Imatges de pÓgina

seven miles of his enemy. The Norman duke, to save the effusion of blood, sent these offers to Harold: “either wholly to resign the kingdom to him, or to try the quarrel with him in single combat.” To this Harold did not agree.

Then the battle joined. The Normans had gotten the worst, if it had not been for a stratagem they invented, which got them the day. In this engagement Harold was killed, and William duke A.D. 1066. .

of Normandy became king of England,

under the name of William the Conqueror.



Ar the time of the conqueror's death, his eldest son Robert, upon some discontent with his father, being absent in France; William, the second son, made use of this juncture, and without attending his father's funeral, hastened to England; where, pursuant to the will of the deceased prince, the nobility, although more inclined to favour Robert, were prevailed with to admit him king; partly by his promises to abate the rigour of the late reign, and restore the laws and liberties which had been then abolished, but chiefly by the credit and solicitations of Lanfranc; for that prelate had formerly a share in his education, and always a great affection for his person. At Winchester he took possession of his father's treasure:* in obedience to whose command, as well as to ingratiate himself with the people, he distributed it among churches and religious houses, and applied it to the redeeming of prisoners, and other acts of

*Which was sixty thousand pounds in silver, beside gold, jewels, and plate. Brompton.


In the mean time Robert returned to Normandy, took possession of that duchy, with great applause and content of his people; and, spited at the indignity done him by his father, and the usurpation of his brother in consequence thereof, prepared a great fleet and army to invade England; nor did there want any occasion to promote his interest, if the slowness, the softness, and credulity of his nature, could have suffered him to make a right improvement of it.

Odo bishop of Baieux, of whom frequent mention is made in the preceding reign, a prelate of incurable ambition, either on account of his age or character being restored to his liberty and possessions in England, grew into envy and discontent, upon seeing Lanfranc preferred before him by the new king in his favour and ministry. He therefore formed a conspiracy with several nobles of Norman birth to depose the king, and sent an invitation to Robert to hasten over. Meantime the conspirators, in order to distract the king's forces, seized on several parts of England at once ; Bristol, Norwich, Leicester, Worcester, Shrewsbury, Bath, and Durham, were secured by several noblemen: Odo himself seized Rochester, reduced the coasts of Kent, and sent messages to Robert to make all possible speed.

The king, alarmed at these many and sudden defections, thought it his best course to begin his defence by securing the good will of the people. He redressed many grievances, eased them of certain oppressive taxes and tributes, gave liberty to

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hunt in his forest, with other marks of indulgence, which, however forced from him by the necessity of the time, he had the skill or fortune so to order as they neither lost their good grace nor effect; for immediately after he raised great forces both by land and sea, marched into Kent, where the chief body of his enemies was in arms, recovered Tunbridge and Pevensey, in the latter of which Odo himself was taken prisoner, and forced to accompany the king to Rochester. This city refusing to surrender at the king's summons, Odo undertook to prevail with the obstinacy of the inhabitants; but being admitted into the town, was there detained, either by a real or seeming force; however, the king, provoked at their stubbornness and fraud, soon compelled them to yield, retook his prisoner, and forcing him for ever to abjure England, sent him into Normandy.

By these actions, performed with such great celerity and success, the preparations of duke Robert were wholly disappointed; himself, by the necessity of his affairs, compelled to a treaty with his brother upon the terms of a small pension, and a mutual promise of succeeding to each other's dominions on failure of issue, forced to resign his pretensions, and return with a shattered fleet to Normandy.

About this time died archbishop Lanfranc; by whose death, the king, loosed from that awe and constraint he was under, soon began to discover those irregularities of his nature, which till then he had suppressed and disguised, falling into those acts of oppression and extortion that have made his name and memory infamous. He kept the see of Canterbury four years vacant, and converted the revenues to his own use, together with those of several other bishopricks and abbeys, and disposed of all church preferments to the highest bidder. Nor were his exactions less upon the laity, from whom he continually extorted exorbitant fines for pretended transgression of certain penal laws, and entertained informers to observe men's actions, and bring him intelligence.

It is here worth observation, that these corrupt proceedings of the prince have, in the opinion of several learned men, given rise to two customs, which are a long time grown to have the force of laws. For, first, the successors of this king continuing the custom of seizing on the accruing rents in the vacancy of sees and abbeys, it grew in process of time to be exacted as a right or acknowledgment to the king as founder; whence the revenues of vacant bishopricks belong at this day to the crown. The second custom had an original not unlike. Several persons, to avoid the persecutions of the king's informiers, and other instru. ments of oppression, withdrew themselves and their effects to foreign countries; upon which the king issued a proclamation, forbidding all men to leave the kingdom without his licence ; from whence, in the judgment of the same authors, the writ ne exeat regno had its beginning.

By these, and the like arbitrary methods, having amassed great treasures, and finding all things quiet at home, he raised a powerful army to invade his brother in Normandy; but upon what ground or pretext, the writers of that age are not very exact; whether it were from a principle frequent among unjust princes, That old oppressions are best justified by new; or, whether having a talent for sudden enterprises, and justly apprehending the resentment of duke Robert, he thought it

the wiser course to prevent injuries, than to revenge them. In this expedition he took several cities and castles from his brother, and would have proceeded farther, if Robert had not desired and obtained the assistance of Philip king of France, who came with an army to his relief. King William, not thinking it safe or prudent to proceed farther against his enemy, supported by so great an ally, yet loth to lose the fruits of his time and valour, fell upon a known andold expedient, which no prince ever practised oftener, or with greater success, and that was, to buy off the French king with a sum of money. This had its effect; for that prince, not able to oppose such powerful arms, immediately withdrew himself and his forces, leaving the two brothers to concert the measures

of a peace.

This was treated and agreed with great advantages on the side of king William ; for he kept all the towns he had taken, obliged his brother to banish Edgar Atheling out of Normandy, and for a farther security brought over with him to England the duke himself to attend him in his expedition against Malcolm king of Scotland, who, during his absence, had invaded the borders. The king, having raised great forces both by sea and land, went in person to repel the inroads of the Scots; but the enterprise was without success; for the greatest part of his fleet was destroyed by a tempest, and his army very much diminished by sickness and famine, which forced him to a peace of little honour; by which, upon the condition of homage from that prince, the king of England agreed to deliver him up those twelve towns (or manors) in England, which Malcolm had held under William the conqueror; together with a pension of twelve thousand marks,

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