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 DIED, AND WAS BURIED AT CAEN.
William lay ill six weeks; his sickness was heavy and increased. He made confession of his sins to the bishops and abbots, and the tonsured priests, and afterwards received the CORPUS DOMINI. He dispossessed himself of his wealth, devising and apportioning it all; and caused his prisoners to be set free, giving them quittance of all claims. His brother Odo the bishop he also set at liberty; which he would not have done so soon, if he had thought he should live. He had arrested him in the Isle of Wic, and brought him and put him in prison at Rouen. He was said to be crafty and rapacious beyond all bounds; and when seneschal to the king, he was so cruel and treacherous to every one, that all England complained, rich and poor together. He had privily consulted his friends as to whether a bishop could be king, hoping to succeed should William die first; for he trusted in his great power, and the multitude of the followers that he had attached to himself by his large words and foolish boasts, and by the promises he made. The king therefore thought very ill of him, and held him in great suspicion. When he had ordered him to be seized, for not rendering his account of the revenue that he had collected in England while he held it for the king, there was no baron who would touch him, or durst put forth his hand against him. Then the king himself sprang boldly forward, and seized him by the ataches, and drew him forth out of the circle of his friends;
"I arrest thee," said he, "I arrest thee." "You do me wrong," said Odo; "I am a bishop and bear crozier, and you ought not to lay hand on me." "By my head," quoth the king, "but I ought; I will seize the earl of Kent my bailiff and steward, who has not accounted to me for my kingdom that he has held."
Thus was the bishop put in custody, and so remained for four years; for the ship was ready and the wind fair, and he was put on board, and carried by sea to Rouen, and kept in the tower there four years, and was not like to come out thence till the king should die.
On the morn of the eighth day of September the king died and left this world as the hour of PRIMER struck; he heard it well, and asked what it was that was striking. Then he called upon God as far as his strength sufficed, and on our holy Lady, the blessed Mary, and so departed, while yet speaking, without any loss of his senses or change in speech. Many a feat of arms had he done; and he had lived sixty and four years; for he was only seven years old when duke Robert took the cross and went to Jerusalem.
At the time when the king departed this world, many of his servants were to be seen running up and down, some going in, others coming out, carrying off the rich hangings and the tapestry, and whatever they could lay their hands upon. One whole day elapsed before the corpse was laid upon the bier; for they who were before wont to fear him, now left him lying alone. But when the news spread, much people gathered together, and bishops and barons came in long procession; and the body was well tended, opened, anointed, embalmed, and carried to Caen as he had commanded. There was no bishop in the province, nor abbot, earl, or noble prince, who did not repair to the interment of the body, if he could; and there were besides many monks, priests, and clerks. When they had duly arranged the body, they sang aloud 'LI BERA ME.' They carried it to the church, but the bier was yet outside the door when behold! a cry was heard which alarmed all the people, that the town was on fire; and every one rushed thither, save the monks who remained by the body. When the fire was quenched the people returned back, and they took the body within the church; and the clerks did their office, and all with good will chaunted 'REQUIEM ETERNAM.' While they were yet engaged in preparing the grave where the corpse was to lie, and the bishops and the barons stood around, lo! a vavassor, whose name was Acelin, the son of Arthur, came running and burst through the throng. He pressed boldly forward, and mounted aloft upon a stone, and turned towards the bier and appealed to the clerks and bishops, while all the people gazed upon him.
"Lords," cried he aloud, "hearken unto me! I warn all and forbid ye, by Jesu the almighty, and by the apostle of Rome — by greater names I cannot adjure ye — that ye inter not William in the spot where ye are about to lay him. He shall not commit trespass on what is my right, for the greater part of this church is my right and of my fee, and I have no greater right in any of my lands. I neither sold nor pledged it, forfeited it, nor granted it away. He made no contract with me, and I received no price for it from him. By force he took it from me, and never afterwards offered to do me right. I appeal him therefore by name, that he do me right, in that judgment where all alike go, before him who lieth not. Before ye all I summon him by name, that he on that day render me justice for it!"
When he had said this, he came down. Forthwith arose great clamour in the church, and there was such tumult that no one could hear the other speak. Some went, others came; and all marvelled that this great king, who had conquered so much, and won so many cities, and so many castles, could not call so much land his own as his body might lie within after death.
But the bishops called the man to them, and asked of the neighbours, whether what he had said were true; and they answered that he was right; that the land had been his ancestors' from father to son. Then they gave him money, to waive his claim without further challenge. Sixty sols gave they to him, and that price he took, and released his claim to the sepulchre where the body was placed. And the barons promised him that he should be the better for it all the days of his life. Thus Acelin was satisfied, and then the body was interred.