London were all of English appointment, although the last four of them
were of foreign birth, and the eight abbots who were present were also
men of King Edward’s day. The laymen who attended the ceremony formed a
more heterogeneous group; Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof seem strangely out
of place side by side with the counts of Mortain and Eu; with William
Fitz Osbern, Roger de Montgomery and Richard, the son of Count Gilbert
of Brionne. The company which came together in Westminster Abbey on that
Whitsunday supplies a striking picture of the old order which was
changing but had not yet given place to the new, and it is a notable
thing that the ancestress of all Plantagenet, Tudor, and Stuart kings
should have been crowned in the sight of men who had held the highest
place in the realm in the last days of independent England.

This solemn inauguration of the new dynasty can have been passed but a
few weeks before William had to resume the dreary task of suppressing
his irreconcilable subjects. After a year and a half of acquiescence in
the Norman rule, Earls Edwin and Morcar suddenly made a spasmodic
attempt to raise the country against the foreigners. Their position at
William’s court must have been ignominious at the best, and although, as
we have seen, the king had promised one of his daughters in marriage to
Edwin, he had withheld her up to the present in deference to the
jealousy which his Normans felt for the favoured Englishman. Under the
smart of their personal grievances, Edwin and his brother broke away
from the court, and headed a revolt which, although general in
character, seems to have received most support in Morcar’s earldom of
Northumbria. The rising is also marked by a revival of the alliance
between the house of Leofric and the Welsh princes which had been an
occasional cause of disquiet during the Confessor’s reign; for Bleddyn,
the king of North Wales, came to the assistance of Edwin and
Morcar,[207] as in the previous year he had joined the Herefordshire
raid of Edric the Wild. The rising was the occasion for a general
secession of the leading Englishmen from William’s court, for Edgar the
Etheling and his mother and sisters, together with Marleswegen and many
prominent Northumbrians, headed by Gospatric, their newly appointed
earl, probably fearing that they might be held implicated in the guilt
of Edwin and Morcar, made a speedy departure for the north country.[208]

The focus of disturbance was evidently the city of York. It is not
probable that William had hitherto made any systematic attempt to
establish Norman rule beyond the Humber, but we get a glimpse of the
venerable Archbishop Aldred making strenuous efforts to restrain the
violence of the men of his city. His protestations were useless, and
while the Northumbrians were enthusiastically preparing for war after
the manner of their ancestors, William was taking steps which brought
the revolt to an end within a few weeks without the striking of a single

It is in connection with these events that Orderic makes the
observations which have already been quoted about the part played by the
Norman castle in thwarting the bravest efforts of insurgent Englishmen.
Some of the greatest fortresses of medieval England derive their origin
from the defensive posts founded by William during the war of 1068. “In
consequence of these commotions,” said Orderic, “the King carefully
surveyed the most inaccessible points in the country, and, selecting
suitable places, fortified them against the raids of the enemy.”[209]
But besides these “inaccessible points” we have seen that William made
it a matter of regular policy to plant a castle in all the greater
boroughs and along all the more important lines of road in the country,
and, the present campaign affords an excellent example of his practice
in this matter. The first fortress recorded as having been built at this
time was the humble earthwork which developed in the next two centuries
into the magnificent castle of Warwick. Henry de Beaumont, son of the
Roger de Beaumont who had been Queen Matilda’s adviser in 1066, was
placed in command of it, and the Conqueror marched northward; but,
possibly before he had left the Avon valley, Edwin and Morcar, now as
ever unable to follow a consistent course of action, suddenly abandoned
their own cause and made an ignominious submission. The surrender of the
rebel leaders did not affect the king’s movements; he continued his
advance, probably harrying the plain of Leicester as he passed across
it, and at Nottingham, on a precipitous cliff overhanging the town, he
placed another castle, commanding the Trent valley at the point where
the river is crossed by one of the great roads from London to the north
of England. The march was resumed without delay, and at some point on
the road north of Nottingham the army was met by the citizens of York,
bringing the keys of their city, and offering to give hostages for their
future good behaviour. The defection of Edwin and Morcar had deprived
the rising of its nominal leaders, and the military occupation of
Nottingham had threatened to isolate the revolted area; but it is
also probable that William’s rapid movements had surprised the
defenders of the northern capital before their preparations were
completed. At York itself a certain Archil, who was regarded by the
Normans as the most powerful man in Northumbria, came in to William and
gave his son as a hostage, and on the line of the city walls, at the
junction of the rivers Ouse and Foss, there arose the third castle of
this campaign, now represented only by the mound on which rests the
famous medieval keep known as “Clifford’s Tower.” The fortress was
garrisoned with picked men, but its castellan, Robert Fitz Richard, is
only known to us through the circumstances of his death in the next

Other matters than the fortifications of York demanded King William’s
attention at this time. Danger was threatening from the side of
Scotland, for the rebels had sought the help of King Malcolm Canmore,
and a great army was gathering beyond the Tweed. The northern frontier
of England was as yet unprotected by the castles of Berwick and
Carlisle, and on the west the possessions of the king of Scots extended
as far south as Morecambe Bay. Also the best English authority asserts
that Edgar the Etheling and his friends had already taken refuge with
King Malcolm on their flight from William’s court, and the marriage of
the etheling’s sister to the Scottish king was very shortly to make the
northern kingdom a _point d’appui_ for all unquiet nationalists in
England. There was clearly good reason for William to define his
position with regard to the king of Scots, and this the more as it would
give him an opportunity of claiming fealty as well as submission at a
moment when he was all-powerful in the north. An ambassador was found in
the person of Bishop Ethelwine of Durham, who had revolted with the rest
of Northumbria, but had made his peace with the Conqueror, and conducted
the present business to a successful issue. King Malcolm sent
representatives to York in company with the bishop of Durham, and
according to the Norman account they swore fealty to William in the name
of their master. It was no part of the Conqueror’s plan to engage in an
unnecessary war in Scotland, and, all the purposes of his northern
journey being for the present accomplished, he turned south again by way
of Lincoln, Huntingdon, and Cambridge, at each of which places the
inevitable castle was raised and garrisoned.[210]

[Illustration: Denier of Baldwin of Lille]

                              CHAPTER VII

The year 1068 had closed under a specious appearance of peace, and the
only result of the revolts of Exeter and York had been a proof of the
futility of isolated resistance to a king who could strike with equal
decision at the west or north. The following year opened with two
north-country risings which formed an unconcerted prelude to fifteen
months of incessant strife, in which the strength of the Norman hold on
England was finally tested and proved. The flight of Gospatric in the
previous summer had vacated the Bernician earldom, and at the beginning
of 1069 the Conqueror tried the experiment of appointing a Norman baron
to the command of the border province. His choice fell on one Robert de
Comines, who immediately set out for the north at the head of a force of
five hundred knights. The news of his appointment preceded him, and the
men of Northumbria, who had enjoyed virtual independence for two years,
were not minded to submit quietly to the rule of a foreign earl. A
league was accordingly formed, the members of which bound themselves
either to kill the stranger or to perish in the attempt. Bishop
Ethelwine of Durham had evidently heard rumours of the plot, for as the
earl approached Durham he was met by the bishop, who warned him of the
impending danger. Robert took no heed, and his troops behaved badly as
they entered Durham, killing certain of the bishop’s humbler tenants,
but meeting no armed opposition. The earl was entertained in a house
belonging to the bishop, and his men were quartered all over the town,
in open defiance of the bishop’s warning. But during the night a large
body of Northumbrians moved up to the city, and as dawn broke they burst
through the gates and began a deliberate massacre of the Frenchmen. The
surprise was complete, but the earl and his immediate companions were
aroused in time to enable them to make a fight for their lives. They
could expect no quarter, and their defence was so desperate that the
rebels were unable to break into the house, and at last set it on fire,
the earl and his men perishing in the flames. Of the five hundred
Normans in Durham, only one survivor made his escape.[211]



This episode was quickly followed by the death of Robert Fitz Richard,
the governor of York, who perished with a number of his men in an
obscure struggle, which nevertheless left the castle untaken in Norman
hands. Encouraged by these events, Edgar the Etheling, Marleswegen,
Archil, and Gospatric reappeared upon the scene, and made a determined
attack upon the fortress, so that William Malet, who would appear to
have become castellan on Robert Fitz Richard’s death, sent an urgent
message to the king, saying that he must surrender at once unless he
received reinforcements. Upon receiving this appeal, the Conqueror flew
in person to York, scattered the rebels with heavy loss, and planted a
second castle within a few hundred yards of the first, but on the
opposite bank of the Ouse. This fortress, of which the mound, known as
the Baile Hill, still rests against the city wall, was committed to the
charge of no less a person than Earl William Fitz Osbern, and the king
after eight days returned to Winchester to keep his Easter feast there.
His departure was followed by a renewal of the English attack, now
directed against both the castles, but William Fitz Osbern and his men
gave a good account of themselves against the insurgents.[212]

It was, however, apparent by this time that a spirit of revolt was
generally abroad, and Queen Matilda was sent back into Normandy to
assume command of the duchy once more. No very coherent narrative of the
military events of this year can be extracted from the confused tale of
Ordericus Vitalis or the jejune annals of the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_,
but the outline of the history is fairly plain. We seem to recognise
three distinct areas of revolt: Devon and Somerset, Shropshire and
Staffordshire, and, most dangerous of all, Yorkshire and the north. We
have no reason to suppose that the English leaders had any thought of
uniting in common resistance to the Norman rule; their plans extended to
nothing more than the destruction of single fortresses, the execution of
isolated revenge for local injuries. On the other hand the dispersion of
the centres of revolt incidentally produced some of the effects of
combination; the Normans were compelled to divide their forces, and the
rapidity with which King William dashed about the country from point to
point proved that he at least thought the situation sufficiently



Early in the summer the three sons of Harold repeated their piratical
excursion of the previous year. They landed on the 24th of June in the
mouth of the Taw with sixty-six ships and raided over a large part of
Devonshire, but were beaten off at last by Brian of Penthievre, and
vanish therewith from English history.[213] The local forces were
capable of dealing with an unsupported raid of this kind, but the case
was otherwise with the powerful armament which at this time was being
prepared in the fiords of Denmark. Swegn Esthrithson at last was about
to take action, and the news excited once more the unstable patriotism
of the men of Northumbria. The Danish army was recruited from a wide
area to the south of the Baltic; there were numerous adventurers from
Poland, Frisia, and Saxony, and we read of a contingent of heathen
savages from Lithuania. The fleet was reported to consist of two hundred
and forty vessels; a number capable, if each ship was fully laden, of
carrying a force considerably larger than any army William could put
into the field without calling out the native militia. The expedition
was under the command of Harold and Cnut, the sons of King Swegn, and
Asbiorn, his brother, and included many Danes of high rank, among whom
Christian, bishop of Aarhus, is mentioned by name.[214]

The fleet set sail towards the end of August, and must have hugged the
shores of Frisia and Holland, for it first touched the English coast at
Dover. The royal forces were strong enough to prevent a landing both
here and at Sandwich, where the Danes repeated the attempt, but the
mouth of the Orwell was unguarded, and a body of the invaders
disembarked at Ipswich with the intention of plundering the
neighbourhood. We are, however, told that the “country people,” by which
phrase the English peasantry of the district are probably meant, came
out and, after killing thirty of the raiders, drove the rest to seek
refuge in their ships. A similar descent on Norwich was repulsed by Ralf
de Wader, earl of East Anglia and governor of Norwich castle, and the
Danes passed on towards the Humber. In the meantime, news of these
events was brought to King William, who, we are told, was hunting at the
time in the forest of Dean away on the Welsh border; and he, seeing
where the key to the situation really lay, instantly sent a messenger to
York to warn the garrison and to direct that they should summon him in
person if they were hard pressed by the enemy. He received the
reassuring answer that they would require no assistance from him for a
year to come, and he accordingly continued to leave the defence of the
north in the hands of his subordinates, while the Danes were sailing
along the coast of Lindsey.

It is an interesting question how far the men of the English Danelaw may
have been led by a remembrance of their Scandinavian origin to make
common cause with the army of the king of Denmark at this time. At the
beginning of the century Swegn Forkbeard had been welcomed on this
account by the men of the shires along the lower Trent, and had fixed
his headquarters at Gainsborough in this district. So long as the
Anglo-Saxon legal system retained a semblance of vitality a very
definite barrier of customary law separated the Danelaw from the
counties of the eastern midlands, and the details of its local
organisation still preserved not a few peculiar features, plainly
referable to a northern origin. On the other hand, in the names of the
pre-Conquest owners of land in this district as recorded in Domesday
Book the English element distinctly preponderates, while the
particularism of Northumbria itself was perhaps rather political than
racial. It is probable that the men of Lincolnshire would have preferred
a Danish to either a Norman or an English king, but they play no
distinctive part in the incidents of this campaign, which centres round
the city of York and its approaches by land and water.

While the Danish fleet still hung in the Humber, it was joined by the
English exiles from Scotland, Edgar the Etheling, Gospatric, and
Marleswegen, with whom Waltheof, the earl of Huntingdon, and others of
lesser fame now associated themselves. Edgar, who had been raiding in
Lincolnshire independently of his Danish friends, had narrowly escaped
capture by the garrison of Lincoln castle; but he reached the Humber in
safety though with only two companions, and the combined force, like
that of Harold Hardrada three years before, passed on up the Ouse and
disembarked for a direct attack on York. Volunteers assembled from all
the neighbouring country, and in numbers at least it was a formidable
army which on the 21st of September appeared before the northern
capital, the English forming the van, the Danish host the rear. The
Normans in York made no attempt to hold the city wall, and concentrated
their defence on the two fortresses by the Ouse, setting fire to the
adjoining buildings, so that their timber might not be used to fill up
the castle ditches. The flames spread, the city was gutted, and, what
was worse to the medieval mind, the church of St. Peter was involved in
the ruin. The struggle which followed was soon over; on the very day of
the Danish arrival, while the city was still burning, the garrison of
the castles made a sally, were outnumbered by the enemy within the city
walls and destroyed, after which the capture of the actual
fortifications was an easy matter. The castles themselves were only
wooden structures planted on mounds of earth; their defenders had been
hopelessly weakened by the failure of the sally, and later tradition
recounted in verse how Waltheof, Siward’s son, stood by the gate and
smote down the Normans one by one to the number of a hundred with his
axe as they tried to break away.[215] The castles once taken, the
English hatred of these signs of bondage broke out with fury; the wooden
buildings were instantly broken up and hurled to the ground, and the
luckless William Malet, with his wife and children, a prisoner, was one
of the few Normans in York who survived the day.

On the 11th of September, before the Danish army had sighted the walls
of York, Archbishop Ealdred, one of the few Englishmen of high rank who
accepted the Norman Conquest as irreversible, died, being worn out by
extreme age, and grief at the ruin which he foresaw was about to fall on
the men of his province. The fall of York was the most serious check
which had hitherto crossed King William’s plans in Normandy or England;
it might easily lead to the formation of a Danish principality beyond
the Humber; it was certain to give encouragement to rebellious movements
in the south. In his rage at the news the king caused the fugitives who
had told the tale to be horribly mutilated as a warning to his captains
against possible treachery[216] and then set out for the north. As he
drew towards the Northumbrian border, the Danes abandoned their new
conquest, and made for their ships, crossing the Humber in them, and
established themselves among the marshes of the Isle of Axholme. This
movement diverted the king’s march; he struck straight for Lindsey with
a force of cavalry and crushed sundry isolated bodies of the enemy which
were dispersed among the fens. The Danes, finding their position
untenable, took to their ships again and crossed over to the Yorkshire
bank, whither William had no means of following them. He therefore left
part of his troops under the counts of Mortain and Eu, to protect
Lindsey, while he himself turned westwards to suppress a local rising
which had broken out at Stafford.

We know nothing as to the persons who were responsible for this last
revolt, nor have we any clue as to their objects, but it is quite
possible that they were acting in concert with the men who at this time
were laying siege to the new castle of Shrewsbury. William in this year
was contending with men of Celtic as well as of Scandinavian race; for
Bleddyn, king of Gwynedd, for the third time within three years, had
taken arms against the Normans on the Welsh border. To the men of North
Wales, Edric the Wild brought a contingent from Herefordshire, and the
citizens of Chester, which, it would seem, had not as yet been occupied
by the Normans, joined in the attack. The allies were successful in
burning the town of Shrewsbury and getting away before a Norman force
arrived in relief of the castle, but the Staffordshire insurgents were
less fortunate. We are merely told that King William “wiped out great
numbers of the rebels with an easy victory at Stafford,” but the
Domesday survey of the country, in the large proportion of land which it
returns as “waste,” suggests that Staffordshire at this time received at
William’s hand some measure of the doom which was to fall upon Yorkshire
before the year had closed.

In the meantime the revolt of the south-west had run its course. Here as
elsewhere the plans of the revolted English do not seem to have extended
beyond the capture of individual castles; notably the royal fortress
which had been built in Exeter after the the siege of the previous year,
and the private stronghold of Count Robert of Mortain at Montacute in
Somerset. The command against the besiegers of Montacute was assumed by
Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances, who speedily scattered the insurgents with
an army drawn from London, Winchester, and Salisbury, the chief towns on
the main road from the east to Devon and Somerset. The situation at
Exeter was complicated by the attitude of the citizens themselves, who
must have been anxious not to forfeit the privileges which they had
obtained from King William by the treaty which had so recently concluded
their own revolt. Accordingly, when the new castle was beset by a host
of Devonians and Cornishmen, the townspeople took the Norman side; and
the garrison on making a sally threw the rebels into a state of
confusion which was completed by the arrival of Brian of Penthievre, who
was advancing to the relief of the castle men.

Now that no further danger was to be apprehended, from the lands between
Trent and Severn King William’s hands were free to deal with the
Northumbrian difficulty. His lieutenants in Lindsey had contrived to
surprise a number of the Danes as they were participating in the village
feasts with which the men of that district were anticipating the
customary orgies of midwinter and to which they had apparently invited
their Danish friends. This, however, was a trivial matter; there was a
probability that the Danes would return to take possession of York, and
when the Conqueror next appears after the battle of Stafford, he is
found at Nottingham on his way to the northern capital. For fifty miles
north of Nottingham he followed the route by which he had advanced on to
York in the previous year, but he received a sudden check at the point
where the road in question crosses the Aire near to the modern town of
Pontefract. The bridge was broken, and the river, swollen most probably
by the winter’s rains, could neither be forded nor crossed in boats,
while the enemy lined the opposite bank in force. On this last account
it was impossible to rebuild the bridge, and for three weeks the army
was kept inactive by this unexpected obstacle. At last a knight called
Lisois de Monasteriis, after examining the river in search of a ford for
miles above and below the camp by the broken bridge, discovered a
practicable crossing somewhere among the hills to the west of Leeds, and
forced a passage with sixty horsemen in despite of the efforts of the
enemy on the left bank. Having demonstrated the possibility of a
crossing at this point Lisois returned to Pontefract; and under his
guidance the whole army passed the Aire, and then wheeled round towards
York through the difficult country which borders the great plain of the
Ouse. As the army drew near to York, news came that the Danes had
evacuated the city, so the king divided his force, sending one
detachment to occupy and repair the ruined castles, and another to the
Humber to keep the Danes in check. But he himself had other work to do,
and did not enter York at this time.

It would seem that the Norman passage of the Aire, hazardous as it had
been, had really demoralised the Northumbrian insurgents and their
Danish allies. The latter, as we have seen, fell back on the Humber at
once without striking a blow; the mass of the native English under arms
would seem to have retired simultaneously among the hills of western
Yorkshire, for the Conqueror now turned to their pursuit and to the
definite reduction of the inhospitable land. With grim determination he
worked his way along the wooded valleys which intersect the great
mountain chain of northern England, and deliberately harried that region
so that no human being might find the means of subsistence there.
Resistance isolated and ineffectual he must have met; but now for once
submission brought no favour, and those who perished in the nameless
struggles in which despairing men flung themselves hopelessly upon the
line of his inexorable march, underwent a shorter agony than remained
for those who survived to see their homes, with all their substance,
smouldering in the track of the destroying army. But the spirit was soon
beaten out of the ruined men, and without fearing surprise or ambush
William could divide his army still further and quicken the dismal
process of destruction. Soon his soldiers were scattered in camps over
an area of a hundred miles, and the north and east of Yorkshire
underwent the fate which the Conqueror in person had inflicted on the
West Riding. Before Christmas it is probable that the whole land from
the North Sea to Morecambe Bay had become with the rarest exceptions a
deserted wilderness.

The harrying of Yorkshire is one of the few events of the kind in regard
to which the customary rhetoric of the medieval chronicler is only
substantiated by documentary evidence. From the narratives of Ordericus
Vitalis and Simeon of Durham alone, we should gain a fair impression of
the ghastly reality of the great devastation, but a few columns of the
Domesday survey of Yorkshire, where the attempt is made to estimate the
result of the havoc for the purposes of the royal treasury, are
infinitely the more suggestive. On page after page, with deadly
iteration, manor after manor is reported “waste,” and even in the places
where agricultural life had been re-instituted, and the burned villages
rebuilt, the men who inhabited them formed but pitiful little groups in
the midst of the surrounding ruin. As to the fate of the individuals who
had fled before King William’s army, in the fatal December, no certain
tale can be told. Many sold themselves into slavery in return for food,
many tried to make their way southward into the more prosperous midland
shires; the local history of Evesham Abbey relates how crowds of
fugitives from the districts visited by the Conqueror in this campaign
thronged the streets of the little town, and how each day five of six of
them, worn out by hunger and weariness, died, and received burial by the
prior of the monastery. Many no doubt tried to keep themselves alive in
the neighbourhood of their old homes until the rigour of the winter had
passed away; but fifty years later it was well remembered in the north
how the bodies of those who were now overtaken by famine lay rotting by
the roadsides. Even so late as Stephen’s time, a southern writer,
William of Malmesbury, tells us how the fertile lands of the north still
bore abundant traces of what had passed during the winter of 1069.

The festival of Christmas caused a short break in the grim progress of
King William. His work was not by any means completed in the north; the
Danes were still in the Humber; Chester remained in virtual
independence. And so the regalia and royal plate were brought from the
treasury at Winchester, and the Christmas feast was held at York with so
much of the traditional splendour as the place and occasion permitted.
The ceremony over, the campaign was resumed, and in the New Year the
Conqueror set out to hunt down a body of Englishmen who seem to have
entrenched themselves among the marshes which then lay between the
Cleveland hills and the estuary of the Tees.[217] The rebels, however,
decamped by night on hearing of the king’s advance, and William spent
fifteen days by the Tees, during which time Earl Waltheof made his
submission in person and Gospatric sent envoys who swore fealty on his
behalf. Gospatric was therefore restored to his earldom, and William
returned to York, keeping to the difficult country of the East Riding in
preference to the Roman road which led southward from the Tees near
Darlington down the plain of the Ouse.[218] It is probable that William
chose this route with the object of hunting down any scattered bands of
outlawed Englishmen which might have hung together thus far in this
inaccessible region; but his force suffered severely through the cold,
many of the horses died, and on one occasion he himself lost his way and
became separated from his army with only six companions for an entire
night. York, however, was reached in safety at last, and the reduction
of Northumbria was accomplished.

It was now possible to enter upon the final stage of the campaign, and,
after making the arrangements necessary for the safety of York, William
set out on the last and most formidable of the many marches of this
memorable winter, towards the one important town in England which had
never submitted to his rule. Chester still held out in English hands,
and apart from its strategical importance the citizens of the great port
had definitely attracted King William’s attention by the part which they
had played in the recent siege of Shrewsbury. His hold on the north
would never be secure until he had reduced the town where Irish Vikings
and Welsh mountaineers might at any time collect their forces for an
attack upon the settled midlands. On the other hand, the geographical
difficulties in the way of a direct march from York to Chester were
enormous. From the edge of the plain of York to the Mersey Valley, the
altitude of the ground never descends to a point below 500 feet above
sea level; and, since the Roman highway from York to Manchester had
fallen into ruin, no roads crossed this wild country except such tracks
as served for communication between village and village. But a more
serious cause of danger lay in the fact that the army itself now began
to show ominous symptoms which might easily develop into actual mutiny.
The strain of the protracted campaign was telling upon the men; and the
mercenary portion of the army, represented by the soldiers from Anjou,
Brittany, and Maine, began to clamour for their discharge, complaining
that these incessant marches were more intolerable than even the irksome
duty of castle guard. The Conqueror in reply merely declared that he had
no use for the cowards who wished to desert him,[219] and, trusting
himself to the loyalty of his own subjects in the army, he plunged
straightway into the hills which separate the modern counties of
Yorkshire and Lancashire. Part at least of the route now followed at the
close of January must have lain through districts which had been swept
bare of all provisions in the great harrying of December; and the army
was at times reduced to feed on the horses which had perished in the
swamps, that continually intercepted the line of advance. The storms of
rain and hail which fell at this time were considered worthy of mention
in the earliest account of the march which we possess, and we can see
that nothing but the example of King William’s own courage and endurance
held the army together and brought it down in safety into the Cheshire
plain. Chester would appear to have surrendered without daring to stand
a siege, and with its submission, guaranteed as usual by the foundation
of a castle,[220] the Conqueror’s work was done at last in the north.
From Chester he moved to Stafford, where another castle was raised and
garrisoned, and then marched directly across England to Salisbury, at
which place the army was disbanded, with the exception of the men who
had protested against the present expedition and were now kept under
arms for forty days longer as a mark of the king’s disfavour.

In the meantime, by a skilful piece of diplomacy, William had been
insuring himself against active hostility on the part of the Danish
fleet. Earl Asbiorn and his associates had taken but little gain as yet
from their English adventure; and the earl proved very amenable when a
secret embassy came to him from the king, promising him a large sum of
money and the right of provisioning his men at the expense of the
dwellers along the coast for the remainder of the winter, on the sole
condition that he should keep the peace towards the royal troops
thenceforward until his departure. The earl, thus made secure of some
personal profit, agreed to the terms, and until the spring was far
advanced, the Danish ships still hung in the English waters.

The harrying of Northumbria, the most salient event of these twelve
months of ceaseless activity, was a measure which it would be impossible
to justify and impertinent to excuse. It was the logical result of the
opposition of an irreconcilable people to an inflexible conqueror. After
the battle of Hastings had shattered the specious unity of the old
English state, each of its component parts might still have secured
peace by full submission, or honour by consistent and coherent
resistance; the men of Northumbria took the one course which was certain
to invite disaster, nor, terrible as was the resultant suffering, can we
say that vengeance was undeserved. War in the eleventh century was at
best a cruel business, but we cannot fairly accuse the Conqueror of
deliberately aggravating its horrors without the impulse of what he must
have regarded as necessity. He had to deal with a people whom he could
not trust, who had sworn submission and had broken their oaths, and the
means at his disposal were few. He could not deport the population of
Northumbria as Cromwell was to deport the native Irish under not
dissimilar circumstances; his Normans were too few as yet to garrison
effectively all the wild land between the Humber and the Scottish
border. The one course which remained to the Conqueror was for him to
place the rebels beyond the possibility of revolting again, and he
followed this course with terrible success. And it was on this
account—that Northumbria was wasted, not in the heat of wars, but
deliberately, at the bidding of political necessity—that the act seemed
most dreadful to the chroniclers who have described it. Men were only
too well accustomed to the sight of ruined villages, of starving women
and children; but these things seemed less terrible as the work of
Scotch and Danish freebooters than as the conscious intention of the
crowned king of the land. Nor must we forget that we do not know how far
King William was really sinning against the current military practice of
his time. The monastic chroniclers, whose opinion of the case commends
itself to us in virtue of its humanity, were men brought by the fact of
their vocation to a clearer sense of the value of the individual life
than that possessed by the lay world around them. We know what Ordericus
Vitalis thought of the great harrying, perhaps even what William of
Poitiers, the Conqueror’s own chaplain, thought of it, but we do not
know how it appeared to William Fitz Osbern or Roger de Montgomery.

According to his approved custom, the Conqueror kept the Easter
following these events at Westminster, and the feast was attended by
three papal legates of high rank whose presence marks the beginning of
the ecclesiastical reformation which we shall have to consider in its
place as the counterpart of the legal and administrative changes
produced by the Norman Conquest. In the meantime, however, the broken
national party was gathering its forces for a last stand, and the focal
point of the English resistance shifts to the extreme east of the land.

At each stage in the Norman Conquest there is always one particular
district round which the main interest centres for the time, the
operations of war elsewhere being of subsidiary importance. It was the
men of Kent and Sussex who bore the brunt of the first shock of the
invasion; it was the men of the north who held the field in 1069, and
now, in the last period of English resistance, our attention is
concentrated on the rectangular tract of land which lies between
Welland, Ermine Street, Ouse, and Wash. Even at the present day, after
eight centuries of drainage, it is not difficult to reconstruct the
geographical features which in 1070 made the Fenland the most
inaccessible part of England south of the Humber. Except for a narrow
tract north of Huntingdon and St. Ives, no part of this district rises
to one hundred feet above sea-level, and in great part it was still
covered with the swamps and meres of stagnant water which gave to the
eastern half of this region the name of the Isle of Ely. In so far as
cultivation had already extended into this inhospitable quarter, it may
fairly be set down to the credit of the five great abbeys of
Peterborough, Thorney, Crowland, Ramsey, and Ely, which dominated the
fens and round which the events of the campaign of 1070 arrange

Abbot Brand of Peterborough, whose recognition of Edgar the Etheling as
king had so deeply moved the Conqueror’s wrath at the time of his
coronation, had died on November 27, 1069.[221] At this moment King
William was in the thick of his Northumbrian difficulties, and it does
not appear that any appointment to Peterborough was made until the
quieter times of the following spring. In or before May, however, the
abbey was given to a man whose selection for the post proves that the
king had received warning of the coming disquiet in the east. Thorold of
Fécamp, abbot of Malmesbury, had probably made himself useful in north
Wiltshire while William was engaged beyond the Humber, for the
reputation for militant severity which he had created in the south was
the reason for his translation to a post of danger in the Fenland. “By
God’s splendour,” said King William, “if he is more of a knight than an
abbot I will find him a man who will meet all his attacks, where he can
prove his valour and his knighthood and practise the art of war.”[222]
The man in question was no other than the famous Hereward, and Thorold
was not long before he saw traces of his handiwork.

The amount of authentic fact which we know about Hereward is in very
small proportion to the great mass of legend which has gathered round
his name. His parentage is quite unknown, but there are several
incidental entries in Domesday which connect him with the western edge
of the Fenland and which all occur in the Lincolnshire portion of the
survey. From these entries we learn that Hereward had been a tenant of
two of the great Fenland abbeys, namely Crowland and Peterborough, and
we also gather that the former house had found him an unsatisfactory
person with whom to have dealings. The jurors of Aveland Wapentake in
Lincolnshire told the Domesday commissioners that Abbot Ulfketil of
Crowland had let the abbey’s estate in the vill of Rippingale to
Hereward on terms to be arranged mutually year by year, but they add
that the abbot took possession of the land again before Hereward fled
from the country because he did not keep to his agreement.[223] On the
other hand, Hereward was seemingly still in the possession of the lands
which he held of Peterborough abbey at the moment when his name first
appears in the national history.

At some time in the course of May, but before Abbot Thorold had taken
possession of his abbey, the Danish fleet, of which we have heard
nothing since the previous year, sailed up the Ouse to Ely. Thus far its
leaders would seem to have kept the agreement which they had made with
King William after his capture of York, and the fact that they now
appear as taking the offensive once more is probably explained by a
statement in the _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_ that King Swegn of Denmark had
come in person to the Humber.[224] The men of the Fenland were clearly
expecting a Danish reconquest of England, and on the appearance of Earl
Asbiorn at Ely they joined him in great numbers. Among them, and
probably at their head, was Hereward, and the first fruit of the
alliance was a successful raid on the wealthy and unprotected monastery
of Peterborough. The monks received just sufficient warning of
approaching danger to enable them to send an urgent message to Abbot
Thorold, asking for help, and also to hide some of the more precious
treasures of their house, and then at mid-day Hereward and his gang were
on them. They came by boat, for even at this date there were canals
which connected the Ouse at Ely with the Nene at Peterborough, and began
to clamour for admission to the abbey.[225] But the monks had closed
their doors and defended them stoutly, so that Hereward was driven to
burn the houses which clustered round the abbey gate in order to force
an entrance. Incidentally the whole of Peterborough was burned down,
with the exception of the church and a single house, but the outlaws had
got inside the monastery. The monks begged them to do no harm, but,
without heeding, they burst into the church, seized all the movable
articles of value on which they could lay their hands, and tried to tear
down the great rood cross. To the clamours of the monks around them they
shouted that they did it all for the good of the church, and as Hereward
was a tenant of the abbey the monks believed him. Indeed, Hereward
himself in after years declared that he had been guided in this matter
by the best intentions, for he believed that the Danes would beat King
William and he thought that it would be better that the treasures of the
church should remain in the hands of his friends for a little while,
than that they should fall for ever into the possession of the

So the monks were scattered and the wealth of the Golden Borough was
carried off to Ely and handed over to the Danes, who do not seem to have
shared Hereward’s sentiments with regard to its ultimate destination.
Among the captives who were carried off from Peterborough was Ethelwold,
the prior, who, in hope of better days, devoted himself secretly to the
recovery of the relics contained in the jewelled shrines which formed
the most valuable part of the plunder that had just been taken. With
this object in view, he deliberately set himself to win the favour of
the despoilers of his home, and succeeded so well, that the Danes
committed their treasure to his custody, and promised him a bishopric in
Denmark if he chose to return with them. Being a discreet man, he
pretended to comply with their wishes, and in the meantime possessed
himself of the tools which were necessary for the abstraction of the
relics. And on a certain day, while the Danes were holding a great
feast, to celebrate the winning of so great a treasure at so small a
cost, Ethelwold took his tools and set to work, beginning his operations
on the reliquary which he knew to contain the arm of St. Oswald. To
prevent interruption he placed two servants on guard, one in the house
where the Danes were feasting, and the other midway between the latter
place and the scene of his own labours. The task progressed without
greater difficulty than was to be expected, although one of the chests
was so tightly clamped with iron that Ethelwold would have abandoned it
had he not trusted in God and St. Oswald. At last the relics were all
secured and hidden temporarily in the straw of the prior’s bed, he being
careful to replace the gold and silver fittings of the shrines as they
were before. But at the critical moment the Danes broke up to go to
vespers and Ethelwold was in imminent danger of being taken, in which
event it is probable that his pious zeal would have been rewarded with
the crown of martyrdom. But, without leaving his room, the prior, who
was covered with sweat and very red from his labour in the heat of a
June afternoon, washed his face in cold water and went out to his
captors as if nothing had happened, and they, who we are told reverenced
him as a father, flocked round him but asked no inconvenient questions.
And on the following day he sent his two servants to Hereward—because
his comrades were infesting all the water-ways—under the pretence that
they wished to fetch something from Peterborough, but in reality they
went to the nearer monastery of Ramsey and gave the relics into the
charge of the abbot of that place.

At this point the adventures of Prior Ethelwold touch the current of the
general history. King William, in order, presumably, to divide the
insurgent Englishmen from their Danish allies, made a treaty with Swegn
of Denmark, by which his subjects were to be allowed to sail for their
fatherland without hindrance and in possession of all the spoil they had
gained in the course of the past months. They took advantage of the
offer, but gained little by it in the event, for a great storm arose
which scattered their ships, and the last we hear of the treasures of
Peterborough is their destruction, in a nameless Danish town, in a great
fire which arose through the drunkenness of their guardians. In the
meantime, Ethelwold, his troubles over, collected his fellow-monks and
came back to Peterborough, where they found Abbot Thorold, and restored
the services which had been suspended during the recent disturbances.
One unexpected difficulty indeed manifested itself: the Ramsey people
refused to give up the relics which had been entrusted to their care in
the moment of peril. But the abbot of Ramsey was soon brought into a
better mind; the sacristan of the monastery received a supernatural
intimation that his house was acting unjustly, and Thorold of
Peterborough threatened to burn Ramsey abbey to the ground unless the
relics were given back. And so the heroic efforts of Ethelwold were not
frustrated of their purpose.

So quickly had events moved that only one week had elapsed between the
coming of Hereward to Peterborough and the departure of the Danish
fleet. But an entire year had yet to pass before the Isle of Ely was
finally cleared of its rebel garrison. It does not seem that the
withdrawal of the Danes made any difference to the occupation of Ely by
the English, and during the winter of 1070 the Isle became a gathering
point for the last adherents of the broken national party. Very few of
them were left now. Edgar, their nominal head, was living in peace with
King Malcolm of Scotland; Waltheof, the last representative of the
Danish earls of Northumbria, was at this moment in enjoyment of an
earldom in the midlands which there is every reason to believe included
the Isle of Ely itself. On the other hand, Edwin and Morcar now finally
took their departure from William’s court, and raised the last of their
futile protests against the Norman rule.

Hitherto inseparable, on this occasion the brother earls took different
courses, and the result was disastrous to both of them. Morcar joined
the outlaws in Ely; Edwin struck out for the Scotch kingdom, and from
our meagre information about his last months it would seem that he had
in view some great scheme of reviving once more the old friendship
between his house and the Welsh princes and of supporting the
combination with Scotch aid. But fate overtook him before he had time to
give another exhibition of his political worthlessness, and the
circumstances of his end were tragic and mysterious. Three brothers, who
were on terms of intimacy with him and were attending him in his
wanderings, betrayed him to the Normans, and in attempting to escape,
his retreat was blocked by a river swollen at the moment by a high tide.
On its bank the last earl of Mercia turned at bay, and with twenty
horsemen at his side made a desperate defence until the whole band was
cut down; Edwin himself, it would appear, falling by the hands of the
three traitors of his household. His head was cut off and the same three
brothers brought it to King William in the expectancy of a great reward.
But the Conqueror on the spot outlawed them for their treason to their
lord, and shed tears of grief over Edwin’s head; for the handsome,
fickle young earl, with all his faults, had really won the love of the
grim sovereign from whom he had thrice revolted.[226]

Edwin fell through treachery, but he met his death in the sight of the
sun; another fate remained for his brother and for those of his
associates whose end is known to us. The cause of the defenders of Ely
was hopeless from the outset. Their revolt was a hindrance to the
orderly conduct of the Anglo-Norman government, but a band of outlaws in
the fenland could do little to affect the course of events elsewhere;
Ely commanded no great road or river, and its Isle was too small an area
to support an independent existence apart from the rest of the land. Its
reduction was only a question of time, complicated by the geographical
difficulties of the district. It was necessary that all the waterways
leading from the fens to the open sea should be blocked, and this
implied the concentration of a considerable number of ships and
men-at-arms along the Great and Little Ouse. The siege of a quarter of
Cambridgeshire demanded a greater expenditure of men and money than that
of a single town or castle; but Hereward and his friends in due time
were driven back on Ely itself, from which their raiding parties would
make occasional descents upon the neighbouring villages. The Conqueror
fixed his headquarters at Cambridge, some fifteen miles from Ely, and
his main attack was directed at the point where the Ouse is crossed by
an ancient causeway near the village of Aldreth. But even from the
latter place there remained some six miles of fen to be crossed before
Ely itself could be reached, and we are told on good authority that
William caused a bridge, two miles long, to be built on the western side
of the Isle.[227]

The legendary accounts of the exploits of Hereward tell many tales of
the struggle which raged before the Norman army had pierced the natural
defences of Ely, but we cannot be sure of the exact means by which the
place was finally reduced. One stream of tradition assigned the fall of
the Isle to the treachery of the abbot and monks of Ely, and, although
the authority for such a statement is not first-rate, it has commonly
been accepted as representing the truth of the matter.[228] It is at
least certain that the position in which the monks of Ely found
themselves was undesirable at the best. The conduct of Hereward and his
men at Peterborough proves them to have been no respecters of holy
places, and if the abbey bought immediate safety by conniving at the
deeds of the outlaws in its neighbourhood, it ran the risk of the
ultimate confiscation of its lands when King William had restored order.
Small blame should rest upon the abbot if he broke through the dilemma
in which he was placed by assisting the Conqueror in the reduction of
the Isle. But whatever the immediate cause of the fall of Ely, a large
number of its defenders fell into William’s hands and many of them
received from him such measure as twenty years before he had dealt to
the men of Alençon. Some were blinded or otherwise mutilated and allowed
to go free, others were thrown into prison. Earl Morcar himself was sent
into Normandy a prisoner and committed to the charge of Roger de
Beaumont[229]; the other captives of note were scattered over the
country in different fortresses. But Hereward, who in all our
authorities stands out as the leader of the resistance, escaped through
the marshes and a small part of his band got clear of the Isle in his

Whatever the recent behaviour of the monks of Ely may have been, the
abbey was constrained to buy the king’s peace at a heavy price. Seven
hundred marks of silver were originally demanded by the Conqueror, but
the money was found to be of light weight, and three hundred marks more
were exacted before the abbot and monks were reckoned quit by the king’s
officer. Moreover, the very precincts of the abbey were invaded to find
the site for a castle to command the southern fenland: King William
himself having chosen the ground during a flying visit which he had paid
to Ely one day while the monks were seated at dinner. The building of
the castle, by a Norman interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon duty of
_burhbot_, was laid upon the men of the three adjacent counties of
Cambridge, Huntingdon, and Bedford, and it was garrisoned when built by
a body of picked knights. Another castle at Aldreth commanded the
eastern approaches to the Isle.[231] On the other hand, it would be some
compensation for these disturbances that within four years from the fall
of Ely, and in the lifetime of Abbot Thurstan, King William decreed a
formal restitution to the abbey of all the lands of which it had
unjustly been despoiled in recent years.[232] Now that no further danger
was to be apprehended from the nationalist proclivities of the monks of
Ely, there was no reason why the abbey should not be suffered to enjoy
its ancient possessions in peace; but the record of the plea which
followed the Conqueror’s writ directing restitution proves that many of
the greater people of the land, including the archbishop Stigand and
Count Eustace of Boulogne, had been committing wholesale depredations on
the estates of St. Ethelthryth.

The subsequent fate of Hereward is a matter of utter uncertainty; with
his flight across the marshes of Ely he vanishes into the night which
has engulfed the entire class to which he belonged, the smaller native
land-owners of King Edward’s day. Two lines of tradition were current in
later years about the manner of his end. According to the more dramatic
narrative, Hereward became reconciled to the Conqueror, accompanied him
in the Mancel campaign of 1074, married a noble and wealthy
Englishwoman, and fell at last, before overwhelming odds, at the hands
of a number of Normans, whose feud he would seem to have provoked in the
wild days of his outlawry.[233] In the other story, Hereward still
receives King William’s favour and marries the same English lady as in
the former legend, but he dies at last in peace after many years in the
quiet possession of his father’s lands.[234] The choice which we may
make between these divergent traditions will largely be guided by
inference from more truly historical sources of information. It is very
probable that Hereward made his peace with King William—both traditions
agree upon this point; and that casual expression in the narrative of
the sack of Peterborough, that Hereward “in after time often told the
monks that he had done all for the best,” proves at least that there had
been a period after the troubles of 1071 in which Hereward had been on
terms of peaceful intercourse with his monkish neighbours. So too the
coincidence of both lines of tradition with regard to his marriage is in
favour of its probability, but the negative evidence of Domesday Book
compels us to put a period to his life before the winter of 1085. In no
part of England did a more numerous body of native thegns hold land at
the latter date than in Hereward’s own county of Lincoln, but Hereward’s
name is not written among them, and the lands which he had held of
Peterborough abbey had been let to a stranger. But if the Hereward
legend is not consistent with itself, there is a more significant
discrepancy between the part which its subject plays in recorded history
and his position as a hero of romance. It is at least certain that the
man must have been something more than the vulgar freebooter who appears
in the story of the ruin of Peterborough. To him we may safely credit
the long defence of the Isle of Ely, and we may feel confident that that
defence was accompanied by deeds of gallantry round which minstrel and
gleeman might weave their fabric of legend and marvel. Hereward, after
all, in literature, if not in fact, is the English hero of the Norman
Conquest. A native annalist might express his bitter regret for the
tragedy of King Harold, the common folk of England might turn Earl
Waltheof into an uncanonised saint, but Hereward was removed by no great
chasm of rank from the humble people who made his deeds their story. And
it is not a small thing that the tale of the resistance to the Norman
Conqueror, inglorious as much of it had been, should end with the name
of a man in whom the succeeding generations might see a true champion of
the independence of the beaten race.

[Illustration: Penny of Swegn Estuthson]


Footnote 118:

  Round, _Calendar of Documents preserved in France_, No. 1713.

Footnote 119:

  William of Poitiers, 122.

Footnote 120:

  W. P., 123. “Turmas militum cernens, non exhorrescens.”

Footnote 121:

  Guy of Amiens, ed. Giles, 58.

Footnote 122:

  William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, ii., 300.

Footnote 123:

  William of Poitiers, 125.

Footnote 124:

  William of Poitiers, 126.

Footnote 125:

  _Abingdon Chronicle_, 1066.

Footnote 126:

  Guy of Amiens: “Diruta quae fuerant dudum castella reformas; Ponis
  custodes ut tueantur ea.”

Footnote 127:

  W. P.: “Normanni previa munitione Penevesellum, altera Hastingas

Footnote 128:

  See on this point Round, _Feudal England_, 150–152.

Footnote 129:

  William of Poitiers, 128.

Footnote 130:

  William’s real numbers probably lay between six and seven thousand.

Footnote 131:

  See the paraphrase of this passage in the _Roman de Rou_, Freeman, N.
  C., iii., 417.

Footnote 132:

  Guy of Amiens, p. 31: “Ex Anglis unus, latitans sub rupe marina Cemit
  ut effusas innumeras acies. Scandere currit equum; festinat dicere

Footnote 133:

  Gaimar, _l’Estoire des Engles_, R. S., i., p. 222. Gaimar wrote in the
  twelfth century, but he followed a lost copy of the A.-S. chronicle.

Footnote 134:

  For the chronology of the campaigns of Stamfordbridge and Hastings the
  dates given by Freeman are followed here.

Footnote 135:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1066: “He com him togenes at thœre haran

Footnote 136:

  The statement that Harold further strengthened his position by
  building a palisade in front of it rests solely on an obscure and
  probably corrupt passage in the _Roman de Rou_ (lines 7815 _et seqq_).
  Apart altogether from the textual difficulty, the assertion of Wace is
  of no authority in view of the silence both of contemporary writers
  and of those of the next generation. In regard to none of the many
  earlier English fights of this century have we any hint that the
  position of the army was strengthened in this manner; nor in practice
  would it have been easy for Harold to collect sufficient timber to
  protect a front of 800 yards on the barren down where he made his
  stand. The negative evidence of the Bayeux tapestry is of particular
  importance here; for its designer could represent defences of the kind
  suggested when he so desired, as in the case of the fight at Dinan.

Footnote 137:

  Spatz, p. 30, will only allow to William a total force of six to seven
  thousand men.

Footnote 138:

  W. P., 133. “Cuncti pedites consistere densius conglobati.” For the
  arrangement of the English army on the hill see Baring, E. H. R., xx.,

Footnote 139:

  It is probable that the expressions in certain later authorities
  (_e.g._ W. M., ii., 302, “pedites omnes cum bipennibus conserta ante
  se testudine”) from which the formation by the English of a definite
  shield or wall has been inferred mean no more than this. The “bord
  weal” of earlier Anglo-Saxon warfare may also be explained as a
  poetical phrase for a line of troops in close order.

  See Round, _Feudal England_, 360–366.

Footnote 140:

  This fact, which must condition any account to be given of the battle
  of Hastings, was first stated by Dr. W. Spatz, “Die Schlacht von
  Hastings,” section v., “Taktik beider Heere,” p. 34.

Footnote 141:

  This point is brought out strongly by Oman, _History of the Art of

Footnote 142:

  Spatz, p. 29, uses this fact to limit the numbers of the Norman army.

Footnote 143:

  W. P., 132.

Footnote 144:

  Guy of Amiens: “Lævam Galli, dextram petiere Britanni. Dux cum
  Normannis dimicat in medio.”

Footnote 145:

  W. P., 132.

Footnote 146:

  Florence of Worcester, 1066: “Ab hora tamen diei tertia usque ad
  noctis crepusculum.”

Footnote 147:

  Guy of Amiens. W. P., 133: “Cedit fere cuncta Ducis acies.”

Footnote 148:

  “Fugientibus occurrit et obstitit, verberans aut minans hasta.”—W. P.,

Footnote 149:

  Bayeux tapestry scene: “Hic Odo episcopus, baculum tenens, confortat

Footnote 150:

  W. P., 134.

Footnote 151:

  “Animadvertentes Normanni ... non absque nimio sui incommodo hostem
  tantum simul resistentem superari posse.”—W. P., 135.

Footnote 152:

  “Normanni repente regirati equis interceptos et inclusos undique
  mactaverunt.”—W. P., 135.

Footnote 153:

  “Bis eo dolo simili eventu usi.”—William of Poitiers, 135.

Footnote 154:

  “Languent Angli, et quasi reatum ipso defectu confitentes, vindictum
  patiuntur.”—W. P., 135.

Footnote 155:

  Baring, E. H. R., xxii., 71.

Footnote 156:

  “Jam inclinato die.”—W. P., 137. Crepusculi tempore.—Florence of
  Worcester, 1066.

Footnote 157:

  Baring, E. H. R., xxii., 69.

Footnote 158:

  Guy of Amiens.

Footnote 159:

  See the Waltham tract, _De Inventione Sancti Crucis_, ed. Stubbs.
  William of Malmesbury was evidently acquainted with this legend.

Footnote 160:

  It is probable that Wulfnoth had been taken together with Harold by
  Guy of Ponthieu, and had been left behind in Normandy as a surety for
  the observance of his brother’s oath to William.

Footnote 161:

  _Gesta Regum_, R. S., 307.

Footnote 162:

  Thomas Stubbs, ed. Raine; _Historians of the Church of York_, R. S.,
  ii., 100.

Footnote 163:

  William of Poitiers, 139.

Footnote 164:

  William of Poitiers, 139.

Footnote 165:

  Guy of Amiens, 607.

Footnote 166:

  William of Poitiers, 140.

Footnote 167:

  Guy of Amiens, 617.

Footnote 168:

  The embassy to Winchester is only mentioned by Guy of Amiens, who
  omits all reference to William’s illness, which is derived from
  William of Poitiers. Guy, however, places the message at this point of
  the campaign.

Footnote 169:

  Round, _Geoffrey de Mandeville_, 4.

Footnote 170:

  This is clearly meant by the statement of William of Poitiers that
  William’s troops burned “quicquid ædificiorum citra flumen invenere.”

Footnote 171:

  William of Poitiers, 141.

Footnote 172:

  The _Worcester Chronicle_, followed by Florence of Worcester, 1066,
  asserts that Edwin and Morcar submitted at “Beorcham,” but William of
  Poitiers, whose authority is preferable on a point of this kind,
  implies that they did not give in their allegiance until after the
  coronation. On the geography relating to these events see Baring,
  E.H.R. xiii., 17.

Footnote 173:

  William of Poitiers, 142.

Footnote 174:

  Guy of Amiens, 687 _et seqq._

Footnote 175:

  William of Poitiers, 143.

Footnote 176:

  “Vehementer trementem,” Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 157.

Footnote 177:

  Florence of Worcester, 1066.

Footnote 178:

  William of Poitiers, 147–8.

Footnote 179:

  This writ was issued in favour of one Regenbald, who had been King
  Edward’s chancellor. It was printed by Round in _Feudal England_, 422,
  with remarks on its historical importance.

Footnote 180:

  _Monasticon_, i., 383. _See_ also Round, _Commune of London_, 29.

Footnote 181:

  _Monasticon_, i., 301. The date assigned here to these documents, of
  which the text in the _Monasticon_ edition is very faulty, is a matter
  of inference; but the personal names which occur in them suggest that
  they should be assigned to the very beginning of William’s reign.

Footnote 182:

  Round, _Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, No. 1423. _See_
  also _Commune of London_, 30.

Footnote 183:

  William of Poitiers, 148; Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 165.

Footnote 184:

  _Peterborough Chronicle_, 1066. “And menn guldon him gyld ... and
  sithan heora land bohtan.”—D. B., ii., 360. “Hanc Terram habet abbas
  ... quando redimebant Anglici terras suas.” The combination of these
  statements led Freeman to make the suggestion referred to in the text.

Footnote 185:

  It may be noted that there exist a few proved cases in which a Norman
  baron had married the daughter of his English predecessor, so that
  here the king’s grant to the stranger would only confirm the latter in
  possession of his wife’s inheritance.

Footnote 186:

  D. B., i., 285 b. (Normanton on Trent).

Footnote 187:

  _Victoria History of Northamptonshire_, i., 324.

Footnote 188:

  Frequently printed, _e.g._, by Stubbs, _Select Charters_, 82.

Footnote 189:

  Suggested by Round, _Geoffrey de Mandeville_, 439.

Footnote 190:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 167. The mercenaries were paid off at Pevensey
  before William sailed for Normandy.

Footnote 191:

  _Peterborough Chronicle_, 1087.

Footnote 192:

  William of Poitiers (149) states that William Fitz Osbern was left in
  charge of the city “Guenta,” which is described as being situated
  fourteen miles from the sea which divides the English from the Danes,
  and as a point where a Danish army might be likely to land. These
  indications imply that Norwich (_Venta Icenorum_) was Fitz Osbern’s
  headquarters, although the name Guenta alone would naturally refer to
  Winchester (_Venta Belgarum_). The joint regency of Odo and William is
  asserted by Florence of Worcester, 1067, and the phrase in William of
  Poitiers, that Fitz Osbern “toto regno Aquilionem versus præesset,”
  suggests that the Thames was the boundary between his province and
  that of Odo. The priority of Fitz Osbern in the regency is suggested
  by the fact that in a writ relating to land in Somerset, he joins his
  name with that of the king in addressing the magnates of the shire.
  Somersetshire certainly formed no part of his direct sphere of
  administration at the time. For further references to this writ see
  below, Chapter XI.

Footnote 193:

  The fullest list of names is given by Orderic, ii., 167.

Footnote 194:

  William of Poitiers, 155.

Footnote 195:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 170.

Footnote 196:

  Simeon of Durham, under the year 1072. He asserts that Oswulf himself
  slew Copsige in the door of the church.

Footnote 197:

  Simeon of Durham, under 1070.

Footnote 198:

  Florence of Worcester, 1067.

Footnote 199:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 173.

Footnote 200:

  The fullest account of the affair at Dover is given by Orderic (ii.,
  172–5), who expands the slighter narrative of William of Poitiers.

Footnote 201:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 178.

Footnote 202:

  Ordericus Vitalis., ii., 179.

Footnote 203:

  “Ad Danos, vel alio, unde auxilium aliquod speratur, legatos
  missitant.”—William of Poitiers, 157.

Footnote 204:

  The story of the revolt of Exeter is critically discussed by Round,
  _Feudal England_, 431–455.

Footnote 205:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1067; Florence of Worcester, 1068; William of
  Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, ii., 312.

Footnote 206:

  The source of our information is an original charter granted by
  William to the church of St. Martin’s le Grand on May 11th.—E. H. R.
  xii., 109.

Footnote 207:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 183.

Footnote 208:

  The rising of Edwin and Morcar is not mentioned by the English
  authorities, which are only concerned with the movements of Edgar and
  his companions. Florence of Worcester says that the latter fled the
  court through the fear of imprisonment. They had given no known cause
  of offence since their original submission, but it is probable that
  they would have been kept in close restraint if they had been in the
  king’s power when the northern revolt broke out and that they fled to
  avoid this.

Footnote 209:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 184.

Footnote 210:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 185.

Footnote 211:

  Simeon of Durham, 1069.

Footnote 212:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 188. From his statement that Earl William beat
  the rebels “in a certain valley,” it is evident that the military
  operations were not confined to the city of York.

Footnote 213:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 189.

Footnote 214:

  For the events of 1069 Orderic is almost the sole authority, and his
  narrative is not always easy to follow. On the other hand he is
  doubtless in great part following the contemporary William of
  Poitiers, and his tale is quite consistent with itself if due
  allowance is made for its geographical confusion.

Footnote 215:

  The exact scene of Waltheof’s exploit is uncertain. Orderic implies
  that the entire Norman garrison in York perished in the unsuccessful
  sally. Florence of Worcester states that the castles were taken by
  storm. The latter is certainly the more probable, and agrees better
  with the tradition, preserved by William of Malmesbury, of the
  slaughter at the gate. The gate in question, on this reading of the
  story, will belong to one of the castles; it cannot well be taken to
  be one of the gates of the town.

Footnote 216:

  The mutilation is only recorded by a late authority, the Winchester

Footnote 217:

  Ordericus’ narrative at this point is not very clear, but this is
  probably his meaning.

Footnote 218:

  By Ordericus William is made to return to York through Hexham
  (“Hangustaldam revertabatur a Tesca”). This being impossible it is
  generally assumed that Helmsley (Hamilac in D. B.) should be read for
  Hexham, in which case William would probably cross the Cleveland hills
  by way of Bilsdale.

Footnote 219:

  “Desertores, vero, velut inertes, pavidosque et invalidos, si
  discedant, parvi pendit.”

Footnote 220:

  Chester castle was planted within arrow shot of the landing stage on
  the right bank of the Dee, and also commanded the bridge which carried
  the road from the Cheshire plain to the North Wales coast.

Footnote 221:

  _Peterborough Chronicle_, 1069.

Footnote 222:

  William of Malmesbury, _Gesta Pontificum_, § 420.

Footnote 223:

  Domesday Book, i., 346.

Footnote 224:

  _Peterborough Chronicle_, 1070.

Footnote 225:

  The passages which follow are founded on the narrative of Hugh
  “Candidus,” a monk of Peterborough, who in the reign of Henry II.
  wrote an account of the possessions of the abbey, and inserts a long
  passage descriptive of the events of 1070. The beginning of his
  narrative agrees closely with the contemporary account in the
  _Peterborough Chronicle_, but his tale of the doings of the Danes in
  Ely after the sack of Peterborough is independent, and bears every
  mark of truth. Wherever it is possible to test Hugh’s work, in regard
  to other matters, its accuracy is confirmed. See _Feudal England_,
  163, V.C.H. Notts, i., 222. Hugh’s _Chronicle_ has not been printed
  since its edition by Sparke in the seventeenth century.

Footnote 226:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 216. The death of Edwin formed the conclusion
  of the narrative of William of Poitiers as Orderic possessed it.

Footnote 227:

  Florence of Worcester, 1070.

Footnote 228:

  _Historia Eliensis_, 240.

Footnote 229:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 216.

Footnote 230:

  Florence of Worcester, 1071.

Footnote 231:

  _Historia Eliensis_, 245.

Footnote 232:

  See “Ely and her Despoilers,” in _Feudal England_, 459.

Footnote 233:

  Gaimar, _L’estoire des Engles_, R. S.

Footnote 234:

  _Gesta Herewardi_, R. S.

                              CHAPTER VIII

The conquest of England had exalted William of Normandy to a position of
dignity and influence far above all his fellow-vassals of the French
crown, it had renewed the lustre of the fame which the Norman race had
won in its earlier conquest of southern Italy, but it did not mean an
unqualified gain to the Norman state, considered merely as a feudal
power. The process which had turned the duke of the Normans into the
king of the English had meant the withdrawal of Normandy from the feudal
politics of France for four years, and in that interval certain changes
of considerable importance had taken place within the limits of the
French kingdom. The Angevin succession war was now over; Fulk le Rechin
had his brother safely bestowed in prison and could begin to prove
himself the true heir of Geoffrey Martel by renewing the latter’s
schemes of territorial aggrandisement. King Philip of France had reached
an age at which he was competent to rule in person, and it was
inevitable that the enmity between Normandy and France should become
deeper and more persistent now that William had attained to a rank which
placed him on an equality with his suzerain, and could employ the
resources of his new kingdom for the furtherance of any designs which he
might form upon the integrity of the royal demesne. More important than
all, Count Baldwin of Flanders had died in 1067, and events were in
progress which for twenty years placed the wealthy county in steady
opposition to the interests of the Anglo-Norman state.

Between 1067 and 1070 Flanders was under the rule of Count Baldwin VI.,
the eldest son of Baldwin of Lille, who had greatly increased his
borders by a marriage with Richildis, the heiress of the neighbouring
imperial fief of Hainault. The counts of Flanders made it a matter of
policy to transmit their inheritance undivided to the chosen heir, and
Robert, the younger son of the old Count Baldwin, before his father’s
death had secured himself against his ultimate disinherison by marrying
Gertrude, widow of Florent I., count of Holland, and assuming the
guardianship of her son Theodoric. On the death of Baldwin VI., the
ancestral domain of Flanders descended to his eldest son, Arnulf, who
was placed under the wardship of his uncle Robert, while Hainault passed
to Baldwin, the second son, under the regency of his mother Richildis.
The two regents were on bad terms from the start, but Robert at the time
was hard pressed to maintain his position in Holland, and Richildis soon
got possession of Arnulf, the heir of Flanders, and ruled there in his
name. But her overbearing conduct rapidly made her unpopular in the
county, and Robert was soon invited to invade Flanders and reign there
in his own right. He accepted the invitation, and Richildis thereupon
hired King Philip of France to support her with an army, and offered her
hand and her dominions to William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford. The
earl, like a good knight-errant, accepted the adventure and hastened to
the succour of the lady with the full assent of his lord King William,
but fell into an ambush laid by his enemy Robert, at Bavinkhove, near
Cassel, and perished there together with Arnulf his ward. Richildis
maintained the struggle for a short time longer with the aid of troops
supplied by the prince-bishop of Liège; but on their defeat near Mons,
followed a little later by the surrender of Terouenne, the
ecclesiastical capital of Flanders, she retired into the monastery of
Maxines, and Robert, who is generally described in history as the
“Frisian” from the name of his earlier principality on the shores of the
Zuyder Zee, had the permanent possession of Flanders thenceforward.

The enterprise of William Fitz Osbern meant the dissolution of the
alliance between Normandy and Flanders, which had been founded by the
Conqueror’s marriage in 1053. It was true that French as well as Norman
troops had been involved in the disaster at Bavinkhove, but William
deliberately refused to make peace with Robert by recognising his right
to Flanders, and threw him into the arms of the king of France by
maintaining the claims of Baldwin, the brother of the dead Arnulf. The
close friendship which this policy produced between France and Flanders
for a time may suggest that William for once subordinated questions of
state to personal feeling, but his own relations with a former king of
France may have taught him that the alliances which a French monarch
founded with one feudatory on a common hostility towards another were
not likely to be very strong or permanent. It was not long after these
events that King Philip threw away his Flemish connections by the
unprovoked capture of Corbie, preferring, perhaps wisely, a definite
territorial gain to a hazardous diplomatic understanding; and when
Robert the Frisian, in 1085, at last tried to take the offensive against
William, he found support, not in the French monarchy, but in the
distant powers of Norway and Denmark.[235]

More dangerous than the open hostility of Flanders were the symptoms of
disaffection which at this time were beginning to show themselves in the
Norman dependency of Maine. Fortunately for William, the county had kept
quiet during his occupation with the affairs of England, and the revolt
which we have now to consider occurred at a time when he could give his
full attention to the work of its reduction. The nationalist party in
Maine had only been suppressed, not crushed, by the conquest of 1063,
and after some five years of Norman rule their hopes began to revive,
fomented probably by external suggestion on the part of Count Fulk of
Anjou. There were in the field two possible claimants, both connected by
marriage with the line of native counts: Azo, marquis of Liguria,
husband of Gersendis, the eldest sister of the Herbert whose death in
1063 had led to the Norman occupation, and John de la Flèche, who had
married Paula, the youngest of Herbert’s three sisters. The seigneur of
La Flèche was an Angevin lord, but he took the Norman side in the war
which followed, and the nationalists made their application to the
marquis of Liguria, who appeared in Maine with Gersendis his wife and
Hugh their son, the latter being received as the heir of the
county.[236] Azo had brought with him great store of treasure from his
Italian lordship, with which he secured a recognition of his son’s
claims from great part of the Mancel baronage, but upon the failure of
his supplies his supporters began to fall away, and he soon retired in
disgust beyond the Alps, leaving behind his wife and son to maintain the
family cause under the guardianship of Geoffrey of Mayenne.

Thus far the Mancel revolt had run the normal course of its kind, but a
more interesting development followed.[237] Shortly after the departure
of Azo the citizens of Le Mans, rejecting the leadership of their
baronial confederates, broke away on a line of their own which gives
them the distinction of anticipating by some twenty years the movement
of municipal independence which in the next generation was to
revolutionise the status of the great cities of Flanders and northern
France. The men of Le Mans formed themselves into a “commune”[238]; that
is, a civic republic administered by elective officers and occupying a
recognised legal position in the feudal hierarchy to which it belonged.
Had this association persisted, the citizens in their collective
capacity might have held their city of the duke of Normandy or the count
of Anjou, but they would have enjoyed complete independence in their
local government and no principle of feudal law would have prevented
them from appearing, still collectively, as the lord of vassals of their
own. We do not know whether they may have been prompted to take this
step by news of Italian precedents in the same direction, but the
formation of a commune raised the revolt at a bound to the dignity of a
revolution. The citizens, as was usual in such cases, united themselves
in an oath to maintain their constitution and they compelled Geoffrey of
Mayenne and the other barons of the neighbourhood to associate
themselves in the same. Herein lay the seeds of future trouble, for
Geoffrey of Mayenne, a typical feudal noble, had no liking for municipal
autonomy, and it was largely his oppression as the representative of Azo
and his heir which had stung the citizens into this assertion of their

At the outset all went well with the young republic. We hear rumours of
various violations of accepted custom, of the death penalty inflicted
for small offences, and of a certain disregard for the holy seasons of
the church; but the citizens were able to enter without immediate mishap
upon the work of reducing the castles which commanded the country
around. The commune of Le Mans did not live long enough to face the
problem of welding a powerful rural feudality into a coherent city
state, and its overthrow, when it came, came suddenly and disgracefully.
Some twenty miles from Le Mans, the castle of Sillé was being held by
Hugh its lord against the commune, and the men of the capital called out
a general levy of their supporters within the county to undertake the
siege of the fortress. A considerable body of men obeyed the summons,
and the communal army set out for Sillé with Arnold, bishop of Le Mans,
marching at its head. Hard by the castle the army from Le Mans was
joined by Geoffrey of Mayenne with his tenants; but Geoffrey felt the
incongruity of joining with a host of rebellious burghers in an attack
on the castle of a fellow-noble, and he secretly entered into
communications with Hugh of Sillé. Whether the rout of the civic host
which occurred on the following day was the result of Geoffrey’s treason
cannot now be decided, but a sudden sally on the part of the garrison
threw the besiegers into confusion, and, although they recovered
themselves sufficiently to maintain the fight, they were finally
scattered by a report that Le Mans itself had fallen into the enemy’s
hand. Great numbers of them perished in the panic which followed, more
by the precipitancy of their flight than by the efforts of the men of
Sillé, and Bishop Arnold was among the prisoners.

Within the capital all was confusion. The cause of the commune had been
hopelessly discredited, and there was treachery within the city as well
as in the camp by Sillé. The castle of Le Mans was occupied in the
nationalist interest by Gersendis of Liguria, who, immediately upon the
retreat of her elderly husband to Italy, had become the mistress of
Geoffrey of Mayenne. But Geoffrey, after his conduct at Sillé, did not
venture to return to the capital, and Gersendis, unable to endure her
lover’s absence, began to plot the surrender of the castle to him. Her
object was soon gained, and a fierce struggle raged for many days
between the citizens and Geoffrey of Mayenne, now in the possession of
their fortress. Betrayed and desperate, the men of Le Mans appealed for
help to Fulk of Anjou, and pressed on the siege with such fury that
Geoffrey was driven to make his escape by night. On Fulk’s arrival the
castle surrendered to him, and was dismantled, with the exception of
such of its fortifications as could be turned to the general defence of
the city against the greater enemy who was already on the way.

Quickly as events seem to have moved, there had yet been time for news
of the revolt to be brought to King William in England, and the
messenger of evil had been no less a person than Arnold bishop of Le
Mans himself. Long before William’s army had been set in motion Arnold
had returned to Le Mans to play, as we have seen, a somewhat ignominious
part in the catastrophe at Sillé. Meanwhile William had gathered a
force, which is especially interesting from the fact that in it for the
first time Englishmen were combined with Normans in the service of the
lord of both races beyond the sea. Englishmen in the next generation
believed that it was their compatriots who did the best service in this
campaign, and William of Malmesbury thought that though the English had
been conquered with ease in their own land yet that they always appeared
invincible in foreign parts.[239] On the present occasion, however,
there was little call for feats of arms. William entered Maine by the
Sarthe Valley and besieged Fresnay, whose lord, Hubert, was soon driven
by the harrying of his lands to surrender Fresnay itself and the lesser
castle of Beaumont lower down the river. Sillé was the next point of
attack, but Hugh of Sillé made his submission before the investment of
his castle had begun, and William moved on southward towards Le Mans.
After the strife and confusion of the past months men were everywhere
disposed to welcome the King as the restorer of peace, castles were
readily surrendered to him, and the way lay open to the distracted
capital. Here too, after a brief delay, he was received without
opposition, but the men of Le Mans, before they surrendered the keys of
the city, obtained from the king a sworn promise that he would pardon
them for their revolt, and would respect their ancient customs and the
independence of their local rights of jurisdiction.[240] The commune of
Le Mans ceased to exist, but in its last moments it had shown itself
strong enough to win an act of indemnity from its formidable conqueror,
and to guard itself against the possible consequences of a feudal

The war now entered upon another phase. Count Fulk was little minded to
forego the position he had won in Le Mans as the protector of its
commune, and, but for the unwonted strength of the Anglo-Norman army, it
is likely enough that he would have made some effort to oppose William’s
march to the city. As it was, however, he contented himself with turning
upon John de la Flèche, William’s leading Angevin adherent, who
immediately appealed to his ally for help. William at once despatched a
force to his assistance under William de Moulins and Robert de Vieux
Pont, a move which had the effect of widening the area of hostilities
still further. Fulk proceeded to the siege of La Flèche, and called to
his assistance Count Hoel of Brittany.[241] The combined Breton and
Angevin host would be far superior to any force which William’s
lieutenants had in the field in that quarter; and at the head of a large
army, now as formerly composed of English as well as Norman troops, he
hastened to La Flèche in person and everything betokened a pitched
battle of the first class. But, at the supreme moment, an unnamed
cardinal of the Roman Church, together with some pious monks, intervened
in favour of peace, and within the circle of the Norman leaders Counts
William of Evreux and Roger of Montgomery were of the same mind. Various
conferences were held to discuss the conditions of a possible
settlement, and at last, at Blanchelande, just outside the walls of La
Flèche, a treaty was concluded.[242] Now, as ten years earlier, Robert
of Normandy was selected as count of Maine, and to him Fulk of Anjou
released the direct suzerainty which he claimed over the barons of the
county, together with all the fiefs which were Robert’s marriage portion
with Margaret, his affianced bride in 1061. Robert, in return,
recognised Fulk as the overlord of Maine, and did homage to him in that
capacity. William promised indemnity to those Mancel barons who had
taken the Angevin side in the late war, and Fulk was formally reconciled
to John de la Flèche, and the other Angevin nobles who had leagued
themselves with the king of England.

The treaty was in effect a compromise. All the immediate advantage, it
is true, lay on the Norman side: the heir of Normandy was now the lawful
count of Maine, and Robert’s countship meant the effective rule of
William the Conqueror, who even appropriated his son’s title and in
solemn documents would at times add to his Norman and English dignities
the style of “Prince of the men of Maine.” Yet, on the other hand, the
formal recognition of the Angevin overlordship was no small thing. It
gave to succeeding counts of Anjou a vantage ground which they did not
neglect. The line which separated suzerainty from immediate rule, clear
enough in law, would rapidly become indistinct when a strong prince like
Fulk the Rechin was the overlord, and a feckless creature like Robert
Curthose the tenant in possession. More than sixty years were to pass
before a count of Anjou became the immediate lord of Maine, but the
seeds of such a development were laid by the treaty of Blanchelande.

In the period which follows the suppression of the fenland rising of
1070, the bulk of our historical information relates to the affairs of
the Conqueror’s continental dominions. But in English history proper the
time was one of crucial importance. Its character was not such as to
invite the attention of a medieval chronicler, eager to fill his pages
with a succession of battlepieces: with the exception of the revolt of
the earls in 1075, England was outwardly at peace from the flight of
Hereward to the Conqueror’s death; but it is to this time that we must
assign the systematic introduction of Norman methods of government, and
the gradual reconciliation of the English people to the fact that they
had thrown their last try for independence, and that for good or ill
they must make the best of the permanent rule of their alien masters. A
process of this kind, in itself largely subconscious, lay beyond the
understanding of the best monastic annalist or chronicler, and we shall
never know exactly in what light the great change presented itself to
the peasantry of a single English village; but there are certain
matters, more on the surface of the history, with regard to which we
possess definite information, and which themselves are of some
considerable importance.

Prominent among these last stands the question of the relations between
the Conqueror and his unquiet neighbour, or, as William would probably
have described him, his unruly vassal, Malcolm Canmore, king of Scots.
The Scotch question had merely been shelved for a little time by the
submission of 1068, and up to the Conqueror’s death there remained
several matters in dispute between the kings, each of which might serve
as a decent pretext for war if such were needed. In particular the
English frontier on the north-west emphatically called for rectification
from King William’s standpoint. Ever since the commendation of Cumbria
to Malcolm I., in or about 954, the south-western border of Scotland had
cut the English frontier at a re-entrant angle at a particularly
dangerous point. From the hills which rise to 2000 feet along the
boundary between Cumberland and Durham, the valley of the Tees affords a
gradual descent to the fertile country which lies between the moors of
the North Riding of Yorkshire and the hills of Cleveland. So long as
Lothian remained part of the Bernician earldom, the strategical
significance of Teesdale was to a great extent masked; no king of Scots
could ravage the plain of north Yorkshire without facing the possibility
that his country might be harried and his own retreat cut off by a
counter raid from Bamburgh or Dunbar. But the cession of Lothian to
Malcolm II. after the battle of Carham in 1018 materially altered the
military situation, and but for the dissensions within the Scotch
kingdom which followed Malcolm’s death, it is probable that Yorkshire
during the Confessor’s reign would have received sharp proof of the
danger which impended from the north-west.

Malcolm was succeeded by Duncan, the son of his sister by Crinan, lay
abbot of Dunkeld; and on Duncan’s displacement by Macbeth, leader of the
Picts beyond the Forth, the position of the new king was too unstable to
allow him to interfere effectively on the side of Northumbria. Relying
as he did on Highland support, Macbeth seems to have left Cumberland in
virtual independence, and it has recently been proved that during some
part of the first fifteen years of his reign Cumberland was largely
settled by English thegns who seem to have regarded themselves as
subject to Earl Siward of Northumbria.[243] On his part, Siward
supported the party of Malcolm, Duncan’s son; but when, three years
after Siward’s death, Malcolm had become king of Scots, the tide began
to turn, and Cumberland became once more a menace to the peace of
northern England.

The restoration of the son of Duncan to the throne of Scotland brought
into importance the marriage relationship which existed between his line
and the family which for a century had held hereditary possession of the
Bernician earldom. The complicated relationships which united the local
earls of Bernicia will best be illustrated in tabular form,[244] but the
outline of the Northumbrian succession is fairly clear. Siward, although
a Dane by birth, was connected by marriage with the great Bernician
house, but on his death in 1055 the ancient family was dispossessed of
the earldom in favour first of Tostig and then of Morcar. Their
earldoms, however, were mere incidents in the general rivalry between
the houses of Godwine and Leofric, and the attachment of the
Northumbrians to their local dynasty is shown by the fact that, at the
crisis of 1065, Morcar is found appointing Oswulf, son of Earl Eadwulf
II., subordinate earl of Bernicia beyond the Tyne. Upon Oswulf’s murder
his cousin Gospatric, as we have seen, bought a recognition of the
family claims from the Conqueror; and it is not improbable that the
latter, when making Gospatric his lieutenant in Northumbria, may have
had in mind some idea of securing peace from the side of Scotland and
conciliating the local sentiment of the north through an earl who
inherited the blood of the ancient lords of Bamburgh and was near of kin
to the king of Scots. The plan in the first instance failed through the
defection of Gospatric in the summer of 1068, but the rapidity with
which his restoration followed the submission which he tendered by proxy
to William on the bank of the Tees at the close of 1069 is itself
significant. In the interval created by Gospatric’s deposition there had
occurred the disastrous experiment of the appointment of Robert de
Comines. It was as important now as two years previously to prevent the
men of Northumberland and Durham from making common cause with Malcolm
of Scotland against the Norman government; and now as formerly Gospatric
was the one man who could, if he chose, perform this work. But before
another year had passed the precarious tranquillity of the north was
again broken, and the Scotch danger reasserted itself in the acutest of

We might gather from the table above referred to, alone, that Malcolm,
by his English connections, would be the natural protector of any
dispossessed natives who might choose to seek refuge at his court, and
we have seen that Edgar the Etheling had twice been driven to escape
beyond the Tweed. We possess no information as to the motives which
induced Malcolm in the course of 1070 to break peace with King William.
In his barbarian mind Malcolm may have conceived of himself as avenging
the wrongs of his English friends by harrying the land from which they
had been driven, or, more probably, the withdrawal of the Conqueror from
the north may have seemed to him to open a safe opportunity for an
extended plunder raid. Possibly he regarded his cousin Gospatric as
having betrayed the cause of his people by doing homage to the Norman
Conqueror, but whatever the immediate cause, he suddenly fell upon
Northumbria by way of Cumberland and Teesdale, harried Cleveland and
Holderness, and then turned back again upon the modern shire of
Durham.[245] And it was while he was in the act of burning the town of
Wearmouth that Edgar the Etheling, with his mother and sisters,
accompanied by Marleswegn, Harold’s former lieutenant in the north, and
other battered relics of the national party, landed from their ships in
the harbour.[246] So long as the Danes under Earl Asbiorn had kept to
the Humber, it would seem that the etheling had been content to drift
about aimlessly with them, but their departure for Ely had driven him to
seek refuge for a third time within two years at the Scottish court.
Malcolm went down to the fugitives and assured them of a welcome in
Scotland, whither they sailed off without delay, while he betook himself
with renewed energy to his work of devastation.

For in the meantime Gospatric had been doing what he would consider to
be his duty as the lawful earl of Bernicia: while Malcolm was harrying
Durham, Gospatric was harrying Cumberland. The action taken by King
Malcolm had for the time being destroyed all possibility of a coalition
between Scot and Bernician, and, on the present occasion, Gospatric’s
fidelity was unimpeachable, if his generalship was bad. He was
successful in carrying off much booty to his fortress of Bamburgh, but
he did nothing to check the Scot king’s depredations, and the news of
what had been happening in Cumberland excited Malcolm to a state of
fury, in which he committed the most appalling atrocities on the country
folk of the region through which his northward march lay. Red-handed as
he was, Malcolm on his return to Scotland found the English exiles in
the enjoyment of his peace, and forthwith insisted that Margaret, the
etheling’s sister, should be given to him in marriage. Some project of
the kind had undoubtedly been mooted during the etheling’s earlier
visits to Scotland, but Margaret felt a desire to enter the religious
life; and nothing but the fact that the very existence of the fugitives
lay at Malcolm’s mercy induced the etheling to give his consent to the
union. The exact date of the ceremony is uncertain, but it may not
unreasonably be placed in the course of 1071, and with the alliance of
the royal houses of Scotland and Wessex the northern kingdom begins to
emerge from its barbaric isolation, and to fill a permanent place in the
political scheme of English statesmen.

To William the marriage was no matter of congratulation. It meant that
the Scottish court would become definitely interested in the restoration
of the old English dynasty; so long as such an event were possible, it
was likely to make Scotland both a refuge and a recruiting ground for
any political exile who might choose to attempt his return by force and
arms. To minimise these evils, and to avenge the harrying of 1070, the
Conqueror in the summer of 1072 set out for Scotland in person. The
expedition was planned on a great scale; the fyrd was called out, and
the naval force which was at William’s command co-operated with the
native host. Malcolm seems to have felt himself unequal to meeting a
force of this size in the open field; he allowed William to pass through
Lothian and to cross the Forth without any serious obstruction, and the
two kings met at Abernethy on the Tay. There Malcolm renewed his homage
to William, made peace, and gave hostages for its observance, among them
Donald, his son by his first wife, Ingibiorg. The expedition could not
have been intended to accomplish more than this, and William at once
turned southwards, retracing his steps along the great east coast

Nothing appears to have been done at this time to improve the defences
of the northern border. Carlisle remained in Scotch hands, and the site
of the future Newcastle on the Tyne is only mentioned in the record of
this march through the fact of the river being flooded at the moment
when the army sought to cross it, thereby causing an inconvenient delay.
The importance of the Teesdale gap had been sufficiently proved by the
events of 1070, but no attempt was made to guard the course of the river
in any special manner. On the other hand we should do well not to ignore
the possibility that the first creation of the earldom of Richmond
immediately to the south of the Tees may not have been unconnected with
the advisability of keeping a permanent military force in this quarter.
The earldom in question had been conferred upon Brian of Penthievre in
or before 1068, and had passed from him to his brother Alan by the date
of the events with which we are dealing.[248] So far as we know King
William never created an earldom save for purposes of border defence,
and the geographical facts which we have just noted make it distinctly
improbable that Richmond was an exception to this rule.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two important changes in the government of Northumbria would seem to
have been carried out at this time. The first was the installation of
Walcher of Lorraine as bishop of Durham, and his establishment in a
castle especially built for him, so that he might be secure against any
spasmodic rising on the part of the men of his great diocese. The second
event was the deposition of Earl Gospatric. He was held guilty, we are
told, of complicity in the murder of Robert de Comines, and the Danish
storm of York in 1069, although his offences in both these matters had
been committed previous to his reconciliation with William in 1070.
Whatever may have been the true cause of his downfall, it was followed
immediately by the restoration of the house of Siward to its former
position in the north, for the earldom of Northumbria was now given to
Waltheof of Huntingdon, Siward’s son, and remained in his hands until
the catastrophe which overtook him three years later. Gospatric in the
meantime betook himself to his cousin’s court and received from him a
large estate in Lothian, centring round the town of Dunbar, until he
might be restored to King William’s favour. With this act his political
importance ceases; Domesday proves that the whole or part of his
Yorkshire estates had been restored to him by the time of the taking of
the Survey, but he never recovered his former rank and influence.

It has been conjectured with much probability that one of the conditions
of the peace of Abernethy was the expulsion of Edgar the Etheling from
Scotland.[249] Shortly after this time he appears as beginning a series
of journeys, which before long brought him once more into England as the
honoured guest of King William. His first visit was paid to Flanders,
where he would be sure of a kindly reception from Robert the Frisian, by
this time William’s mortal enemy. After a stay of uncertain length in
Flanders he returned to Scotland, where he landed early in July 1074,
and was hospitably entertained by his sister and her husband. Before
long, however, he received an invitation from King Philip of France,
offering to put him in possession of the castle of Montreuil, which he
might use as a base from which to attack his enemies.[250] The offer
shows considerable strategical sense in the young king of France.
Montreuil was the first piece of territory which the Capetian house had
gained on the Channel coast, but it was separated by the possessions of
the house of Vermandois from the body of the royal demesne, and it lay
between the counties of Ponthieu and Boulogne. Once established in
Montreuil Edgar could have received constant support from Robert the
Frisian; and if the counts of Ponthieu or Boulogne wished to revolt from
the Norman connection Edgar’s territory would have made it possible to
form a compact and powerful league against the most vulnerable part of
the Norman frontier.

Edgar complied with King Philip’s request, and set out by sea to take
possession of his castle; the good-will of his Scottish protectors being
expressed in a multitude of costly gifts. Unfortunately for the success
of his enterprise he was speedily driven on to the English coast by a
storm and some of his men were taken prisoner, but he succeeded in
reaching Scotland again, although in very miserable condition. Curiously
enough this slight check to his plans seems to have caused him to
abandon outright the idea of occupying Montreuil, and we are told that
his brother-in-law advised him to make terms with King William. The
Conqueror was at the time in Normandy, but he gave a ready hearing to
the overtures from Edgar and directed that an escort should be sent to
accompany him through England and across the Channel. Of the meeting
between the king and the etheling in Normandy we possess no details, but
the English writers were struck with the honours which the Conqueror
showed to his former rival,[251] and Domesday reveals the latter in
peaceable possession of upwards of a thousand acres of land in the
north-east of Hertfordshire. For the rest of William’s reign Edgar
remained a political cipher.

We have now reached the central event of William’s rule in England, the
revolt of the earls in 1075. The rising in question is sufficiently
characterised by the name which is generally assigned to it; it was a
movement headed by two of the seven earls who held office in England,
incited by the motives proper to men of their rank, and finding little
support outside the body of their personal dependants. It had no popular
or provincial feeling behind it; it cannot even be described as a purely
Norman revolt, for the mass of the English baronage held true to King
William, and its most striking result was the execution of the last
English earl, for complicity in the designs of his Norman confederates.

On the death of William Fitz Osbern in 1071 his earldom of Hereford had
passed to his son, a stupid and vicious young man, in every way a
degenerate successor to the tried and faithful friend of the Conqueror.
From the moment of his succession to his earldom Roger seems to have
kept himself in sullen isolation in his palatinate across the Severn;
his name has not yet been found among the visitors to William’s court
who witnessed the charters which the king granted during these years,
and we should know nothing about the man or his character if it were not
for the preservation of three letters addressed to him by his father’s
old friend Archbishop Lanfranc. At the time when these letters were
written, William was in Normandy, and Lanfranc had been left in a sort
of unofficial regency, in which position he had clearly been rendered
uneasy by rumours of Roger’s growing disaffection. Lanfranc, in his
correspondence, was tactfully indefinite on the latter point, but he was
very outspoken in regard to Roger’s personal acts of oppression and
injustice. By the example of William Fitz Osbern, “whom,” says Lanfranc,
“I loved more than anyone else in the world,” the archbishop pleaded
with his friend’s son to amend his conduct, and promised to see him and
give him counsel on whatever occasion he might choose. But Roger
remained obdurate, and in the last letter of the three which we possess
Lanfranc declares Roger excommunicate until he has compensated those
whom he has injured, and has made his peace with the king for his
arbitrary acts in his earldom.

The position of Waltheof at this time has already been described. His
Bernician earldom was less important on this occasion than were the
group of shires in the eastern midlands over which he also possessed
comital rights. The four counties of Northampton, Bedford, Huntingdon,
and Cambridge, together with Waltheof’s extensive estates in
Leicestershire and Warwickshire, went far towards connecting the
palatinate of Hereford with the distant earldom of East Anglia, the most
dangerous quarter of the present rebellion.

The earl of East Anglia, Ralf of Wader, might, like Waltheof, claim to
be considered an Englishman; for, although his mother was a Breton and
his father also bore the Norman name of Ralf, the latter was an
Englishman of Norfolk birth, and had been earl of East Anglia under
Edward the Confessor and during the earliest years of the Conqueror.
Ralf the younger, despite his succession to his father’s earldom, is
identified with his mother’s land of Brittany, where he held the estates
of Wader and Montfort, rather than with England.[252] Like Roger of
Hereford, and judging from the same evidence, Earl Ralf would seem to
have been a consistent absentee from William’s court, and his one
appearance in the history of the latter’s reign, previous to his own
revolt in 1075, took place in 1069, when he beat off the Danes from the
estuary of the Yare.

The immediate cause of the present outbreak was the Conqueror’s
objection to a marriage which had been projected between Earl Ralf and
Emma, daughter of William Fitz Osbern and sister of Roger of Hereford.
The reasons for the Conqueror’s action are intelligible enough; nothing
could be further from his interest than the creation of a series of
marriage ties among the greater vassals of his crown, especially when
the parties to be connected in this way held the wide military and
territorial powers which at this early date were inherent in the dignity
of an earl. There is no reason to suppose that Earl Ralf’s loyalty had
been suspected at any earlier time or that there was anything deeper
than the royal prohibition of his marriage which now drove him into
revolt. Without the king’s consent, the marriage was celebrated and the
wedding feast held at Exning in Cambridgeshire, a vill within Waltheof’s
earldom. Earls Roger and Ralf had already made preparations for their
rising, their friends had been acquainted with their intention, and
their castles were prepared to stand a siege; and at Exning a determined
attempt was made to seduce Waltheof from his temporary fidelity to King
William. His accession to their cause might very possibly bring with it
some measure of English support, he had a great popular reputation as a
warrior, and the plans and motives of the conspirators were unfolded to
him at the wedding feast with startling frankness. The occasion was
hardly such as to produce sobriety of counsel, and in the one extended
narrative which we possess of the original plot, the terms of the offer
now made to Waltheof were involved in a long harangue, in which the
deposition of the Conqueror was declared to be a matter pleasing to God
and man, and every event in William’s life which could be turned to his
discredit was brought forward, heightened according to the taste of the
conspirators or the literary skill of our informant. More important than
the grotesque crimes attributed to the Conqueror are the plans formed by
the earls for the event of his expulsion. Their object, we are told, was
to restore England to the condition in which it had existed in the days
of Edward the Confessor. With this object, one of the three chief
plotters was to be king, the other two earls; Waltheof in particular was
to receive a third part of England. William was declared to be fully
occupied beyond the sea, his Normans in England were assumed to be
discontented with the reward they had received for their services, and
it was suggested that the native English might be willing to rise once
more if a chance of revenge were offered them. Waltheof was assured that
the chances of a successful rising could never be higher than at the
moment in question.[253]

The narrative of Ordericus Vitalis, which we have hitherto been
following, makes Waltheof indignantly refuse to be a party to any scheme
of the kind. By the examples of Ahitophel and Judas Iscariot he
demonstrated the sinister fate that was the portion of a traitor, and
declared that he would never violate the confidence that King William
had placed in him. On his refusal to join the plot, he was compelled to
take a terrible oath not to betray the scheme and the rising was
accomplished without his assistance; but after its suppression the tale
makes Waltheof accused of treason by Judith his wife before the king,
and describes his behaviour in prison and the manner of his end with
great wealth of detail and a not improbable approximation to the facts
of the case. It seems fairly certain that Waltheof took no effective
part in the military operations which followed the bridal of Exning, and
we may consider the difficult question connected with his trial and
execution apart from the details of the war.

The plan of campaign followed by both sides was extremely simple.
Neither the earldom of East Anglia or of Hereford acting by itself could
obtain any permanent success against the loyal portions of the country;
the object of the rebel leaders was to join their forces, and the object
of King William’s lieutenants was to prevent the combination. The line
of the Severn was guarded against Earl Roger of Hereford by the local
magnates of Worcestershire, Wulfstan the bishop, and Urse d’Abetot the
sheriff of the shire, Agelwig, abbot of Evesham, and Walter de Lacy, at
the head of a force composed of the local fyrd in conjunction with the
knightly tenants from their own estates.[254]

The Herefordshire revolt had soon run its course; Earl Roger never got
across the Severn and within a short time had been taken prisoner, but
the earl of East Anglia was a person of greater ability. Before engaging
in the rebellion the earls had sought for external help; application had
been made to the King of Denmark for a fleet, and reinforcements had
been drawn from Brittany, recruited in great part, no doubt, from the
Breton estates of Ralf de Wader. From the latter’s head-quarters at
Norwich a highroad of Roman origin stretched invitingly across the
Norfolk plain towards the royal castle of Cambridge, and Earl Ralf moved
westward in the hope of effecting a junction with Roger of Hereford; but
at an unknown place in the neighbourhood of this line, designated by
Ordericus Vitalis as “Fagadun,” the rebel army was broken and scattered,
and from a letter which Lanfranc wrote to the king immediately after
this event, the archbishop was evidently in expectation of a speedy
suppression of the whole rising. That this hope was frustrated was due
to the heroism of Earl Ralf’s bride, who undertook the defence of
Norwich castle in person, while her lord went off to Denmark, and held
out for three months against all that the Norman commanders could do. At
last she was compelled to surrender upon conditions. The Breton tenants
of Earl Ralf in England were required to abandon their lands and to
withdraw to Brittany within forty days; the mercenaries of the same race
were allowed a month to get away from the country. Emma herself, to whom
belonged all the honours of the war, went to Brittany, where she met her
husband, and Norwich castle was once more occupied in the king’s name.

Earl Ralf’s journey to Denmark had not been fruitless, for a fleet of
two hundred Danish ships appeared in the Humber shortly after the fall
of Norwich, under the command of Cnut, son of King Swegn Estrithson, and
a certain earl called Hakon.[255] Their coming reopened an endless
possibility of further trouble; the Conqueror, through Archbishop
Lanfranc, enjoined Bishop Walcher of Durham to look well to the defences
of his castle.[256] But the first object of the ordinary Danish
commander of those times was always plunder, and Cnut after successfully
evading the royal troops contented himself with the sack of York
cathedral, and quickly sailed away to Flanders. In the very year of this
expedition (1075), Swegn Estrithson died, and Harold, his eldest son,
who succeeded him, kept peace towards England throughout his reign. In
the autumn of 1075 William had returned to England, and at Christmas he
proceeded to deal with the persons and property of the revolted earls.
Waltheof and Roger were in his power; Ralf was safe beyond the sea, but
his English lands remained for confiscation, and such of his Breton
associates as were in the king’s hands were punished according to the
fashion of the times. Earl Roger was sent to prison, but his captivity
at first was not over severe, and had it not been for his contumelious
conduct towards the king he might have obtained his release in due
course. Unfortunately for himself, he mortally offended William by
throwing into the fire a rich present of silks and furs which the king
sent to him one Easter, and perpetual captivity was the return for the
insult. The relative leniency of the Conqueror’s treatment of Roger
contrasts very strikingly with his attitude to the third earl implicated
in the revolt, and no incident in King William’s career has won more
reprobation from medieval and modern historians than the sentence which
he allowed to be passed on Earl Waltheof.

We have already sketched in outline the narrative of Waltheof’s action
as given by Ordericus Vitalis, and it will be well now to consider
briefly the independent story told by the native English
chronicles.[257] On all accounts it is certain that Waltheof had been
implicated in the treason proposed at Exning, and it is no less clear,
though the fact is suppressed by Orderic, that he had speedily repented
and under the advice of Lanfranc had revealed the whole scheme to King
William in Normandy.[258] The part played by Lanfranc is explicable, not
only by the species of regency he held in the kingdom at the time, but
also by his position as metropolitan of the English church, and his
reputation as a famous doctor of the canon law. No man was better
qualified to give a sound opinion as to the circumstances under which an
indiscreet oath might be broken without the guilt of perjury; and the
penances which he imposed on Waltheof for his intended breach of the
engagement which he had taken at Exning seem to have been accepted by
all parties as a satisfactory solution of the matter. On his part,
William bided his time; he appears to have accepted the gifts which
Waltheof offered as the price of his peace, and he contented himself
with keeping the earl under his own supervision until his return to
England. Not till then was Waltheof placed under actual arrest, and it
has been conjectured that the reason for this action was the fear that
he might make his escape to the Danes in the Humber.[259] At the
midwinter council of 1075 he was brought to trial, whether or not upon
information laid against him by his wife, the countess Judith, and
although no definite sentence was passed against him at this time he was
sent into closer imprisonment at Winchester.

For the first five months of 1076 Waltheof’s cause remained undecided.
It is clear that there was considerable uncertainty in high quarters as
to what should be done with him. Lanfranc interceded on his behalf,
apparently going so far as to declare him innocent of all complicity in
the revolt. We are told nothing of the Conqueror’s own sentiments in the
matter, but the strange delay in the promulgation of definite sentence
suggests that throughout these months he had been halting between two
opinions. At last the sterner view prevailed, and under the influence of
Waltheof’s Norman rivals at the royal court, according to Ordericus
Vitalis, the king gave orders for the execution of the last English

Early on the morning of the 31st of May, Waltheof was taken from his
prison in Winchester to die on the hill of St. Giles outside the city.
Accustomed hitherto to the active life of his northern ancestors, the
monotony of his imprisonment would seem to have destroyed his courage,
and the fatal morning found him in bitter agony of soul. The
executioners, who feared a rescue, and were anxious to get through with
the work, had little patience with his prayers and weeping, and bade him
rise that they might carry out their orders. Waltheof begged that he
might be allowed to say a _pater noster_ for himself and them, and they
granted his request, but at the clause “_et ne nos inducas in
tentationem_” his voice failed him, and he burst into a storm of tears.
Before he could recover his strength, his head had been struck from him
at a single blow, but the monks of Crowland abbey, where his body lay in
after years, told their Norman visitor Ordericus Vitalis that the
severed head was heard duly to finish the prayer with “_sed libera nos a
malo, Amen_.”

The case of Earl Waltheof involves two separate questions which it is
well to keep distinct in estimating the justice of King William’s
conduct in the matter. The first is how far Waltheof had really
implicated himself in the designs of the earls of East Anglia and
Hereford; the second is what, on the assumption of his serious guilt,
would have been the lawful punishment for it. It does not seem likely
that the first question will ever be finally answered, for by a singular
chance none of our authorities are quite disinterested when they relate
the circumstances of Waltheof’s fall. The Anglo-Saxon chronicler and
Florence of Worcester, compatriots of the dead earl, lie under some
antecedent suspicion of minimising the extent to which he had
compromised himself; and Ordericus Vitalis, to whom we should naturally
turn for a statement of the Norman side of the case, based his account
of Waltheof upon information received from the monks of Crowland at a
time when the earl was, in popular sentiment, rapidly becoming
transformed into a national martyr. Orderic’s narrative, written under
such influences, has just as much historical value as any professed
piece of martyrology; that is, it probably presents the authentic
tradition of the details of its hero’s death, but it is not concerned to
pay a scrupulous regard to facts which might be inconvenient for his
reputation. And so King William for once has no apologist; but sixty
years after the event it was recognised by an impartial writer like
William of Malmesbury[260] that the Norman story about Waltheof was very
different from that which the English put forward. With such
untrustworthy authorities as our only guides, we should scarcely attempt
to settle a matter which in the days of King Stephen was already a
burning question, but our hesitancy should make us pause before we
accuse King William of judicial murder.

To the second of the problems arising out of the case—the sentence which
followed Waltheof’s condemnation—it is possible to find a more
satisfactory answer. Nothing is more probable than that the Conqueror,
in sending Roger of Hereford into prison and beheading Waltheof, was
simply applying to criminals of high rank the great principle that men
of Norman or of English race should be judged respectively according to
Norman or English law.[261] Earl Roger as a Norman, according to a
practice on which we have already had occasion to remark, was condemned
to imprisonment, but English law regarded treason as a capital offence,
and Waltheof suffered the strict legal penalty of his crime. Indeed,
Waltheof himself, in Orderic’s version of his reply to the conspirators
at Exning, is made to declare that the English law condemned a traitor
to lose his head, and it is probable that he was better informed on this
point than have been some of the later historians who have undertaken
his defence. During the next century, members of the Norman baronage
established in England who had raised an unsuccessful revolt uniformly
received sentence according to the rule which applied to men of their
race; and the execution of a traitor against the king will scarcely
occur between 1100 and 1200, and but rarely in the course of the
thirteenth century. But Waltheof had no privilege of the kind, and,
stern as was his sentence, he might not complain that formal justice had
been denied him.

The revolt of 1075 produced a sequel in a small continental war. Earl
Ralf, as we have seen, had fled to his estates in Brittany, and his
appearance coincided in point of time with the outbreak of a general
revolt among the Breton baronage. Count Hoel, who possessed in his own
right five-sixths of Brittany, was the first of his line to exercise
effective rule over the whole peninsula, and the fact was little to the
liking of his greater subjects. The malcontents found a leader in
Geoffrey “Grenonat,” count of Rennes, an illegitimate son of Alan III.;
and the dispossessed earl of East Anglia brought the resources of his
barony of Wader to their side. Ralf and Geoffrey seized the castle of
Dol; and the rising assumed such serious proportions that Hoel sent to
England, and requested King William’s assistance. William, ever desirous
of asserting Norman influence in Brittany, took the present opportunity,
and in 1076 he crossed the Channel with a force which to the chroniclers
of Worcester and Peterborough represented an English fyrd, and laid
siege to Dol. The result was a serious loss of prestige, for the
garrison had answered Hoel’s application to William by making a
counter-appeal to Philip of France, and held out valiantly in the
expectation of relief. Philip took the field with a large army, advanced
to Dol, and took a measure of revenge for his father’s discomfitures at
Mortemer and Varaville, by compelling William to beat a hasty retreat
with the loss of his baggage and stores. William engaged no further in
the war which dragged on for three years longer, but ended in 1079 with
the final success of Hoel.[262]

In the meantime, certain important changes had taken place in the
administrative geography of England. The earldoms of Hereford and East
Anglia, vacant through the treason of Earls Roger and Ralf, were allowed
to fall into abeyance. Waltheof’s earldom of Northampton likewise became
extinct, although his widow, the countess Judith, was possessed in 1086
of large estates scattered over the shires which had lain within her
husband’s government. There was no particular reason why
Northamptonshire should possess an earl, but it was still abundantly
necessary that William should be represented by a permanent lieutenant
on the Scotch border. An earl for Bernicia was now found in the person
of Walcher of Lorraine, whose appointment anticipated by more than sixty
years the beginning of the long series of bishops of Durham, whose
secular powers within their diocese produced the “county palatine” which
lasted until 1836.[263] The experiment made in Walcher’s appointment was
destined to end in tragic failure, but for four years Northumbrian
affairs relapse into unwonted obscurity, and the Conqueror was never
again called upon to lead an army into the north.

[Illustration: Denier of Robert le Frison]


Footnote 235:

  See Varenbergh, _Relations Diplomatiques entre le comté de Flandre et
  l’Angleterre_. Luchaire, _Les Premiers Capetiens_, 169.

Footnote 236:

  Halphen, _Comté d’Anjou_, 180, has shown that Azo had appeared in
  Maine by the spring of 1069.

Footnote 237:

  The authorities for the present war are the history of Ordericus
  Vitalis and the life of Bishop Arnold of Le Mans, ed. Mabillon;
  _Vetera Analecta_.

Footnote 238:

  “Facta conspiratione quam communionem vocabant.”—_Vet. An._, 215.

Footnote 239:

  _Gesta Regum_, ii., 316.

Footnote 240:

  _Vetera Analecta_, 286.

Footnote 241:

  Hoel, unlike his predecessors, followed a policy of friendship towards
  Anjou, and restored to Fulk le Rechin the conquests made by Count
  Conan on the Angevin march. De la Borderie, iii., 26.

Footnote 242:

  The terms of the peace of Blanchelande are given by Orderic.

Footnote 243:

  E. H. R., xx., 61.

Footnote 244:

  See table H.

Footnote 245:

  Simeon of Durham, 1072.

Footnote 246:

  This third flight of Edgar to Scotland rests solely upon the authority
  of Simeon of Durham, and it is quite possible that the latter may have
  been confused about the course of events at this point.

Footnote 247:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1073.

Footnote 248:

  Brian’s tenure of the earldom of Richmond is proved by a charter to
  the priory of St. Martin de Lamballe, in which lands are granted by
  “Brientius, comes Anglica terra.” (De la Borderie, iii., 25.) As
  Brian’s father, Count Éon of Penthievre, did not die before 1079 the
  title “comes” cannot refer to any French county possessed by Brian. As
  in the eleventh century every “earldom” consisted of a shire or group
  of shires, it would seem to follow that Richmondshire at this date was
  regarded as a territorial unit distinct from Yorkshire.

Footnote 249:

  _Norman Conquest_, iv., 517.

Footnote 250:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1075.

Footnote 251:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1075.

Footnote 252:

  According to Wace Ralf had served among the Breton auxiliaries at the
  battle of Hastings.

Footnote 253:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 258 _et seq._

Footnote 254:

  Florence of Worcester, 1074.

Footnote 255:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1076.

Footnote 256:

  _Epistolæ Lanfranci._

Footnote 257:

  Florence of Worcester, 1074.

Footnote 258:

  It does not appear that any medieval historian regarded this as an act
  of treachery on Waltheof’s part.

Footnote 259:

  F. N. C., iv., 585.

Footnote 260:

  _Gesta Regum_, ii., 312.

Footnote 261:

  This point is made by Pollock and Maitland. H. E. L., i., 291.

Footnote 262:

  For the rest of the Conqueror’s reign, there was peace between
  Normandy and Brittany, except that in 1086 William, to whom the new
  count Alan Fergant, the son of Hoel, had refused homage, crossed the
  border once more and laid siege to Dol. In this siege also he was
  unsuccessful, and speedily came to terms with Alan, who received
  Constance, the Conqueror’s daughter, in marriage.

Footnote 263:

  Simeon of Durham, 1075.

                               CHAPTER IX

With the peace of Blanchelande we enter upon the last phase in the life
of William the Conqueror, and this although more than the half of his
English reign still lay in the future. It must be owned that no unity of
purpose or achievement can be traced underlying this final stage; the
history of these last years is little more than a series of disconnected
episodes, of which the details themselves are very imperfectly known to
us. It has, in fact, been customary for historians to regard this period
as marking somewhat of a decline in the character and fortunes of the
Conqueror; a decline which the men of the next generation were inclined
to attribute to supernatural vengeance pursuing the king for his
execution of Earl Waltheof in 1076. “Such was his resolution,” says
Orderic, “that he still maintained a brave fight against his enemies,
but success did not crown his enterprises now as formerly, nor were his
battles often crowned with victory.”[264] This idea of retributive fate,
characteristic of the medieval mind, has received from historians
various adaptations and exemplifications, but perhaps a more reasonable
explanation of the tameness of the last years of the Conqueror would be
that the achievements of the decade between 1060 and 1070 inevitably
make the succeeding history something of an anticlimax. The Conqueror’s
last wars are indeed inconsiderable enough when compared with the
campaigns of Le Mans and Hastings, but the most unique undertaking of
his life falls within two years of its close; and with the Domesday
Survey before us we need no further proof that the far-sightedness of
the king’s policy and the strength of his executive power were still
unimpaired at the very close of his career.

The main cause of the difficulties which beset the King in these latter
years was the undutiful eagerness of Robert of Normandy to anticipate
his inheritance. It was natural enough that Robert should wish to enjoy
the reality of power; for a dozen years at least he had been the
recognised heir of Normandy, and the peace of Blanchelande had recently
assigned him the county of Maine. But so early as 1074 the earls of
Hereford and Norfolk, in planning their revolt, are understood to have
reckoned the disagreement between the King and his eldest son among the
chances in their favour,[265] and it is certain that Robert had been
bitterly discontented with his position for some time before he broke
out into open revolt. The chronology of his movements is far from clear;
but at some time or other he made a wild attempt to seize the castle of
Rouen, and when this failed he found an immediate refuge and base of
operations in the land of Hugh de Châteauneuf, a powerful lord on the
border between Normandy and the royal demesne, who allowed him to occupy
his castles of Raimalast, Sorel, and Châteauneuf. King William, on his
part, confiscated the lands of the rebels; he also took into his pay
Count Rotrou of Mortagne, the overlord of Hugh of Châteauneuf for
Raimalast; and Robert was soon driven to seek a more distant exile in
foreign parts. He first visited Flanders, but Robert the Frisian,
notwithstanding his enmity towards his formidable brother-in-law, did
not think it worth while to spend his resources upon his irresponsible
nephew, for the latter is represented as wandering vaguely over
Touraine, Germany, Aquitaine, and Gascony in great destitution. To such
straits was he reduced, that his mother provoked the one dispute which
varied the domestic peace of the Conqueror’s married life by sending
supplies to her son in exile. The king, on discovering this, became
convulsed with rage, poured reproaches on his queen for her support of a
rebel, and ordered one of her messengers, who happened to be within his
power, to be seized and blinded. The latter, however, a Breton named
Samson, received a timely hint of his danger from persons in the
confidence of the queen, and took refuge in the monastery of St. Evroul,
“for the safety alike of his soul and body,” says Ordericus Vitalis, who
for some forty years was his fellow-inmate in the abbey.

At last King Philip took pity upon the fugitive Robert and allowed him
to establish himself in the castle of Gerberoi in the Beauvaisis. The
king’s patronage of Robert ranks, as a matter of policy, with his gift
of Montreuil to Edgar the Etheling in 1074; Philip was always ready to
take an inexpensive opportunity of harassing his over-mighty vassal.
Around Robert, in this cave of Adullam, there gathered a force of
adventurers from Normandy and the French kingdom, including many men who
had hitherto been good subjects to King William, but now thought it
expedient to follow the rising fortunes of his heir. William retaliated
by garrisoning the Norman castles which lay nearest to Gerberoi, so as
to prevent the rebels from harrying the border; and in some way he must
have brought the king of France over to his side; for when, in the last
days of 1078, he laid formal siege to his son’s castle, we know on good
authority that King Philip was present in his camp.[266] The siege
lasted for three weeks, and in one of the frequent encounters between
the loyalists and the rebels there occurred the famous passage of arms
between the Conqueror and his son. William was wounded in the hand by
Robert, his horse was killed under him, and had not a Berkshire thegn,
Tokig, son of Wigod of Wallingford, gallantly brought another mount to
the king,[267] it is probable that his life would have come to an
ignominious close beneath the walls of Gerberoi. It was very possibly
the scandal caused by this episode which led certain prominent members
of the Norman baronage to offer their mediation between the king and his
heir. The siege seems to have been broken up by mutual consent; William
retired to Rouen, Robert made his way once more into Flanders, and a
reconciliation was effected by the efforts of Roger de Montgomery, Roger
de Beaumont, Hugh de Grentemaisnil, and other personal friends of the
king. Robert was restored to favour, his confederates were pardoned, and
he once more received a formal confirmation of his title to the duchy of
Normandy. For a short time, as charters show, he continued to fill his
rightful place at his father’s court, but his vagabond instincts soon
became too strong for him and he left the duchy again, not to return to
it during his father’s lifetime.

One is naturally inclined to make some comparison between these events
and the rebellion which a hundred years later convulsed the dominions of
Henry II. Fundamentally, the cause of each disturbance was the same—the
anxiety of the reigning king to secure the succession, met by equal
anxiety on the part of the destined heir to enjoy the fruits of
lordship. And in each case the character of the respective heirs was
much the same. Robert Curthose and Henry Fitz Henry, both men of
chivalry, rather than of politics, showed themselves incapable of
appreciating the motives which made their fathers wish to maintain the
integrity of the family possessions; the fact that they themselves were
debarred from rewarding their private friends and punishing their
enemies, seemed to them a sufficient reason for imperilling the results
of the statesmanship which had created the very inheritance which they
hoped to enjoy. Robert of Normandy, a gross anticipation of the
chivalrous knight of later times, represents a type of character which
had hitherto been unknown among the sons of Rollo, a type for which
there was no use in the rough days when the feudal states of modern
Europe were in the making, and which could not attain any refined
development before the Crusades had lifted the art and the ideals of war
on to a higher plane. William the Conqueror, by no means devoid of
chivalrous instincts, never allowed them to obscure his sense of what
the policy of the moment demanded; Henry II. was much less affected by
the new spirit; both rulers alike were essentially out of sympathy with
sons to whom great place meant exceptional opportunities for the
excitement and glory of military adventure, rather than the stern
responsibilities of government.

We know little that is definite about the course of events which
followed upon the reconciliation of King William and his heir. The
next two years indeed form a practical blank in the personal history
of the Conqueror, and it does not seem probable that he ever visited
England during this interval. In his absence the king of Scots took
the opportunity of spreading destruction once again across the border,
and in the summer of 1079 he harried the country as far as the Tyne,
without hindrance, so far as our evidence goes, from the clerical earl
of Northumbria. The success of this raid was a sufficient proof of the
weakness of the Northern frontier of England, and in the next
year[268] Robert of Normandy was entrusted with the command of a
counter-expedition into Scotland, with orders to receive the
submission of the king of Scots, or, in case he proved obdurate, to
treat his land as an enemies’ country. The Norman army penetrated
Scotland as far as Falkirk, and, according to one account, received
hostages as a guarantee of King Malcolm’s obedience. Another and more
strictly contemporary narrative, however, states that this part of the
expedition was fruitless; but, in any case, Robert on his return
founded the great fortress of Newcastle-on-Tyne as a barrier against
future incursions from the side of Scotland.


                                              PITCHER, PHOTO. GLOUCESTER

                        TOMB OF ROBERT COURTHOSE

Some information as to William’s own movements in Normandy during 1080
may be gathered from charters and other legal documents. On the 7th of
January he was at Caen,[269] and on the 13th he appears at Boscherville
on the Seine[270]; at Easter he held a great court probably at
Rouen.[271] At Whitsuntide he presided over a council at
Lillebonne,[272] where a set of canons was promulgated which strikingly
illustrates his opinion as to the relations which should exist between
church and state.

Whitsunday in 1080 fell on the 31st of May, and serious disturbances had
been taking place in England earlier in the month. Bishop Walcher of
Durham had proved an unpopular as well as an inefficient earl of
Northumbria. Himself a foreigner and a churchman, he must from the
outset have been out of touch with the wild Englishmen placed under his
rule, and the situation was aggravated by the fact that the bishop’s
priestly office compelled him to transact the work of government in
great part by deputy. He entrusted the administration of his earldom to
a kinsman of his own called Gilbert,[273] and in all matters of business
he relied on the counsel of an ill-assorted pair of favourites, one of
them a noble Northumbrian thegn called Ligulf, who found his way to his
favour by the devotion which he professed to Saint Cuthbert, the other
being his own chaplain, Leobwine, a foreigner. Jealousy soon broke out
between the thegn and the chaplain, and at last the latter, being
worsted by his rival in a quarrel in the bishop’s presence, took the
above mentioned Gilbert into his confidence and prevailed on him to
destroy the Englishman secretly. On hearing the news the bishop was
struck with dismay, and, in his anxiety to prove his innocence, summoned
a general meeting of the men of his earldom to assemble at Gateshead.
The assembly came together, but the Bernicians were in a dangerous
humour; the bishop dared not risk a deliberation in the open air, and
took refuge in the neighbouring church. Instantly the gathering got out
of hand, the church was surrounded and set on fire, and the bishop and
his companions were cut to pieces by the mob.

For such an act as this there could be no mercy. The punishment of the
murderers was left to Walcher’s fellow-prelate Odo of Bayeux, and the
vengeance which he took was heavy. It must have been impossible to
determine with accuracy the names of those who had actually joined in
the crime, but it is evident that men from all parts of Bernicia had
taken part in the meeting at Gateshead, and the whole earldom was held
implicated in the murder. Accordingly the whole district was ravaged,
and the bishop of Bayeux administered death and mutilation on a scale
unusual even in the eleventh century.[274] To the thankless dignity of
the Northumbrian earldom, the Conqueror appointed Aubrey de Coucy, a
powerful Norman baron; but he soon abandoned the task of governing his
distressful province and retired to his continental estates. To him
there succeeded Robert de Mowbray, who was destined to be the last earl
of Bernicia, but who proved more successful than any of his predecessors
in the work of preserving order and watching the movements of the king
of Scots; and for the next ten years Northumbria under his stern rule
ceases to trouble the central administration.

The chief interest of the following year in the history of the Conqueror
lies in the singular expedition which he made at this time beyond the
limits of his immediate rule into the extreme parts of Wales. The
various but scanty accounts of this event which we possess are somewhat
conflicting. The Peterborough chronicler says that the king “in this
year led an army into Wales and there freed many hundred men.” The
_Annales Cambriæ_ tell us that “William, king of the English, came to
St. David’s that he might pray there.” Very possibly the Conqueror did
in reality pay his devotions at the shrine of the apostle of Wales, but
secular motives were not lacking for an armed demonstration in that
restless land. So long as the Normans in England itself were only a
ruling minority, holding down a disaffected population, the conquest of
Wales was an impossibility; and yet on all grounds it was expedient for
the king to show the Welshmen what reserves of power lay behind his
marcher earls of Shrewsbury and Chester. The expedition has a further
interest as one of the earliest occasions on which it is recorded that
the feudal host of England was called to take the field; the local
historian of Abingdon abbey remarked that nearly all the knights
belonging to that church were ordered to set out for Wales, although the
abbot remained at home.[275] It does not appear that any of the native
princes of South Wales suffered displacement at this time; the one
permanent result of the expedition would seem to have been the
foundation of Cardiff castle[276] as an outpost in the enemies’ land.
The strategical frontier of England in this quarter consisted of the
line of fortresses which guarded the lower course of the Wye, and the
settlement of the Welsh question, like the settlement of the Scotch
question, was a legacy which the Conqueror left to his successors.

After these events, but not before the end of the year, King William
withdrew into Normandy, and probably spent the greater part of 1082 in
his duchy. But his return to England was marked by one of the most
dramatic incidents in his whole career, the famous scene of the arrest
of Odo, bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent. Up to the very moment of the
bishop’s fall, the relations between the brothers appear to have been
outwardly friendly, and in an English charter of the present year, the
bishop appears at court in full enjoyment of his lay and spiritual
titles.[277] The cause of the final rupture is uncertain. Ordericus
Vitalis[278] assigned it to the unprecedented ambition of Bishop Odo,
who, not content with his position in England and Normandy, was supposed
to be laying his plans to secure his election to the papal chair at the
next vacancy. According to this tale, the bishop had bought himself a
palace in Rome, bribed the senators to join his side, and engaged a
large number of Norman knights, including no less a person than the earl
of Chester, to follow him into Italy when the time for action came.
Whatever Odo’s plans may have been, William received news of them in
Normandy, and he hurried across the Channel, intercepting Odo in the
Isle of Wight. Without being actually arrested, Odo was placed under
restraint, and a special sitting of the Commune Concilium was convened
to try his case. The subsequent proceedings were conducted in the Isle
of Wight, very possibly in the royal castle of Carisbrooke, and King
William himself seems to have undertaken his brother’s impeachment. The
articles laid against Odo fell into two parts, a specific charge of
seducing the king’s knights from their lawful duty, and a general
accusation of oppression and wrong-doing to the church and to the native
population of the land. The task of giving judgment on these points
belonged by customary law to the barons in council, but they failed to
give sentence through fear of the formidable defendant before them, and
the Conqueror himself was compelled to issue orders for Odo’s arrest.
Here another difficulty presented itself, for no one dared lay hands on
a bishop; and upon William seizing his brother with his own hands, Odo
cried out, “I am a bishop and the Lord’s minister; a bishop may not be
condemned without the judgment of the Pope.” To this claim of episcopal
privilege William replied that he arrested not the bishop of Bayeux, but
the earl of Kent, and Odo was sent off straightway in custody to the
Tower of Rouen. At a later date it was suggested that the distinction
between the bishop’s lay and spiritual functions was suggested to the
king by Lanfranc,[279] whose opinion as an expert in the canon law was
incontrovertible; and apart from the dramatic interest of the scene the
trial of Odo has special importance as one of the few recorded cases in
which a question of clerical immunity was raised before the promulgation
of the Constitutions of Clarendon.

The one extended narrative which we possess of these events was composed
some forty years after the date in question, and the scheme which is
attributed to Bishop Odo may well seem too visionary a project to have
been undertaken by that very hard-headed person, yet on the whole we
shall probably do well to pay respect to Orderic’s version of the
incident. For, although the militant lord of Bayeux might seem to us an
incongruous successor for the saintly Hildebrand, it must as yet have
been uncertain how far the church as a whole had really identified
itself with the ideals which found their greatest exponent in Gregory
VII., and the situation in Italy itself was such as to invite the
intervention of a prelate capable of wielding the secular arm. The
struggle between pope and emperor was at its height, and within three
years from the date of Odo’s arrest Hildebrand himself was to die in
exile from his city, while Norman influence was all-powerful in south
Italy. The tradition represented in Orderic’s narrative shows an
appreciation of the general situation, and if we regard the motive
assigned for Odo’s preparations as merely the monastery gossip of the
next generation, yet the bishop’s imprisonment is a certain fact, and
the unusual bitterness of King William towards his half-brother would
suggest that something more than political disloyalty gave point to the
latter’s schemes. Nevertheless the captivity in which Bishop Odo
expiated his ambition cannot have been enforced with very great
severity, for in the five years which intervened between his disgrace
and William’s death he appears at least occasionally in attendance at
his brother’s court.

The circle of the Conqueror’s immediate companions was rapidly breaking
up now. On November 3rd, 1083, Queen Matilda died, and was buried in the
convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen, which she had founded in return for
her lord’s safety amid the perils of his invasion of England. Archbishop
Lanfranc and Earl Roger of Montgomery almost alone represented the
friends of King William’s early manhood at the councils of his last four
years. Through all the hazards of her married life Matilda of Flanders
had played her part well; if William the Conqueror alone among all the
men of his house kept his sexual purity unstained to the last, something
at least of this may be set down to his love for the bride whom he had
won, thirty years before, in defiance of all ecclesiastical censure. Nor
should Matilda’s excellence be conceived of as lying wholly in the
domestic sphere; William could leave his duchy in her hands when he set
out to win a kingdom for himself and her, and William was no
contemptible judge of practical ability in others. We shall hardly find
in all English medieval history another queen consort who takes a place
at once more prominent and more honourable.

In the year following Queen Matilda’s death, the Conqueror’s attention
was for the last time concentrated on the affairs of Maine, and in a
manner which illustrates the uncertain tenure by which the Normans still
held their southern dependency. Twenty years of Norman rule had failed
to reconcile the Manceaux to the alien government. The rising of 1073
had proved the strength and extent of the disaffection, and from the
events of the present year it is plain that the Norman element in Maine
was no more than a garrison in hostile territory, although the
disturbance which called William into the field in 1084 was merely the
revolt of a great Mancel baron fighting for his own hand, which should
not be dignified with the name of a national movement. In the centre of
the county the castle of Sainte-Suzanne stands on a high rock
overlooking the river Arne, one of the lesser tributaries of the Sarthe.
This fortress, together with the castles of Beaumont and Fresnay on the
greater river, belonged to Hubert the viscount of Maine, who had been a
prominent leader of the Mancel nationalists in the war of 1063, and had
subsequently married a niece of Duke Robert of Burgundy. Formidable
alike from his position in Maine and his connection with the Capetian
house, Hubert proved himself an unruly subject of the Norman _princeps
Cenomannorum_ and after sundry acts of disaffection he broke into open
revolt, abandoned his castles of Fresnay and Beaumont, and concentrated
his forces on the height of Sainte-Suzanne. Like Robert of Normandy at
Gerberoi, five years before, Hubert made his castle a rendezvous for all
the restless adventurers of the French kingdom, who soon became
intolerable to the Norman garrisons in Le Mans and its neighbourhood.
The latter, it would seem, were not strong enough to divide their forces
for an attack on Sainte-Suzanne, and sent an appeal for help to King
William, who thereupon gathered an army in Normandy, and made ready for
his last invasion of Maine.





[Illustration: WESTERN NORMANDY]

But for once in his life the Conqueror found himself confronted by an
irreducible fortress. “He did not venture to lay siege to the castle of
Sainte-Suzanne,” says Orderic,

  “it being rendered impregnable by its position on rocks and the dense
  thickets of vineyards which surrounded it, nor could he confine the
  enemy within the fortress as he wished, since the latter was strong
  enough to control supplies and was in command of the communications.
  The king therefore built a fortification in the valley of Bonjen, and
  placed therein a strong body of troops to repress the raids of the
  enemy, being himself compelled to return into Normandy on weighty

As William had no prospect of reducing the castle, either by storm or
blockade, he was well advised to save his personal prestige by retreat,
but the garrison of his counterwork under his lieutenant Alan Earl of
Richmond proved themselves unequal to the task assigned them. For three
years, according to Orderic, the operations in the Arne valley dragged
on, and the fame of Hubert’s successful resistance attracted an
increasing stream of volunteers from remote parts of France. At last,
when many knights of fame had been killed or taken prisoner, the
disheartened Normans at Bonjen resolved to bring about a reconciliation
between the king and the viscount. William was in England at the time,
and on receiving details of the Norman losses before Sainte-Suzanne he
showed himself willing to come to terms with Hubert, who thereupon
crossed the Channel under a safe conduct and was restored to favour at
the royal court.[281]

With this failure closes the record of the Conquerors achievements in
Maine. The events of the next ten years proved that the triumph of
Hubert of Sainte-Suzanne was more than the accidental success of a
rebellious noble; a national force lay behind him and his crew of
adventurers, which came to the front when Helie de la Flèche struggled
for the county of Maine with William Rufus. In the process which during
the next half-century was consolidating the feudal world of France,
Maine could not persist in isolated independence, but its final
absorption into Anjou was less repugnant to local patriotism and the
facts of geography than its annexation by the lords of Rouen. Those who
have a taste for historical parallels may fairly draw one between
William’s wars in Maine and his descendant Edward I.’s attack on the
autonomy of Scotland, with reference to the manner in which an initial
success was reversed after the death of the great soldier who had won
it, by the irreconcilable determination of the conquered people. But
there lies a problem which cannot be wholly answered in the question why
King William’s work, so permanent in the case of England, was so soon
undone in the case of the kindred land of Maine.

It is possible that the Conqueror’s placability toward Hubert of
Sainte-Suzanne was not unconnected with a more formidable danger
threatening England from the north and east. Once more the Scandinavian
peril hung over the land. Harold of Denmark, the eldest son of Swegn
Estrithson, had died in 1080, and his brother and successor Cnut married
the daughter of William’s inveterate enemy, Count Robert of Flanders. In
this way a family alliance between the two strongest naval powers of the
north was called into being; and in 1085 the king and the count planned
a joint invasion of England. Cnut attempted to draw King Olaf of Norway
into the expedition, and received from him a contingent of sixty ships,
but Olaf would not join in person, giving as his reason that the kings
of Norway had always been less successful than the kings of Denmark in
enterprises against England, and that his kingdom had not yet recovered
from the disaster of 1066.[282] But now, as in the former year, England
had no fleet available for serious naval operations; and King William’s
subjects must have thought that his defensive measures were as ruinous
to the districts affected as the passage of an invading army itself. The
king was in Normandy when he became apprised of the danger, and he
hastened across the Channel, with a great force of French and Breton
mercenaries, “so that people wondered how the land could feed all that
army,” remarks the Peterborough chronicler. The king arranged for the
billeting of the host among his barons, and then proceeded deliberately
to lay waste the parts of the country exposed to attack; a precaution
which would have kept the enemy from advancing far from the coast, but
which must have cruelly afflicted the poorer folk of the eastern
shires.[283] Meanwhile a great armament from Flanders and Denmark had
been gathered in the Lijm fiord, and all was ready for the voyage when
on July 10, 1086, Cnut was murdered in the church of Odensee.[284] His
death meant the abandonment of the expedition, but is probable that his
abortive schemes contributed to one of the most notable events of
William’s reign—the oath of Salisbury of 1086.

The king had kept the feast of 1086 at Winchester and had knighted his
youngest son, Henry, in the Whitsuntide council at Westminster. Not long
afterwards he turned westward again, and by the first of August had come
to Salisbury, where he held an assembly of very exceptional character.
“There his Witan came to him,” says the Anglo-Saxon chronicler, “and all
the landholding men in England, no matter whose men they might be, and
swore him fealty that they would be true to him against all men.”[285]
The native chronicler in his cell at Peterborough was evidently
impressed by the scale of all the Conqueror’s measures in these last
years, and his statement that all the land-holding men in England came
to the Salisbury meeting must not be construed too literally, but he has
seen clearly enough what was the real purpose of the famous oath. It was
no slight matter that King William was strong enough to exact from each
mesne tenant in his kingdom an absolute oath of allegiance to himself in
person, without explicit reference to the tie of homage which bound
individual tenants to their immediate lords. But, significant as is this
clear enunciation of the principle that the king’s claim to fealty
overrides the lord’s claim to service, it should not be taken to imply
any revolutionary change in the current doctrines of feudal law. It is
highly probable that this general oath was demanded with the single
purpose of providing against the defection of disloyal knights and
barons to Cnut of Denmark in the imminent event of his landing. News
travelled slowly in the eleventh century, and King William at Salisbury
on August 1st could not well have heard of the murder at Odensee on July
10th. But apart from this, any feudal monarch could have maintained in
theory that the facts of subinfeudation should not invalidate his
sovereign rights; the question was merely as to the possibility of
enforcing the latter. The exceptional power enjoyed by William and his
successors in this respect was due to the intimate relations established
between the king and his feudatories by the circumstances of the
Conquest; the Oath of Salisbury was a striking incident and little more.

It was probably not long after the famous scene at Salisbury that the
Conqueror crossed the Channel for the last time. No chronicler has
recorded the name of the port which witnessed King William’s last
embarkation, but we know that he called at the Isle of Wight on his way
to Normandy, and we may suppose that he had set sail from some Hampshire
or Sussex haven. His subjects probably rejoiced at his departure, for
England had fallen on evil times in these last years. The summer of 1086
had been disastrous for a population never living far from the margin of
subsistence. “This year was very grievous,” laments the native
chronicler, “and ruinous and sorrowful in England through the murrain;
corn and fruit could not be gathered and one cannot well think how
wretched was the weather, there was such dreadful thunder and lightning,
which killed many men, and always kept growing worse and worse. God
Almighty amend it when it please him.” But the bad harvest brought its
inevitable train of famine and pestilence, and 1087 was worse than 1086
had been. It was the agony of this year that called forth the famous
picture of the Conqueror’s fiscal exactions, how the miserly king leased
his lands at the highest rent that could be wrung out of the poor men by
right or wrong; how his servants exacted unlawful tolls. Medieval
finance was not elastic enough to adapt itself to the alternation of
good and bad seasons; and in a time of distress men were crushed to the
earth by rents and taxes, which, as Domesday Book shows, they could
afford to bear well enough in years of normal plenty. The monk of
Peterborough took no account of this, and yet he clearly felt that he
had reached the climax of disaster as he recorded the death of William
the Conqueror.

The question of the Vexin Française, which, by a singular chance, was to
cost the Conqueror his life, originated in the days of Duke Robert of
Normandy and Henry I. of France. We have seen that King Henry, in return
for help given by Robert to him in the difficult time of his accession,
ceded the Vexin Française to the Norman Duke. Drogo, the reigning count,
remained true to the Norman connection, and accompanied Duke Robert to
the Holy Land, where he died; but his son Walter wished to detach the
Vexin from association with Normandy and to replace himself under the
direct sovereignty of the king of France. He proved his hostility to
William of Normandy in the campaign of Mortemer, and by the claims which
he raised to the county of Maine in 1063, but he died without issue, and
his possessions passed to his first cousin, Ralf III., count of Valois.
The house of Valois was not unfriendly to Normandy, and from 1063 to
1077 its powerful possessions were a standing menace to the royal
demesne. But in the latter year the family estates were broken up by a
dramatic event. Simon de Crepy, the son of Count Ralf, who had
successfully maintained his position against Philip I., felt
nevertheless a desire to enter the religious life, and on his wedding
night he suddenly announced his determination, persuaded his young bride
to follow his example, and retired from the world. Philip I. thereupon
reunited the Vexin to the royal demesne without opposition from William
of Normandy, who was at the time much occupied with the affairs of
Maine.[286] For ten years William acquiesced in the state of affairs,
and his present action took the form of a reprisal for certain raids
which the Frenchmen in Mantes had lately been making across the Norman
border. It would clearly have been useless to expect King Philip to
intervene, and William accordingly raised the whole Vexin question once
more, and demanded possession of Pontoise, Chaumont, and Mantes, three
towns which command the whole province.

It does not seem that Philip made any attempt to defend his threatened
frontier, and he is reported to have treated William’s threats with
contempt. Thereupon, the Conqueror, stung by some insult which passed at
the time, suddenly threw himself with a Norman force across the Epte,
and harried the country until he came to Mantes itself. The garrison had
left their posts on the previous day, in order to inspect the
devastation which the Normans had wrought in the neighbourhood, and were
surprised by King William’s arrival. Garrison and invaders rushed in
together headlong through the gates of the city, but the Normans had the
victory, and Mantes was ruthlessly burned. And then King William, while
riding among the smouldering ruins of his last conquest, in some way not
quite clearly known, was thrown violently upon the pommel of his saddle,
and his injury lay beyond the resources of the rough surgery of the
eleventh century.

Stricken thus with a mortal blow, King William left the wasted Vexin for
his capital of Rouen, and for six weeks of a burning summer his great
strength struggled with the pain of his incurable hurt. At first he lay
within the city of Rouen itself, but as the days passed he became less
able to bear the noise of the busy port, and he bade his attendants
carry him to the priory of Saint-Gervase, which stands on a hill to the
west of the town. The progress of his sickness left his senses
unimpaired to the last, and in the quiet priory the Conqueror told the
story of his life to his sons William and Henry, his friend and
physician Gilbert Maminot, bishop of Lisieux, Guntard, abbot of
Jumièges, and a few others who had come to witness the end of their
lord. Two independent narratives of King William’s _apologia_ have
survived to our day, and, although monastic tradition may have framed
the tale somewhat to purposes of edification, yet we can see that it was
in no ignoble spirit that the Conqueror, under the shadow of imminent
death, reviewed the course of his history. He called to mind with
satisfaction his constant devotion and service to Holy Church, his
patronage of learned men, and the religious houses founded under his
rule. If he had been a man of war from his youth up he cast the blame in
part upon the disloyal kinsmen, the jealous overlord, the aggressive
rivals who had beset him from his childhood, but for the conquest of
England, in this his supreme moment, he attempted no justification. In
his pain and weariness, the fame he had shed upon the Norman race paled
before the remembrance of the slaughter at Hastings, and the harried
villages of Yorkshire. No prevision, indeed, of the mighty outcome of
his work could have answered the Conqueror’s anxiety for the welfare of
his soul, and under the spur of ambition he had taken a path which led
to results beyond his own intention and understanding. We need not
believe that the bishop of Lisieux or the abbot of Jumièges have
tampered with William’s words, when we read his repentance for the
events which have given him his place in history.

It remained for the Conqueror to dispose of his inheritance, and here
for once political expediency had to yield to popular sentiment. We
cannot but believe that the Conqueror, had it been in his power, would
have made some effort to preserve the political union of England and
Normandy. But fate had struck him down without warning, and ruled that
his work should be undone for a while. With grim forebodings of evil
William acknowledged that the right of the first-born, and the homage
done by the Norman barons to Robert more than twenty years before, made
it impossible to disinherit the graceless exile, but England at least
should pass into stronger hands. William Rufus was destined to a brief
and stormy tenure of his island realm, but its bestowal now was the
reward of constant faithfulness and good service to his mighty father.
To the English-born Henry, who was to be left landless, the Conqueror
bequeathed five thousand pounds of silver from his treasury, and, in
answer to his complaint that wealth to him would be useless without
land, prophesied the future reunion of the Anglo-Norman states under his
rule. And then, while Henry busied himself to secure and weigh his
treasure, the Conqueror gave to William the regalia of the English
monarchy, and sealed a letter recommending him to Archbishop Lanfranc as
the future king, and kissing him gave him his blessing, and directed him
to hasten to England before men there knew that their lord was dead.

In his few remaining hours King William was inspired by the priests and
nobles who stood around his bed to make reparation to certain victims of
his policy, who still survived in Norman prisons. Among those who were
now released at his command were Wulfnoth, Earl Godwine’s son, and Wulf
the son of King Harold; the prisoners of Ely, Earl Morcar and Siward
Barn; Earl Roger of Hereford, and a certain Englishman named Algar. Like
ghosts from another world these men came out into the light for a little
time before they vanished finally into the dungeons of William Rufus;
but there was one state prisoner whose pardon, extorted reluctantly from
the Conqueror, was not reversed by his successor. It was only the
special intercession of Count Robert of Mortain which procured the
release of his brother, Bishop Odo. The bishop had outdone the Conqueror
in oppression and cruelty to the people of England, and regret for his
own sins of ambition and wrong had not disposed the king for leniency
towards his brother’s guilt in this regard. At length in sheer weariness
he yielded against his will, foretelling that the release of Odo would
bring ruin and death upon many.

It is in connection with Bishop Odo’s liberation that Orderic relates
the last recorded act of William’s life. A certain knight named Baudri
de Guitry, who had done good service in the war of Sainte-Suzanne, had
subsequently offended the king by leaving Normandy without his license
to fight against the Moors in Spain. His lands had been confiscated in
consequence, but were now restored to him, William remarking that he
thought no braver knight existed anywhere, only he was extravagant and
inconstant, and loved to wander in foreign countries. Baudri was a
neighbour and friend to the monks of St. Evroul, hence no doubt the
interest which his restoration possessed for Ordericus Vitalis.

In the final stage of King William’s sickness, the extremity of his pain
abated somewhat, and he slept peacefully through the night of Wednesday
the 8th of September. As dawn was breaking he woke, and at the same
moment the great bell of Rouen cathedral rang out from the valley below
Saint-Gervase’s priory. The king asked what it meant; those who were
watching by him replied, “My lord, the bell is tolling for primes at St.
Mary’s church.” Then the Conqueror, raising his hands, exclaimed: “To
Mary, the holy mother of God, I commend myself, that by her blessed
intercession I may be reconciled to her beloved Son, our Lord Jesus
Christ.” The next instant he was dead.

For close upon six weeks the king had lain helpless in his chamber in
the priory, but death had come upon him suddenly at last, and the
company which had surrounded him instantly scattered in dismay. Each man
knew that for many miles around Rouen there would be little security for
life or property that day, and the dead king was left at the mercy of
his own servants, while his friends rode hard to reach their homes
before the great news had spread from the city to the open country. By
the time that the clergy of Rouen had roused themselves to take order
how their lord might be worthily buried, his body had been stripped, his
chamber dismantled, and his attendants were dispersed, securing the
plunder which they had taken. The archbishop of Rouen directed that the
king should be carried to the church of his own foundation at Caen, but
no man of rank had been left in the city, and it was only an upland
knight, named Herlwin, who accompanied the Conqueror on his last
progress over his duchy. By river and road the body was brought to Caen,
and a procession of clergy and townsfolk was advancing to meet it, when
suddenly a burst of flame was seen arising from the town. The citizens,
who knew well what this meant among their narrow streets and wooden
houses, rushed back to crush the fire, while the monks of Saint
Stephen’s received the king’s body and brought it with such honour as
they might to their house outside the walls.


  In 1087]

Shortly afterwards, the Conqueror was buried in the presence of nearly
all the prelates of the Norman church. The bishop of Evreux, who had
watched by the king’s death-bed, preached, praising him for the renown
which his victories had brought upon his race, and for the strictness of
his justice in the lands over which he ruled. But a strange scene then
interrupted the course of the ceremony. A certain Ascelin, the son of
Arthur, came forward and loudly declared that the place in which the
grave had been prepared had been the court-yard of his father’s house,
unjustly seized by the dead man for the foundation of his abbey. Ascelin
clamoured for restitution, and the bishops and other magnates drew him
apart, and, when satisfied that his claim was just, paid him sixty
shillings for the ground where the grave was. And then, with broken
rites, the Conqueror was laid between the choir and the altar of Saint
Stephen’s church.

[Illustration: Denier of Philip I. of France]


Footnote 264:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 290.

Footnote 265:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 259.

Footnote 266:

  Charter of King Philip to St. Quentin, Gallia Christ; X. Inst. 247.
  Among the witnesses are Anselm of Bec, and Ives de Beaumont, the
  father-in-law of Hugh de Grentemaisnil.

Footnote 267:

  _Worcester Chronicle_, 1079.

Footnote 268:

  S. D., _Gesta Regum_, 1080.

Footnote 269:

  Round, _Calendar_, No. 1114.

Footnote 270:

  _Ibid._, 1113.

Footnote 271:

  _Ibid._, 78.

Footnote 272:

  Orderic, ii., 315.

Footnote 273:

  This fact is of importance, as giving an example, rare in England, of
  a true “vicecomes,” an earl’s deputy as distinguished from a sheriff.

Footnote 274:

  For all these events Simeon of Durham is the authority giving most

Footnote 275:

  _Hist. Monast. de Abingdon_, ii., 10.

Footnote 276:

  _Brut y Tywysogion_, 1080.

Footnote 277:

  _Mon. Angl._, vii., 993, from an “inspeximus” of 31 Ed. I. The charter
  in question is dated “apud villam Dontonam,” which in the index to the
  volume of _Patent Rolls_ is identified with Downton, Wilts. William,
  at Downton, may very well have been on his way to one of the Hampshire
  or Dorset ports.

Footnote 278:

  iii., 168. On the other hand, Giesbrecht (iii., 531) has suggested
  that a political difference was the occasion of the quarrel between
  Odo and William, the former wishing to take up arms for Gregory VII.,
  while the latter was on friendly terms with the emperor. But Gregory
  himself in a letter addressed to William (_Register_, viii., 60),
  while reproving his correspondent for lack of respect towards his
  brother’s orders, admits that Odo had committed some political offence
  against the king. As to the nature of that offence, we have no
  contemporary statement, nor do we know how far Gregory may have
  possessed accurate information as to the motives which induced
  William’s action.

Footnote 279:

  William of Malmesbury.

Footnote 280:

  Ordericus Vitalis, iii., 196.

Footnote 281:

  An isolated reference to the siege of Saint-Suzanne occurs in the
  Domesday of Oxfordshire, in which county the manor of Ledhall had been
  granted to Robert d’Oilly, “apud obsidionem S. Suzanne.”

Footnote 282:

  _Heimskringla_, iii., 198.

Footnote 283:

  The severity of the devastation should not be exaggerated, for in 1086
  Lincolnshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk were the most prosperous parts of

Footnote 284:

  Cnut’s preparations and death are described at length in his life by
  Ethelnoth, printed in the _Scriptores Rerum Danicarum_.

Footnote 285:

  _Peterborough Chronicle_, 1086.

Footnote 286:

  See Flach, _Les Origines de l’ancienne France_, 531–534.

                               CHAPTER X
                         WILLIAM AND THE CHURCH

Up to the present we have only dealt with the ecclesiastical relations
of William the Conqueror in so far as they have directly affected
political issues. But the subject has a unity of its own, quite apart
from its bearing upon the course of war or diplomacy, and no aspect of
the Conqueror’s work is known to us in greater detail. It may be added
that no aspect of the Conqueror’s work is more illustrative of the
general character of his government, nor of greater significance for the
future history. For four centuries and a half the development of the
church in England followed the lines which he had indicated.[287]

But the church in Normandy was William’s first concern, and some
appreciation of his work here is necessary to an understanding of the
tendencies which governed his ecclesiastical policy in England. Broadly
stated, William’s relations with the church in Normandy and England
alike were governed by two main ideas. He was beyond all doubt sincerely
anxious for the reform of the church, as he would have understood the
phrase—the extension and stricter observance of the monastic life, the
improvement of the learning and morals of the secular clergy, the
development of a specific ecclesiastical law. But he was no less
determined that, at all hazards, the church in his dominions should be
subordinate to the state, and his enforcement of this principle
ultimately threw him into opposition to the very party in the church
which was most sympathetic to his plans of ecclesiastical reform.
Between Hildebrand claiming in definite words that the head of the
church was the lord of the world, and William asserting in unmistakable
acts that the king of England was over all persons in all causes, as
well ecclesiastical as temporal, through his dominions supreme, there
were certain to be differences of opinion. But the two great men kept
the peace for a surprising length of time, and it was not until ten
years before William’s death that serious discord arose between him and
the Curia in regard to the question of church government.

In this matter, indeed, William was but maintaining prerogatives which
he had inherited from his predecessors, and which were simultaneously
being vindicated by the other princes of his time. We have already
remarked on the intimate connection of church and state which prevailed
in Normandy at the beginning of the eleventh century, in relation to its
bearing upon the general absolutism enjoyed by the duke. But the fact
has a wider significance as governing the whole character of
ecclesiastical life in the duchy. The rights of patronage which the duke
possessed, his intervention in the process of ecclesiastical
legislation, his power of deposing prelates who had fallen under his
displeasure, not only forbade the autonomy of the church, they made its
spiritual welfare as well as its professional efficiency essentially
dependent upon the personal character of its secular head. Under these
conditions, there was scanty room for the growth of ultramontane ideas
among the Norman clergy; and such influence as the papacy exercised in
Normandy before 1066 at least was due much more to traditional reverence
for the Holy See, and to occasional respect for the character of its
individual occupants, than to any recognition of the legal sovereignty
of the Pope in spiritual matters. William himself in the matter of his
marriage had defied the papacy, and the denunciations of the Curia found
but a faint response among the prelates of the Norman church.

From the ultramontane point of view this dependence of the church upon
the state was a gross evil, but it was at least an evil which produced
its own compensation in Normandy. The chaos which had attended the
settlement of the Northmen in the tenth century had involved the whole
ecclesiastical organisation of the land in utter ruin, and its
restoration was entirely due to the initiative taken by the secular
power. The successive dukes of Normandy, from Richard I. onward, showed
astonishing zeal in the work of ecclesiastical reform.[288] Their zeal,
however, must have spent itself in vain if their success had been
dependent upon the co-operation of the Norman clergy; the decay of the
church in Normandy had gone too far to permit of its being reformed from
within. The reforming energy which makes the eleventh century a
brilliant period in French ecclesiastical history was concentrated at
this time in the great abbeys of Flanders and Burgundy, whose inmates,
however, were fully competent, and for the most part willing, to
undertake the restoration of ecclesiastical order in Normandy. From this
quarter, and in particular from the abbey of Cluny, monks were imported
into the duchy by Dukes Richard I. and II., and under their guidance the
reform of the Norman church was undertaken according to the highest
monastic ideal of the time. Very gradually, but with ever increasing
strength, the influence of the foreign reformers gained more and more
control over every rank in the Norman hierarchy. The higher clergy, who
at first resisted the movement, became transformed into its champions as
the result of the judicious appointments made by successive dukes. Even
the upland clergy, whose invincible ignorance had aroused the anger of
the earliest reformers, were attracted within the scope of the reform,
partly by means of the affiliation of village churches to monasteries,
but above all through the educational work performed by the schools
which were among the first fruits of the monastic revival.

If the foundation of new monasteries may be taken as evidence, the
process of expansion and reform went on unchecked throughout the stormy
minority of William the Conqueror. A period of feudal anarchy was not
necessarily inimical to the ultimate interests of the church. Amid the
disorder and oppression of secular life the church might still display
the example of a society founded on law and discipline, it might in
numberless individual cases protect the weak from gratuitous injury, and
it certainly might hope to emerge from the chaos with wider influence
and augmented revenues. The average baron was very willing to atone for
his misdeeds by the foundation of a new religious house, or by
benefactions to an old one, and the immortal church had time on its
side. In Normandy, at least, the disorder of William’s minority
coincided with the foundation of new monasteries in almost every diocese
in the Norman church; and the promulgation of the Truce of God in 1042
gave a wide extension to the competence of ecclesiastical jurisdiction
in relation to secular affairs.

With William’s victory at Val-es-dunes, the crisis was over, and for the
next forty years the Norman church sailed in smooth waters. Autocratic
as was William by temperament, nothing contributed more greatly to his
success than his singular wisdom in the choice of his ministers in
church and state, and his power of attaching them to his service by ties
of personal friendship to himself. The relations between William and
Lanfranc form perhaps the greatest case in point, but there were other
and less famous members of the Norman hierarchy who stood on terms of
personal intimacy with their master. And William was cosmopolitan in his
sympathies. Men of learning and piety from every part of Christendom
were entrusted by him with responsible positions in the Norman church;
in 1066 nearly all the greater abbeys of Normandy were ruled by foreign
monks. Cosmopolitanism was the chief note of medieval culture, and under
these influences a real revival of learning may be traced in Normandy.
It is well for William’s memory that this was so; but for the work of
William of Poitiers and William of Jumièges, two typical representatives
of the new learning, posterity would have remained in blank ignorance of
the Conqueror’s rule in Normandy. But it is a matter of still greater
importance that in this way Normandy was gradually becoming prepared to
be the educator of England, as well as her conqueror. The surviving
relics of the literary activity at this time of Normandy—mass books,
theological treatises, and books of miracles, which it produced—have but
little interest for the general student of history, but the important
point is that they are symptoms of an intellectual life manifesting
itself with vigour in the only directions which were possible to it in
the early eleventh century. Not until it had been transplanted to the
conquered soil of England did this intellectual life produce its
greatest result, the philosophical history of William of Malmesbury, the
logical narrative of Eadmer, to name only two of its manifestations; but
in matters of culture, as well as in matters of policy and war, the
Norman race was unconsciously equipping itself in these years for its
later achievement across the Channel.

It cannot be denied that the English church stood in sore need of some
such external influence. The curious blight which seemed to have settled
on the secular government of England affected its religious organisation
also. The English church had never really recovered from the Danish wars
of Alfred’s time. It had been galvanised into fresh activity by the
efforts of Dunstan and his fellow-reformers of the tenth century, but
the energy they had infused scarcely outlasted their own lives, and in
1066 the church in England compares very unfavourably with the churches
of the continent in all respects. It had become provincial where they
were catholic; its culture was a feeble echo of the culture of the
eighth century, they were striking out new methods of inquiry into the
mysteries of the faith; it was becoming more and more closely
assimilated to the state, they were struggling to emancipate themselves
from secular control. There was ample scope in England for the work of a
great ecclesiastical reformer, but the increasing secularisation of the
leaders of the church rendered it unlikely that he would come from


Even in 1066 the English church still retained distinct features of the
tribal organisation which it had inherited from the century of the
conversion. Its dioceses in general represented Heptarchic kingdoms, and
the uncertainty of their boundaries is here and there definitely
traceable to the uncertain limits of the primitive tribes of which, they
were the ecclesiastical equivalents. The residences of half the English
bishops of the eleventh century were still fixed, like those of their
seventh-century predecessors, in remote villages; “places of retirement
rather than centres of activity,” as they have well been called. The
number of dioceses was very small in proportion to the population and
area of the land, and it tended to decrease; Edward the Confessor had
recently united the sees of Cornwall and Devon, under the single bishop
of Exeter. Within his diocese each bishop enjoyed an independence of
archiepiscopal supervision, the like of which was unknown to his
continental fellows; the canonical authority of the archbishops was in
abeyance, and in 1070 it was still an open question whether the sees of
Dorchester, Lichfield, and Worcester, which represented nearly a third
of England, belonged to the province of Canterbury or of York. The
smaller territorial units of ecclesiastical government, the archdeaconry
and rural deanery, are hardly to be traced in England before the
Conquest, and the chapters in the several dioceses varied indefinitely
in point of organisation.

It was not necessarily an abuse that the right of making appointments to
the higher ecclesiastical offices belonged in England to the king and
the Witanagemot; it was another matter that the leaders of the church
were becoming more and more absorbed in secular business. A
representative bishop of King Edward’s day would be a vigorous
politician and man of affairs. Ealdred, archbishop of York, was sent by
the king into Germany to negotiate for the return of Edgar the Etheling;
Lyfing of Worcester earned the title of the “eloquent” through the part
he played in the debates of the Witanagemot; Leofgar of Hereford, a
militant person who caused grave scandal by continuing to wear his
moustaches after his ordination, conducted campaigns against the Welsh.
In Normandy, this type of prelate was rapidly becoming extinct; Odo of
Bayeux and Geoffrey of Coutances stand out glaringly among their
colleagues in 1066; but in England the circumstances of the time
demanded the increasing participation of the higher clergy in state
affairs. The rivalry of the great earls at Edward’s court produced, as
it were, a barbarous anticipation of party government, and during the
long ascendancy of the house of Godwine, ecclesiastical dignities were
naturally bestowed on men who could make themselves politically useful
to their patron. Curiously enough, the one force which operated to check
the secularisation of the English episcopate was the personal character
of King Edward. His foreign tendencies found full play here, and the
alien clerks of his chapel whom he appointed to bishoprics came to form
a distinct group, to which may be traced the beginnings of
ecclesiastical reform in England. For a short time the highest office in
the English church was held, in the person of the unlucky Robert of
Jumièges, by a Norman monk in close touch with the Cluniac school of
ecclesiastical reformers, who seems to have tried, during his brief
period of rule, to raise the standard of learning among the clergy of
his diocese. Robert fell before he could do much in this direction, but
the foreign influences which were beginning to play upon the English
church did not cease with his expulsion. Here and there, during Edward’s
later years, native prelates were to be found who recognised that much
was amiss with the church, and followed foreign models in their attempts
at reform; Ealdred of York tried to impose the strict rule of Chrodegang
of Metz upon his canons of York, Ripon, Beverley, and Southwell, the
four greatest churches of Northern England. But individual bishops could
not go far enough in the work of reform, and their efforts seem to have
met with little sympathy from the majority of their colleagues.

To a foreign observer, nothing in the English church would seem more
anomalous than the character of its ecclesiastical jurisdiction. There
existed, indeed, in the law books of successive kings, a vast mass of
ecclesiastical law; it was in the administration of this law that
England parted company with continental usage. In England the bishop
with the earl presided over the assembly of thegns, freemen, and priests
which constituted the shire court, and the local courts of shire and
hundred had a wide competence over matters which, on the continent,
would have been referred to a specifically ecclesiastical tribunal. The
bishop seems to have possessed an exclusive jurisdiction over the
professional misdoings of his clergy, and the degradation of a criminous
clerk, the necessary preliminary to his punishment by the lay authority,
was pronounced by clerical judges, but all other matters of
ecclesiastical interest fell within the province of the local
assemblies. Ecclesiastical and secular laws were promulgated by the same
authority and administered by the same courts, nor does the church as a
whole seem to have possessed any organ by means of which collective
opinion might be given upon matters of general importance. No great
councils of the church, such as those of which Bede tells us, can be
traced in the Confessor’s reign, nor, indeed, for nearly two centuries
before his accession. The church council had been absorbed by the

To all the greater movements which were agitating the religious life of
the continent in the eleventh century—the Cluniac revival, the
hierarchical claims of the papacy—the English church as a whole remained
serenely oblivious. Its relations with the papacy were naturally very
intermittent, and when a native prelate visited the Holy See, he might
expect to hear strong words about plurality and simony from the Pope.
With Stigand the papacy could hold no intercourse, but, despite all the
fulminations of successive Popes, Stigand continued for eighteen years
to draw the revenues of his sees of Canterbury and Winchester, and other
prelates rivalled him in his offences of plurality, whatever scruples
they might feel about his canonical position as archbishop. Ealdred of
York had once administered three bishoprics and an abbey at the same
time. The ecclesiastical misdemeanours of a party among the higher
clergy would have been a minor evil, had it not coincided with the
general abeyance of learning and efficiency among their subordinates. We
know very little about the parish priest of the Confessor’s day, but
what is known does not dispose us to regard him as an instrument of much
value for the civilisation of his neighbours. In the great majority of
cases, he seems to have been a rustic, married like his parishioners,
joining with them in the agricultural work of the village, and differing
from them only in the fact of his ordination, and in possessing such a
knowledge of the rudiments of Latin as would enable him to recite the
services of the church. The energy with which the bishops who followed
the Conquest laboured for the elevation of the lower clergy is
sufficiently significant of what their former condition must have been.
The measures which were taken to this end by the foreign reformers—the
general enforcement of celibacy, for example—may not commend themselves
to modern opinion, but Lanfranc and his colleagues knew where the root
of the matter lay. It was only by making the church distinct from the
state, by making the parish priest a being separated by the clearest
distinctions from his lay brother, that the church could begin to
exercise its rightful influence upon the secular life of the nation.




                “THIS IS DAY’S SUN MARKER
                      AT EVERY TIME.”

Political circumstances delayed the beginnings of ecclesiastical reform
for more than three years after the battle of Hastings had placed the
destinies of the English church in Norman hands. While the Conqueror was
fighting at Stafford and York, he could not be presiding over synods at
Winchester and London. No steps, therefore, were taken in this question
before 1070, when the fall of Chester destroyed the last chance of a
successful English rising, and made it no longer expedient for William
to be complaisant to Stigand and the nationalist party in the English
episcopate. But in 1070 the work was begun in earnest under the
immediate sanction of the Pope, expressed in the legation of two
cardinal priests who visited England in that year. There could be little
doubt what their first step would be; and when Stigand was formally
arraigned for holding the sees of Winchester and Canterbury in
plurality, usurping the pallium of his predecessor, Robert, and
receiving his own pallium from the schismatic Benedict X., he had no
defence to offer beyond declamation against the good faith of the king.
Three other bishops fell at or about the same time; Ethelmer, brother of
Stigand, and bishop of East Anglia, Ethelwine, bishop of Durham, and
Ethelric, bishop of Selsey. In regard to none of these last bishops are
the grounds on which their deposition was based at all certain; and in
the case of Ethelric, an aged man who was famed for his vast knowledge
of Anglo-Saxon law, the Pope himself was uneasy about the point, and a
correspondence went on for some time between him and Lanfranc on the
subject. But it is a noteworthy fact that these four prelates are the
only bishops deposed during the whole of the Conqueror’s reign. Nothing
was further from William’s purpose than any wholesale clearance of the
native episcopate. He was King Edward’s heir, and he wished, therefore,
to retain King Edward’s bishops in office, so far as this was consistent
with the designs of his ally the Pope. On the other hand, William was no
less determined to fill all vacancies when they occurred in the course
of nature with continental priests. Herein he and the Pope were in
complete harmony. It was only by this means that continental culture and
ideas of church government could be introduced into England, and William
trusted in his own strength to repress any inconvenient tendencies which
might arise from the ultramontane ideals of his nominees.

The deposition of Stigand meant the elevation of Lanfranc to the
archbishopric of Canterbury. It is probable that the Pope would have
preferred to attach him to the College of Cardinals, but William was
determined to place his old friend at the head of the English church,
and Alexander II. gave way. York, vacant through the death of Ealdred in
1069, was given to Thomas, treasurer of Bayeux, _protégé_ of Odo, bishop
of that see, and a man of vast and cosmopolitan learning. Almost
immediately after his appointment a fierce dispute broke out between him
and Lanfranc. The dispute in question was twofold—partly referring to
the boundaries of the two provinces, but also raising the more important
question whether the two English archbishops should possess co-ordinate
rank or whether the archbishop of York should be compelled to take an
oath of obedience to the primate of Canterbury. In a council held at
Winchester in 1072 both questions were settled in favour of Canterbury.
The dioceses of Lichfield, Worcester, and Dorchester were assigned to
the latter provinces, and Lanfranc—partly by arousing William’s fears as
to the political inexpediency of an independent archbishop of York,
partly by the skilful forgery of relevant documents—brought it about
that the northern archbishopric was formally declared subordinate to
that of Canterbury. In ecclesiastical, as well as secular matters,
William had small respect for the particularism of Northumbria.

The council which decided this matter was only one of a series of
similar assemblies convened during the archiepiscopate of Lanfranc. The
first of the series had already been held in 1070, when Wulfstan, the
unlearned but saintly bishop of Worcester, was arraigned _pro defectu
scientiæ_. He was saved from imminent deposition partly by his piety,
partly by his frank and early acceptance of the Norman rule; and he
retained his see until his death in 1094. In 1075 the third council of
the series proceeded to deal with one of the greatest anomalies
presented by the English church, and raised the whole question of
episcopal residence. In accordance with its decrees, the see of
Lichfield was translated to Chester, that of Selsey to Chichester, and
that of Sherborne to Old Salisbury. Shortly afterwards, the seat of the
east midland diocese of Dorchester was transferred to Lincoln; and in
1078 Bishop Herbert of Elmham, after an abortive attempt to gain
possession of Bury St. Edmund’s, removed his residence to Thetford, the
second town in Norfolk. In all these changes the attempt was made to
follow the continental practice by which a bishop would normally reside
in the chief town of his diocese. But new episcopal seats implied new
cathedral churches, and the Conqueror’s reign witnessed a notable
augmentation of church revenues,[289] expressed in grants of land, the
extent of which can be ascertained from the evidence of Domesday Book.
Here and there are traces of a reorganisation of church property, and of
its appropriation to special purposes; all of which enabled the new
bishops to support the strain incurred by their great building
activities. By 1087 new cathedrals had been begun in seven out of
fifteen dioceses.

The church councils which supplied the means through which the king and
primate carried their ideas of ecclesiastical reform into effect were
bodies of a somewhat anomalous constitution. In the Confessor’s day the
Witanagemot had treated indifferently of sacred and secular law, but its
competence in religious matters did not descend unbroken to its feudal
representative, the Commune Concilium. In the Conqueror’s reign the
church council is becoming differentiated from the assembly of lay
barons, but the process is not yet complete. The session of the church
council would normally coincide in point of place and time with a
meeting of the Commune Concilium; no ecclesiastical decree was valid
until it had received the king’s sanction, and the king and his lay
barons joined the assembly, although they took no active part in its
deliberations. There was, indeed, small necessity for their presence,
and in two of the more important councils of William’s reign, at London
in 1075 and at Gloucester in 1085 the spiritualty held a session of
their own apart from the meeting of the Commune Concilium. In any case
the spiritual decrees were promulgated upon the authority of the
archbishop and prelates, although the royal word was necessary for their
reception as law.

No piece of ecclesiastical legislation passed during this time had wider
consequences than the famous decree which limited the competence of the
shire and hundred courts in regard to matters pertaining to
religion.[290] This law has only come down to us in the form of a royal
writ addressed to the officers and men of the shire court, so that its
exact date is uncertain. But intrinsically it is likely enough that the
question of ecclesiastical jurisdiction would be one of the first
matters to which William and Lanfranc would turn their hands, and the
principle implied in the writ had already been recognised by all the
states of the continent. According to this document no person of
ecclesiastical status might be tried before the hundred court, nor might
this assembly any longer possess jurisdiction over cases involving
questions of spiritual law, even when laymen were the parties concerned.
All these matters were reserved to the exclusive jurisdiction of the
bishops and their archdeacons, and in this way room was prepared in
England for the reception of the canon law of the church.[291] Important
as it was for the subsequent fortunes of the church, this decree was
perhaps of even greater importance for its influence upon the
development of secular law. The canons of the church, in the shape which
they assumed at the hands of Gratian in the next generation, were to set
before lay legislators the example of a codified body of law, aiming at
logical consistency and inherent reason; a body very different from the
collection of isolated enactments which the English church of the
eleventh century inherited from the Witanagemots of Alfred and Edgar. We
cannot here trace the way in which the efforts of the great doctors of
the canon law were to react upon the work of their secular
contemporaries; but the fact of such influence is certain, and the next
century witnessed its abundant manifestation.

The transference of ecclesiastical causes from the sphere of the folk
law to that of the canons of the church meant that the Pope would in
time acquire, in fact, what no doubt he would already claim in
theory—the legal sovereignty of the church in England. That William
recognised this is certain, and he was determined that the fact should
in no way invalidate the ecclesiastical prerogatives which he already
enjoyed in Normandy, and which in regard to England he claimed as King
Edward’s heir. Contemporary churchmen say this too, and the key to
William’s relations with the Pope is given in the three resolutions
which Eadmer in the next generation ascribes to him. No Pope should be
recognised in England, no papal letters should be received, and no
tenant-in-chief excommunicated without his consent. In short, William
was prepared to make concessions to the ecclesiastical ideas of his
clerical friends only in so far as they might tend to the more efficient
discharge by the church of its spiritual function. This was, of course,
a compromise, and no very satisfactory one; it led immediately to
strained relations between William himself and Hildebrand, it was the
direct cause of the quarrel between William Rufus and Anselm, and it was
indirectly responsible for the greater struggle which raged between
Henry of Anjou and Becket. On one point, however, king and papacy were
in perfect accord, and it was this fact which prevented their difference
of opinion upon higher matters of ecclesiastical policy from becoming
acute during the Conqueror’s lifetime. Both parties were agreed upon the
imperative necessity of reforming the mass of the English clergy in
morals and learning, and here at least the Conqueror’s work was
permanent and consonant with the strictest ecclesiastical ideas of the

We have already remarked that to the men of the eleventh century,
ecclesiastical reform implied the general enforcement of clerical
celibacy. The Winchester Council of 1072 had issued a decree against
unchaste clerks, but the matter was not taken up in detail for four
years more, and the settlement which was then arrived at was much more
lenient to the adherents of the old order than might have been expected.
It made a distinction between the two classes of the secular clergy. All
clerks who were members of any religious establishment, whether a
cathedral chapter, or college of secular canons, were to live celibate
for the future. The treatment applied to the upland clergy was summary.
It would have been a hopeless task to force the celibate life upon the
whole parochial clergy of England, but steps could be taken to secure
that the married priest would become an extinct species in the course of
the next generation. Accordingly, parish priests who were married at the
time might continue to live with their wives, but all subsequent
clerical marriage was absolutely forbidden, and the bishops were
enjoined to ordain no man who had not previously made definite
profession of celibacy. In all this Lanfranc was evidently anxious to
pass no decree which could not be carried into immediate execution, even
if this policy involved inevitable delay before the English clergy in
this great respect were brought into line with their continental
brethren. The next century had well begun before the native clergy as a
whole had been reduced to acceptance of the celibate rule.

The monastic revival which followed the Conquest told in the same
direction. In the mere foundation of religious houses, the Conqueror’s
reign cannot claim a high place. Such monasteries as derive their origin
from this period were for the most part affiliated to some continental
establishment. The Conqueror’s own abbey of St. Martin of the Place of
Battle was founded as a colony from Marmoutier, though it soon won
complete autonomy from the jurisdiction of the parent house. It was a
noteworthy event when in 1076 William de Warenne founded at Lewes the
first Cluniac priory in England, although it does not appear that any
other house of this order had arisen in this country before 1087. In
monastic history the interest of the Conqueror’s reign centres round the
old independent Benedictine monasteries of England, and their reform
under the administration of abbots imported from the continent. Here
there was much work to be done; not only in regard to the tightening of
monastic discipline, but also in the accommodation of these ancient
houses, with their wide lands and large dependent populations, to the
new conditions of society which were the result of the Conquest. Knight
service had to be provided for; the property of the monastery had to be
organised to enable it to bear the secular burdens which the Conqueror’s
policy imposed; foreign abbots were at times glad to rely upon the legal
knowledge which native monks could bring to bear upon the intricacies of
the prevailing system of land tenure. The Conqueror’s abbots were often
men of affairs, rather than saints; their work was here and there
misunderstood by the monks over whom they ruled, yet it cannot be
doubted that a stricter discipline, a more efficient discharge of
monastic offices, a higher conception of monastic life, were the results
of their government.

The influence of their work was not confined within monastic walls. In
the more accurate differentiation of monastic duties which they
introduced, they were not unmindful of the claims of the monastery
school. Very gradually the schools of such houses as St. Albans and
Malmesbury came to affect the mass of the native clergy. And the process
was quickened by the control which the monasteries possessed over a
considerable proportion of the parish churches of the country. The grant
of a village to an abbey meant that its church would be served by a
priest appointed by the abbot, and in Norman times no baron would found
a religious house without granting to it a number of the churches
situate upon his fief. Already in 1066 the several monasteries of
England possessed a large amount of patronage; and the Norman abbots of
the eleventh and twelfth centuries were not slow to employ the influence
they possessed in this way for the elevation of the native clergy.

Of course, there is another side to this picture. In the little world of
the monastery, as in the wide world of the state, it was the character
of the ruling man which determined whether the ascendancy of continental
ideas should make for good or evil. The autocracy of the abbot might
upon occasion degenerate into sheer tyranny: there is the classical
instance of Thurstan of Glastonbury, who turned a body of men-at-arms
upon his monks because they resisted his introduction of the Ambrosian
method of chanting the services.[292] It was an easy matter for an abbot
to use the lands of his church as a means of providing for his needy
kinsmen in Normandy[293]; the pious founder in the next generation would
often explicitly guard against the unnecessary creation of knights’ fees
on the monastic estates. An abbot, careless of his responsibilities,
might neglect to provide for the service of the village churches
affiliated to his house; and it would be difficult to call him to
account for this. But, judging from the evidence which we possess, we
can only conclude that the church in England did actually escape most of
the evils which might have resulted from the superposition of a new
spiritual aristocracy. The bad cases of which we have information are
very clearly exceptions, thrown into especial prominence on this very

And against the dangers we have just indicated we have to set the
undoubted fact that with the Norman Conquest the English church passes
at once from a period of stagnation to a period of exuberant activity.
In the conduct of the religious life, in learning and architecture, in
all that followed from intimate association with the culture and
spiritual ideals of the continent, the reign of the Conqueror and the
primacy of Lanfranc fittingly inaugurate the splendid history of the
medieval church of England. And it is only fair for us to attribute the
credit for this result in large measure to King William himself. Let it
be granted that the actual work of reform was done by the bishops and
abbots of England under the guidance of Lanfranc; there will still
remain the fact that the Conqueror chose as his spiritual associates men
who were both willing and able to carry the work of reform into effect.
Nothing would have been easier than for King William, coming in as he
did by conquest, to treat the English church as the lawful spoils of
war. Its degradation under the rule of feudal prelates of the type of
Geoffrey of Coutances would have made for, rather than against, his
secular autocracy. Had he reduced the church to impotence he would have
spared his successors many an evil day. But, confident that he himself
would always be supreme in church as well as state, he was content to
entrust its guidance to the best and strongest men of whom he knew, and
if he foresaw the dangers of the future he left their avoidance to those
who came after him.

No detailed account can be given here of the prelates whom the Conqueror
appointed to ecclesiastical office in England. In point of origin they
were a very heterogeneous class of men. Some of them were monks from the
great abbeys of Normandy; Gundulf of Rochester came from Caen, Remigius
of Dorchester from Fécamp; others, such as Robert of Hereford, were of
Lotharingian extraction. Under the Conqueror, as under his successors,
service at the royal court was a ready road to ecclesiastical promotion;
nor were the clerks of the king’s chapel the least worthy of the new
prelates. Osmund of Salisbury, who attained to ultimate canonisation,
had been chancellor from 1072 to 1077. But a question immediately
presents itself as to the relations which existed between these foreign
lords of the church and the Englishmen, clerk and lay, over whom they
ruled. Learned and zealous they might be, and yet, at the same time,
remain entirely out of touch with the native population of England. To
presuppose this, however, would be a great injustice to the new
prelates. The very diversity of their origin prevented them from sharing
the racial pride of the lay nobility, and their position as servants of
a universal church told in the same direction. They learned the English
language, and some at least among them preached to the country folk in
the vernacular. They preserved the cult of the native saints, though
they criticised with good reason the grounds on which certain kings and
prelates had received canonisation, and in most dioceses they retained
without modification the forms of ritual which had been developed by the
Anglo-Saxon church. Among all the forces which made for the assimilation
of Englishman to Norman in the century following the Conquest the work
of King William’s bishops and abbots must certainly hold a high place.

The friendly relations which had existed between William and the Curia
during the pontificate of Alexander II. were not interrupted immediately
by the accession of Hildebrand, in 1073, but there soon appeared ominous
symptoms of coming strife. It was no longer a matter of vital importance
for William to retain the favour of the papacy—he was now the undisputed
master of England and Normandy alike. Hildebrand, a man of genius, in
whose passionate character an inherent hatred of compromise clashes with
a statesmanlike recognition of the demands of practical expediency,
could not be expected to refrain from advancing the ecclesiastical
claims to the furtherance of which his whole soul was devoted. The
Conqueror had indeed gone far in the work of reform, but neither in
England nor in Normandy did he show any intention of conforming to the
Hildebrandine conception of the model relationship which should exist
between church and state. Of his own will he appointed his bishops and
abbots, and they in turn paid him homage for their temporal possessions;
he controlled at pleasure the intercourse between his prelates and the
Holy See. Herein lay abundant materials for a quarrel; the wonder is
that it did not break out for six years after Hildebrand’s succession.

The immediate cause of the outbreak was the abstention of the English
and Norman bishops from attendance at the general synods of the church
which Hildebrand convened at Rome during these years. Lanfranc was the
chief offender in this respect, but before long Hildebrand came to
recognise that Lanfranc was only acting in obedience to his master’s
orders, and anger at the discovery drove the Pope to take the offensive
against his former ally. Lanfranc was peremptorily summoned to Rome; the
archbishop-elect of Rouen, William Bona Anima, was refused the papal
confirmation, and Archbishop Gebuin of Lyons was given an extraordinary
commission as primate of the provinces of Rouen, Sens, and Tours; a step
which at once destroyed the ecclesiastical autonomy of Normandy.
William’s reply to this attack was characteristic of the man. He was not
without personal friends at the papal court, and without yielding his
ground in the slightest in regard to the main matter in dispute he
contrived to pacify the angry Pope by protestations of his unaltered
devotion to the Holy See. Gregory bided his time; Archbishop Gebuin’s
primacy came to nothing. William of Rouen received the pallium, and
shortly after these events the Pope is found writing an admonitory
letter to Robert of Normandy, then in exile. The storm had in fact blown
over, but a greater crisis was close at hand.

It is quite possible that Gregory considered that he had won a
diplomatic victory in the recent correspondence. He had not, it is true,
carried his main point, but he had drawn from the king of England a
notable expression of personal respect, and it is possible that this
emboldened him shortly afterwards to make a direct demand upon William’s
allegiance. In the course of 1080, to adopt the most probable date,
Gregory sent his legate Hubert to William with a demand that the latter
should take an oath of fealty to the Pope, and should provide for the
more punctual payment of the tribute of Peter’s Pence due from England.
In making the latter demand Hildebrand was only claiming his rights;
from ancient time Peter’s Pence had been sent to Rome from England, and
the Conqueror admitted his obligation in the matter. But the claim of
fealty stood on a different footing. William, indeed, cannot have been
unprepared for it; it was inevitable that sooner or later the papacy
would endeavour to obtain a recognition, in the sphere of politics, of
its support of the Norman claims on England in 1066. None the less, it
was entirely inadmissible from William’s standpoint. So far as our
evidence goes, it is certain that William had made no promise of feudal
allegiance in 1066[294]; for him, as indeed for Alexander II., the
papacy had already reaped its reward in the ecclesiastical sphere, in
the power of initiating the reform of the English church, in the more
intimate connection established between Rome and England. Alexander II.
had been willing to subordinate all questions of spiritual politics to
the more pressing needs of ecclesiastical reform, and Gregory had
hitherto followed his predecessor’s lead; nor on the present occasion
did he do more than assert a claim of the recognition of which he can
have held but slender hopes. For William repudiated the Pope’s demand
outright, asserting that none of his predecessors had ever sworn fealty
to any former Pope, nor had he ever promised to do the like. We have no
information as to the reception which William’s answer met at Rome; but,
whatever resentment he may have felt, Gregory was debarred by
circumstances from taking offensive action against the king of England.
In the very year of this correspondence, Gregory found himself
confronted by an anti-pope, nominated by the emperor; and from this time
onward, the Pope’s difficulties on the continent increased, up to the
hour of his death in exile five years later. Fortune continued true to
William, even in his ecclesiastical relations.

There is no need to trace in detail the history of William’s dealings
with the church during his last years. In England the work of reform,
well begun in the previous decade, continued without interruption under
the guidance of the new prelates. There is some evidence, indeed, that
towards the close of William’s reign the English clergy were in advance
of their Norman brethren in strictness of life and regard for canonical
rule; at least in 1080, at the Synod of Lillebonne,[295] the king found
it necessary to assume for himself the jurisdiction over the grosser
offences of the clergy, on the ground that the Norman bishops had been
remiss in their prosecution. But in England the leaders of the church
seem to have enjoyed the king’s confidence to the last, and their
reforming zeal needed no royal intervention. The work of Dunstan and
Oswald, frustrated at the time by unkind circumstances, had at last,
under stranger conditions than any they might conceive, reached its


Footnote 287:

  The ecclesiastical history of Normandy and England in the eleventh
  century is treated by Böhmer, _Kirche und Staat in England, und in der
  Normandie_, on which book this chapter is based.

Footnote 288:

  See above, Introduction, ii., pp. 39, 40.

Footnote 289:

  Especially in the Danelaw, V. C. H., Derby i., Leicester i.

Footnote 290:

  Stubbs, _Select Charters_, 85. The writ in question probably belongs
  to the year 1075.

Footnote 291:

  Pollock and Maitland, i., 89.

Footnote 292:

  _Peterborough Chronicle_, 1083.

Footnote 293:

  Abbot Ethelhelm of Abingdon was considered to have offended in this
  respect. _Hist. Monast. de Abingdon_, ii., 283.

Footnote 294:

  See above, Chapter V.

Footnote 295:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 315.

                               CHAPTER XI

The art of government in the eleventh century was still a simple, or at
least an untechnical, matter. It demanded rather a strong will in the
sovereign than professional knowledge in his ministers: the
responsibility was the king’s, and his duty to his subjects was plain
and recognised by all men. No one doubted that the maintenance of order
was the king’s work, but the method of its performance was left to his
discretion. It was not a light task, but it was a task which would be
done the better the simpler were the agencies employed, the more
immediately each act of government was felt to be the personal act of
the head of the state. The time was not ripe for the highly specialised
administration of Henry II.; it was bound to take more than twenty years
before a trained body of administrators could be elaborated out of the
transplanted Norman baronage, before the king had learned to whom he
could safely entrust the permanent work of civil government. The
Conqueror’s administration was by the nature of the case empirical;
neither Normandy nor England had anything to offer in the way of
centralised routine, but for all that it is from the simple expedients
adopted by William that the medieval constitution of England takes its

Just as in Normandy an indefinite body of “optimates” surrounded the
duke, and expected to be consulted on occasions of special importance,
so in England the king’s greater tenants, lay and ecclesiastical, formed
a potential council, the “Commune Concilium” of later writers. The
connection between the council in its English and Norman manifestations
was something closer than mere similarity of composition; many a man who
witnessed the coronation of Queen Matilda in the Easter Council of 1068
must have sat in the assembly at Lillebonne which discussed the invasion
of England; and judging from the evidence of charters the barons who
accompany the king when in Normandy will probably appear as lords of
English fiefs in the pages of Domesday Book. Roger de Montgomery, Henry
de Ferrers, Walter Giffard, Henry de Beaumont—such men as these, who
were great on either side the Channel, appear in frequent attendance on
their lord, whether at Rouen or at Winchester. Their attendance, indeed,
was a guarantee of good faith; the baron who, when summoned, neglected
to obey, became thereby a suspected person at once: it was considered a
sign of disaffection when Earl Roger of Hereford persistently absented
himself from William’s court.

In England we know that it was customary for the king to hold a great
council thrice in each year. “Moreover” says the Peterborough
chronicler, “he was very worshipful: he wore his crown thrice in every
year when he was in England. At Easter he wore it at Winchester, at
Whitsuntide at Westminster, at midwinter at Gloucester, and then there
were with him all the great men of all England—archbishops and bishops,
abbots and earls, thegns and knights”; “in order,” adds William of
Malmesbury, “that ambassadors from foreign countries might admire the
splendour of the assembly and the costliness of the feasts.” As it is
only at these great seasons that the Commune Concilium comes practically
into being; we may give a list of those known to be present at the
Easter feast of 1069 and the Christmas feast of 1077, to which we may
add a list of those in attendance on the king when he held his Easter
feast of 1080 in Normandy.[296]

It will be clear that an assembly of this kind is eminently unfitted to
be the organ of systematic government. These great people, bishops,
earls, and abbots, had their own work to do, work which for long periods
kept them away from the king’s presence. The Commune Concilium is at
most what its name implies, an advisory body. As such it plays the part
taken in the Anglo-Saxon policy by the “Witan,” and the question arises
whether it can be considered a continuation of that assembly under
altered conditions and with restricted powers or whether it proceeds
from some quite different principle.

It is plain that the Norman council is in no sense a popular assembly;
we certainly cannot say of it, as has been said of the “Witan,” that
“every free man had in theory the right to attend.” On the other hand it
is probable that the alleged popular composition of the Witan is
illusory, while the nature of the body which attended Edward the
Confessor might be described equally with the Conqueror’s councils as
consisting of “archbishops and suffragan bishops, abbots and earls,
thegns and knights.” But it is probable that this similarity of
constitution is only superficial. If pressed for a definition of the
Commune Concilium we might, perhaps, venture to say that it consisted
potentially of all those men who held in chief of the crown by military
service, of those _tenentes in capite_ whose estates in Domesday are
entered under separate rubrics. This definition would include the great
ecclesiastical tenants, while it would exclude the undistinguished crowd
of sergeants (_servientes_) and king’s thegns, and it would suggest one
most important respect in which the Commune Concilium differs from its
Old English representative. All the members of the Norman council are
united to the king by the strongest of all ties, the bond of tenure.
That great change, in virtue of which every acre of land in England has
come to be held mediately or immediately of the king, influences
constitutional no less than social relations; the king’s council is a
body composed of men who are his own tenants. From this technical
distinction follows a difference of great importance; the king’s
influence over his council becomes direct and inevitable to a degree
impossible before the Conquest. Under Edward the Confessor it is not
impossible for the Witan to be found going its own way with but scanty
regard to the personal wishes of the king; under the Conqueror and his
sons the king’s will is supreme. Most true is it that the three Norman
kings were men of very different quality from the imbecile Edward; but
nevertheless, the tenurial bond between the king and his barons made it
impossible for the latter when in council to follow an independent
political course. The Norman kings were wise enough to entertain advice
and too strong for that advice ever to pass into dictation.


  May 1068]

Distinct then as is the Commune Concilium from the Witan, we
nevertheless meet in the earliest years of William’s reign with certain
assemblies which may fairly be considered as transitional forms between
the two. Up to the last revolt of Edwin and Morcar not a few Englishmen
continued to hold high positions at William’s court; and among the
witnesses to the few charters of this date which have survived there
still exists a fair proportion of English names. Such men as Edwin and
Morcar themselves must have represented the independent traditions of
the Old English Witan, and there are other names which are common to the
latest charters of King Edward and the earliest charters of King
William. As it is very rarely that we can obtain a glimpse of an
assembly of this intermediate type we may subjoin a list of those in
attendance on the king at or shortly after the Whitsuntide Council of
1069, taken from a charter restoring to the church of Wells lands which
Harold, “inflamed with cupidity,” is said to have appropriated unjustly:

  King William; Queen Matilda; Stigand, archbishop; Ealdred, archbishop;
  Odo, bishop of Bayeux; Hugh, bishop (of Lisieux); Herman, bishop (of
  Thetford); Leofric, bishop of Exeter; Ethelmer, bishop of Elmham;
  William, bishop of London; Ethelric, bishop of Selsey; Walter, bishop
  of Hereford; Remi, bishop of Lincoln; Ethelnoth, abbot of
  (Glastonbury); Leofweard, abbot of (Michelney); Wulfwold, abbot of
  Chertsey; Wulfgeat, abbot; Earl William; Earl Waltheof; Earl Edwin;
  Robert, the king’s brother; Roger, “princeps”; Walter Giffard; Hugh de
  Montfort; William de Curcelles; Serlo de Burca; Roger de Arundel;
  Richard, the king’s son; Walter the Fleming; Rambriht the Fleming;
  Thurstan; Baldwin “de Wailen leige”; Athelheard; Hermenc; Tofig,
  “minister”; Dinni; “Alfge atte Thorne”; William de Walville; Bundi,
  the Staller; Robert, the Staller; Robert de Ely; Roger “pincerna”;
  Wulfweard; Herding; Adsor; Brisi; Brihtric.[297]

Starting with the greatest persons in church and state the list
gradually shades off to a number of obscure names, the bearers of which
cannot be identified outside this record. Some of these last may be
local people connected with the estates to which the grant refers, but
most of even the English names can be recognised in the general history
of the time. The peculiar value of the list is that it shows us
Englishmen and Normans associated, apparently on terms of equality, at
the Conqueror’s court. It is instructive to see the English earls of
Northampton and Mercia signing between Earl William Fitz Osbern and
Count Robert of Mortain; the fact that men whose names are among the
greatest in Domesday Book are to be found witnessing the same document
with men who had signed Edward the Confessor’s charters helps us to
bridge the gulf which separates Anglo-Saxon from Norman England. But
this phenomenon is confined to the years immediately succeeding the
Conquest; very suddenly, after the date of this document, the English
element at William’s court gives way and disappears, and with it
disappear the names which unite the Old English “Witan” to the Norman
“Concilium.” This is a fact to which we have already had occasion to
refer, for the general change in William’s policy which occurs in 1070
affects every aspect of his history.


  January 1075]

The functions of this court or council seem to have been as
indeterminate as its composition. Largely, no doubt, they were
ceremonial; this aspect of the council was evidently in the mind of
William of Malmesbury when he wrote the passage quoted on page
[missing]. At times it appears as a judicial body, Waltheof was
condemned in the Midwinter Council of 1075; while of its advisory powers
we have a supreme example in the “deep speech” at Gloucester, which led
to the making of Domesday Book. If the title which is attached to the
oldest copy of William’s laws has any validity, they were promulgated in
accordance with Old English customs by the king _cum principibus suis_;
one clause in particular is said to have been ordained “in civitate
Claudia,” which may suggest that the law in question had been decreed in
one of the Midwinter Councils at Gloucester. But of one thing only we
can be sure, whatever functions the Council may have fulfilled, the
king’s will was the motive force which under lay all its action.

In later times, the chief justiciar appears as the normal president of
the Council, but in William’s reign it is hard to find any single
officer bearing that title. No doubt, when William was in England he
himself presided over his council; when he was in Normandy, if the
council met at all, which is unlikely, his place would probably be
taken by the representative he had left behind him. It is, perhaps,
impossible to give a dated list of the vicegerents who appear in
William’s reign; our notices of them are very scanty. We have seen
that in 1067 William Fitz Osbern and Odo of Bayeux were left as
“regents” of England when William made his first visit to Normandy
after the Conquest; there has survived an interesting writ of that
year in which “Willelm cyng and Willelm eorl” address jointly the
country magnates of Somersetshire.[298] At the time of the revolt of
the three earls in 1075, it is clear that Lanfranc was the king’s
vicegerent, an office which he probably filled again during William’s
last continental visit in 1086–7. For several reasons it is probable
that Odo of Bayeux was regent not long before his fall in 1082; it was
as the king’s representative that he took drastic vengeance on the
murderers of Bishop Walcher of Durham in 1080, and a most suggestive
story in the Abingdon Chartulary shows us King William repudiating the
judgment which his brother had given in a local lawsuit during his
regency.[299] From the same chartulary we learn that at some time
between 1071 and 1081 Queen Matilda herself was hearing pleas at
Windsor “in place of the king who was then in Normandy,”[300] though
this, of course, need not imply that she was regent in any wider sense
of the term. In general, the writs which the king sent from Normandy
into England will be addressed directly to the ordinary authorities of
the shire; and our knowledge of the succession of William’s
representatives is derived from incidental notices elsewhere.


  September 1087]

So far as we can see King William was always attended by a varying
number of his barons; a continually changing cortège followed the king
in his progress over the country. To this fluctuating body, just as to
the solemn council, our Latin authorities give the title of the King’s
Court, the “Curia Regis,” a phrase which at once connects the amorphous
group of William’s courtiers with the specialised executive of Henry II.
In a sense, no doubt, William’s court was the only executive of its
time, but the employment of these modern terms leads straight towards
anachronism; the judicial function of the Curia Regis was quite as
important as its executive work, and the court was, after all, only a
fraction of that larger council in which we have seen “judicial,”
“executive,” and “legislative” powers to be combined. If we are to make
for ourselves a distinction between two bodies which are tacitly
identified by all early writers, we may say that the Curia Regis was
composed of just those members of the Commune Concilium who happened to
be in attendance on the king at any given moment. But we must remember
that to the men of the eleventh century the king’s “court” and the
king’s “council” were one and the same; any distinction between them
which we may make exists for our own convenience and nothing more; the
court was only a shrunken form of the council.

Even those men who are most frequently to be found in attendance on the
king do not seem to be characterised either by special legal knowledge
or by definite official position. Great officers of the court, such as
the steward and the constable, do repeatedly appear; their positions
have not yet become annexed to any of the greater baronial houses, and
it is probable that their official duties are a reality; but, although
Eudo Fitz Hubert (de Rye) the steward, for instance, seems to have been
a personal friend of all three Norman kings, and accordingly is a
frequent signatory of their writs, such members of the official class
seem always to be accompanied by the unofficial barons present. Their
attendance also is very intermittent; even the chancellor is much less
in evidence in the Conqueror’s charters than in those of Henry I. or
II., and under these circumstances we may fairly ask how this
unprofessional body acted when required to behave as a court of law.
English evidence helps us little, but we get a useful hint as to
procedure in certain Norman charters and an analysis of one of them may
be quoted:

  “At length both parties were summoned before the king’s court, in
  which there sat many of the nobles of the land of whom Geoffrey,
  bishop of Coutances, was delegated by the king’s authority as judge of
  the dispute, with Ranulf the Vicomte, Neel, son of Neel, Robert de
  Usepont, and many other capable judges who diligently and fully
  examined the origin of the dispute, and delivered judgment that the
  mill ought to belong to St. Michael and his monks forever. The most
  victorious king William approved and confirmed this decision.”[301]

Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances is one of the more frequent visitors at
William’s English courts, and we may suspect that this method was not
infrequently used in England when the intricacy of a matter in dispute
surpassed the legal competence of the court as a whole. It forms, in
fact, the first stage in that segregation of a legal nucleus within the
indifferentiated _Curia_ which created the executive organ of the days
of the two great Henrys. The early part of this process takes place
almost wholly in the dark so far as England is concerned, and we must
seriously doubt whether it had led to any very definite results when the
Conqueror died; for it is to Henry I., rather than to his father, that
we should assign the formation of an organised body of royal
administrators. In this, as in other institutional matters, the
Conqueror’s reign was a time of tentative expedients and simple
solutions; it is essentially a period of origins.

The king’s court is a very mobile body. The king is always travelling
from place to place, and where he is at any moment there is his court
held also. It is possible to construct an itinerary of our kings from
Henry II. onward, but this cannot be done in the case of William, for it
is exceptional for his charters to contain any dating clause. William is
indeed to be seen issuing writs in very different parts of his kingdom:
at Winchester, the ancient capital of Wessex, and York, the ancient
capital of Northumbria; at hunting seats such as Brill and Woodstock; at
Downton in Wiltshire, Droitwich, and Burton-on-Trent; but the list of
places which we know to have been visited by William and his court in
time of peace is very small compared with the materials which we possess
for an itinerary of Henry I., or even of William Rufus. To this
deficiency of information is largely to be attributed the fact that,
compared with Henry I., William is rarely[302] to be found in the
northern parts of his kingdom; it is probable that fuller knowledge of
the details of his progresses would reveal a number of unrecorded visits
to the shires beyond Watling Street.


A natural means of transition from the king’s court to the local
divisions of the country, the shires and hundreds, is afforded by the
recognised means of communication between the two, those writs of which
mention has already been made. In form a writ is simply a letter
addressed to the persons who are responsible for the fulfilment of its
directions, and it is usually witnessed, as we have seen, by a greater
or less number of the persons present with the king at the time of its
issue. Such a letter might be written either in Latin or in Old English,
the former of course being more usual under the Norman kings, and it was
usually authenticated with the king’s great seal. This simple device
seems to have been the legal means by which the great transfer of land
which followed the Conquest was brought about; the king would send down
one of these writs to the sheriff of a county directing him to put a
certain baron in possession of certain specified lands, and the sheriff
would need no further warrant. We may give the following as an example
of a writ in its Latin form:

  “William king of the English salutes Baldwin sheriff of Devonshire and
  all his barons and servants in that shire.

  Know ye that I have granted to my monks of Battle [de Bello] the
  church of St. Olaf in Exeter with the lands of Shireford and with all
  other lands and possessions belonging to the said church. Wherefore, I
  will and command that they hold it freely and in peace and quit from
  every duty of earthly service and from all pleas and claims and
  [attendance at] shire and hundred courts and from every geld and
  ‘scot’ and aid and gift and danegeld and army service, with sake and
  soke and infangenethef; [quit moreover from] all works on castles and
  bridges, as befits my demesne alms. Witnessed by Thomas, Archbishop of
  York, and William, the son of Osbert at Winchester.”[303]

Any comment on the privileges conveyed by the document would be outside
our present purpose, which is merely to illustrate the way in which King
William sent his instructions into the different parts of his kingdom.
But the formula of address deserves notice because it suggests that the
writ was really directed to the shire court where the sheriff and the
“barons and king’s servants” of the shire periodically met. There it
would be read in the presence of the assembled men of the county, and
the sheriff would forthwith proceed to carry its directions into effect.
The sheriff in the king’s eyes is clearly the executive officer of the
shire and his importance is not to be measured by the modern
associations aroused by his title. The Latin word which we translate as
“sheriff” is _vicecomes_ and this word also represents the French
_vicomte_, a fact which should by no means be ignored, for the sheriffs
of the half-century succeeding the Conquest resemble their French
contemporaries much more closely than either their English successors of
the twelfth century or the shire reeves of the Anglo-Saxon period. For
one thing, they are in a sense true _vicecomites_: the sheriff was the
chief officer in each county in which there was no earl, and the
earldoms created by William were few, and with the exception of Kent
were situated in remote parts of the land. Then also it is certain that
some at least of the more important sheriffdoms were hereditary in much
the same sense as that in which the great earldoms before the Conquest
were hereditary—the cases of Devon, Wiltshire and Essex are examples—to
which we must add that the early Norman sheriffs are often very great
men. Baldwin the sheriff of Devon was the son of William’s own guardian,
Count Gilbert of Brionne, and two of his sons followed him in the
office. Edward the sheriff of Wiltshire was the ancestor of the medieval
earls of Salisbury. Urse de Abetot, alternately despoiler and tenant of
the church of Worcester was the chief lay landowner in Worcestershire,
Hugh Fitz Baldric, sheriff of Yorkshire, was among the greater tenants
in chief in that county. In local, as in general constitutional history,
it is most important not to read the ideas of Henry II.’s time into the
institutions which prevailed under the Conqueror. Had William in 1070
tried to carry out a general deposition of his sheriffs, such as Henry
II. actually achieved in 1170, the attempt, we may be sure, would have
led to a revolt, and the mass of the baronage would have sided with the
official members of their class. But indeed, so long as the Normans were
still intruders in a conquered country, it was only politic on William’s
part to govern through men of strong territorial position, men who had
the power to enforce the king’s commands in their own localities. In the
choice of his local administrators, as in certain other aspects of his
policy, William was preparing difficulties for his successors, but his
justification lay in the essential needs of his own time. The great
transfer of land from Englishmen to Normans, to take one instance, could
never have been accomplished if the local government of the country had
been in weak hands.

In the period immediately following the Conquest, the four years between
1066 and 1070, which in so many respects are distinct from the rest of
William’s reign, perhaps the majority of the sheriffdoms continued to be
held by Englishmen. Within this period writs are addressed to Edmund,
sheriff of Herefordshire, Sawold of Oxfordshire, Swegen of Essex, and
Tofig of Somerset, and even after 1070 such Englishmen as Ethelwine,
sheriff of Staffordshire,[304] continue the series. In fact, the
development of the provincial administration in this respect seems to
have followed a very similar course to that which we have noted in the
case of the king’s court; there is a period in which men of both races
are mingled in the government of the shires, as well as in attendance on
the king’s person. But by the end of the reign the change in both
respects had become almost complete, and the introduction of Norman
sheriffs began early; for before 1069 Urse de Abetot had already entered
upon his aggressive course as sheriff of Worcestershire, and it is very
probable that even by the time of William’s coronation the Norman
Geoffrey had succeeded Ansgar the Staller in his sheriffdom of London
and Middlesex.[305]

From the sheriffs we may pass naturally to their superiors in rank, the
earls. Taught by experience, William regarded the vast, half-independent
earldoms of the later Anglo-Saxon period with profound mistrust, and as
the occasion presented itself he allowed them to lapse. All the earldoms
held by members of the house of Godwine became extinct with the battle
of Hastings, but the great provincial governments of Mercia and
Northumbria probably lasted until the final revolt of Earls Edwin and
Morcar in the spring of 1069. After their suppression there remained
three minor earldoms of Anglo-Saxon origin, East Anglia, Northampton,
and Bernicia, the holders of which, as we have seen, were mainly
responsible for the rebellion of 1075. Upon William’s triumph in the
latter year the East Anglian earldom was suppressed, that of Northampton
ceases to exist for the remainder of the Conqueror’s reign, and we have
already noticed the reasons which led to the continuance of the earldom
of Bernicia. Similar motives led to the creation of the four earldoms
which alone can be proved to have come into being before 1087, and which
deserve to be considered in detail here. They are:

  1. Hereford, granted to William Fitz Osbern before January, 1067.

  2. Shrewsbury, granted to Roger de Montgomery circ. 1070.

  3. Chester, granted to Hugh d’Avranches, before January, 1071.

  4. Kent, granted to Odo, bishop of Bayeux, possibly before January,

The exact extent of the earldom of Hereford is doubtful, for there
exists a certain amount of evidence which makes it probable that William
Fitz Osbern possessed the rights of an earl over Gloucestershire and
Worcestershire in addition to the county from which he took his title.
We have already discussed the general significance of the early writ
which the king addressed to Earl William and the magnates of
Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and the evidence of this document is
supported by the fact that the earl appears as dealing in a very
arbitrary fashion with land and property in both shires.[306] It is
probable on other grounds that Gloucestershire lay within the Fitz
Osbern earldom, for William’s possessions extended far south of the
Herefordshire border to the lands between Wye and Usk in the modern
county of Monmouth, and the addition of Gloucestershire to Herefordshire
is required to complete the line of earldoms which lay along the Welsh
border. On the other hand it seems probable that Worcestershire never
belonged to Roger, William Fitz Osbern’s son, for in 1075 it was the
main object of the royal captains in the west to prevent him from
crossing the Severn to the assistance of his friends in the midlands. In
any case the early date at which the earldom of Hereford was created
deserves notice, for it shows that within four months of the battle of
Hastings William was strong enough to place a foreign earl in command of
a remote and turbulent border shire. Short as was his tenure of his
earldom William Fitz Osbern was able to leave his mark there; fifty
years after his death there still remained in force an ordinance which
he had decreed to the effect that no knight should be condemned to pay
more than seven shillings for any offence.[307] Lastly, it should be
noted that in a document of 1067[308] William Fitz Osbern is styled
“consul palatinus,” a title which should not be construed “palatine
earl,” but which rather means that William, though raised to comital
rank, still retained the position of “dapifer” or steward of the court,
which he inherited from his father, the unlucky Osbern of the
Conqueror’s minority, and in virtue of which the earl of Hereford
continued to be the titular head of the royal household.

To the north of William Fitz Osbern, Roger de Montgomery, the other
friend of William’s early days, was established in an earldom threaded
by the Severn as Herefordshire is threaded by the Wye, and stretching
along the former river to the town and castle to which the house of
Montgomery left its name. From the standpoint of frontier strategy
Roger’s position was even more important than that held by his neighbour
of Hereford; for Shrewsbury, the point where roads from London, Stafford
and the east, and Chester and the north met before crossing the Severn,
continued throughout the Middle Ages to be the key to mid-Wales.
Unfortunately, the date at which Roger received the Shropshire earldom
cannot be fixed with certainty, for, while he appears at court in the
enjoyment of comital rank as early as 1069, the one account which we
possess of the operations at Shrewsbury in the latter year virtually
implies that the town was then in the king’s hand. Probably the
discrepancy is to be explained by the fact that before he received his
grant of Shropshire Roger had been given the castle of Arundel and the
town of Chichester in the distant shire of Sussex.[309] It is highly
probable, in fact, that Roger possessed the rights of an earl over the
latter county,[310] and such a grant would fall in well with the general
policy of the Conqueror, for Sussex was only less important than Kent as
a point of arrival from the continent, and in the eleventh century
Arundel was a port. Most probably Roger was appointed earl of Shrewsbury
after the events of 1069 had shown that a coalition of Welsh and English
was the most pressing danger of the moment, but he continued in
possession of Arundel and Chichester.[311] Once established at
Shrewsbury, Roger and his followers speedily proceeded to take the
offensive against the Welsh, and in 1072 Hugh de Montgomery, the earl’s
eldest son, extended his raids as far south as Cardigan. In addition to
being the earl of two English shires, Roger de Montgomery held great
possessions in Normandy and France; in right of his wife he was count of
Bellême, and by a more distant succession he became Seigneur of Alençon,
while a series of marriage alliances placed him at the head of a
powerful group of kinsmen. But it is probable that the place which he
holds in history is due less to his wide lands and great power than to
the accident that one of his knights became the father of the greatest
historian whom Normandy had so far produced. The earl of Shrewsbury was
a great baron and a loyal knight, but when we regard him as representing
the best aspect of the Norman conquerors of England we are, consciously
or otherwise, guided by the place which he fills in the narrative of the
chronicler born within his earldom, Ordericus Vitalis.

The circumstances under which the earldom of Chester was created present
a certain amount of difficulty. Chester itself was the last great town
of England which called for separate reduction at William’s hands, and
it did not fall until the beginning of 1070. Then we are told that
William gave the earldom of Cheshire to Gherbod, one of his Flemish[312]
followers, but an original charter[313] of the time shows us Hugh Lupus
of Avranches already addressed as earl of Chester in or before February,
1071. Now Gherbod (who never appears in any English document) was killed
in Flanders in the latter month, so that we can only suppose that, if he
ever received the earldom, he never took practical possession of it, and
resigned it almost immediately. The historical earldom of Chester is
that which remained in the family of Hugh of Avranches for two centuries
and formed the “county palatine” which survived until 1536. It was a
frontier earldom in a double sense: Chester controlled the passage of
the Dee into North Wales and also the coast road to Rhuddlan and
Anglesey, while so long as all England north of Morecambe Bay was Scotch
territory, it was politic to entrust much power to the man who commanded
the west coast route from the midlands to the north. Judging from the
evidence of Domesday Book, the whole of Cheshire formed one compact fief
in the hands of its earl; it is the only county in England possessed
outright by one tenant-in-chief. Of Earl Hugh, we can draw the outlines
of no very pleasing picture. He was devoted to every kind of sensual
indulgence, and so fat that no horse could carry him; he is charged like
most of his contemporaries with disrespect to the rights of church
property. On the other hand, he was, so far as we can see, unswervingly
faithful to the king, and he abundantly fulfilled his natural duty of
keeping the Welsh away from the English border; nor is it probable that
William would have entrusted to a lethargic fool one of the most
responsible positions in his kingdom.

The case of Kent stands apart from that of its three sister earldoms.
The latter were created as the readiest means of securing a part of the
country remote from the centre of authority. The importance of Kent lay
in its position between London and the Channel ports. Through the county
ran the great Dover road, the main artery of communication between all
northern England and the continent, the obvious line along which an
invader would strike at London. The rising of 1067 proved the reality of
such danger and it was reasonable that the county should be placed in
charge of the man who by relationship was the natural vicegerent of the
king when the latter was across the Channel. Territorially, Kent was
much less completely in the hands of its earl than was the case with
either of the three western earldoms, but the possessions of Odo of
Bayeux in the rest of England placed him in the first rank of
landowners. The date at which the earldom was created is not quite
certain; like William Fitz Osbern, Odo may have received his earldom at
the time of his joint regency with the former in 1067. He is addressed
as bishop of Bayeux and earl of Kent in a charter which is not later
than 1077, and his rank as an earl is strikingly brought out in the
circumstances of his dramatic arrest in 1082.

Judged by later events, the creation of these four great earldoms may
seem to have been a mistake on the part of the Conqueror. Hereford,
Kent, and Shropshire in turn served as the base of operations for a
formidable revolt within fifty years of the Conquest. Their formation
also contrasts with the general principles which governed the
distribution of land among the Norman baronage, principles which aimed
in the main at reproducing the discrete character of the greater old
English estates. Before the Conquest no such compact block of territory
as the earldom of Cheshire had ever been given in direct possession to
any subject. But here, as in the case of the powerful sheriffdoms of
William’s time, his justification lay in his immediate necessities. His
reason for the creation of the western earldoms was the same as that
which prompted his successors to entrust almost unlimited power to the
great lords on the march of Wales. It was absolutely necessary to secure
central England against all danger from Welsh invasion, and the king
himself had neither the time nor the means to conquer Wales outright. He
found a temporary solution by placing on the debatable border three
earls, strong enough in land and men to keep the Welsh at bay and
impelled by self-interest to carry out his wishes. And also we should
remember that it was only wise to guard against a repetition of that
combination of independent Welsh and irreconcilable English which had
been planned in 1068; the three western earldoms were all created before
the capture of Ely in 1071 ended the series of national risings against
the Conqueror. Lastly, it will not escape notice that at the outset all
four earldoms were given to men whom William knew well and had every
reason to trust. Odo of Kent was his half-brother; Roger de Montgomery
and William Fitz Osbern were young men already at his side in his early
warfare before Domfront; Hugh of Chester belonged to a family which had
held household positions in his Norman court. William might well have
felt that he could not entrust his delegated power to safer hands than

Four or five shires only were placed under the control of separate
earls, and in them as elsewhere in England the old English system of
local government continued with but little change. The shire and hundred
courts continued to meet to transact the judicial and administrative
business of their respective districts though the manorial courts which
sprang up in great numbers as a result of the Conquest were continually
withdrawing more and more of this work. We know very little of the
ordinary procedure of the local courts; it is only when they take part
in some especially important affair such as the Domesday Inquest that
the details of their action are recorded. An excellent illustration of
the way in which the machinery of the shire court was applied to the
settlement of legal disputes is afforded by the following record, taken
from the history of the church of Rochester:

  “In the time of William the Great, king of the English, father of
  William, also king of that nation, there arose a dispute between
  Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, and Picot, sheriff of Cambridge, about
  certain land, situated in Freckenham, but belonging to Isleham, which
  one of the king’s sergeants, called Olchete, had presumed to occupy in
  virtue of the sheriff’s grant. For the sheriff said that the land in
  question was the king’s, but the bishop declared that it belonged to
  the church of St. Andrew. And so they came before the king who ordered
  that all the men of that shire should be brought together, that by
  their verdict [_judicio_], it might be determined to whom the land
  should rightly belong. Now they, when assembled, through fear of the
  sheriff, declared the land to belong to the king, rather than to
  Blessed Andrew, but the bishop of Bayeux, who was presiding over the
  plea, did not believe them, and directed that if they were sure that
  their verdict was true, they should choose twelve out of their number
  to confirm with an oath what all had said. But when the twelve had
  withdrawn to consider the matter, they were struck with terror by a
  message from the sheriff and so, on returning, they swore that to be
  true which had been declared before. Now, these men were Edward of
  Chippenham, Heruld and Leofwine ‘saca’ of Exning, Eadric of Isleham,
  Wulfwine of Landwade, Ordmer of Bellingham, and six others of the
  better men of the county. After all this, the land remained in the
  king’s hand. But in that same year a certain monk, called Grim came to
  the bishop like a messenger from God, for when he heard what the
  Cambridge men had sworn, he was amazed, and in his wrath called them
  all liars. For this monk had formerly been the reeve of Freckenham,
  and had received services and customary payments from the land in
  question as from the other lands belonging there, while he had had
  under him in that manor one of the very men who had made the sworn
  confirmation. When the bishop of Rochester had heard this, he went to
  the bishop of Bayeux and told him the monk’s story in order. Then the
  bishop of Bayeux summoned the monk before himself and heard the same
  tale from him, after which he summoned one of those who had sworn, who
  instantly fell down before his feet and acknowledged himself to be a
  liar. Then again he summoned the man who had sworn first of all, and
  on being questioned he likewise confessed his perjury. Lastly, he
  ordered the sheriff to send the remaining jurors to London to appear
  before him together with twelve others of the better men of the county
  to confirm the oath of the former twelve. To the same place also, he
  summoned many of the greater barons of England, and when all were
  assembled in London, judgment was given both by French and English
  that all the jurors were perjured since the man after whom all had
  sworn had owned himself to be a liar. After a condemnation of this
  kind the bishop of Rochester kept the land, as was just, but since the
  second twelve jurors wished to assert that they did not agree with
  those who had first sworn, the bishop of Bayeux said that they should
  prove this by the ordeal of iron. They promised to do so, but failed,
  and by the judgment of the other men of their county they paid three
  hundred pounds to the king.”[314]

In this extract we get a vivid picture of the way in which the two
systems of government, Norman and English, worked in conjunction. In the
above transactions the matter in dispute is referred for settlement to
the ancient shire court of Cambridgeshire, and determined by the oaths
of English jurors, but the procedure is a Norman innovation, and it is
the Conqueror’s brother who presides over the plea. The terror inspired
by the sheriff is an eloquent commentary on the vague complaints of the
chroniclers concerning the oppression of the king’s officers, and we may
welcome this casual glimpse into the relations between the English folk
of the county and the formidable president of their court. But the
remaining details of the story may well be left to explain themselves.

But a suit of this kind must not be taken as typical of the ordinary
work of the shire court; it was not every day that it had to discuss the
affairs of a king and a bishop. It was the exceptional rank of the
parties concerned in this instance which enabled them to traverse the
original judgment of the shire court and to employ a procedure quite
alien to the methods of the Old English local moots. So far as we can
see, the practice of settling disputes by the verdict of a small body of
sworn jurors was entirely a Norman innovation, and we may be sure that
it would not have been employed in this case if the veracity of the men
of the shire had not been called in question. Within ten years of the
date of our story the king’s fiscal rights all over England were to be
ascertained by the inquisition of sworn juries in the Domesday Inquest,
but the employment of this method in ordinary judicial cases continued
to be highly exceptional down to the beginning of the Angevin period,
and our instance may perhaps claim to be the first recorded example of
its use. The duty of the shire court in all pleas of the kind, to which
it would have been confined in all probability in the above case if the
king had not been attracted within the dispute, was simply to declare
the customary law which related to the matter in hand. In principle, a
judgment of this kind is entirely different from the verdict on oath
given by men selected for their local knowledge as were the jurors in
our story: if carried out honestly the result would be the same in
either case—the land would be assigned to the proper person; but whereas
this would only follow incidentally if inevitably from the unsworn
judgment of the court as a whole, the sworn verdict would consist of an
actual award. The latter principle produced the Angevin juries of
presentment; the former principle continued to underlie the action of
the shire and hundred courts so long as they exercised judicial
functions. The interest of the Isleham case above lies in its
transitional character: it shows us the sworn jury used as a secondary
resort after the accustomed practice of the shire court had failed to
give satisfaction; already in 1077 it is available for the amendment of
wrongs arising “_pro defectu recti_,” on the part of the domesmen of the
local assemblies.

But just as the introduction of the jury was bringing a new procedure
into competition with the antiquated methods of the local courts, so a
quite different set of causes was cutting at the root of their
influence. Centuries before the Conquest considerable powers of
jurisdiction had been placed in private, generally ecclesiastical,
hands, but the gradual extension of the sphere of private justice, until
it became an integral part of the whole manorial organisation, was due
to the feudal principles which triumphed in 1066. Private jurisdiction,
as it existed in the Conqueror’s day, represents the blending of at
least three distinct principles. In the first place, the king can confer
jurisdictional rights on whomsoever he pleases; from this point of view
a private court will represent a portion of royal power in the hands of
a subject. But in the second place, the king himself is only the first
of a number of men who possess these rights in virtue of their rank; it
is probable that the political theory of the eleventh century would
allow that a great man was naturally possessed of such powers of justice
as were appropriate to his personal status, though it would be unable to
give a rational explanation of the fact. And then even in the
Conqueror’s time there can be traced the idea, the prevalence of which
was destined to cover England with manorial courts, that the tenurial
relation between a lord and his tenant gave the former jurisdictional
powers over the latter; that, independently of a royal grant, or of his
personal rank, a lord was entitled to hold a court for his “men”; that
the economic relation between landlord and tenant produced a
corresponding tie in the sphere of jurisdiction. It is the first two of
these principles which produced the “sake and soke” of Anglo-Saxon law,
it is the last which explains the extension of manorial justice in the
century following the Conquest.[315] It is worth while making this
classification, for it reveals one of the main lines of divergence
between English and French law in the Middle Ages. That which in England
was the least persistent of our three principles, the element of
personal rank, became in France the basis of the famous classification
of jurisdictional powers into “haut, moyen, et bas justice,” which
endured until the Revolution, and the main reason for this difference
lies in the circumstances of the Norman Conquest. By that event,
whatever the explanation of private justice which may have passed
current among those who troubled themselves about such matters, all such
powers proceeded directly or indirectly from the king; directly when the
Conqueror made an explicit grant of “sake and soke” to a baron,
indirectly if the latter claimed his court as proceeding from his tenure
of his land, for the land itself was held of the king who had granted it
to him. Here then, in the Sphere of local justice, we see the union of
Norman and English ideas; the judicial power which results from the
facts of tenure is added to the judicial power which is exercised in
virtue of the king’s grant.


It should not be thought that the Norman barons, in their seats across
the Channel, had exercised jurisdictional powers in advance of those
possessed by the English nobles and thegns whom they were destined to
displace. The fact that the grants of private justice which the
Conqueror made to his followers in England were set forth in the same
conventional phrases as Edward the Confessor would have employed in like
case, may be set down to William’s desire to preserve the forms of Old
English law; but there is no doubt that the Norman barons were quite
content to accept the Anglo-Saxon formulas as a satisfactory expression
of the jurisdictional powers which they were to enjoy. In fact, the
latter were ample enough. Thus, when the Conqueror confirmed his
“customs” to the abbot of Ely, these included “sake and soke, toll and
team and infangenethef, hamsocne and grithbrice, fihtwite and fyrdwite
within boroughs and without, and the penalties for all other crimes
which are emendable on his land and over his men, as he held them on the
day when King Edward was alive and dead.”[316] Terms like these cover
nearly the whole field of “civil and criminal justice.” Sake and soke
may be construed as the right to hold a court; toll explains itself;
“team” implies that persons might be “vouched to warranty” in the court,
a process which is too technical to be explained here, but the grant of
which made a court capable of entertaining suits arising out of the
transfer of land; “infangenethef” is the right of trying and executing
thieves taken on one’s land; “hamsocne” (or rather “hamfare”) is the
breach of a man’s house; “grithbrice” is the violation of the grantees’
special peace; “fihtwite” is the fine for a general breach of the peace;
“fyrdwite” is the fine for failure to appear in the national militia,
the fyrd. Privileges like these, within the area to which they are
applicable, empower the grantees’ court to take cognisance of all crimes
and misdemeanours which might be expected to occur in the ordinary
course of events; the Isle of Ely and some dozens of external manors
were practically withdrawn altogether from the national system of
justice. We have no reason to suppose that the average baron in Normandy
was endowed with anything like these powers, nor need we suppose that
grants of such wide application were very frequently made to the
conquerors of England; but when, two years after the date of Domesday
Book, we find Roger de Busli—a great baron certainly, but not belonging
absolutely to the first rank—granting to his monks of Blyth “sac and
soke, tol and team and infangenethef, iron and ditch and gallows with
all other privileges [_libertates_] which I formerly held of the
king,”[317] we can see that the feudalisation of justice had gone far by
the time of King William’s death.

We may then fairly inquire what was the relation which these new
manorial courts bore to the old national courts which they were destined
to supplant. With reference to the hundred and shire assemblies, the
answer is fairly simple: the two systems of jurisdiction were
concurrent. The hundred court, we must remember, was in no sense
inferior to the shire court, and in the same way the manorial court was
in no sense inferior to either of these bodies; it rested with the
individual litigant before which of them he should bring his plea, with
this most important exception—that the lord of the party impleaded could
if he wished “claim his court,” and so appropriate the profits of the
trial. Here was a most powerful force steadily drawing business away
from the shires and hundreds, and attracting it within the purview of
the manor. But then the wishes of the peasantry told in the same
direction: the manorial court was close at hand; it was composed of
neighbours who knew each others’ concerns, and were constantly
associated in the common agricultural work of the vill; it gratified the
tendencies towards local isolation, which were pre-eminently strong in
the early Middle Ages. The manorial court supplied justice at home, and
we should remember how many hindrances beset recourse to the hundreds
and shires. In all Staffordshire there were only five hundreds; in all
Leicestershire only four wapentakes; the prosecution of a suit in any of
these courts must have meant grievous weariness and loss, the
establishment of a manorial court must have meant an immediate
alleviation of the law’s delay. He would have been an exceptionally
far-sighted villein who in 1086 could foresee that the convenient local
court would eventually be the agent by which his descendants would be
thrown into dependence on the will of the lord, with no other protection
than the traditional and unwritten “custom of the manor”; that the
establishment of the lord’s justice would ultimately exclude all
reference to the more independent if more antiquated justice of the men
of the hundred of the shire, on the part of the lesser folk of his vill.

One question connected with the rise of manorial courts deserves
attention here—did they displace any court proper to the vill as a
whole, independently of its manorial aspect? It is clear that every now
and again the men of the vill must have met, if only to regulate the
details of its open-field husbandry. But whether such a meeting had any
formal constitution or judicial functions—whether, that is, it was a
“township-moot,” in the accepted sense of the words[318]—is excessively
doubtful. The fact that we hear nothing definitely about it in the
documents of the Anglo-Saxon period is not quite conclusive against its
existence; it is more to the point that the hundred moot seems to be the
lowest stage reached by the descending series of national courts. It is
probable, therefore, that the ordinary township never possessed any
court other than that which belonged to it in its manorial aspect.

We have seen enough to know that the jurisdictional and economic aspects
of feudalism were intimately connected: the manorial court was the
normal complement of the average manor. No less closely associated in
practice were the military and tenurial elements of the feudal system,
and upon a superficial view of this system it is these latter elements
which rise into greatest prominence. Nor is this altogether unjust, for,
although it is not probable that any change induced by the Norman
Conquest so profoundly affected English social life as did the universal
establishment of private jurisdiction, yet the introduction of military
tenures, and the creation of a feudal army rooted in the soil of
England, are phenomena of the first importance, and the form which they
assumed in the course of the next century was due in essence to the
personal action of the Conqueror himself, and to the political
necessities of his position.

The rapidity with which England had been conquered had demonstrated
clearly enough the inefficiency of the Anglo-Saxon military system, and
the changes introduced in this matter by King William were
revolutionary, both in details and in principle. The military force at
the disposal of Edward the Confessor had consisted of two parts: first,
the fyrd or native militia, based on the primitive liability of every
free man to serve for the defence of his county, and secondly a body of
housecarles, professional men-at-arms, who served for pay and were
therefore under better discipline and available for longer periods of
service than the rustic soldiery of the shires. There is no good
evidence to prove that the Anglo-Saxon thegn was burdened with any
military obligation other than that which rested on him as a free man,
but there are certain passages which suggest that, in the latter days of
the old English state, the king in practice would only call out one man
from each five hides of land, and that he would hold his more powerful
subjects responsible for the due appearance of their dependants. If this
were an attempt to create a small but efficient host out of the great
body of the fyrd, it came too late to save the situation and, so far as
our evidence goes, it was the professional housecarles who bore the
brunt of the great battles of 1066. By derivation at least the
housecarle must have been a man who dwelt in his lord’s house as a
personal retainer; and, although we know that men of this class had
received grants of land from the last native kings, there is no reason
to believe that their holdings were conditional on their services, or
indeed that they were other than personal marks of favour, quite
unconnected with the military duty of the recipient.

The essential features of the Norman system were entirely different to
this. Each tenant in chief of the crown, as the condition on which he
held his lands, was required to maintain, equip, and hold ready for
immediate service a definite number of knights, and the extent of his
liability in this matter was not, save in the roughest sense,
proportional to his territorial position, but was determined solely by
the will of the king. Transactions of this kind most probably took place
at the moment when each tenant in chief was put into possession of his
fief, and their observance on the part of the grantee was guaranteed by
the penalty of total forfeiture in the event of his appearance at the
king’s muster with less than his full complement of knights. His
military liability once ascertained, a tenant would commonly proceed to
enfeof some of his knights on portions of his estate, keeping the
remainder in attendance on his person. As time went on the number of
landless knights continually became less and less, and by the end of the
Conqueror’s reign, the greater part of every fief was divided into
knight’s fees, whose holders were bound by the circumstances of their
tenure to serve with their lord in the discharge of the military service
which he owed the crown. No definite quantity of land, measured either
by assessment or value, constituted the knight’s fee; but, judging from
the evidence of a later period, it seems certain that each tenant in
chief was burdened with the service of a round number of knights,
twenty, thirty, or the like, and it is quite possible that these round
figures were influenced by the Norman _constabularia_ of ten knights, a
military unit which we know to have prevailed across the Channel before
the conquest of England.[319]

But the work of subinfeudation once started, no limit in theory or
practice was ever set to it in England, and in the earliest period of
Norman rule we find knights, who held of a tenant-in-chief, subletting
part of their land to other knights and the latter continuing the
process at their own pleasure. In Leicestershire, for example, the vill
of Lubbenham was held of the king by the archbishop of York, and had
been let by him to a certain Walchelin, who had enfeoffed with it a man
of his own called Robert, who had granted three carucates of land in the
manor to an unnamed knight as his tenant. But this is an exceptional
case, for it is unusual for Domesday to reveal more than two lords in
ascending order between the peasant and the king. A process of the same
kind had not been unknown in England in the time of King Edward;
churches had been leasing land to their thegns; and thegns, whom a
Norman lawyer would consider to hold of the king, had been capable of
subletting their estates to their dependants. But the legal principles
which underlay dependant land tenure had never been worked out in
England, as they had been elaborated in Normandy before the Conquest,
and in two important respects at least there was a marked difference
between the old and the new system. On the one hand it is extremely
doubtful whether Anglo-Saxon law had developed the idea that all land,
not in the king’s immediate possession, was held directly or indirectly
of the crown; and in the second place the old English system of land
tenure was far slacker and less coherent than its Norman rival. Domesday
Book contains frequent references to men who could leave one lord and
seek another at will, and this want of stability in what was perhaps the
most important division of private law meant a corresponding weakness in
the whole of the Anglo-Saxon body politic. Here as elsewhere the Norman
work made for cohesion, permanence, and theoretical consistency.


It was also an innovation upon accepted practice that the Conqueror
extended to ecclesiastical estates the military responsibilities which
he imposed upon lay fiefs. Long before the Confessor’s time, the
churches had been subletting land to their thegns on condition that the
latter should do the military service which the said churches owed to
the king; but the duty in question merely represented the amount of fyrd
service due from the lands of each religious house, and was in no sense
the result of any bargain between the king and the latter. On the other
hand, the number of knights maintained by an ecclesiastical tenant of
King William depended in the last resort upon the terms which that
tenant, whether bishop or monastery, had made with the new sovereign.
The Conqueror could not venture to dispossess a native religious house
as he could dispossess a native thegn or earl; but he could insist that
such a body should make its contribution towards the new army which he
was planting on the soil of England, and he could determine the minimum
amount of the contribution in each case. So far as our evidence goes,
the knight service demanded from a monastery was fixed in a much more
arbitrary manner than that imposed on a lay tenant; a baron’s military
liabilities would greatly correspond in the main, though very roughly,
with the extent of his fief, but no principle of the kind can have been
applied to the burden laid upon the church lands. The abbeys of
Peterborough and Abingdon were bound to supply sixty and thirty knights
respectively, but St. Albans escaped with a _servitum debitum_ of six,
and St. Benet of Hulme was only debited with three. It is more than
probable that political conditions went far towards producing these
violent discrepancies; a monastery, like Peterborough, which had
displayed strong nationalist tendencies, might fairly enough be
penalised by the imposition of a heavy burden of service towards the
maintenance of the foreign rule. On the other hand, the process in
question was regarded in a very different light by the Norman abbots who
were gradually introduced in the course of the reign, and by the English
monks placed under their government. To the former the creation of
knights’ fees meant a golden opportunity of providing for their
necessitous kinsmen beyond the Channel; to the latter the withdrawal of
land from the immediate purposes of the church forboded an ultimate
shrinkage in the daily supply of beef and beer. The local chronicler of
Abingdon abbey tells us sorrowfully how Abbot Ethelhelm sent over into
Normandy for his kinsmen, and invested them with the possessions of the
monastery to such an extent that in one year he granted seventy manors
to them, which were still lacking to the church a hundred years later.

Reference should perhaps be made here to the difficult question of the
actual numbers of the territorial army which rose at King William’s
bidding upon the conquered land. In a matter of this kind the statements
of professed chroniclers must be wholly ignored; they represent mere
guesswork, and show a total insensibility to the military and
geographical possibilities of the case. Several attempts, based upon the
safer evidence of records, have recently been made to estimate the total
number of knights whom the king had the right to summon to his banners
at any given moment, and it is probable that the results of such
inquiries represent a sufficiently close approximation to the truth of
the matter. On the whole, then, we may say that the total knight service
of England was fixed at something near five thousand knights, of whom
784 have been assigned to religious tenants-in-chief, 3534 have been set
down as the contribution of lay barons, the remainder representing the
allowance properly to be made for the deficiencies in our sources of
information.[320] The question is important, not only for the influence
which tenure by knight service exercised on the later English land-law,
but also for its bearing upon the cognate problem of the numbers engaged
in the battle of Hastings, which has already received discussion here.

From knight service we may pass naturally enough to the kindred duty of
castle-guard. The castles which had arisen in England by the time of the
Conqueror’s death belong to one or other of two great classes. On the
one hand, there was the royal fortress, regarded as an element in the
system of national defence, whether against foreign invasion or native
revolt; to the second class belong the castles which were merely the
private residence of their lord. In castles of the former class, which
were mostly situated in boroughs and along the greater roadways, the
governor was merely the king’s lieutenant; Henry de Beaumont and William
Peverel were placed in command of the castles of Warwick and Nottingham
respectively, in order that they might hold those towns on the king’s
behalf. This being the case, it was only natural that garrison duty as
well as service in the field should be demanded from the knights whom
the barons of the neighbourhood were required to supply; the knights of
the abbot of Abingdon were required to go on guard at Windsor Castle. Of
the seventy castles which we may reasonably assume to have existed in
1087, twenty-four belong to this class, and twenty of the latter are
situated in some borough or other, and this close connection of borough
and royal castle is something more than a fortuitous circumstance. In
Anglo-Saxon times, it is well ascertained that each normal borough had
been the military centre of the district in which it lay, and had in
fact been the natural base of operations in the work of local defence.
The Normans brought with them new ideas on the subject of defensive
strategy, but the geographical and economic conditions which gave to the
boroughs their military importance in early times were not annulled by
the Norman Conquest; and it would still have been desirable to safeguard
the growing centres of trade from external attacks, even if it had not
been expedient in Norman eyes to set a curb upon the national spirit
among the dwellers in the English towns. No general rule can be laid
down as to the custody of these royal castles; it was not infrequent for
them to be held on the king’s behalf by the sheriff of the shire in
which they might be situated, but the Conqueror would entrust his
fortress to any noble of sufficient military skill and loyalty, and, as
in the cases of Warwick and Nottingham, a tenure which was originally
mere guardianship might pass in the course of time into direct

The larger class of private castles is less important from the
institutional standpoint. In Normandy the duke had the right to garrison
the castles of his nobility with troops of his own, but the Conqueror
does not seem to have extended this principle to England. It is very
probable that he would insist on his own consent being given to any
projected fortification on the part of his feudatories, but so long as
his rule was threatened by English revolt, rather than by Norman
disloyalty, he would not be greatly concerned to limit the
castle-building tendencies of his followers. On the Welsh border, for
example, where the creation of a strong line of castles was an essential
part of the business of frontier defence, the work of fortification must
largely have been left to the discretion of the earls of Shrewsbury and
Chester, and to the enterprise of the first generation of marcher lords.
East of a line drawn north and south through Gloucester, lie nearly half
of the total number of castles which we can infer to have been built
during the Conqueror’s reign, but only fourteen of them were in private

Underneath all these violent changes in the higher departments of the
military art, the old native institution of the fyrd lived on. Two years
after Hastings, at the dangerous crisis occasioned by the revolt of
Exeter, we find the Conqueror calling out the local militia, and at
intervals during his reign the national force continues to be summoned,
not only by the king but by his lieutenants, such as Geoffrey of
Coutances at the time of the relief of Montacute. It is not necessary to
assume that William had prescience of a day when an English levy might
be a useful counterbalance to a feudal host in rebellion; he inherited
the military as well as the financial and judiciary powers of his
kinsman King Edward, and obedience would naturally be paid to his
summons by everybody who did not wish to be treated as a rebel on the
spot. It does not seem that the Conqueror materially altered the
constitution or equipment of the fyrd; in fact he had no need to do
this, for its organisation and armament, obsolete as they were in
comparison with those of the feudal army, still enabled it to fight with
revolted Englishmen or Scotch raiders on more or less of an equality.
For the serious business of a campaign the Conqueror would rely on the
small but efficient force of knights at his command, and it is to be
noted that no barrier of racial prejudice prevented the absorption of
Englishmen of sufficient standing into the knightly class. The number of
Englishmen who are entered in Domesday Book, on a level with the Norman
tenants of a great baron, is considerable, and it is by no means
improbable that, below the surface of our records, a process had been
going on which had robbed the heterogeneous militia of King Edward’s day
of its wealthier and more efficient elements. Many a thegn who would
formerly have joined the muster of his shire with an equipment little,
if at all, superior to that of the peasantry of his neighbourhood, will
have received his land as the undertenant of some baron, and have
learned to adopt the military methods of his Norman fellows. We cannot
define with accuracy the stages by which this process did its work, but
when the time came for Henry II. to reorganise the local militia, it was
with a force of yeomen and burgesses that he had to deal.

We have now given a brief examination to the main departments of
administration, military and political, as they existed under the
Conqueror. Two general conclusions may perhaps be suggested as a result
of our survey. The first is that, throughout the field of government,
revolutionary changes in all essential matters have been taking place
under a specious continuity of external forms. The second is, that the
Conqueror’s work is in no respect final; the shock of his conquest had
wrecked the obsolescent organisation of the old English state, but the
development of the new order on which his rule was founded was a task
reserved for his descendants. The _Curia Regis_, which attended King
William as he passed over his dominions, was a body the like of which
had not been seen in King Edward’s day, but it was a body very unlike
the group of trained administrators who transacted the business of
government under the presidency of Henry II. The feudal host in England
owed its being to the Conqueror, but no sooner was it firmly seated on
the land than the introduction of scutage under Henry I. meant that the
king would henceforth only allow the Conqueror’s host to survive in so
far as it might subserve the purposes of the royal exchequer. King
William’s destructive work had been carried out with unexampled
thoroughness, order, and rapidity, but it was inevitable that the
process of reconstruction which he began should far outrun the narrow
limits of any single life.

[Illustration: Penny of William I.]


Footnote 296:

  _Easter_, 1069: King William; Matilda, the Queen; Richard, the King’s
  son; Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury; Ealdred, archbishop of York;
  William, bishop of London; Ethelric, bishop of Selsey; Herman, bishop
  of Thetford; Giso, bishop of Wells; Leofric, bishop of Exeter; Odo,
  bishop of Bayeux; Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances; Baldwin, bishop of
  Evreux; Arnold, bishop of Le Mans; Count Robert (of Mortain), Earl
  William Fitz Osbern, Count Robert of Eu, Earl Ralf (of Norfolk?),
  Brian of Penthievre, Fulk de Alnou, Henry de Ferrers; Hugh de
  Montfort, Richard the son of Count Gilbert, Roger d’ Ivri, Hamon the
  Steward, Robert, Hamon’s brother.—Tardif, _Archives de l’Empire_, 179.

  _Christmas_, 1077: King William; Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury;
  Thomas, archbishop of York; Odo, bishop of Bayeux; Hugh, bishop of
  London; Walkelin, bishop of Winchester; Remi, bishop of Lincoln;
  Maurice, the chancellor; Vitalis, abbot of Westminster; Scotland,
  abbot of Ch. Ch., Canterbury; Baldwin, abbot of St. Edmunds; Simeon,
  abbot of Ely; Aelfwine, abbot of Ramsey; Serlo, abbot of Gloucester;
  Earl Roger of Montgomery, Earl Hugh of Chester, Count Robert of
  Mortain, Count Alan of Richmond, Earl Aubrey of Northumbria, Hugh de
  Montfort, Henry de Ferrers, Walter Giffard, Robert d’ Oilli, Hamon the
  Steward, Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester.—Ramsey Chartulary, R. S., ii.,

  _Easter_, 1080: King William; Matilda the Queen; Robert, the king’s
  son; William, the king’s son; William, archbishop of Rouen; Richard,
  archbishop of Bourges; Warmund, archbishop of Vienne; Geoffrey, bishop
  of Coutances; Gilbert, bishop of Lisieux; Count Robert, the king’s
  brother; Count Roger of Eu, Count Guy of Ponthieu, Roger de Beaumont,
  Robert and Henry, his sons, Roger de Montgomery, Walter Giffard,
  William d’ Arques.—_Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, ed. J.
  H. Round, No. 78.

Footnote 297:

  Printed in Transactions of Somerset Archæological and Historical
  Society, xxiii., 56

Footnote 298:

  Bath Chartulary (Somerset Record Society), i., 36.

Footnote 299:

  _Hist. Monasterii de Abingdon_, R. S., ii., 9.

Footnote 300:

  _Ibid._, 10.

Footnote 301:

  Round, _Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, No. 712.

Footnote 302:

  Henry I. is seldom found north of Nottingham.

Footnote 303:

  _Monasticon_, iii., 377.

Footnote 304:

  V. C. H., Warwick, i., 258.

Footnote 305:

  See above, Chapter VI.

Footnote 306:

  See the complaints of his aggressions in Heming’s _History of the
  Church of Worcester_; _Monasticon_, i., 593–599.

Footnote 307:

  William of Malmesbury, ii., 314.

Footnote 308:

  _Calendar of Documents Preserved in France_, No. 77.

Footnote 309:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 178.

Footnote 310:

  Compare Round, _Geoffrey de Mandeville_, 322.

Footnote 311:

  See the charters of William II. in _Monasticon_, viii., 1167.

Footnote 312:

  Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 219.

Footnote 313:

  Reproduced herewith.

Footnote 314:

  Wharton, _Anglia Sacra_, i., 339.

Footnote 315:

  Maitland, _Domesday Book and Beyond_, 80-83.

Footnote 316:

  Charter of William I., _Monasticon_, i., 477.

Footnote 317:

  Foundation charter of Blyth Priory, _Monasticon_, iv., 623.

Footnote 318:

  There is some evidence to suggest that the lord of a vill could cause
  a court to be held there by his steward. This, however, is the result
  of seignorial, not communal, ideas.

Footnote 319:

  Round, _Feudal England_, 225–314, has given the clearest account of
  the introduction and development of knight service in England.

Footnote 320:

  _Feudal England_, as quoted above, page 447. See also Morris, _Welsh
  Wars of Edward_, i., 36, arguing for a total of 5000.

                              CHAPTER XII
                             DOMESDAY BOOK

The eventful life of the Conqueror was within two years of its close
when he decreed the compilation of that record which was to be the
lasting monument of his rule in England. It is probable that if due
regard be paid to the conditions of its execution Domesday Book may
claim to rank as the greatest record of medieval Europe; certainly it
deserves such preference among the legal documents of England. For,
while we admire the systematic treatment which the great survey accords
to county after county, we must also remember that no sovereign before
William could have had the power to draw such wealth of information from
all England between the Channel and the Tees; and that the thousands of
dry figures which are deliberately accumulated in the pages of Domesday
represent the result of the greatest catastrophe which has ever affected
the national history. Domesday Book, indeed, has no peer, because it was
the product of unique circumstances. Other conquerors have been as
powerful as William, and as exigent of their royal rights; no other
conqueror has so consistently regarded himself as the strict successor
of the native kings who were before him; above all, no other conqueror
has been at pains to devise a record of the order of things which he
himself destroyed, nor even, like William, of so much of it as was
relevant to the more efficient conduct of his own administration.
Domesday Book is the perfect expression of the Norman genius for the
details of government.

It is needless to say that William had no intention of enlightening
posterity as to the social and economic condition of his kingdom. His
aim was severely practical. How it struck a contemporary may be gathered
from that well-known passage in which the Peterborough chronicler opens
the long series of commentaries on Domesday by recording his impressions
of the actual survey:

  “After this the king held a great council and very deep speech with
  his wise men about this land, how it was peopled and by what men. Then
  he sent his men into every shire all over England and caused it to be
  ascertained how many hundred hides were in the shire and what land the
  king had, and what stock on the land, and what dues he ought to have
  each year from the shire. Also he caused it to be written, how much
  land his archbishops, bishops, abbots, and earls had, and (though I
  may be somewhat tedious in my account) what or how much each
  land-holder in England had in land or in stock and how much money it
  might be worth. So minutely did he cause it to be investigated that
  there was not one hide or yard of land, nor even (it is shameful to
  write of it though he thought it not shameful to do it) an ox nor a
  cow or swine that was not set down in his writ. And all the writings
  were brought to him afterwards.”



Opinion at Peterborough was clearly adverse to the survey, and Florence
of Worcester tells us that the proceedings of the king’s commissioners
caused riots in various parts of England. The exact scope of the
information demanded by the commissioners cannot be better expressed
than in the words of a writer belonging to the neighbouring abbey of
Ely, who took an independent copy of the returns made to those officers
concerning the lands of his monastery, and describes the nature of the
inquiry thus:

  “This is the description of the inquiry concerning the lands, which
  the king’s barons made, according to the oath of the sheriff of the
  shire and of all the barons and their Frenchmen and of the whole
  hundred-court—the priests, reeves and six villeins from every vill. In
  the first place [they required] the name of the manor; who held it in
  the time of King Edward, and who holds it now, how many hides [_hidæ_]
  are there, how many ploughs in demesne and how many belonging to the
  men, how many villeins, cottars, slaves, freemen and sokemen; how much
  woodland, meadow and pasture, how many mills and fisheries; how much
  has been added to or taken from the estate, how much the whole used to
  be worth, and how much it is worth now; and how much each freeman or
  sokeman had or has there. All this thrice over; with reference to the
  time of King Edward, and to the time when King William gave the land
  and to the present time; and if more can be got out of it than is
  being drawn now.”[321]

Now, although the fact may not appear on a first reading of these
passages, all these details were entirely subsidiary to one main
object—the exact record of the local distribution of the king’s “geld”
or Danegeld, the one great direct tax levied on the whole of England.
Domesday is essentially a financial document; it is a noteworthy example
of that insistence on their fiscal rights which was eminently
characteristic of the Anglo-Norman kings, and was the chief reason why
they were able to build up the strongest government in Western Europe.
Every fact recorded in Domesday bears some reference, direct or
indirect, to the payment of the Danegeld, for the king’s commissioners
knew their business, and the actual scribes who arranged the results of
the survey were remorseless in rejecting all details which did not fit
into the general scheme of their undertaking. It should not escape
observation that this fact prepares many subtle pitfalls for those who
would draw a picture of English society based on the materials supplied
by Domesday; but more of this will be said later, for there are certain
questions of history and terminology which demand attention at the

The most important of those points is the meaning of those “hides,”
which are mentioned in both of the above extracts. This, indeed, is the
essential clue to the interpretation of Domesday, and it is
unfortunately very elusive, for the term can be traced back to a very
early period of Anglo-Saxon history and more than one meaning came to be
attached to it in the course of its long history. When we first meet the
“hide,” the word seems to denote the amount of land which was sufficient
for the support of a normal household; it is the average holding of the
ordinary free man of Anglo-Saxon law. This much is reasonably certain,
but difficulties crowd in upon us when we attempt to estimate the
capacity of the hide in terms of acreage. Much discussion has arisen
about this point, but we may say that at present there are two main
theories on the subject, one assigning to the hide one hundred and
twenty acres of arable land, the other some much smaller quantity, such
as forty-eight or thirty acres, in either case with sufficient
appurtenances in wood, water, and pasture for the maintenance of the
plough and its oxen. Just now the prevailing view seems to be that the
areal capacity of the hide may have varied from county to county—that,
for instance, while we know that in the eleventh century the hide stood
at one hundred and twenty acres in Cambridgeshire and Essex, it may not
improbably have contained forty-eight acres in Wiltshire. Important, or
rather vital, as is the question for students of Anglo-Saxon history, it
does not concern us to quite the same extent, and we must pass on to a
change which came over men’s conception of this tenement and intimately
affects the study of Domesday.

Our normal free householder, the man who held a “hide” in the seventh
century, was burdened with many duties towards the tribal state to which
he belonged. He had to serve in the local army, the fyrd, to keep the
roads and bridges in his neighbourhood in repair, to help to maintain
the strong places of his district as a refuge in time of invasion, and
to contribute towards the support of the local king or ealdorman. Out of
these elements, and especially the last, was developed a rudimentary
military and financial system which is recorded in certain ancient
documents which have come down to us from the Anglo-Saxon period, and
deserve our attention as the direct ancestors of Domesday Book. They may
be described as a series of attempts to express, in terms of hides, the
capacity of the several districts of England with which they deal, for
purposes of tribute or defence. The eldest of these documents, which is
now generally known as the Tribal Hidage,[322] is a record of which the
date cannot be fixed within a century and a half, while very much of its
text is quite unintelligible, but in form it is clear enough. It
consists of a string of names with numbers of hides attached; thus, the
dwellers in the Peak are assigned 1200 hides, the dwellers in Elmet 600,
the Kentishmen 15,000, and the Hwiccas 7000. Now, it is obvious that all
these are round numbers, as in fact are all the figures occurring in the
document; and this is a point of considerable importance, for it implies
that the distribution of hides recorded in this early list was a matter
of rough estimate, rather than of computation, since we cannot suppose
that there were just 1200 free householders in the Peak of Derbyshire,
nor exactly 15,000 in Kent. These figures are intended to represent
approximately the respective strength of such districts, and are
expressed in even thousands or hundreds because numbers of this kind
will be easy to handle, a practice which we can see to be inevitable,
for a barbarian king of the time of Beda would be a very unlikely person
to institute statistical inquiries as to the exact number of hides under
his “supremacy.” But the point that concerns us is, as we shall see
later, that the distribution of hides in Domesday, for all its
appearance of statistical precision, is in reality just as much a matter
of estimate and compromise as was the rough reckoning which is recorded
in the Tribal Hidage.

These remarks apply equally to the next document in the series of fiscal
records which leads up to Domesday. Probably in the reign of Edward the
Elder, when Wessex was recovering from the strain of the great Danish
invasion, some scribe drew up a list of strong places or “burhs,” mostly
in that country, with the number of hides assigned to the maintenance of
each, and here again we find round figures resembling those which we
have noticed in the Tribal Hidage.[323] In this way 700 hides are said
to belong to Shaftesbury, 600 to Langport, 100 to Lyng. Apparently the
wise men of Wessex have decreed that an even number of hides, roughly
proportional to the area to be defended, should be assigned to the
upkeep of each of those “burhs,” and have left the men of each district
to settle the incidence of burden among themselves. It will be seen that
the system on which this document (which is conveniently called the
“Burghal Hidage”) is based is much more artificial than that represented
in the Tribal Hidage—in the latter we are dealing with “folks” or
“tribes,” if the word be not expressed too strictly; here we have
conventional districts, the extent of which is evidently determined by
external authority. This being so, it becomes possible to make certain
suggestive comparisons between the Burghal Hidage and Domesday Book.
Thus the former assigns 2400 hides to Oxford and Wallingford,
respectively, and 1200 to Worcester; and if we count up the number of
hides which are entered in the Domesday surveys of Oxfordshire,
Berkshire and Worcestershire, we shall find that in all three cases the
total will come very near to the number of hides assigned to the towns
which represent these shires in the Burghal Hidage; the correspondence
being much too close to be the result of chance. Hence, if the
distribution of hides in the Burghal Hidage is artificial, we should be
prepared for the conclusion that the similar distribution in Domesday is
artificial also.

A century passed, and England was again being invaded by the Danes. In
the vain hope of buying off the importunate enemy the famous Danegeld
was levied, originally as an emergency tax, but one which was destined
to be raised, at first sporadically, and then at regular intervals until
the end of the twelfth century. This new impost must, one would suppose,
have called for a re-statement of the old Hidages, but no such record
has come down to us. On the other hand we possess a list of counties
with their respective Hidages annexed, which is generally known as the
“County Hidage,” and assigned to the first half of the eleventh century.
This document[324] forms a link between the Burghal Hidage and Domesday;
for, while it agrees with the older record in the figures which it gives
for Worcestershire, Berkshire, and Oxfordshire, its estimate
approximates very closely to the Domesday assessment of Staffordshire,
Gloucestershire, and Bedfordshire.

And so we come to the Norman Conquest. At the very beginning of his
reign, William, undeterred by the legend of his saintly predecessor, who
had seen the devil sitting on the money bags, and had therefore
abolished the Danegeld, laid on the people a geld exceeding stiff. At
intervals during his reign a “geld” was imposed: in particular, in 1083,
he raised a tax of seventy-two pence on the hide, the normal rate being
only two shillings. It is not improbable that the grievance caused by
this heavy tax may have been one chief reason why Domesday Book was
compiled. We have seen enough to know that the system of assessment
which underlies Domesday was, in principle at least, very ancient. It
must have become very inequitable, for mighty changes had passed over
England even in the century preceding the Conquest. We know that William
had tried to rectify matters by drastic reductions of hidage in the case
of individual counties, and it is by no means improbable that the
Domesday Inquest was intended to be the preliminary to a sweeping
revision of the whole national system of assessment. William died before
he could undertake this, and so far as we know it was never attempted
afterwards, for it has been pointed out that in 1194 the ransom of
Richard I. was raised in certain counties according to the Domesday
assessment.[325] This rigidity of the artificial old system makes its
details especially worthy of study, for it is strange to see a fiscal
arrangement which can be traced back to the time of Alfred still capable
of being utilised in the days of Richard I. and Hubert Walter.



What, then, are the main features of this system? Much of its vitality,
cumbrous and unequal as it was, may doubtless be ascribed to the fact
that it was based on the ancient local divisions of the country, the
shires, wapentakes or hundreds, and vills. Put into other words, the
distribution of the hides which we find in Domesday is the result of an
elaborate series of subdivisions. At some indefinitely distant date, it
has been decreed that each county shall be considered to contain a
certain definite number of hides, that Bedfordshire, for example, shall
be considered to contain—that is, shall be assessed at—1200 hides. The
men of Bedfordshire, then, in their shire court, proceeded to distribute
these 1200 hides among the twelve “hundreds” into which the county was
divided, paying no detailed attention to the area or population of each
hundred, nor even, so far as can be seen, obeying any rule which would
make a hundred answer for exactly one hundred hides, but following their
own rough ideas as to how much of their total assessment of their county
each hundred should be called upon to bear. The assessment of the
hundreds being thus determined, the next step was to divide out the
number of hides cast upon each hundred among the various vills of which
it was composed, the division continuing to be made without any
reference to value or area. And then the artificiality of the whole
system is borne in upon us by the most striking fact—the discovery of
which revolutionised the study of Domesday Book—that in the south and
west of England the overwhelming majority of vills are assessed in some
fraction or multiple of five hides.[326] The ubiquity of this “five-hide
unit” is utterly irreconcilable with any theory which would make the
Domesday hide consist of any definite amount of land; a vill might
contain six or twenty real, arable hides, scattered over its fields,
but, if it agreed with the scheme of distribution followed by the men of
the county in the shire and hundred courts, that vill would pay Danegeld
on five hides all the same. The Domesday system of assessment, then, was
not the product of local conditions but was arbitrarily imposed from
above. The hide was not only a measure of land, but also a fiscal term,
dissociated from all necessary correspondence with fact.

But, before passing to further questions of terminology, it will be well
to give some instances of the application of the “five-hide unit,” and,
as Bedfordshire has been specially referred to above, we may take our
examples from that county. Accordingly, if with the aid of a map we
follow the course of the Ouse through Bedfordshire, we shall pass near
to Odell, Risely, and Radwell, assessed at ten hides each; Thurghley and
Oakley at five; Pavenham, Stagsden, Cardington, Willington, Cople, and
Northill at ten; Blunham at fifteen; Tempsford at ten; Roxton at twenty;
Chawston at ten; Wyboston at twenty, and Eaton Socon at forty. Thus,
within a narrow strip of one county we have found seventeen instances of
this method of assessment, and there is no need to multiply cases in
point. On almost every page of the survey in which we read of hides, we
may find them combined in conventional groups of five, ten, or the like.

Not all England, however, was assessed in hides; three other systems of
rating are to be found in the country. In Kent, the first county entered
in Domesday Book, a peculiar system prevailed in which the place of the
hide was taken by the “sulung,” consisting of four “yokes” (_iugera_),
and most probably containing two hundred and forty acres, thus equalling
a double hide.[327] The existence of the sulung in Kent as a term of
land measurement can be traced back to the time when that county was an
independent kingdom; the process by which the word came to denote a
merely fiscal unit was doubtless analogous to the similar development
which we have noticed in the case of the “hide.” Taken in conjunction
with the singular local divisions of Kent, and with the well-known
peculiarities of land tenure found there, this plan of reckoning by
“sulungs” instead of hides falls into place as a proper survival of the
independent organisation of the county.

Another ancient kingdom also preserves an unusual form of assessment in
Domesday. In East Anglia we get for once a statement in arithmetical
terms as to the amount which each vill must contribute to the Danegeld.
Instead of being told that there are, say, five hides in a vill, and
being left to draw the conclusion that that vill must pay ten shillings
or more according to the rate at which the Danegeld is being levied on
the hide, we are given the amount which each vill must pay when the
hundred in which it is situated pays twenty shillings. This form of
sliding scale is unknown outside Norfolk and Suffolk, and is even more
obviously artificial than the assessment of other counties. Each hundred
in East Anglia seems to have been divided into a varying number of
“leets,”—and it has been suggested that each leet had to pay an equal
amount towards the Danegeld due from the hundred,[328] but the
assessment of East Anglia in other respects presents some special
difficulties of its own, although they cannot be discussed here.

Of much greater importance is the remaining fiscal unit to be found in
Domesday. In Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire,
Leicestershire, and Rutland all assessments are expressed in
“carucates,” instead of hides, each carucate being composed of eight
bovates, and each bovate containing, as is probable, fifteen (fiscal)
acres. This distinction was remarked on in the twelfth century by Hugh
“Candidus,” the historian of Peterborough, who says, “In Lincolnshire
there are no hides, as in other counties, but instead of hides there are
carucates of land, and they are worth the same as the hides.” It is
evident that by derivation at least the Domesday _carucata terræ_ must
originally have meant a ploughland, that is, the amount of land capable
of being tilled in one year by the great plough-team of eight oxen,
according to whatever system of agriculture may have then been current,
and it is equally certain that the word “bovate” takes its derivation
from the ox. But, just like the hide, the carucate, from denoting a
measure of land, had come to mean an abstract fiscal quantity, subject
to the same conditions of distribution as affected the former unit. This
is proved by the fact that the carucates are found combined in the above
counties into artificial groups according to exactly the same principle
as that which determined the distribution of hides in the south, with
one highly curious variation in detail. Whereas we have seen that in the
south and west vills are nominally assessed at some multiple of five
hides, in the north-eastern counties, with which we are now concerned,
the prevailing tendency is for the vills to be rated at some multiple or
fraction of six carucates. Put in another way: the assessment of the
south and west was decimal in character, that of the north and east was
duodecimal; while we should expect a Berkshire vill to be rated at five,
ten, or fifteen hides, we must expect to find a Lincolnshire vill
standing at six, twelve, or eighteen carucates.[329] We have in this way
a “six-carucate unit,” to set beside and in distinction to the
“five-hide unit,” which we have already considered.

Now, these details become very significant when we consider the
geographical area within which these carucates are found combined after
this fashion. The district between the Welland and the Tees has a
historical unity of its own. As was the case with East Anglia and Kent,
fiscal peculiarities are accompanied in this quarter also by a
distinctive local organisation. The co-existence in this part of England
of “Danish” place-names with local divisions such as the wapentake,
which can be referred to northern influence, has always been considered
as proving an extensive Scandinavian settlement to have taken place
there; and we can now reinforce this argument by pointing to the above
fiscal peculiarities, which we know to be confined to this quarter and
which are invaluable as enabling us to define with certainty the exact
limits of the territory which was actually settled by the Danes in the
tenth century. In Denmark itself we find instances of the employment of
a duodecimal system of reckoning similar to that on which we have seen
the Domesday assessment of the above north-eastern counties to be based;
and we may recognise in the latter the equivalent of the territory of
the “Five Boroughs” of Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, and
Stamford, together with the Danish kingdom of Deira (Yorkshire), across
the Humber.

Tedious as these details may well seem, the conclusions to which they
lead us are by no means unimportant. In the first place, we see how such
ancient kingdoms as Kent, East Anglia and Deira, to which we may add the
territory of the Five Boroughs, preserved in their financial
arrangements many relics of their former independent organisation long
after they had lost all trace of political autonomy. And then in the
second place we obtain a glimpse into the principles which governed the
policy of the Norman rulers of England towards native institutions.
These were not swept away wholesale; centralisation was only introduced
where it was absolutely necessary, and so long as local arrangements
sufficed to meet the financial needs of the crown, they were not
interfered with. Here, as elsewhere, it was not the policy of William or
of his successors to disturb the ancient organisation of the country,
for it could well be adapted to the purposes of a king who was strong
enough to make his government a reality over the whole land, and in this
respect the Conqueror and his sons need have no fear.

In the above account we have considered the Domesday system of
assessment in its simplest possible form, but certain complications must
now receive notice. In the first place the plan on which the survey
itself is drawn up places difficulties in our way, for it represents a
kind of compromise between geographical and tenurial principles. Thus,
each county is entered separately in Domesday, but within the shire all
estates are classified according to the tenant-in-chief to whom they
belonged, and not according to the hundred or other local division in
which they are situated. This is a fact to which we shall have again to
refer, but it will be evident that more than one tenant-in-chief might
very well hold land in the same vill, and this being the case, we can
never be sure, without reading through the entire survey of a county,
that we have obtained full particulars of any single vill contained in
it. In other words, vill and manor were never of necessity identical,
and in some parts of England, especially the north and east, such an
equivalent was highly exceptional. In this way, therefore, in the
all-important sphere of finance, the lowest point to which we can trace
the application of any consistent principle in the apportionment of the
“geld” was not the manor, but the vill; and accordingly before we can
discover the presence of those five-hide and six-carucate units, which
have just been described, we have often to combine a number of
particulars which, taken individually, do not suggest any system at all.
Two instances, one from Cambridgeshire and one from Derbyshire, will be
in point here:

                       HASLINGFIELD (CAMBS.)[330]

                                     Hides. Virgates. Acres.
           The King                    7        1
           Picot the Sheriff           4        3
           Count Alan                  1        ½
             ”     ”                   ½
           Geoffrey de Mandeville      5        0
           Guy de Reinbudcurt          1        1       3
           Count Alan                                   12
                                       ——      ——       ——
                                       20       0       0

                         BREASTON (DERBY)[331]

                                      Carucates.  Bovates.
            Henry de Ferrers                         3
            Geoffrey Alselin                         1
            Gilbert de Gand               2          0
            Roger de Busli                3          0
              ”      ”                               4
                                          ——         ——
                                          6          0

These examples show very clearly that no consistent principle governed
the assessment of a fractional part of vills, and are typical of the
neatness with which unpromising figures combine into even totals. As to
the way in which the men of a vill apportioned their fiscal
responsibility, we are left almost entirely in the dark; the vill or
township seems to have had no court of its own capable of deciding such
a matter. Largely, no doubt, it was a matter of tradition; a certain
holding which had once answered for two hides would continue to do so,
no matter into whose hands it might come, unless the assessment of the
whole vill were arbitrarily raised or lowered from without, when the
assessment of this particular parcel of land would almost automatically
be affected in proportion. But these local matters do not come within
the scope of our slender stock of early fiscal authorities, and so we
hear nothing about them.

We are now in a position to examine a normal entry from Domesday Book in
the light of the above conclusions. A Nottinghamshire manor will do very

  “M[anor]—In Hoveringham Swegn had two carucates of land and two
  bovates assessed to the geld. There is land for four ploughs. There
  Walter [de Aincurt] has in demesne two ploughs, and five sokemen on
  three and a third bovates of this land, and nine villeins and three
  bordars who have four ploughs. There is a priest and a church and two
  mills rendering forty shillings, and forty acres of meadow. In King
  Edward’s time it was worth £4; now it is worth the same and ten
  shillings more.”

We ought first to see how each detail here fits into the general scheme
of the survey. The statement as to the former owner of the manor was
important; for, just as King William maintained that he was the lawful
successor of King Edward, so also he was determined that each of his men
should occupy in each manor which he might hold the exact legal position
filled by the Englishman or group of Englishmen, as the case might be,
whom he had dispossessed in that particular estate. In particular it was
essential that he should take up his predecessor’s responsibility with
reference to the “geld” due from his land, a point which is well brought
out in the above entry, for Walter de Aincurt clearly is being debited
with the same number of carucates and bovates as were laid to the
account of “Swegn” before the Conquest. Probably fiscal in character
also is the statement which follows, to the effect that in Hoveringham
“there is land for four ploughs.” For all its apparent simplicity, this
formula, which is extremely common in the survey, presents upon
investigation an extraordinary number of difficult complications. Taken
simply it would seem to denote the number of ploughs which could find
employment on the manor, and most probably it has such an agricultural
significance in many counties, the argument in the mind of the
commissioners being: if this estate has land for more ploughs than are
actually to be found there, it is undeveloped, and more “geld” may be
got out of it some day; if it is being cultivated to the full extent of
its areal capacity or in excess of it (for this often happens) its
assessment probably represents its agricultural condition well enough,
and it may therefore stand. By making this inquiry about “ploughlands”
the commissioners are probably fulfilling the instruction which directed
them to find out whether the king was drawing the largest possible
amount from each manor, but great caution is needed before we decide
that they are obtaining this information in quite the same way from
every county surveyed. In one county, for example, the jurors may be
stating the amount of land in their manor which has never been brought
under the plough at all; in another we may be given the total number of
ploughs, actual and potential, which could be employed in the estate; in
yet a third the commissioners may have taken as an answer a statement of
the number of ploughs that had been going in the time of King Edward.
The commissioners are not in the least concerned with details about
ploughs and ploughlands merely as such; their interest is entirely
centred in a possible increase of the king’s dues from each manor
surveyed. But it is well to remember this fact, for it throws most
serious difficulties in the way of any estimate of the agricultural
condition of England in the eleventh century.

More straightforward are the details which follow in our entry. It will
be seen that the scribes have marked a distinction between three
divisions of the land of the vill: first the lord’s demesne, then the
land held of him by sokemen, then the holdings of the villeins and
bordars. That such a distinction should be made was in accordance with
the instruction given to the commissioners by which they were directed
to find out not only how many ploughs were in demesne and on the
villeins’ land respectively, but also how much each free man and sokeman
in the manor possessed. These latter are so entered, not necessarily
because they were more definitely responsible for their share of the
manorial Danegeld[332] than were the villeins and bordars for their own
portion, but largely no doubt because they were less directly under
manorial control. We have seen that the sokemen and free men of Domesday
most probably represent social classes which have survived the Conquest,
and are rapidly becoming modified to suit the stricter conditions of
land tenure which the Conquest produced. But in Domesday the process is
not yet complete; the sokeman is still a somewhat independent member of
the manorial economy, and as such it is desirable to indicate exactly
the place which he fills in each estate. But that this part of the
inquiry was not essential is proved by the fact that the holdings of the
sokemen, whether in ploughs or land, are usually combined with those of
the villeins and bordars, even in the surveys of the eastern counties,
where the free population was strongest.

The communistic system of agriculture is sufficiently well brought out
in this entry; the four plough teams which the men of Hoveringham
possessed, so far as we can see, were composed of oxen supplied by
sokemen, villeins, and bordars alike, and the survey is not careful to
tell us what proportion of the thirty-two oxen implied in these teams
was supplied by each of the above three classes. We should beware of the
assumption that the sokemen of Domesday were invariably wealthier than
the villeins; we know little enough about the economic position of
either class, but we know enough to see that many a sokeman of the
Conqueror’s time possessed much less land than was considered in the
thirteenth century to be the normal holding of a villein. In the entry
we have chosen we can see that the average number of oxen possessed by
each man in the vill is something under two; and we may suspect that the
three bordars owned no oxen, at all; but although the possession of
plough oxen may here and there have been taken as a line of definition
between rural classes, we cannot be sure that this is so everywhere,
certainly we cannot assume that it is the case here.[333]

After its enumeration of the several classes of peasantry, with their
agricultural equipment, the survey will commonly proceed to deal with
certain incidental sources of manorial revenue; in the present case the
church, the mills, and the meadow. Even in the eleventh century the
relations between the lord of a manor and the church on his estate bear
a proprietary character; the lord in most cases possesses the right of
advowson and he can make gifts from the tithes of his manor to a
religious house for the good of his individual soul. The village church
and the village mill were both in their several ways sources of profit
to the lord, and in the case we have chosen it will be noted that nearly
half the value assigned to the manor by the Domesday jurors is derived
from the proceeds of the latter. “Mill soke,” the right of the lord to
compel his tenants to grind their corn at his mill, long continued to be
a profitable feature of the manorial organisation. The peculiar value of
the meadow lay in the necessity of providing keep for the plough-oxen
over and above the food which they obtained by grazing the fallow
portion of the village lands. The distribution of meadow land along the
rivers and streams of a county determines to a great extent the relative
value of the vills contained in it.[334]

The value which is assigned to a manor in Domesday Book seems to
represent, as a general rule, a rough estimate of the rent which the
estate would bring in to its lord if he let it on lease, stocked as it
was with men and cattle. In general it is probable that the jurors were
required to make such an estimate with regard to three periods, namely,
1066, 1086, and the time when King William gave the manor to its
existing owner. The last estimate, however, is frequently omitted from
the completed survey; but it is included often enough for us to be able
to say that the disorder which attended the Conquest was commonly
accompanied by a sharp depreciation in the value of agricultural land;
and in many counties manorial values in general had failed to rise to
their pre-Conquest level in the twenty years between 1066 and 1086. If
the whole of England be taken into account, it has been computed that
the average value of the hide or carucate will be very close to one
pound, and the Nottinghamshire manor we are considering is sufficiently
typical in this respect. But it must be remembered that the jurors on
making their estimate of value would certainly have to take into
consideration sources of local revenue which were not agricultural in
character, and the tallage of the peasantry and the profits of the
manorial court will be included in one round figure, together with the
value of the labour services of the villeins and the rent of mills and

Our attempt to understand the terms employed in a typical entry may
serve to introduce us to a matter of universal importance, the
indefiniteness of Domesday. We are not using this word as a term of
reproach. The compilers of Domesday had to deal with a vast mass of most
intractable material, and the marvel is that they should have given so
splendid an account of their task. But for all that, it is often a most
formidable business to define even some of the commonest terms used in
Domesday. It has been shown, for instance, that the word _manerium_,
which we can only translate by “manor,” was used in the vaguest of
senses. It may denote one estate rated at one hundred hides, and another
rated at eighty acres; most manors will contain a certain amount of land
“in demesne,” but there are numerous instances in which the whole manor
is being held of a lord by the peasantry; in the south of England the
area of a manor will very frequently coincide with that of the vill from
which it takes its name, but then again there may very well be as many
as ten manors in one vill, while a single manor may equally well extend
over half a dozen vills. In many cases the vague impression left by
Domesday is due to the indefiniteness of its subject-matter—if we find
it hard to distinguish a free man from a sokeman this is in great
measure due to the fact that these classes in all probability did really
overlap and intersect each other. Just so if we cannot be quite sure
what the compilers of our record meant when they called one man a
“bordar” and another man a “villein,” we must remember that it would not
be easy to give an exact definition of a “cottager” at the present day;
and also that the villein class which covered more than half of the
rural population of England cannot possibly have possessed uniform
status, wealth, privileges, and duties over this vast area. But there
exists another cause of confusion which is solely due to the
idiosyncrasies of the Domesday scribes, and that is their inveterate
propensity for using different words and phrases to mean the same thing.
Thus when they wish to note that a certain man could not “commend” his
land to anybody, without the consent of his lord, we find them saying
“he could not withdraw without his leave,” “he could not sell his land
without his leave,” “he could not sell his land,” “he could not sell or
give his land without his leave”—all these phrases and many others
describing exactly the same idea. This peculiarity runs through the
whole of the survey; it is shown in another way by the wonderful
eccentricities of the scribes in the matter of the spelling of proper
names. So far as place names go, this variety of spelling does little
more than place difficulties in the way of their identification; but
when we find the same Englishman described in the same county as
Anschil, Aschil, and Achi,[335] matters become more serious. For there
is hardly a question on which we could wish for more exact evidence than
that of the number of Englishmen who continued to hold land after the
Conquest; and yet, owing to the habits of the Domesday scribes, we can
never quite avoid an uneasy suspicion that two Englishmen whose names
faintly resemble each other may, after all, turn out to be one and the
same person. We cannot really blame the scribes for relieving their
monotonous task by indulging in such pleasure as the variation of phrase
and spelling may have brought them, but it is very necessary to face
this fact in dealing with any branch of Domesday study, and the neglect
of this precaution has led many enquirers into serious error.

Closely connected with all this is the question of the existence of
downright error in Domesday Book itself. To show how this might happen,
it will be necessary to give a sketch of the manner in which the great
survey was compiled. “The king,” says the Anglo-Saxon chronicler, “sent
his men into every shire all over England.” We cannot be quite sure
whether they went on circuit through the several hundreds of each shire
or merely held one session in its county town[336]; in either case there
appeared before them the entire hundred court, consisting, as we have
seen, of the priest, the reeve, and six villeins from every vill. But
out of this heterogeneous assembly there seems to have been chosen a
small body of jurors who were responsible in a peculiar degree for the
verdict given. We possess lists of the jurors for most of the hundreds
of Cambridgeshire, from which it appears that eight were chosen in each
hundred, and, a very important point, that half of them were Frenchmen
and half were Englishmen. Thus the commissioners obtained for each
hundred the sworn verdict of a body of men drawn from both races and
representing, so far as we can see, very different levels of society. We
cannot assume that precisely the same questions were put to the jurors
in every shire. The commissioners may well have been allowed some little
freedom of adapting the form of the inquiry to varying local conditions,
and the terminology of their instructions may have differed to some
extent according to the part of England in which they were to be carried
out; but the similarity of the returns obtained from very distant
counties proves that the whole Domesday Inquest was framed according to
one general plan. It is more likely that the differences which
undoubtedly exist at times between the surveys of different counties are
really due to the procedure of the scribes who shaped the local returns
into Domesday as we possess it.[337]

It will be evident that the completed returns from each county must have
consisted of a series of hundred-rolls arranged vill by vill according
to the sequence followed by the commissioners in making the inquiry. The
first task of the Domesday scribes was to substitute for the
geographical order of the original returns a tenurial order based on the
distribution of land among the tenants-in-chief in each shire. They must
have worked through the returns county by county, collecting all the
entries which related to land held by the same tenant-in-chief in each
shire, and arranging them under appropriate headings, and we know that
they paid no very consistent regard to local geography in the process.
Where a vill was divided between two or more tenants-in-chief the
division must have been marked by the jurors of its hundred in making
their report; but, whereas the unity of the vill as a whole was
respected in the original returns, it was disregarded by the Domesday
scribes, for whom the feudal arrangements of the county were the first
consideration. The first step to be taken in drawing a picture of the
condition of any county surveyed in Domesday is the collection of their
scattered entries and the reconstruction of the individual vills in
their entirety. As any one who has attempted this exercise can testify,
the risk of error is very great, and we may be sure that it was no less
for the Domesday scribes themselves. We cannot often test the accuracy
of Domesday by a comparison with other documents, but the few cases
where this is possible are enough to destroy all belief in the literal
infallibility of the great record. The work was done under great
pressure and against time, and we should not cavil at its incidental

Domesday Book as we possess it consists of two volumes, the second,
known as Little Domesday, dealing with Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, the
first containing the survey of the rest of England. The two volumes are
very different in plan and treatment. In Essex and East Anglia, the
scribes have followed as nearly as possible the directions which we have
quoted on page 458. They enumerate the live-stock on the several estates
with an abundance of detail which quite justifies the complaint of the
Peterborough Chronicler that there was not an ox or a cow nor a swine
that was not set down in the king’s writ. It is from the survey of these
counties also that we draw the great body of our information about the
different sorts and conditions of men, their tenurial relations and
personal status. But this wealth of detail is accompanied by
considerable faultiness of execution, and in the first volume of
Domesday the plan is different. In compiling Great Domesday the scribes
abandoned the idea of transcribing the original returns in full, and
contented themselves with giving a _précis_ of them; the details which
had been collected about sheep and horses are jettisoned and the whole
survey is drawn within closer limits. The most reasonable explanation of
this change is that the so-called second volume of Domesday represents
the first attempt at a codification of the returns[338]; that the result
was found too detailed for practical purposes, and that the conciser
arrangement of the first volume was adopted in consequence. The volume
combining Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk contains 450 folios and even the
Conqueror might have been appalled at the outcome of his survey if all
the thirty counties of England were to be described on the same scale.
Whatever the reason, the change is accompanied by a marked improvement
in workmanship and practicability.

The “first” volume of Domesday contains 382 folios and its arrangement
deserves notice. In regular course the survey proceeds across England
from Kent to Cornwall; the first 125 folios of the volume are in fact
the description of the earldom of Wessex. Next, starting again in the
east, the counties between Middlesex and Herefordshire are described; to
be followed by the survey of the north midland shires from
Cambridgeshire to Warwick, still following due order from east to west.
Warwick is followed by Shropshire, for Worcestershire belongs to
Domesday’s second belt, and the rest of the survey progresses from west
to east from Shropshire to Notts, Yorkshire and Leicestershire
completing the tale. In general the boundaries of the counties are the
same as at the present day, but portions of Wales are included in
Gloucester, Hereford, and Berkshire; the lands “between Ribble and
Mersey” form a sort of appendage to Yorkshire, and Rutland in 1086 has
not yet the full status of a county. It is not quite easy to explain why
Domesday stops short at the Tees and the Ribble. Cumberland and
Westmoreland were indeed reckoned parts of the Scotch kingdom at this
time, but Northumberland and Durham were undoubtedly English. Possibly
they had been too much harried in recent years to be worth the labour of
surveying; possibly in that wild and lawless land an attempt to carry
out the survey would have led to something more than local riots. At any
rate Domesday’s omission is our loss, for it is in the extreme north
that the old English tenures lingered the longest; we could wish for a
description of them in the Conqueror’s day and conceived on the same
plan as the full accounts which we possess of the feudalised south.

All over England the scribes so far as was possible followed a
consistent plan in the arrangement of the returns for each county. The
case of Oxfordshire will do for a typical instance. Here, as in nearly
every shire to the north of the Thames, the county town is surveyed
first; the interesting description which is given of Oxford filling a
column and a half. The rest of the folio is occupied by a list of all
those in the county who held land in chief of the crown, arranged and
numbered in the order in which their estates are entered in the body of
the survey. The scale of precedence adopted by the compilers of Domesday
deserves remark, for it is substantially the same as the order which we
find observed in the lists of witnesses to solemn charters of the time.
First comes the king in the case of every county in which he held land.
Then comes the body of ecclesiastical tenants holding of him within the
shire, archbishops first, then bishops, then abbots, or rather abbeys,
for the tendency is to assign the lands belonging to a religious house
to the foundation itself rather than to its head. Among laymen the earls
come first, foreign counts being placed on a level with their English
representatives, the same Latin word (_comes_) expressing both titles.
Then come the various “barons” undistinguished by any mark of rank, who
of course form the larger number of the tenants-in-chief in any shire,
and lastly, in most counties, the holdings of a number of men of
inferior rank are thrown together under one heading as “the lands of the
king’s servants, sergeants, or thegns.” Returning to the case of
Oxfordshire we find the king, as ever, first on the list. He is followed
by the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Winchester,
Salisbury, Exeter, Lincoln, Bayeux, and Lisieux, who in turn are
succeeded by the abbeys of Abingdon, Battle, Winchcombe, Préaux, the
church of Saint Denis of Paris, and the canons of Saint Frideswide of
Oxford. Earl Hugh of Chester stands first among laymen of “comital”
rank, being followed by the counts of Mortain and Evreux, Earl Aubrey of
Northumbria, and Count Eustace of Bologne. Then come the barons,
twenty-three in number in Oxfordshire, whose order in the survey seems
to be determined by no more subtle cause than a shadowy idea on the part
of the scribes of grouping them according to the initial letter of their
extra names. The list becomes a little miscellaneous towards the close;
three great ladies appear: Christina, the sister of Edgar the Etheling;
the Countess Judith, Waltheof’s widow; and a lady who is vaguely
described as “Roger de Ivry’s wife,” bringing the total up to
fifty-five. Then comes another baron, Hascuit Musard, an important
Gloucestershire land-owner, whose Oxfordshire holding would seem to have
been overlooked by the scribes, for it is squeezed in along the foot of
two folios of the survey. He is followed by Turkill of Arden, an
Englishman, who was powerful in Warwickshire but only held one manor in
Oxfordshire, the description of which is succeeded by “the land of
Richard Engayne and other thegns.” Richard Engayne was the king’s
huntsman, and a Norman, as were many of his fellows, but about half the
names entered under this comprehensive heading are unmistakably English
and characteristically enough they are entered in a group after the
members of the conquering race. The fifty-ninth and last heading in this
varied list runs, “These underwritten lands belong to Earl William’s
fee,” a formula which is explained by the fact that the manors surveyed
under it had belonged to Earl William Fitz Osbern, who as we know had
been killed in Flanders in 1071, while his son and heir had been
disinherited in 1075. And so we see that, although the earl’s tenants
had lost their immediate lord in consequence of his forfeiture, they
were not recognised as holding in chief of the crown, but were kept
apart in a group by themselves in anticipation of the later feudal
practice by which the tenants of a great fief or honour in the royal
hands were conceived of as holding rather of their honour than of the
king himself.

In the present chapter we have mainly dealt with Domesday Book from its
own standpoint as a fiscal register, but for the majority of the
students its real value lies in the unique light which it throws upon
legal and social antiquities and upon the personal history of the men of
the Conquest. In these latter respects the different parts of the survey
are by no means of equal value. The space assigned to each county in
Domesday was determined solely by the caprice of the scribes; counties
of approximately equal area are assigned very different limits of space
in the record. Equally due to the action of the scribes is the amount of
social and personal details, above the necessary minimum of fiscal
information required, which is included in the description of each
county. The surveys of Berkshire and Worcestershire, for instance, are
many-sided records which throw light upon every aspect of the history of
the times; while on the other hand for the counties of the Danelaw the
fiscal skeleton of the record is left bare and arid; we get columns of
statistics and little beside. The interest of Domesday of course is
vastly increased when we are able to supplement its details with
information derived from some other contemporary record;
Buckinghamshire, for example, in which county there was no religious
house in 1086, is at a disadvantage compared with Berkshire, where the
local history of Abingdon Abbey fills in the outline of the greater
record, and gives life to some at least of the men of whom the names and
nothing more are written in its pages. Apart from this adventitious
source of light, Domesday imparts some of its most precious information
when recording a dispute between two tenants as to the possession of
land, or noting new “customs,” tolls, and so forth, which have been
introduced since the Conquest, for then we may look for some statement
of local custom or some reconstruction of the “status quo ante
conquestum.” And this leads naturally to the last division of our
present subject—the legal theory which underlies Domesday Book.

It is abundantly plain from all our narratives of the Conquest that King
William regarded himself, and was determined that he should be regarded,
as the lawful successor of his cousin King Edward; he was the true heir
by blood as well as by bequest. Unfortunately wicked men had usurped his
inheritance so that he was driven to regain it by force and arms; the
earl of Wessex had taken upon himself the title of king and the whole
nation had acquiesced in his unlawful rule. But the verdict of battle
had been given in William’s favour; he had been accepted as king by the
great men of the realm, and he had been duly crowned; it would be no
more than justice for him to disinherit every Englishman as such for his
tacit or overt rebellion. Moreover even after he had been received as
king his rebellious subjects in every part of the land had risen against
him; they had justly forfeited all claim to his royal grace; their lands
by virtue of these repeated treasons became at his absolute disposal.
Some such ideas as these underlie that “great confiscation” of which
Freeman considered Domesday to be essentially the record, and two
all-important conclusions followed from them. The first is that the time
of King Edward, that phrase which meets us on every page of Domesday,
was the last season of good law in the land; should any man claim rights
or privileges by prescription he must plead that they had been allowed
and accepted under the last king of the old native line. Just as his
subjects cried for “the law of King Edward” as the system of government
under which they wished to live, so to the king himself these words
expressed the test of legality to be applied to whatever rights claimed
an origin anterior to his own personal grant. Rarely does Domesday refer
to any of the kings before Edward; the Conqueror’s reign has already
become the limit of legal memory; never, except by inadvertence, does it
refer to the reign of Harold by name. And then in the second place he
who would prove the lawful possession of his land must rely in the last
resort upon “the writ and seal” of King William. The whole tenor of
Domesday seems to imply that all Englishmen as such were held to have
been disinherited by the result of the Conquest. Save for the lands of
God and his Saints all England had become the king’s; the disposition he
might make of his vast inheritance depended solely upon his own will. If
he should please to allow to an Englishman the possession of his own or
others’ lands, this was a matter of pure favour, and Thurkill of Warwick
and Colswegn of Lincoln could put forward no other title than that which
secured their fiefs to the Norman barons around them. But then comes in
that principle which is above all distinctive of the Norman Conquest—if
William stepped by lawful possession into the exact position of the
native kings who were before him, so each of his barons in each of his
estates must be the exact legal successor, the “heir,” of the Englishman
whom he supplanted. The term used by Domesday to express the
relationship of the old and the new landlord is very suggestive: the
Englishman is the Norman’s _antecessor_, a word which we only translate
inadequately by the colourless “predecessor.” We are probably right in
calling the Norman Conquest the one catastrophic change in our social
history, but the change as yet was informal; it went on beneath the
surface of the law; the terminology of Domesday testifies to the attempt
to bring the social conditions of 1086 under formulas which would be
appropriate to the time of King Edward. When we are told that there were
ten manors in such a vill in the time of King Edward, or that there used
to be twenty villeins in a certain manor but now there are only sixteen,
we may gravely doubt whether the terms “manor” and “villein” were known
in England before the Conquest, and yet we may recognise that the
employment of these words in relation to the Confessor’s day is of
itself very significant. King William as King Edward’s lawful heir
wishes consistently to act as such so far as may be; his scribes in
their terminology affect a continuity of social history, which does not

Perhaps nothing could be more illustrative of these principles than a
few extracts taken from the Lincolnshire “Clamores”—the statement of the
various disputed claims which had come to light in the course of the
survey, and the record of their settlement by the Domesday jurors. The
following are taken at random in the order in which they are entered in

  “Candleshoe wapentake says that Ivo Taillebois ought to have that
  which he claims in Ashby against Earl Hugh; namely one mill and one
  bovat of land, although the soke belongs to Grainham.

  “Concerning the two carucates of land which Robert Dispensator claims
  against Gilbert de Gand in Screnby through Wiglac, his predecessor
  [_antecessor_], the wapentake says that the latter only had one
  carucate, and the soke of that belonged to Bardney. But Wiglac
  forfeited that land to his lord Gilbert, and so Robert has nothing
  there according to the witness of the Riding.

  “In the same Screnby Chetelbern claims one carucate against Gilbert de
  Gand through Godric [but the jurors], say that he only had half a
  carucate, and the soke of that belonged to Bardney, and Chetelbern’s
  claim is unjust according to the wapentake, because his predecessor
  forfeited the land. The men of Candleshoe wapentake with the agreement
  of the whole Riding say that Siwate and Alnod and Fenchel and Aschel
  equally divided their father’s land among themselves in King Edward’s
  time, and held it so that if there were need to serve with the king
  and Siwate could go the other brothers assisted him. After him the
  next one went and Siwate and the next assisted him and so on with
  regard to all, but Siwate was the king’s man.”

In these passages the actual working of the Domesday Inquest is very
clearly displayed. In the first place we see that all really turns on
those ancient local assemblies the wapentake and hundred courts. Not
only do they supply the requisite information through the representative
jurors to the commissioners, but it is by their verdict that the latter
are guided in their pronouncements upon disputed claims. If Ivo
Taillebois receives his seisin of that mill and oxgang of land in Ashby
it will be because the wapentake court of Candleshoe has assigned it to
him rather than the earl of Chester. This simple procedure has a great
future before it; if the king can compel the local courts to give a
sworn verdict to his officers, so in specific cases he can of his grace
permit private persons to use these bodies in the same way. The Domesday
Inquest is the noble ancestor of the Plantagenet “assizes,” and through
them, by direct descent, of the jury in its perfected form. But the
action of the local courts becomes doubly significant when we remember
their composition. The affairs of the greatest people in the land, of
the king himself, are being discussed by very humble men, men, as we
have seen, carefully chosen so as to represent Frenchmen and Englishmen
alike. Nothing is a more wholesome corrective of exaggerated ideas as to
the severance and hostility of the two races than a due remembrance of
the part which both played in the Domesday Inquest.

Equally important is the respect which is clearly being paid in the
above discussions to the strict forms of law, of English law in
particular. No very knotty problems arise in the course of our simple
extract, but we can see that a Norman baron will often have to stand or
fall in his claim according to the interpretation of some old English
legal doctrine. We know from other sources that the intricacies of the
rules which in King Edward’s time determined the rights and status of
free men became a thing of wonder to the men of the twelfth century, and
we may suspect that the Domesday commissioners were frequently tempted
to cut these obsolete knots. But so far as is practicable, they are
maintaining that the Norman must succeed to just the legal position of
his English “antecessor”; Robert the Dispensator cannot claim the land
which has been forfeited by Wiglac to Gilbert de Gand.

Lastly, one is always tempted to forget that twenty years had passed
between the death of King Edward and the making of the Domesday Survey.
Our attention is naturally and rightly concentrated on the great change
which substituted a Norman for an English land-holding class, so that we
are apt to ignore the struggles which must have taken place among the
conquerors themselves in the division of the spoil; struggles none the
less real because, so far as we can see, they were carried on under the
forms of law. Death and confiscation had left their mark upon the Norman
baronage; the personnel of Domesday Book would have been very different
if the record had been drawn up a dozen years earlier. But, even apart
from this, it was inevitable that friction should arise within the mass
of Norman nobility as it settled into its position in the conquered
land. The Domesday Inquest afforded a grand opportunity for the
statement and adjustment of conflicting claims, and examples may
generally be found in every few pages of Domesday Book.

The last point in connection with the survey which calls for special
notice is the origin of the name by which it is universally known.
“Domesday Book” is clearly no official title; it is a popular
appellation, of which the meaning is not quite free from doubt.
Officially, the record was known as the “Book of Winchester,” from the
city in which it was kept; it was cited under that name when the abbot
of Abingdon, in the reign of Henry I., proved by it the exemption of
certain of his estates from the hundred court of Pyrton, Oxfordshire.
The best explanation of its other, more famous name may be given in the
words of Richard Fitz Neal, writing under Henry II.:

  “This book is called by the natives, ‘Domesdei,’ that is by a metaphor
  the day of judgment, for as the sentence of that strict and terrible
  last scrutiny may by no craft be evaded, so when a dispute arises
  concerning those matters which are written in this book, it is
  consulted, and its sentence may not be impugned nor refused with

On the whole this explanation probably comes near the truth. We may well
believe that to the common folk of the time, this stringent, searching
inquiry into their humble affairs may have seemed very suggestive of the
last great day of reckoning. Viewed in this light the name becomes
invested with an interest of its own; it is an abiding witness to the
reluctant wonder aroused by the making of this, King William’s greatest
work and our supreme record.

[Illustration: Penny of William I.]

[Illustration: Penny of William I.]


                          Genealogical Tables

                                                                 TABLE A


                        William I.
                        Richard I.
      │              │      │          │        │           │   │
Richard II. = Judith │    Malger   William  Mahaut = Odo II.│Hawise = Geoffrey I
      │  of Brittany │   count of   count              of   │       of Brittany
      │              │   Mortain    of Eu            Blois  │         ↓
      │              │      │         │                     │     (Table B)
      │              │      │         │         ┌───────────┘
      │           Robert,   │         │       Emma = Ethelred II.
      │          archbishop William   │      ┌─────┴──────┐
      │           of Rouen  ‘the      │    Alfred the  Edward the
      │              │      Warling’  │    Etheling    Confessor
      │              │                │
      │         Ralf de Wacy          └─────────────────────┐
   ┌──┴─────┬───────────────┬──────────────┬──────────┐     │
   │        │               │              │          │     │
Richard  Robert I.          │            Malger    William  │
 III.       │     Adeliz = Reginald,   archbishop  count    │
Nicholas    │              count of    of Rouen   of Arques │
abbot of    │             Burgundian                        │
St. Ouen    │             Palatinate                ┌───────┼──────────┐
       ┌────┴──────┐        │                       │       │          │
       │           │      Guy of                 Robert  William  Hugh, bishop
   William II.   Adeliz   Brionne                count   ‘Busac’   of Lisieux
       │            ↓                            of Eu
     Robert II.  (Table C.)

                                                                         TABLE B
.ti 0
.ll 80
.nf l
                            Geoffrey I. = Hawise of Normandy
                              †1008          │
                      │                                          │
             Alan III. †1040                           Éon, count of Penthièvre
                      │                                   †1079  │
   ┌─────────────────-┼─────────────┐                     ┌──────┴───────┐
   │                  │             │                     │              │
Conan II.    Geoffrey ‘Grenonat’  Hawise = Hoel,       Brian,           Alan,
o. s. p. 1066   (claimant 1075)     │     count of   earl of Richmond   earl of
                                    │    Cornouaille                   Richmond
                                    │      †1084
                            Alan Fergent = Constance
                                †1119      of Normandy


                                                                 TABLE C


          Robert of Normandy =     Arlette =       Herlwin de Conteville
                             │             |
                   ┌─────────┘             └────────────┐
                   │                                    │
         ┌─────────┴───────┐               ┌────────────┼──────────┐
         │                 │               │            │          │
      William       Adeliz = Enguerrand   Odo, bishop   Robert,   Muriel
                    count of Ponthieu     of Bayeux     count of
                           │                            Mortain
          │                           │
        Adeliz = Eudes, count of    Judith = Waltheof, earl of
          │         Champagne          │       Northampton
          │                            │
       Stephen, count of             Maud  = David I.
           Aumâle                            king of Scots
   (claimant for England, 1095)        ↓


                                                                 TABLE D


                     Hugh II.
              │                        │
           Hugh III.               Herbert ‘Baccon’
              │              (regent of Maine, 1036–1040)
         Herbert I. ‘Eveille-chien’
        │                              │
     Hugh IV.                    Biota = Walter of Mantes
      †1051                              count of the Vexin
        │                                   Français
    │              │                         │           │
Herbert II.    Gersendis = Azo, marquis    Margaret   Paula = John de la Flèche
  †1063                │ of Liguria   (betrothed to
                       │             Robert of Normandy)
                 Hugh (claimant
                    in 1073)


                                                                 TABLE E


                             Walter II.
              │                                        │
            Drogo = Goda, d. of Ethelred II.       Ralf II., count of Valois
                  │                                    │
        ┌─────────┴──────────────────┐            Ralf III., count of Valois
        │                            │                 │     and the Vexin
  Walter III. = Biota of Maine  Ralf, earl of Hereford │
  o.s.p. 1063                                          │
                                                  Simon de Crepy


                                                                 TABLE F


     Richard I. of Normandy               Swegn Forkbeard  Thorgils Sprakalegg
              │                                   │               │
    ┌─────────┴──────────────────────────┐   ┌────┴───┐      ┌────┴────┐
    │                                    │   │        │      │         │
Richard II. Ælfgifu=(1)Ethelred II.=(2)Emma = Cnut  Estrith=Ulf   Gytha=Godwin
    │              │               │                       │viceroy    │
    │              │               │                       │of Norway  │
    │              │               │                       │           │
Robert I.     Edmund Ironside   Edward            Swegn Estrithson  Harold II.
    │              │            the Confessor
    │              │
William     Edward the Etheling
            Edgar the Etheling


                                                                 TABLE G


                            Baldwin IV.
   │                                         │
Baldwin V. = Adela of            Tostig   = Judith = Welf, duke of Bavaria
  †1067    │ France       earl of Northumbria
    │                          │                            │
Baldwin VI. = Richildis,    Robert  = Gertrude, widow    Matilde = William
 †1070      │   heiress   ‘le Frison’   of Florence I.           │  duke of
            │ of Hainault    †1093  │  count of Holland          │  Normandy
            │                       │                            │
   ┌────────┴────────┐         ┌────┴──────────┐                 │
   │                 │         │               │                 │
Arnulf            Baldwin    Robert II.  Adela = Cnut, king     Robert
(inherited      (inherited    †1111            │   of Denmark  duke of
 Flanders)       Hainault)     │               │               Normandy
                               │         Charles ‘le Bon’        |
                            Baldwin VII.        †1127          William
                              †1119                       (claimant in 1127)


                                                                 TABLE H


         (1)Ecgfryth =        Uhtred          = (2)Ælfgifu, daughter
                          earl of Northumbria        of Ethelred II.
                               │                                 Crinan
                               │                              lay abbot of
                               │ (1)        (1)       2          Dunkeld
              ┌────────────────┴──┬────────┬────────┐        ┌─────┴────┐
           Ealdred              Eadwulf  Gospatric Ealdgyth = Maldred(2)│
         earl of Bernicia       earl of     †1064      │                │
         †circ. 1038            Bernicia               │            Duncan(1)
              │                  †1041              Gospatric        king of
          ┌───┴──────┐             │                 earl of          Scots
          │          │             │                Bernicia         †1040
Ligulf = Ealdgyth  Ælflœd=Siward  Oswulf             1067–1068          │
(favourite of        │    earl of  earl of            1069–1072     Malcolm III.
Bishop Walcher)      │    North-   Bernicia            ↓            king of
     †1080           │    umbria    †1067                           Scots
       ↓             │    †1055                                      1057–1093
                     │                                                  ↓
              earl of Bernicia

                               End Matter



 Abernethy, 323, 325
 Abingdon, chronicle of, 178
 —— knight service of, 449
 —— Ethelhelm, abbot of, 399, 450
 —— history of, 416, 494
 Adeliz, countess of Ponthieu, 64, 234
 Ælfwold, abbot of St. Benet of Holme, 173
 Agelwig, abbot of Evesham, 333
 Agriculture, system of, 479, 480
 Aire, river, passage of, 278, 279
 Alan III., count of Brittany, 66, 72, 137, 341
 Alan Fergant, duke of Brittany, 342
 Alan, earl of Richmond, 200, 324, 361
 Aldreth, Cambridgeshire, 298, 300
 Alençon, 63, 91, 299
 —— siege of, 94, 95
 Alfred the Etheling, 47, 51
 Alfred, King, 6, 12, 22, 25, 179, 394
 Algar, English prisoner, 372
 Alney, treaty of, 214
 Ambrières, 118, 119
 Angevin succession war, 126, 127, 130, 160, 304
 Anjou, county of, 66, 88, 126, 127
 —— counts of, _see_ Fulk Nerra, Fulk le Rechin, Geoffrey Martel,
    Geoffrey le Barbu.
 Anselm of Aosta, 42, 43
 Ansgar the Staller (Esegar), 224, 238, 241, 424
 Apulia, 97, 99
 Aquitaine, 141
 Archil, Northumbrian thegn, 265, 268
 Argentan, 78, 79
 Arlette, mistress of Robert I., 63, 64, 234
 Army, the feudal, 456
 —— —— numbers of, 450, 451
 —— —— at Hastings, 196
 Arnold, bishop of le Mans, 310, 312
 Arnulf, son of Baldwin VI., of Flanders, 305, 306
 Arnulf, count of Flanders, 27
 Arques, county of, 101
 —— siege of, 102-105
 —— _see_ William, count of.
 Arthur of Brittany, 233
 Arundel, castle of, 428
 Arve, valley of, 76, 77, 123
 Asbiorn, Earl, 271, 285, 291, 321
 Ascelin, son of Arthur, 375
 Assessment, principles of, 466-472
 Athelstan, King, 19, 27, 28
 Aubrey, earl of Northumbria, 353
 Aversa, battle of, 106
 Avranchin, the, 25, 138
 Axholme, Isle of, 275
 Azo, marquis of Liguria, 308


 Baile Hill, York, 269
 Baldwin, sheriff of Devon, 257, 422
 Baldwin V., count of Flanders, 91, 105, 106, 108, 109, 126, 160, 171,
    172, 305
 Baldwin VI., count of Flanders, 305
 Baldwin, son of Count Baldwin VI., 305, 307
 Bamburgh, 317
 Barking, 227, 233, 238
 Battle, abbey of, 197, 397
 Baudri de Guitry, 372, 373
 Bavinkhove, battle of, 306
 Bayeux, 102, 115
 —— bishop of, _see_ Odo.
 Beaumont (Maine), castle of, 313, 360
 Beaurain, 154
 Beauvoisis, 112
 Bec, schools of, 41-43
 Bedfordshire, assessment of, 467-469
 Bellême, county of, 39, 91, 105, 128, 429
 —— _see_ Mabel of.
 _Beneficium_, 32
 “Beorcham,” 221
 Berengar of Tours, 42
 Berkhamstead, Little, 222
 Bertha of Blois, 130
 Bessin, the, 25, 81, 121
 Beverley, church of, 385
 Bilsdale-in-Cleveland, 282
 Biota of Mantes, 129, 131, 136
 Blanchelande, peace of, 314-316, 344-346
 Bleddyn, king of Gwynedd, 248, 262, 276
 Blois, county of, 38, 66, 67
 —— _see_ Odo II., Theobald III., counts of.
 Blyth (Notts), 441
 Bonjen, valley of, 361
 Bonneville, council of, 180
 Border, the Scotch, 317, 318, 323, 324
 Boscherville, 351
 Brand, abbot of Peterborough, 228, 290
 Bresle, river, 24
 Breteuil, 117
 —— laws of, 117
 Bretford (Wilts), 67
 Brian of Penthievre, 270, 277, 324
 Brill (Bucks), 420
 Brionne, siege of, 85
 —— county of, 114
 Bristol, 258
 Brittany, 66, 138, 141
 —— volunteers from, 168
 —— —— at Hastings, 200, 201
 —— _see_ Alan, Conan, Hoel, counts of.
 Broken Tower, the, 217
 Buckingham, earldom of, 167
 “Burh-bot,” 300
 Burton-on-Trent, 420


 Caen, 122, 351, 374, 375, 401
 —— abbey of, Holy Trinity, 180, 358
 —— —— St. Stephen’s, 42, 180
 —— burial of William I. at, 374
 Cambridge, 266, 298, 333
 Canterbury, 217
 —— _see_ Anselm, Dunstan, Lanfranc, Robert of Jumièges, Stigand,
    archbishops of.
 Capetian House, 360
 —— in alliance with Normandy, 29, 33, 67, 68, 73, 79
 Capital punishment, 87, 340
 Cardiff, castle of, 354
 Cardigan, 429
 Carham, battle of, 317
 Carisbrooke, castle of, 356
 Carlisle, 323
 Carolingian Empire, 1
 Carolingian House, in alliance with Normandy, 26, 27, 29
 Carucates, 470, 471
 Castles, in England, 242, 243, 263, 264, 451-453
 Castle-guard, 451, 452
 Celibacy, clerical, enforcement of, 396, 397
 Champagne, county of, 67, 141;
   _see_ also Blois.
 Chancellor, the, 418
 Chancery, the royal, 53
 Charles III., king of West Franks, 25, 26
 Chartres, schools of, 41
 Chateauneuf, castle of, 346
 Chaumont, 368
 Chester, 276, 281, 283-285, 388, 429
 —— earldom of, 167, 425, 429-431
 —— _see_ Gerbod, Hugh, earls of.
 Christian, bishop of Aarhus, 271
 Cicely, daughter of William I., 180
 Claim of fealty, papal, 404, 405
 Claire-sur-Epte, treaty of, 24, 25, 26, 40, 79
 “Clamores” in Lincolnshire Domesday, 497, 498
 Clarendon, constitutions of, 357
 Cleveland, 176, 282, 317, 320
 Clifford’s Tower (York), 265
 Cluny, abbey of, 379
 Cluniac movement, 40, 385-387
 Cnut, king of England and Denmark, 5, 15, 18, 44, 65, 147, 150-152,
    211, 253
 Cnut II. (Saint), king of Denmark, 271, 334, 335, 363, 365

 Coesnon, river, 139
 _Commune concilium_, 408-415
 Conan, duke of Brittany, 67, 137-140
 Confiscation, the great, 235-240
 Constance, widow of King Robert I., 68
 “Consul Palatinus,” 427
 Copsige, earl of Northumbria, 233, 247
 Corbie, 307
 Cornwall, 259, 260
 Cotentin, the, 25, 81, 101, 172
 Councils, ecclesiastical, 392, 393
 Court, the shire, 421, 422, 433, 437, 442
 —— the hundred, 393, 394, 433, 442, 444
 Coutances, church of St. Mary at, 137
 —— _see_ Geoffrey, bishop of.
 Crowland, abbey of, 288, 290, 338
 Cumberland, 317, 318, 321, 322
 Curia, the papal, 55, 163, 164, 377
 Curia Regis, 416, 419, 456


 Danegeld, 460, 465, 466
 Danelaw, 9, 10, 12, 24, 253, 272, 273
 Dean, forest of, 272
 Denmark, kings of, _see_ Cnut I. and II., Gorm, Harold Blue-Tooth,
    Harold Hein, Swegen Forkbeard, Swegen Estrithson.
 Derwent (Yorkshire), 178
 Dieppe, 251
 Dinan, siege of, 140
 Dive, river, 81
 —— —— estuary of, 102, 121, 182, 183
 —— Church of Notre Dame at, 245
 Dol, 138, 139, 341
 Domesday Book, 7, 10, 11, 13, 16, 33, 57, 117, 173, 234, 235, 237-240,
    257, 273, 280, 325, 327, 345, 367, 392, 411, 414, 415, 430, 457-501
 —— Inquest, 437, 485, 486, 498, 499
 —— arrangement of, 489-493
 —— composition of, 486, 487
 —— indefiniteness of, 482-485
 —— legal theory underlying, 494-498
 —— meaning of name, 500, 501
 Domfront, 91-95, 101
 Donald, son of Malcolm III., 323
 Dover, 50, 156, 216, 217, 249-251
 Downton (Wilts), 355, 420
 Dreux, county of, 76, 77
 Drogo, count of the Vexin, 367
 Droitwich, 420
 Dunbar, 317-325
 Duncan, king of Scots, 318
 Dunstan, Archbishop, 18, 20, 381, 406
 Durham, 268, 324, 334
 —— modern county of, 321


 Eadgyth, wife of Edward the Confessor, 218
 —— marriage of, 144
 Eadmer, historian, 382
 Eadric Streona, earl of Mercia, 15, 18, 45, 248
 Eadric the Wild, 228, 248, 276
 Ealdgyth, wife of Harold II., 171
 Ealdred, archbishop of York, 71, 157, 221, 225, 230, 260, 263, 275,
    384-387, 390
 Ealdwulf II., earl of Northumbria, 58
 Earldoms, the great, 14-17, 46, 424, 425
 East Anglia, assessment of, 469, 470
 Edgar the Etheling, 148, 151-153, 159, 212, 228, 289, 320, 325
 —— elected king, 213
 —— submission of, 221
 —— accompanies William to Normandy, 244
 —— flight of (1068), 262, 265
 —— attacks York, 268
 —— joins Danish fleet, 273
 —— in Scotland, 295
 —— final flight of, 321
 —— receives offer of Montreuil, 326
 —— returns to England, 327
 Edgar, king, 9, 20, 394
 Edington, battle of, 6
 Edith the Swan-necked, 207
 Edmund Ironside, 15, 21, 147, 209, 211
 Edmund, sheriff of Hertfordshire, 231
 Ednoth the Staller, 259
 Edred, King, 19
 Edward the Confessor, 21, 36, 49, 52, 54, 60-62, 66, 76, 91, 143-147,
    331, 411
 —— death of, 157
 —— ecclesiastical appointments by, 385
 Edward the Elder, 7, 19, 26
 Edward the Etheling, 147, 148
 Edward, sheriff of Wiltshire, 423
 Edwin, earl of Mercia, 59, 61, 153, 177, 191-193, 212-215, 227, 230,
    234, 412
 —— accompanies William I. to Normandy, 244, 245
 —— first revolt of, 261-264
 —— flight and death of, 295-297
 Edwy, king of Wessex, 8, 20
 Elf, the, treaty of, 48
 Ely, abbey of, 288, 432
 —— Domesday Inquest relating to, 459
 —— Isle of, 290-300, 321
 —— private jurisdiction over, 440, 441
 Emma, wife of Ethelred II., 29, 30, 31, 47, 65, 143
 Emma, wife of Earl Ralf, 330, 334
 English sheriffs, 424
 Enguerrand, count of Ponthieu, 64, 76
 —— death of, 104, 111, 234
 Eon, count of Penthievre, 119, 200, 324
 Epte, river, 24, 68
 Eric, earl of Northumbria, 45
 Eric of Upsala, 2
 Esegar, _see_ Ansgar.
 Estrith, sister of Cnut, 65
 Ethelmer, bishop of Elmham, 389
 Ethelnoth, Kentish thegn, 244
 Ethelred II., 8, 15, 18, 20, 29, 30, 44, 143
 Ethelric, bishop of Selsey, 389
 Ethelwine, bishop of Durham, 266, 268, 389
 Ethelwold, prior of Peterborough, 292, 295
 Eu, 24, 105
 —— county of, 100
 —— _see_ Robert, William, counts of.
 Eudo fitz Hubert (de Rye), 418
 Eustace, count of Boulogne, 50, 169, 228, 231, 249, 250, 300
 Evesham, abbey of, 281
 —— _see_ Agelwig, abbot of.
 Evreux, county of, 70
 —— _see_ William, count of.
 Exeter, 30, 252, 254, 259, 277, 454
 —— revolt of, 253-257, 267
 —— see of, 383
 Exning, 330, 332, 340


 Fagadun, 334
 Falaise, 63, 78, 121
 Falkirk, 350
 Feasts, 409
 Fécamp, 39, 71, 76, 245, 401
 —— council at, 70, 71
 Feigned flight at Hastings, 203-205
 Fenland, 288
 Feudal rights, 34
 _Feudum_, 32
 Five Boroughs, 7
 —— assessment of, 472, 473
 Flanders, county of, 27, 38, 52, 108, 109, 141, 160, 305-307
 —— volunteers from, 168
 —— visited by Robert Curthose, 346, 348
 —— _see_ Baldwin V. and VI., Robert, Arnulf, counts of.
 Flat Holme, the, 258
 Fleet, the English, 173, 174, 178
 —— the Norman, 165-168
 Fresnay, castle of, 312, 313, 360
 Fulford, battle of, 177
 Fulk the Lame, 167
 Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, 71-89
 Fulk le Rechin, count of Anjou, 127, 304, 308, 312-315
 Fyrd, the English, 255, 323, 333, 341, 445, 454, 455


 Gainsborough, 272
 Gamel, the son of Orm, 59
 Gateshead, 352
 Gatinais, the, 127
 Gebuin, Archbishop of Lyons, 404
 Geoffrey Alselin, 238
 Geoffrey “le barbu,” count of Anjou, 127
 Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, 128, 225, 277, 384, 400, 408, 409, 454
 Geoffrey “Grenonat,” count of Rennes, 341
 Geoffrey de Mandeville, 238, 241, 424
 Geoffrey “Martel,” count of Anjou, 89, 112, 116, 160, 304
 —— war of 1048, 90-95
 —— refrains from war of 1054, 112-116
 —— attacks Ambrières, 118, 119
 —— count of Maine, 118, 128, 130
 —— death, 126
 Geoffrey of Mayenne, 118-120, 308, 310-312
 Gerald the Seneschal, 167
 Gerbevoi, castle of, 347, 360
 —— battle of, 347, 348
 Gersendis of Liguria, 308, 311
 Gertrude of Holland, 305
 Gervaise, bishop of Le Mans, 128
 Gherbod, earl of Chester, 429, 430
 Gilbert, count of Brionne, 72, 74, 76
 Gilbert Crispin, castellan of Tillières, 77
 Gilbert of Ghent, 170
 Gilbert Maminot, bishop of Lisieux, 369
 Gilbert, Bishop Walcher’s deputy, 351, 352
 Gloucester, 51, 415, 453
 Gloucestershire, 426
 Godwine, earl of Wessex, 16, 18, 47, 49, 50, 51, 109, 145, 146, 156
 —— House of, 319
 Gorm, king of Denmark, 2
 Gospatric, Northumbrian thegn, 59
 Gospatric, earl of Northumbria, 268, 319, 320
 —— appointed earl (1068), 248
 —— flight of (1068), 262
 —— joins Danish army, 273
 —— makes submission, 282
 —— harries Cumberland, 321, 322
 —— deposition of, 325
 Gratian, 394
 Grimbald de Plesis, 82, 87
 Guildford, 47
 Gundulf, bishop of Rochester, 401
 Gunhild, daughter of Earl Godwine, 258
 Guntard, abbot of Jumièges, 370
 Gustavus Vasa, 4
 Guthrum of East Anglia, 6, 24
 Guy of Brionne, 71
 —— revolt of, 80-88
 Guy-Geoffrey of Aquitaine, 105, 111
 Guy, count of Ponthieu, 111, 115, 154, 183
 Gyrth, earl of East Anglia, 57, 202
 Gytha, wife of Earl Godwine, 150, 207, 257, 258


 Hacon, earl of Worcestershire, 45
 Hacon, Danish earl, 334
 Hainault, county of, 305
 Hamon de Thorigny, 82
 Hamon, viscount of Thouars, 223
 Harold “Blue Tooth,” king of Denmark, 45
 Harold “Hein,” king of Denmark, 271, 335, 363
 Harold I., king of England, 47
 Harold II., king of England, 49, 52, 56, 57, 257, 302
 —— joins in Breton war, 139, 155
 —— earl of Wessex, 147
 —— continental tour of, 148, 149
 —— designs upon English throne, 148
 —— visit to Normandy and oath, 154-157
 —— becomes king of England, 157-160
 —— refuses papal arbitration, 161, 163
 —— marriage of, 171
 —— campaign of Stamfordbridge, 177-179
 —— campaign of Hastings, 191-194
 —— battle of Hastings, 194-205
 —— death, 205, 206
 —— character, 208-210
 —— illegitimate sons of, 258, 259, 270
 Harold Fair Hair, king of Norway, 2
 Harold Hardrada, king of Norway, 3, 48, 49, 175-179, 183, 253, 273
 Harthacnut, 46, 48
 Hastings, battle of, 54, 133, 194-206, 286
 —— castle of, 187
 —— base of Norman army, 188, 195, 211
 Hayling Island, grant of, 231
 Helie de la Flèche, 362
 Henry de Beaumont, 264, 408, 451
 Henry IV., emperor, 160
 Henry I., king of England, 219, 233, 260, 369, 370, 419
 Henry II., king of England, 348, 419, 423
 Henry, son of Henry II., 349
 Henry de Ferrers, 169, 408
 Henry I., king of France, 34, 37, 68, 71, 77, 100, 160
 —— guardian of William, 74
 —— raids in Normandy, 78
 —— at Val-es-dunes, 83-85
 —— war with Anjou, 90
 —— supports William of Arques, 103, 104
 —— invades Normandy, 110-117
 —— retreat of, 116
 —— defeated at Varaville, 121, 122
 —— character of reign, 125
 —— death, 126
 —— grants Vexin to Robert I. of Normandy, 367
 Herbert “Bocco,” regent of Maine, 129
 Herbert “Eveille-Chien,” count of Maine, 129
 Herbert II., count of Maine, 118, 130, 131
 Hereford, earldom of, 49, 53, 167, 243, 328, 329, 342, 425-427
 —— castle of, 248
 —— county of, 276
 Hereward, 289-295, 297-303, 316
 Herlwin, abbot of Bec, 41
 Herlwin of Conteville, 64
 Herlwin, knight, 374
 Hidage, the Tribal, 462, 463
 —— the Burghal, 463, 464
 —— the county, 465
 Hides, 460, 461
 Hiesmois, county of, 70, 78, 83, 105, 121
 Hildebrand, _see_ Pope Gregory VII.
 Hoel, duke of Brittany, 140, 314, 341, 342
 Holderness, 176, 320
 Housecarles, 445
 Hoveringham (Notts), Domesday description of, 476-482
 Hubert, papal legate, 404
 Hubert of Fresnay, 312
 Hubert, viscount of Maine, 360-363
 Hugh fitz Baldric, 423
 Hugh de Chateauneuf, 346
 Hugh, earl of Chester, 78, 167, 356, 430, 433
 Hugh of Gournai, 113
 Hugh de Grentmaisnil, 243, 348
 Hugh of Liguria, 308
 Hugh IV., count of Maine, 118, 129
 Hugh the Great, count of Paris, 26
 Hugh de Montfort, 113, 167, 243, 249
 Hugh de Montgomery, 428
 Hugh of Sillé, 310, 311, 313
 Humber, the, 58
 Humphrey de Tilleul, 243
 Huntingdon, 191, 266
 —— earldom of, 329


 Iceland, 3
 Ingelric the Priest, 232
 Ingibiorg, wife of Malcolm III., 323
 Ipswich, 271


 Jersey, 66
 John, king of England, 162
 John de la Flèche, 308, 313-315
 John, archbishop of Rouen, 246
 Judith, wife of Earl Tostig, 109
 Judith, wife of Earl Waltheof, 234, 332, 337, 342
 Jumièges, 39, 245
 Junquené, archbishop of Dol, 76, 138
 Jurisdiction, ecclesiastical, 386, 387


 Kent, earldom of, 167, 425, 431
 Knight service, institution of, 444, 446-451
 Knights’ fee, 446, 447


 La Flèche, siege of, 314
 —— _see also_ Helie and John.
 Land-loan, 33
 Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, 214, 358, 389
 —— head of school of Bec, 41
 —— opposes William’s marriage, 107
 —— abbot of St. Stephen’s, Caen, 180
 —— visits Rome (1067), 245, 246
 —— relations with Roger of Hereford, 328, 329
 —— conduct in 1075, 334-336
 —— suggests arrest of Bishop Odo, 357
 —— letter to, 371
 —— policy as archbishop, 390-397
 —— dispute with the Curia, 403
 Law, Old English, 10, 499
 —— canon, 394
 Leicester, 264
 —— earldom of, 167
 Le Mans, 127, 132-134, 309-313
 —— see of, 127-129
 —— _see_ Arnold, Gervase, Vulgrin, bishops of.
 Leobwine, favourite of Bishop Walcher, 352
 Leofgar, bishop of Hereford, 384
 Leofric, earl of Mercia, 18, 45, 49, 145
 —— House of, 262, 296, 319
 Leofric, abbot of Peterborough, 228
 Leofwine, Earl, son of Godwine, 57, 202
 Leofwine, bishop of Lichfield, 230
 Lewes, priory of, 397
 Ligulf, Northumbrian thegn, 352
 Lijmfiord, 364
 Lillebonne, council of (1066), 165, 170, 172, 408
 —— —— (1080), 351, 406
 Lincoln, 187, 191, 266, 273
 Lindsey, 173, 275, 276, 278
 Lisois de Monasteriis, 278, 279
 London, 133, 192
 —— citizens of, 153, 224
 —— citizens of, charter to, 240
 —— Tower of, 227
 —— Bridge, 57, 219
 Lothian, 317, 323, 325
 Louis d’Outremer, 9, 28, 29
 Lugg, river, 248
 Lyting, bishop of Worcester, 384


 Mabel of Bellême, 39, 120
 Macbeth, king of Scots, 318
 Magnus I., king of Norway, 46, 48, 49
 Magnus Bareleg, king of Norway, 4
 Maine, 39, 88, 92, 118-120, 160
 —— revolt of (1072), 307-316
 —— revolt of (1084), 359-362
 —— baronage of, 129, 308
 —— _see_ Hugh, Herbert, counts of.
 Malcolm I., king of Scots, 317
 Malcolm II., king of Scots, 317, 318
 Malcolm III., king of Scots, 173, 265, 266, 317-323, 350
 —— marriage of, 322
 Malger, archbishop of Rouen, 71
 —— deposition of, 106, 107
 Malger, count of Mortain, 70
 Malmesbury, abbey of, 289
 —— schools of, 398
 Mantes, 112, 368, 369
 Margaret of Maine, 130, 131, 136
 Margaret, wife of Malcolm III., 322
 Marleswegen, sheriff of Lincoln, 192, 229, 262, 268, 273, 321
 Marmontice, abbey of, 181, 397
 Matilda, the empress, 163, 233
 Matilda, wife of William I., 105-110, 143
 —— contributes to the fleet, 167
 —— regent of Normandy (1066), 181, 241
 —— regent of Normandy (1068), 251
 —— regent of Normandy (1069), 269
 —— coronation of, 260, 261
 —— assists Robert her son in exile, 346
 —— death and character, 358, 359
 Mauritius, archbishop of Rouen, 42, 245
 Maxines, abbey of, 306
 Mayenne, castle of, 134
 Monasteries, foundation of, 380
 Monasticism, in Normandy, 40
 —— revival of, in England, 397-400
 Mons, 306
 Montacute (Somerset), siege of, 277
 Montgomery (Normandy), castle of, 67, 72
 Montgomery (England), castle of, 427
 —— _see_ Hugh, Roger, William de.
 Montlouis, battle of, 89, 90
 Montreuil-sur-Mer, 326, 347
 Mora, the, 167, 185
 Morcar, earl of Northumbria, 59, 60, 153, 171, 177, 191-193, 212-215,
    227, 261, 319, 372, 412
 —— accompanies William to Normandy, 244, 245
 —— first revolt of, 261-264
 —— flight to Ely, 295, 296
 —— imprisonment of, 299
 Morecambe Bay, 265
 Mortain, _see_ Malger, Robert, William, counts of.
 Mortemer, campaign and battle of, 114, 115, 183, 367
 Moulins, 105, 111


 Nantes, county of, 137
 Neel de St. Sauveur, 82, 85
 Newburn on Tyne, 247
 Newcastle on Tyne, 323
 —— castle of, founded, 350
 Nicæa, 72
 Nicholas, abbot of St. Ouen, 71, 167
 Normandy, boundaries of, 24, 25
 —— condition of (1035), 74, 75
 —— condition of (1066), 141
 —— dukes of, _see_ Robert I., II., Rollo, Richard I., II., III.,
    William I., II.
 Northampton, 59, 60
 Northamptonshire, 59
 —— French barons of, 171
 Northumbria, 8, 9, 58, 213, 214, 230, 259, 262, 273, 391
 —— revolt of (1065), 59, 60
 —— opposition to Harold, 171
 —— revolt of (1068), 262, 263
 —— revolt of (1069), 273-279
 —— harrying of, 279-283, 286, 287
 —— earls of, _see_ Aubrey, Copsige, Gospatric, Morcar, Oswulf, Robert
    de Comines, Robert de Mowbray, Siward, Tostig, Walcher, Waltheof.
 Norway, kings of, _see_ Harold Fair Hair, Harold Hardrada, Magnus I.,
    II., Olaf (Saint), Olaf Tryggvasson, Olaf Kyrre, and Sigurd.
 Norwich, 244, 254, 272, 333, 334
 Nottingham, 264, 278


 Oath of Harold, 153-157
 Odensee, 364-365
 Odo, bishop of Bayeux, 40, 64, 128, 231, 249, 250, 259, 384, 390, 415,
    416, 434
 —— contributes to the fleet, 166
 —— at Hastings, 202
 —— joint regent (1067), 243, 246
 —— earl of Kent, 423, 431, 433
 —— harries Northumberland, 352, 353
 —— arrested and imprisoned, 355-358
 —— released, 372
 Odo, brother of Henry I. of France, 113, 115
 Odo II., count of Blois, 68, 77
 Oise, river, 68
 Olaf (Tryggvasson), king of Norway, 4
 Olaf (Saint), king of Norway, 8
 Olaf (Kyrre), king of Norway, 363
 Olne, river, 85, 122
 Ordericus Vitalis, 287, 336, 337, 339, 429
 Orkneys, 3, 176
 —— Paul and Erling, earls of, 176
 Osbern the Seneschal, 72, 76, 427
 Osbern, bishop of Salisbury, 401
 Ostmen of Dublin, 52
 Oswulf, earl of Northumbria, 247, 319
 Ouse (Yorkshire), river, 176, 265, 273, 279, 282
 Oxford, 60


 Paula of Maine, 308
 Peterborough, abbey of, 288-295
 —— abbots of, _see_ Brand, Leofric, Therold.
 —— knight service due from, 449
 Peter’s Pence, 404
 Pevensey, 7, 54, 179, 185-187, 226, 244
 Philip I., king of France, 160, 304
 —— succeeds, 126
 —— temporary alliance with Flanders, 307
 —— grants Montreuil to Edgar the Etheling, 326
 —— supports Breton insurgents, 341
 —— supports Robert of Normandy, 347
 —— acquires Vexin, 368
 —— war of 1087, 368, 369
 Poissy, 83
 Pontefract, 278, 279
 Ponthieu, county of, 183
 —— _see_ Enguerrand, Guy, counts of.
 Pontoise, 368
 Pope, Alexander II., 161, 402, 405
 —— Benedict X., 389
 —— Gregory VII., 162, 357, 358, 402-406
 —— Innocent II., 163
 —— Innocent III., 162
 —— Leo IX., 107
 —— Nicholas II., 107
 Porlock (Somerset), 54
 _Precarium_, the, 32, 33
 Private jurisdiction, 35
 —— —— after 1066, 438-443
 Private war, in Normandy, 35


 Raimalast, castle of, 346
 Ralf of Mantes, earl of Hereford, 49, 53
 Ralf III., count of Valois, 368
 Ralf de Wacy, 72, 78
 Ralf de Wader, earl of East Anglia, 272, 329, 330, 333-335, 341-342
 Ramsey, abbey of, 288, 294, 295
 Randolf de Brichessart, 81, 85
 Redemption of land by English, 234-236
 Reginald of Clermont, 113-115
 Remigius (Remi), bishop of Lincoln, 167, 401
 Rennes, counts of, 137
 —— county of, 138
 Rheims, General Council of, 106, 107
 Rhiwallon of Dol, 138, 139
 Rhiwallon, king of Powys, 248
 “Ricardenses,” the, 69, 101
 Riccall (Yorkshire), 176, 179
 Richard I., duke of Normandy, 28, 29, 37, 38, 39, 379
 Richard II., duke of Normandy, 29, 38, 41, 101, 379
 Richard III., duke of Normandy, 64
 Richard of Hugleville, 103
 Richard, son of Count Gilbert of Brionne, 261
 Richard, second son of William I., 260
 Richildis of Hainault, 305, 306
 Richmond, earldom of, 324
 Ripon, church of, 385
 Rippingdale (Lincolnshire), 290
 Robertian House, 25, 27, 29
 Robert, duke of Burgundy, 360
 Robert de Comines, earl of Northumbria, 267, 268, 319
 Robert, count of Eu, 100, 113, 166, 261, 276
 Robert “the Frisian,” count of Flanders, 160, 305-307, 326, 346, 363
 Robert, bishop of Hereford, 401
 Robert of Jumièges, archbishop of Canterbury, 53, 245, 385
 Robert, count of Mortain, 64, 166, 259, 260, 261, 276, 277, 414
 Robert de Mowbray, earl of Northumbria, 353
 Robert d’Oilly, 169
 Robert, count of Paris, 25
 Robert I., duke of Normandy, 34, 37, 63-72, 143, 245, 367
 Robert II. (Curthose), duke of Normandy, 130, 136, 181, 233, 260, 404
 —— joint regent of Normandy (1068), 251
 —— recognised as count of Maine, 314-316
 —— revolt of, 345-349
 —— character of, 349, 350
 —— Scotch expedition of, 350
 —— designated heir of Normandy, 371
 Robert fitz Richard, castellan of York, 265, 268, 269
 Robert, archbishop of Rouen, 70, 75
 Robert de Vieux-Pont, 314
 Robert, the son of Wymarc, 189, 190
 Roche-Mabille, foundation of, 120
 Rochester, 219
 —— church of, suit relating to, 434-436
 —— _see_ Gundulf, bishop of.
 Roger de Beaumont, 166, 181, 251, 264, 299, 348
 Roger de Busli, 441
 Roger, earl of Hereford, 372, 408, 426
 —— revolt of, 328-335
 Roger de Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, 39, 120, 166, 261, 287, 314,
    348, 358, 408, 425, 427-429, 433
 Roger de Toeny, 75
 Rollo, duke of Normandy, 24-27, 30
 Romney, 215, 216
 Rotrou, count of Mortagne, 346
 Rouen, 87, 351, 369
 —— priory of St. Gervase at, 369, 373
 Rudolph of Burgundy, king of West Franks, 26
 Rye, 83


 St. Albans, abbey of, 449
 —— schools of, 398
 St. Aubin, 103, 234
 St. Benet of Holme, abbey of, _see_ Alfwold, abbot.
 —— knight service due from, 449
 St. Davids, visited by William I., 353
 St. James, castle of, 138
 St. Omer, 258
 St. Suzanne, siege of, 359-362, 372
 St. Valery, 166, 183, 184
 St. Wandville, 39, 68
 Saintonge, 88-90, 127
 Salisbury, 277, 285
 —— oath of, 364-366
 —— _see_ Osmund, bishop of.
 Samson, Queen Matilda’s messenger, 347
 Sandwich, 172, 173
 Sarthe, valley of, 134, 312
 “Sawold,” sheriff of Oxford, 231
 Sees, translation of, 391, 392
 Seine, valley of, 25, 112
 Sheriffs, Norman, 422
 —— English, 423
 Shrewsbury, 276, 283
 —— earldom of, 167, 425, 427, 428
 —— _see_ Hugh, Roger, de Montgomery, earls of.
 Sicily, volunteers from, 168
 Sigurd (Jerusalem-farer), king of Norway, 4
 Sillé, castle of, 310-313
 —— _see_ Hugh of.
 Simon de Crepy, count of Valois and the Vexin, 368
 Siward Barn, 372
 Siward, earl of Northumbria, 49, 57, 58, 145, 318, 319
 —— House of, 325
 Sogne Fiord, 176
 Soissons, county of, 100
 Somme, estuary of, 183
 Sorel, castle of, 346
 Southwark, 51, 54, 219
 Southwell (Notts), church of, 385
 Stafford, 252, 276, 278, 285, 388
 Stamford, 191
 Stamfordbridge, battle of, 48, 177-179, 187, 189, 192
 —— saga of, 176
 Stephen, king of England, 163, 219, 249
 Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury, 55, 56, 225, 300
 —— submits at Wallingford, 153, 220
 —— accompanies William to Normandy, 244
 —— deposition of, 389
 Subinfeudation, 446-450
 Sulung, the, 469
 Sussex, devastation of, 188
 —— earldom of, 428
 —— ports of, 53
 Swegen Estrithson, king of Denmark, 160, 253, 255, 270, 271, 290, 291,
    294, 334, 335
 Swegen Forkbeard, king of Denmark, 4, 15, 44, 46, 272
 Swegen, son of Cnut, 46
 Swegen, son of Earl Godwine, 49


 Tactics, 197, 198
 Tadcaster, 177, 191
 Tapestry, the Bayeux, 166, 201, 202
 Taw, river, 270
 Tees, river, 58, 282, 317, 320, 323
 Telham, 199
 Terouenne, 306
 Thegns, 238-240, 447, 448
 Theobald III., count of Blois, 141
 Theodoric, count of Holland, 305
 Thomas I., archbishop of York, 390
 Thorney, abbey of, 288
 Thorold, abbot of Peterborough, 289-291, 295
 Thurcytel de Neufmarché, 72
 Thurstan, abbot of Ely, 300
 Thurstan, abbot of Glastonbury, 399
 Thurstan Goz, revolt of, 78
 —— Richard, son of, 78, 97
 Tillières, 76-78, 117, 123
 Title to English crown, 149-153, 232, 233
 Tochi (Tokig), son of Outi, 169, 238
 Tokig of Wallingford, 348
 Tostig, earl of Northumbria, 9, 57-60, 109, 171-179, 319
 Tours, schools of, 41
 Trade, 53, 65, 109
 Treaty of 1054, 116, 117, 130
 Truce of God, 36, 380
 Tyne, river, 176, 350


 Ulfketil, abbot of Crowland, 290
 Units of assessment, 467-469, 471, 472, 474, 475
 Urse d’Abetot, 333, 423, 424


 Val-es-dunes, battle of, 79, 80, 84, 85, 380
 Valognes, 82, 87, 101
 Valois, House of, 368
 —— _see_ Simon, Ralf, counts of.
 Value of manors in Domesday, 480-482
 Varaville, battle of, 37, 122, 123, 149
 Vermandois, county of, 27
 Vernon, castle of, 82, 86
 Vexin Français, 68, 129, 131, 167
 Vire, estuary of, 83
 Vulgrin, bishop of Le Mans, 167


 Walcher of Lorraine, 351
 —— bishop of Durham, 324
 —— earl of Northumbria, 342, 343
 —— murder of, 352, 416
 Waleran, brother of Guy, count of Ponthieu, 115
 Waleran, count of Meulan, 75
 Wales, 432
 —— expedition into, 353, 354
 Wallingford, 220
 Walter Giffard, 102, 167, 408
 Walter de Lacy, 333
 Walter of Mantes, 129, 131, 135, 368
 Walter Tirel, 170
 Waltham, minster of, 207
 Waltheof, earl of Huntingdon, 60, 231, 261, 295, 302, 345, 414
 —— submits at Barking, 234
 —— accompanies William to Normandy, 244
 —— joins Danish attack on York, 273, 274
 —— submits by the Tees, 282
 —— created earl of Northumbria, 325
 —— disaffection of (1075), 329-332
 —— condemnation and execution, 336-340
 Warwick, 264
 —— earldom of, 167
 Watling Street, 13, 420
 Wearmouth, 321
 Wedmore, treaty of, 25
 Westminster, 157, 251, 287, 364
 —— abbey of, 225, 260, 261
 —— charters relating to, 229, 230
 Wharfe, river, 176, 177
 Wight, Isle of, 54, 172, 356, 366
 Wigod of Wallingford, 169
 William, duke of Aquitaine, 119
 William, count of Arques, 70, 71, 96
 —— revolt of, 101-105
 William Busac, 96
 —— revolt of, 99, 100
 William, count of Eu, 70
 William, count of Evreux, 314
 William of Jumièges, chronicler, 65, 69, 381
 William Malet, 269, 275
 William of Malmesbury, historian, 382
 William de Montgomery, 72
 William, count of Mortain, 97-99
 William de Moulins, 314
 William I. (Longsword), duke of Normandy, 27, 28
 William II., duke of Normandy and king of England, 4, 5, 7, 9, 25, 37,
    40, 48, 56;
   birth of, 63, 64;
   recognised as heir of Normandy, 70, 71;
   minority of, 72-80;
   ward of King Henry I., 73, 74;
   in war of Tillières, 76-80;
   suppresses revolt of 1047, 80-88;
   besieges Brionne, 85, 86;
   supports Henry I. against Geoffrey Martel, 90;
   captures Domfront and Alençon, 91-95;
   banishes William, count of Mortain, 97-99;
   suppresses revolt of William Busac, 99, 100;
   suppresses revolt of William of Arques, 101-105;
   marries Matilda of Flanders, 105-110;
   resists invasion of 1054, 110-117;
   concludes peace with King Henry I., 116, 117;
   founds Breteuil, 117;
   engages in war of Ambrières, 118-120;
   founds Roche-Mabille, 120;
   defeats invasion of 1058, 120-123;
   wins battle of Varaville, 122, 123;
   receives commendation of Herbert II. of Maine, 118, 130;
   invasion and conquest of Maine, 132-135;
   takes possession of Le Mans, 133, 134;
   illness of, 136, 137;
   engages in Breton campaign of 1064, 137-139;
   relief of Dol and siege of Dinan, 139, 140;
   position of, at close of 1064, 140-142;
   first visit to England, 146;
   claim to English throne, 150-152;
   receives oath from Harold, earl of Wessex, 153-157;
   negotiations with foreign powers, 160;
   submits his cause to the pope, 161-163;
   gathers an army, 164, 165, 168;
   and fleet, 165-168;
   demands fulfilment of Harold’s oath, 170;
   receives Earl Tostig, 172;
   preparations for the invasion of England, 180, 181;
   delayed at the Dive estuary, 182, 183;
   at St. Valery, 183, 184;
   voyage to England, 185;
   lands at Pevensey, 185, 186;
   builds castles at Pevensey and Hastings, 187, 188;
   devastations in Sussex, 188;
   receives a message from Harold, 189, 190;
   battle of Hastings, 195-206;
   generalship of, 197, 198;
   moves out of Hastings to the English position, 199;
   details of battle, 200-206;
   causes Harold’s burial on the shore of Hastings, 207;
   takes quarters at Hastings, 211;
   march on London, 215-219;
   burns Southwark, 219, 220;
   crosses Thames at Wallingford, 220;
   receives submission of English leaders, 221, 222;
   receives offer of the crown, 222, 223;
   dealings with “Esegar” the Staller, 224, 225;
   coronation, 225, 226;
   builds Tower of London, 227;
   extent of his authority 1066–7, 230, 231;
   at Barking, 227, 233, 234;
   grants charter to citizens of London, 240, 241;
   visits Normandy, 241, 243-246;
   return, 246;
   suppresses revolt of Exeter, 253-257;
   progress in Cornwall, 259, 260;
   at Westminster for Matilda’s coronation, 260;
   northern campaign of 1068, 262-266;
   receives submission of Malcolm III., 265, 266;
   appoints Robert de Comines earl of Northumbria, 267;
   second visit to York, 269;
   in forest of Dean, 272;
   march on Lindsey, 275, 276;
   at Stafford, 276, 277;
   at Nottingham, 278;
   at Pontefract, 278, 279;
   harrying of Northumbria, 279-281, 286, 287;
   Christmas feast at York, 282;
   march to the Tees and return to York, 282, 283;
   march to Chester, 283-285;
   agreement with Earl Asbiorn, 285;
   campaign of Ely, 297-299;
   relations with Robert the Frisian, 306, 307;
   suppression of Mancel rising, 312, 313;
   campaign of La Flèche, 313, 314;
   concludes peace of Blanchelande, 314-317;
   relations with Malcolm III., 317-323;
   treaty of Abernethy, 323;
   creation of earldom of Richmond, 324;
   dealings with Edgar the Etheling, 325-327;
   relations with, and condemnation of, Earl Waltheof, 336-340;
   engages in Breton war of 1076, 341, 342;
   last phase of reign, its character, 344, 345;
   relations with Robert, 345, 346, 348-350;
   campaign of Gerberoi, 347, 348;
   movements during 1080, 351;
   expedition into Wales, 353, 354;
   arrest of Odo of Bayeux, 355-358;
   death of Queen Matilda, 358, 359;
   campaign of St. Suzanne, 359-361;
   prepares for a Scandinavian invasion, 363, 364;
   takes Oath of Salisbury, 364-366;
   last departure from England, 366;
   campaign of Mantes, 368, 369;
   mortal injury of, 369;
   illness of, 370-373;
   disposition of inheritance, 371;
   release of prisoners, 372;
   death, 373;
   burial, 374, 375;
   ecclesiastical ideas of, 376-378, 381;
   reform of English church, 388-402;
   relations with the Curia, 402, 403;
   administrative changes introduced by,—_see under_ castles, _Commune
      Concilium_, _Curia Regis_, earldoms, fyrd, knight service, private
      jurisdiction, sheriffs, writs;
   orders taking of Domesday Inquest, 457
 William II., king of England, 219, 233, 369, 371
 William fitz Osbern, earl of Hereford, 93, 117, 230, 231, 261, 269,
    287, 328, 414, 425-427, 433, 492
 —— contributes to fleet, 166
 —— regent of England, 243, 246, 415
 —— death, 306
 William Peverel, 451
 William of Poitiers, biographer, 90, 381
 William, archbishop of Rouen, 403, 404
 William de Warenne, 243, 397
 Wimund, commander of Moulins, 105
 Winchelsea, 251
 Winchester, 218, 219, 254, 260, 269, 277, 282, 337, 364, 419
 Witanagemot, 17, 20
 —— nature of, 410-414
 Woodstock (Oxfordshire), 420
 Worcestershire, 333, 426
 Writs, the king’s, 168, 254, 420, 421
 —— early Anglo-Norman, 227-231
 Wulf, son of King Harold, 372
 Wulfnoth, son of Earl Godwine, 212, 372
 Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, 230, 333, 391
 Wulfwig, bishop of Dorchester, 232
 Wyce, valley of, 354


 York, 49, 171, 177, 190, 191, 252, 254, 262-265, 268, 269, 273-275,
    279, 282-285
 —— church of, 335, 385
 —— kingdom of, 7



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Transcriber’s note

There are a number of editorial oversights wherein external and internal
page references are left blank. Where the references could be found,
they have been supplied.

  87.27    on Waltheof’s case below, page [338.]          Supplied.
  116.31   See note, page [112] above.                    Supplied.
  136.31   See the table on page [506]                    Supplied.

The missing page references to De la Borderie’s _Histoire de Bretagne_
on pp. 138 (footnote 89), and 139 (footnote 90) could not be resolved.
Nor could the reference to a prior quotation of William of Malmesbury be
definitely made (p. 414). These are noted in this text as [missing].

The list of illusatrations includes a reference at p. x.13 to the image
of a coin on p. 406, but no image was included in the text.

Footnote 260, on p. 339, had no reference in the text. One has been
added at the most likely point in the narrative, given the context.

Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and
are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the original.

  24.14    the orig[i]nal settlers of Normandy            Inserted.
  26.26    the [enemity] of all his fellow-nobles         Obsolete.
  40.15    the influence of the g[r]eat Cluniac movement  Inserted.
  72.20    the s[ei/ie]ge of Montgomery Castle            Transposed.
  76.13    to see two of Wil[l]iam’s unlucky guardians    Inserted.
  79.17    inflict gratuit[i]ous injury                   Removed.
  81.30    The B[a/e]ssin and Cotentin                    Replaced.
  129.30   which was de[s]cribed in the last chapter      Inserted.
  267.16   appointing a No[r]man baron                    Inserted.
  327.18   in peaceable posses[s]ion                      Inserted.
  338.1    the mo[ton/not] of his imprisonment            Transposed.
  339.7    based his accou[n]t                            Inserted.
  424.21   upon his ag[g]ressive course as sheriff        Inserted.
  441.4    [“]infangenethef” is the right of trying       Inserted.
  441.36   a great baron cert[ia/ai]nly                   Transposed.
  455.1    on a level w[i]th the Norman                   Inserted.
  458.6    for the details of government[.]               Added.
  505.34   Clun[i/y], abbey of, 379                       Replaced.

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