Skip to main content

Full text of "William the Conqueror and the rule of the Normans"

See other formats

Heroes of the Nations 

Series of Biographical Studies presenting the 
lives and work of certain representative histori- 
cal 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 ideals. 

12, Illustrated, cloth, each 
Half Leather, gilt top, each. 
No. 33 and following Nos. 

Half Leather, gilt top, . 



. net $1.35 

(By mail, $1.50) 

. net $1.60 

(By mail, $1.75) 


foeroes of tbe nations 














TEbe Imtcfeerbocher press ^ 

1908 /> 





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 imper- 
fect thing. Accordingly, I have reserved the 
last three chapters of the book for some examina- 
tion 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 mod- 
ern editions. The writs and charters issued over 
England by William I. are only to be found scat- 
tered among a great number of independent 



publications; and the necessity of forming a collec- 
tion 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 cent- 
ury in England and Normandy I hope that my 
references may be a sufficient acknowledgment. 

P. M. S. 

August 27, 1908. 



INTRODUCTION . . ' '.H ' ... I 



RESULTS ....... 63 












vi Contents 








DOMESDAY BOOK ...... 457 

INDEX ....... 503 



From Rymer's Fcedera (published 1 704). 


Reproduced by permission of Levy et ses 
Fils, Paris. 


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). 


From Rymer's Fcedera (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). 



From Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of 
Antiquaries of London (published 1819). 

viii Illustrations 



From Vetusta Monumenta of the Society of 
Antiquaries of London (published 1819). 



Reproduced from Vetusta Monumenta of the 
Society of Antiquaries of London (published 



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


Reproduced from Traill's Social England. 


Reproduced from a photograph by Pitcher, 
Gloucester, England. 

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR . . . jr/,.' ' <wl' 3O 


The original of this picture, now lost, was 
painted by an artist when the tomb of the 
Conqueror was opened in 1 5 2 2 . A copy ex- 
ecuted in 1708, is preserved in the sacristy 
of St Etienne's Church at Caen ; the present 
illustration is from a photograph of that 

Illustrations ix 


Reproduced from Liber Vitas of \New Minster 
and Hyde Abbey, Winchester. Edited by 
W. de Gray Birch. 


From A Short Account of Saint Gregory's 
Minster, Kirkdale, by Rev. F. W. Powell, 


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


From Victoria History of the Counties of 

MENT ....... 448 

Reproduced from Pal&ographical Society's 
Facsimiles of Manuscripts and Inscriptions. 



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



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

x Illustrations 





1 PENNY OF HAROLD II. . . . . . 2IO 






1 From the Catalogue of English Coins in the British Museum, 

Anglo-Saxon Series. 
From the Trait6 de Numismatique du Moyen Age, by Arthur 

Engel and Raymond Serrure. 
* From the Handbook of the Coins of Great Britain and 

Ireland in British Museum. 

Illustrations xi 








COUNTIES ...... 64 

MAPOF YORKSHIRE IN 1066-1087 26 ^ 


MAP OF ENGLAND IN 1087 .... 374 

MAP OF EARLDOMS, MAY, 1068 . . . 412 

MAP OF EARLDOMS, JANUARY, 1075 . . . 414 




CINCE 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 Scandi- 
navia which fills the ninth ancTtenth centuries. 
Alike in their constructive and destructive work, 
in the foundation of new communities on con- 
quered 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 fresri 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 archaicJa^Land social 
custom longer than any other people of Germanic 

2 William the Conqueror 

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 associa- 
tion for itself, was a question determined by the 
pre-existing facts of history and geography. 

For the geographical extent of Scandinavian 
enterprise is as remarkable as its political in- 
fluence. 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 

Introduction 3 

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 Scandina- 
vian 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 Scan- 
dinavian 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 popula- 
tion into which it had intruded itself. It was 
only in lands such as Iceland, where an autoch- 
thonous population did not exist, or where it was 
reduced to utter subjugation at the outset, as in 
the Orkneys, that the Scandinavian element per- 
manently impressed its character upon the politi- 
cal 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 thTlm^cne~prTh^e"ele^verith_ century 
onarard. 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 

4 William the Conqueror 

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 defi- 
nitely compelled Scandinavia to relapse into iso- 
lation and comparative political insignificance. 

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 

Introduction 5 

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 permitteof~the success 6T William 
of "Normandy, as it gave occasion of conquest to 
Cnut of Denmark before him, and the ill govern- 
ance 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 im- 
mediate 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 

6 William the Conqueror 

to the brink of ruin by that portion of the Northern 
host which had not founded a permanent settle- 
ment 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 appro- 
priated 1 ; a district which included London and 
the shires west of Buckinghamshire, Northamp- 
tonshire, Leicestershire, and Derbyshire. For 
the first half of the tenth century, the main in- 
terest of English history centres round the rela- 
tions 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. ^Guth- 
rum, the leader with whom Alfred had fought 
at Edington, founded in East Anglia and the 
eastern midlands a short-lived kingdom which 

1 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 cor- 
responds 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. 

Introduction 7 

had been reconquered by Edward the Elder before 
his death in or about 924^X0 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 remem- 
bered 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. 1 

[y Beyond the Humber the Northmen had founded 
the kingdom of York, which maintained its inde- 
pendent 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 

See below, Chapter XII. 

8 William the Conqueror 

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 pe- 
culiar importance of this Northumbrian kingdom 
lies in the persistent particularism which it con- 
tinued 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 re- 
sented 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 whomso- 
ever 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 repre- 
sents the sons of Ethelred the Unready as offering 
Northumbria to Olaf of Norway as the price of 

Introduction 9 

his assistance in their struggle with Cnut; it came 
to the front in 1065, when the northern men re- 
belled against their southern earl, Tostig God- 
winsson; 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 

A 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 Scan- 
dinavian 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 amal- 
gamation was very far from resulting in a homo- 
geneous compound. The creation of the "Dane- 
law" in its legal sense that is, a district whose 

io William the Conqueror 

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 individual- 
ity all the more remarkable. The differences of 
customary practice which distinguished the east 
from the west and south were a permanent wit- 
ness 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 Leicester- 
shire, 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 rudi- 
mentary, 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 ajDej-sojiaJjiiatter; its 
stability had not universally acquired~thcrt tenur- 
ial guarantee which was the rule in the Prankish 
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 evi- 
dence which proves this proves also that in num- 
berless 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 

12 William the Conqueror 

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 con- 
trol over free men and their land might have been 
indefinitely postponed. Had Alfred's successors 
been able to effect the incorporation of the Dane- 
law with the kingdom of Wessex, the incipient 
manorialism of the south might have been extended 

Introduction 13 

to the east and a rough uniformity of custom in 
this way secured, giving scope for the gradual 
development of feudalism according to the con- 
tinental model. But the actual course of history 
decided that the native kingdom of Wessex should 
survive, assert its superiority over the Scandina- 
vian portion of the land, and yet be unable to 
achieve the conformity of its alien subiectslxTTEs 
own social organisation. Such at least istRe 
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 evi- 
dently unfamiliar to them, and to which they 
could not easily apply the descriptive formula 
which so admirably suited the social arrange- 
ments of the south. They had no previous 
knowledge of wide tracts of land whose inhabi- 
tants 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 

14 William the Conqueror 

county. In twenty years the Normans, by con- 
scious alterations, had done more to unify the 
social custom of England than had been 'accom- 
plished by the gradual processes of internal devel- 
opment 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 Chron- 
icle, 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 

Introduction 15 

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 im- 
portance of the individual earl. In the mean- 
time, 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. 1 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 sim- 
plicity 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; 

> Chadwick, Studies in Anglo-Saxon Institutions, chapter v. 

1 6 William the Conqueror 

but throughout the reign of Edward the Con- 
fessor 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 dig- 
nity 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. 1 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, 2 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 

1 Chadwick, op. cit. 

1 Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, 167. 

Introduction 17 

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 
God wine 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. 1 That this was a serious evil 
cannot possibly be disputed. The political su- 
premacy 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 

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

1 8 William the Conqueror 

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 prerequi- 
sites 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 compo- 
sition of the Witanagemot a haphazard collec- 
tion 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 Witanage- 
mot 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 

Introduction 19 


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 weak- 
ness 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 

20 William the Conqueror 

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 asso- 
ciation with St. Dunstan gave him a specious 
advantage in the eyes of posterity. 1 Nothing in 
Edgar's recorded actions entitles him to be re- 
garded 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. miscon- 
ducted 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 Un- 
ready," 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 

1 See Plummer, Life and Times of Alfred the Great, 67. 

Introduction 21 

acts i and futile expedients which mark the exer- 
cise 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 un- 
attractive 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 what- 
ever 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 

1 "Unready" here represents the A. S. unrcedig "devoid 
of counsel " and is applied to Ethelred because of his inde- 
pe'ndence of the advice of the witan. 

22 William the Conqueror 

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 ren- 
dered 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 rectify- 
ing the prevailing disorganisation and was shortly 
to perish through the physical sterility of its 
members. Nor were these political evils counter- 
balanced by excellence in other fields of human 
activity. Great movements were afoot in the 
rest of Europe. The Normans were revolution- 
ising 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 

Introduction 23 

no one had completed the task which he left 


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 Nor- 
man 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 

24 William the Conqueror 

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. Nor- 
wegian 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. 1 His followers were 
no doubt recruited from the whole of the Scan- 
dinavian north, but it is probable that the great 
mass of the orignal 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 agree- 
ment known in history as the treaty of Claire sur 
Epte is the beginning of Norman history. Great 
obscurity overhangs the terms of this settle- 
ment, and we cannot define with any approach 
to certainty the extent of territory ceded by it to 
the Northmen. 2 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 

E. H. R., vii., 209. * See Eckel, Charles le Simple. 

Introduction 25 

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, how- 
ever, 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 resist- 
ance 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 
ah episode in a struggle which had been carried 
on for nearly half a century between the Caro- 
lingian 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 imme- 
diate 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 

26 William the Conqueror 

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 per- 
formed 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 referred. 

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 over- 
thrown 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, sur- 
named the Great, count of Paris, but he pre- 
ferred 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 

Introduction 2 7 

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 friend- 
ship ; 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 gener- 
ally assumed, and the assumption is reasonable 
enough, that Athelstan feared the assistance which 

28 William the Conqueror 

the Normans might give to the men of the Dane- 
law, 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, 1 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 con- 
sistent 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 Rouen. 

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 

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

Introduction 29 

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 Caro- 
lingian friendship and attached himself to the 
Robertian house. He commended himself to 
Hugh the Great, and thus began a friendship be- 
tween the lorpls of Paris and their Norman neigh- 
bours 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 

30 William the Conqueror 

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 pro- 
duced 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 

Introduction 3 1 

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 con- 
fined 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 6bscure 
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 in- 
cidental information afforded by legal docu- 
ments or by the casual expressions of later 

32 William the Conqueror 

chroniclers. 1 But the main features of Norman 
feudalism at this time are fairly certain, and suf- 
ficient 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. 1 

In the first place, vassalage had become local- 
ised 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 de- 
pendent 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 

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. 

Introduction 33 

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 Prankish 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 neg- 
lected by thegn and free man, anxious to partici- 
pate 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 

34 William the Conqueror 

cannot doubt that the distinction was very real 
and of deep importance in connection with the 
other divergent features of the Anglo-Saxon social 

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, pro- 
duced their corollaries in the rights of wardship, 
marriage, and relief, which a lord would enjoy 
upon occasion with reference to his vassals. 1 
Women were capable of inheriting land and Nor- 
man 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 mony pay- 
ment 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 appear- 
ance in England immediately after the Conquest is 
sufficient proof of its previous recognition by the 

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

Introduction 35 

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 es- 
sential 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 judg- 
ment 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 chapter. 

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 

36 William the Conqueror 

was necessary before a campaign could be opened 
and its conduct was subject to his general super- 
vision. 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 en- 
forced 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. 1 It undoubtedly com- 
prised 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 

1 See on this matter F. Lot, Fidcles ou Vassaux. 

Introduction 37 

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 possi- 
ble, 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-preserva- 
tion 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 

38 William the Conqueror 

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 sov- 
ereignty. The external limitation of his author- 
ity 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 Nor- 
mandy 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., 

Introduction 39 

had been granted on appanages to junior mem- 
bers of the reigning family. One striking excep- 
tion to the territorial significance of the Norman 
baronage existed in the great fief of Belleme, 
which lay on the border between Normandy 
and Maine, and was regarded as dependent on the 
French crown. 1 The lords of Belleme 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 terri- 
torial influence to lead an opposition to the 
ducal power. The greater abbeys of Normandy, 
Fecamp, St. Wandrille, Jumieges, 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 

1 See Histoire General de France, Les Premiers Capetiens, 
p. 90; also Soehnee, Catalogue des Actes d'Henri ! No. 38. 

40 William the Conqueror 

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 extraor- 
dinarily high. Over the independent ecclesi- 
astical jurisdiction which had arisen in the duchy 
under the influence of the geat Cluniac move- 
ment 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 assert- 
ing 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, pro- 
duced a powerful indirect result upon the ecclesias- 
tical 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 

Introduction 41 

revived in Normandy, and this revival was due 
i almost entirely to the importation of foreign 
I 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 cos- 
mopolitan culture which underlay the develop- 
ment of medieval scholasticism. Of these schools, 
the most famous was undoubtedly that of Bee, 
the rise of which well illustrates the character 
of the revival of learning in Normandy. 1 The 
abbey of Bee 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 dis- 
tinguished Bee 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 specula- 
tive theologian Lanfranc is said to display small 
original ability, but no one was better fitted than 
he by nature to superintend the early develop- 
ment of an institution to which we may conven- 
iently, if inaccurately, apply the designation of a 

See Bohmer's Kirche und Stoat in England und in der 
Normandie, 20. 

42 William the Conqueror 

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 Bee, 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 theolo- 
gian, 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, ap- 
peared to be the foremost theologian in Normandy. 
But wider duties than the charge of the school 
of Bee 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 administra- 
tive capacity. The career of Anselm of Aosta, 
who succeeded Lanfranc in the priorate of Bee, 
raises issues which lie beyond the life and reign 

Introduction 43 

| 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 Bee reaches its 
height, and the gentle character and deep philo- 
9 sophical insight of the monk from Aosta supply a 
pleasant contrast to the practical and at times 
unscrupulous activity of his predecessor at Bee 
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 pre- 
served in the north, and the first descent of the 
Vikings upon England in 98 1 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 

44 William the Conqueror 

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 politic- 
ally united to the Scandinavian world. 

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 strict- 
ness 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. 1 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 

1 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 

Introduction 45 

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 1 and his son Hakon of 
Worcestershire, or to new men, such as God wine 
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 be- 
come 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 sub- 
mission of the king of Sweden. In all this Cnut 
was behaving as the heir of Harold Blue-tooth 

1 See the lives of Earls Eric and Eglaf in the notes to the 
Crawford Charters, No. xii. 

46 William the Conqueror 

and Swegen Forkbeard, rather than as the suc- 
cessor 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 pro- 
vincial 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. 1 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 Hartha- 

1 P. and M., i., 20. 

Introduction 47 

cnut, a son of Cnut and Emma of Normandy, and 
Harold, the third surviving brother, secured Eng- 
land 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 Guild ford. Thereupon 
God wine'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. 1 The traitorous earl, indeed, 

1 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. 

48 William the Conqueror 

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 con- 
nection 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. 1 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 

1 Heimskringla, trans. Morris and Magnusson, vol. iii., 
p. 10. 

Introduction 49 

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 I066, 1 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 God- 
wine; 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 ter- 
ritorial 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, Leofrid 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 

i Op. dt., p. 181. 


50 William the Conqueror 

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 un- 
expected 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 in- 
fluence. 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 enter- 
tainment 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. 1 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 

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

Introduction 51 

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 indepen- 
dence, 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 Witanage- 
mot 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 post- 
ponement 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 

52 William the Conqueror 

was able to decree summary banishment for the 
earl and all the family. The earl fled to Flanders, 
Harold to the Ostmen of Dublin, 1 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 predilec- 
tion 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 Dor- 

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

Introduction 53 

Chester 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 in- 
fluence 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 gen- 
eral 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 

54 William the Conqueror 

England were not strong enough permanently 
to assume the direction of the commonwealth, 
and in 1052 Godwine and his sons made a tri- 
umphant 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 plun- 
dered 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 seri- 
ous opposition the exiles entered the Thames, and 
sailed up the river as far as London Bridge ; God- 
wine 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 

Introduction 55 

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 re- 
tain 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 country.- 

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 metro- 
politan 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 vio- 
lation of law and decency, for the exiled arch- 
bishop had been deposed by no clerical tribunal, 
and Stigand did not improve his position by 
continuing to hold the see of Winchester in plural- 
ity with that of Canterbury. The Curia refused* 
to recognise him as metropolitan, and in 1058 
Stigand aggravated his guilt by accepting the 

56 William the Conqueror 

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 mis- 
take 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 consecra- 
ted 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 govern- 
ment. 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 

Introduction 57 

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 com- 
prising Essex, Hertford, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, 
and Sussex; Gyrth, a third brother, held East 
Anglia; to which was added the midland shire 
of Oxford. 1 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 Con- 
fessor'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, al- 
though in the Norman traditions of the twelfth 
century the former is represented as the real 

1 See the map of the earldoms in 1066 given by Freeman, 
Norman Conquest, ii. 

58 William the Conqueror 

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 ex- 
periment 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 con- 
tinued 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 North- 
umbrian 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, Si ward's successor, 
the Northumbrians for the first time were ex- 
pected to obey a south-country stranger, and 
hence there was no qualification to the hatred 
which Tostig caused by his imitation of his prede- 
cessor'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 sub- 
mitted for ten years to the spasmodic tyranny 

Introduction 59 

of a stranger. But at last, in 1064, Tostig en- 
trapped and murdered two leading thegns of the 
north, named Gamel the son of Orm, and Ulf; 
and at Christmas time in the same year Gos- 
patric, the last male descendant of the ancient 
earls of Bernicia, was slain at the king's court 
in Tostig's interest. 1 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 confirma- 
tion of its revolutionary acts from the king. 

At the moment of the outbreak Tostig was 
absent in Hampshire, hunting with King Edward. 
Events had now passed quite beyond his control; 
f 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 

1 In the next generation there was a tradition that Gos- 
patric had been murdered by Queen Edith on her brother's 
behalf, Florence of Worcester, 1065. 

60 William the Conqueror 

Domesday. 1 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 out- 
lawed, Morcar was recognised as earl of Northum- 
bria, and Waltheof, the son of Si ward, who might 
consider himself aggrieved by this alienation of 
his father's earldom, was portioned off with the 
midland shires of Northampton, Huntington, Bed- 
ford, and Cambridge. Tostig himself, to the 
king's great regret, took ship for Flanders, and 
spent the winter at St. Omer. 

1 Victoria History of Northamptonshire, i., 262-3. 

Introduction 61 

The above course of events is clear, and at- 
tested 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 North- 
umbria? 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 power- 
ful 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 eleva- 

62 William the Conqueror 

tion 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 

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 disorganisa- 
tion on which we have already commented the 
independence of the great earls, the importance 
of the executive, the fatuity of the royal coun- 
sellors, 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. 

Penny of Edward the Confessor 



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 
Alencon 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 


64 William the Conqueror 

is thoroughly in keeping with the sexual irregu- 
larity 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. 1 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. 

The reign of Robert I., by some caprice of 
historical nomenclature surnamed the Devil, 
was a brilliant period of Norman history. Suc- 
ceeding 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 

1 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 con- 
siderable part in the succeeding history. 


ind the border Counties 

Abbeys ,4- 




Mortemer j AMIENS 


Llllebonne _-+ S . Wandrllle 

-Rouen f 

\ V EX\ 

' B _ 
\/ ' Geiberoi ] 


N O R M A N ) V E X ' 


tv ' 



Bee + 


* Bernai 

Evreux ' 


~- s ' \ y 

/Chaumont \ C V f 

\ $ -^-^ 

iiwu.-v X _ Pontoise .^/ ,' "2- r- J 
7 --- \ S~^t r I / -A N ^ 


Meulan,, V ' V C^ '"> 


S.Kvruel ' 

"\ M antes / 
\ ^.X^Poissy/ 


Verneuil o S" 

<y .- 

8eez Moitagne 


v V ^ -N r i \ v 

Neufcliatel ') \ 7 X \__ *^ 1 

""*. s-^ \ o- ^.. i i 

^-^T I ^ *J y 

Alencnn V^? Kaimalast \ a L O I S / 

Bellenie " N , 

^x,._ . r^ I 

Duke William's Minority 65 

performed very effectively ; we may perhaps meas- 
ure 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 1035. 

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 Eng- 
land on behalf of the banished sons of Ethelred. 
The marriage of Robert's aunt, Emma, first to 
Ethelred and then to Cnut, 1 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 Jumieges, writing within 
fifty years of the event, has given a circumstantial 

1 Ralf Glaber, iv., 6. 

66 William the Conqueror 

account of Robert's warlike preparations. Ac- 
cording 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, aggres- 
sive counts, was here as elsewhere a formidable 
rival to Normandy, and in face of its com- 
petition 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 


Duke William's Minority 67 

the two states. 1 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 influ- 
ence steadily gained the upper hand in Brit- 
tany 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 terri- 
torial group far exceeded the royal possessions 

1 De la Borderie, Histoire de Bretagne, iii., 8-12. 

68 William the Conqueror 

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 asso- 
ciated 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. 1 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 Francais, 
the district between the Epte and the Oise. 2 

1 Round, Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, 526. 

2 This grant rests solely on the authority of Ordericus 

Duke William's Minority 69 

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 an- 
archy, 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 addi- 
tional 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 reign- 
ing family. They are collectively described 
by William of Jumieges 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 

Vitalis, but it is accepted by Flach, Les origines de I'ancienne 
France, 528-530. 

70 William the Conqueror 

intended heir. Duke Robert himself had before 
his accession held the county of the Hiesmois. Of 
the illegitimate sons of Richard I., Robert, arch- 
bishop 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 sus- 
pected revolt against him. 

Such was the general condition of the Norman 
state when Robert, in the winter of 1034, medi- 
tating a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, held a 
council at Fecamp to decide who should be his 
successor in case of misadventure, and brought 
with him in that capacity his seven-year-old son 
William. 1 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 

1 The meeting place of this council is only recorded by 
William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, ii., 285. 

Duke William's Minority 71 

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 disquali- 
fication. Nicholas, the illegitimate son of Richard 
III., would have been a possible claimant, but 
Duke Robert had taken the precaution of com- 
pelling him, child as he was, to become a monk, 
and he was now safely bestowed in the ducal 
monastery of Fe'camp. 1 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 illegit- 
imate, and the former was a churchman. Mem- 
bers of the older line, descending from Richard 
L, 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 2 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 Fe'camp 
was the recognition of William by the Normans 
as their future duke. 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, iii., 431. 

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

72 William the Conqueror 

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, 1 with whom were associated Count Gilbert 
of Brionne, the ancestor of the mighty house of 
Clare, 2 Osbern the seneschal of Normandy, and 
a certain Thorold or Thurcytel de Neufmarche, 
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 seige of Montgomery Castle itself. The 
assassins of Thurcytel de Neufmarche are not 
recorded by name, and a certain amount of con- 
fusion hangs over the end of Count Gilbert of 
Brionne; but William of Jumieges, a good author- 
ity, 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 

Ordericus, ii., 369. Tutorem sui, Ducis. 
* Gesta Regum, ii., 285. 

Duke William's Minority 73 

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 char- 
acter of its greater fiefs. Its chances of inter- 
fering 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, 

74 William the Conqueror 

in describing the arrangements made at Fecamp, 
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 1 ; and Henry of Huntingdon inciden- 
tally 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 con- 
sider it probable that William, on his father's 
death, became the feudal ward of his suzerain, 2 
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 govern- 
ment. 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 

1 Gesta Regum, ii., 285. "Normannia fiscus regalis erat." 
Henry of Huntingdon, 189. 

2 This is the opinion of Luchaire, Institutions monar- 
chiques, ii., 17- 

Duke William's Minority 75 

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. 1 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 em- 
ployment 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 2 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 

1 William of Jumieges, vii., 3. 

2 Round, Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, 
No. 37. 

76 William the Conqueror 

festivals of the year. Among the witnesses 
we find Counts Waleran of Meulan, Enguerrand 
of Ponthieu, and Gilbert of" Brionne; the arch- 
bishop of Dol, as well as his brother metropolitan 
of Rouen; Osbern the seneschal, and four abbots, 
including the head of the house of Fecamp, 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 Wiliam's unlucky guardians actually, 
in attendance on their lord. It may also be noted 
that at least one other charter l 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 Jumieges 
alone among our authorities. One of the strongest 
border fortresses of Normandy was the castle of 
Tillieres, 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 

Round, Calendar, No. 251. 

Duke William's Minority 77 

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 Tillieres as a check 
upon his acquisitive neighbour. 1 On Odo's death 
in 10 1 8 the county of Dreux passed to his overlord 
the king of France, but Tillieres 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 Tillieres 
alone. At some unspecified period in William's 
minority we find King Henry declaring that, if 
William wished to retain his friendship, Tillieres 
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. Tillieres was thereupon besieged by a 
mixed force of Frenchmen and Normans, and 
William, possibly appearing in person, ordered 

1 Luchaire, Institutions monarchiques, ii., 233, 

78 William the Conqueror 

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 after- 
wards he recrossed the border, passed across the 
Hiesmois, burned Argentan, and then returning 
rebuilt the castle of Tillieres 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 Jumieges 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 

Duke William's Minority 79 

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 con- 
sidered to mark the rupture of the old friendship 
between the Capetian dynasty and the house of 
Rollo. i But the whole subject is obscure. The 
king's action, in particular, is not readily explica- 
ble 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 gratuitious injury on his ward by 
sacking his towns and burning his castles. The 
affair of Tillieres 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 sur- 
render 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 

'This is asserted very strongly by Freeman, ii.. 201, and 
is implied by Luchaire, Les Premieres Ca-petiens, 163. 

8o William the Conqueror 

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 be- 
ginning 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 


Duke William's Minority 81 

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- 
t 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 Evrecin 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 
Bassin and Cotentin revolted under their re- 
spective viscounts, Randolf de Brichessart and 

82 William the Conqueror 

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 nomi- 
nal head of the revolt was William's cousin Guy, 
son of Reginald, count of the Burgundian Palati- 
nate 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 

Duke William's Minority 83 

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 gar- 
ments as came to hand William sprang on horse- 
back, 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. 1 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 

1 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 tradition. 

84 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 

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 dis- 
tinctly secondary to that of his overlord, although 
the latter had the ill luck to be unhorsed twice 

1 The topography of the battle is derived from Wace. 

Duke William's Minority 85 

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 per- 
ished 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 

86 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 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, 2 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 3 of 

1 William of Poitiers, 81. 

2 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 state- 
ment that the resistance of Guy of Burgundy was protracted 
for three years. 

3 William of Poitiers, 81 : " Bella domestica apud nos in 
longum sopivit." 

Duke William's Minority 87 

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. 1 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 unaggra- 
vated 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 
^s a traitor to his lord. 2 Guy of Burgundy seems 
to have become completely discredited by his 

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

* 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. 

88 William the Conqueror 

conduct in the war, life in Normandy became un- 
bearable 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 in- 
direct 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 be- 
ginning 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 indefi- 
nitely 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. 

Duke William's Minority 89 

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 Poitqu 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 

QO William the Conqueror 

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 over- 
thrown by the very means which they took to 
preserve it; a count of Anjou in possession of 
Saintonge and Touraine could be a more danger- 
ous 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. 1 

When William, archdeacon of Lisieux, the Con- 
queror'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. 2 
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 protege, 
took his advice on all military matters, and 
remonstrated with him affectionately on his too 

' ' Vicissitudinem post haec ipse Regi fide studiosissima 

a William of Poitiers, 82. 

Duke William's Minority 91 

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. 1 
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 sub- 
jugation 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. 
t 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 Alenc.on, each command- 
ing a river valley and a corresponding passage 
from the south into Normandy. Domfront formed 
part of the great border fief of Bellme, and at 

1 William of Poitiers, 82. 

92 William the Conqueror 

this time it was included in the county of Maine, 
over which, as we shall see later, Geoffrey Martel 
was exercising rights of suzerainty. Alengon 
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 Dom- 
front, leaving Alencon to be retaken afterwards. 1 
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 

1 William of Poitiers, 87. 

Duke William's Minority 93 

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 neigh- 
bouring 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 

94 William the Conqueror 

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 
ignominy." 1 

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 Alengon 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 Alengon 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." 2 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 

1 William of Poitiers, 88. 

2 William of Jumieges, vii., 18. 

Duke William's Minority 95 

among its defenders. 1 With the hasty submission 
of the castle which followed William was free to 
give his whole attention to the reduction of Dom- 
front, and on his return he found the garrison 
already demoralised by the news of what had hap- 
pened at Alengon, and by the ineffective departure 
of Geoffrey Martel. They made an honourable 
surrender and Domfront became a Norman pos- 
session, 2 the first point gained in the struggle 
which was not to end until a count of Anjou 
united the thrones of Normandy, Maine, and 

> William of Jumieges, vii., 18. The duke's oath is given by 
Wace : Roman de Rou, 9468. 
3 William of Poitiers, 89. 

Denier of Geoffrey Martel 



BETWEEN the first Angevin war and the out- 
break 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 Nor- 
man state. It was by no means an unimportant 
time; it included one external event of great im- 
portance, 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 in- 
creases, 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 

9 6 

Rebellion and Invasion 97 

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 suc- 
cess 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 honour- 
ably.' '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 there- 
fore, 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 

98 William the Conqueror 

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." * 

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 

William of Jumieges, vii., 19. 

Rebellion and Invasion 99 

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 Eng- 
land 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 dan- 
gerous 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 leader- 
ship 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 

ioo William the Conqueror 

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, sur- 
named 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 Nor- 
mandy 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. l 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. 2 

1 William of Jumieges, vii., 20. 

2 The visit of William to England in 1051 will be considered 

Rebellion and Invasion 101 

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 " Riear- 
denses," 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 de- 
signs 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 
this own troops, but the precaution proved to be 
quite futile, for the count soon won over the garri- 
son, 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 

below, Chapter IV., in its bearing upon the general question of 
the English succession. 

102 William the Conqueror 

when the news of what was happening at Arques 
was brought to him. l 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 pre- 
venting 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 coun- 
selled 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 under- 
stand 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 him- 

1 William of Poitiers, 92. 

Rebellion and Invasion 103 

self 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, i for no less a person than King Henry 
of France was advancing to the relief of the gar- 
rison. 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 out- 
set 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 be- 
fore 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 

1 This is definitely asserted by William of Malmesbury. 

104 William the Conqueror 

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. Not- 
withstanding 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. 1 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 glee- 
fully describes the ignominious manner of their 
exit from the castle. 2 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 

See on this episode, Round, Feudal England, 382-385. 
'Page 95. 

Rebellion and Invasion 105 

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 Mou- 
lins had been betrayed to the king by Wimund, 
its commander, and had received a royal garrison 
under Guy-Geoffrey, brother of the duke of Aqui- 
taine. 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 Belleme. 
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. 1 

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 

1 William of Jumieges, vii., 7. 

io6 William the Conqueror 

Council of Rheims had solemnly forbidden Count 
Baldwin to give his daughter to William of Nor- 
mandy, and had simultaneously inhibited William 
from receiving her. 1 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 cap- 
tivity with William's defiance of the papal cen- 
sure has not escaped the notice of historians. 2 
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 

1 Labbb Concilia, xi., 1412. 

2 For example, Freeman, N. C., iii., 92. 

Rebellion and Invasion 107 

he pronounced- against his erring nephews was 
probably occasioned as much by the political 
grievances of his family as by righteous indigna- 
tion 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 Pa via, at this moment 
prior of Bee, will be more fittingly considered 
elsewhere, but his opposition to William's mar- 
riage 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 Bee should be harried, and that Lanfranc him- 
self should instantly depart from Normandy. A 
chance meeting between the duke and the prior 
led to a reconciliation, and Lanfranc was there- 
upon 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 dispen- 
sation, accompanied by an injunction that William 
and his wife should each build and endow a 
monastery by way of penance for their dis- 
obedience; and the reasons for this long delay are 

io8 William the Conqueror 

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 alle- 
giance 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, * 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 prac- 
tical 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 

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

Rebellion and Invasion 109 

of Flanders were already developing the wealth 
and commercial influence which in the next gen- 
eration were to give them the lead in the move- 
ment 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 un- 
folded itself, the part he chose to take in the strife 
of parties across the Channel became a matter of 
increasing concern for English statesmen. " Bald- 
win'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 recog- 
nised 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, l 
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 

1 Vita Eadwardi (R.S.), 404. 

no William the Conqueror 

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 re- 
garded 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 contem- 
porary 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 

Rebellion and Invasion m 

occasion is good evidence of the current opinion 
as to the strength of Normandy under its mas- 
terful duke. In the war which followed, the 
territorial principles which found their fullest ex- 
pression 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. What- 

ii2 William the Conqueror 

ever 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. 1 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 di- 
rected 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 field. 

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 ar- 
mies, and accordingly the royal host mustered in 
two divisions, one assembling in the Beauvoisis 
to ravage the Pays de Caux, the other assem- 
bling at Mantes, and directed at the territory of 

1 Page 97. On this question there is a conflict of evidence 
William of Jumieges , whose authority is only second to that 
of William of Poitiers , definitely asserts Geoffrey's partici- 
pation in the campaign. See Halphen , Conte 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 im- 
plicitly in regard to the detailed history of this period. 

Rebellion and Invasion 113 

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 com- 
mand 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 re- 
lated to the actual conduct of the war. On his 
part William formed a scheme of defence cor- 
responding 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 de- 
fence 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 land- 
owner 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 

ii4 William the Conqueror 

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 ig- 
nored the local force opposed to themselves in the 
belief, we are told, that all the knights of Nor- 
mandy were accompanying the duke. But the 
count of Eu and his fellow-officers were deliber- 
ately reserving their blow until the whole of their 
army had drawn together, and the French met lit- 
tle opposition until they had come to the town of 
Mortemer, which they occupied and used as their 
headquarters while they ravaged the neighbour- 
hood 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 con- 
fusion. In the dim light of the wintry dawn the 
panic-struck Frenchmen instinctively made for 

Rebellion and Invasion 115 

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 ex- 
ception of such men of high rank as were worth 
reserving for their ransoms. Among these last 
was Count Guy of Ponthieu, whose brother Wal- 
eran perished in the struggle, and who was him- 
self 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 bio- 
grapher, 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 

n6 William the Conqueror 

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 un- 
lucky 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. l 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 him- 
self at the expense of the one great vassal who 
had neglected to obey the summons to his army. 2 
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 stipu- 
lation ; 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 

i William of Poitiers, 99, * See note, page above. 

Rebellion and Invasion 117 

of Alenc,on. The peace of 1054 was little more 
than a suspension of hostilities, each party mis- 
trusting 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 acci- 
dentally to become a name of note in the municipal 
history of England. Over against Tillieres, the 
border post which King Henry had taken from 
Normandy in the stormy times of William's mi- 
nority, the duke now founded the castle of Bre- 
teuil, and entrusted it to William fitz Osbern, his 
companion in the war of Domfront. 1 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. 2 
Another castle built at this time was definitely 

1 William of Jumieges, vii., 25. 

2 See The Laws of Breteuil, by Miss M. Bateson, Eng. Hist. 
Rev., xx. 

n8 William the Conqueror 

intended to mark the reopening of hostilities 
against the count of Anjou. At Ambrieres, 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 com- 
mand one of the chief lines of entry from Nor- 
mandy 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'etat 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 Nor- 
man 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, fol- 
lowed 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 Am- 
brieres 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 

Rebellion and Invasion 119 

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 Ambrieres. Geoffrey of May- 
enne, whose fief lay along the river Mayenne 
between Ambrieres and Anjou, thereupon went to 
his lord and explained to him that if Ambrieres 
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 Am- 
brieres, 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 Ambrieres, having 
as ally his stepson William, duke of Aqui- 
taine, and Eon, count of Penthievre, the uncle 
of the reigning duke of Brittany. With William 
still in the neighbourhood and likely to return at 

120 William the Conqueror 

any moment, it was no time for a leisurely invest- 
ment, 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 re- 
treat. 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 him- 
self, kept him in Normandy until he consented to 
do homage to his captor. 1 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 Belleme, 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. 
n 1058 came the third and last invasion of Nor- 
mandy 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 

1 William of Poitiers, 99, 100. 

Rebellion and Invasion 121 

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 circum- 
stances and crushing in its results than the day- 
break 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 pre- 
vjbusly, 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 1 ; and this being the case it was best for 

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 

122 William the Conqueror 

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 Hies- 
mois 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 Vara- 
ville 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 l ; 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 

defending the frontier post of Chateauneuf-en-Thimerais in 
this campaign ^ 

1 William of Poitiers, 101. Wace gives topographical 

Rebellion and Invasion 123 

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 cen- 
tury 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 Til- 
lieres, the long-disputed key of the Arve valley. 1 
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 ^ 

1 William of Jumieges, vii., 28. The battle of Varaville 
led to the king's retreat, but a sporadic war lasted till 1060. 

124 William the Conqueror 

definitely baffled in all his successive schemes for 
the reduction of Normandy. With our know- 
ledge 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 per- 
sistency 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 dispro- 
portion 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 studi- 
ously refrained from meeting him in battle, all 
make us inclined to agree with William's panegy- 
rical biographer as he contemptuously dismisses 
his overlord from the field of Varaville. And yet 
the wonder is that the king should have main- 
tained 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 suc- 
cessor of Charlemagne. The Norman wars of 

It is probable that Norman chroniclers have attached more 
importance to the battle than it really possessed. 

Rebellion and Invasion 125 

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 Nor- 
mandy and France; neither side aims at the sub- 
jugation of the other, but each watches for such 
advantages as chance or the shifting feudal com- 
binations 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. 

Denier of Henry I. of France 



BY a curious synchronism both King Henry of 
France and Count Geoffrey Martel died in 
the course of the year 1060; and, with the disap- 
pearance of his two chief enemies of the older 
generation, the way was clear for William to at- 
tempt 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 


The Conquest of Maine 127 

designated as his successor another Geoffrey, nick- 
named "le Barbu," the elder son of his sister Her- 
mengarde by Geoffrey count of the Gatinais. ! 
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 Gati- 
nais 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. 2 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 

1 See Halphen, ComU d' Anjou, p. 133. 

2 The history of Maine at this period has recently been dis- 
cussed by Flach, Les origines de I'ancienne France, vol. iii., 
P- 543-9- 

128 William the Conqueror 

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 ex- 
amples 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 Belleme, whose great fief lay on the 
border between Maine and Normandy. This con- 
nection 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 Belleme, half inde- 
pendent and altogether unruly, was quite as likely 
to work against its overlord as in his favour. In 
fact, it was largely through the Belleme bishops of 
Le Mans that Angevin power came to be estab- 
lished 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 

The Conquest of Maine 129 

it was through his false step that Geoffrey first 
secured a definite legal position in Mancel politics. 
The counts of Maine themselves are rather 
shadowy people, but it is necessary to get a clear 
idea of their mutual relationships. Count Her- 
bert, 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 Frangais. 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 bishop- 
ric 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 
decribed in the last chapter William of Normandy 
was really fighting against Geoffrey Martel in his 

130 William the Conqueror 

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 con- 
cluded with King Henry after Mortemer by which 
William was to be secured in all the conquests 
which he might make from Geoffrey of Anjou. 

On the latter's death in 1060 Norman influence 
rapidly gained the upper hand in Maine. 1 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, 

1 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 seq. 

The Conquest of Maine 131 

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 Francais, 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 as- 
sembled before its march down the Seine valley. 
Even across the Channel the interests of his house 
clashed with those of William. Walter was him- 
self the nephew of Edward the Confessor, and 

132 William the Conqueror 

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 consan- 
guinity. 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 an- 
ticipates 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. Claim- 
ing 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 cas- 
tles of its hostile baronage unreduced behind him. 

The Conquest of Maine 133 

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 Wil- 
liam wore down the resistance of a land bristling 
with fortified posts proves by how much his general- 
ship was in advance of the leisurely, aimless stra- 
tegy 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 in- 
terest of these operations lies in the curiously 
close parallel which they present to the events 
which followed the battle of Hastings. In Eng- 
land, as in Maine, it xvas 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 condi- 
tions 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 

134 William the Conqueror 

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 suc- 
cess of this plan in the valleys of the Sarthe and 
Mayenne was a chief reason why it was adopted 
in the valley of the Thames. 

At Le Mans, as afterwards at London, William, 
when submission had become necessary, was 
received with every appearance of joy by the cit- 
izens; 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 pre- 
cincts of the cathedral of Le Mans is the Mancel 
equivalent of the Tower of London. And, as after- 
wards in England, events showed that the obe- 
dience 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 con- 
quests 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 

The Conquest of Maine 135 

William's immediate rule. And to this must be 
added that the conquest of Maine was far less per- 
manen t 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 be- 
longed 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 

136 William the Conqueror 

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 some- 
what 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 l ; but their claims 
for the present were ignored, and William him- 
self adopted the title of count of Maine. 

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 

1 See the table on page . 

The Breton War 137 

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. 1 

It was probably within a year of the settlement 
of Maine that William engaged in the last war un- 
dertaken 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, Wil- 
liam's cousin and guardian, had been succeeded 
by his son Conan, who like his father was con- 
tinually struggling to secure for his line the suze- 
rainty of the whole of Brittany as against the rival 
house of the counts of Nantes, a struggle which, 
tinder 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, 

1 Round. Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, 
No. 937. 

138 William the Conqueror 

took up a more friendly attitude towards Nor- 
mandy than that adopted by the counts of Rennes. 
However this may be, Count Conan appears in the 
following story as representing Breton indepen- 
dence 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 in- 
vasion 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 penin- 
sula 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 immedi- 
ate lord on behalf of the duke of Normandy. 1 In- 
stead of invading Normandy as he had threatened, 
Conan was driven to besiege Dol, and it was 

1 Rhiwallon was brother of Junquene', the archbishop of 
Dol, whose presence at the Norman court during William's 
minority has been noted above. De la Borderie, iii., p. 

The Breton War 139 

William's first object in the campaign to relieve 
his adherent there. 

What gives exceptional interest to the some- 
what 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. 1 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 rescu- 
ing 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 aban- 
doned 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 
fiy a Norman or a Breton army. Possibly it may 
have been the remonstrances of Rhiwallon which 

1 William of Poitiers (109-1 12) 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 in- 
tended to enforce Norman suzerainty over Brittany, and the 
rising of Rhiwallon of Dol probably gave William his op- 
portunity. De la Boiderie, Histoire de Bretagne, iii., p. 

140 William the Conqueror 

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 him- 
self 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, 1 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, 

1 The canons of Chartres celebrated his obit on December 
i ith, a fact which discounts the story in William of Jumieges 
that Conan was poisoned by an adherent of William. If 
William had wished to remove Conan the latter would cer- 
tainly have died before William had sailed for England. 

The Breton War 141 

no single feudatory north of the Loire could for a 
moment be placed in comparison with him. An- 
jou 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 Theo- 
bald 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 it- 
self hostile, but the racial division between Bre- 
tagne 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 formi- 
dable in the hands of a ruler of far less power than 
the future conqueror of England. Never before 

142 William the Conqueror 

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 

Denier of Conan II. of Brittany 



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 expe- 
dition of Robert of Normandy in 1034, and in Ed- 
ward the Confessor it gave England a king who 
was half a Norman in blood, and whose ideas of 
government were derived from the political con- 
ditions 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 

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 un- 
known quantities in the problem: the date at 
which it was generally recognised that Edward 
I the Confessor would leave no direct heir to the 


144 William the Conqueror 

English throne, and the king's own subsequent in- 
tentions 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 consan- 
guinity 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 cer- 
tainly allow for the passage of a reasonable period 
of time before we can feel certain that the poli- 
ticians 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 ulti- 
mate childlessness of Edward the Confessor was 
known to be inevitable. 1 

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 inheri- 
tance to his mother's family. But even this con- 
clusion is not beyond question. Edward on his 

1 The scheme of policy which Green (Conquest of England, 
522-524, ed. 1883) founded in relation to their marriage 
rests upon this assumption. 

Problem of the English Succession 145 

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 recog- 
nition as king was mainly the work of Earl God- 
wine 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 asso- 
ciates; 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 1 
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 

146 William the Conqueror 

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 im- 
mediate difference to the political situation in 

Problem of the English Succession 147 

general nor to the existing relations between Nor- 
mandy and England. The succession of his son 
Harold to the earldom of Wessex provokes no 
comment on the part of the contemporary chroni- 
clers; 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 un- 
official 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 de- 
signs 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 de- 
cisive factor in the choice of his successor, nor 
have we any record that Harold opposed the can- 
didate 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 

148 William the Conqueror 

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, l and, although there was 
something about his end which was rather myste- 
rious, there is nothing to suggest that it was ac- 
celerated 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 

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, reach- 
ing as far as Rome, but also including Normandy 
and North France generally, and we are told that 
he made arrangements for receiving help from 

Poem in Worcester Chronicle, 1057. 

Problem of the English Succession 149 

certain French powers if he should need it at any 
time. * 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 suc- 
ceeding 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 Europe. 

The first point which deserves discussion is the 
nature of the title to the English crown. " Hered- 
itary" 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 in- 
volved in the act of election, and the body which 

1 Vita Eadwardi Confessoris (R. S.). 4i- 

150 William the Conqueror 

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 ac- 
cepted 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. 
fThe crown would naturally pass to the most 
(popular kinsman of the late ruler, and the ques- 
tion 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 for- 
mer 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, how- 
ever, was the undoubted kinship between William 

Problem of the English Succession 151 

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 tjjat 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 indepen- 
dently, 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 
tflrone 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 gov- 
ernment, 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 com- 
mon ancestor with the dead king. Lastly, we 

152 William the Conqueror 

should remember that the fact which under 
modern conditions would outweigh all other con- 
siderations, the fact that William was a foreigner, 
was less important in the eleventh century than 
at any later time. It was certainly a disadvan- 
tage, but one which was shared in a less degree by 
both William's competitors : if he was a pure Nor- 
man, 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 
V 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. 1 It 
is, however, probable that, so far from the elective 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1042 : "All the people chose Edward 
and received him for King, as it belonged to him by right 
of birth." 

Problem of the English Succession 153 

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 " recog^ 
nition" 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. 1 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 fur- 
ther than other Teutonic peoples in the develop- 
ment 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: j 
William claimed the throne by hereditary right \f 
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 

1 Chadwick, Studies in Anglo-Saxon Institutions, Excursus 
iv.,P- 355- 


iS4 William the Conqueror 

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 unin- 
telligible 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, hap- 
pening, 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 

Problem of the English Succession 155 

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 accom- 
panied him on the Breton expedition which was 
described in the last chapter; but before his 
departure he placed himself under some obli- 
gation 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 daugh- 
ters. In other words, Harold undertook to recog- 
nise 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 doubt- 
less 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 

156 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 

William on his part had everything to gain 
by causing Harold to enter into such an engage- 
ment. 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 

1 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 (i) to be William's representa- 
tive (vicarius) at Edward's court; (2) to work for William's 
acceptance as king upon Edward's death; (3) in the mean- 
time 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 daugh- 
ters. 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. 

Problem of the English Succession 157 

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 sub- 
sequent 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 dis- 
tinct 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 pos- 
sess 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. 1 

1 Vita Edwardi Confessoris (R. S.), 432. 

158 William the Conqueror 

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 forth- 
with, 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 Ed- 
ward 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 God- 
wine 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 

Problem of the English Succession 159 

exempt. The Norman Conquest was an awful 
catastrophe; but at least it saved England from >N 
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 Eng- 
land 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 Eng- 
land a military force sufficient to meet all pos- 
sible invaders on equal terms. Harold had neither 
of these safeguards, and his oath to William had 
given to the most powerful section of his oppo- 
nents an intelligible ground on which to base their 
quarrel. Seldom in any country has a new 

160 William the Conqueror 

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 en- 
terprise, we can see that he brought them at 
least into a general attitude of friendly neutrality. 
We are told that the Emperor Henry IV. prom- 
ised the unqualified support of Germany if it 
should be needed, 1 and also that Swegen Estrith- 
son 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 Wil- 
liam's history is more remarkable than the way 
iin 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 be- 
fore 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 forma- 
tion of Flanders into an aggressive anti-Norman 
state under Robert the Frisian would have in- 
creased William's difficulties a thousandfold if 

1 William of Poitiers, 123. 

Problem of the English Succession 161 

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 under- 
taken 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 
v^puld 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." 1 

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 

1 William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regunt, ii., 299. 

162 . William the Conqueror 

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. 1 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, involv- 
ing 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 Hilde- 
brand 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. 2 Hildebrand added that he had 

1 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 

3 Monumenta Gregoriana. 

Problem of the English Succession 163 

not been disappointed; and in fact the attraction 
of the great island of the west within the in- 
fluence 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 con- 
vened 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 ac- 
quitted 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 

1 64 William the Conqueror 

against him. 1 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 some- 
thing 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, 

Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 8. 

Problem of the English Succession 165 

nor need we believe that the Normans themselves 
mistrusted their reputation. And although Wil- 
liam's contemporary biographer, anxious to dis- 
play the magnanimity of his hero, has represented 
the latter's subjects as viewing the enterprise 
with dismay, 1 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 Lille- 
bonne 2 to discuss the proposed invasion of Eng- 
land. 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 prob- 
able 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 ap- 
peared impossible of fulfilment; and, indeed, the 

1 William of Poitiers, 124. 

2 William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum. 

166 William the Conqueror 

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 Chan- 
nel 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 assem- 
bled 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 pre- 
sented by Wace. 1 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 

1 The list followed here is that printed by Giles as an ap- 
pendix to the Brevis Relatio. Scriptures, p. 21. 

Problem of the English Succession 167 

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 Fecamp 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 sig- 
nificant that we can recognise in this brief account 
just those men who received the greatest spoils 
f the conquered land. Among these few names 
the future earldoms of Kent, Shrewsbury, Here- 
ford, Chester, Buckingham, Warwick, and Leices- 
ter are represented. Doubtless the rest of the 
Norman nobility in one way or another con- 
tributed 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 sup- 

1 68 William the Conqueror 

port among his relatives and personal friends. 
How far this statement would hold good in 
r-elation 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. 1 And this composite char- 
acter 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 be- 
tween Englishmen and Normans, but between 
Englishmen and Frenchmen. England fell, not 
before any province, however powerful, of the 

i Guy of Amiens, 34: " Appulus et Caluber, Siculus quibus 
jacula fervet." 

Problem of the English Succession 169 

French kingdom, but, in effect, before the whole of 
French-speaking Europe, and, by her fall, she her- 
self became part of that whole. For nearly a hun- 
dred 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" * in this connection. Socially there was 
little to distinguish a knight or noble from Brit- 
tany 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 Nor- 
mans themselves the Frenchmen varied indefi- 
nitely 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 

1 Kingsley, Hereward the Wake, ed. 1889, p. 368. 


170 William the Conqueror 

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 Eng- 
land 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 North- 
amptonshire, 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 Lille- 
bonne there is reason to believe that . messages 
were passing between William and Harold con- 
cerning the fulfilment of the fateful oath. It 
is fairly certain that William demanded the sur- 
render 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 

Problem of the English Succession 171 

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 v 
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 suc- 
ceeded 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, 1 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 unmis- 
takable 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, 2 a fact which is 

1 This was Freeman's final view. N. C., iii., 625. 

2 Florence of Worcester, 1066. 

172 William the Conqueror 

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 con- 
tributed largely to persuade the Norman nobility 
to undertake the enterprise, 1 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 pro- 
visions, 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 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii.,i2o. 

Problem of the English Succession 1 73 

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 Mor- 
car, 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. 1 

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. 2 
A mere adventurer, with no foreign aid of any 
consequence and no local support in England, 
Tostig could still spread devastation with impu- 
nity along half the English coast. The story 

1 Chronicles of Abingdon, Peterborough, and Worcester, 1066. 

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

174 William the Conqueror 

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 expedi- 
tion 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 excel- 
lent 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 w r as 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 

Problem of the English Succession 175 

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 tem- 
porary 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. 1 
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 

1 See Introduction, above, page 48. 

176 William the Conqueror 

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 Shet- 
lands, where he was joined by Paul and Erling, 
the two joint earls, and by a large reinforcement 
of the islanders. 1 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 Scar- 
borough 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 

1 Heimskringla, page 165. 

Problem of the English Succession 177 

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 * 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 Wharf e, he found and inspected the 

1 Simeon of Durham, 1066. 

178 William the Conqueror 

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 Stamford- 
bridge 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 

"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." 1 

1 This episode forms the last entry in the Abingdon ver- 
sion of the Chronicle, and it is described in a northern 

Problem of the English Succession 179 

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 cen- 
turies 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 Har- 
drada fell at Stamfordbridge on Monday, William 
of Normandy landed at Pevensey on Thursday. 

Penny of Harold Hardrada 



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 enter- 
prise 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 relig- 
ious 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 


Battle of Hastings 181 

which they gave or confirmed land, each to his 
favoured monastery, "when Duke William was 
setting out across the sea." It was fully real- 
ised that the enterprise might end in utter dis-* 
aster; the prudent abbot of Marmoutier, for 
instance, in case of accidents, secured from Rob- 
ert, the heir of Normandy, at his father's re- 
quest, a confirmation of all the grants which 
the latter had made to the house during his 
reign. 1 

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 inter- 
regnum. 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 

Before the close of August the fleet was ready 

1 Round, Calendar of Documents preserved in France, 
No. 1713. 

1 82 William the Conqueror 

at last, and lay at the mouth of the Dive ready 
to set sail at any moment. 1 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 re- 
mained 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 

1 William of Poitiers, 122. 

Battle of Hastings 183 

trembling when they saw a body of soldiers ; * 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. 2 The strain of 
suspense was now beginning to tell upon the 

"The common soldiers, as frequently happens, began 

1 W.P., 123. " Turmas militum cernens, nonexhorrescens." 

2 Guy of Amiens, ed. Giles, 58. 

1 84 William the Conqueror 

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." 1 

It was clearly necessary to do something to re- 
lieve 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. 2 

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 

William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, ii., 300. 
2 William of Poitiers, 125. 

Battle of Hastings 185 

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 un- 
impeded 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 pros- 
pects of his enterprise seemed golden in the 
morning light, and he spoke words of encourage- 
ment 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. 1 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 

1 William of Poitiers, 126. 


1 86 William the Conqueror 

an appropriate chance, for the archangel was 
highly honoured in the Norman land. 

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 Eng- 
land, had called out the Jyrd, 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 incon- 
venience 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. 1 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 cus- 
tomary period of service without anything hap- 
pening, 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 Wil- 
liam's landing, Harold had gathered the whole 

1 Abingdon Chronicle, 1066. 

Battle of Hastings 187 

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 fugi- 
tive from Sussex arrived to tell that William 
of Normandy had landed, and that the south lay 
at his mercy. 

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, 1 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. 2 At Hastings, there- 
fore, 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 

1 Guy of Amiens: " Diruta quae fuerant dudum castella re- 
formas; Ponis custodes ut tueantur ea." 

2 W. P.: " Normanni previa munitione Penevesellum, 
altera Hastingas occupavere." 

i88 William the Conqueror 

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 headquar- 
ters ; for it couldjeasily 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 devasta- 
tion, and there is no reason to suppose that William 
undertook a deliberate harrying of Sussex in order 
to provoke Harold to a general engagement. l 

1 See on this point Round, Feudal England, 150-152. 

Battle of Hastings 189 

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 Wil- 
liam cannot have ignored the possibility that it 
might be a Norwegian host which would ulti- 
mately 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. 1 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 Stam- 
fordbridge 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, 

1 William of Poitiers, 128. 

i go William the Conqueror 

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 1 
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 Wil- 
liam'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 patri- 
otism 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 

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

Battle of Hastings 191 

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. 1 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. 2 
Perhaps these two stories are not quite incom- 
patible 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 land- 
ing 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 Tad- 
caster, 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 

> See the paraphrase of this passage in the Roman de 
Ron, Freeman, N. C., iii., 417. 

3 Guy of Amiens, p. 3 1 : " Ex Anglis unus, latitans sub rupe 
marina Cemit ut effusas innumeras acies. Scandere currit 
equum; festinat dicere regi." 


192 William the Conqueror 

of the north was entrusted to Marleswegen, the 
sheriff of Lincolnshire, 1 an Englishman who re- 
mains 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 nth, 2 a fortnight after the 
battle of Stamfordbridge, Harold set out from Lon- 
don on his last march towards the Sussex downs. 

1 Gaimar, VEstoire des Engles, R. S., i., p. 222. Gaimar 
wrote in the twelfth century, but he followed a lost copy 
of the A.-S. chronicle. 

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

Battle of Hastings 193 

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 Nornian 
armies cannot be answered with any degree of 
accuracy. It may be argued with much plausi- 
bility that the wisest course for Harold would have 
been to let William work his will upon the un- 
fortunate inhabitants of Sussex, trusting to time 
and the national feeling likely to be aroused by 
the ravages of an invader to bring an overwhelm- 
ing 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 general- 
ship 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 

i94 William the Conqueror 

another great victory so soon after Stamford- 
bridge 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." 1 
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 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1066: " He com him togenes at thoere 
haran apuldran." 

Battle of Hastings 195 

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 horse- 
men, had been careful to offer battle on a site in 
which the cavalry arm. would be placed by the 
ground at a natural disadvantage. 1 

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 

1 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 text- 
ual 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 evi- 
dence 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 

196 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 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 bat- 
tle 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, 2 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 

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

2 W. P., 133. " Cuncti pedites consistere densius con- 
globati." For the arrangement of the English army on the 
hill see Baring, E. H. R., xx., 65. 

Battle of Hastings 197 

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. 1 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 

1 It is probable that the expressions in certain later au- 
thorities (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. 

198 William the Conqueror 

won. 1 We should be committing a grave error 
if we were to suppose that the Norman army 
possessed that mobility and capacity for con- 
certed action among its several divisions which 
belonged to the forces led by Turenne or Marl- 
: borough. Feudal battles were determined more 
! by the event of simple collisions of large masses 
of men than by their manoeuvres 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 
I 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 

1 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. 

Battle of Hastings 199 

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. 1 
In the early morning of the i4th of Oc- 
tober 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. 2 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 incon- 
siderable portion of his army, and were unprovided 
with defensive harness. To these inferior troops 
succeeded infantry of a higher class, protected 

1 This point is brought out strongly by Oman, History 
of the Art of War. 

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

200 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 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 Eon of Penthievre, forming the left wing, and 
the French volunteers the right. 2 In the centre 
of the whole line of advance, the Norman coun- 
terpart of the English standard, there was borne 
the consecrated banner which William had re- 
ceived from the pope. 3 

So quickly had the march from Hastings been 
made that the actual fighting was opened at about 
nine in the morning 4 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 

W. P., 132. 

2 Guy of Amiens: " Laevam Galli, dextram petiere Brit- 
anni. Dux cum Normannis dimicat in medio." 

W. P.. 132. 

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

Battle of Hastings 201 

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 con- 
fusion spread rapidly, and the English, seizing 
their advantage, sallied forth and drove the 
entire Norman line before them in headlong flight 
down the hill. 1 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. 2 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 depres- 

1 Guy of Amiens. W. P., 133: "Cedit fere cuncta Ducis 

2 " Fugientibus occurrit et obstitit, verberans aut minans 
hasta." W. P., 134. 

202 William the Conqueror 

sion in the ground situated somewhere between 
the base of the hill and the duke's post. Accord- 
ing 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. 1 Between 
the duke and his brother, the flight was checked, 
and then the knights, eager to avenge their dis- 
grace, rallied, turned, and cut off their pursuers 
from their comrades on the hill, making a whole- 
sale slaughter of them. 2 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 

1 Bayeux tapestry scene: "Hie Odo episcopus, baculum 
tenens, confortat pueros." 
* W. P., 134. 

Battle of Hastings 203 

is represented as the life and soul of the attack, 
"more often calling to his mf tn mmp nn t.Vmn 
bidding them pdimre" 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 not- 
withstanding his exertions it is evident that the 
English were more than holding their own, 1 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 sur- 
rounded the disordered mob of their pursuers 

1 " Animadvertentes Normanni . . . non absque nimio 
sui incommode hostem tantum simul resistentem superari 
posse." W. P., 135. 

204 William the Conqueror 

the latter were ridden down and cut to pieces 
by scores. 1 

It is, of course, impossible to estimate the 
actual extent of the loss which the English sus- 
tained 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 im- 
pression 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 circum- 
stance and detail. But from the writers who lived 
nearest to the time we may infer with tolerable 
certainty that the manoeuvre 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 strata- 
gem was used twice 2 ; 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, 

1 " Normanni repente regirati equis interceptos et inclusos 
undique mactaverunt." W. P., 135. 

a "Bis eo dolo simili eventu usi." William of Poitiers, 

Battle of Hastings 205 

and in complete independence of each other. 
However this may be, the effect of the manoeuvre 
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, 1 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 resist- 
ance of the English line seems to have been de- 
livered from some point to the south-east of the 
hill. 2 The battle had already continued for seven 
or eight hours, and twilight was beginning to fall, 3 
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 
found 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 

1 " Languent Angli, et quasi reatum ipso defectu confitentes, 
vindictum patiuntur." W. P., 135. 

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

J " Jam inclinato die." W. P., 137. Crepusculi tempore. 
Florence of Worcester, 1066. 

206 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 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 unequivo- 
cal 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 

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

Battle of Hastings 207 

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. 1 With char- 
acteristic irony William remarked that it was 
but fitting that Harold in death should be ap- 
pointed 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 2 ; but the authority on which 

- Guy of Amiens. 

2 See the Waltham tract, De Inventione Sancti Crucis, ed. 

208 William the Conqueror 

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 

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, 

Stubbs. William of Malmesbury was evidently acquainted 
with this legend. 

Battle of Hastings 209 

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 common- 
place, 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 

210 William the Conqueror 

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 remodel- 
ling 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 feel- 
ing, 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. 

Penny of Harold II. 


A> o t . - ff 6 




CATASTROPHIC as the battle of Hastings 
V_> 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 advan- 
tage 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 mMat come in person 
to accept him as their lord. Tie passage of five 
days without a single surrender taught him that 


212 William the Conqueror 

the fruits of victory would not fall into his hands 
without further shaking, and meanwhile the 
English nobility began to form plans for a con- 
tinued 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 Nor- 
mandy. 1 Harold's one legitimate son was most 
probably as yet unborn; he had at least three 
illegitimate sons of sufficient age, but their candi- 
dature, if any one had suggested it, would cer- 
tainly 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 

I part of the country; it might not be impossible 

1 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, 

From Hastings to York 213 

for Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria to unite 
round him in a common cause. Nor was it un- 
natural that in this hour of crushing disaster men's 
minds should involuntarily turn to the last male I 
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, t 
It must have been clear that Mercia and North- 
umbria would have to bear the brunt of any 
resistance which might subsequently be made to 1 
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. 1 

This motive gives an interest to their withdrawal 
which is lost if we regard it as a mere act of treach- \ 
ery to the national cause. There can be little 
doubt that what Edwin and Morcar intended 
was a partition of the kingdom between them- 1 
selves 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 

1 Gesta Regum, R. S., 307. 

214 William the Conqueror 

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 Lan franc 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. 1 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 

Thomas Stubbs, ed. Raine; Historians of the Church of 
York, R. S., ii. , 100. 

From Hastings to York 215 

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 Middlesex. 

While the English leaders were disposing of 
their crown William was pursuing his deliberate 
course towards London by a route roughly paral- 
lel 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 excite- 
ment of the great battle, and it gave him the oppor- 
tunity of receiving badly needed reinforcements 
from Normandy. On the 2oth 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 bio- 
grapher relates how William at Romney "took 
what vengeance he would for the death of his 
men." i Having thus suggested by example the 
impolicy of resistance, a march of fifteen miles 
between the Kentish downs and the sea brought 

1 William of Poitiers, 139. 

216 William the Conqueror 

William to the greatest port and strongest fortress 
in south England, the harbour and castle of 
Dover. The foundation of the castle had proba- 
bly 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. 1 The 
castle was packed with fugitives from the sur- 
rounding country, but its garrison did not wait 
for a formal demand for its surrender. Very prob- 
ably impressed by what had happened on the pre- 
vious 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. 2 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 

William of Poitiers, 139. * Guy of Amiens, 607. 

From Hastings to York 217 

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. 1 

With the surrender of Dover William's com- 
munications 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." 2 
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 

William of Poitiers, 140. * Guy of Amiens, 617. 

218 William the Conqueror 

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 Ed- 
ward 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 "trib- 
ute." 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. 1 This ready submission 
'was a fact of considerable importance. Win- 
chester 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 

1 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. 

From Hastings to York 219 

which probably were deposited the royal treasure 
and regalia; and its surrender with the ostenta- 
tious 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 deal- 
ings with Winchester the Conqueror's example 
was followed by William Rufus, Henry L, 
and Stephen, though the paramount neces- 
sity for them of seizing the royal hoard at 
the critical moment of their disputed suc- 
cessions made them each visit the royal city in 
person. 1 

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 valua- 
ble 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 de- 
tachment of the English was tempted thereby 
to make a sally, but was driven back across the 
bridge with heavy loss, Southwark was burned to 

1 Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 4. 

220 William the Conqueror 

the ground, 1 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 sub- 
mission 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. 2 
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 
f the nominal head of the church in England. Prob- 
ably neither party was under any misapprehen- 
sion as to the other's motives ; but in being suffered 
to enjoy his pluralities and appropriated church 

This is clearly meant by the statement of William of 
Poitiers that William's troops burned "quicquid aedificiorum 
citra flumen invenere." 

* William of Poitiers, 141. 

From Hastings to York 221 

lands for three years longer Stigand was not un- 
rewarded 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 distribu- 
tion 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 con- 
quest 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 

222 William the Conqueror 

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 identi- 
fication of "Beorcham" with Great Berkhamp- 
stead, thirty miles from London, and by assuming 
the surrender to have taken place when the army 
appeared on the edge of the Hertfordshire Chil- 
terns overlooking the Thames Valley, fifteen 
miles away, from the high ground of Little 
Berkhampstead near Hertford. 1 

Whatever the exact place at which the offer 
of the crown was made to William, it was straight- 
way 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 

1 The Worcester Chronicle, followed by Florence of Worces- 
ter, 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. 

From Hastings to York 223 

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 advo- 
cate 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 him- 
self to sport in the wooded country of south 
Hertfordshire. 1 
Of the deliberations within London which led 

William of Poitiers, 142. 

224 William the Conqueror 

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 negotia- 
tions with some of the chief men in the etheling's 
party. Our most strictly contemporary account 
of these events i 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 

Guy of Amiens, 687 et seqq. 

From Hastings to York 225 

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 sub- 
jects 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, 1 and so creating a diversion. In this 

1 William of Poitiers, 143. 


William the Conqueror 

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, 1 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 
\ f-. ? the people subjected to him with justice, would 
decree and keep right law, and would quite forbid 
all violence and unjust judgments. 2 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 dis- 
embarked 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 evi- 
dently 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 

" Vehementer trementem , " Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 157. 
2 Florence of Worcester, 1066. 

From Hastings to York 227 

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 sub- 
mission on the Hertfordshire downs. In particular 
Edwin and Morcar would seem to have recognised I 
the inevitable at this time 1 ; 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 Normandy. 

Our sole knowledge of the general state of the 
country at this most critical time conies 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 

' William of Poitiers, 147-8. 

228 William the Conqueror 

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 signifi- 
cantly associated. 1 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 

1 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 

From Hastings to York 229 

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 forgive- 
ness, 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 con- 
tinue resistance to the new king of England. * 

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 appar- 
ently granted at this time in favour of West- 
minster Abbey. 2 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 manufactur- 
ers 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 

1 Monasticon, i., 383. See also Round, Commune of London, 

2 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. 

230 William the Conqueror 

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, arch- 
bishop, and Wulfstan, bishop, and Earl William 
and all the thegns of Gloucestershire and Worces- 
tershire in another; and if his rule was accepted 
in these three western shires, and also in the eastern 
counties represented by the Peterborough docu- 
ment, 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 not- 
ing 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 un- 
derrating 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 God- 
wine; the overthrow of the national cause which 
it implied brought about so general a submission 
1 to the Conqueror that, with the possible exception 
I of the Northumbrian risings, all subsequent resist- 
' ance to him may with sufficient accuracy be de- 
scribed 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 




.* ^ 


From Hastings to York 6*30 

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 gov- 
ernment 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 com- 
mented. 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 Hay ling Island, 
between Portsmouth and Chichester, to the mon- 
astery of Jumieges. 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 

(232 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 But it is the phrase "heredita- 
rio jure" which deserves particular attention. 
Rarely used in formal documents in later years, 
when the chancery formulas had become stereo- 
typed, 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 govern- 
ment 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 con- 
struction 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 

1 Round, Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, No. 
1423. See also Commune of London, 30. 

From Hastings to York 233 

respect to his inheritance. Disputed successions 
there were in plenty in the hundred and fifty 
years which followed the Conquest, but the es- 
sence 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 I 
principles. The strictest law of inheritance is 
liable to be affected by extraneous complications 
when the crown is the stake at issue, and the dis- 
qualification which in noo 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 contra- \ 
vene the validity of hereditary ideas. It was 
inevitable that, where the very rules of inher- 
itance 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 I 
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, Si ward, 
and Ealdred, were considered by Norman writers 

234 William the Conqueror 

men of sufficient importance to deserve men- 
tion by name, and in addition to these shadowy 
figures we are told that many other "nobles" 
also came in at this time. 1 No apparent notice 
was taken by William of the tardiness of their sub- 
missions ; 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 
Si ward. Waltheof was confirmed in his midland 
earldom of Northampton, and received a special 
mark of grace in being allowed to marry the Con- 
queror'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. 2 The 
direct evidence for so far-reaching an event is 

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

2 Peterborough Chronicle, 1066. "And menn guidon him 
gyld . . . and sithan heora land bohtan." D. B. ii., 360. 

From Hastings to York 235 

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, x 
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 num- 
ber 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 

" Hanc Terrain habet abbas . . . quando redimebant An- 
glici terras suas." The combination of these statements 
led Freeman to make the suggestion referred to in the text. 

.236 William the Conqueror 

the edge of the Norman theory, the conquered 
race was given an opportunity of compounding! 
for its original sin by making a deprecatory pay-! 
ment to the new lord of the land. 

Nevertheless, it is to this period that we must 
undoubtedly assign the initial stages of the pro- 
cess which, before twenty years were over, was to 
substitute an alien baronage for the native thegn- 
hood 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 dubi- 
ous methods by which much of that property 
had been originally acquired seem to have invali- 
dated 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 ex- 
ception could be taken to William's right to dis- 
pose 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 follow- 
ers, 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 "com- 
mended" himself and his land to Harold as earl of 

From Hastings to York 237 

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 dis- 
placed so much as submerged; that the Norman i 
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 Hast- 
. ings, 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 

238 William the Conqueror 

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 undif- 
ferentiated 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 Con- 
queror for his own life only, leaving his sons to 
seek their fortunes in Scotland or at Constanti- 
nople. 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. 1 

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. 

1 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. 

From Hastings to York 239 

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, l we see that we must beware 
of the romantic associations aroused by the word 
"thegn." These men can have been distin- 
guished from the peasantry around them by little 
except a higher personal status expressed in a pro- 
portionately 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 juris- 
prudence 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 continu- 
ing 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 Nor- 
man birth; they are only entered as it were on 

1 D. B., L, 285 b. (Normanton on Trent). 

240 William the Conqueror 

sufferance, under a heading to themselves, at the 
very end of the descriptions of the several shires 
in which they are to be found. 1 They belonged 
in fact to an order of society older than the Nor- 
man 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 dis- 
possession 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 con- 
sidered, 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 

1 Victoria History of Northamptonshire, i., 324. 

From Hastings to York 241 

will not suffer any man to do them wrong. * 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. Geof-/ f 
frey the port-reeve is a Norman ; he is very prob- 
ably the same man as Geoffrey de Mandeville, 
the grandfather of the turbulent earl of Essex of 
Stephen's day, 2 and his appearance thus early in 
the place of Esegar the Staller 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 con- 
fidence in English loyalty that, before crossing 
the Channel, William dismissed so many of his 

1 Frequently printed, e.g., by Stubbs, Select Cfiarters, 82. 
3 Suggested by Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 439. 


242 William the Conqueror 

mercenary troops as wished to return home l ; but 
their dismissal coincides in point of time with a gen- 
eral 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 oppres- 
sion thereby caused to poor men. 2 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 Shrop- 
shire-born Orderic, writing in his Norman mon- 
astery, 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. Wil- 
liam himself had learned in Normandy how slow 
and difficult a task it was to reduce a district 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 167. The mercenaries were paid 
off at Pevensey before William sailed for Normandy. 
3 Peterborough Chronicle, 1087. 

From Hastings to York 243 ' 

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 Grentmais- 
nil, Hugh de Montfort, and William de Warenne. 
The bishop of Bayeux was made primarily respon- 
sible for the custody of Kent, with its all-impor- 
tant 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 prior- 
ity over his colleagues. 1 On his part, William 

1 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 

244 William the Conqueror 

took care to remove from the country as many 
as possible of the men round whom a national 
opposition might gather itself. Edgar the Ethel- 
ing, earls Edwin, Morcar, and Waltheof, with 
Archbishop Stigand, and a prominent Kentish 
thegn called Ethelnoth, were requested to accom- 
pany their new king on his progress through his 
continental dominions. 1 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 

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 Aquili- 
onem versus praeesset," 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. 

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

From Hastings to York 245 

spoils of England to the churches of his duchy. 
The abbey church of Jumieges, whose building 
had been the work of Robert, the Confessor's fa- 
vourite, was visited and dedicated on the ist of 
July, but before this the king had kept a mag- 
nificent Easter feast at Fecamp 1 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 
Fecamp 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 Wil- 
liam had spent four weary weeks in the previous 
autumn, waiting for a south wind, another great 
assembly was held on the ist of May, to witness 
the consecration of the new church of Notre 
Dame. Two months later came the hallowing 
. of Jumieges ; and the death of Archbishop Mau- 
rilius 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 pre- 
vious consultation with his friend and lord King 
William, declined the office, and when on a 

1 William of Poitiers, 155. 

246 William the Conqueror 

second election John, bishop of Avranches,, was 
chosen, Lanfranc went to Rome and obtained the 
pallium for him. 1 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 statesman- 
like 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 mem- 
ory on English soil. William's departure for Nor- 
mandy was signalised by a general outbreak of 
the characteristic vices of an army of occupation, 
in regard to which the regents themselves, accord- 
ing to the Norman account, were not a little to 
blame. Under the stimulus of direct oppression, 
and in the temporary absence of the dreaded 

3 Ordericas Vitalas, iL 170. 

From Hastings to York 247 

Conqueror, the passive discontent of the English 
broke out into open revolt in three widely sepa- 
rated 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 Nor- 
man 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 acknow- 
ledge an English ruler in Oswulf, the son of 
Eadwulf, who had been subordinate earl of 
Bernicia under Morcar. Copsige in the first in- 
stance 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. 1 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 

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

248 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 In the meantime, however, the North- 
umbrians were well content with a spell of uncon- 
tested 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 re- 
fused 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. 2 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 

1 Simeon of Durham, under 1070. 
* Florence of Worcester, 1067. 

From Hastings to York 249 

marked the period of William's absence had for 
its object the recovery of Dover castle from its 
Norman garrison. 1 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 Bou- 
logne, the man of highest rank among the French 
auxiliaries of the Conqueror, had already received 
an extensive grant of land in England as the re- 
ward 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 
rfrom 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 

Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 173. 

250 William the Conqueror 

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 proxim- 
ity to Dover; and the impossibility in the eleventh 
century of successfully conducting a siege against 
time is some excuse for Eustace's rather ignomin- 
ious withdrawal. The first sign of retreat, how- 
ever, 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 him- 
self, who knew the neighbourhood, became sepa- 
rated 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, dis- 

From Hastings to York 251 

persed 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 retreat. 1 

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 Nor- 
mandy, but her eldest son, Robert, was now asso- 
ciated 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. 2 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 dis- 
orders 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 mili- 
tary possession lay at his command, but that 
in the extreme north and west men were only 

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

2 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 178. 

252 William the Conqueror 

prepared to render such obedience as pleased them- 
selves, wishing to be as independent of King 
William as they had formerly been independent 
of King Edward and his predecessors. 1 This atti- 
tude, 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 underly- 
ing 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 

Ordericus Vitalis., ii., 179. 

From Hastings to York 253 

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, unques- 
tionably 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 pre- 
ceding months. 1 As a Dane himself and the 
nephew of Cnut, Swegn Estrithson could com- 
mand 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 

At this moment, with the imminent probabilityl 
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 

1 "Ad Danos, vel alio, unde auxilium aliquod speratur, 
legates missitant." William of Poitiers, 157. 

254 William the Conqueror 

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 

From Hastings to York 255 

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 jaative 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. Wil- 
liam 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 resist- 
ance, and they threw in their lot with their 
townsmen. William was filled with fury on hear- 
ing 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 

256 William the Conqueror 

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 deter- 
mination 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 revoked 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 sub- 
mission, 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 

From Hastings to York 257 

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 de- 
scribes 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 proba- 
bility 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 I 
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. 1 

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 

1 The story of the revolt of Exeter is critically discussed 
by Round, Feudal England, 431-455. 

258 William the Conqueror 

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 hospi- 
tably 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 Ire- 
land. 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 disem- 
barked at some unknown point on the coast of 
Somerset. Here they were caught and soundly 
beaten by the Somersetshire natives under the 

From Hastings to York 259 

leadership of Ednoth, an Englishman who had 
been master of the horse to Edward the Con- 
fessor, 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 suffi- 
cient plunder to induce them to repeat their 
expedition in the course of the following year. 1 
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 return- 
ing to the east of England, William made an armed 
demonstration in Cornwall ; and it was very pos- 
sibly 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 
9 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 terri- 
torial 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 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1067; Florence of Worcester, 1068; 
William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, ii., 312. 

260 William the Conqueror 


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 confiscation. 

His Cornish progress over, KingWilliam 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 nth), by Ealdred, arch- 
bishop 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, 1 and the list is signifi- 
cant. Among the members of the clerical estate 

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

From Hastings to York 261 

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 Plantage- 
net, 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 sup- 
pressing his irreconcilable subjects. After a year 
and a half of acquiescence in the Norman rule, 
Earls Edwin and Morcar suddenly made a spas- 
modic attempt to raise the country against 
the foreigners. Their position at William's court 
must have been ignominious at the best, and 

262 William the Conqueror 

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, al- 
though 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 Confes- 
sor's reign ; for Bleddyn, the king of North Wales, 
came to the assistance of Edwin and Mdrcar, 1 as 
in the previous year he had joined the Hereford- 
shire 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 North- 
umbrians, headed by Gospatric, their newly ap- 
pointed earl, probably fearing that they might be 
held implicated in the guilt of Edwin and Morcar, 
made a speedy departure for the north country. 2 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 183. 

z 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 

From Hastings to York 263 

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 blow. 

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." 1 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 

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. 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 184. 

264 William the Conqueror 

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 Beau- 
mont, 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 

From Hastings to York 265 

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 North- 
umbria, 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 year. 

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 mar- 
riage 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 

266 William the Conqueror 

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 north- 
ern journey being for the present accomplished, 
he turned south again by way of Lincoln, Hunting- 
don, and Cambridge, at each of which places the 
inevitable castle was raised and garrisoned. 1 

> Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 185. 

Denier of Baldwin of Lille 



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 uncon- 
certed 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 begin- 
ning of 1069 the Conqueror tried the experiment 
of appointing a Noman baron to the command 
i 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 hun- 
dred knights. The news of his appointment pre- 
ceded 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. 


268 William the Conqueror 

Bishop Ethelwine of Durham had evidently 
heard rumours of the plot, for as the earl ap- 
proached 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 quar- 
tered 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. 1 

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 cas- 
tle untaken in Norman hands. Encouraged by 
these events, Edgar the Etheling, Marleswegen, 
Archil, and Gospatric reappeared upon the scene, 

Simeon of Durham, 1069. 



Castles '4. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 269 

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. 1 

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 

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 

270 William the Conqueror 

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 danger- 
ous 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 situ- 
ation sufficiently precarious. 

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. 1 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 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 189. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 271 

the unstable patriotism of the men of Northum- 
bria. 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. 1 

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," 

>For the events of 1069 Orderic is almost the sole author- 
ity, and his narrative is not always easy to follow. On the 
other hand he is doubtless in great part following the con- 
temporary William of Poitiers, and his tale is quite consist- 
ent with itself if due allowance is made for its geographical 

272 William the Conqueror 

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 situ- 
ation 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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 273 

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-Con- 
quest owners of land in this district as recorded 
in Domesday Book the English element distinctly 
preponderates, while the particularism of North- 
umbria itself was perhaps rather political than 
racial. It is probable that the men of Lincoln- 
shire 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 in- 
dependently 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 di- 
rect attack on York. Volunteers assembled from 
all the neighbouring country, and in numbers 
at least it was a formidable army which on the 
2ist of September appeared before the northern 


274 William the Conqueror 

capital, the English forming the van, the Danish 
host the rear. The Normans in York made no at- 
tempt 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 struc- 
tures 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. 1 The castles once taken, the English 
hatred of these signs of bondage broke out with 

1 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. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 275 

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 nth of September, before the Dan- 
ish army had sighted the walls of York, Arch- 
bishop Ealdred, one of the few Englishmen 
of high rank who accepted the Norman Con- 
quest as irreversible, died, being worn out by 
extreme age, and grief at the ruin which he fore- 
saw 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 1 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 

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

276 William the Conqueror 

the enemy which were dispersed among the fens. 
The Danes, finding their position untenable, took 
to their ships again and crossed over to the York- 
shire 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 west- 
wards 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 Scandi- 
navian 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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 277 

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 Mor- 
tain 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 them- 
selves, 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 com- 
pleted 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 appre- 
hended, from the lands between Trent and Severn 

278 William the Conqueror 

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 un- 
expected 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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 279 

bank. Having demonstrated the possibility of a 
crossing at this point Lisois returned to Ponte- 
fract; 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 

It would seem that the Norman passage of the 
Aire, hazardous as it had been, had really demor- 
alised 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 

280 William the Conqueror 

despairing men flung themselves hopelessly upon 
the line of his inexorable march, underwent a 
shorter agony than remained for those who sur- 
vived 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 Con- 
queror 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 

The harrying of Yorkshire is one of the few 
events of the kind in regard to which the custom- 
ary 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- 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 281 

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 neigh- 
bourhood 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 

282 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 The rebels, however, de- 
camped by night on hearing of the king's ad- 
vance, and William spent fifteen days by the 
Tees, during which time Earl Waltheof made 
his submission in person and Gospatric sent en- 
voys 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, 2 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 

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

1 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. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 283 

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 

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 at- 
tention 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 moun- 
taineers 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 

284 William the Conqueror 

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, 1 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 inter- 
cepted 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 

1 " Desertores, vero, velut inertes, pavidosque et invalidos, 
si discedant, parvi pendit." 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 285 

without daring to stand a siege, and with its 
submission, guaranteed as usual by the founda- 
tion of a castle, 1 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 provi- 
sioning his men at the expense of the dwellers 
along the coast for the remainder of the winter, 
n 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. 

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

286 William the Conqueror 

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 irreconcil- 
able people to an inflexible conqueror. After the 
battle of Hastings had shattered the specious 
unity of the old English state, each of its com- 
ponent 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 suffer- 
ing, can we say that vengeance was undeserved. 
War in the eleventh century was at best a cruel 
business, but we cannot fairly accuse the Con- 
queror of deliberately aggravating its horrors 
without the impulse of what he must have re- 
garded 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 Crom- 
well 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 possi- 
bility of revolting again, and he followed this 
course with terrible success. And it was on this 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 287 

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 Con- 
queror 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 reforma- 
tion which we shall have to consider in its place 
as the counterpart of the legal and administra- 
tive changes produced by the Norman Conquest. 
In the meantime, however, the broken national 

288 William the Conqueror 

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 inhos- 
pitable quarter, it may fairly be set down to the 
credit of the five great abbeys of Peterborough, 
Thorney, Crowland, Ramsey, and Ely, which dom- 
inated the fens and round which the events of 
the campaign of 1070 arrange themselves. 

Abbot Brand of Peterborough, whose recogni- 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 289 

tion 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, I069- 1 
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 Fecamp, 
abbot of Malmesbury, had probably made himself 
useful in north Wiltshire while William was en- 
gaged 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." 2 
The man in question was no other than the famous 
Here ward, 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 Domes- 

1 Peterborough Chronicle, 1069. 

2 William of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum, | 420. 

290 William the Conqueror 

day 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 ar- 
ranged 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. 1 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 

1 Domesday Book, i., 346. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 291 

of Denmark had come in person to the Humber. 1 
The men of the Fenland were clearly expecting a 
Danish reconquest of England, and on the appear- 
ance 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 ap- 
proaching danger to enable them to send an 
urgent message to Abbot Thorold, asking for help, 
and also to hide some of the more precious treas- 
ures 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 admis- 
sion to the abbey. 2 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 

* Peterborough Chronicle, 1070. 

2 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. 

292 William the Conqueror 

an entrance. Incidentally the whole of Peter- 
borough 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, Here- 
ward 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 Frenchmen. 

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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 293 

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 neces- 
sary 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 treas- 
ure at so small a cost, Ethel wold 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 

294 William the Conqueror 

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 pre- 
tence 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 Ethel- 
wold 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 Peter- 
borough 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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 295 

they found Abbot Thorold, and restored the serv- 
ices 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 super- 
natural 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 Ethel wold 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 occupa- 
tion of Ely by the English, and during the winter 
<5f 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 repre- 
sentative 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 

296 William the Conqueror 

their departure from William's court, and raised 
the last of their futile protests against the Nor- 
man 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 informa- 
tion 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 des- 
perate 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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 297 

handsome, fickle young earl, with all his faults, 
had really won the love of the grim sovereign 
from whom he had thrice revolted. 1 

Edwin fell through treachery, but he met his 
death in the sight of the sun; another fate re- 
mained for his brother and for those of his asso- 
ciates 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 con- 
duct of the Anglo-Norman government, but a 
band of outlaws in the fenland could do little to 
affect the course of events elsewhere; Ely com- 
manded no great road or river, and its Isle was too 
small an area to support an independent exist- 
ence apart from the rest of the land. Its reduc- 
tion 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 expen- 
diture 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 occa- 
sional descents upon the neighbouring villages. 

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

298 William the Conqueror 

The Conqueror fixed his headquarters at Cam- 
bridge, 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. 1 

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 fi- 
nally 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 com- 
monly been accepted as representing the truth 
of the matter. 2 It is at least certain -that the 
position in which the monks of Ely found them- 
selves 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 

1 Florence of Worcester, 1070. * Historia Eliensis, 240. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 299 

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 im- 
mediate 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 
Alengon. Some were blinded or otherwise muti- 
lated 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 1 ; the other captives of 
note were scattered over the country in different 
fortresses. But Hereward, who in all our author- 
ities 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 
company. 2 

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 
t 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 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 216. 

2 Florence of Worcester, 1071. 

300 William the Conqueror 

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 burh- 
bot, 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 com- 
manded the eastern approaches to the Isle. 1 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 restitu- 
tion to the abbey of all the lands of which it had 
unjustly been despoiled in recent years. 2 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 fol- 
lowed 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. 

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 

1 Historic. Eliensis, 245. 

2 See "Ely and her Despoilers," in Feudal England, 459. 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 

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, Here ward be- 
came reconciled to the Conqueror, accompanied 
him in the Mancel campaign of 1074, married a 
noble and w r ealthy 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. 1 
In the other story, Here ward 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. 2 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 inter- 
course with his monkish neighbours. So too the 
coincidence of both lines of tradition with regard 

1 Gaimar, L'estoire des Engles, R. S. 

2 Gesta Herewardi, R. S. 

302 William the Conqueror 

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 Con- 
quest. A native annalist might express his bitter 
regret for the tragedy of King Harold, the com- 
mon 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 

Danish Invasion and Its Sequel 303 

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. 

Penny of Swegn Estuthson 



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 


Central Years of the English Reign 305 

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 Bald- 
win of Lille, who had greatly increased his bor- 
ders 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 L, count 
of Holland, and assuming the guardianship of 
her son Theodoric. On the death of Baldwin VI., 
tjie 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 

306 William the Conqueror 

made ner unpopular in the county, and Robert 
was soon invited to invade Flanders and reign 
there in his own right. He accepted the invita- 
tion, and Richildis thereupon hired King Philip 
of France to support her with an army, and of- 
fered her hand and her dominions to William Fitz 
Osbern, Earl of Hereford. The earl, like a good 
knight-errant, accepted the adventure and has- 
tened 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 Liege ; 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 de- 
scribed 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 in- 
volved in the disaster at Bavinkhove, but William 
deliberately refused to make peace with Robert 
by recognising his right to Flanders, and threw 

Central Years of the English Reign 307 

him into the arms of the king of France by main- 
taining 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 feud- 
atory 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. 1 

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. Fortu- 
nately 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 

1 See Varenbergh, Relations Diplomatiques entre le comte de 
Flandre et I' Angleterre. Luchaire, Les Premiers Capetiens, 169. 

308 William the Conqueror 

nationalist party in Maine had only been sup- 
pressed, 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 Fleche, who had 
married Paula, the youngest of Herbert's three 
sisters. The seigneur of La Fleche 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 ap- 
peared in Maine with Gersendis his wife and 
Hugh their son, the latter being received as the heir 
of the county. * 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 guardian- 
ship of Geoffrey of Mayenne. 

Thus far the Mancel revolt had run the normal 
course of its kind, but a more interesting develop- 

1 Halphen, Comte d' Anjou, 180, has shown that Azo had 
appeared in Maine by the spring of 1069. 

Central Years of the English Reign 309 

ment followed. 1 Shortly after the departure of 
Azo the citizens of Le Mans, rejecting the leader- 
ship of their baronial confederates, broke away 
on a line of their own which gives them the dis- 
tinction 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" 2 ; 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 Nor- 
mandy 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 forma- 
tion 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 com- 

1 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. 

3 "Facta conspiratione quam communionem vocabant." 
Vet. An., 215. 

3io , William the Conqueror 

pelled 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 independence. 

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 
Sille 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 consider- 
able body of men obeyed the summons, and the 
communal army set out for Sille" 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 Geof- 
frey felt the incongruity of joining with a host of 

Central Years of the English Reign 

rebellious burghers in an attack on the castle 
of a fellow-noble, and he secretly entered into 
communications with Hugh of Sille. 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 fi- 
nally 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 Sille, 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 Sille". The castle of Le Mans 
was occupied in the nationalist interest by Ger- 
sendis 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 Sill6, 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 

3J2 William the Conqueror 

foi 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 catas- 
trophe at Sill6. 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 com- 
patriots 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. 1 On the present occasion, how- 
ever, there was little call for feats of arms. Wil- 
liam entered Maine by the Sarthe Valley and 
besieged Fresnay, whose lord, Hubert, was soon 
driven by the harrying of his lands to surrender 

1 Gesta Regum, ii., 316. 

Central Years of the English Reign 313 

Fresnay itself and the lesser castle of Beaumont 
lower down the river. Sill6 was the next point of 
attack, but Hugh of Sille 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. 1 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 posi- 
tion 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 

Vetera Analecta, 286. 

314 William the Conqueror 

de la Fleche, 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 pro- 
ceeded to the siege of La Fleche, and called to his 
assistance Count Hoel of Brittany. 1 The com- 
bined 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 Fleche 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 
Fleche, a treaty was concluded. 2 Now, as ten 
years earlier, Robert of Normandy was selected 
as count of Maine, and to him Fulk of Anjou 

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

J The terms of the peace of Blanchelande are given by 

Central Years of the English Reign 315 

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. Rob- 
ert, 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 Fleche, and the other Angevin nobles 
who had leagued themselves with the king of 

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 

j 316 William the Conqueror 

lord of Maine, but the seeds of such a develop- 
ment were laid by the treaty of Blanchelande. 

In the period which follows the suppression of 
the fenland rising of 1070, the bulk of our his- 
torical information relates to the affairs of the 
Conqueror's continental dominions. But in Eng- 
lish 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 battle- 
j pieces : with the exception of the revolt of the 
I 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 
fof 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 


Central Years of the English Reign 317 

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 sub- 
mission 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 emphati- 
cally 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 particu- 
larly dangerous point. From the hills which rise 
to 2000 feet along the boundary between Cumber- 
land 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 York- 
shire 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 

318 William the Conqueror 

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 inter- 
fere effectively on the side of Northumbria. Rely- 
ing as he did on Highland support, Macbeth 
seems to have left Cumberland in virtual indepen- 
dence, 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 sub- 
ject to Earl Siward of Northumbria. 1 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, 2 but the outline of the Northum- 
brian succession is fairly clear. Siward, although 

E. H. R., xx., 61. 'See table H. 

Central Years of the English Reign 319 

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 attach- 
ment 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 Bam- 
burgh 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 fol- 
lowed 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 

320 William the Conqueror 

Northumberland and Durham from making com- 
mon cause with Malcolm of Scotland against the 
Norman government ; and now as formerly Gos- 
patric 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 Con- 
queror, 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 

Central Years of the English Reign 321 

modern shire of Durham. 1 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. 2 .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 

For in the meantime Gospatric had been doing 
what he would consider to be his duty as the law- 
ful 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 

> Simeon of Durham, 1072. 

a 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. 

322 William the Conqueror 

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 fugi- 
tives 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 un- 
reasonably be placed in the course of 1071, and 
with the alliance of the royal houses of Scotland 

I and Wessex the northern kingdom begins to 
emerge from its barbaric isolation, and to fill a 
permanent place in the political scheme of English 

To William the marriage was no matter of con- 
gratulation. It meant that the Scottish court 
would become definitely interested in the restora- 
tion 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 

Central Years of the English Reign 323 

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 Mal- 
colm 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 ac- 
complish more than this, and William at once 
turned southwards, retracing his steps along the 
great east coast road. 1 

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 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1073. 

324 William the Conqueror 

guard the course of the river in any special man- 
ner. 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. 1 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 

1 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 Eon 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 

Central Years of the English Reign 325 

great diocese. The second event was the deposi- 
tion 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 Aberne- 
thy was the expulsion of Edgar the Etheling from 
Scotland. 1 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 

Norman Conquest, iv., 517. 

326 William the Conqueror 

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 Scot- 
land, 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. l 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 sup- 
port 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. Un- 
fortunately for the success of his enterprise he was 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1075. 

Central Years of the English Reign 327, 

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 Eng- 
land 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 Con- 
queror showed to his former rival, 1 and Domesday 
reveals the latter in peaceable possesion 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 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1075. 

328 William the Conqueror 

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 execu- 
tion 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 Lan- 
franc. 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 un- 
easy 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," 

Central Years of the English Reign 3*9 

archbishop pleaded with his friend's son ID 

i"'-" "i r ;:ri_;: ;." i rroawfind h >-:-: birr . 

: ^r.f..-". :r. ;-.:.:-: ---;r ;; :.-. ; 

F^T R:;-7 n ~"-.i ' ; r i ^~:.~. .. " i 
last letter of the three which w posses 
declares Roger esxcimximkate imtfl he has o 
7:r.>. : .:-;-.i :..:>; " :".::" .".-: ....5 /";.;~\:. :_~ 2. 
rr^if his peace with UK kir:;; ::r r_:$ ir: 
h ? tAr"..'i:"' 

The position of Wattheof at this time has 
already been described. His I 

was less important on this ciCMftinn than 

:::: ~ ,v : -.". - "_ ...^:; ::~ :. " :. > ; -;r 

vhiili he also possessed oonntal i^hts The 
four comities o Xortiampton, Bedford, Ifiailiax 
don, and 0*****^^ together with Waltheof s 
ciUaisive estates in Ltaxsteashne and Warwick- 
s "-.-: " . " : '.:.- '.;"..:.? . "";;".'".; ". " : v.. . : " . : .if 
of Hereford with the distant earldom of East 
the MM* dangerous qoaitc 

The earl of East Angtia, Raif of Wader, 
like Waldieof , claim to be ouae>ideiied an 

man; for, althoogh his mother was a PHJtuai and 
his father abo bore the Nonnan name 
latter was an Engfchiran of Norfolk birth, 
had been earl of East Ang$a under Edward the 
Confessor and duiiog the cnihuA years of tta> 
Conqueror. Ratf Ae younger, desprte his sac- 
cession to his father's earldom, is identified with 
his mother s land of Brittany, where he heU the 

330 William the Conqueror 

estates of Wader and Montfort, rather than with 
England. 1 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 cre- 
ation 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 

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

Central Years of the English Reign 331 

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 pop- 
ular 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 gro- 
tesque 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 

33 2 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 

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 w T as 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 de- 
tail 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 con- 
nected with his trial and execution apart from 
the details of the war. 

The plan of campaign followed by both sides 

Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 258 et seq. 

Central Years of the English Reign 333 

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 conjunc- 
tion with the knightly tenants from their own 
estates. 1 

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; applica- 
cation had been made to the King of Denmark 
fpr 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 Cam- 
bridge, and Earl Ralf moved westward in the 
hope of effecting a junction with Roger of Here- 
ford ; but at an unknown place in the neighbour- 

1 Florence of Worcester, 1074. 

334 William the Conqueror 

hood 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 con- 
ditions. The Breton tenants of Earl Ralf in Eng- 
land 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. 1 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 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1076. 

Central Years of the English Reign 335 

of his castle. 1 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 atti- 
tude to the third earl implicated in the revolt, 
and no incident in King William's career has won 
more reprobation from medieval and modern 

1 Epistolce Lanfranci. 

336 William the Conqueror 

historians than the sentence which he allowed 
to be passed on Earl Waltheof. 

We have already sketched in outline the narra- 
tive 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. 1 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 Lan- 
franc had revealed the whole scheme to King 
William in Normandy. 2 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 circum- 
stances 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 

Florence of Worcester, 1074. 

3 It does not appear that any medieval historian regarded 
this as an act of treachery on Waltheofs part. 

Central Years of the English Reign 337 

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. 1 At the midwinter coun- 
cil 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 earl. 

Early on the morning of the 3ist 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 

> P. N. C., iv., 585. 

33 8 William the Conqueror 

northern ancestors, the motonony of his im- 
prisonment 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 nosier for himself 
and them, and they granted his request, but at the 
clause " et ne nos inducas in tentatwnem" 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 liber a nos a malo, 

The case of Earl Waltheof involves two sepa- 
rate questions which it is well to keep distinct 
in estimating the justice of King William's con- 
duct 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 

Central Years of the English Reign 339 

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 him- 
self; and Ordericus Vitalis, to whom we should 
naturally turn for a statement of the Norman 
side of the case, based his accom 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 
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 

1 Gesta Regum, ii., 312. 

340 William the Conqueror 

condemnation it is possible to find a more satis- 
factory 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 Nor- 
man or English law. 1 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 in- 
formed 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 noo 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. 

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

Central Years of the English Reign 341 

The revoltj)f 1075 prodnr.p^ a spqnpl 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 "Gre- 
nonat," 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 
n presented 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 expecta- 
tion 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 

34 2 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 

In the meantime, certain important changes 
had taken place in the administrative geogra- 
phy 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 be- 
came 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 particu- 
lar 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 

ies of bishops of Durham, whose secular powers 
within their diocese produced the "county pala- 
tine" which lasted until 1836. 2 The experiment 

1 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 Con- 
stance, the Conqueror's daughter, in marriage. 

2 Simeon of Durham, 1075. 

Central Years of the English Reign 343 

made in Walcher's appointment was destined to 
end in tragic failure, but for four years Northum- 
brian affairs relapse into unwonted obscurity, 
and the Conqueror was never again called upon to 
lead an army into the north. 

Denier of Robert le Prison 



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." 1 This idea of retributive fate, 
characteristic of the medieval mind, has received 
from historians various adaptations and exempli- 

Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 290. 


The Last Years of the Conqueror 345 

fications, but perhaps a more reasonable expla- 
nation 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 in- 
deed 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 unim- 
paired 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 recog- 
nised heir of Normandy, and the peace of 
JBlanchelande 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, 1 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 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 259. 

346 William the Conqueror 

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 Chateauneuf, a powerful lord on the border 
between Normandy and the royal demesne, 
who allowed him to occupy his castles of Raima- 
last, Sorel, and Chateauneuf. 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 Chateauneuf for Raima- 
last; 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 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 347 

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 

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, in- 
cluding many men who had hitherto been good 
subjects to King William, but now thought it ex- 
pedient 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 
>f 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. 1 The siege lasted 
for three weeks, and in one of the frequent en- 
counters between the loyalists and the rebels 

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

348 William the Conqueror 

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, 1 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 vaga- 
bond 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 com- 
parison between these events and the rebellion 
which a hundred years later convulsed the domin- 
ions of Henry II. Fundamentally, the cause of 

1 Worcester Chronicle, 1079. 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 349 

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 appre- 
ciating the motives which made their fathers 
wish to maintain the integrity of the family pos- 
sessions; 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 chival- 
rous 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 Con- 
queror, 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 

35 William the Conqueror 

opportunities for the excitement and glory of 
military adventure, rather than the stern re- 
sponsibilities 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 1 Robert of Normandy was 
entrusted with the command of a counter-expedi- 
tion 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 Mal- 
colm'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 

1 S. D., Gesta Regum, 1080. 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 351 

against future incursions from the side of 

Some information as to William's own move- 
ments in Normandy during 1080 may be gathered 
from charters and other legal documents. On 
the yth of January he was at Caen, 1 and on 
the 1 3th he appears at Boscherville on the 
Seine 2 ; at Easter he held a great court probably 
at Rouen. 3 At Whitsuntide he presided over a 
council at Lillebonne, 4 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 3ist 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 out- 
set have been out of touch with the wild English- 
men 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, 5 and in all matters of 
business he relied on the counsel of an ill-assorted 

1 Round, Calendar, No. 1114. 2 Ibid., 1113. 

3 Ibid., 78. * Orderic, ii., 315. 

5 This fact is of importance, as giving an example, rare in 
England, of a true " vicecomes," an earl's deputy as distin- 
guished from a sheriff. 

35 2 William the Conqueror 

pair of favourites, one of them a noble Northum- 
brian 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 men- 
tioned 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 danger- 
ous humour; the bishop dared not risk a delib- 
eration 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 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 353 

whole district was ravaged, and the bishop of 
Bayeux administered death and mutilation on a 
scale unusual even in the eleventh century. 1 
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 

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 Cambria tell us that '"William, 
king of the English, came to St. David's that 
he might pray there." Very possibly the Con- 
queror did in reality pay his devotions at the 

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

354 William the Conqueror 

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 Welsh- 
men 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. 1 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 2 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 Con- 
queror left to his successors. 

After these events, but not before the end of 
the year, King William withdrew into Normandy, 

1 Hist. Monast. de Abingdon, ii., 10. 

* Brut y Tywysogion, 1080. 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 355 

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 rela- 
tions 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. 1 
The cause of the final rupture is uncertain. Or- 
dericus Vitalis 2 assigned it to the unprecedented 
ambition of Bishop Odo, who, not content with 
his position in England and Normandy, was sup- 
posed to be laying his plans to secure his election 
to the papal chair at the next vacancy. Accord- 
ing to this tale, the bishop had bought himself 

Man. 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 

2 Hi., 168. On the other hand, Giesbrecht (Hi., 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 re- 
proving 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 informa- 
tion as to the motives which induced William's action. 

35 William the Conqueror 

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 formi- 
dable 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 epis- 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 357^ 

copal 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 sug- 
gested that the distinction between the bishop's 
lay and spiritual functions was suggested to the 
king by Lanfranc, 1 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 I 
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, 

1 William of Malmesbury. 

35 8 William the Conqueror 

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 repre- 
sented in Orderic's narrative shows an apprecia- 
tion 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 

The circle of the Conqueror's immediate com- 
panions was rapidly breaking up now. On No- 
vember 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 coun- 
cils of his last four years. Through all the 
hazards of her married life Matilda of Flanders 
had played her part well; if William the Con- 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 359 

queror 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 medie- 
val 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 distur- 
bance 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 

360 William the Conqueror 

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 subse- 
quently married a niece of Duke Robert of Bur- 
gundy. 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. 

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 




Dol tg( S.Jamcso/* \ , > o Domfront 

. x' 


e Keuue* 


o Roche Mabille 
o Alencon 

\f, "V._ 


Billeo Beaumont 

JUe Man* 


The Last Years of the Conqueror 361 

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 affairs." i 

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 suc- 
cessful 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. 2 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, iii., 196. 

2 An isolated reference to the siege of Saint-Suzanne 

362 William the Conqueror 

With this failure closes the record of the Con- 
queror's 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 Fleche 
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 his- 
torical 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 

It is possible that the Conqueror's placabil- 

occurs in the Domesday of Oxfordshire, in which county 
the manor of Ledhall had been granted to Robert d'Oilly, 
" apud obsidionem S. Suzanne." 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 363 

ity 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 
Fla.nHp.rg. 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 contin- 
gent 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. 1 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 mer- 
cenaries, "so that people wondered how the 
lahd could feed all that army," remarks the 

1 Heimskringla, iii., 198. 

364 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 
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, loS^^Cnut was murdered in the church of 
Odensee. 2 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 West- 
minster. Not long afterwards he turned westward 
again, and by the first of August had come to Sal- 
isbury, where he held an assembly of very excep- 
tional 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 

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

2 Cnut's preparations and death are described at length 
in his life by Ethelnoth, printed in the Scriptores Rerum 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 365 

would be true to him against all men." * 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 Eng- 
land 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 
digloyal 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 ist could 
not well have heard of the murder at Odensee 
on July loth. But apart from this, any feudal 
monarch c.Qiild^Jig,ye maintained in theory^ that 
the facts of subinfeudation should not invalidate 
his sovereign rights; the question was merely 

1 Peterborough Chronicle, 1086. 

366 William the Conqueror 

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 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 367 

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 ac- 
count 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 Francaise, 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 acces- 
sion, ceded the Vexin Francaise 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 

368 William the Conqueror 

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, per- 
suaded 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. 1 
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 French- 
men 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 ques- 
tion 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 

1 See Flach, Les Origines de I'ancienne France, 531-534- 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 369 

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 devas- 
tation 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 

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, 

37 William the Conqueror 

Guntard, abbot of Jumieges, 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 Con- 
queror, 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 un- 
der 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 aggres- 
sive 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 remem- 
brance 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 ambi- 
tion he had taken a path which led to results be- 
yond his own intention and understanding. We 
need not believe that the bishop of Lisieux or the 
abbot of Jumieges have tampered with William's 
words, when we read his repentance for the events 
which have given him his place in history. 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 371 

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 pre- 
serve the political union of England and Nor- 
mandy. 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 Con- 
queror 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 treas- 
ure, the Conqueror gave to William the regalia of 
the English monarchy, and sealed a letter re- 
commending him to Archbishop Lan franc 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. 

37 2 William the Conqueror 

In his few remaining hours King William was 
inspired by the priests and nobles who stood 
around his bed to make reparation to certain vic- 
tims 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 dun- 
geons 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 

It is in connection with Bishop Odo's liberation 
that Orderic relates the last recorded act of Wil- 
liam's life. A certain knight named Baudri de 
Guitry, who had done good service in the war of 
Sainte-Suzanne, had subsequently offended the 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 373 

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 Con- 
queror, raising his hands, exclaimed: "To Mary, 
the holy mother of God, I commend myself, 
that by her blessed intercession I may be recon- 
ciled 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 

374 William the Conqueror 

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. 

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 

Longitude WM 

from Gntnvloli 

The Last Years of the Conqueror 375 

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. 

Denier of Philip I. of France 



UP to the present we have only dealt with the 
ecclesiastical relations of William the Con- 
queror 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 Con- 
queror'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. 1 

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 reforrn^ 

1 The ecclesiastical history of Normandy and England in 
the eleventh century is treated by B5hmer, Kirche und Staat 
in England, und in der Normandie, on which book this 
chapter is based, 



William and the Church 377 

, 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 subor- v -\ 
dinate 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 Wil- 
liam'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 main- 
taining prerogatives which jie_ had inherited 
from his predecessors, and which were simul- 
taneously 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 

378 William the Conqueror 

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 
grelates who had fallen under his displeasure, 
not only forbade the autonomy of the church, they 
made its_SRJrjtual welfare as_well as its professional 
efficiency esse^tiaUy^erjiendent^upon the personal 
character of its secular head. Under these con- 
ditions, 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 traditionaLrey^ence 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 denuncia- 
tions 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 pro- 
duced 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 

William and the Church 379 

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. 1 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 con- 
centrated 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 ecclesiasti- 
cal 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 appoint- 
ments made by successive dukes. Even the upland 
clergy, whose invincible ignorance had aroused 
the anger of the earliest reformers, were attracted 

'See above, Introduction, ii., pp. 39, 4- 

380 William the Conqueror 

within the scope of the reform, partly by means 
of the affiliation of village churches to monas- 
teries, 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 num- 
berless 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 bene- 
factions 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. Auto- 

William and the Church 381 

cratic 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 
Jumieges, two typical representatives of the new 
learning, posterity would have remained in 
blank ignorance of the Conqueror's rule in Nor- 
mandy. But it is a matter of still greater impor- 
tance 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 in- 
terest for the general student of history, but the 

382 William the Conqueror 

important point is that they are symptoms of an 
intellectual life manifesting itself with vigour 
in the only directions which w r ere 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 achieve- 
ment 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 cen- 
tury, they were striking out new methods of 
inquiry into the mysteries of the faith; it was 
becoming more and more closely assimilated to 

tx?c cmub; 

' pccro 

alJtn 11 cc iu< i t wt udnf mtbi JmtiKJ fcrma o at 
am Itiawiv at 4' 


- n^aasT 

c cede qacCtdmoda ilLi aa cunwtni) cenobi* 
.U'Ci:ic(c( pCQT 
icrutat? UUa/- ^ 

ic A" "m 
fHuitKp cfoiuxKft ic'tmrn-' faccrt twiacnc'-"<.vc<? 

pmiwair.LPucrimwidu^ iuai\tcq-mccr* 
uaUuiti, habacur-Twptu 




X' ^ 


William and the Church 383 

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 secular- 
isation of the leaders of the church rendered it 
unlikely that he would come from within. 

Even in 1066 the English church still retained 
distinct features"! the tribal organisation which 
it had inheritedrfrorn the~century of the conver- 
sion. Its dioceses in general represented Hep- 
tarchic 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 ft 
the eleventh century were still fixed, like those! 
of their seventh-century predecessors, in remote 
villages; "places of retirement rather than cen-< 
tres of activity," as they have well been called.; 
The number of dioceses was very small in pro- 
portion 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 arch- 
bishops was in abeyance, and in 1070 it was still 
an open question whether the sees of Dorchester, 
Lichfield, and Worcester, which represented nearly 

384 William the Conqueror 

a third of England, belonged to the province of 
Canterbury or of York. The smaller territorial 
units of ecclesiastical government, the archdea- 
conry 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 ecclesiasti- 
tjcal offices belonged in England to the king and 
J the Witanagemot; it was another matter that the 
leaders of the church were becoming more and 
more absorbed in secular business. A repre- 
sentative 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 

. L 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 

William and the Church 385 

anticipation of party government, and during the 
long ascendancy of the house of Godwine, ecclesi- I 
astical dignities were naturally bestowed on men j 
who could make themselves politically useful tojl 
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 forml 
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 Jumieges, 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 

386 William the Conqueror 

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 Eng- 
\ / 1 land the bishop with the earl presided over the 
y lassembly 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 pro- 
nounced by clerical judges, but all other matters 
of ecclesiastical interest fell within the province 
of the local assemblies. Ecclesiastical and sec- 
ular 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 import- 
ance. No great councils of the church, such 
as those of which Bede tells us, can be traced in 

William and the Church 387 

the Confessor's reign, nor, indeed, for nearly two 
centuries before his accession. The church coun- 
cil had been absorbed by the Witanagemot. 

To all the greater movements which were agitat- 
ing 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 arch- 
bishop. 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 subordi- 
nates. 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 neigh- 
bours. In the great majority of cases, he seems 
to have been a rustic, married like his parishion- 

388 William the Conqueror 

ers, 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. 
jThe energy with which the bishops who followed 
Ithe Conquest laboured for the elevation of the 
flower 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 them- 
selves 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. 

Political circumstances delayed the beginnings 
r of ecclesiastical reform for more than three years 
after the battle of Hastings had placed the des- 
tinies 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 suc- 
cessful English rising, and made it no longer ex- 
pedient for William to be complaisant to Stigand 

William and the Church 389 

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 receiv- ' 
ing 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; Ethel- 
mer, brother of Stigand, and bishop of East 
Anglia, Ethelwine, bishop of Durham, and Ethel- 
ric, bishop of Selsey. In regard to none of these 
last bishops are the grounds on which their deposi- 
tion 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. Noth-j 
ing was further from William's purpose than any 1 . \/ 
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 

39 William the Conqueror 

no less determined to fill all vacancies when they 
occurred in the course of nature with continen- 
tal 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, protege 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 Lan- 
franc. 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 Canter- 
bury. In a council held at Winchester in 1072 
both questions were settled in favour of Canter- 
bury. The dioceses of Lichfield, Worcester, and 


William and the Church 391 

Dorchester were assigned to the latter provinces, 
and Lanfranc partly by arousing William's 
fears as to the political inexpediency of an inde- 
pendent 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 Canter- 
bury. 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 scientia. 
He was saved from imminent deposition partly 
by his piety, partly by his frank and early ac- 
ceptance 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 \ 
cnurch, 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 

392 William the Conqueror 

Thetford, the second town in Norfolk. In all 
these changes the attempt was made to follow the 
continental practice by which a bishop would 
inormally 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, 1 ex- 
pressed in grants of land, the extent of which can 
be ascertained from the evidence of Domesday 
Book. Here and there are traces of a reorgan- 
isation 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 

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 differen- 
tiated 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 

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

William and the Church 393 

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 Glou- 
cester in 1085 the spiritualty held a session of 
their own apart from the meeting of the Com- 
mune Concilium. In any case the spiritual de- 
crees 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. 1 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 
bf 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 

> Stubbs, Select Charters, 85. The writ in question probably 
belongs to the year 1075. 


394 William the Conqueror 

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 
N the reception of the canon law of the church. 1 
Important as it was for the subsequent fortunes 
of the church, this decree was perhaps of even 
greater importance for its influence upon the 
f 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 con- 
sistency and inherent reason ; a body very differ- 
ent 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 con- 
temporaries; but the fact of such influence is 
certain, and the next century witnessed its abun- 
dant 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 

Pollock and Maitland, i., 89." 

William and the Church 395 

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 Nor- 
mandy, 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 becom- 
ing 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 

39 William the Conqueror 

Conqueror's work was permanent and consonant 
with the strictest ecclesiastical ideas of the time. 

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 cathe- 
dral 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 abso- 
lutely forbidden, and the bishops were enjoined 
to ordain no man who had not previously made 
definite profession of celibacy. In all this Lan- 
franc was evidently anxious to pass no decree 
which could not be carried into immediate execu- 
tion, even if this policy involved inevitable delay 

William and the Church 397 

before the English clergy in this great respect 
were brought into line with their continental 
brethren. The next century had well begun be- 
fore the native clergy as a whole had been reduced 
to acceptance of the celibate rule. 

The monastic revival which followed the Con- 
quest told in the same direction. In the mere 
foundation of religious houses, the Conqueror's 
reign cannot claim a high place. Such monas- 
teries 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 
feign centres round the old independent Bene- 
dictine 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 accommo- 
dation 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 pro- 

39 8 William the Conqueror 

vided 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 dis- 
charge 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 con- 
trol 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 

William and the Church 399 

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 intro- 
duction of the Ambrosian method of chanting 
the services. 1 It was an easy matter for an abbot 
to use the lands of his church as a means of pro- 
viding for his needy kinsmen in Normandy 2 ; 
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 

1 Peterborough Chronicle, 1083. 

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

400 William the Conqueror 

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 indi- 
cated 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 con- 
tinent, 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 

William and the Church 401 

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 ec- 
clesiastical office in England. In point of origin 
they were a very heterogeneous class of men. 
Some of them were monks from the great ab- 
beys of Normandy; Gundulf of Rochester came 
from Caen, Remigius of Dorchester from Fecamp; 
others, such as Robert of Hereford, were of Lo- 
tharingian extraction. Under the Conqueror, as 
under his successors, service at the royal court v 
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 Salis- 
bury, who attained to ultimate canonisation, had 
be,en chancellor from 1072 to 1077. But a ques- 
tion 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 popula- 
tion of England. To- presuppose this, however, 
would be a great injustice to the new prelates. 
The very diversity of their origin prevented 

402 William the Conqueror 

them from sharing the racial pride of the lay 
nobility, and their position as servants of a uni- 
versal 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 impor- 
tance 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 

William and the Church 


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 con- 
forming 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 con- 
trolled 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 

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 Hilde- 
brand 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 arch- 
bishop-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 Nor- 
mandy. William's reply to this attack was 

404 William the Conqueror 

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 un- 
altered 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 Nor- 
mandy, 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 punc- 
tual 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, 

William and the Church 405 

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 *; 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 prede- 
cessor'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 cir- 
cumstances from taking offensive action against 
the king of England. In the very year of this 
correspondence, Gregory found himself confronted 

1 See above, Chapter V. 

406 William the Conqueror 

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 con- 
tinued true to William, even in his ecclesiastical 

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 pre- 
lates. There is some evidence, indeed, that 
towards the close of William's reign the English 
clergy were in advance of their Norman breth- 
ren in strictness of life and regard for canonical 
rule; at least in 1080, at the Synod of Lille- 
bonne, 1 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 fulfilment. 

i Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 315. 



THE art of government in the eleventh century 
was still a simple, or at least an un techni- 
cal, 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 recog- 
nised 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 immedi- 
ately 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 adminis- 
tration of Henry II.; it was bound to take more 
than twenty years before a trained body of admin- 
istrators could be elaborated out of the trans- 
planted Norman baronage, before the king had 
learned to whom he could safely entrust the 
permanent work of civil government. The Con- 
queror'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 


408 William the Conqueror 

expedients adopted by William that the medieval 
constitution of England takes its origin. 

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 Chan- 
nel, appear in frequent attendance on their lord, 
whether at Rouen or at Winchester. Their attend- 
ance, 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 

Administration 409 

year. "Moreover" says the Peterborough chron- 
icler, ' ' 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 Com-, 
mune 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. 1 

1 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 Nor- 
folk?), 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 I' Empire, 179. 

Christmas, 1077: King William; Lanfranc, archbishop of 
Canterbury; Thomas, archbishop of York; Odo, bishop of Bay- 
eux; Hugh, bishop of London; Walkelin, bishop of Winchester; 
Rerai, bishop of Lincoln; Maurice, the chancellor; Vitalis, ab- 

410 William the Conqueror 

\ / It will be clear that an assembly of this kind 
\ /is eminently unfitted to be the organ of systematic 
V 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 ad^dspry 
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_ 
ly sense a popular assembly; we certainly cannot 
say oF"i7"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 

bot of Westminster; Scotland, abbot of Ch. Ch., Canterbury; 
Baldwin, abbot of St. Edmunds; Simeon, abbot of Ely; Aelf- 
wine, 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 North- 
umbria, Hugh de Montfort, Henry de Ferrers, Walter Giffard, 
Robert d' Oilli, Hamon the Steward, Wulfstan, bishop of 
Worcester. Ramsey Chartulary, R. S., ii., 91. 

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, arch- 
bishop 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. 

Administration 411 

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 con- 
sisting 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/ r 
service, of those tenentes in capite whose estates 
in Domesday are entered under separate rubrics. 
This definition would include the great ecclesiasti- 
cal tenants, while it would exclude the undis- 
tinguished crowd of sergeants (servientes) and 
king's thegns, and it would suggest one most impor- , 
tant 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 bQno[ 
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, influ- 
ences constitutional no less than social relations; 
the king's council is a body composed of men who 
are his own tenants. From this technical distinc- 
tion 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 

412 William the Conqueror 

not impossible for the Witan to be found going its 
1 own way with but scanty regard to the personal 
I 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 differ- 
ent quality from the imbecile Edward ; but never- 
theless, the tejoiiriaLbond 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. 

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 English- 
men 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 inter- 
mediate type we may subjoin a list of those in 
attendance on the king at or shortly after the 



May 1068 

U 10 20 40 00 BO 

Earldom; allowed to lapse 
Wales and Scotland ( Including 
marcher lordships) 

Administration 413 

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 Elm- 
ham; William, bishop of London; Ethelric, bishop of 
Selsey; Walter, bishop of Hereford; Remi, bishop of 
Lincoln; Ethelnoth, abbot of (Glastonbury) ; Leof- 
weard, abbot of (Michelney) ; Wulfwold, abbot of 
Chertsey; Wulfgeat, abbot ; Earl William; Earl Wal- 
theof; 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_omJSValter the Flem- 
ing; Rambriht the Fleming; Thurstan; Baldwin "de 
Wailen leige " ; Athelheard ; Hermenc; Tofig, "minis- 
ter"; Dinni; "Alfge atte Thorne"; William de 
Walville; Bundi, the Staller; Robert, the Staller; 
Robert de Ely; Roger "pincema"; Wulfweard; 
Herding; Adsor; Brisi; Brihtric. 1 

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 

'^Printed in Transactions of Somerset Archaeological and 
Historical Society, xxiii., 56 

414 William the Conqueror 

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 Os- 
bern 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. 
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 pas- 
, sage quoted on page > . At times it appears as a 
judicial body, Waltheof was condemned in the 
/Midwinter Council of 1075; while of its advisory 

Administration 41 5 

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 prin- 
cipibus 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 i 
fulfilled, the. king's will was the motive force i 
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 ovef Hs 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 inter- 
esting writ of that year in which "Willelm cyng 
and Willelm eorl" address jointly the country 

4i 6 William the Conqueror 

magnates of Somersetshire. 1 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. 2 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," 3 
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 Nor- 
mandy into England will be addressed directly to 
the ordinary authorities of the shire ; and our know- 
ledge of the succession of William's representatives 
is derived from incidental notices elsewhere. 

So far as we can see King William was always^ 
attended by ' a varying number of his barons; 1 
a continually changing cortege followed the 
king in his progress over the country. To this 

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

2 Hist. Monasterii de Abingdon, R. S., ii. ( 9. 

3 Ibid., 10. 


September 1087 

/' KOGER 1 ~J] Wales and Scotland ( includin 

| | : x\ v . [ nmrc^er i- or dsliips) 

JJ n i 

6 Umiritude 4 East 3 West 2 from ' Oraenwlob 

Allot ng. Co., A.I'. 

Administration 417 

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" irnportan t "as its executive 
work, andlhe 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 hap- 
pened to be~iir "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 

4i 8 William the Conqueror 

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 inter- 
mittent; even the chancellor is much less in evi- 
dence in the Conqueror's charters than in those 
of Henry I. or II., and under these circum- 
stances 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 Nor- 
man 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 con- 
firmed this decision." * 

Round, Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, No. 

Administration 419 

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 I 
body of royal administrators. In this, as in other 
institutional matters, the Conqueror's reign was 
a time of tentative expedients and simple solu- I 
tions; it is essentially a period of origins. 

The king's court is a very mobile body. The 
fcing 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 Win- 
chester, the ancient capital of Wessex, and York, 
the ancient capital of Northumbria; at hunting 

420 William the Conqueror 

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 informa- 
tion is largely to be attributed the fact that, 
compared with Henry I., William is rarely 1 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 unre- 
corded 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 fulfil-! 
ment 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 

i Henry I. is seldom found north of Nottingham. 

Administration 421 

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. Where' 
fore, 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 inf angenethef ; [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." * 

Any comment on the privileges conveyed by 
the document would be outside our present pur- 
pose, 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 

1 Monasticon, iii., 377. 

422 William the Conqueror 

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 forth- 
with proceed to carry its directions into effect. 
The sheriff in the king's eyes is clearly the execu-* 
tive 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 repre- 
sents 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 shejtiffdoms 
were hereditary in much the same sense as that 
in which the great earldoms before the Con- 
quest 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 

Administration 423 

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 

y/was preparing difficulties for his successors, but 
his justification lay in the essential needs of his 
own time. The great transfejL^c, 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 

In the period immediately following the Con- 

424 William the Conqueror 

quest, 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 English- 
men. 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 Ethel wine, sheriff of Staffordshire, 1 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 agressive 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. 2 

From the sheriffs we may pass naturally to 
their superiors in rank, the earls. Taught by 
experience, William regarded the vast, half -inde- 
pendent earldoms of the later Anglo-Saxon 
period with profound mistrust, and as the occasion 

V. C. H., Warwick, i., 258. * See above, Chapter VI. 

Administration 425 

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, pos- 
sibly before January, 1067. 

The exact extent of the earldom of Hereford 
is doubtful, for there exists a certain amount of 

426 William the Conqueror 

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. 1 It is 
probable on other grounds that Gloucestershire 
lay within the Fitz Osbern earldom, for William's 
possessions extended far south of the Hereford- 
shire border to the lands between Wye and Usk 
in the modern county of Monmouth, and the 
addition of Gloucestershire to Herefordshire is re- 
quired 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 

1 See the complaints of his aggressions in Heming's History 
of the Church of Worcester; Monasticon, i., 593-599. 

Administration 427 

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. 1 Lastly, it should be 
noted that in a document of 10672 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 Mont- 
gomery 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 

1 William of Malmesbury, ii., 314. 

Calendar of Documents Preserved in France, No. 77. 

428 William the Conqueror 

Severn, continued throughout the Middle Ages 
to be the key to mid- Wales. Unfortunately, the 
date' at which Roger received the Shropshire earl- 
dom 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 discre- 
pancy 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. 1 It 
is highly probable, in fact, that Roger possessed 
the rights of an earl over the latter county, 2 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 Chiches- 
ter. 3 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 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 178. 

a Compare Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 322. 

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

Administration 429 

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 
Belleme, and by a more distant succession he 
became Seigneur of Alencon, 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 be- 
ginning of 1070. Then we are told that William 
gave the earldom of Cheshire to Gherbod, one of his 
Flemish 1 followers, but an original charter 2 of the 
time shows us Hugh Lupus of Avranches already 
addressed as earl of Chester in or before February, 

1 Ordericus Vitalis, ii., 219. 

2 Reproduced herewith. 

43 William the Conqueror 

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 com- 
manded 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 ten- 
ant-in-chief. Of Earl Hugh, we can draw the out- 
lines 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, unswerv- 
ingly 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 leth-. 

Administration 431 

argic 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 land- 
owners. 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 

43 2 William the Conqueror 

on the part of the Conqueror. Hereford, Kent, 
and Shropshire in turn served as the base of opera- 
tions for a formidable revolt within fifty years of 
the Conquest^ Their formation also contrasts 
with the general principles which governed the dis- 
tribution 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 sub- 
ject. 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 al- 
most 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 out- 
right. 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 com- 
bination 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 

Administration 433 

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 govern- 
ment 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 fol- 
lowing record, taken from the history of the 
church of Rochester : 


434 William the Conqueror 

" In the time of William the Great, king of the Eng- 
lish, 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 con- 
sider 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 

Administration 435 

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 con- 
firmation. 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 con- 
firm 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 judg- 
ment of the other men of their county they paid 
three hundred pounds to the king." * 

In this extract we get a vivid picture of the way 
in which the two systems of government, Norman / 

1 Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i., 339. 

43 6 William the Conqueror 

and English, worked in conjunction. In the above 
transactions the matter in dispute is referred for 
settlement to the ancient shire court of Cam- 

\bridgeshire, 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 op- 
pression 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 excep- 
tional rank of the parties concerned in this in- 
stance 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 

1 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 

Administration 43 7 

juries in the Domesday Inquest, but the employ- ) 
ment 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 in- 
cidentally if inevitably from the unsworn judg- 
ment of the court as a whole, the sworn verdict 
would consist of an actual award. The latter 
principle produced the Ayjevin juries of present- 
. ment; 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 swprn 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. 

43 8 William the Conqueror 

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. Pri- 
vate 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 natur- 
ally 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 be- 
tween a lord and his tenant gave the former 
jurisdictional powers over the latter; that, in- 

Administration 439 

dependently 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. 1 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 pro- 
ceeding 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 

1 Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, 80-83. 

440 William the Conqueror 

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 Con- 
queror 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 ac- 
cept 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. " l Terms 
like these cover nearly the whole field of " civil and 
criminal justice." Sake and soke may be con- 
strued as the right to hold a court; toll explains 
itself; "team" implies that persons might be 

1 Charter of William I., Monasticon, i., 477. 


%^N*S9r /A 

''* ^i&yti, inSSVJ^ ^^ 

^^Ss.7'/. iiinw ,&\JK/ -& & 

^toteSX *^ x 


Administration 441 

"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 entertain- 
ing suits arising out of the transfer of land; in- 
fangenethef " 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 misdemean- 
ours 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 cer- 
tianly, 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 [liber- 
tates] which I formerly held of the king, MI we can 

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

442 William the Conqueror 

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 
ational courts which they were destined to sup- 
plant. With reference to the hundred and shire 
assemblies, the answer is fairly simple: the two 
systems of jurisdiction were concurrent. The. hun- 
dred 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 isola- 
tion, which were pre-eminently strong in the early 
Middle Ages. The manorial court supplied justice 
at home, and we should remember how many hin- 
drances beset recourse to the hundreds and shires. 
In all Staffordshire there were only five hundreds^ 
in all Leicestershire only four wapentakes/ihe 

Administration 443 

prosecution of a suit in any of these courts must 
have meant grievous weariness and loss, the es- 
tablishment 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 con- 
venient 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 an- 
tiquated 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, indepen- 
dently 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 meet- 
ing had any formal constitution or judicial 
functions whether, that is, it was a "township- 
moot," in the accepted sense of the words 1 is 
excessively doubtful. The fact that we hear 
nothing definitely about it in the documents of 
the Anglo-Saxon period is not quite conclusive 

1 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. 

444 William the Conqueror 

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 town- 
ship never possessed any court other than that 
which belonged to it in its manorial aspect. 

We have seen enough to know that the jurisdic- 
tional 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 pri- 
vate 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 dispo- 

Administration 445 

sal 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 
t 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 

446 William the Conqueror 

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 num- 
ber 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. Trans- 
actions 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 com- 
monly 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 

Administration 447 

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 constabu- 
laria of ten knights, a military unit which we 
know to have prevailed across the Channel before 
the conquest of England. 1 

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 arch- 
bishop of York, and had been let by him to a cer- 
tain 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 under- 

1 Round, Feudal England, 225-314, has given the clearest 
account of the introduction and development of knight service 
in England. 

448 William the Conqueror 

lay dependant land tenure had never been worked 
out in England, as they had been elaborated in 
Normandy before the Conquest, and in two im- 
portant 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 ten- 
ure was far slacker and less coherent than its Nor- 
man 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 co- 
hesion, permanence, and theoretical consistency. 

It was also an innovation upon accepted prac- 
tice that the Conqueror extended to ecclesiastical 
estates the military responsibilities which he im- 
posed 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 

^^okkl"UnriLauU<Wpm4iuauel^^ jj. 


vj i |l 

t aliaulndc Jm^wauxfUplKppiujafi^tit^'ta.nLntumJT. 

CftitCfC ' ft ' f 

*tq: <m>r>iurttTOpu Aitf'nuint uotnJrnU cpwaptf <r{iuuib|y mjyiirUttirt MO> < 

a nut^cwc t> Jpr pp!u-n Huimml aj pfT"" 1 " Um ft>ojjvm Aetc If tuff eompenr- cjjmifirrrit! mftfcpo uw, 

f i C C Cf t j *_// -^ . * 

tiwnWnitjranMio ctulq-.axi'raeru*: inppmwT* 

n^V^4 f -cJ^|)L-u(j-ir4a4or.rjt 1 ^ fl j. ( i Iltt n^ 
^[YT * afX^fiC^S cmn^oifcfrf-X* 

- .^L 

^u^j^im onari<T,tfutfin0i. "-f- e,.. 

1 ^..nouf OB 


Administration 449 

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 Peter- 
borough 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 dis- 
crepancies; 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 pro- 
cess in question was regarded in a very different 

450 William the Conqueror 

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 neces- 
sitous kinsmen beyond the Channel ; to the latter 
the withdrawal of land from the immediate pur- 
poses of the church forboded an ultimate shrink- 
age 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 chroni- 
clers 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 ap- 
proximation to the truth of the matter. On the 

Administration 451 

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. 1 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 prob- 
lem of the numbers engaged in the battle of 
Hastings, which has already received discussion 

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 
fpreign 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 

1 Feudal England, as quoted above, page 447. See also 
Morris, Welsh Wars o,' Edward, i., 36, arguing for a total of 

45 2 William the Conqueror 

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 bor- 
ough or other, and this close connection of borough 
and royal castle is something more than a fortu- 
itous 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 geo- 
graphical 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 

Administration 453 

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 ten- 
ure which was originally mere guardianship might 
pass in the course of time- into direct possession. 

The larger class of private castles is less im- 
portant 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 exam- 
ple, 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 hands. 

454 William the Conqueror 

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 con- 
tinues to be summoned, not only by the king 
but by his lieutenants, such as Geoffrey of Cou- 
tances 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 

Administration 455 

45 6 William the Conqueror 

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 busi- 
ness 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 un- 
exampled 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. 

Penny of William I. 



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 condi- 
tions 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 ad- 
mire 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 Chan- 
nel and the Tees; and that the thousands of dry 
figures which are deliberately accumulated in the 
pages of Domesday represent the result of the great- 
est catastrophe which has ever affected the na- 
tional history. Domesday Book, indeed, has no 
peer, because it was the product of unique circum- 
stances. Other conquerors have been as po-.verful 
as William, and as exigent of their royal rights ; no 
other conqueror has so consistently regarded him- 
self as the strict successor of the native kings who 
were before him; above all, no other conqueror 


45 8 William the 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 inten- 
tion of enlightening posterity as to the social and 
economic condition of his kingdom. His aim was 
severely practical. How it struck a contempo- 
rary may be gathered from that well-known pas- 
sage 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." 

p? Soft* W *e yap 
\c fe ' 

e ,n 

n i 



. i j . 

^ 7- 1 1. II^L "Se^OC. foli3 
.. uauRL^.ll^ 7 ^ojb/Vtit.l 

p-w TEIUU bvootj hltt BAlbKta. 

flt j. caf: ifn.m. (qrui .77noUfi''Sc.^gc. foTii'.-Tv. jtc va. 
'- V*t 7 tiaiitc. Wi. lij'. / 


Domesday Book 459 

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 com- 
missioners 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 hun- 
dred-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 \hid&\ 
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 fish- 
eries ; 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." 1 

Frequently printed, e.g. by Stubbs. Select Charters, 86. 

460 William the Conqueror 

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 lev- 
ied on the whole of England. Domesday is essen- 
tially a financial document; it is a noteworthy 
f j^xample of that insistence on their fiscal rights 
I/ 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 Domes- 
day bears some reference t direct or indirect, to the 
payment of the Danegeld, for the king's commis- 
sioners 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 atten- 
tion at the outset. 

The most important of those points is the mean- 
ing 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- 

Domesday Book 461 

Saxon history and more than one meaning came 
to be attached to it in the course of its long history- 
Whenjwe 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 acre- 
age. 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 ca- 
pacity 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 

Our normal free householder, the man who held 

462 William the Conqueror 

a "hide.V 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 ele- 
ments, 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 de- 
scribed 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 Hid- 
age, 1 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 dwell- 
ers in the Peak are assigned 1 200 hides, the dwell- 
ers 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 

1 Birch, Cartularium, i., 414. 

Domesday Book 463 

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 prac- 
tice which we can see to be inevitable, for a bar- 
barian 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 "su- 
premacy." 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 reck- 
oning which is recorded in the Tribal Hidage. 

These remarks apply equally to the next docu- 
ment in the series of fiscal records which leads 
up to Domesday. Probably in the reign of Ed- 
ward the Elder, when Wessex was recovering from 
the strain of the great Danish invasion, some scribe 
drew up a list of strong places or " burns," 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. 1 In this way 700 hides 

1 Birch, Cartularium, iii., 671; Maitland, Domesday Book, 

464 William the Conqueror 

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 
"burns," 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 docu- 
ment (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 cer- 
tain 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, Berk- ; 
shire 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 rep- 
resent 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. 

Domesday Book 465 

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 1 
forms a link between the Burghal Hidage and 
Domesday ; for, while it agrees with the older re- 
cord in the figures which it gives for Worcester- 
shire, Berkshire, and Oxfordshire, its estimate 
approximates very closely to the Domesday 
assessment of Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, and 

And so we come to the Norman Conquest. At 
the very beginning of his reign, William, unde- 
terred 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 partic- 
ular, in 1083, he raised a tax of seventy-two pence 

1 Birch, Cartularium, iii., 671; Maitland, Domesday Book. 
45 6 - 


466 William the Conqueror 

on the hide, the normal rate being only two shil- 
lings. 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 as- 
sessment 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 preced- 
ing 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. 1 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 

What, then, are the main features of this sys- 
tem? Much of its vitality, cumbrous and unequal 
as it was, may doubtless be ascribed to the fact 

1 Maitland, D. B. and Beyond, 4. 


bawnyk. 4& pa. Stlua. 2>e.l 
tntflj.c tn 
func ^oc^t. 

att? (Uocber unl kt^4un'7un* ^7-arfb Gluj? urni 

mu nii . erutencETaine riT^tm^w 4? 

n cbita. ^cc-E.-tenutr- Jutuc 

toaam fnu cv> teiK^.cma cu. 
at ^fntcra4.?t(ji'. in Ut>; 
T.ll.L- tuitfe .xv Ufc. 

Domesday Book 467 

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 Bedford- 
shire, for example, shall be considered to contain 
that is, shall be assessed at 1 200 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 artifi- 
ciality 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 

468 William the Conqueror 

or multiple of five hides. 1 The ubiquity of this 
"five-hide unit" is utterly irreconcilable with any 
theory which would make the Domesday hide con- 
sist 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 arbitra- 
rily imposed from above. The hide was not only 
a measure of land, but also a fiscal term, dis- 
sociated from all necessary correspondence with 

But, before passing to further questions of ter- 
minology, 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 

1 The fact that the assessment of southern and western 
England was based upon a conventional unit of five hides was 
first enunciated by Mr. J. H. Round in Feudal England. 

Domesday Book 469 

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 com- 
bined in conventional groups of five, ten, or the 

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. 1 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 un- 
usual form of assessment in Domesday. In East 
Anglia we get for once a statement in arithmet- 

Vinogradoff, E. H. R., xix., 282. 

470 William the Conqueror 

ical 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 sit- 
uated pays twenty shillings. This form of slid- 
ing 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, 1 but the assessment of East Anglia 
in other respects presents some special diffi- 
culties of its own, although they cannot be dis- 
cussed here. 

Of much greater importance is the remaining 
fiscal unit to be found in Domesday. In Yorkshire, 
Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leices- 
tershire, 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 

1 Feudal England, 98-103. 

Domesday Book 471 

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 
terra must originally have meant a ploughland, 
that is, the amount of land capable of be- 
ing 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 deter- 
mined 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 

47 2 William the Conqueror 

eighteen carucates. 1 We have in this way a "six- 
carucate unit," to set beside and in distinction 
to the " five-hide unit," which we have already 

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 prov- 
ing an extensive Scandinavian settlement to 
have taken place there; and we can now rein- 
force this argument by pointing to the above 
fiscal peculiarities, which we know to be con- 
fined 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 employ- 
ment of a duodecimal system of reckoning similar 
to that on which we have seen the Domesday 
assessment of the above north-eastern coun- 
ties to be based ; and we may recognise in the 

For the " six-carucate unit" see Feudal England, 69. 
Victoria Histories, Derby, Notts, Leicester, and Lincoln. 

Domesday Book 473 

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 con- 
clusions 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 arrange- 
ments many relics of their former independent 
organisation long after they had lost all trace of 
political autonomy. And then in the secon 
place we obtain a glimpse into the principles whic 
governed the policy of the Norman rulers of Eng 
land towards native institutions. These weri 
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 inter- 
fered with. Here, as elsewhere, it was not the 
policy of William or of his successors to disturb, 
fhe ancient organisation of the country, for it\ 
could well be adapted to the purposes of a king \ 
who was strong enough to make his govern-J 
ment 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 

474 William the Conqueror 

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 Domes- 1 
day, but within the shire all estates are classified 
according to the tenant-in-chief to whom they be- 
longed, 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-l 
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 Cam- 
bridgeshire and one from Derbyshire, will be in 
point here: 

Domesday Book 



Hides. Virgates. Acres. 

The King 7 i 

Picot the Sheriff. . 4 3 

Count Alan i i 

" i 

Geoffrey de Mande- 

ville 5 o 

Guy de Reinbud- 

curt i i 3 

Count Alan 12 

20 o o 


Carucates. Bovates. 
Henry de Ferrers. ... 3 

Geoffrey Alselin i 

Gilbert de Gand 2 o 

Roger de Busli 3 o 

" 4 

These examples show very clearly that no con- 
istent principle governed the assessment of a frac- 
ional part of vills, and are typical of the neatness 
rith which unpromising figures combine into even 
. As to the way in which the men of a vill 
portioned their fiscal responsibility, we are left 
lost entirely in the dark; the vill or township 
ims to have had no court of its own capable of 
:iding such a matter. Largely, no doubt, it 

1 Feudal England, 42. 
V. C. H., Derby, i, 295. 

47 6 William the Conqueror 

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 pro- 
portion. 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 well : 

"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 state- 
ment 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 

Domesday Book 477 

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 ap- 
parent simplicity, this formula, which is extremely 
common in the survey, presents upon investiga- 
tion an extraordinary number of difficult compli- 
cations. Taken simply it would seem to denote 
the number of ploughs which could find employ- 
ment 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 instruc- 

47 8 William the Conqueror 

tion 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 em- 
ployed in the estate; in yet a third the commis- 
sioners 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 in- 
terest 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 fol- 
low 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 

Domesday Book 479 

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 be- 
cause they were more definitely responsible for 
their share of the manorial Danegeld l 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 proba- 
bly 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 soke- 
men, whether in ploughs or land, are usually com- 
bined 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 suffi- 
ciently 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 

This was the view of Professor Maitland, Domesday Book 
and Beyond, 24. 

480 William the Conqueror 

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 num- 
ber 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 al- 
though 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. 1 

After its enumeration of the several classes of j 
peasantry, with their agricultural equipment, the 
survey will commonly proceed to deal with certairy 
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 

1 The contemporary description of the Domesday Survey 
published by Stevenson, E. H. R., xxii., 72, makes it probable 
that the bordars were in theory distinguished from other 
classes by the fact'that they possessed no share in the arable 
fields of the vill. 

Domesday Book 481 

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 re- 
ligious 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 deter- 
mines to a great extent the relative value of the 
vills contained in it. 1 

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 I 
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 peri- 
ods, namely, 1066, 1086, and the time when 
King William gave the manor to its existing 
owner. The last estimate, however, is frequently 

1 See V. C. H., Hertford, i., 293. 

482 William the Conqueror 

omitted from the completed survey; but it is in- 
cluded 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 tall- 
age of the peasantry and the profits of the mano- 
rial 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 meadows. 

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 

Domesday Book 483 

in Domesday. It has been shown, for instance, 
that the word manerium, which we can only trans- 
late 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 in- 
stances 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 Domes- 
day 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 ex- 
act 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 can- 
not 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 

484 William the Conqueror 

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 Ans- 
chil, Aschil, and Achi, 1 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 English- 
men 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 reliev- 
ing their monotonous task by indulging in such 
pleasure as the variation of phrase and spelling 

V. C. H., Bedford, i., 200. 

Domesday Book 485 

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 precau- 
tion 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 can- 
not be quite sure whether they went on circuit 
through the several hundreds of each shire or 
merely held one session in its county town 1 ; 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 hun- 
dred 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 

1 The former view is that of Mr. Round, the latter that of 
Professor Maitland. 

486 William the Conqueror 

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 instruc- 
tions 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 ob- 
tained 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 be- 
tween 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. 1 
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 Domes- 
day 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 

1 We also know that the returns were checked in each 
county by a second set of commissioners who were deliber- 
ately sent by the king into shires where they possessed no 
personal interest. E. H. R., xxii., 72. 

Domesday Book 487 

them under appropriate headings, and we know 
that they paid no very consistent regard to lo- 
cal 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 disre- 
garded 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 inaccuracies. 

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 

488 William the Conqueror 

have followed as nearly as possible the directions 
which we have quoted on page 458. They enu- 
merate 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 in formation about the differ- 
ent 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 Domes- 
day the scribes abandoned the idea of tran- 
scribing the original returns in full, and contented 
themselves with giving a precis 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 expla- 
nation of this change is that the so-called second 
volume of Domesday represents the first attempt 
at a codification of the returns 1 ; 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 com- 
bining 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 

i Feudal England, 141. 

Domesday Book 489 

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 ap- 
pendage 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 

49 William the Conqueror 

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 arrange- 
ment 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 Domes- 
day 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. 

Domesday Book 491 

Among laymen the earls come first, foreign counts 
being placed on a level with their English repre- 
sentatives, the same Latin word (comes) express- 
ing 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, Preaux, 
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, Wal- 
theof 's widow ; and a lady who is vaguely described 

49 2 William the Conqueror 

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 Oxfordsnire 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 Ox- 
fordshire, 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 characteris- 
tically 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 be- 
longed 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 

Domesday Book 493 

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 ev- 
ery 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 
icreased when we are able to supplement its 
letails 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 

494 William the Conqueror 

with Berkshire, where the local history of Abing- 
don 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 writ- 
ten in its pages. Apart from this adventitious 
source of light, Domesday imparts some of its 
most precious information when recording a dis- 
pute between two tenants as to the possession) 
of land, or noting new "customs," tolls, and sol 
forth, which have been introduced since the 
Conquest, for then we may look for some state- 
ment 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 Domes- 
day 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 

Domesday Book 495 

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 confisca- 
tion" of which Freeman considered Domesday 
to be essentially the record, and two all-impor- 
tant 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 be- 
come 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 English- 

49 6 William the Conqueror 

men as such were held to have been disin- 
herited by the result of the Conquest. Save,- 
for the lands of God and his Saints all Eng- \ 
land 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 Col- 
swegn 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 law- 
ful 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 "prede- 
cessor." 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 

Domesday Book 497 

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 exist. 

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 Domesday: 

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

"Concerning the two carucates of land which Rob- 
ert Dispensator claims against Gilbert de Gand in 
Screnby through Wiglac, his predecessor [antecessor], 
the wapentake says that the latter only had one caru- 
cate, and the soke of that belonged to Bardney. But 
Wiglac forfeited that land to his lord Gilbert, and so 

498 William the Conqueror 

Robert has nothing there according to the witness of 
the Riding. 

"In the same Screnby Chetelbern claims one caru- 
cate 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 Can- 
dleshoe 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 hun- 
dred courts. Not only do they supply the requi- 
site 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 Candle- 
shoe 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, 

Domesday Book 499 

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 exag- 
gerated 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 Eng- 
lish 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 

500 William the Conqueror 

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 substi- 
tuted 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 con- 
quered land. The Domesday Inquest afforded a 
grand opportunity for the statement and adjust- 
ment of conflicting claims, and examples may 
generally be found in every few pages of Domesday 

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. " Domes- 
day Book " is clearly no official title ; it is a popular 
appellation, of which the meaning is not quite 

Domesday Book 501 

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 con- 
cerning those matters which are written in this book, 
it is consulted, and its sentence may not be impugned 
nor refused with safety." 1 

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. 

1 Dialogus de Saccario (ed. 1902), p. 108. 


Penny of William I. 

Penny of William I. 


Ethelred II. Hawise = Geoffrey I 
of Brittany 

"1 4, 

William Edward the (Table B) 

Mint of Arque Confessor 


o 5 

r S 


- c 

?_ <* 


O *" 


11 o 

g * 

U O 



- - 




v '* 

S | 

o - 

4i c 


v -a 


5 o 

a* cJ __, 

s ' S 


.g o 

-s w 


o ~ 



u . 

v ex 

*4- ^ O 


5 f 







- 6 



















"" bfl 






























H- < 

1 I 







tJO g 

o S 

o "o 


C c-> 


ffi M 



a .s 

5 s 

is * 

C O 

.:; t 

& o 

13 i- 


| I 

. ^ "fl 

pq -c 




3 8 
c w 



* S 

O O i'., 

^ bfl "? 


c . .s o 
" o o 2 

.2 ' 7 X 



5 o o 





CL, O 

(/i ^ 

o -- 

OJ ,,_ 

W o 


'o oo 

2 f> 

8 2 
--S -J- 


"3 ' 

Sf 3 


Abernethy, 323, 325 
Abingdon, chronicle of, 178 

knight service of, 449 

Ethelhelm, abbot of, 

399. 45 

history of, 416, 494 

Adeliz, countess of Ponthieu, 

64, 234 
^Elfwold, abbot of St. Benet 

of Holme, 173 
Agelwig, abbot of Evesham, 

Agriculture, system of, 479, 

Aire, river, passage of, 278, 


Alan III., count of Brittany, 
66, 72, 137, 341 

Alan Fergant, duke of Brit- 
tany, 342 

Alan, earl of Richmond, 200, 

3 2 4, 3 61 
Aldreth, Cambridgeshire, 298, 


Alencon, 63, 91, 299 
- siege of, 94, 95 
Alfred the Etheling, 47, 51 
Alfred, King, 6, 12, 22, 25, 

!79, 394 

Algar, English prisoner, 372 
Alney, treaty of, 214 
Ambrieres, 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, 45 1 

at Hastings, 196 

Arnold, bishop of le Mans, 

3 10 . 3 12 
Arnulf, son of Baldwin VI., 

of Flanders, 305, 306 
Arnulf, count of Flanders, 

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, 


Ascelin, son of Arthur, 375 
Assessment, principles of, 

Athelstan, King, 19, 27, 

Aubrey, earl of Northumbria, 


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 Flan- 
ders, 91, 105, 106, 108, 
109, 126, 160, 171, 172, 

Baldwin VI., count of Flan- 
ders, 305 

Baldwin, son of Count Bald- 
win 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, 

3 T 3. 3 6 
Beaurain, 154 
Beauvoisis, 112 
Bee, schools of, 41-43 
Bedfordshire, assessment of, 

Bell6me, 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, 

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, 

3*8, 3 2 3. 3 2 4 

Boscherville, 351 

Brand, abbot of Peterbor- 
ough, 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, 

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, 4oi 
abbey of, Holy Trinity, 

180, 358 
1 80 

St. Stephen's, 42, 

burial of William I. at, 

Cambridge, 266, 298, 333 

Canterbury, 217 

see Anselm, Dunstan, 

Lanfranc, Robert of Ju- 
mieges, Stigand, arch- 
bishops of. 

Capetian House, 360 

in alliance with Nor- 
mandy, 29, 33, 67, 68, 73, 


Capital punishment, 87, 340 
Cardiff, castle of, 354 
Cardigan, 429 
Carham, battle of, 317 
Carisbrooke, castle of, 356 
Carlisle, 323 
Carolingian Empire, i 
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, enforce- 
ment 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, 


see Gerbod, Hugh, earls 


Christian, bishop of Aarhus, 

Cicely, daughter of William 

I., 180 
Claim of fealty, papal, 404, 

Claire-sur-Epte, treaty of, 

24, 25, 26, 40, 79 
"Clamores" in Lincolnshire 

Domesday, 497, 498 
Clarendon, constitutions of, 

Cleveland, 176, 282, 317, 


Clifford's Tower (York), 265 
Cluni, abbey of, 379 
Cluniac movement, 40, 385- 

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, 

Confiscation, the great, 235- 

Constance, widow of King 

Robert I., 68 
"Consul Palatinus, " 427 

Copsige, earl of North- 

umbria, 233, 247 
Corbie, 307 
Cornwall, 259, 260 
Cotentin, the, 25, 81, 101, 

Councils, ecclesiastical, 392, 

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, 

Cumberland, 317, 318, 321, 


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, 

Sweden Forkbeard, Swegen 


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, n, 

13. l6 . 33. 57, "7. i73. 
280, 325, 327, 345, 367, 
392, 411, 414, 4i5. 43. 

Inquest, 437, 485, 486. 

498, 499 



Domesday Book (Continued) 
arrangement of, 489- 



composition of, 486, 


indefiniteness of, 482- 

legal theory underlying, 
meaning of name, 500, 

Domfront, 91-95, 101 
Donald, son of Malcolm III., 

3 2 3 
Dover, 50, 156, 216, 217, 


Downton (Wilts), 355, 420 
Dreux, county of, 76, 77 
Drogo, count of the Vexin, 


Droitwich, 420 
Dunbar, 317-325 
Duncan, king of Scots, 

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, 

Ealdgyth, wife of Harold 

II., 171 
Ealdred, archbishop of York, 

71, 157, 221, 225, 230, 

260, 263, 275, 384-387, 

Ealdwulf II., earl of North- 

umbria, 58 
Earldoms, the great, 14-17, 

46, 424, 425 
East Anglia, assessment of, 


Edgar the Etheling, 148, 

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 Mon- 
treuil, 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 Hertford- 
shire, 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 appoint- 
ments by, 385 
Edward the Elder, 7, 19, 26 
Edward the Etheling, 147, 

Edward, sheriff of Wiltshire, 

4 2 3 
Edwin, earl of Mercia, 59, 61, 

215, 227, 230, 234, 412 

accompanies William I. 

to Normandy, 244, 245 
first revolt of, 261-264 
flight and death of, 

Edwy, king of Wessex, 8, 20 
Elf, the, treaty of, 48 
Ely, abbey of, 288, 432 
Domesday Inquest re- 
lating to, 459 

Isle of, 290-300, 321 

private jurisdiction over, 

440, 441 



Emma, wife of Ethelred II., 

29, 3. 3 1 . 47- 6 5, i43 
Emma, wife of Earl Ralf, 

33. 334 

English sheriffs, 424 
Enguerrand, count of Pon- 

tnieu, 64, 76 

death of, 104, in, 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, 

Ethelnoth, Kentish thegn, 

Ethelred II., 8, 15, 18, 20, 

29, 30, 44, 143 
Ethelnc, bishop of Selsey, 

Ethelwine, bishop of Durham, 

266, 268, 389 

Ethel wold, prior of Peter- 
borough, 292, 295 
Eu, 24, 105 

county of, 100 

see Robert, William, 

counts of. 
Eudo fitz Hubert (de Rye), 

Eustace, count of Boulogne, 

50, 169, 228, 231, 249,250, 

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 

Fecamp, 39, 71, 76, 245, 401 

council at, 70, 71 
Feigned flight at Hastings, 

Fenland, 288 
Feudal rights, 34 
Feudum, 32 
Five Boroughs, 7 

assessment of, 472, 473 
Flanders, county of, 27, 38, 

52, 108, 109, 141, 160, 

volunteers from, 168 
visited by Robert Cur- 
those, 346, 348 

see Baldwin V. and VI., 

Robert, Arnulf, counts of. 
Flat Holme, the, 258 
Fleet, the English, 173, 174, 


the Norman, 165-168 
Fresnay, castle of, 312, 313, 


Fulford, battle of, 177 
Fulk the Lame, 167 
Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, 


Fulk le Rechin, count of An- 
jou, 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, 


Geoffrey Alselin, 238 
Geoffrey "le barbu," count 

of Anjou, 127 
Geoffrey, bishop of Cou- 

tances, 128, 225, 277, 

384, 400, 408, 409, 454 
Geoffrey "Grenonat," count 

of Rennes, 341 
Geoffrey de Mandeville, 238, 

241, 424 

5 o8 


Geoffrey "Martel," count of 
Anjou, 89, 112, 116, 160, 


war of 1048, 90-95 

refrains from war of 

1054, 112-116 

attacks Ambrieres, 118, 


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, 

Gherbod, earl of Chester, 

429, 43 
Gilbert, count of Brionne, 

7 2 . 74, 7 6 
Gilbert Crispin, castellan of 

Tillieres, 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 Northum- 

bria, 268, 319, 320 

appointed earl (1068), 


flight of (1068), 262 
joins Danish army, 273 
makes submission, 282 
harries Cumberland , 


deposition of, 325 

Gratian, 394 

Grimbald de Plesis, 82, 87 

Guildford, 47 

Gundulf, bishop of Roch- 
ester, 40 1 

Gunhild, daughter of Earl 
Godwine, 258 

Guntard, abbot of Jumieges, 


Gustavus Vasa, 4 

Guthrum of East Anglia, 6, 24 

Guy of Brionne, 71 

revolt of, 80-88 

Guy-Geoffrey of Aquitaine, 
105, in 

Guy, count of Ponthieu, in, 
115, 154, 183 

Gyrth, earl of East Anglia, 
57, 202 

Gytha, wife of Earl God- 
wine, 150, 207, 257, 258 


Hacon, earl of Worcester- 
shire, 45 

Hacon, Danish earl, 334 
Hainault, county of, 305 
Hamon de Thorigny, 82 
Hamon, viscount of Thouars, 

Harold "Blue Tooth," king 

of Denmark, 45 
Harold "Hein," king of 

Denmark, 271, 335, 363 
Harold I., king of England, 

Harold II., king of England, 

49, 52, 56, 57- 2 57, 3 2 
joins in Breton war, 

139, J S5 

earl of Wessex, 147 

continental tour of, 

148, 149 

designs upon English 

throne, 148 

visit to Normandy and 

oath, 154-157 

becomes king of Eng- 
land, 157-160 

refuses papal arbitra- 
tion, 161, 163 



Harold II. (Continued) 

marriage of, 171 

campaign of Stamford- 
bridge, i 7 7-1 79 

campaign of Hastings, 


battle of Hastings, 194- 


death, 205, 206 
character, 208-210 
illegitimate sons 


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, 

194206, 286 

castle of, 187 

base of Norman army, 

188, 195, 211 
Hayling Island, grant of, 


Hehe de la Fleche, 362 
Henry de Beaumont, 264, 

408, 451 

Henry IV., emperor, 160 
Henry I., king of England, 

219, 233, 260, 369, 370, 

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, 


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, 


castle of, 248 

county of, 276 

Hereward, 289-295, 297-303, 


Herlwin, abbot of Bee, 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 

Hoel, duke of Brittany, 140, 

3U, 341, 342 
Holderness, 176, 320 
Housecarles, 445 
Hoveringham(Notts) .Domes- 
day description of, 476-482 
Hubert, papal legate, 404 
Hubert of Fresnay, 312 
Hubert, viscount of Maine, 


Hugh fitz Baldric, 423 
Hugh de Chateauneuf, 346 
Hugh, earl of Chester, 78, 

167, 356, 43.433 
Hugh of Gournai, 113 
Hugh de Grentmaisnil, 243, 


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 Sille", 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 Fleche, 308, 313- 

3 J 5 
John, archbishop of Rouen, 

Judith, wife of Earl Tostig, 

Judith, wife of Earl Waltheof , 

234, 332, 337, 342 
Jumieges, 39, 245 
Junquene, archbishop of Dol, 

7.6, 13? 

Jurisdiction, ecclesiastical, 
386, 387 


Kent, earldom of, 167, 425, 

43 ! 
Knight service, institution 

of, 444, 446-451 
Knights' fee, 446, 447 

La Fleche, siege of, 314 

- see also Helie and John. 
Land-loan, 33 
Lanfranc, archbishop of Can- 

terbury, 214, 358, 389 
- head of school of Bee, 

opposes William's mar- 

rage, 107 

abbot of St. Stephen's, 
Caen, 180 

visits Rome (1067), 
245, 246 

relations with Roger 
of Hereford, 328, 329 

conduct in 1075, 334- 

suggests arrest of Bish- 
op Odo, 357 

letter to, 371 

policy as archbishop, 


dispute with the Curia, 

Law, Old English, 10, 499 

canon, 394 

Leicester, 264 

earldom of, 167 

Le Mans, 127, 132-134, 309- 


see of, 127-129 

see Arnold, Gervase, 

Vulgrin, bishops of. 

Leobwine, favourite of Bish- 
op Walcher, 352 

Leofgar, bishop of Hereford, 

Leofric, earl of Mercia, 18, 

45, 49, *45 
House of, 262, 296, 


Leofric, abbot of Peterbor- 
ough, 228 

Leofwine, Earl, son of God- 
wine, 57, 202 

Leofwine, bishop of Lich- 
field, 230 

Lewes, priory of, 397 

Ligulf, Northumbrian thegn, 


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 Monasteries, 278, 


London, 133, 192 
citizens of, 153, 224 


London (Continued) 

citizens of, charter 10,240 

Tower of, 227 

Bridge, 57, 219 

Lothian, 317, 323, 325 
Louis d'Outremer, 9, 28, 


Lugg, river, 248 
Lyting, bishop of Worcester, 



Mabel of Belle"me, 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, 

1 60 

revolt of (1072), 307- 


revolt of (1084), 359- 

- baronage of, 129, 308 

- see Hugh, Herbert, 
counts of. 

Malcolm I., king of Scots, 

3 J 7 
Malcolm II., king of Scots, 

3*7, 3 l8 

Malcolm III., king of Scots, 
173, 265, 266, 317-323, 350 

- marriage of, 322 
Malger, archbishop of Rouen, 

- 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, 

Margaret, wife of Malcolm 

III., 322 
Marleswegen, sheriff of Lin- 

coln, 192, 229, 262, 268, 

273, 321 
Marmontice, abbey of, 181, 


Matilda, the empress, 163, 

2 33 

Matilda, wife of William I., 
105-110, 143 

contributes to the fleet, 


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, 

Mauritius, archbishop of 

Rouen, 42, 245 
Maxines, abbey of, 306 
Mayenne, castle of, 134 
Monasteries, foundation of, 

Monasticism, in Normandy, 


revival of, in England, 


Mons, 306 

Montacute (Somerset), siege 
of, 277 

Montgomery (Normandy), 
castle of, 67, 72 

Montgomery (England), cas- 
tle 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, Rob- 
ert, William, counts of. 


Mortemer, campaign and bat- 
tle of, 114, 115, 183, 367 
Moulins, 105, in 


Nantes, county of, 137 
Neel de St. Sauveur, 82, 85 
Newburn on Tyne, 247 
Newcastle on Tyne, 323 

castle of, founded, 350 
Nicaea, 72 
Nicholas, abbot of St. Ouen, 

71, 167 
Normandy, boundaries of, 

24, 25 

- condition of (1035), 74, 


- 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, 

revolt of (1065), 59. 60 
opposition to Harold, 



revolt of (1068), 262, 


revolt of (1069), 2 73~ 

harrying of, 27 9-2 83 , 
286, 287 

earls of, see Aubrey, 

Copsige.Gospatric, Morcar, 
Oswulf, Robert de Com- 
ines, Robert de Mowbray, 
Siward, Tostig, Walcher, 

Norway, kings of, see Har- 
old Fair Hair, Harold Har- 
drada, Magnus I., II., Olaf 
(Saint) , Olaf Tryggvasson, 
Olaf Kyrre, and Sigurd. 

Norwich, 244, 254, 272, 333, 

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, 

1 66 

at Hastings, 202 

joint regent (1067), 243, 


earl of Kent, 423, 431, 


harries Northumber- 
land, 352, 353 
arrested and imprisoned, 


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, 

Olaf (Kyrre), king of Norway, 


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, 

Osbern, bishop of Salisbury, 


Ostmen of Dublin, 52 
Oswulf, earl of Northumbria, 

247, 3 J 9 
Ouse (Yorkshire), river, 176, 

265, 273, 279, 282 
Oxford, 60 

Paula of Maine, 308 
Peterborough, abbey of, 288- 


Peterborough (Continued) 

abbots of, see Brand, 

Leofric, Therold. 

knight service due from, 


Peter's Pence, 404 

Pevensey.7, 54, 179, 185-187, 
226, 244 

Philip I., king of France, 160, 

succeeds, 126 

temporary alliance with 

Flanders, 307 

grants Montreuil to Ed- 
gar the Etheling, 326 
supports Breton insur- 

gents, 341 

supports Robert of Nor- 
mandy, 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, 



Raimalast, castle of, 346 

Ralf of Mantes, earl of Here- 
ford, 49, 53 

Ralf III., count of Valois, 

Ralf de Wacy, 72, 78 

Ralf de Wader, earl of East 
Anglia, 272, 329, 330, 333- 
335, 341-342 

Ramsey, abbey of, 288, 294, 

Randolf de Brichessart, 81, 


Redemption of land by Eng- 
lish, 234-236 

Reginald of Clermont, 113- 


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, 


" Ricardenses, " the, 69, 101 
Riccall (Yorkshire), 176, 179 
Richard I., duke 01 Nor- 
mandy, 28, 29, 37, 38, 39, 


Richard II., duke of Nor- 
mandy, 29, 38, 41, 101, 379 

Richard III., duke of Nor- 
mandy, 64 

Richard of Hugleville, 103 

Richard, son of Count Gilbert 
of Brionne, 261 

Richard, second son of Wil- 
liam I., 260 

Richildis of Hainault, 305, 

Richmond, earldom of, 324 

Ripon, church of, 385 

Rippingdale (Lincolnshire), 

Robert ian House, 25, 27, 

Robert, duke of Burgundy, 

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, 

Robert of Jumieges, arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, 53, 

245, 3 8 S 

Robert, count of Mortain, 64, 
166, 259, 260, 261, 276, 

Robert de Mowbray, earl of 

Northumbria, 353 
Robert d'Oilly, 169 
Robert, count of Paris, 25 
Robert I., duke of Nor- 
mandy, 34, 37, 63-72, 143, 

245, 3 6 7 

Robert II. (Curthose), duke 
of Normandy, 130, 136, 
181, 233, 260, 404 
joint regent of Nor- 
mandy (1068), 251 
recognised as count of 
Maine, 314316 

revolt of, 345-349 

character of, 349, 350 

Scotch expedition of, 


designated heir of Nor- 
mandy, 371 

Robert fitz Richard, castellan 
of York, 265, 268, 269 

Robert, archbishop of Rouen, 

7, 75 

Robert de Vieux-Pont, 314 
Robert, the son of Wymarc, 

189, 190 
Roche - Mabille, foundation 

of, 1 20 

Rochester, 219 
church of, suit relating 

to, 434-43 6 

see Gundulf, bishop of. 

Roger de Beaumont, 1 66, 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, 


Rouen, 87, 351, 369 
priory of St. Gervase at, 

3 6 9. 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, 


St. Davids, visited by Wil- 
liam I., 353 

St. James, castle of, 138 

St. Omer, 258 

St. Suzanne, siege of, 359- 

362, 37 2 

St. Valery, 166, 183, 184 
St. Wandville, 39, 68 
Saintonge, 8890, 127 
Salisbury, 277, 285 

oath of, 364-366 

see -Osmund, bishop 

Samson, Queen Matilda's 

messenger, 347 
Sandwich, 172, 173 
Sarthe, valley of, 134, 312 
"Sawold, " sheriff of Oxford, 


Sees, translation of, 391, 392 
Seine, valley of, 25, 112 
Sheriffs, Norman, 422 

English, 423 

Shrewsbury, 276, 283 
earldom of, 167, 425, 


see Hugh, Roger, de 

Montgomery, earls of. 
Sicily, volunteers from, 168 


Sigurd (Jerusalem-farer), 

King of Norway, 4 
Sill6, 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, MS, 3i8.3i9 

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, 

Stafford, 252, 276, 278, 285, 


Stamford, 191 
Stamfordbridge, battle of, 48, 

I 77~ I 79 J 87, 189, 192 

saga of, 176 

Stephen, king of England, 

163, 219, 249 

Stigand, archbishop of Can- 
terbury, 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, 

Swegen Forkbeard, king of 

Denmark, 4, 15, 44, 46, 272 
Swegen, son of Cnut, 46 
Swegen, son of Earl Godwine, 


Tactics, 197, 198 
Tadcaster, 177, 191 

Tapestry, the Bayeux, 166, 

201, 202 

Taw, river, 270 
Tees, river, 58, 282, 317, 320, 


Telham, 199 
Terouenne, 306 
Thegns, 238-240, 447, 448 
Theobald III., count of Blois, 

Theodoric, count of Holland, 

Thomas I., archbishop of 

York, 390 

Thorney, abbey of, 288 
Thorold, abbot of Peterbor- 
ough, 289-291, 295 
Thurcytel de Neufmarche, 72 
Thurstan, abbot of Ely, 300 
Thurstan, abbot of Glaston- 

bury, 399 

Thurstan Goz, revolt of, 78 
Richard, son of, 78, 97 
Tillieres, 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, 

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 


Valois (Continued) 

see Simon, Ralf, counts 

Value of manors in Domes- 
day, 480-482 

Varaville, battle of, 37, 122, 
123, 149 

Vermandois, county of, 27 

Vernon, castle of, 82, 86 

Vexin Francais, 68, 129, 131, 

Vire, estuary of, 83 

Vulgrin, bishop of Le Mans, 


Walcher of Lorraine, 351 

bishop of Durham, 324 

earl of Northumbria, 


murder of, 352, 416 

Waleran, brother of Guy, 

count of Ponthieu, 115 
Waleran, count of Meulan, 75 
Wales, 432 

expedition into, 353, 


Wallingford, 220 
Walter Giffard, 102, 167, 408 
Walter de Lacy, 333 
Walter of Mantes, 129, 131, 


Walter Tirel, 170 
Waltham, minster of, 207 
Waltheof , earl of Huntingdon, 

60, 231, 261, 295, 302, 345, 


submits at Barking, 234 

accompanies William to 
Normandy, 244 

joins Danish attack on 
York, 273, 274 

submits by the Tees, 


created earl of North- 
umbria, 325 

disaffection of (1075), 

condemnation and exe- 
cution, 336-340 

Warwick, 264 

earldom of, 167 
Watling Street, 13, 420 
Wearmouth, 321 
Wedmore, treaty of, 25 
Westminster, 157, 251, 287, 

3 6 4 

abbey of, 225, 260, 261. 

charters relating to, 229, 


Wharfe, river, 176, 177 
Wight, Isle of, 54, 172, 356, 


Wigod of Wallingford, 169 
William, duke of Aquitaine, 

William, count of Arques, 70, 


revolt of, 101-105 

William Busac, 96 

revolt of, 99, 100 

William, count of Eu, 70 
William, count of Evreux, 


William of Jumieges, chron- 
icler, 65, 69, 381 
William Malet, 269, 275 
William of Malmesbury, his- 
torian, 382 

William de Montgomery, 72 
William, count of Mortain, 


William de Moulins, 314 
William I. (Longsword), duke 

of Normandy, 27, 28 
William II., duke of Nor- 
mandy and king of Eng- 
land, 4, 5, 7, 9, 25, 37, 
40, 48, 56; birth of, 63, 
64; recognised as heir 
of Normandy, 70, 71; mi- 
nority of, 72-80; ward of 
King Henry I., 73, 74; 
in war of Tillieres, 76 
80; suppresses revolt of 
1047, 80-88; besieges Bri- 
onne, 85, 86; supports 
Henry I. against Geoffrey 
Martel, 90; captures Dom- 
front and Alen9on, 91-95; 
banishes William, count 


William II. (Continued) 
of Mortain, 9799; sup- 
presses revolt of William 
Busac, 99, 100; suppresses 
revolt of William of Arques, 
101-105; marries Matilda 
of Flanders, 105-110; re- 
sists invasion of 1054, no 
117; concludes peace with 
King Henry I., 116, 117; 
founds Breteuil, 117; en- 
gages in war of Ambrieres, 
118-120; founds Roche- 
Mabille, 120; defeats in- 
vasion of 1058, 120123; 
wins battle of Varaville, 
122, 123; receives com- 
mendation of Herbert II. 
of Maine, 118, 130; inva- 
sion and conquest of Maine, 
132-135; takes possession 
of Le Mans, 133, 134; ill- 
ness 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 Wes- 
sex, 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; devas- 
tations in Sussex, 188; re- 
ceives a message from 

Harold, 189, 190; battle of 
Hastings, 195-206; gener- 
alship of, 197, 198; moves 
out of Hastings to the 
English position, 199; de- 
tails of battle, 200-206; 
causes Harold's burial on 
the shore of Hastings, 207; 
takes quarters at Hastings, 
21 1 ; march on London, 
2 1 5-2 1 9 ; burns South wark, 
219, 220; crosses Thames 
at Wallingfprd, 220; re- 
ceives submission of Eng- 
lish leaders, 221, 222; re- 
ceives 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, 2 3> 2 3 r l a t Bark- 
ing, 227, 233, 234; grants 
charter to citizens of Lon- 
don, 240, 241; visits Nor- 
mandy, 241, 243-246; re- 
turn, 246; suppresses revolt 
of Exeter , 2 5 3-2 5 7 ; progress 
in Cornwall, 259, 260; at 
Westminster for Matilda's 
coronation, 260; northern 
campaign of 1068, 262-266; 
receives submission of Mal- 
colm III., 265, 266; ap- 
points Robert de Comines 
earl of North umbria, 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; har- 
rying 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; agree- 
ment with Earl Asbiorn, 
285; campaign of Ely; 
297-299; relations with 


William II. (Continued) 
Robert the Frisian, 306, 
307; suppression of Mancel 
rising, 312, 313; campaign 
of LaFleche, 313, 314; con- 
cludes peace of Blanche- 
lande, 3 1 4-3 1 7 ; 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 
Walthepf, 336-340; en- 
gages 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; pre- 
pares for a Scandinavian 
invasion, 363, 364; takes 
Oath of Salisbury, 364-366; 
last departure from Eng- 
land, 366; campaign of 
Mantes, 368, 369; mortal 
injury of, 369; illness of, 
370-373; disposition of in- 
heritance, 371; release of 
prisoners, 372; death, 373; 
burial, 374, 375; ecclesias- 
tical ideas of, 376-378, 381 ; 
reform of English church, 
388-402; relations with 
the Curia, 402, 403; ad- 
ministrative changes in- 
troduced by, see under 
castles, Commune Concil- 
ium, Curia Regis, earldoms, 
fyrd, knight service, pri- 
vate jurisdiction, sheriffs, 

writs; orders taking- of 
ppmesday Inquest, 457 

William II., king of England, 
219- 233, 369,37! 

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, biog- 
rapher, 90, 381 

William, archbishop of Rou- 
en, 403, 404 

William de Warenne, 243, 

Wimund, commander of Mou- 

lins, 105 
Winchelsea, 251 
Winchester, 218, 219, 254, 

260, 269, 277, 282, 337, 

3 6 4, 419 
Witanagemot, 17, 20 

nature of, 410-414 

Woodstock (Oxfordshire) 420 
Worcestershire, 333, 426 
Writs, the king's, 168, 25^4, 

420, 421 
"early Anglo-Norman, 


Wulf, son of King Harold, 372 
Wulfnoth, son of Earl God- 
wine, 212, 372 
Wulf stan, bishop of Worces- 
ter, 230,333, 391 
Wulfwig, bishop of Dor- 
chester, 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 

^ Selection from the 
Catalogue of 


Complete Catalogues sent 
on application 

Heroes of the Nations. 

A SERIES of biographical studies of the lives and 
work of a number of representative historical char- 
acters about whom have gathered the great traditions 
of the Nations to which they belonged, and who have 
been accepted, in many instances, as types of the 
several National ideals. With the life of each 
typical character will be presented a picture of the 
National conditions surrounding him during his 

The narratives are the work of writers who are 
recognized authorities on their several subjects, and, 
while thoroughly trustworthy as history, will present 
picturesque and dramatic "stories" of the Men and 
of the events connected with them. 

To the Life of each " Hero" will be given one duo 
decimo volume, handsomely printed in large type, 
provided with maps and adequately illustrated ac- 
cording to the special requirements of the several 

Nos. 1-32, each $1.50 

Half leather. i.;| 

No. 33 and following Nos., each 

(by mail $1.50, net 1.3$) 

Hatf leather (by mail, $1.75) net 1.60 

For full list of volumes see next page. 


NELSON. By W. Clark Russell. 
R. L. Fletcher. 

PERICLES. By Evelyn Abbott. 
Thomas Hodgkin. 




WYCLIF. By Lewis Sergeant. 
NAPOLEON. By W. O'Connor 


F. Willert. 

CICERO. By J. L. Strachan- 



By C. R. Beazley. 


By Alice Gardner. 
LOUIS XIV. By Arthur Hassall. 
CHARLES XII. By R. Nisbet 


ward Armstrong. 
JEANNE D'ARC. By Mrs. Oli- 


Washington Irving. 

Herbert Maxwell. 
HANNIBAL. By W. O'Connor 



Conant Church. 
ROBERT E. LEE. By Henry 

Alexander White. 

Butler Clarke. 
SALADIN. By Stanley Lane* 


BISMARCK. By J. W. Head- 


Benjamin I. Wheeler. 


Charles Firth. 

RICHELIEU. By James B. Per- 

ert Dunlop. 
SAINT LOUIS (Louis IX. of 

France). By Frederick Perry. 

Davis Green. 

G. Bradley. 
HENRY V. By Charles L. King- 

EDWARD I. By Edward Jenks. 



W. F. Reddaway. 


J. B. Firth. 




Ruth Putnam. 

By D. S. 


OR. By F. M. Stenton. 

Other volumes in preparation are : 

MOLTKE. By Spencer Wilkinson. 


SOBIESKI. By F. A. Pollard. 

By Frederick Perry. 




By T. A. Archer. 

Ruth Putnam. 
GREGORY VII. By F. Urqnhart 


The Story of the Nations. 

IN the story form the current of each National life 
is distinctly indicated, and its picturesque and note- 
worthy periods and episodes are presented for the 
reader in their philosophical relation to each other 
as well as to universal history. 

It is the plan of the writers of the different volume* 
to enter into the real life of the peoples, and to bring 
them before the reader as they actually lived, labored, 
and struggled as they studied and wrote, and as 
they amused themselves. In carrying out this plan, 
the myths, with which the history of all lands begins, 
will not be overlooked, though these will be carefully 
distinguished from the actual history, so far as the 
labors of the accepted historical authorities have 
resulted in definite conclusions. 

The subjects of the different volumes have been 
planned to cover connecting and, as far as possible, 
consecutive epochs or periods, so that the set when 
completed will present in a comprehensive narrative 
the chief events in the great STORY OF THE NATIONS; 
but it is, of course, not always practicable to issue 
the several volumes in their chronological order. 

12 Illustrated, cloth, each $1.50 

Half leather, each 1.75 

For list of volumes see next page 


' GREECE. Prof. Jas. A. Harrison. 
ROME. Arthur Oilman. 
THE JEWS. Prof. James K. Hos- 


CHALDEA. Z. A. Ragozin. 
GERMANY. S. Baring-Gould. 
NORWAY. Hjalmar H. Boyesen. 
SPAIN. Rev. E. E. and Susan 


HUNGARY. Prof. A. Vdmbery. 
CARTHAGE. Prof. Alfred J. 

THE SARACENS. Arthur Gil. 




THE NORMANS. Sarah Orne 

PERSIA. S. G. W. Benjamin. 




A J. P. Mahaff y. 

ASSYRIA. Z. A. Ragozin. 
THE GOTHS. Henry Bmdley. 
IRELAND. Hon. Emily Lawless. 
TURKEY. Stanley Lane-Poole. 

SI A.. Z. A. Ragozin. 

tave Maason. 
HOLLAND. Prof. J. Tborold 


MEXICO. Susan Hale. 
PHOENICIA. George Rawttnaon. 



EARLY BRITAIN. Prof. Alfred 
J. Church. 


Stanley Lane-Poole. 
RUSSIA. W. R,Morfffl. 

D. Morrison, 

SCOTLAND. John Mackintosh. 
SWITZERLAND. R, Stead and 

Mrs. A. Hug. 

PORTUGAL. H. Morse-Stephen* 

W. C. Oman. 

SICILY. E. A. Freeman. 

Bella Duffy. 

POLAND. W. R-MorfflL 
PARTHIA. Geo. Rawlinson, 
JAPAN. David Murray. 

OF SPAIN. H. E. Watts. 
AUSTRALASIA. Greville Tregar 



VENICE. Alethea WieL 
THE CRUSADES. T. 8. Archer 

and C. L. Kingsford. 
VEDIC INDIA. Z. A. Ragocfa. 
BOHEMIA. C. E. Maurice. 
CANADA. J. O. Bourinot 




W. Frazer. 


T. Story. Two vols. 
THE FRANKS. Lewis Sergeant. 


Justin McCarthy, M.P. Two 


AUSTRIA. Sidney Whitman. 
CHINA. Robt. K. Douglass. 
MODERN SPAIN. Major Martin 

A. S. Hume. 

MODERN ITALY. Pietro Orsi. 

Helen A. Smith Two vols. 

M. Edwards. 


Lane-Poo le. 


PUBLICS. Thomas C. Daw- 
son. Two vols. 

Edward Jenks. 


Earle Sparks. Two vols. 

PARLIAMENT. L.Cecil Jane. 

A.D. 14. E. S. Shuckburgh. 

A.D. 476. By N. Stuart Jones, 




DA Stenton, (Sir) Frank Merry 

197 William the conqueror and 

S7 the rule of the Nonnana