Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
his Chronicle of
THE NORMAN CONQUEST
ROMAN DE ROU
EDGAR TAYLOR ESQ. F. S. A.
WILLIAM PICKERING, 1837
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2004
HOW WILLIAM PROSPERED, AND HOW HE WENT TO ENGLAND TO VISIT KING EDWARD; AND WHO GODWIN WAS.
THE story will be long ere it close, how William became a king, what honour he reached, and who held his lands after him. His acts, his sayings and adventures that we find written, are all worthy to be recounted; but we cannot tell the whole. In his land he set good laws; he maintained justice and peace firmly, wherever he could, for the poor people's sake, and he never loved the knave nor the company of the felon.
By advice of his baronage he took a wife of high lineage in Flanders, the daughter of count Baldwin, and the granddaughter of Robert king of France, being the daughter of his daughter Constance. Her name was Mahelt, related to many a noble man, and very fair and graceful. The count gave her joyfully, with very rich appareillement, and brought her to the castle of Ou, where the duke espoused her. From thence he took her to Roem, where she was greatly served and honoured.
At Caem the duke built two abbeys, endowing them richly. In the one, which was called Saint Stephen, he placed monks; Mahelt his wife took charge of the other, which is that of The Holy Trinity; she placed nuns there, and was buried in it as she had directed in her life, from the love which she had always used to bear towards it. And the duke did what, I believe, no one before or after did. He sent for all his bishops to assemble, with his earls, abbots, and priors, barons and rich vavassors, at Caem, there to hear his commandment; and caused the holy bodies, wherever he could find them, to be brought thither, whether from bishopric or abbey, over which he had seigniory. He had the body of St. Oain taken from Roem to Caem in a chest; and when the clergy, and the holy relics, and the barons, of whom there were many, were assembled on the appointed day, he made all swear on the relics to hold peace and maintain it from sunset on Wednesday to sunrise on Monday. This was called 'The Truce', and the like of it I believe is not in any country. If any man should beat another meantime, or do him any mischief, or take any of his goods, he was to be excommunicated, and amerced nine livres to the bishop. This the duke established, and swore aloud to observe, and all the barons did the same; they swore to keep the peace and maintain the truce faithfully.
To commemorate this peace through all time, that it might endure for ever, they forthwith built a minater of hewed stone and mortar, on the spot where they swore upon the relics which had been brought to the council. Many who had assisted at founding the minster called it Toz-sainz, on account of so many holy relics having been there; but it pleased many men to call it Sainte-paiz, on account of the peace sworn to when it was built: at least I have heard it called both Sainte-paiz and Toz-sainz. Close by they built a chapel called Saint-Oain's, on the spot where his bones had rested while the council sat.
William was generous, and the strangers who knew him, cherished him much. He was very gentle and courteous, therefore king Edward loved him well; great indeed was their love, each holding the other his lord. The duke went to see Edward and know his mind; and having crossed over into England, Edward received him with great honour, and gave him many dogs and birds, and whatever other good and fair gifts he could find, that became a man of high degree. He did not tarry, but returned into Normandy; for he was engaged with the Bretons, who were at that time disturbing him.
Godwin had great wealth in England; he was rich in lands, and carried himself proudly. Edward had his daughter to wife; but Godwin was fell and false, and brought many evils on the land; and Edward feared and hated him on account of his brother whom he had betrayed, and of the Normans whom he had decimated, and many other mischiefs plotted by him. And thus, both in words and deeds, great discord arose between them, which was never thoroughly healed. Edward feared Godwin much, and banished him from the land; swearing that he should never come back, or abide in his kingdom, unless he swore fealty to him, and delivered him hostages, and pledges for keeping the peace during his life. Godwin dared not refuse, and as well to satisfy the king, as for the sake of his relations, and the protection of his men, he delivered one of his nephews and one of his sons as hostages to the king. Edward sent them to Duke William in Normandy, as to one in whom he placed great trust, and desired him to keep them safe till he should himself demand them. This looked, people said, as if he wished William always to keep them, for the purpose of securing the kingdom to himself in case of Edward's death. On these terms the king suffered Godwin to remain at home in peace. I do not know how long this lasted, but I know that Godwin in the end choked himself, while eating at the king's table during a feast.
King Edward was debonaire; he neither wished nor did ill to any man; he was without pride or avarice, and desired strict justice to be done to all. He endowed abbeys with fiefs, and divers goodly gifts, and Westminster in particular. Ye shall hear the reason why. On some occasion, whether of sickness or on the recovery of his kingdom, or on some escape from peril at sea, he had vowed a pilgrimage to Rome, there to say his prayers, and crave pardon for his sins; to speak with the apostle, and receive penance from him. So at the time he had appointed, he prepared for his journey; but the barons met together, and the bishops and the abbots conferred with each other, and they counselled him by no means to go. They said they feared he could not bear so great a labour; that the pilgrimage was too long, seeing his great age; that if he should go to Rome, and death or any other mischance should prevent his return, the loss of their king would be a great misfortune to them; and that they would send to the apostle, and get him to grant absolution from the vow, so that he might be quit of it, even if some other penance should be imposed instead. Accordingly they sent to the apostle, and he absolved the king of his vow, but enjoined him by way of acquittance of it, to select some poor abbey dedicated to St. Peter, honoring and endowing it with so many goods and rents, that it might for all time to come be resorted to, and the name of St. Peter thereby exalted.
Edward received the injunction of the apostle in good part. On the western side of London, as still may be seen, there was an abbey of St. Peter, which had for a long time been greatly impoverished; it is situate on an island of the Thames called Zonee (Thorn-ee), so named because there were plenty of thorns upon it, and water around it; for the English call an island 'ee,' and what the French call 'espine' they call 'zon' (thorn); so that 'Zon-ee' (Thorn-ee) in English means 'isle d'espine' in French. The name of Westminster was given to it afterwards, when the minster was built. King Edward perceived that there was much to improve at Westminster; he saw that the brotherhood were poor; and the minster decayed; and by counsel of clerks and laymen, while the country was in prosperity, he with great labour and attention, restored and amply endowed it with lands and other wealth. He gave indeed so much of his own, of fair villages, rich manors and lands, crosses and other goodly gifts, that the place will never know want, if things are managed honestly. But when each monk wants much service, is greedy of money, and makes a purse; the common stock soon wastes accordingly. Thus, however, the king restored Westminster, and held the spot dear, and loved it well. He also afterwards gave so much to St. Edmund (Bury), that the monks who dwell there are very rich.
King Edward was now of a good age; his reign had been long, and to his sorrow he had no child, and no near relation to take his kingdom after him, and maintain it. He considered with himself who should inherit it when he died; and often bethought him, and said he would give his inheritance to duke William his relation, as the best of his lineage. Robert his father had brought him up, and William himself had been of much service to him; and, in fact, all the good he had received had come from that line, and he had loved none so well, however kindly he might behave to any one else. For the honor thereof of his good kinsman, with whom he had been brought up, and on account of the great worth of William himself, he determined to make him heir to the realm.