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but Valour could make reprisals, as he should show, if ever he regained his liberty.” This being told the king, he sent for the count, let him understand that he had heard of his menaces; then gave him a fine horse, bid him begone immediately, and defied him to do his worst.
It would have been an injury to this prince's memory, to let pass an action, by which he acquired more honour than from any other in his life, and by which it appeared that he was not without some seeds of magnanimity, had they been better cultivated, or not overrun by the number or prevalency of his vices.
I have met with nothing else in this king's reign that deserved to be remembered; for, as to an unsuccessful expedition or two against Wales, either by himself or his generals, they were very inconsiderable both in action and event, nor attended with any circumstances that might render a relation of them of any use to posterity, either for instruction or example.
His death was violent and unexpected, the effect of casualty; although this perhaps is the only misfortune of life to which the person of a prince is generally less subject than that of other men. Being at his beloved exercise of hunting, in the New Forest in Hampshire, a large stag crossed the way before him; the king, hot on his game, cried out in haste to Walter Tyrrel, a knight of his attendants, to shoot; Tyrrel immediately let fly his arrow, which glancing against a tree, struck the king through the heart, who fell dead to the ground without speaking a word. Upon the sur
ceris, nihil pro hac venia tecum paciscar." i. e. By the face of St Luke, if thou shouldst have the fortune to conquer me, I scorn to compound with thee for my release.
prise of this accident, all his attendants, and Tyrrel among the rest, fled different ways; until the fright being a little over, some of them returned, and causing the body to be laid in a collier's cart, for want of other conveniency, conveyed it in a very unbecoming contemptuous manner to Winchester, where it was buried the next day without solemnity; and which is worse, without grief.
I shall conclude the history of this prince's reign, with a description and character of his body and mind, impartially, from the collections I have made; which method I shall observe likewise in all the succeeding reigns.
He was in stature somewhat below the usual size, and big-bellied; but he was well and strongly knit. His hair was yellow or sandy; his face red, which got him the name of Rufus; his forehead flat; his eyes were spotted, and appeared of different colours; he was apt to stutter in speaking, especially when he was angry; he was vigorous and active, and very hardy to endure fatigues, which he owed to a good constitution of health, and the frequent exercise of hunting; in his dress he affected gaiety and expense, which having been first introduced by this prince into his court and kingdom, grew, in succeeding reigns, an intolerable grievance. He also first brought in among us the luxury and profusion of great tables. There was in him, as in all other men, a mixture of virtues and vices, and that in a pretty equal degree; only the misfortune was, that the latter, although not more numerous, were yet much more prevalent than the former. For, being entirely a man of pleasure, this made him sacrifice all his good qualities, and gave him too many occasions of producing his ill ones.
He had one very singular virtue for a prince, which was that of being true
But, his pe
to his word and promise: he was of undoubted
He was a man of sound natural sense, as well as of wit and humour, upon occasion. There were several tenets in the Romish church he could not digest; particularly that of the saints' intercese sion; and living in an age overrun with superstition, he went so far into the other extreme, as to be censured for an atheist. The day before his death, a monk relating a terrible dream, which seemed to forebode him some misfortune, the king being told the matter, turned it into a jest: said, the man was a monk, and dreamt like a monk, for lucre sake; and therefore commanded Fitzhamon to give him a hundred shillings, that he might not complain he had dreamt to no purpose.
His vices appear to have been rather derived from the temper of his body, than any original depravity of his mind; for, being of a sanguine complexion, wholly bent upon his pleasures, and prodigal in his nature, he became engaged in great expenses. To supply these, the people were perpetually oppressed with illegal taxes and exactions; but that sort of avarice which arises from prodigality and vice, as it is always needy, so it is much more ravenous and violent than the other; which put the king and his evil instruments
(among whom Ralph, bishop of Durham, is of special infamy) upon those pernicious methods of gratifying his extravagancies by all manner of oppression; whereof some are already mentioned, and others are too foul to relate.
He is generally taxed by writers for discovering a contempt of religion in his common discourse and behaviour; which I take to have risen from the same fountain, being a point of art, and a known expedient for men who cannot quit their immoralities, at least to banish all reflection that may disturb them in the enjoyment, which must be done either by not thinking of religion at all, or, if it will obtrude, by putting it out of counte
Yet there is one instance that might show him to have some sense of religion as well as justice. When two monks were outvying each other in canting * the price of an abbey, he observed a third at some distance, who said never a word; the king demanded why he would not offer ; the monk said, he was poor, and besides, would give nothing if he were ever so rich; the king replied, Then you are the fittest person to have it and immediately gave it him.
But this is perhaps with reason enough assigned more to caprice than conscience; for he was under the
every humour and passion that possessed him for the present; which made him obstinate in his resolves, and unsteady in the prosecution.
He had one vice or folly that seemed rooted in his mind, and, of all others, most unbefitting a prince : this was a proud disdainful manner, both in his words and gesture : and having already
An Irish phrase for selling or buying by auction. It is somewhat remarkable that so severe a critic should have used such a word in historical composition.
lost the love of his subjects by his avarice and oppression, this finished the work, by bringing him into contempt and hatred among his servants, so that few among the worst of princes have had the luck to be so illbeloved, or so little lamented.
He never married, having an invincible abhorrence for the state, although not for the sex.
He died in the thirteenth year of his reign, the forty-third of his age, and of Christ 1100, August 2.
His works of piety were few, but in buildings he was very expensive, exceeding any king of England before or since; among which Westminster-hall, Windsor-castle, the tower of London, and the whole city of Carlisle, remain lasting monuments of his magnificence.
THE REIGN OF HENRY THE FIRST.
This prince was the younger son of William the conqueror, and bred to more learning than was usual in that age, or to his rank, which got him the surname of Beauclerk; the reputation whereof, together with his being born in England, and born son of a king, although of little weight in themselves, did very much strengthen his pretensions with the people. Besides he had the same advantage of his brother Robert's absence, which had proved before so successful to Rufus ; whose treasures he likewise seized on immediately at his death, after the same manner, and for the same end, as Rufus did those of his father the