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 THE BARONS MET AT LILLEBONNE, AND WHAT AID THEY AGREED TO GIVE.
To consult on this matter before he opened his mind to any other, he sent for Robert, the count d'Ou, who dwelt by the men of Vimou, and Rogier de Montgomeri, whom he accounted a great friend, and Fitz Osber of Bretuil, William by name, the proud of spirit; and for Gautier Giffart, a man of great worth; and for his brother Odun, the bishop, and Robert of Moretoin, who was his brother also, and loved him much. Both these were his brothers, but only on the mother's side. He sent moreover for Rogier de Vilers, who was much honoured and esteemed for his wisdom, and was now of considerable age, having sons who were already noble and brave knights. He was lord of Belmont-le-Rogier, and possessed much land. And he sent also for Iwun al Chapel, who had Muriel to wife, sister of the duke on the mother's side, Herluin being her father. I know not if children were born to them; I never heard speak of any.
To these barons he told his design, before he made any great preparation. He told them how he had lost his right, which Harold had seized; and that if they approved, he would cross the sea to avenge himself. If they were willing, he could easily recover his right by the aid of the people he could summon, and by God's permission. And they said they were all ready to go with him, if need were; and to pledge their lands, and even sell them, if necessary; that he need lose nothing of his right, but might rely on his men and his clerks. "You have," said they, "a great baronage, many valiant and wise men, who have very great power, and are as able as we to whom you speak: shew these things to them; all should be taken into counsel who have to share the labour."
So the barons were all summoned, and being assembled at a set day, the duke shewed to them that Harold had cheated him, and had stolen the realm whereof Edward had made him heir; that he wished to avenge himself if he could, but that great aid was wanted; and that he could not, without their help, have many men and many ships, as he needed; let each say what he would do, how many men and ships he would bring. And they said they would speak together about it, and that after holding counsel, they would answer him; and he consented thereto.
They remained long in council; and the debate lasted a great while; for they hesitated long among themselves what they should say, what answer they should give, and what aid they would afford. They complained much to each other, saying that they had often been aggrieved; and they murmured much, conferring together in small parties; here five, there fifteen, here forty, there thirty, sixty, a hundred. Some said they were willing to bring ships and cross the sea with the duke; others said they would not go, for they owed much and were poor. Some would, others would not, and there was great contention amongst them.
Then Fitz Osber came forward and said, "Why do you go on wrangling with your natural lord, who seeks to gain honour? You ought never to be wanting. You owe him service for your fiefs, and what you owe him you ought to render with all your might. Wait not for him to beseech you; ask him for no respite; but go forward at once, and offer him even more than you can perform. Let him not have cause to complain, nor miss his undertaking on your account. If he fail, he will perchance soon say (for he is of a jealous temper) that you are the cause of his loss. Take care that he has not to say, that his expedition failed through you."
"Sire," said they, "we fear the sea, and we are not bound to serve beyond it; speak for us, we pray you, we put the speech upon you. You shall say what you will, and we will do accordingly." "Do you put it upon me?" said he. "Yes," said each, "I agree, let us go to the duke; speak for us, for you know our minds."
Then Fitz Osber went at their head, and spoke for them. "Sire, sire, look, around; there is no people under Heaven that so love their lord, or that will do so much for his honour, as the people you have; and much should you love and protect them."
"They say that to advance you, they would swim through the sea, or throw themselves into the raging fire; you may trust them much, for they have served you long, and followed you at great cost, and they will willingly continue to serve you. If they have hitherto done well, they will hereafter do yet better. They will pass with you over sea, and double their service. He who should bring twenty knights, will cheerfully bring forty; he who should serve with thirty, will now serve you with sixty; and he who owes a hundred will willingly bring two hundred. For myself, I will in good love bring to my lord, in his need, sixty ships, well furnished and charged with fighting men."
At these words the barons marvelled and murmured much, grumbling loudly at the great promises he made, for which he had no warranty. Many began to disavow him, and the court became much troubled; great noise arose, and the barons stormed. They feared that doubling their service would be turned into a charge on their fiefs, that it would grow to a custom, and would thenceforth become permanently due. The assembly was greatly troubled, the noise was great, and the clamour loud. No one could hear another speak; no one could either listen to reason, or render it for himself.
Then the duke, being greatly disturbed by the noise, drew on one side, and sent for the barons one by one; and spoke with and entreated each, telling them what need he had; how much they stood in his love and grace; and that if they doubled their service, and did of their own accord more than they were bound in this undertaking, they would do well; but he pledged himself that they should not be called on in future for service beyond what was the custom of the land, and such as their ancestors were wont to do for their lord. Each said what he would do, and how many ships he could bring; and the duke had it all recorded at once, numbering the ships and knights which the barons agreed to find; thus each named how many knights he would provide, and how many ships he could bring. Of his brother Odo, the bishop, he received forty ships as a gift. The bishop of Mans furnished thirty ships with their crews; for he desired much to advance the duke. Each of the barons in like manner promised ships, but how many each one said he would bring I do not know.
Then the duke called on his good neighbours, the Bretons, Mansels, and Angevins, and those of Pontif and Boloigne, to come with him in his need. To those who wished he promised lands, if he should conquer England. To many he promised other rewards, good pay, and rich gifts. From all sides he summoned soldiers who would serve for hire.
He shewed to the king of France his lord, how for good cause and for his honour's sake he was about to cross the sea against Harold, who had broken faith and defrauded him. The duke went to speak with the king at St. Girmer in Belveisen. He sought and found him there, and told him his situation, and that if he would aid him, and if by his help he should have his right, he would hold England of him, and would willingly serve him for it.
But the king of France said he would not do it, and that with his consent William should not go. For the French had besought their king, and counselled him not to advance the duke, or suffer him to strengthen himself. They said he was too strong already, and that it would be foolish to let him become still stronger; for if he were allowed to add the great power beyond sea, the wealth and great force of England, to the good chivalry and pride of Normandy, the king would never have peace in his life; he therefore ought rather to think of disturbing William, and preventing his rising higher, or passing into England. "You cannot aid the duke if you would," they said, "without means and money; all France would thereby be injured and impoverished, and therefore no Frenchman will follow you; no one will pass the sea, and if mischance befall you, you will be brought to great shame. The duke seeks your aid only for his own interest, for no good can come of it to you. When he shall have conquered England, you will have no more service from him; he serves you but little now, and he will then serve you still less. The more he has, the less he will do for you."
After what the Frenchmen said, still more and more opposing it, the king would not assist the duke, but rather hindered him all he could. I know not exactly what the king answered, but I know well that he failed him altogether. When the duke took leave of him, he said like a man who is wroth at heart, "Sire, I will go, and will do the best I can. If God please, I will seek my right. If I win it (which God grant) you shall do me no harm; and if the English are able to defend themselves, so that I fail, I shall not lose heart or head on that account. All things shall be set in order; my children shall have my land, and you shall not take any advantage of them; whether I die or live, whatever befall me, I fear the threats of no man." Then William tried no more to persuade the king, but went his way. He besought the count of Flanders to go with him as his brother-in-law and friend; but the count answered, that if he would make sure of aid from him, he must first let him know what share of England he was to have, and what division he would make of the spoil.
The duke said that he would go and talk with his barons about the matter, and take their counsel, and afterwards state by letter what they advised him to do. So he went away without more ado, and did such a thing as no one ever did before; for he took a small piece of parchment which had neither letter nor writing upon it, sealed it up with wax, all blank as it was, and wrote upon the label that the count should have such part of England as the letter within stated.
Then he sent the letter to the count by a cunning varlet, who had long been with him; and the varlet delivered it to the count, who broke the seal, and opened the parchment, and looked within, but saw nothing. So he shewed it to the messenger, and the shrewd varlet said to him off hand, "Nought is there, and nought shalt thou have! therefore look for nothing! The honour that the duke seeks will be for your sister and nephews as much as for himself; and if he and they should win England, no one would have more advantage from their success than yourself. All theirs would in truth be yours. If God please, he will conquer it by himself, and seek none of your help." What the count answered I know not, but the varlet thereupon went his way.
The duke determined to make his preparations prudently. He sent to the apostle, by clerks who could tell truly how Harold had used him; how he had broken his oath and lied; and how he would neither take his daughter, nor render him up the kingdom which Edward bad given him, and Harold had guaranteed on oath. He said that perjury ought to be punished according to the rules of holy church; and that if by God's will he should conquer England, he would receive it of St. Peter, and do service for it to none but God. The apostle granted his request, and sent him a gonfanon, and a very precious, rich and fair ring, which, he said, had under the stone one of Saint Peters hairs. With these tokens he commanded, and in God's name granted to him, that he should conquer England, and hold it of Saint Peter.
Now while these things were doing, a great star appeared, shining for fourteen days, with three long rays streaming towards the south; such a star as is wont to be seen when a kingdom is about to change its king. I have seen many men who saw it, men of full age at the time, and who lived many years after. Those who discourse of the stars would call it a comet.