OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Accession of Henry I page 2

Pages: 1 <2> 3

From the day when it was asserted that the church had been consecrated by the chief of the Apostles himself, amid the blaze of celestial light and the hallelujahs of angels, each monarch who in succession swayed the sceptre of England vied with his predecessors in gifts or immunities to this highly favoured abbey. The fishermen of the Thames, in full assurance of St. Peter's promise of prospering them in their calling, paid willingly their tithe of salmon, and continued to do so nearly to the time of the Reformation. Spoorly relates that in 1382 he saw a large fish presented by four fishermen on the high altar. He also adds, that they who offered it might demand for it bread and ale of the cellarer of the abbey, and had a right to sit at the prior's own table.

Such was the church where Matilda, surrounded by the great officers of state, and cheered on her way by the rejoicing Saxons, was conducted to receive the crown matrimonial of England, the inheritance of her race.

Beside the primate was a churchman of a very different character, Roger, Bishop of Sarum, the king's chancellor. The history of his progress under royal favour is strikingly characteristic of the man and the times in which he flourished.

At the period when Henry was fighting under the banner of his brother, William Rufus, with a troop of mercenaries whom he headed, they entered a church near Caen, and requested the priest whom they found there to say a mass as quickly as possible.

This priest was Roger, who promptly complied with their request, and hurried over the service in so rapid a manner that they unanimously declared that it would be impossible to find a priest more suitable for a soldier's chaplain. In this new office, Roger acquitted himself so well, that Henry, on his accession, advanced him to the chancellorship, and to the see of Sarum. His last years afforded a remarkable instance of the versatility of fortune. After munificently expending immense gums on his cathedral at Old Sarum, and upon the rebuilding of Malmesbury Abbey, which noble church still presents so fine a specimen of the Norman style, and seeing two nephews Bishops of Lincoln and Ely, on the accession of Stephen he fell into deep disgrace; and when, in his last illness, he was permitted to retire to Sarum, even his expiring moments were disturbed by plundering foemen, who carried away the remaining gold and jewels he possessed (Malmesbury).

Of the principal nobles of England and Normandy, it is probable that only a few were present. Some were in the Holy Land with Robert; others, dissatisfied at the usurpation of his younger brother, remained in their respective castles, silently preparing to assert the right of the lawful heir to the throne. Amongst those, however, who adhered to Henry, was the famous Roger de Bigod., who had obtained vast possessions both in Norfolk and Suffolk; whilst another devoted friend of the new king was the powerful Earl of Chester, lord of the Welsh marches, and commonly called Hugh Lupus, on account of his turbulent disposition.

The marriage was celebrated on the 12th of November, 1100, and the new queen was crowned amidst the acclamations of the people. Previous to the ceremony Anselm, who wished to leave no room for slanderous reports, and to remove all doubts of the lawfulness of the marriage, mounted a platform before the church door, and explained the question which had been disputed, and the decision of the council, to the assembled people.

The Normans, however, who had raised the opposition to the marriage, and many of whom were secret adherents of Duke Robert}, vented their ill-humour in bitter railleries and jests. They gave Henry the nickname of Godrik, and his queen they called Godiva - names which were Saxon, and were applied to the royal couple in derision. It is related by an old historian that Henry heard all these things, but that he dissembled his anger, and pretended to laugh heartily at the jests.

Soon after his marriage the king commenced proceedings against several of the most vicious of his brother's favourites, whom he despoiled of their ill-gotten possessions, and either expelled them from the country, or threw them into prison. During the time he had been attached to his brother's court, Henry had taken part in the debaucheries which there prevailed; and it is probable that the punishment of his former associates was dictated, not by any regard for the interests of virtue, but rather from a deference to the wishes of the people; while, at the same time, he was enabled to fill the royal coffers with the treasures of the banished lords. Foremost among the proscribed was Ralph Flambard, the minister of Rufus, who had been made Bishop of Durham, and who had amassed large possessions by extortion, and a selling of justice. Flambard was seized and thrown into the Tower, whence he effected his escape, by means of a rope which was conveyed to him by some of his friends in a flagon of wine. Having made his way to the coast, he crossed the Channel, and entered the service of Robert of Normandy.

When Robert at length returned to his dukedom with his bride Sibylla, he was received with acclamation by the inhabitants, and soon expressed the intention of enforcing his claim to the crown of England; but, with his accustomed procrastination, he took no immediate steps to that end, but occupied his time with feasts and tournaments. When at length he was aroused to enter upon the expedition he had planned, he was supported not only by the resident Norman barons, but also by many of those who had settled in England, and who agreed to join their forces to his standard. Among these were the Earl of Surrey, William de Warrenne, Robert de Pontefract, Hugh de Grantmesnil, Robert de Malet, and Robert de Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury.

On the other hand, Henry was strong in the support of the English people, and a party of the Norman nobility. Archbishop Anselm, with other prelates, rendered the king important service, and secured to Henry the support of the Pope. There appears to be little doubt that Anselm was a conscientious man, and that if he adhered to the cause of the usurper, he did so from a sincere desire to establish the liberties of the people, and from a conviction that the rule of Henry, who had pledged himself to promote the welfare of his subjects, was preferable to that of the weak and luxurious Duke of Normandy.

Henry fitted out a fleet for the purpose of intercepting the duke in his voyage across the Channel; but the English sailors, from some cause which has not been entirely explained, deserted from their allegiance, and carried the ships; over to the service of Robert.

There was something in the character of the Duke of Normandy - in his brilliant feats of courage, in his reckless generosity, and careless way of life - which had an, attraction for the minds of sailors; and it is probable, also, that they were influenced by the intrigues of Ralph; Flambard. The desertion was an important service to the duke, and the fleet which had been designed to oppose his landing, served to convey the invading troops to the English shores.

Robert landed with his army at Portsmouth (a.d. 1101), and was immediately joined by many barons and knights of Norman birth; the clergy, however, and the private soldiers remained faithful to the cause of the king. Several days elapsed before the rival forces came within sight of each-other; and in the meanwhile some of the Norman barons-acted as mediators between the two brothers, and succeeded in arranging terms of peace. Robert agreed to resign his claim to the crown of England for a yearly pension of two thousand pounds of silver; and it was decided that the adherents of either side should be pardoned, and that their possessions, confiscated by the king or the duke, should be immediately restored. A clause was also added, to< the effect that whichever of the two brothers might survive the other, should succeed to his title and dominions. The effusion of blood was thus stayed for the moment, and Robert returned with his army to Normandy. (a.d. 1102.)

Finding himself securely in possession of the throne, Henry was disposed to revoke some of the concessions which he had made to Anselm, for the purpose of securing the support of that prelate. The king demanded that he-should do homage for the archbishopric of Canterbury, and Anselm having returned a decided refusal, a dispute arose which lasted over several years. In the first instance, the question was referred to the Pope, Pascal II., who decided that all ecclesiastics should enter the Church without tie-authority of laymen, of however high degree. Henry persisted in maintaining his prerogative, and required Anselm. either to do homage or once more to quit the kingdom. The archbishop remained firm, and the king, who did riot desire an open rupture with the Church, sent three bishops to Rome to negotiate with the Pope. Anselm, at the same time, sent two monks, as messengers of his own. It is stated by Eadmer, the biographer of Anselm, that the Pope had recourse to a strange expedient to evade the difficulty in. which he found himself. He refused to communicate with, the three bishops- in writing, but informed them verbally that he ceded the right of investiture to the king; while-he gave letters to the two monks, in which he supported the opposition of Anselm, and desired him to continue that course of action.

On the return of the messengers to London, an assembly was convened, at which they delivered the report of their journey. The word of the three bishops was accepted by the king in preference to the written testimony produced by the monks; and though the Pope affirmed that the evidence-of the bi-shops was false, and, moreover, excommunicated them as liars, Henry persisted in his line of policy, and invested new bishops with the sees of Hereford and Salisbury. Anselm obtained permission to proceed himself to Rome for the purpose of terminating the dispute. (a.d. 1103.)

The archbishop remained abroad several years, during which negotiations were carried on. Ultimately, a compromise was agreed to, by the terms of which the investiture was to be conferred by the Church, while the bishops and other dignitaries were to do homage to the king for the temporal possessions attached to their benefices.

After the return of Anselm, a number of canons were ^passed by a council of the Church, enforcing upon the clergy the obligation of celibacy. Lanfranc had previously exerted himself to promote this object, though with only partial success; and Anselm now proceeded to enforce the same measures. Those priests who were married were commanded to separate from their wives, whom they were never again to see, except in the presence of witnesses. Any who might refuse compliance were to be excommunicated and deposed from the order.

In the year 1109, Anselm died at the age of seventy-six. He was a man of considerable ability and erudition, the evidences of which may be found in his writing, which are still extant. He exerted himself to establish schools, and to promote the spread of knowledge throughout the country, and the news of his death was received with general regret among the people.

The treaty which had been signed between Henry and Robert in no degree affected the policy of the king, who showed himself as unscrupulous and careless of his plighted faith as had been his brother Rufus. Determined to punish those barons who had supported the Duke of Normandy, and whose power and position rendered their disaffection a matter to be dreaded, Henry took measures calculated to excite them to some overt act of rebellion, which would enable him to proceed against them without the shame of a direct violation of the treaty. The first who became the object of attack was Robert de Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury, who held large possessions as well in Normandy as in England. De Belesme was summoned before the general assembly held in the king's palace, to answer forty-five charges which were brought against him. On appearing before the council, the earl, according to the custom of the time, demanded leave to go and consult with his friends respecting his accusation, and the conduct of his defence. The permission having been granted, the earl immediately quitted the court, took horse, and galloped off to one of his fortified castles.

The king and the council having waited in vain for his answer to the charges, made proclamation of outlawry against him, and declared him a public enemy unless he returned and appeared before the court at its next sitting. Robert de Belesme made no answer to the summons, but prepared energetically for war, and collected large quantities of stores of provisions in his castles of Arundel, Shrewsbury, and Tickehill. Bridgenorth, on the frontier of Wales, was also strongly fortified.

Henry advanced against his rebellious vassal with an army, a large part of which was composed of English troops, who marched with alacrity to punish the proud Norman baron. After having obtained possession of the castle of Arundel, Henry marched against Bridgenorth, where the earl had entrenched himself. For several weeks the king had besieged the town without result, when some of the Norman barons undertook to arrange terms of peace, as they had already done in the case of Robert of Normandy.

Many of the barons waited upon King Henry, and demanded a conference, or parlement, for the purpose of arranging terms of peace. The plain on which the assembly met was bounded by hills, on which were posted a large body of English troops. These, who had been informed of the object of the conference, called out loudly to the king, u Place no faith in them, King Henry; they want to lay a snare for you: we will give thee our assistance, and will follow them to the assault. Make no peace with the traitor until he falls into thy hands." The warning appears to have produced its effect, and no reconciliation took place between the belligerents. The fortress of Bridgenorth at length capitulated, and the king's forces marched through a densely wooded country to attack the earl in his stronghold of Shrewsbury. A short interval elapsed, and then this fortress also was taken, and Earl Robert, who was made a prisoner, was banished from the country, with the forfeiture of the whole of his estates. Other nobles, who had adhered to the cause of Robert of Normandy, were afterwards prosecuted, and met with a similar fate to that of the Earl of Shrewsbury.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 <2> 3

Pictures for Accession of Henry I page 2

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About