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HER MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY
OUR SOVEREIGN LADY QUEEN VICTORIA,
The Lives of
The Queens of England
COMPILED FROM OFFICIAL RECORDS AND OTHER AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTS, PRIVATE AS WELL AS PUBLIC, BY AGNES STRICKLAND.
PRECEDED BY A BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION BY JOHN FOSTER KIRK. IN SIXTEEN VOLUMES. WITH PLATES.
Philadelphia: Printed only for Subscribers by George Barrie & Son.
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2006
Matilda of Scotland
Queen of Henry I.
Popularity of Matilda's marriage—Called Matilda Atheling—Her charities— Her brother, king Alexander the Fierce—Her works of utility—Equitable laws of king Henry—Normans nickname the king and queen—Duke Robert's invasion—Birth of Matilda's son—Robert's consideration for Matilda— Henry's quarrels with archbishop Anselm—Matilda's letters—England threatened with excommunication—Matilda writes to the pope—Duke Robert re-lands in England—Matilda reconciles him to the king—Anselm's return to England—Matilda's friendship for him—Birth of Princess Matilda—Robert regrets the loss of his pension—Reviles Matilda—Battle of Tinchebray— Capture of Robert and the queen's uncle Edgar—Pardoned through the queen's influence—Court first kept at Windsor by Henry and Matilda—Princess Matilda betrothed to the emperor—Court at Winchester—Marriage of prince William—Portrait of queen Matilda—Departure of empress Matilda— Parliament held—Woodstock palace completed—Revolt in Normandy—Illness of the queen—Her death—King Henry's grief—Burial of Matilda—Inscription to her memory—Her palace at Westminster—Present remains—Statue of Matilda— Her children.
Matilda's English ancestry and English education rendered the new king's marriage with her a most popular measure with the Anglo-Saxon people, of whom the great bulk of his subjects was composed. By them the royal bride was fondly styled Matilda Atheling, and regarded as the representative of their own regretted sovereigns. The allegiance which the mighty Norman conqueror, and his despotic son the "red king," had never been able to obtain, except through the sternest measures of compulsion, and which, in defiance of the dreadful penalties of loss of eyes, limbs, and life, had been frequently withdrawn from these powerful monarchs, was freely and faithfully accorded to the husband of Matilda, Henry I., by the Saxon population. All the reforms effected by his enlightened government, and all the good laws which his enlarged views of political economy taught that wise monarch to adopt, were attributed, by his Anglo-Saxon subjects, to the beneficial influence of his young queen. Robert of Gloucester was fully impressed with these ideas, as we may plainly perceive in the following lines in his rhyming Chronicle, in which he speaks of Henry's marriage:—
"So that as soon as he was king, on St. Martyn's day I ween, He spoused her that was called Maude the good queen, That was kind* heir of England, as I have told before. Many were the good laws that were made in England Through Maude the good queen, as I understand."
*['Kind' means, in ancient English, relationship; 'next of kin,' a familiar expression, is derived from it.]
The Londoners, whose prosperity had sensibly diminished in consequence of the entire absence of female royalty, beheld with unfeigned satisfaction the palace of Edward the Confessor, at Westminster, once more graced by the presence of a queen of the blood of Alfred, whose virtues, piety, and learning rendered her a worthy successor of the last Saxon queen who had held her court there, Editha,
"That gracious rose of Godwin's thorny stern."
Those to whom the memory of that illustrious lady was justly dear were probably not unmindful of the fact that the youthful queen, on whom the hopes of England were so fondly fixed, had received that genuine Saxon name at the baptismal font; and though, in compliment to her Norman godfather, she was called Matilda, she was also Editha.
Matilda fully verified the primitive title bestowed by the Saxons on their queens, Hlafdige, or "the giver of bread." Her charities were of a most extensive character, and her tender compassion for the sufferings of the sick poor carried her almost beyond the bounds of reason, to say nothing of the restraints imposed on royalty. She imitated the example of her mother St. Margaret, queen of Scotland, both in the strictness of her devotional exercises, and in her personal attentions to those who were laboring under bodily afflictions. [Weever.] She went every day in Lent to Westminster abbey, barefoot, and clothed in a garment of haircloth; and she would wash and kiss the feet of the poorest people, for which, according to Robert of Gloucester, she was once reproved, not without reason, by a courtier. He had his answer, however, as our readers will perceive from the following curious dialogue:—
"'Madam, for Godde's love is this well ado, To handle such unclean limbs, and to kiss so? Foul would the king think, if this thing he wist, And right well avile him ere he your lips kist.' 'Sir, sir!' quoth the queen, 'be still. Why say you so? Our Lord himself example gave for to do so.'"
[Robert of Gloucester.]
On another occasion, her brother, Alexander the Fierce, king of Scotland, when on a visit to the court of her royal husband, entering Matilda's apartments, found her on her knees, engaged in washing the feet of some aged mendicants; on which she entreated him to avail himself of the opportunity of performing a good and acceptable work of charity and humiliation, by assisting her in this labor of love, for the benefit of his soul. The warlike majesty of Scotland smiled, and left the room without making any reply to this invitation. [Wendover, Flowers of History, translated by Dr, Gilles, p. 459. The chronicler attributes the anecdote to prince David, giving date 1105. David was certainly conveniently at hand, as he lived in Scotland yard, close to Westminster palace, having married the countess St. Lys, heiress of earl Waltheof; but David, who was afterwards canonized, would have given his aid right willingly. It is Robert of Gloucester who says the brother to whom Matilda gave the charitable lesson was Alexander.] Perhaps he was conscious of his want of skill as an assistant at a pediluvium party; or it might be, that he had seen too much of such scenes during the life of his pious mother queen Margaret, and feared that his sister would carry her works of benevolence to extremes that might prove displeasing to the taste of so refined a prince as Henry Beauclerc.
But to do Matilda justice, her good works in general bore a character of more extended usefulness; so much so, that we even feel the benefit of them to this day, in the ancient bridge she built over 'my lady Lea.' Once being, with her train on horseback, in danger of perishing while fording the river Lea at Oldford, during a high flood, in gratitude for her preservation she built the first arched bridge ever known in England, a little higher up the stream, called by the Saxons Bow bridge, [Bow, from bogen, an arch, a word in the German language, pronounced with the g sounded like y, which brings it close to the Anglo-Saxon.] still to be seen at Stratford-le-Bow, "though the ancient and mighty London bridge has been broken down." Bow-bridge she built at the head of the town of Stratford; likewise Channel's bridge, over a tributary stream of the Lea, the way between them being well paved with gravel. She gave certain manors, and a mill called Wiggin mill, forever, towards keeping in repair the said bridges and way. [Hayward's Three Norman Kings.]
Matilda founded the hospital at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, and also Christ Church, v which stood on the very spot now called Duke's place, noted as the resort of a low class of Jews. This excellent queen also directed her attention to the important object of making new roads, and repairing the ancient highways that had fallen into decay during the stormy years which had succeeded the peaceful and prosperous reign of her great-uncle, Edward the Confessor. By this means, travellers and itinerant merchants were greatly facilitated in their journeys through the then wild and perilous country, which, with the exception of the four great Roman ways, [Which mighty works were of infinite use to our ancestors in ages later than the Norman era. Robert of Gloucester speaks of their utility in his day, and says,—
"Thilk ways by mony a town do wend."]
was only intersected by a few scattered cart-tracks, through desolate moors, heaths, and uncultivated wastes and woodlands. These public benefits, which Matilda the Good conferred upon the people from whoso patriotic monarchs she derived her descent, were in all probability the fruits of her regency during the absence of her royal husband in Normandy; for it is scarcely to be supposed that such stupendous undertakings could have been effected by the limited power and revenues of a mere queen-consort.
Henry the First, be it remembered, was placed on the throne by the Saxon division of his subjects, who were the commons of England, and by them he was supported in his regal authority against the Norman aristocracy, who formed a powerful party in favor of his elder brother's pretensions to the crown of England. The moral and political reforms with which Henry commenced his reign, and, above all, the even-handed measure of justice which he caused to be observed towards all who presumed to infringe the laws, gave great offence to many of those haughty nobles, who had been accustomed to commit the most flagrant crimes with impunity, and to oppress their humbler neighbors without fear of being arraigned for their misdeeds. The establishment of the equitable laws which protected the wives and daughters of Englishmen from insult, the honest trader from wrong and. robbery, and the poor from violence, were attributed to the influence of Matilda, whom they insultingly styled "the Saxon woman," and murmured at the virtuous restraints which her presence and authority imposed upon the court. [Eadmer. Thierry.] The conjugal affection which subsisted between the royal pair excited, withal, the ridicule of those who had been the profligate associates of the bachelor-king, William Rufus; and it was universally displeasing to the haughty Norman peers to see the king's gracious demeanor towards the hitherto oppressed and dispirited English portion of his subjects, for whom his amiable consort was constantly laboring to procure a recognition of their rights. "The malice of certain evil-minded men," says Eadmer, "busied itself in inventing the most cutting railleries on king Henry, and his wife of English blood. They nicknamed them Leofric and Godiva, and always called them so when not in the royal presence." [Ibid.] According to William of Malmesbury, however, duke Robert's partisans were not always so polite as to restrain their malapert language till the king and queen had withdrawn. "They openly branded their lord with sarcasms," says that quaint chronicler, "calling him Godric" (which means 'godly governor'), "and his consort Goddiva. Henry heard these taunts: with a terrific grin, indicative of his inward wrath, he repressed the contemptuous expressions aimed at him by the madness of fools by a studied silence; for he was a calm dissembler of his enmities, but in due season avenged himself with interest." It is probable that Warren, the disappointed suitor of Matilda, and his kinsman Mortimer, with others of the audacious Norman quens, who had previously exercised their wit in bestowing an offensive sobriquet on Henry before his accession to the throne, were among the foremost of those invidious detractors, who could not endure to witness the wedded happiness of their sovereign, and the virtuous influence of his youthful queen.
The invasion of duke Robert, Henry's eldest brother, on his return from the Holy Land, took place in the second year of Matilda's marriage. King Henry's fleet being manned with Norman seamen, and, of course, under the influence of Norman chiefs, revolted; and instead of guarding the coasts of England from the threatened invasion of the duke, swept across the narrow seas, and brought him and his armament in triumph to Portsmouth, where he was joined by the majority of the Anglo-Norman baronage. [Saxon Annals, a.d. 1101.] Robert had also his partisans among the English; for Edgar Atheling so far forgot the interests of his royal niece, queen Matilda, as to espouse the cause of his friend Robert against the king her husband.
Robert landed at Portsmouth, and marched direct to Winchester, where queen Matilda then lay-in with her first-born child, William the Atheling. When this circumstance was related to the duke, he relinquished his purpose of storming the city, with the observation, "that it never should be said he commenced the war by an assault on a woman in childbed, for that would be a base action." [Chronique dc Normandie.] Matilda duly appreciated this generous consideration on the part of her royal brother-in-law and godfather, and exerted all her influence to negotiate a peace between him and her lord, in which she was assisted by the good offices of the archbishop Anselm; and this formidable crisis passed over without the effusion of a drop of blood.[Ibid.] These are Hardyng's words on the subject:—
"But Anselm archbishop of Canterbury, And queen Matilda, made them well accord; The king to pay three thousand marks yearly To duke Robert, withouten more discord."
After this happy pacification, Henry invited Robert to become his guest at the court, where the easy-tempered duke was feasted and entertained, greatly to his satisfaction, by his royal god-daughter Matilda, [M. Paris.] who, in her love of music, and the encouragement she bestowed on minstrels, or trouveres, quite coincided with the tastes of her sponsor and brother-in-law. So much did Robert enjoy his sojourn at Henry's court, that he stayed there upwards of six months, though his presence was greatly required in his own dominions. [Gem.]
An unfortunate misunderstanding took place between Henry and the archbishop Anselm, early in the year 1103. This quarrel originated in an attempt made by the archbishop to deprive the king of a privilege which had been claimed by the Saxon monarchs, of appointing his own bishops. Anselm wished to restore the nomination to the chapters, which Henry resolutely opposed. Both appealed to the pope, but Anselm went to Rome to plead his own cause against the king's three advocates, and remained in exile. The queen was much afflicted at the dissension between her royal husband and her old and valued spiritual father. She had loved and revered Anselm from her childhood, and he had been mainly instrumental in rescuing her from the joyless thraldom of the cloister, and securing to her the elevated position she enjoyed. She had been accustomed to correspond with Anselm, and she still continued to do so, in the hope of composing the unhappy differences which had driven him into exile. Six of her letters have been printed in the folio edition of Anselm's works; but they arc rather curious than entertaining, as affording evidence of the classical attainments of this accomplished princess, as well as her knowledge of Scripture and her familiarity with the writings of the ancient philosophers. [Anselini Opera.]
The first letter in the series was apparently written before king Henry's quarrel with Anselm, and for the purpose of persuading him to relax from his ascetic habits, and to follow St. Paul's comfortable advice to Timothy on the score of water drinking, with many quotations from Greek and Roman philosophers, mingled with exhortations from holy writ; from which we gather that queen Matilda did not approve of her sickly archbishop going beyond a moderate temperance rule, and that she would not have patronized teetotalism if she had lived in these days. Her other letters to Anselm are full of lamentations for his absence, which she regarded as highly injurious to the interests of the church, and mourns over as if it were a severe personal misfortune to herself.
The pope addressed several letters to the king on the subject of the dispute. The first of these, which is in the tone of a paternal remonstrance, alludes to the birth of the infant Atheling in words which imply great respect for queen Matilda, and informs us how ardently Henry had wished for a son. "We have heard, too, that you have had the male issue you so much desired by your noble and religious consort." Pascal, in the course of this letter, endeavors to prevail on Henry to recall the primate, both by reasoning and persuasion. He even offers to bribe him by promises of indulgences and absolution for his sins and those of his consort; and also to cherish the son the said noble and exemplary lady had borne to him. [Chronicle of William of Malmesbury.]
Henry was insensible to all these sugared words, and remained contumacious. He had fixed his affections, not on the spiritual consolations, but the rich temporalities of the church, and was determined to try how far he might go in appropriating the revenues of Canterbury to himself, without exciting an insurrectionary movement among his people. He proceeded to such lengths, that pope Pascal threatened to excommunicate him, and place the kingdom under an interdict. At a period when all the kingdoms of Christendom were supposed to be at the disposal of the Roman pontiff, and the realm of England was not only challenged, but threatened with an invasion by so formidable a competitor as Robert of Normandy, this was no light threat to Henry. It was well for him that his prudent consort Matilda enjoyed the esteem of the pope, and was on such terms with Anselm, that she could, without any sacrifice of his dignity, mediate a reconciliation with both. No one who considers the correspondence of Matilda with these personages can doubt that her politic lord availed himself of her powerful influence with both to effect a pacification, when he had found he had gone too far. Matilda's second letter to Anselm, whilst containing an urgent entreaty for him to return, is accompanied by one from Henry himself, promising to live with him on the same amicable terms that his father the Conqueror did with archbishop Lanfranc. Henry likewise permitted his queen to compromise, in some degree, the perpetually disputed point of conge d'elire, in regard to preferments. Matilda declares that, "as far as in her lay," she had bestowed the appointment of Malmesbury abbey on Ulf, a monk of Winchester; but she had left the election open to his approbation or reversal. [Sancti Anselmi Epistolse.] Ulf was, by his name, a Saxon compatriot, who had found favor with his gracious queen; but between the royal power and the will of the archbishop, the monks of Malmesbury were meant to exercise small portion of that liberty of choice with which the church had endowed them. Independently of the perfect conjugal unity of purpose which marks the wedded life of Matilda and her lord, she neither could nor dared have intermeddled in such weighty matters without his sanction, and those who cannot perceive the diplomatic finesse with which she carries on the treaty for her husband, understand little of the characteristics of the royal pair.
In addressing the exiled primate, Matilda offers abundant incense to his spiritual pride. She styles herself "Matilda, by the grace of God queen of England, the lowliest of the handmaidens of his holiness;" [Ibid. lib. iii. ep. xcvi.] and thanks him for having condescended by his letters presented to show her his mind, although he was absent. "I greet the little piece of parchment sent by you as I would one from my father himself. I place it in my bosom near my heart: I read over and over again the words flowing from your kindness; my mind ponders them; my heart considers them. Yet, while I prize all you say, I marvel at what your wise excellency says about your nephew." [Ibid.] As the queen seems not very well to understand Anselm's allusion to his nephew, it is not possible for her biographer to explain it. However, Matilda speaks with full confidence on the possibility of her lord and master viewing ultimately the affairs of the church in the same light as she did; and she foretells; as the result of some secret consultation of which she was cognizant, evidently meaning the privy-councils of Henry the First, "that the return of the pastor to his flock, of the father to his daughter, would soon take place from the good will which," says she, "by carefully examining, I find really to exist in the heart of my lord. In truth, his mind has more friendship towards you than men think. I cultivate it, promoting whatsoever good feeling I can, in order that he may be reconciled to you. Whatsoever he may grant now in regard to your return, will be followed by further concessions when, in the future, you may see occasion to desire them. ... But if he should still persist in overstepping the bounds of justice, I implore from the plentitude of your charity, as the venom of rancor is not accustomed to be in you, that you turn not from him the benignity of your regard; but piously intercede with God for him, for me, and for the children that spring from us both; likewise for the people of our realm. May your holiness ever fare well."
In the hope of averting from England and her king the threatened interdict, Matilda next addressed herself to the angry pontiff. Her letter, though partaking too much of the prolix formality of a state-paper for insertion, is very ably written; and though submissive on the whole, contains certain proof that, whomsoever might be a believer in his infallibility, she was not among the number. The very terms of her salutation contain an admonition that the attainment of the everlasting felicity she wishes him must depend on the manner in which he discharges the duties of his high vocation, for she says, "To the highest pontiff and universal pope Pascal: Matilda, by God's grace queen of the English, trusts that he will so dispense in this life the justice of the apostolical see, that he may deserve to be numbered among the apostolic conclave in the joys of perpetual peace with the companies of the just." Saintly, yet no slave of Rome, Matilda displays the high spirit of an English princess under all the elaborate terms of ceremonial lowliness in which her masterly letter is couched. She asks the pope to suspend his threatened fulmination, to give the king her lord time to effect a reconciliation with the archbishop; but follows up this prayer with an intimation that, if matters are driven to an extremity, it may cause a separation between England and the Roman see.
Duke Robert took advantage of the crisis to enter England, attended by only twelve gentlemen. Henry, having speedy information of his landing, declared, if he fell into his hands, he would keep him so closely imprisoned that he should never give him any more trouble. "Not so, sire," replied the count de Mellent; "he is your brother, and God forbid [Chronique de Normandie.] that you should do so great a villany. Let me meet and talk with him, and I will take care that he shall return quietly into Normandy, and give you acquittance of his pension withal."—"By my faith," replied the king, "I will make you do what you say." The count then mounted his horse, and encountering duke Robert on the road to Southampton, greeted him with these words: "St. Mary! what brings you into this country? Who has given you such fatal counsel? You know you have hitherto compelled the king to pay you four thousand marks a year; and for this cause you will be taken and put to death, or detained in prison for life. He is determined to be avenged on you, I promise you."
When the duke heard this he was greatly disturbed, and asked "if he could not return to Southampton?"—"No," replied Mellent, "the king will cause you to be intercepted; but even if you could reach that place, the wind is contrary for your escape by sea."—"Counsel me," cried the duke, "what I ought to do."—"Sire," replied the count, "the queen is apprised of the news, and you know that you showed her great kindness when you gave up the assault on Winchester because she lay in childbed there. Hasten to her, and commit yourself and your people to her care, and I am sure she will guard you from all harm." Then duke Robert went to the queen, and she received and reassured him very amiably; and by the sweet words she said to him, and the fear he was in of being taken, he was induced to sacrifice those pecuniary claims on the king his brother for which he had resigned the realm of England.
When Henry heard that his brother had granted an acquittance for this money to the queen, he requested her to come to him with duke Robert. Matilda, always happy to act the blessed part of a peace-maker, having introduced her brother-in-law into the presence of the king, duke Robert thus addressed him: "Fair sire, I am come to see you out of affection, and not to injure either you or yours. We are brothers, born of one father and one mother. If I am the eldest, you have the honor of a crown, which is a much better thing. I love you well, and thus it ought to be. Money and rents I seek not of you, nor ever will. I have quitted to the queen all you owe me for this kingdom. Enter we now together into perfect amity. We will exchange gifts of jewels, dogs, and birds, with such things as ought to be between brothers and friends."—"We will do as you say," replied the king, "and thanks for what you have said." [Chronique de Normandie, 248-9.]
The Saxon chronicler and some other historians affirm, indeed, that he invaded England; "but it is plain," says sir John Hayward, "that he only came for disport and play;" that is, to recreate himself at the court of Henry Beauclerc, and to enjoy the agreeable society of the queen his goddaughter, with the music and minstrelsy in which they both so greatly delighted. Well would it have been for the luckless Robert if all his tastes had been equally harmless and refined; but he had propensities disgraceful to his character as an individual, and ruinous to his fortunes as a prince. The chroniclers relate that he indulged in such excess of revelry while he was at the English court, that he was often in a state of inebriation for days together. [Eadmer.]
From William of Malmesbury's version of the manner in which Matilda obtained the resignation of Robert's pension, it should appear that she only made an indirect insinuation of how acceptable such an addition to her queenly revenues would be, and he bestowed it upon her without a word. Our shrewd old monk, however, has very little appreciation of such chivalric munificence to a royal lady, for he dryly observes, "And he, too, as if contending with Fortune whether she should give or he squander most, discovering the mere wish of the queen who silently desired it, kindly forgave the payment of this immense sum forever, thinking it a very great matter that female pride should condescend to ask a favor, although he was her godfather." According to another historian, Robert resigned his pension to Matilda at a carouse; and when he became aware of the folly of which he had been guilty, he was greatly exasperated, and bitterly reproached his brother Henry "with having cheated and despoiled him, by employing the queen to beguile him with fair words out of his pension, when he was under the influence of wine." [Eadmer. Gem.] It is certain that there was nothing but animosity between the royal brothers after this affair. In the year 1104, Henry left the government of England in the prudent hands of Matilda, and embarked for Normandy. While there, he consented to meet Anselm, the archbishop, at the castle of l'Aigle, where, through the mediation of his sister Adela, countess of Blois, a reconciliation was happily effected. Anselm then returned to England, where he was met at Dover by the queen Matilda, who received and welcomed him with the greatest demonstrations of satisfaction. [Pascal II. admitted Anselm, the favorite priest and prelate of Matilda, to a seat near his right foot; saying, "We admit this prelate into our circle, he being, as it were, the pope of the farther hemisphere."—Godwin de Praes.] As the venerable primate was in feeble health, the queen took the precaution of preceding him on the road from Dover to the metropolis, providing, as she went, for his comforts and accommodation. [Eadmer.]
The return of Anselm was attended with circumstances which gave great pain to Matilda, as an English queen. Both the king and archbishop, after their reconciliation, united in enforcing inexorably the celibacy of the Anglo-Saxon clergy, whose lower orders had previously been able to obtain licenses to marry. Anselm now excommunicated all the married clergy. Two hundred of these unfortunate Saxons, barefoot, but clad in their clerical robes, encountered the king and queen in the streets of London. They implored the king's compassion: he turned from them with words of insult. They then supplicated the queen to intercede for them, but Matilda, with tears in her eyes, assured them "that she dared not interfere." [Lingard.]
The year 1104 was marked by the birth of a princess, who was first named Alice, or Adelais, [Ibid.] but whose name the king afterwards changed to that of his beloved and popular queen, Matilda. This princess was afterwards the celebrated empress Matilda. "Satisfied with a child of either sex," says William of Malmesbury, "she ceased having issue; and enduring with complacency the absence of the court when the king was elsewhere employed, she continued many years at Westminster. Yet was no part of royal magnificence wanting to her, but at all times crowds of visitants and raconteurs came, and were entertained in her superb dwelling; for this the king's liberality commanded, this her own kindness and affability enacted. She was singularly holy, by no means despicable in point of beauty, a rival of her royal mother's piety, blameless as regarded feminine propriety, and unsullied even by suspicion. She had a singular pleasure in hearing the service of God, and on this account was thoughtlessly prodigal towards clerks of melodious voice, both in gifts and promises. Her generosity becoming universally known, crowds of scholars, equally famed for poetry and music, came over, and happy did he account himself who could soothe the ear of the queen by the novelty of his song."
Matilda's preference to foreigners in dispensing her patronage is censured by our worthy chronicler as one of her few faults. This he imputes to vanity or love of ostentation in the queen; "for," says he, "the love of fame is so rooted in the human mind, that scarcely any one is contented with the precious fruits of a good conscience, but is desirous of having their laudable actions blazed abroad. Hence it was justly observed, that the inclination crept upon the queen to reward all the foreigners she could, while the others were kept in suspense, and though sometimes rewarded, oftener tantalized with empty promises." Nor was this all; for, like a faithful annalist, Malmesbury chronicles the evil as well as the good of this illustrious lady, who, he says, "fell into an error incidental to prodigal queens by rack-renting her tenants, and thus extorting from them unjustly the means of supporting her liberality to others, who had less claims to her bounty. But whoso," pursues he, "shall judge rightly will impute this to her servants, who, harpy-like, conveyed everything they could gripe into their own purses, or wasted it in riotous living. Her ears being infected with the base insinuations of these people, she induced this stain on her noble mind, holy and meritorious in every other respect." [Giles's William of Malmesbury.] The profound tranquillity that subsisted in her husband's dominions during his frequent absences in Normandy is a proof that Matilda understood the art of domestic government, and practised it with a happier effect than the two first Anglo-Norman sovereigns, whose reigns were so greatly disturbed by insurrections.
Henry, after his successful campaign in Normandy, returned to England, in his personal appearance at least, an altered man. The Anglo-Normans had adopted the picturesque Saxon fashion—which, however, was confined to persons of high rank—of wearing their hair long, and flowing in ringlets on their shoulders; and the king was remarkable for the luxuriance and beauty of his love-locks, which he cherished with peculiar care, no doubt out of a laudable desire to conform to the tastes of his queen, the daughter of a Saxon princess. His courtiers imitated the royal example, which gave great scandal to the Norman clergy. One day, while the king was in Normandy, he and his train entered a church, where an ecclesiastic of the name of Serlo, bishop of Seez, took up his parable on the sinfulness of this new fashion, "which," he protested, "was a device of the Evil one to bring souls into everlasting perdition; compared the moustached, bearded, and long-haired men of that age to filthy goats," [Ordericus Vitalis.] and, in short, made so moving a discourse on the unloveliness of their present appearance, that the king of England and his courtiers melted into tears; on which Serlo, perceiving the impression which his eloquence had made, drew a pair of scissors out of his sleeve, and, instead of permitting their penitence to evaporate in a few unmeaning drops, persuaded his royal and noble auditors to prove the sincerity of their repentance by submitting their ringlets to his discretion, and brought his triumph to a climax by polling the king and congregation with his own hands. After Henry had thus submitted his flowing ringlets to the reforming shears of Serlo, he published an edict, commanding his subjects to follow his example.
Henry was then courting popularity in the duchy of Normandy, and well knew that the readiest way to effect his object was to win the good report of the monks. He had previously scandalized all piously disposed persons, by choosing for his private chaplain a priest whose only merit consisted in being able to hurry over matins and mass in half an hour. This was Roger le Poer, [Godwin de Praes.] afterwards the rich and potent bishop of Salisbury, whose hasty despatch of the morning service so charmed Henry that he swore aloud in the church "that he had at length met with a priest fit for a soldier." Roger, when he received this flattering commendation from the lips of royalty, was only a poor curate at Caen, but was advanced by Henry to the highest preferment in the church and state.
Queen Matilda did not long enjoy the society of her royal husband in England, and during the brief period he spent with her at Northampton, in the winter season, his whole time and thoughts were employed in raising the means for pursuing the war in Normandy. His unfortunate brother, Robert, finding himself sorely pressed on every side, and left, by his own improvident folly, without resources for continuing the contest, came over to England unattended, and, repairing to the court at Northampton, forced an interview with Henry [M. Paris.] (who was reluctant to admit him into his presence), and earnestly besought his compassion; telling him, at the same time, "he was ready to submit everything to his brotherly love, if he would only permit him to retain the appearance of a sovereign." As it by no means suited Henry's policy to yield to the dictates of natural affection, he coldly turned away, muttering something to himself that was unintelligible to the by-standers; and which he could not be induced to explain. Robert's quick temper could not brook this contemptuous usage, and, in a paroxysm of rage, he indignantly assailed his brother with a storm of reproaches, mingled with abuse and menaces; and without waiting to employ the good offices of queen Matilda, through whose kindly influence it is possible he might have obtained reasonable conditions of peace, he departed from Northampton the same hour. [Saxon Annals.]
In the spring, Henry once more committed the domestic affairs of his kingdom to the care of Matilda, and having levied an enormous tax on his subjects, to support the expenses of the war, embarked for Normandy. Matilda was principally employed, during the king's absence, in superintending the magnificent buildings at New Windsor, which were founded by Henry, and in the completion of the royal apartments in the Tower of London. She, as well as Henry, patronized Gundulph, the episcopal architect, to whom England is indebted for the most magnificent and lasting of her public buildings. Many useful public works, to which we have before alluded, furnished, under her auspices, employment for the working classes, and improved the general condition of the people.
While civilization and the arts of peace were rapidly progressing, through the beneficial influence of Matilda, at home, the arms of her royal consort were universally triumphant in Normandy. The unfortunate Robert Courthose, with his young son William (who was called Clito, or royal heir), with the earl of Mortaigne and all the nobles of their party, were taken prisoners at the decisive battle of Tinchebray, which was fought on the vigil of St. Michael, exactly forty years after the famous battle of Hastings. The English were much elated at this circumstance, whereby they flattered their national pride with the idea that the husband of their beloved queen, of Saxon lineage, had wiped away the dishonor of the Norman conquest, by subjugating Normandy to the yoke of England. Edgar Atheling, Matilda's uncle, was taken fighting for his friend Robert of Normandy, besides four hundred valiant knights. [W. Malmesbury.] Henry instantly released the aged prince, for love of the queen his niece, say some of the chroniclers of that period, and at her intercession settled a pension upon him for life.
Henry, now at the summit of his ambition, having verified the death-bed prediction of his father the Conqueror that he should unite in his own person the inheritance of both his brothers, returned triumphantly to England with his unfortunate captives. Robert he sent to Cardiff castle, where for a time his confinement was only a sort of honorable restraint, if we may credit the account which Henry himself gives of it in a letter to the pope: "I have not," says he, "imprisoned him as an enemy; but I have placed him in a royal castle, as a noble stranger broke down with many troubles, and I supply him abundantly with every delicacy and enjoyment."
Henry and Matilda kept their Easter this year at Bath, and, during the summer, introduced the popular custom of making a royal progress through different parts of England. [Saxon Chronicle.] They held their court the following year, for the first time, at New Windsor, then called, from the picturesque winding of the river Thames, Windlesore. This beautiful retreat was originally used as a hunting-seat by William the Conqueror, who, for better security of his person, converted it into a fortress or castle; but the extensive alterations and improvements which the elegant tastes of the Beauclerc sovereign and his accomplished consort Matilda of Scotland effected first gave to Windsor castle the magnificent and august character, as a royal residence, which has rendered it ever since a favorite abode with succeeding sovereigns.
In the year 1108, the affairs of Normandy requiring the presence of the king, another temporary separation took place between Matilda and her royal lord. Indeed, from the time that the duchy of Normandy was subjected to his sway, it became a matter of necessity, in order to preserve his popularity with his continental subjects, to pass a considerable portion of his time among them: meanwhile, the peace and integral prosperity of England were best promoted by the presence of Matilda, who formed the bond of union between Henry of Normandy and the Saxon race. Therefore it appears to have been a measure of political expediency for her to remain with her splendid court at Westminster or London, endearing herself daily more and more to the people by her works of princely charity and the public benefits which she was constantly laboring to promote. Thus we see, on accurate examination, that, contrary to the assertions of one or two paradoxical writers who have assumed that Matilda was not treated with the affection and respect that were her due in wedded life, she enjoyed a degree of power and influence in the state perfectly unknown to the Saxon queens. She was so nobly dowered, withal, that in after reigns the highest demand ever made on the part of a queen-consort was, that she should be endowed with a dower equal to that of Matilda of Scotland. [Tyrrell.]
By close examination of the earliest authorities, we find that the first parliaments held by the Anglo-Norman dynasty were the fruits of the virtuous influence of this excellent queen over the mind of her husband. But as the fact whether parliaments were ever held before the reigns of Henry III. and Edward I. has been a point of great contest among modern historians, we take leave to quote the following lines from Robert of Gloucester in support of the assertion,—first, that parliaments were held; and next, that they were held through the influence of Matilda:—[Ibid. vol. ii. p. 430. The edition is royal octavo.]
"When his daughter was ten years old, to council there he drew, On a Whit-Sunday, a great parliament he name [held] At Westminster, noble enow, that much folk came."
[Robert of Gloucester died before he completed the reign of Henry III., consequently, if the first parliament were held in that of Edward I., he could not even have mentioned such legislative assemblies without possessing the gift of prophecy.]
Piers of Langtoft distinctly points out the classes of whom Matilda advised Henry to take counsel,—viz., barons, lords of towns, and burgesses. Here are the lines:—
"Maid the good queen gave him in council To love all his folk and leave all his turpeile [disputing], To bear him with his barons that held of him their fees [feofs], And to lords of towns and burgesses of cities: Through council of daine Maid, a kind woman and true, Instead of hatred old, there now was love all new; Now love they full well the barons and the king, The king does ilk a deal at their bidding."
Robert of Gloucester, from first to last, speaks of queen Matilda as an active agent in the government of England, and the restorer and upholder of the Saxon form of legislature, whose system was that of a representative constitution. He says,—
"The goodness that king Henry and the good queen Mold Did to this land ne may never be told."
The year 1109 must have been an era of eventful interest to Matilda. Her royal husband, having spent the winter and spring in Normandy, [Saxon Annals.] returned to England in the summer, to visit her and their infant family, and kept court with uncommon splendor in his new palace at Windsor, which had been completed in his absence. It was there that he received the ambassadors who came to solicit the hand of the princess Matilda for the emperor Henry V. [M. Paris. Huntingdon.] The proposal was eagerly accepted by Henry Beauclerc; and the princess, then just turned of five years old, was solemnly espoused by proxy to her royal suitor, who was forty years her senior; but, on account of her tender age, the infant bride was allowed for the present to remain under the care of the queen her mother. [M. Paris.] The fact that Henry's numerous illegitimate children were many of them adults at this period, proves that they were born in his youth, and at all events before his marriage with Matilda of Scotland.
In the year 1109, the mighty Norman chief Fitz-Haymon, lord of Glamorgan, dying without sons, left the lady Aimabel, his young heiress, to the guardianship of the king.
Henry, wishing to secure so rich a prize for his eldest natural son Robert, proposed him to his fair ward, as a suitable husband for her. But the haughty Norman damsel, though only sixteen, intrepidly replied, "That the ladies of her house were not accustomed to wed nameless persons." Then the king answered, "Neither shalt thou, damsel; for I will give my son a fair name, by which he and his sons shall be called. Robert Fitzroy shall be his name henceforth."—"But," objected the prudent heiress of Glamorgan, "a name so given is nothing. Where are the lands, and what the lordship, of the man you will me to wed, sire?"—"Truly," responded the king, with a smile, "thy question is a shrewd one, damsel: I will endow my son Robert with the lands and honors of Gloucester, and by that title shall he henceforth be called."
The lady Aimabel made no further demur, we are told, but wedded the king's son without delay. The fact was, the king was generously bestowing upon his son Robert the lands and honors which had been granted or sold to Fitz-Haymon, her deceased father, by William Rufus, once the patrimony of the luckless Brihtric Meaw; [See the preceding biography, and Domesday-book.] and the young lady, who seems to have been gifted with no ordinary share of worldly wisdom, thought, no doubt, that she had better hold the lands and honors of Gloucester on the tenure of wife-service to the king's son, than lose them altogether. Such were the dealings of the Anglo-Norman sovereigns with their wards. The high-spirited heiress of Fitz-Haymon was, however, fortunate in the marriage that was thus arranged for her by her royal guardian. Robert Fitzroy was the princely earl of Gloucester who so valiantly upheld the title of his half-sister, the empress Matilda, to the English crown in the succeeding reign.
A tax of three shillings on every hide of land was levied to pay the portion of the princess Matilda, by which the sum of 824,000l. was raised; and the princess was sent over to her imperial husband with a magnificent retinue. She was espoused to him in the cathedral of Mentz, [Simeon of Durham.] and solemnly crowned by the archbishop of Cologne. Queen Matilda was in the next year left to keep court alone, in consequence of a formidable insurrection in Normandy in favor of William Clito, son of the unfortunate Robert Courthose, which was privately fomented by the earl of Flanders. King Henry, perceiving that all classes of his continental subjects were averse to the yoke of an absent sovereign, considered it expedient to forego the society of his queen and children for a period of nearly two years, while he held his separate state in Normandy.
In the year 1112, we find the king and queen [Archaeologia.] were together at Winchester, with their court, where they personally assisted at the removal of the bodies of Alfred the Great and his queen Alswitha from the ruinous chapel of Newminster, close to Winchester cathedral, to the magnificent abbey of Hyde, [Henry VIII, brutally desecrated the place where reposed the remains of these patriot sovereigns. Englishmen of the eighteenth century, more barbarous still, converted the holy fane into a bridewell, and the bones of Alfred were by felon hands exhumed and dispersed.] founded and endowed by Henry and Matilda, as a more suitable shrine for the relics of their illustrious pro genitor,—from whom, be it remembered, Henry, as well as his Saxon queen, was descended in the eighth generation, through the marriage of Elstrith, the daughter of Alfred, with an earl of Flanders, his maternal ancestor. Here, too, the bones of Edward the Elder and his queen, the immediate ancestors of Matilda, were at the same time translated. [Archaeologia.] The following year Henry was again in Normandy, where he entered into an amicable treaty with one of his most troublesome enemies, Fulk earl of Anjou, by a matrimonial alliance between his heir, prince William, and Alice, the daughter of that earl.
The education of Matilda's eldest daughter being considered as completed in 1114, the marriage was fully solemnized between her and the emperor Henry V., and they were both crowned a second time, with great pomp, in the cathedral at Mentz. The young empress was then only in her twelfth year. Notwithstanding this great disparit in age, it appears that the youthful bride enjoyed a reasonable share of happiness with her mature consort, by whom she was treated with the greatest indulgence, while her great beauty and majestic carriage won the hearts of the German princes, and obtained for her unbounded popularity.
Matilda's eldest son, prince William (or the Atheling, as he was more generally styled by the English), was, in the year 1115, conducted by the king his father with great pomp into Normandy, where he was presented to the states as the heir of the duchy, and fealty was sworn to him by the barons and freemen. This prince was then only twelve years old. He returned with his royal father to England in July, and the following year Henry summoned that memorable parliament, mentioned by Holinshed as the first held since the Norman conquest, to meet at Salisbury, and there appointed the young prince as his successor. William of Malmesbury says, "Every freeman of England and Normandy, of whatsoever degree, or to whatsoever lord his vassal service was due, was made to perform homage, and swear fealty to William, son of king Henry and queen Matilda." The Easter festival was kept this year by the royal family at Odiham castle, in Hampshire.
Matilda passed the Christmas festival of the same year, in the company of her royal husband, at the abbey of St. Alban's. [Newcome's History of St. Alban's, pp. 52, 93.] They were the guests of abbot Richard, who had then brought to a happy conclusion the building of that magnificent fabric. He invited the queen, who was one of its benefactresses, the king, and the archbishop of Rouen, and many prelates and nobles, to assist at the consecration of the abbey, which took place Christmas-day, 1115. The royal pair, with their suite of nobles and ladies, were lodged in the abbey, and entertained from December 25th to January 6th. The queen, sanctioned by Henry, gave, by charter, two manors to St. Alban's. The existence of a portrait of queen Matilda is certainly owing to this visit; for in a rich illuminated volume, called the Golden Book of St. Alban's (now in the British Museum), may still be seen a miniature of the royal benefactress. [Cottonian MSS. Nero, D, 7. A beautiful and accurate copy from the original has been drawn by M. Kearney at the expense of Henry Howard, Esq., of Corby, the descendant of Matilda, and presented by him to the authors of this work. It corrects, in many particulars, the errors of an engraving published by Strutt. We have the opportunity, in this new edition, of describing Matilda's portrait from an examination of the Golden Book itself, from which Mr. Harding, the celebrated antiquarian artist, has made our accompanying illustration. The Golden Book of St. Alban's is a sort of conventual album, in which were entered the portraits of all the benefactors of the abbey, together with an abstract of their donations. Five different artists, of various degrees of merit, may be traced in this collection. Some of the miniatures are exquisitely designed and colored, others are barbarous and puerile in their execution; some of the portraits are represented holding well-filled purses, others displaying the charters, with large pendant seals, which secured broad lands to church and poor. It is true that Matilda's portrait was not entered till the fourteenth century, when the book was first commenced; but the style of dress, together with the form of the throne on which the queen is seated, prove that the original design was drawn in the queen's own day; for the artists of the middle ages drew only what they saw, and had the limner been inclined to give a supposititious portrait of queen Matilda, he would have designed her figure clad in the costume of Edward the Third's era, and seated in the high-backed gothic chair of state on which royal persons were enthroned since the days of Edward I., as may be seen by reference to any collection of engravings from regal seals; instead of which, Matilda is seen seated on the primitive stone bench of Anglo-Saxon royalty, represented on the seals of the Anglo-Norman and early Plantagenet-monarchs.] The queen is attired in the royal mantle of scarlet, lined with white fur; it covers the knees, and is very long. The mantle is square to the bust. A cordon of scarlet and gold, with a large tassel, passes through two gold knobs: she holds the cordon in her left hand. She wears a tight kirtle of dark blue, buttoned down the front with gold. Her sleeves fit close to the arms, and are scarlet like the mantle. A white veil is arranged in a square form on the brow, and is surmounted by a gold crown, formed of three large trefoils, and gold oreillettes appear, beneath the veil on each side of the cheeks. The veil flows behind her shoulders with lappets. Matilda is very fair in complexion: she has a long throat, and elegant form of tall proportions. She displays with her right hand the charter she gave the abbey, from, which hangs a very large red seal, whereon, without doubt, was impressed her effigy in grand relief. She sits on a carved stone bench, on which is a scarlet cushion figured with gold leaves. This cushion is in the form of a wool-pack, but has four tassels of gold and scarlet. A piece of figured cloth is hung at the back of her seat. There are no armorial bearings,—one proof of the authenticity of the portrait. "Queen Matildis gave us Bellwick and Lilleburn," is the notation appended by the monks of St. Alban's to this portrait.
About this period, the stately new palace at Woodstock being completed, and the noble park, reckoned the finest at that time in England, having been walled round, Henry stocked it with a curious menagerie of wild beasts, the first zoological collection ever seen in this country. It is described in very quaint terms by Stowe, who says, "The king craved from other kings lions, leopards, lynxes, and camels, and other curious beasts, of which England hath none. Among others, there was a strange animal called a stryx, or porcupine, sent him by William of Montpelier; which beast," says the worthy chronicler, "is, among the Africans, counted as a kind of hedgehog, covered with pricking bristles, which they shoot out naturally on the dogs that pursue them."
Unbounded hospitality was one of the social virtues of this peaceful reign, [The following verses from an ancient MS., quoted by Collins, affords an interesting witness of this fact. They were inscribed by sir William Fitz-William, the lord of Sprotborough, on an ancient cross, which was demolished at the Reformation:—
"Whoso is hungry, and lists well to eat, Let him come to Sprotborough to his meat; And for a night and a day His horse shall have both corn and hay, And no one shall ask him, when he goeth away?"]
especially at this peculiar era, when the benignant example of the good queen had, for a period of nearly seventeen years, produced the happiest effect in softening the manners of the haughty and powerful chieftains who were at that time the magnates of the land. The Norman families, at this period, were beginning to practise some of the peaceful pursuits of the Anglo-Saxons, and ladies of high rank considered it no infringement on the dignity of their station to attend to the profitable concerns of the poultry-yard and the dairy. The countess Constance of Chester, though the wife of Hugh Lupus, the king's first cousin, kept a herd of kine, and made good Cheshire cheeses, three of which she presented to the archbishop of Canterbury. Giraldus Cambriensis bears honorable testimony to the excellence of the produce of the 'cheese-shire' in that day.
A fresh revolt in Normandy [Ordericus Vitalis.] deprived Matilda of the society of her husband and son in 1117. The king, according to Eadmer, returned and spent Christmas with her, as she was at that time in a declining state of health; [Saxon Annals.] leaving prince William with his Norman baronage, as a pledge for his return. [Eadmer, p. 118; see Rapin, vol. i. 199.] His sojourn was, of necessity, very brief. He was compelled by the distracted state of affairs in Normandy to rejoin his army there,— Matilda never saw either her husband or her son again.
Resigned and perfect in all the duties of her high calling, the dying queen remained, during this trying season, in her palace at Westminster, [William of Malmesbury.] lonely though surrounded with all the splendor of royalty; enduring with patience the separation from her beloved consort and children, and affording, to the last hour of her life, a beautiful example of piety and self-denial. She expired on the 1st of May, 1118, [Saxon Annals.] passionately lamented by every class of the people, to whom her virtues and wisdom had rendered her inexpressibly dear.
According to the most ancient chroniclers, the king her husband was much afflicted when the intelligence of Matilda's death reached him, amidst the turmoil of battle and siege in Normandy. [Robert of Gloucester.] Piers of Langtoft alludes to the grief felt by the royal widower, at the loss of his amiable consort, in terms of the most homely simplicity:—
"Now is the king sorry, her death doth him gram" [grieve].
Hardyng's rhyming Chronicle produces the following quaint stanzas on the death of Matilda, and the sorrow of king Henry for her loss:—
"The year of Christ a thousand was full clear, One hundred eke and therewithal eighteen, When good queen Maude was dead and laid on bier, At Westminster buryed, as well was seen; For heaviness of which the king, I ween, To Normandy then went with his son The duke William, and there with him did won."
Hardyng is, however, mistaken in supposing that Henry was with his beloved consort at the time of her decease. The same chronicler gives us another stanza on the death of Henry, in which he, in yet more positive terms, speaks of the conjugal affection which united the Norman sovereign to his Saxon queen:—
"Of Christe's date was there a thousand year, One hundred also, and nine and thirty mo, Buried at Redynge, as well it doth appear, In the abbye which there he founded so, Of inonkes black, whenever they ride or go, That pray for him and queen Maude his wife, Who either other loved withouten strife."
Another chronicler says, "Nothing happened to trouble the king, save the death of his queen Matilda, the very mirror of piety, humility, and princely bounty." [Florence of Worcester.]
The same causes that had withheld the king from attending Matilda in her dying illness prevented him from honoring her obsequies with his presence. Matilda was buried on St. Philip's day in Westminster abbey, on the right side of her royal uncle, Edward the Confessor. [Pennant's London. Robert of Gloucester.] Great disputes, however, have existed as to the place of her interment, [According to Stowe, her grave was in the vestry of the abbey.] which has been contested with almost as much zeal as was displayed by the seven cities of Greece in claiming the honor of having given birth to Homer. The monks of Reading averred that their royal patroness was buried in her own stately abbey there, where her illustrious consort was afterwards interred. The rhyming chroniclers insist that she was buried in St. Paul's cathedral, and that her epitaph was placed in Westminster abbey. These are the words of Piers of Langtoft:—
"At London, in St. Paul, in tomb she is laid, Christ, then, of her soul have mercie; If any one will witten [know] of her storie, At Westminster it is written readily;"
that is to say, so that it may be plainly read. Tyrrell declares that she was buried at Winchester, but that tablets to her memory were set up in many churches,—an honor which she shares with queen Elizabeth. The following passage from Weever testifies that the mortal remains of Matilda, 'the good queen,' repose near the relics of her royal uncle, Edward the Confessor, in the solemn temple founded by that last Saxon monarch, and which had been completed under her careful superintendence. "Here lieth in Westminster abbey, without any tomb, Matilda or Maud, daughter of Malcolm Canmore, king of Scots, and wife of Henry I. of England, who brought to him children, William, Richard, and Mary, who perished by shipwreck, and likewise Maud, who was wife to Henry, the fifth emperor. She died the first day of May, 1118." [Weever's Funeral Monuments.] She had an excellent epitaph made to her commendation, whereof four lines only remain:—
"Prospera non laetam fecere, nec aspera tristem, Aspera risus erant, prospera terror erant; Non decor efficit fragilem, non sceptra superbam, Sola potens humilis, sola pudica decens."
Henry of Huntingdon, the chronicler, no mean poet, was the author of these Latin lines, of which the following is a faithful version:—
"Prosperity could not inflate her mind, Lowly in greatness, as in ills resigned: Beauty deceived not, nor did crowns efface Her best adornment, woman's modest grace."
William of Malmesbury, speaking of the death of Matilda of Scotland, says, "She was snatched away from her country, to the great loss of her people, but to her own advantage; for her funeral being splendidly solemnized at Westminster, she entered into her rest, and her spirit manifested, by no trifling indications, that she was a resident in heaven."
Some attempts, we suppose, therefore, must have been made by the monks of Westminster to establish for this great and good queen a deceptive posthumous fame, by the testimony of miracles performed at her tomb, or pretended revelations from her spirit to her contemporaries in the flesh. Our marvellous chronicler, however, confines himself to the above significant hints, and takes his leave of Matilda in these words: "She died willingly, leaving the throne after a reign of seventeen years and six months, experiencing the fate of her family, who all died in the flower of their age."
Many curious remains still exist of the old palace in Westminster, where Matilda kept state as queen, and ended her life. This venerable abode of our early sovereigns was originally built by Canute, and, being devastated by fire, was rebuilt by Edward the Confessor with such enduring solidity, that antiquaries still point out different portions which were indubitably the work of the royal Saxon, and therefore must have formed part of the residence of his niece. Part of the old palace of Westminster is still to be seen in the buildings near Cotton-garden, and the lancet-shaped windows about Old Palace-yard are declared to appertain to it. [Pennant.] Cotton-garden was the private garden of the ancient palace, and therefore belonged especially to queen Matilda. It would be idle to dwell on Westminster hall and Westminister abbey, though the original sites of both were included in the precincts of this palace, because one was rebuilt from the ground by Richard II., and the other by Henry III. Great devastation was made in the royal abode of the Anglo-Saxon queen by the late disastrous conflagration of the house of lords and its adjacent apartments, which all belonged to it.
The house of lords was an antique oblong room; it was the hall of state of Matilda's palace, and called the white-hall, but without any reference to the vast palace of Whitehall, to which the seat of English royalty was transferred in the reign of Henry VIII. As the Painted-chamber, still entire, is well known to have been the bedchamber of Edward the Confessor, and the apartment in which he expired, there can be no doubt but that it was the state bedchamber of his niece. A curious room in Cotton-house was the private oratory of the Confessor, and was assuredly used by Matilda for the same purpose; while at the south end of the court of Bequests are to be seen two mighty arches, the zigzag work of which ranks its architecture among the most ancient existing in our country. This was once a deserted state-chamber [Howell.] of the royal Saxon palace, but it has been used lately by the house of commons.
There is a statue of Matilda in Rochester cathedral, which forms the pilaster to the west door; that of king Henry, her husband, forms another. The hair of the queen depends over either shoulder, in two long plaits, below the knees. Her garments are long and flowing, and she holds an open scroll of parchment in her hand. Her features are defaced, and indeed so completely broken away, that no idea of what manner of countenance she had can be gathered from the remains.
King Henry proved the sincerity of his regard for Matilda by confirming all her charters after her death. Madox, in his history of the Exchequer, quotes one of that monarch's charters, reciting "that he had confirmed to the priory of the Holy Trinity in London the grant of his queen Matilda, for the good of her soul, of 25l. on the farm of the city of Exeter, and commands his chief justiciar and the barons of his exchequer to constrain the sheriff of Devonshire to pay the same to the said canons." [The appellation of court of Requests has no reference to modern legal proceedings. It was the feudal court of the high steward of England. It was used by the house of commons after the destruction of St. Stephen's chapel, while the lords obtained possession of the Painted-chamber.]
Matilda's household was chiefly composed of Saxon ladies, if we may trust the evidence of Christian names. The maids of honor were Emma, Gunilda, and Christina, pious ladies and full of alms-deeds, like their royal mistress. After the death of the queen, these ladies retired to the hermitage of Kilburn, near London, [Charter Antiq. Nn. 16.] where there was a holy well, or medicinal spring. This was changed into a priory [On its site are a public-house and tea-gardens, now called Kilburn-Wells.] in 1128, as the deed says, "for the reception of these three virgins of God, sacred damsels who had belonged to the chamber of Matilda, the good queen-consort to Henry I." [The original deed, preserved in the Cottonian MSS. Claudius. The appellation given to their office, domicella, proves their rank was noble, as this word will be seen applied even to the daughters of emperors.]
History only particularizes two surviving children of Matilda of Scotland and Henry I.; but Gervase, the monk of Canterbury, says she had, besides William and the empress Matilda, a son named Richard. Hector Boethius mentions a daughter of hers, named Euphemia. The Saxon Chronicle and Robert of Gloucester both speak of her second son Richard, and Piers of Langtoft says, "The two princes, her sons, were both in Normandy when Matilda died." Prince William the Atheling was destined to see England no more. During the remainder of the year 1118 he was fighting, by his father's side, against the invading force of the king of France and the partisans of his cousin William Clito. On one occasion, when the noble war-horse and its rich caparisons belonging to that gallant but unfortunate prince, having been abandoned during a hasty retreat, were captured, and Henry presented this prize to his darling heir, the noble youth generously sent them back, with a courteous message, to his rival kinsman and namesake. [Holinshed.] His royal father, king Henry, did not disdain to imitate the magnanimous conduct of his youthful son after the memorable battle in which the standard of France was taken: when the favorite charger of Louis le Gros fell into his hands, he returned it to the French monarch the next day.
The king of France, as suzerain of Normandy, at the general pacification required of Henry the customary homage for his feof. This the victorious monarch considered derogatory to the dignity of a king of England to perform, and therefore deputed the office to prince William, who was then invested with the duchy, and received the oath of fealty from the states. [Ordericus Vitalis. Tyrrell.] The prince solemnly espoused his betrothed bride Alice, the daughter of Fulk earl of Anjou, June, 1119. King Henry changed her name to Matilda, out of respect, it is said, for the memory of his mother; but more probably from a tender regard for his deceased consort, Matilda of Scotland, the love of his youth, and the mother of his children. The marriage was celebrated at Lisieux, [Saxon Annals.] in the county of Burgundy; and the prince remained in Normandy with his young bride, attended by all the youthful nobility of England and the duchy, passing the time gayly with feasts and pageants till the 25th of November, in the year 1120; when king Henry (who had been nearly two years absent from his kingdom) proceeded with him and an illustrious retinue to Barfleur, [Ordericus Vitalis.] where the king and his heir embarked for England the same night, in separate ships.
Fitz-Stephen, the captain of the 'Blanche Nef' (the finest vessel in the Norman navy), demanded the honor of conveying the heir of England home, because his father had commanded the Mora, the ship which brought William the Conqueror to the shores of England. His petition was granted; and the prince, with his gay and splendid company, entered the fatal bark with light hearts, and commenced their voyage with mirth and minstrelsy. The prince incautiously ordered three casks of wine to be given to the ship's crew; and the mariners were, in consequence, for the most part intoxicated when they sailed, about the close of day. Prince William, who was desirous of overtaking the rest of the fleet, pressed Fitz-Stephen to crowd his sails and put out his sweeps. Fitz-Stephen, having named the 'white ship' as the swiftest galley in the world, to make good his boast and oblige his royal passenger, caused his men to stretch with all their might to the oars, and did everything to accelerate the speed of his light bark. While the 'Blanche Nef' was rushing through the water with the most dangerous velocity, she suddenly struck on a rock, called the 'Catte-raze,' with such impetuosity that she started several planks, and began to sink. All was instant horror and confusion. The boat was, however, let down, and the young heir of England, with several of his youthful companions, got into it, and having cleared the ship, might have reached the Norman shore in safety; but the cries of his illegitimate sister, Matilda countess of Perche, who distinctly called on him by name for succor, moving him with a tender impulse of compassion, he commanded the boat back to take her in. Unfortunately, the moment it neared the ship such numbers sprang into it that it instantly sank with its precious freight; all on board perished, and of the three hundred persons who embarked in the 'white ship,' but one soul escaped to tell the dismal tale. This person was a poor butcher of Rouen, named Berthould, who climbed to the top of the mast, and was the next morning rescued by some fishermen. Fitz-Stephen, the master of the luckless 'white ship,' was a strong mariner, and stoutly supported himself for some hours in the water, till he saw Berthould on the mast, and calling to him, asked if the boat with the heir of England had escaped; but when the butcher, who had witnessed the whole catastrophe, replied "that all were drowned and dead," the strong man's force failed him; he ceased to battle with the waves, and sank to rise no more. [Thierry's Anglo-Normans.]
The report of this disaster reached England the next day. Theobald of Blois, the king's nephew, was the first who heard it; but he dared not inform his uncle of the calamity which had rendered his house desolate. The Saxon chronicler says, there perished another son of Henry and Matilda, named Richard, and also Richard, a natural son of the king; Matilda, his natural daughter, countess of Perche; Richard earl of Chester, his cousin, with his bride, the young lady Lucy of Blois, daughter of Henry's sister Adela, and the flower of the juvenile nobility, who are mentioned by the Saxon chronicler as a multitude of "incomparable folk."
King Henry had reached England with his fleet in safety, and for three days was permitted to remain in a state of the most agonizing suspense and uncertainty respecting the fate of his children. No one choosing to become the bearer of such evil tidings, at length Theobald de Blois, finding it could no longer be concealed, instructed a favorite little page to communicate the mournful news to the bereaved father; and the child, entering the royal presence with a sorrowful step, knelt down at Henry's feet, and told him that the prince and all on board the 'white ship' were lost. The great Henry was so thunderstruck with this dreadful news that he staggered and sank upon the floor in a deep swoon, in which state he remained for many hours. When he recovered, he broke into the bitterest lamentations, magnifying at the same time the great qualities of his heir and the loss he had sustained; and the chroniclers all agree that he was never again seen to smile.[King Henry's grief for the loss of his heir did not prevent him from endeavoring to make some advantage of it in a worldly point of view, by wrongfully detaining the dower of his young widow, who had escaped the fate of the unfortunate prince, by sailing in the king's ship instead of the fatal 'Blanche Nef.' She returned to her father, Fulk earl of Anjou, and remaining constant to the memory of William the Atheling, was veiled a nun in the abbey of Fontevraud. The earl of Anjou was so highly exasperated at the detention of her appanage, that he immediately gave her sister in marriage to William Clito, the son of Robert of Normandy, and assisted him to assert his claims against Henry.— Malmesbury's Chronicles.] The body of Prince William was never found, though diligent search was made for it along the shores. It was regarded as an augmentation of the calamity, that his delicate form, instead of receiving Christian burial, became a prey to the monsters of the deep. [William of Malmesbury.]
It is Henry of Huntingdon who exults so uncharitably over the catastrophe of the 'white ship,' in the following burst of poetic eloquence:—"The proud youth! he thought of his future reign, when he said 'he would yoke the Saxons like oxen.' But God said, 'It shall not be, thou impious one; it shall not be.' And so it has come to pass: that brow has worn no crown of gold, but has been dashed against the rocks of the ocean. It was God himself who would not that the son of the Norman should again see England." [Brompton also speaks unfavorably of this unfortunate young prince; but it should be remembered that England was a divided nation at that period, and that the Saxon chroniclers wrote in the very gall of bitterness against those whom the Norman historians commended. Implicit credence is not to be given to the assertions of either. It is only by reading both, and carefully weighing and collating facts, that the truth is to be elicited.]
In the last act of his life, William Atheling manifested a spirit so noble, so tenderly compassionate, and forgetful of selfish considerations, that we can only say it was worthy of the son of Matilda, the good queen. [Matilda's only surviving child, the empress Matilda, thus became king Henry's heiress-presumptive. She was the first female who claimed the regal office in England. The events of her life are so closely interwoven with those of the two succeeding queens, Adelicia, and Matilda of Boulogne, her royal contemporaries, that to avoid the tedium of repetition, and also to preserve the chronological stream of history in unbroken unity, which is an important object, we must refer our readers to the lives of those queens for the personal history of this princess, from whom her present majesty queen Victoria derives her title to the crown of England.]
Adelicia of Louvaine
Surnamed the fair Maid of Brabant
Second Queen of Henry I.
Adelicia's beauty—Imperial descent from Charlemagne—Standard embroidered by Adelicia—Preserved at Liege—Adelicia sought in marriage by Henry I.— Richly dowered—Embarks for England with Henry—King and queen parishioners of archbishop of Canterbury—Violence of archbishop—He crowns Adelicia— Eulogies on her beauty—Her prudence—Encouragement of literature—Empress Matilda—Adelicia childless—Empress Matilda kept in Adelicia's chamber— Difficult position of the queen—Friendship with her stepdaughter—Second marriage of the empress—Adelicia's conjugal virtues—Matilda returns to England—Remains with the queen—Birth of prince Henry—Death of king Henry—Adelicia's respect for his memory—Her troubadour writes king Henry's life—Her second marriage—William Albini—Her dowry—Palace— Receives empress Matilda—Message to king Stephen—Conjugal happiness of Adelicia—-Her charter—Her portrait—Her children—Charitable foundations at Arundel—Her younger brother abbot of Affligham—Adelicia retires to Affligham nunnery, in Flanders—Dies there—Record of her death—Buried— Her issue by Albini—Adelicia ancestor of two of our queens.
This princess, to whom contemporary chroniclers have given the name of "the fair Maid of Brabant," is one of the most obscure characters in the illustrious catalogue of English queens. Tradition, and her handmaid Poetry, have, however, spoken bright things of her; and the surviving historical records of her life, though brief, are all of a nature tending to confirm the good report which the verses of the Provencals have preserved of her virtues and accomplishments.
Descended, through both her parents, from the imperial Carlovingian line, [Howard Memorials.] Adelicia boasted the most illustrious blood in Christendom. She was the eldest daughter of Godfrey of Louvaine, duke of Brabant and Lotheir (or Lower Lorraine), and Ida countess of Namur. [Betham's Genealogical Tables. Buknet, or Bukein's, Trophees du Brabant. Howard's Memorials of the Howard Family.] Her father, as the great-grandson of Charles, brother to Lothaire of France, was the lawful representative of Charlemagne. The male posterity of the unfortunate Charles having been cut off by Hugh Capet, the rights of his house became vested in the descendants of his eldest daughter, Gerberga, [Ibid.] Lambert, the son of Gerberga, by her marriage with Robert of Louvaine, was the father of Godfrey. Ermengarde, the second daughter of Charles, married Albert, the third count of Namur: and their sole daughter and heiress, Ida (the mother of Adelicia), became the wife of her cousin, Godfrey of Louvaine, surnamed Barbatus, or 'the bearded,' because he had made a vow never to shave his beard till he had recovered Lower Lorraine, the patrimony of his ancestors. In this he succeeded in the year 1107, after which he triumphantly displayed a smooth chin, in token that he had fulfilled his obligation. He finally obtained from his subjects and contemporaries the more honorable appellation of Godfrey the Great. [Buknet's Trophies. Howard Memorials.] The dominions of this prince were somewhat more extensive than the modern kingdom of Belgium, and were governed by him with the greatest wisdom and ability.
From this illustrious lineage Adelicia inherited the distinguished beauty and fine talents for which the Lorraine branch of the house of Charlemagne has ever been celebrated. She was also remarkable for her proficiency in feminine acquirements. A standard which she embroidered in silk and gold for her father, during the arduous contest in which he was engaged for the recovery of his patrimony, was celebrated throughout Europe for the exquisite taste and skill displayed by the royal Adelicia in the design and execution of her patriotic achievement. [Ibid.] This standard was unfortunately captured at a battle near the castle of Duras, in the year 1129, by the bishop of Liege and the earl of Limbourg, the old competitor of Godfrey for Lower Lorraine: it was placed by them, as a memorial of their triumph, in the great church of St. Lambert, at Liege, and was for centuries carried in procession on Rogation-days through the streets of that city. The church of St. Lambert was destroyed during the French revolution; yet the learned editor of the Howard Memorials fondly indulges in the hope that this interesting relic of his royal ancestress's industry and patriotic feelings may yet exist, destined, perhaps, hereafter to be brought to light, like the long-forgotten Bayeux tapestry. The plain, where this memorable trophy was taken, is still called "the field of the Standard." [Brutsholrae.]
The fame of the fair maid of Brabant's charms and accomplishments, it is said, induced the confidential advisers of Henry I. of England to recommend their sorrow-stricken lord to wed her, in hopes of dissipating that corroding melancholy which, since the loss of his children in the fatal 'white ship,' had become constitutional to him. The temper of this monarch had, in fact, grown so irascible, that his greatest nobles feared to enter his presence, and it is said that, in his causeless transports of rage, he indulged himself in the use of the most unkingly terms of vituperation to all who approached him; [Speed. Rapin.] which made his peers the more earnest in their counsels for him to take a second wife. Adelicia of Louvaine was the object of his choice. Henry's ostensible motive in contracting this marriage was the hope of male posterity, to inherit the united realms of England and Normandy. ["It was the death of this youth," says William of Malmesbury, speaking of the death of the Atheling, "which induced king Henry to renounce the celibacy he had cherished since Matilda's death, in the hope of future heirs by a new consort."] He had been a widower two years when he entered into a treaty with Godfrey of Louvaine for the hand of his beautiful daughter. Robert of Gloucester, when recording the fact in his rhyming Chronicle, says,—
"He knew no woman so fair as she Was seen on middle earth."
The name of this princess has been variously written by the chroniclers of England, Normandy, Germany, and Brabant, as Adeliza, Alicia, Adelaide, Aleyda or Adelheite, which means 'most noble.' In the Saxon Chronicle she is called Aethelice, or Alice. Mr. Howard of Corby castle, the immediate descendant of this queen, in his Memorials of the Howard Family, [Through the courtesy of his grace the late duke of Norfolk, I have been favored with a copy of this inestimable volume, which, as it is printed for private use, is inaccessible to the public, but is most important as a book of reference to the writers of royal and noble biographies.] calls her Adelicia, for the best of reasons,—her name is so written in an original charter of the 31st of Henry I., confirming her grant of lands for the foundation of an hospital of lepers at Fugglestone, near Wilton, dedicated to St. Giles; which deed, with part of the seal-appendant, is still preserved in the corporation chest at Wilton.
The Provencal and Walloon poets, of whom this queen was a munificent patroness, style her Alix la Belle, Adelais, and Alise, varying the syllables according to the structure of the verses which they composed in her honor,—a license always allowed to poetical writers; therefore the rhymes of the troubadours ought not to be regarded as the slightest authority in settling the point. Modern historians generally speak of this princess by her Latinized name of Adeliza, but her learned descendant's version of her name is that which ought to be adopted by her biographer. There is no authentic record of the date of Adelicia's birth. Mr. Howard supposes she was about eighteen years old at the period of her marriage with Henry I., and it is certain that she was in the bloom of her beauty at the time he sought her hand.
In proportion to the estimation in which the charms of Adelicia were held did Henry fix her dower, which was so munificent that the duke of Louvaine, her father, scrupled not to consign her to her affianced lord, as soon as the contract of marriage was signed. The ceremony took place on the 16th of April, 1120, but the nuptials were not celebrated till some months after this period. King Henry, in person, conducted his betrothed bride to England in the autumn of this year. [Henry of Huntingdon. White Kennet.] They landed about Michaelmas. Some historians affirm that the royal pair were married at Ely, soon after their arrival; but if so, it must have been a private arrangement, for the nuptials were publicly solemnized at Windsor on the 24th of January, 1121; [Eadmer.] having been delayed in consequence of a singular dispute between the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Salisbury, which established a point too important to be omitted in a history embracing, in a peculiar manner, the habits and customs of royalty. Roger le Poer, the bishop of Salisbury, that notable preacher of short sermons, claimed the right to marry the royal pair because the fortress of Windsor was within his diocese. This right was disputed by the aged Ralph, archbishop of Canterbury, who was a great stickler for the prerogatives of his office; and an ecclesiastical council was called, in which it was decided, that wherever the king and queen might be within the realm of England, they were the parishioners of the archbishop of Canterbury. Accordingly, the ceremony was triumphantly performed by the venerable primate, though bowed down by so many infirmities that he appeared like one tottering on the verge of the grave.
This afforded Henry an excuse for deputing the honor of crowning him and his bride on the following day, at Westminster, to his favorite prelate Roger le Poer, the bishop of Salisbury above named, to console him for his disappointment with regard to the hymeneal office. But the archbishop was not to be thus put off. The right of crowning the king and queen he considered a still more Important branch of his archiepiscopal prerogatives than that of marrying them, and, malgre his age and paralysis, he hastened to the abbey, where the ceremonial had commenced at an unusually early hour. Roger le Poer, his rival, having, according to his old custom, made unprecedented expedition in the performance of his office, had already placed the royal diadem on the monarch's brow, when archbishop Ralph sternly approached the royal chair, and asked Henry, "Who had put the crown on his head?" [Eadmer. Speed.] The king evasively replied, "If the ceremony had not been properly performed, it could be done again." On which, as some chroniclers assert, the choleric old primate gave the king such a smart blow with his crosier, that he smote the crown from his head; [Speed.] but Eadmer says he only raised it up by the strap which passed under the chin, and so turned it off his head. He then proceeded to replace it with all due form, and afterwards crowned the fair young queen. This most extraordinary coronation took place on Sunday, January 30th, 1121.
The beauty of the royal bride, whom Piers of Langtoft calls
"The May withouten vice,"
made a great impression on the minds of the people, which the sweetness of her manners, her prudence, and mild virtues strengthened in no slight degree. It was on the occasion of her bridal coronation that Henry of Huntingdon, the chronicler, addressed to Adelicia those celebrated Latin verses of which Camden has given us the following translation:—
["Anglorum regina, tuos Adelida, decores, Ipsa referre parans Musa stupor riget. Quid diadema tibi pulcherrima? quid tibi gemmae? Pallet gemma tibi, nec diadema nitet. Deme tibi cultus, cultum natura ministrat Non exornari forma beata potest Ornamenta cave, nec quicquam luminis inde Accipis; illa micant lumine clara tuo, Non puduit modicas de magnis dicere laudes Ne pudeat dominam, te precor, esse meam."]
"When Adeliza's name should grace my song, A sudden wonder stops the Muse's tongue; Your crown and jewels, when compared to you, How poor your crown, how pale your jewels show! Take off your robes, your rich attire remove, Such pomps may load you, but can ne'er improve; In vain your costly ornaments are worn, You they obscure, while others they adorn. Ah! what new lustres can these trifles give, Which all their beauty from your charms receive? Thus I your lofty praise, your vast renown, In lowly verse am not ashamed to have shown, Oh, be you not ashamed my services to own!"
The wisdom of this lovely girl-queen early manifested itself in the graceful manner by which she endeavored to conform herself to the tastes of her royal lord, in the encouragement of the polished arts and the patronage of literature. Henry's love for animals had induced him to create an extensive menagerie at Woodstock, as we have seen, during the life of his first queen, Matilda of Scotland, who was probably well acquainted with natural history. The youthful Adelicia evidently knew nothing of zoology previously to her marriage with Henry Beauclerc; but like a good wife, in order to adapt herself to his pursuits, she turned her attention to that study, for we find Philippe de Thuan wrote a work on the nature of animals for her especial instruction. The poetical naturalist did not forget to allude to the personal charms of his royal patroness in his courtier-like dedication:—
"Philippe de Thuan, en Franceise raisun, Ad estrait bestaire un livre de grammaire, Pour lour d'une feme ki mult est belle, Alix est namee, reine est corunee, Reine est d'Engleterre, sa ame nait ja guere."
"Philippe de Thuan, in plain French, Has written an elementary book of animals, For the praise and instruction of a good and beauteous woman, Who is the crowned queen of England, and named Alix."
One of the most approved historians of her day, the author of the Waltham abbey MSS., [See Cottonian MSS. Julius, D.] states that he was appointed a canon of Waltham abbey through the patronage of queen Adelicia. This chronicler is the same person who has so eloquently described the dismal search made for Harold's body, after the battle of Hastings.
Adelicia was deprived of the society of her royal husband a few weeks after their marriage, in consequence of a formidable inbreak of the Welsh, who had entered Cheshire, and committed great ravages. Henry went in person to the defence of his border counties, and having defeated the invaders, pursued them far into the country. During this campaign his life was in some peril: while separated from the main body of his troops, in a narrow defile among the mountains, he fell into an ambush, and at the same time an arrow, which was aimed at him from the heights above, struck him on the breast, but rebounded from his armor of proof. Henry, who probably did not give his Cambrian foes credit for that skill in archery for which his Norman followers were famed, intimated his suspicions of treachery among his own people by exclaiming, "By our Lord's death! it was no Welsh hand that shot that arrow." [Chron. Walli.] This narrow escape, or perhaps a wish of rejoining Adelicia at Westminster, induced the king to conclude a peace with the Welsh. A very brief season of domestic intercourse was, however, permitted to the royal pair. Fulk earl of Anjou having espoused his younger daughter Sybil to William Clito, the earls of Mellent and Montfort, with a considerable party of the baronage of Normandy, openly declared themselves in favor of that prince, the heir of their lawful duke, Robert Courthose.
Henry I. was keeping the Easter festival, with his beautiful young queen, at Winchester, when the news that Fulk of Anjou had joined this formidable confederacy reached him. He sailed for Normandy in April, 1123; and Adelicia was left, as his former queen, Matilda of Scotland, had often been before her, to hold her lonely courts during the protracted absence of her royal consort, and to exert herself for the preservation of the internal peace of England, while war or state policy detained the king in Normandy. Adelicia, following the example of her popular predecessor Matilda, "the good queen," in all that was deserving of imitation, conducted herself in a manner calculated to win the esteem and love of the nation,—using her queenly influence for the establishment of good order, religion, and refinement, and the encouragement of learning and the arts.
When Henry had defeated his enemies at the battle of Terroude, near Rouen, he sent for his young queen to come to him. Adelicia obeyed the summons, and sailed for Normandy. She arrived in the midst of scenes of horror, for Henry took a merciless vengeance on the revolted vassals of Normandy who were so unfortunate as to fall into his hands. His treatment of the luckless troubadour knight, Luke de Barre, [Sismondi.] though the circumstances are almost too dreadful for repetition, bears too strongly on the manners and customs of the twelfth century to be omitted. Luke de Barre had, according to the testimony of Ordericus Vitalis, been on terms of the greatest familiarity with Henry Beauclerc in the days of their youth, but, from some cause, had joined the revolt of the earl of Mellent in the late insurrection; and the said earl, and all the confederate peers allied against Henry's government in Normandy, had been wonderfully comforted and encouraged by the sirventes, or war-songs, of Luke. These songs were provokingly satirical; and, being personally levelled against Henry, contained, we should suppose, some passages which involved a betrayal of confidence, for Henry was so bitterly incensed, that, forgetful of their former intimacy, he barbarously condemned the luckless poet to lose his eyes on a scaffold, by the hands of the public executioner. This sentence was greatly lamented by the court, for Luke de Barre was not only a pleasant and jocose companion, but a gentleman of courage and honor.
The earl of Flanders interceded with his royal kinsman for the wretched victim. [Ordericus Vitalis.] "No, sir, no," replied Henry; "for this man, being a wit, a bard, and a minstrel, forsooth! hath composed many ribald songs against me, and sung them to raise the horse-laughs of mine enemies. Now it hath pleased God to deliver him into mine hands, punished he shall be, to deter others from the like petulance." The sentence therefore took place, and the hapless poet died of the wounds he received in struggling with the executioner. The Provencal annalists, however, declare that the gallant troubadour avoided the execution of Henry's sentence by dashing his head against the wall, which caused his death. [Ibid. Sismondi.] So much for the punishment of libels in the twelfth century!
Queen Adelicia returned to England September, 1126, accompanied by king Henry and his daughter, the empress Matilda, the heiress-presumptive of England, then a widow in her twenty-fourth year. Matilda, after the funeral of her august spouse, took possession of his imperial diadem, which she brought to England, together with a treasure which, in those days, was by some considered of even greater importance,—the hand of St. James. Matilda was reluctant to leave Germany, where she was splendidly dowered, and enjoyed a remarkable share of popularity. The princes of the empire were so much charmed at her prudent conduct and stately demeanor, that they entreated the king, her father, to permit her to choose a second consort from among their august body, promising to elect for their emperor the person on whom her choice might fall. [Gem. W. Malmesbury. Sir John Hayward. Speed.]
King Henry, however, despairing of a male heir, as he had been married to Adelicia six years, reclaimed his widowed daughter from the admiring subjects of her late consort, and carried her with him to England. Soon after their arrival, Henry summoned a parliament for the purpose of causing the empress Matilda to be acknowledged as the heiress-presumptive to the crown. This was the first instance that had occurred, since the consolidation of the Heptarchy under one supreme head, of a female standing in that important position with regard to the succession of the English crown. There was, however, neither law nor precept to forbid a female from holding the regal office, and Henry failed not to set forth to the representatives of the great body of the people, who had been summoned on this important business, his daughter's descent from their ancient line of sovereigns; telling them, "That through her, who was now his only heir, they should come to be governed again by the royal English blood, if they would make oath to secure to her, after his death, the succession as queen of England, in case of his decease without a male heir." [Henry of Huntingdon. W. Malmesbury. Gem.] It is, doubtless, on the authority of this remarkable passage in Henry's speech that historians have called his first wife, Matilda of Scotland, the heiress of the Saxon line.
The people of England joyfully acceded to Henry's proposition, and the nobles and prelates of the Norman aristocracy, assembled in council on this occasion, swore fealty to the high and mighty lady Matilda as their future sovereign. Stephen, earl of Mortagne, the king's favorite nephew (being the third son of the Conqueror's fourth daughter, Adela countess of Blois), was the first who bent his knee in homage to the daughter of his liege lord as the heiress of England, and swore to maintain her righteous title to the throne of her royal father. Stephen was the handsomest man in Europe, and remarkable for his fine carriage and knightly prowess. He bore great sway in the councils of his royal uncle, and was a general favorite of the nobles of England and Normandy. It has been said, withal, that his fine person and graceful manners made a deep impression on the heart of the widowed heiress of England.
The royal family kept their Christmas this year at Windsor, [Saxon Annals.] at which time king Henry, in token of his esteem for queen Adelicia, gave her the whole county of Salop. The empress Matilda did not grace the festivities by her presence, but remained in the deepest seclusion, "abiding continually," says Matthew Paris, "in the chamber of Adelicia;" by which it appears that, notwithstanding her high rank and matronly dignity as the widow of an emperor, the heiress of England had no establishment of her own. This retirement, lasting for several months, gave rise to mysterious rumors as to the cause of her being hidden from the people, who had so recently been required to swear fealty to her as their future sovereign. By some it was said "that the king, her father, suspected her of having accelerated the death of her late husband, the emperor, or of causing him to be spirited away from his palace." [Ever since the miserable death of his unhappy father, Henry IV., the emperor Henry V. had been subject to great mental disquiet, from the remorse which perpetually deprived him of rest. "One night he rose up from the side of the empress, and taking his staff in hand, with naked feet he wandered forth into the darkness, clad only in a woollen garment, and was never again seen in his own palace." This wild tale is related by Hoveden, Giraldus, and Higden, and various ancient manuscript chronicles, to say nothing of Trevisa, who adds, by way of sequel to the legend, that "the conscience-stricken emperor fled to England, where at Westchester he became a hermit, changing his name to 'God's-call,' or the called of God. He lived in daily penance for the space of ten years, and was buried in the cathedral church of St. Werburga the Virgin."] But that was evidently a groundless surmise; for W. Gemeticiensis, a contemporary chronicler, bears testimony to "her prudent and gracious behavior to her imperial spouse, which," he observes, "was one of the causes which won the esteem of the German princes, who were urgent in their entreaties to her royal father for her restoration." This Henry pertinaciously refused, repeating, "that she was his only heir, and must dwell among her own people." Yet, early in the following year, he again bestowed her in marriage, without the consent of his subjects in England, and decidedly against her own inclination, on a foreign prince, whom she regarded with the most ineffable scorn as her inferior in every point of view.
We have seen that, in her tender infancy, Matilda was used as a political puppet by her parent to advance his own interest, without the slightest consideration for her happiness. Then the victim was led a smiling sacrifice to the altar, unconscious of the joyless destiny to which parental ambition had doomed her. Now the case was different; it was no meek infant, but a royal matron, who had shared the imperial throne of a Kaiser, and received for years the homage of vassal princes. Moreover, she whom Henry endeavored to compel to an abhorrent marriage of state possessed a mind as inflexible as his own. The disputes between the king and his daughter must have arisen to a very serious height before he took the unpopular step of subjecting her to personal restraint, by confining her to the apartments of his queen. Matthew Paris, indeed, labors to convince us that there was nothing unreasonable in this circumstance. "Where," says he, "should an empress live rather than with a queen, a daughter than with a mother, a fair lady, a widow and the heir of a great nation, than where her person might be safest from danger, and her conduct from suspicion?" The historian, however, forgets that Matilda was the step-daughter of the queen; that Adelicia was not older than herself, and, from the acknowledged gentleness of her disposition, unlikely to assume the slightest maternal control over the haughty heiress of England. Adelicia must have felt herself very delicately situated in this business; and it appears probable that she acted as a mediator between the contending parties, conducting herself rather as a loving sister than an ambitious step-dame. The accomplished editor of the Howard Memorials infers that a very tender friendship existed between the empress Matilda and Adelicia through life, which probably had commenced before 'the fair maid of Brabant' was selected from among the princesses of Europe to share the crown of England with Henry I.; for Matilda's imperial spouse, the emperor Henry V., had been actively instrumental in assisting Godfrey Barbatus, the father of Adelicia, in the recovery of Lower Lorraine,—an obligation which the Louvaine princess certainly endeavored to repay to his widow. [Howard Memorials. Chronicles of Brabant.] Adelicia's uncle, Wido of Louvaine, afterwards pope Calixtus II., was at one period archbishop of Vienne, and it is even possible that Henry's attention was first attracted to the fair maid of Brabant at the court of his daughter; and the previous intimacy between the ladies may account for the fact that the haughty Matilda lived on such good terms with her step-mother, for Adelicia appears to have been the only person with whom she did not quarrel.
The prince to whom Henry I. had pledged the hand of his perverse heiress was Geoffrey Plantagenet, the eldest son of his old antagonist, Fulk earl of Anjou, and brother to the widowed princess who had been espoused to Matilda's brother, William the Atheling. Geoffrey had been the favorite companion of king Henry I. when on the continent. His fine person, his elegant manners, great bravery, and, above all, his learning, made his society very agreeable to a monarch who still possessed these excellences in great perfection. [1126 to 1127. Chron. de Normand. and Script. Rer. France.] Some of the French chroniclers declare this Geoffrey to be the first person that bore the name of Plantagenet, from putting in his helmet a plume of the flowering broom when he went to hunt in the woods.
Motives of policy inclined Henry to this alliance. Fulk of Anjou, who had hitherto supported the claims of his gallant young son-in-law, William Clito, to the dukedom, was willing to abandon his cause, provided Henry would marry Matilda to his heir. This Henry had engaged to do, without the slightest attention to his daughter's feelings.
His favorite nephew, Stephen of Blois, is said to have rendered himself only too dear to the imperial widow, although at that time a married man. The ceremony of betrothment between Geoffrey of Anjou and the reluctant Matilda took place on Whit-Sunday, 1127, and she was, after the festivities of Whitsuntide were over, conducted into Normandy by her half-brother, Robert earl of Gloucester, and Brian, son of Alan Fergeant, earl of Richmond, with great pomp.
The feasts and pageants that attended her arrival in Normandy were prolonged during three weeks. On the first day, heralds in grand costume went through the streets and squares of Rouen, shouting at every crossway this singular proclamation:—
"Thus saith King Henry!
"Let no man here present, whether native or foreigner, rich or poor, high or low, warrior or rustic, be so bold as to stay away from the royal rejoicings; for whosoever shall not take part in the games and diversions, shall be considered guilty of an offence to our lord the king." [Brompton. Malmesbury. Script. Rer. France.]
King Henry had given positive commands to Matilda and her illustrious escort that the nuptials should be solemnized by the archbishop of Rouen immediately on her arrival; [Saxon Annals. S. Dunelm. Malmesbury. Huntingdon.] but he was himself compelled to undertake a voyage to Normandy, in August, to see the marriage concluded, which did not take place till the 26th of that month; [Saxon Annals.] from which we may reasonably infer that the reluctant bride paid very little attention to his directions. The affair was at length, however, accomplished to Henry's satisfaction, more especially as Fulk of Anjou, being called to the throne of Jerusalem by the death of Baldwin II., his father-in-law, resigned his patrimonial territories to his heir. Yet there were many circumstances that rendered this alliance a fruitful source of annoyance to Henry. The Anglo-Norman barons and prelates were highly offended in the first place, that the king should have presumed to marry the heiress of the realm without consulting them on the subject; and the English were no less displeased at the open violence that had been put on the inclinations of the descendant of their ancient sovereigns in this foreign marriage. As for Matilda, it should seem that she did not consider herself by any means bound to practise the duty of obedience, or even of common courtesy, to a husband who had thus been forced upon her against her own will; and while she exacted the most unqualified submissions from her luckless helpmate, she perpetually wearied her father with complaints of his conduct.
Queen Adelicia was rejoined by king Henry in the autumn, and they kept their Christmas together in London. Early in the following spring, 1128, he was again compelled to embark for Normandy, to defeat the enterprising designs of his nephew, William Clito, who, having succeeded to the earldom of Flanders, in right of his grandmother Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror, was enabled to assume a more formidable attitude than he had yet done. But this gallant and unfortunate prince met with his death in consequence of a slight wound in the thumb, which he took in disarming a mutinous soldier of his lance. He died six days after, [His captive father, Robert Courthose, it is said, one morning surprised his attendants by weeping piteously, and exclaiming, "My son is dead! my son is dead!" and related, "that he had in his dreams, that night, seen him mortally wounded with a lance."—Ordericus Vitalis.] in the monastery of St. Bertin, July 27th, 1128. This formidable rival being now removed, Henry appeared at the summit of his ambition, and was considered the mightiest monarch of the West. He was the husband, withal, of one of the most beautiful and amiable princesses in Europe.
Whether the fair Adelicia loved her royal spouse, history has not recorded; but her conduct as a wife, a queen, and even as a step-mother, was irreproachable. When all circumstances are considered, it can scarcely be imagined, however, that her splendid marriage was productive of happiness to the youthful wife of Henry I. To say nothing of the disparity in years between this illustrious pair, the morbid sorrow of which Henry was the perpetual prey after the loss of his children in the 'white ship,' the irascibility of temper to which he gave way in his old age, and his bitter disappointment at the want of offspring from his second marriage, must have been most distressing to the feelings of his gentle consort. Then the stormy disputes between Henry and his only daughter Matilda could not have been otherwise than very painful to her. Whatever, however, were the trials with which Adelicia had to contend, she evidently supported them with silent magnanimity, and at the same time endeavored to soothe and cheer the gloom of her wayward lord by attracting to the court the most distinguished poets and minstrels of the age, who repaid her liberal patronage by celebrating her virtues and her charms.
Adelicia frequently attended her royal husband on his progresses. Her presence was, doubtless, of medicinal influence in those fearful hours when the pangs of troubled conscience brought the visitations of an evil spirit upon Henry, and sleep either forsook his pillow or brought visionary horrors in its train. In the year 1130, the king complained to Grimbald, his Saxon physician, that he was sore disquieted of nights, and that he seemed to see a great number of husbandmen with their rustical tools stand about him, threatening him for wrongs done against them. Sometimes he appeared to see his knights and soldiers threatening him; which sight so feared him in his sleep, that ofttimes he rose undrest out of his bed, took weapon in hand, and sought to kill them he could not find. Grimbald, his physician, being a notably wise man, expounded his dreams by true conjecture, and willed him to reform himself by alms and prayer, as Nebuchadnezzar did by the counsel of Daniel.[Stowe. H. Huntingdon.] It is probable that the unfortunate troubadour knight, Luke de Barre, was not forgotten by the conscience-stricken monarch, though historians have not recorded that his mangled form was among the ghastly dramatis personae that, in his latter years, made king Henry's nights horrible. Malmesbury tells us, moreover, that Henry had an inveterate habit of snoring: "his sleep was heavy, but interrupted with loud and perpetual snoring." Sergel adds, that he was so haunted with the fear of assassination, that he frequently changed his bed, increased his guards, and caused a sword and shield to be constantly placed near him at night,—no enviable state of companionship, we should imagine, for the young and innocent being whose fate was indissolubly linked with his. It must have been a relief at all times to Adelicia when her royal husband's presence was required in Normandy.
On the death of Adelicia's uncle, pope Calixtus II., a dispute occurring in the election of two rival pontiffs as successors to the papal chair, Henry proceeded to the continent in the year 1130, in the hope of reaping some political advantage from the candidate whose cause he espoused. His arrangements were perfectly satisfactory as to that matter, but he was to the last degree harassed by the quarrels between his daughter and her unbeloved spouse, Geoffrey of Anjou. After ho had thrice adjusted their differences, Matilda, on some fresh offence which she either gave or took, abjured her husband's company, departed from his court, and claimed the protection of the king her father, with whom she once more returned to England, [Roger Hoveden. H. Huntingdon.] having, by the eloquence of tears and complaints, succeeded in exciting his indignation against her husband, and persuading him that she was an injured person. The oath of fealty to Matilda, as the heiress of England, was again renewed by the general estates of the nation at Northampton, September, 1131. [Malmesbury. H. Huntingdon.] The count of Anjou then sent an humble entreaty to his haughty consort to return to him; the king and parliament seconded his request, and all due submissions having been made by Geoffrey, Matilda was at length induced to obey him. [A passage from Mezerai casts some light on the separation that took place between the widowed empress and her new spouse. After the nuptials of this pair, a monk came to Matilda, and declared that her late lord, the emperor Henry, had not died at Utrecht, as she and all the world supposed, but that he finished his days as a servant in an hospital, which severe penance he had sworn to inflict on himself for his heavy sins. When dying at Angers, the disguised emperor discovered himself to this monk, his confessor, who came to Matilda with the news. In conclusion, it is said the empress attended the death-bed of Henry V., and recognized and acknowledged him as the emperor, her first husband.]
The following year was remarkable for a destructive fire, which consumed the greatest part of London; [H. Huntingdon.] but soon after this national calamity, the joyful news that the empress Matilda had given birth to a prince [R. Diceto. M. Paris.] diverted the attention of the royal family from the contemplation of this misfortune, and cast the last gleam of brightness on the declining years of the king. The young prince was named Henry, after his royal grandfather, the king of England. The Normans called him Fitz-Empress, but king Henry proudly styled the boy Fitz-Conqueror, in token of his illustrious descent from the mightiest monarch of the line. [M. Westminster.]
King Henry summoned his last parliament in 1133, for the purpose of causing this precious child to be included in the oath of fealty, by which the succession to the throne was for the third time secured to his daughter, the empress Matilda. If queen Adelicia had brought him a son, after these repeated acts in favor of his daughter (by a princess whom the majority of the people regarded as the heiress of the royal English line), a civil war respecting the succession must have occurred. The childless state of the beautiful young queen, though so deeply lamented by her royal husband, was one of the causes of the amity and confidence that subsisted between her and her haughty step-daughter.
Towards the latter end of this summer, king Henry embarked on his last voyage for Normandy. The day was remarkable for a total eclipse of the sun, accompanied with storms and violent commotions of the deep. [Saxon Annals.] It was so dark, say the annalists of that era, "that on board the royal ship no man might see another's face for some hours." The eclipse was followed by an earthquake; and these two phenomena were, according to the spirit of the age, regarded as portents of horror and woe, and it was predicted that the king would never return from Normandy. [W. Malmesbury.]On a former occasion, when Henry had embarked for England, in June, 1131, he was so dismayed by the bursting of a water-spout over the vessel, and the fury of the wind and waves, that, believing his last hour was at hand, he made a penitent acknowledgment of his sins, promising to lead a new life if it should please God to preserve him from the peril of death, and, above all, he vowed to repeal the oppressive impost of 'danegelt' for seven years, if he were permitted to reach the English shore in safety. [Saxon Annals.] From this incident we may infer that Henry I. was by no means impressed with his brother Rufus's bold idea, of the security of a king of England from a watery grave; but the catastrophe of his children in the fatal 'white ship' had no doubt some effect on his mind during these perils on the deep.
The summer of 1133 he spent in Normandy, in feasts and rejoicings for the birth of his infant grandson. That event was, however, only the precursor of fresh dissensions between that ill-assorted pair, the empress Matilda and her husband Geoffrey Plantagenet. Her late visit to England had renewed the scandalous reports respecting her partiality for her cousin, Stephen of B1ois; while the birth of a son in the sixth year of her marriage, proved anything but a bond of union between her and her consort. [Saxon Chronicle.]
There is no reason to suppose that Adelicia was with the king her husband at the time of his death, which took place in Normandy, in the year 1135, at the castle of Lyons, near Rouen, a place in which he much delighted. It is said, that having over-fatigued himself in hunting in the forest of Lyons, he returned much heated, and, contrary to the advice of his courtiers and physicians, made too full a meal on a dish of stewed lampreys, his favorite food, which brought on a violent fit of indigestion (called by the chroniclers a surfeit), ending in a fever, of which he died, after an illness of seven days, at midnight, December 1st, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. He appears to have been perfectly conscious of his approaching dissolution, for he gave particular directions respecting his obsequies to his natural son, Robert earl of Gloucester, whom he charged to take 60,000 marks out of his treasure-chest at Falaise, for the expenses of his funeral and the payment of his mercenary troops. [Ordericus Vitalis. W. Malmesbury.]He solemnly bequeathed his dominions to his daughter the empress, not without some indignant mention of her luckless spouse, Geoffrey of Anjou, his former eleve and bel ami. He absolutely excluded him from any share in his bequests, and with much earnestness constituted his beloved son, earl Robert, the protector of his daughter's rights.
Robert of Gloucester gives the following serio-comic account of the royal wilfulness, in partaking of the interdicted food which caused his death:—
"When he came home, he willed him a lamprey to eat, Though his leeches him forbade, for it was a feeble meat; But he would not then believe, for he loved it well enow, And ate in evil case, for the lamprey it him slew; For right soon after it into anguish him drew, And he died for his lamprey, unto his own woe."
The noble earls who surrounded the death-bed of king Henry, and listened to his last instructions respecting his funeral, attended his remains from the town of St. Denis le, Torment (where he breathed his last) to Rouen; and when they entered that city, they reverently bore the bier, on which the royal corpse was laid, on their shoulders by turns. [Henry of Huntingdon.]
Two illuminated portraits of Henry I. are in existence: both represent him as advanced in life, and in a melancholy attitude,—supposed to be after the loss of his children. His face is handsome, with high and regular features, his hair curling, but not long. His figure is emaciated in one; he is clad in a very close dress, with his regal mantle folded about him; his shoe and stocking all of a piece, and the toe pointed; his crown is ornamented with three trefoils; his sceptre is a staff with an ornamented head; he is seated on a stone bench, carved in an architectural design. He is represented in the other in the robes he wore at the bridal coronation of Adelicia. [These portraits exactly agree with the descriptions of the costume from the monastic chronicles:—"They wore close breeches and stockings, all of a piece, made of fine cloth." The pointed shoes were brought in by William Rufus, but were first invented by Folque le Rechin (whose surname means 'the quarreller') count of Anjou, to hide his corns and bunions. The queen and women of rank wore gowns and mantles trailing on the ground. The married women wore an additional robe over the gown, not unlike the sacerdotal garment; to the girdle a large pouch or purse was suspended, called an aumoniere. The men wore their hair in long curls, which provoked the wrath of popular preachers; the married women braided theirs very closely to the side of the face, or hid it.]
Henry received from his subjects the title of 'the Lion of Justice.' This appellation was drawn from the prophecies of Merlin, then very popular in England. On the accession of every sovereign to the English throne, all his subjects consulted these rigmaroles, as naturally as we consult an almanac to know when there is a new moon. "After two dragons," says Merlin, "the lion of Justice shall come, at whose roaring the Gallic towers and island serpents shall tremble."
This 'lion of Justice' certainly suffered no one to break the laws but himself. If he is accountable for the villanies of his purveyors, his standard of justice was not very high: "The king's servants, and a multitude following the royal retinue, took and spoiled everything the way the king went, there being no discipline or good order taken. [Eadmer.] When they could not consume what they found in the house they had broken into, they made the owners carry it to market and sell it for them; they burned the provisions, or washed their horses' feet with the ale or mead, or poured the drink on the ground, or otherwise wasted it, so that every one hearing of the king's coming would run away from their houses." Whenever Henry I. was under any apprehensions from his brother Robert, he regulated his household somewhat better, and kept the lawlessness of his purveyors within bounds. [Malmesbury.]
Henry carried the art of dissimulation to such a pitch, that his grand justiciary started when he heard the king had praised him, and exclaimed, "God defend me! The king praises no one but him whom he means to destroy." [Henry of Huntingdon.] The result proved the deep knowledge which the minister had of his royal master's character, as Henry of Huntingdon, his archdeacon, details at length.
The removal of Henry's body for interment was delayed for several weeks by tempestuous weather; but the seas becoming calmer after Christmas, it was put on shipboard, and safely transported to England. His obsequies were celebrated with great magnificence in the abbey-church of Beading, which he had built and endowed for that purpose. His nephew and successor, Stephen, assisted at the funeral.
Queen Adelicia gave one hundred shillings annually out of her wharf at London, called Queenhythe, for the expenses of a lamp to burn perpetually before his tomb.
On the first anniversary of king Henry's death, the royal widow, accompanied by her brother Josceline of Louvaine, and attended by her almoners, chaplains, and the officers of her household, entered the abbey-church of Heading, where, being received with all due ceremonials of respect by a numerous train of abbots, priors, and priests, she proceeded in solemn pomp up the aisle, supported by the bishops of Salisbury and Worcester, and gave public testimonial of her regard for the memory of her late consort, by placing with her own hand a rich pall on the altar, in token that she made an oblation to God and the monks of St. Mary, Beading, of her manor of Eastone, [The original charter is still in excellent preservation, in the possession of Abel Smith, esquire, M.P. Having been favored with a translation of this curious document, through the kindness of my learned friend, Rouge Croix, I subjoin it, in illustration of the customs of that era, and as affording evidence of the disputed fact, that Josceline of Louvaine joined his royal sister in England:—
Queen Adelid's Charter.
"Be it known to all the faithful of Holy Church of all England and Normandy, that I, queen Adelidis, wife of the most noble king Henry, and daughter of Godefry duke of Lorraine, have granted and given forever to God and the church of St. Mary of Reading, for the health and redemption of the soul of my lord the most noble king Henry, and of mine own; and also for the health of my lord Stephen, by the grace of God king of the English, and of queen Maud his wife, and all the offspring of the most noble king Henry, and of my father and mother and relations, as well living as dead, my manor of Eastone, which my lord the most noble king Henry gave to me as his queen and wife, in Hertfordshire, with all its appurtenances, to be held as freely and quietly as ever I myself, held it best in demesne by the gift of my lord the most noble king Henry; that is, with sac and soc, and toll and team, and infangthef with the church and the demesne land, with men free and villains, with wood and plain, with meadow and pasture, with waters and mills, with roads and ways, with all the customs and liberties with which my lord held it in demesne, and gave it to me. And this gift I have made on the first anniversary of my lord the most noble king Henry in the same church, by the offering of a pall which I placed on the altar, in presence of the subscribed; that is, of Roger bishop of Salisbury, Simon bishop of Worcester, Ingulf abbot of Abingdon, Walter abbot of Eynesham, Bernard abbot of St. Michael's mount, Warine prior of Worcester, Nicholas prior of St. Martin's of Battle, Ralf prior of Osney, Herman chaplain to the queen, master Serlo the queen's clerk, Adam and Robin Fitzwalter, canons of Waltham, Ralf, Theobald, and Roger, clerks of the bishop of Salisbury, Simon, nephew of the bishop of Worcester, Gervase and Bertram, clerks of the bishop of Worcester, Josceline, brother to the same queen, Peverel of Beauchamp, Milo of Beau champ, Stephen of Beauchamp, Hugo of Cramonville, Maurice of Windsor and his brother Reginald, Geoffrey of Tresgoz, Robert of Tresgoz, John de Falaise, Robert of Calz, Franco of Bruscella, Gozo the queen's constable, Engelbert of the hall, William of Harfleot, William of Berckeley, Walter of Dene, Baldwin Despenser, Vical the waterman, Warine of Blancbuisson. At Hading (Reading)."]
in Hertfordshire (formerly given to her by her said lord king Henry), in order to obtain their prayers for the benefit of his soul, her own soul, the souls of her father and mother, and also for the health of the reigning sovereign king Stephen, and queen Maud his wife. By a second charter, commencing "Ego Adalid regina," she also gave the manor of Stanton Harcourt, in Oxfordshire, etc., etc., for the expenses of a solemn service for the repose of her royal husband's soul. [Howard Memorials.]
What degree of happiness Adelicia the Fair enjoyed during the fifteen years of queenly splendor which she passed as the consort of Henry Beauclerc, no surviving records tell; but that she was very proud of his achievements and brilliant talents, we have the testimony of the poetical chronicler who continued the history of Brut, from William the Conqueror through the reign of William Rufus. It appears, moreover, that the royal dowager employed herself during her widowhood in collecting materials for the history of her mighty lord; for Gaimar, the author of the History of the Angles, observes, "that if he had chosen to have written of king Henry, he had a thousand things to say, which the troubadour called David, employed by queen Adelicia, know nought about; neither had he written, nor was the Louvaine queen herself in possession of them." If the collection of queen Adelicia should ever be brought to light, it would no doubt afford a curious specimen of the biographical powers of the illustrious widow and her assistant, troubadour David, whose name has only been rescued from oblivion by the jealousy of a disappointed rival in the art of historical poetry.
Adelicia is much eulogized in the songs of the poets she patronized. A third trouvere or troubadour, in his dedication of the wondrous voyage of St. Brandon, a sort of spiritual Sindbad, praises her for the good laws she had instituted. But the second queen-consort of Henry I. could have had little opportunity for the exercise of her legislatorial talents, save in the gentle influence of her refined and virtuous example, and the establishment of civilizing etiquette. It was one of Adelicia's best points, that she sedulously trod in the steps of her popular predecessor, Matilda of Scotland, and thus won the following elegant tribute from the author of St. Brandon's voyage:—
"Lady Adelais, who queen.* By the grace of heaven hath been Y-crowned,—who this land hath blest With peace and wholesome laws and rest, Both by king Henry's stalwart might, And by thy counsels mild and right. For this their holy benisons, May the apostles shed, each one, A thousand thousandfold on thee! And since thy mild command hath won me, To turn this goodly history Into romaunt, and carefully To write it out, and soothly tell What to St. Brandon erst befell,—At thy command I undertake The task right gladly."
*[Cottonian MSS. Vespasian, b. x. Such is the reference for the original, but we have gladly availed ourselves of the editorial labors of a learned contributor to Blackwood's Magazine, 1836, p. 807.]
The poem is full of beauty, and reflects no little credit on the taste of the queen.
During the life of the king her husband, Adelicia had founded and endowed the hospital and conventual establishment of St. Giles, near Wilton; [Howard Memorials.] and, according to a Wiltshire tradition, she resided there during some part of her widowhood, in the house which is still called by her name. [Sir Richard Hoare's Modern Wiltshire.] She was likewise dowered by her late husband, king Henry, in the fair domain of Arundel castle and its rich dependencies, the forfeit inheritance [Tierney's Arundel.] of the brutal Robert, carl of Belesme; and here, no doubt, the royal widow held her state at the expiration of the first year of cloistered seclusion after the death of her illustrious spouse.
Camden thus describes the spot, which the magnificent taste of the late duke of Norfolk has, within the last century, rendered one of the most splendid objects of attraction in England:—"Beyond Selsey, the shore breaks, and makes way for a river that runs out of St. Leonard's forest, and then by Arundel, seated on a hill, over a vale of the river Arun." At this Saxon castle, built and strengthened on the hill above the waters, Adelicia was residing when she consented to become the wife of William de Albini 'of the Strong Hand,' the lord of Buckenham in Norfolk, and one of the most chivalrous peers in Europe. According to Mr. Howard's computation, Adelicia was in her thirty-second year at the time of king Henry's death, in the very pride of her beauty; and she contracted her second marriage in the third year of her widowhood, a.d. 1138. [Howard Memorials.]
Her second spouse, William de Albini with the Strong Arm, was the son of William de Albini, who was called Pincerna, [Ibid.] being the chief butler or cup-bearer of the duchy of Normandy. William the Conqueror appointed him to the same office in England, at his coronation in Wesminister abbey; which honor has descended by hereditary custom to the duke of Norfolk, his rightful representative and heir; and when there is a coronation-banquet, the golden cup, out of which the sovereign drinks to the health of his or her loving subjects, becomes his perquisite. [Ibid.] It appears that Adelicia and Albini were affianced some time previous to their marriage; for when he won the prize at the tournament held at Bourges in 1137, in honor of the nuptials of Louis VII. of France and Eleanora of Aquitaine, Adelicia or Adelaide, the gay queen-dowager of France, fell passionately in love with him, and wooed him to become her husband; but he replied, "that his troth was pledged to Adelicia, the queen of England." [Ibid. Dugdale.]
Although it may be considered somewhat remarkable that two queen-dowagers of similar names should have fixed their affections on the same gentleman, there is every reason to believe that such was the fact; but the marvellous legend so gravely related by Dugdale, [Dugdale's Baronage.] containing the sequel of the tale, namely, the unlady-like conduct of the rejected dowager of France, in pushing the strong-handed Albini into a cave in her garden, where she had secreted a fierce lion to become the minister of her jealous vengeance, together with the knight's redoubtable exploit in tearing out the lion's heart, which he must have found conveniently situated at the bottom of his throat (a place where no anatomist would have thought of feeling for it), must be regarded as one of the popular romances of the age of chivalry. We have seen another version of the story, in which the hero is said to have deprived the lion, not of his heart, but his tongue; and this is doubtless the tradition relating to William of the Strong Hand, since the Albini lion on the ancient armorial bearings of that house is tongueless, and is, by the bye, one of the most good-tempered-looking beasts ever seen.
Romance and ideality out of the question, William de Albini was not only a knight sams peur et sans reproche, stout in combat, and constant in loyalty and love, but history proves him to have been one of the greatest and best men of that age. His virtues and talents sufficiently justified the widow of the mighty sovereign of England and Normandy in bestowing her hand upon him; nor was Adelicia's second marriage in the slightest degree offensive to the subjects of her late husband, or considered derogatory to the dignity of a queen-dowager of England. Adelicia, by her union with Albini, conveyed to him a life-interest in her rich dowry of Arundel, and he accordingly assumed the title of earl of Arundel, in her right, as the possessor of Arundel castle. [Howard Memorials. Tierney's Hist. Arundel.] It was at this feudal fortress, on the then solitary coast of Sussex, that the royal beauty, who had for fifteen years presided over the splendid court of Henry Beauclerc, voluntarily resided with her second husband—the husband, doubtless, of her heart—in the peaceful obscurity of domestic happiness, far remote from the scenes of her former greatness.
Adelicia's wisdom in avoiding all the snares of party, by retiring from public life at a period so full of perilous excitement as the early part of Stephen's reign, cannot be disputed. Her gentle disposition, her good taste, and feminine feelings fitted her for the enjoyments of private life, and she made them her choice. There was, however, nothing of a selfish character in the conduct of the royal matron in declining to exert such influence as she possessed in advocating the claims of her step-daughter, Matilda, to the throne of England. As a queen-dowager. Adelicia had no voice in the choice of a sovereign; as a female, she would have departed from her province had she intermeddled with intrigues of state, even for the purpose of assisting the lawful heir to the crown. She left the question to be decided by the peers and people of England, and as they did not oppose the coronation of Stephen, she had no pretence for interfering; but she never sanctioned the usurpation of the successful rival of her step-daughter's right, by appearing at his court. And when the empress Matilda landed in England to dispute the crown with Stephen, the gates of Arundel castle were thrown open, to receive her and her train, by the royal Adelicia and her high-minded husband, Albini. [Malmesbury. Speed. Rapin.] It was in the year 1139 when this perilous guest claimed the hospitality, and finally the protection, of the noble pair, whose wedded happiness had been rendered more perfect by the birth of a son, probably very little before that period, for it was only in the second year of their marriage. And she, over whose barrenness, as the consort of the mightiest monarch of the West, both sovereign and people had lamented for nearly fifteen years, became, when the wife of a subject, the mother of a numerous progeny, the ancestress of an illustrious line of English nobles, in whose veins her royal blood has been preserved in uninterrupted course to the present day.
According to Malmesbury, and many other historians, the empress Matilda was only attended by her brother, the earl of Gloucester, and a hundred and forty followers, when she landed at Portsmouth in the latter end of September. Gervase and Brompton aver that she came with a numerous army; but the general bearings of history prove that this was not the fact, since Matilda was evidently in a state of absolute peril when her generous step-mother afforded her an asylum within the walls of Arundel castle; for we find that her devoted friend and brother, Robert earl of Gloucester, when he saw that she was honorably received there, considered her in a place of safety, and, attended by only twelve persons, proceeded to Bristol.
No sooner was Stephen informed that the empress Matilda was in Arundel castle, than he raised the siege of Marlborough, and commenced a rapid march towards Arundel, in order to attack her in her retreat. The spirit with which he pushed his operations alarmed the royal ladies. [Gervase. M. Paris. H. Huntingdon.] Adelicia dreaded the destruction of her castle, the loss of her beloved husband, and the breaking up of all the domestic happiness she had enjoyed since her retirement from public life. The empress Matilda suffered some apprehension, lest her gentle step-mother should be induced to deliver her into the hands of her foe. There was, however, no less firmness than gentleness in the character of Adelicia; and the moment Stephen approached her walls, she sent messengers to entreat his forbearance, assuring him "that she had admitted Matilda, not as his enemy, but as her daughter-in-law and early friend, who had claimed her hospitality, which respect for the memory of her late royal lord, king Henry, forbade her to refuse; and these considerations would compel her to protect her imperial guest while she remained beneath the shelter of her roof. [Gervase. Malmesbury. Rapin.] That if he came in hostile array against her castle of Arundel with intent to make Matilda his prisoner, she must frankly say she was resolved to defend her to the last extremity, not only because she was the daughter of her late dear lord, king Henry, but as the widow of the emperor Henry and her guest;" and she besought Stephen, "by all the laws of courtesy and the ties of kindred, not to place her in such a painful strait as to compel her to do anything against her conscience." In conclusion, she requested, with much earnestness, "that Matilda might be allowed to leave the castle, and retire to her brother." Stephen acceded to the proposal, the siege was raised, and the empress proceeded to join her adherents at Bristol.
We are inclined to regard Stephen's courteous compliance with the somewhat unreasonable prayer of the queen-dowager as a proof of the high respect in which she was held, and the great influence over the minds of her royal husband's kindred which her virtues and winning qualities had obtained while she wore the crown-matrimonial of England. William of Malmesbury, the only writer who speaks unkindly of Adelicia, intimates that a suspicion of treachery on her part caused the empress Matilda to quit Arundel; "for," says he, "her mother-in-law, through female inconstancy, had broken the faith she had repeatedly pledged by messages sent into Normandy." It is scarcely probable that Adelicia, who took the utmost care to maintain a strict neutrality at this embarrassing crisis, had ever used any flattering professions to persuade the empress Matilda to assert her claims to the throne of England. Her sole offence appears to have been inflexible determination not to engage herself in the struggle by espousing her imperial stepdaughter's cause. Our chronicler, whose book is dedicated to his patron and pupil the earl of Gloucester, gives of course a prejudiced view of conduct which, however politic, was opposed to the interests of their party. Adelicia conducted herself with equal prudence and magnanimity in the defence and deliverance of her step-daughter, exhibiting a very laudable mixture of the wisdom of the serpent with the innocence of the dove and the courage of the lion. The lion was the cognizance of the royal house of Louvaine; and Mr. Howard is of opinion that this proud bearing was assumed by the family of Albini in token of descent from 'the fair maid of Brabant,' [Howard Memorials.] rather than with any reference to the fabled exploit of her second husband, related in Dugdale's Baronage. A grateful remembrance of the generous conduct of Stephen, in all probability, withheld Adelicia and Albini from taking part with the empress Matilda against him in the long and disastrous civil war which desolated the ravaged plains of England with kindred blood during so many years of that inauspicious reign. They appear to have maintained a strict neutrality, and to have preserved their vassals and neighbors from the evils attendant upon the contest between the empress and the king.
Adelicia, after her happy marriage with the husband of her choice, was not forgetful of the respect which she considered due to the memory of her late royal lord, king Henry; for, by a third charter, she granted to his favorite abbey of Heading the church of Berkeley-Harness, in Gloucestershire, [Monasticon, charter ix. Howard Memorials.] with suitable endowments, "to pray for the soul of king Henry, and duke Godfrey her father; and also for the health of her present lord," whom she styles "William earl of Chichester, and for her own health, and the health of her children." Thus we observe that this amiable princess unites the departed objects of her veneration in the devotional offices which she fondly caused the monks of Reading to offer up for the welfare of her living husband, her beloved children, and herself. To her third son, Adelicia gave the name of her deceased lord, king Henry. Her fourth was named Godfrey, after her father and elder brother, the reigning duke of Brabant.
Adelicia chiefly resided at Arundel castle after her marriage with William de Albini, but there is also traditional evidence that she occasionally lived with him in the noble feudal castle which he built, after his marriage with her, at Buckenham in Norfolk. It is still designated in that county as New Buckenham, though the mound, part of the moat, and a few mouldering fragments of the walls, are all that remain of the once stately hall that was at times graced with the dowager-court of Alix la Belle.
The priory of St. Bartholomew, likewise called 'the priory of the Causeway,' in the parish of Lyminster, near Arundel, was established by queen Adelicia, after her marriage with William de Albini, as a convent of Augustinian canons. [Dugdale's Monasticon, lib. epist. B, vol. xviii.] It was situated at the foot of the hill which overlooks the town from the south side of the river. The number of inmates appears originally to have been limited by the royal foundress to two persons, whose principal business was to take charge of the bridge, and to preserve the passage of the river. All her gifts and charters were solemnly confirmed by her husband, William Albini, who appears to have cherished the deepest respect for his royal spouse, always speaking of her as 'eximia regina,'—that is, inestimable or surpassingly excellent queen. [Howard Memorials.] We find, from the Monasticon, that Adelicia gave in trust to the bishop of Chichester certain lands in Arundel, to provide salaries for the payment of two chaplains to celebrate divine service in that castle. The last recorded act of Adelicia was the grant of the prebend of West Dean to the cathedral of Chichester, in 1150.
In the year 1149, a younger brother of Adelicia, Henry of Louvaine, was professed a monk in the monastery of Affligham, near Alost in Flanders, which had been founded by their father Godfrey and his brother Henry of Louvaine; and soon after, the royal Adelicia herself, [Buknet, Trophees du Brabant.] stimulated no doubt by his example, withdrew not only from the pomps and parade of earthly grandeur, but from the endearments of her adoring husband and youthful progeny, and, crossing the sea, retired to the nunnery in the same foundation, where she ended her days, [Ibid.] and was likewise buried. [Sanderus, Abbeys and Churches in Brabant.] Mr. Howard, in his interesting sketch of the life of his royal ancestress, states it to be his opinion that Adelicia did not take this important step without the full consent of her husband. Strange as it appears to us, that any one who was at the very summit of earthly felicity should have broken through such fond ties of conjugal and maternal love as those by which Adelicia was surrounded to bury herself in cloistered seclusion, there is indubitable evidence that such was the fact.
Sanderus, in his account of the abbeys and churches of Brabant, relates that "Fulgentius, the abbot of Affligham, visited queen Adelicia at the court of her royal husband, Henry I., where he was received with especial honors." The same author expressly states that Adelicia died in the convent of Affligham, and was interred there on the 9th of the calends of April. He does not give the date of the year.
From the mortuary of the abbey he quotes the following Latin record of the death of this queen:—
"Aleidem genuit cum barba dux Godefredus, Qui fuit Anglorum regina piissima morum."
The annals of Margan date this event in the year 1151. There is a charter in Affligham, granted by Henry of Louvaine, on condition that prayers may be said for the welfare of his brother Godfrey, the reigning duke, his sister Aleyda the queen, and Ida the countess of Cleves, and their parents. [Howard Memorials.]
Adelicia must have been about forty-eight years old at the time of her death. She had been married eleven years, or thereabouts, to William de Albini, lord of Buckenham. At his paternal domain of New Buckenham, in Norfolk, a foundation was granted by William de Albini 'of the Strong Arm,' enjoining that prayers might be said for the departed spirit of his 'eximia regina.' He survived her long enough to be the happy means of composing, by an amicable treaty, the death-strife which had convulsed England for fifteen years, in consequence of the bloody succession-war between Stephen and the empress Matilda. [This will be detailed in the succeeding biography.] This great and good man is buried in Wymondham abbey, near the tomb of his father, the Pincerna of England and Normandy.
By her marriage with Albini, Adelicia became the mother of seven surviving children. William earl of Arundel, who succeeded to the estates and honors; Reyner; Henry; Godfrey; Alice, married to the count d'Eu; Olivia; Agatha. The two latter were buried at Boxgrove, near Arundel. Though Adelicia had so many children by her second marriage, her tender affection for her father's family caused her to send for her younger brother, Josceline of Louvaine, to share in her prosperity and happiness. The munificent earl, her husband, to enable this landless prince to marry advantageously, gave him the fair domain of Petworth, on his wedding Agnes, the heiress of the Percys: "since which," says Camden, "the posterity of that Josceline, who took the name of Percy, have ever possessed it,—a family certainly very ancient and noble, the male representatives of Charlemagne, more direct than the dukes of Guise, who pride themselves on that account. Josceline, in a donation of his which I have seen, uses this title: 'Josceline of Louvaine, brother to queen Adelicia, castellaine of Arundel'"
Two ducal peers of England are now the representatives of the imperial Carlovingian line, namely, the duke of Norfolk, the heir of queen Adelicia; and the duke of Northumberland, the lineal descendant of her brother Josceline of Louvaine. The two most unfortunate of all the queens of England, Anna Boleyn and Katharine Howard, were the lineal descendants of Adelicia, by her second marriage with William de Albini.
A curious tradition exists at Reading, that Henry I. was buried there in a silver coffin, and that the utter demolition of his monument may be attributed to the persevering zeal of the destroyers of the stately abbey, in their search to discover and appropriate the precious depository. Adelicia's effigy is stated to have been placed at Reading by the side of her husband Henry I., crowned and veiled, because she had been both queen and professed nun. [History of Reading, by John Man, p. 282: published by Snare and Man, Heading, 1816. This traditionary description of Adelicia's effigy appears more applicable to her predecessor Matilda, unless we may conjecture that Adelicia wore the conventual dress of the nunnery where she died. Another place is pointed out as the spot where her ashes repose, being the church of Fuggleston, where she founded an hospital.] No copy or vestige of it remains.
The portrait of queen Adelicia illustrating this biography has been drawn by Mr. Harding from her beautiful seal, pendant to the charter she gave Reading abbey. Although she was then the wife of William de Albini, she is represented in regal costume as queen of England, which in many points varies from that of her predecessors. The transparent veil of Matilda of Flanders is superseded by a drapery similar to the haike of the Arabs, and like that celebrated mantle, it is hooded over the head, and falling by each cheek is tied in front of the throat; then flowing in ample folds over the arms, nearly covers the whole of the person. Adelicia's crown confines this mantle to the head, by being fixed over it. The crown is simple: a smooth band of gold with rims, in which circle three large gems are set; three high points rise from it, each terminated with a trefoil of pearls: a cap of satin or velvet is seen just above the circlet. The sceptre of mercy, surmounted with a dove and finished with a trefoil, is held in Adelicia's right hand, the orb of sovereignty in her left, to which, excepting by the especial grace of her royal lord, she could have no right. The queen's robe or gown seems tight to her shape: it is elegantly worked in a diamond pattern from the throat to the feet, over which it flows. The figure is whole-length, standing; and as the seal is a pointed oval nearly three inches long, there was space to give character not only to the costume, but the features, of which the mediaeval artist has availed himself sufficiently to present the only resemblance extant of Adelicia of Louvaine.
Matilda of Boulogne
Queen of Stephen
Matilda's descent from Saxon kings—Her mother a Saxon princess—Her father—Matilda espoused to Stephen of Blois—Residence at Tower-Royal— Matilda's popularity in London—Stephen seizes the throne—Birth of prince Eustace—Coronation of Matilda—Queen left regent—-Disasters—Queen besieges Dover castle—Mediates peace with her uncle—Empress Matilda lands in England—Henry of Blois—Civil war—Queen goes to France—Marriage of her young heir—Raises an army—Stephen captured—Arrogance of the empress —Queen's grief—Exertions in Stephen's cause—Queen Matilda writes to bishop Blois—Her supplication for Stephen's liberty—Obduracy of the empress—Queen appeals to arms—Empress in Winchester—Her seal—Insults Londoners—Driven from London—Successes of the queen—Takes Winchester— Escape of the empress—Earl of Gloucester taken—Exchanged for Stephen— Illness of king Stephen—Empress escapes from Oxford—Her son—Decline of the empress's cause—Queen Matilda founds St. Katherine by the Tower—Death of the queen—Burial—Tomb—Epitaph—Children—Eustace—Death of king Stephen—Burial by his queen—Exhumation of their bodies.
Matilda of Boulogne, the last of our Anglo-Norman queens, was a princess of the ancient royal line of English monarchs. Her mother, Mary of Scotland, was the second daughter of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret Atheling, and sister to Matilda the Good, the first queen of Henry Beauclerc. Mary of Scotland was educated, with her elder sister, in the royal monasteries of Wilton and Romsey, under the stern tutelage of their aunt Christina; and was doubtless, like the princess Matilda, compelled to assume the habit of a votaress. Whether the youthful Mary testified the same lively antipathy to the consecrated black veil that was exhibited by her elder sister, no gossiping monastic chronicler has recorded; but she certainly forsook the cloister for the court of England, on Matilda's auspicious nuptials with Henry I., and exchanged the badge of celibacy for the nuptial ring soon afterwards, when her royal brother-in-law gave her in marriage to Eustace count of Boulogne. The father of this nobleman was brother-in-law to Edward the Confessor, having married Goda, the widowed countess of Mantes, sister to that monarch; both himself and his son Eustace had been powerful supporters of the Saxon cause. The enterprising spirit of the counts of Boulogne, and the contiguity of their dominions to the English shores, had rendered them troublesome neighbors to William the Conqueror and his sons, till the chivalric spirit of crusading attracted their energies to a loftier object, and converted these pirates of the narrow seas into heroes of the Cross, and liberators of the holy city.
Godfrey of Boulogne, the hero of Tasso's Gierusaleme Liberata, and his brother Baldwin, who successively wore the crown of Jerusalem, were the uncles of Matilda, Stephen's queen. Her father, Eustace count of Boulogne, was also a distinguished crusader. He must have been a mature husband for Mary of Scotland, since he was the companion in arms of Robert of Normandy, and her uncle Edgar Atheling. Matilda, or, as she is sometimes called for brevity, Maud of Boulogne, was the sole offspring of this marriage, and the heiress of this illustrious house. There is every reason to believe Matilda was educated in the abbey of Bermondsey, to which the countess of Boulogne, her mother, was a munificent benefactress. The countess died in this abbey while on a visit to England in the year 1115, and was buried there. "We gather from the Latin verses on her tomb that she was a lady of very noble qualities, and that her death was very painful and unexpected." [Annales Abbatae de Bermondsey.]
Young as Matilda was, she was certainly espoused to Stephen de Blois before her mother's decease; for this plain reason, that the charter by which the countess of Boulogne, in the year 1114, grants to the Cluniac monks of Bermondsey her manor of Kynewardstone, is, in the year she died, confirmed by Eustace her husband, and Stephen her son-in-law. [Ibid.] Stephen, the third son of a vassal peer of Franco, obtained this great match through the favor of his royal uncle, Henry I. He inherited from the royal Adela, his mother, the splendid talents, fine person, and enterprising spirit of the mighty Norman line of sovereigns. A very tender friendship had subsisted between Adela countess of Blois and her brother Henry Beauclerc, who at different periods of his life had been under important obligations to her; and when Adela sent her landless boy to seek his fortunes at the court of England, Henry returned the friendly offices which he had received from this faithful sister by lavishing wealth and honor on her son.
Stephen received the spurs of knighthood from his uncle king Henry, previous to the battle of Tinchebray, where he took the count of Mortagne prisoner, and received the investiture of his lands. He was further rewarded by his royal kinsman with the hand of Matilda, the heiress of Boulogne. [Ordericus Vitalis.] "When Stephen was but an earl," says William of Malmesbury, "he gained the affections of the people, to a degree that can scarcely be imagined, by the affability of his manners, and the wit and pleasantry of his conversation, condescending to chat and joke with persons in the humblest stations as well as with the nobles, who delighted in his company, and attached themselves to his cause from personal regard." [W. Malmesbury. Ordericus Vitalis.]
Stephen was count of Boulogne in Matilda's right, when, as count of Mortagne, he swore fealty in 1126 to the empress Matilda, as heiress to the Norman dominions of Henry I. The London residence of Stephen and Matilda was Tower-Royal, a palace built by king Henry, and presented by him to his favored nephew on the occasion of his wedding the niece of his queen, Matilda Atheling. The spot to which this regal-sounding name is still appended is a close lane between Cheapside and Watling street. Tower-Royal was a fortress of prodigious strength; for more than once, when the Tower of London itself fell into the hands of the rebels, this embattled palace of Stephen remained in security. [Stowe's Survey. Pennant's London.] It is a remarkable fact that Stephen had embarked on board the 'Blanche Nef,' with his royal cousin, William the Atheling, and the rest of her fated crew; but with two knights of his train, and a few others who prudently followed his example, he left the vessel with the remark that "she was too much crowded with foolish, headstrong young people." [Ordericus Vitalis.] After the death of prince William, Stephen's influence with his royal uncle became unbounded, and he was his constant companion in all his voyages to Normandy.
There are evidences of conjugal infidelity on the part of this gay and gallant young prince about this period, proving that Matilda's cup of happiness was not without some alloy of bitterness. How far her peace was affected by the scandalous reports of the passion which her haughty cousin the empress Matilda, the acknowledged heiress of England and Normandy, was said to cherish for her aspiring husband, we cannot presume to say; but there was an angel-like spirit in the princess which supported her under every trial, and rendered her a beautiful example to every royal female in the married state.
Two children, a son and a daughter, were born to the young earl and countess of Boulogne during king Henry's reign. The boy was named Baldwin, after Matilda's uncle, the king of Jerusalem,—a Saxon name, withal, and therefore likely to sound pleasantly to the ears of the English, who, no doubt, looked with complacency on the infant heir of Boulogne, as the son of a princess of the royal Atheling blood, born among them, and educated by his amiable mother to venerate their ancient laws, and to speak their language. Prince Baldwin, however, died in early childhood, and was interred in the priory of the Holy Trinity, without Aldgate, founded by his royal aunt, Matilda of Scotland. The second child of Stephen and Matilda, a daughter named Maud, born also in the reign of Henry I., died young, and was buried in the same church. Some historians aver that Maud survived long enough to be espoused to the earl of Milan. So dear was the memory of these her buried hopes to the heart of Matilda, that after she became queen of England, and her loss was supplied by the birth of another son and daughter, she continued to lament for them; and the church and hospital of St. Katherine by the Tower were founded and endowed by her, that prayers might be perpetually said by the pious sisterhood for the repose of the souls of her firstborn children.
In the latter days of king Henry, while Stephen was engaged in stealing the hearts of the men of England, after the fashion of Absalom, the mild virtues of his amiable consort recalled to their remembrance her royal aunt and namesake, Henry's first queen, and inspired them with a trembling hope of seeing her place filled eventually by a princess so much more resembling her than the haughty wife of Geoffrey of Anjou. The Norman woman looked upon her mother's people with scorn, and from her they had nothing to expect but the iron yoke which her grandfather, the Conqueror, had laid upon their necks, with, perhaps, an aggravation of their miseries. But Stephen, the husband of her gentle cousin, the English-hearted Matilda, had whispered in their ears of the confirmation of the great charter of their liberties, which Henry of Normandy had granted when he became the husband of the descendant of their ancient kings, and broken when her influence was destroyed by death and a foreign marriage.
King Henry's daughter, the empress Matilda, [The biography of the empress Matilda is continued through this life.] was the wife of a foreign prince residing on the continent. Stephen and his gentle princess were living in London, and daily endearing themselves to the people by the most popular and affable behavior. The public mind was certainly predisposed in favor of Stephen's designs, when the sudden death of king Henry in Normandy left the right of succession for the first time to a female heir. Piers of Langtoft thus describes the perplexity of the nation respecting the choice of the sovereign:—
"On bier lay king Henry, On bier beyond the sea, And no man might rightly know Who his heir suld be."
Stephen, following the example of the deceased monarch's conduct at the time of his brother Rufus's death, [Malmesbury.] left his royal uncle and benefactor's obsequies to the care of Robert earl of Gloucester, and the other peers who were witnesses to his last words; and embarking at Whitesand, a small port in Matilda's dominions, in a light vessel, on a wintry sea, he landed at Dover in the midst of such a storm of thunder and lightning, that, according to William of Malmesbury, every one imagined the world was coming to an end. As soon as he arrived in London, he convened an assembly of the Anglo-Norman barons, before whom his confederate and friend, Hugh Bigod, the steward of king Henry's household, swore on the holy Evangelists, "that the deceased sovereign had disinherited the empress Matilda on his death-bed, and adopted his most dear nephew Stephen for his heir." [Malmesbury. Rapin.] On this bold affirmation, the archbishop of Canterbury absolved the peers of the oaths of fealty they had twice sworn to the daughter of their late sovereign, and declared "that those oaths were null and void, and contrary, moreover, to the laws and customs of the English, who had never permitted a woman to reign over them." This was a futile argument, as no female had ever stood in that important position, with regard to the succession to the crown of England, in which the empress Matilda was now placed; therefore no precedent had occurred for the establishment of a salic law in England.
Stephen was crowned on the 26th of December, his name-day, the feast of St. Stephen. [Sir Harris Nicolas's Chronology of History.] He swore to establish the righteous laws of Edward the Confessor, for the general happiness of all classes of his subjects. [Malmesbury. Brompton.] The English regarded Stephen's union with a princess of their race as the best pledge of the sincerity of his professions in regard to the amelioration of their condition. These hopes were, of course, increased by the birth of prince Eustace, whom Matilda brought into the world very soon after her husband's accession to the throne of England. It was, perhaps, this auspicious event that prevented Matilda from being associated in the coronation of her lord on St. Stephen's day, in Westminster abbey. Her own coronation, according to Gervase, took place March 22nd, 1136, being Easter-Sunday, not quite three months afterwards. Stephen was better enabled to support the expenses of a splendid ceremonial in honor of his beloved queen, having, immediately after his own hasty inauguration, posted to Winchester and made himself master of the treasury of his deceased uncle king Henry; which contained, says Malmesbury, "one hundred thousand pounds, besides stores of plate and jewels."
The empress Matilda was in Anjou at the time of her father's sudden demise. She was entirely occupied by the grievous sickness of her husband, who was supposed to be on his death-bed. [Carruthers's History of Scotland, pp. 327, 328.] After the convalescence of her lord, as none of her partisans in England made the slightest movement in her favor, she remained quiescent for a season, well knowing that the excessive popularity of a new monarch is seldom of long continuance in England. Stephen had begun well by abolishing 'danegelt,' and leaving the game in woods, forests, and uncultivated wastes common to all his subjects; but after awhile he repented of his liberal policy, and called courts of inquiry to make men give account of the damage and loss he had sustained in his fallow-deer and other wild game; he likewise enforced the offensive system of the other Norman monarchs for their preservation. Next he obtained the enmity of the clergy, by seizing the revenues of the see of Canterbury; and lastly, to the great alarm and detriment of the peacefully disposed, he imprudently permitted his nobles to build or fortify upwards of a thousand of those strongholds of wrong and robbery called castles, which rendered their owners in a great measure independent of the crown.
Baldwin de Redvers, earl of Devonshire, was the first to give Stephen a practical proof of his want of foresight in this matter, by telling him, on some slight cause of offence, "that he was not king of right, and he would obey him no longer." Stephen proceeded in person to chastise him. In the mean time, David king of Scotland invaded the northern counties, under pretence of revenging the wrong that had been done to his niece, the empress Matilda, by Stephen's usurpation and perjury. Matilda of Boulogne, Stephen's consort, stood in the same degree of relationship to the king of Scotland as the empress Matilda, since her mother, Mary of Scotland, was his sister, no less than Matilda, the queen of Henry I. Stephen concluded a hasty peace with the Welsh princes, and advanced to repel the invasion of king David; but when the hostile armies met near Carlisle, he succeeded in adjusting all differences by means of an amicable treaty, perhaps through the entreaties or mediation of his queen.
Easter was kept at Westminster this year, 1137, by Stephen and Matilda, with greater splendor than had ever been seen in the court of Henry Beauclerc, to celebrate the happy termination of the storm that had so lately darkened the political horizon; but the rejoicings of the queen were fearfully interrupted by the alarming illness which suddenly attacked the king in the midst of the festivities. This illness, the effect no doubt of the preternatural exertions of both mental and corporeal powers, which Stephen had compelled himself to use during the recent momentous crisis of his fortunes, was a sort of stupor or lethargy so nearly resembling death that it was reported in Normandy that he had breathed his last; on which the party of the empress began to take active measures, both on the continent and in England, for the recognition of her rights. [Hoveden. Brompton. Ordericus Vitalis.] The count of Anjou entered Normandy at the head of an army, to assert the claims of his wife and son, which were, however, disputed by Stephen's elder brother, Theobald count of Blois, not in behalf of Stephen, but himself; while the earl of Gloucester openly declared in favor of his sister the empress, and delivered the keys of Falaise to her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou. [M. Paris, etc., etc.]
When Stephen recovered from his death-like sickness, he found everything in confusion,—the attention of his faithful queen, Matilda, having doubtless been absorbed in anxious watchings by his sick bed during the protracted period of his strange and alarming malady. She was now left to take care of his interests in England as best she might; for Stephen, rousing himself from the pause of exhausted nature, hastened to the continent with his infant heir Eustace, to whom queen Matilda had resigned the earldom of Boulogne, her own fair inheritance. Stephen, by the strong eloquence of an immense bribe, prevailed on Louis VII. of France, as suzerain of Normandy, to invest the unconscious babe with the duchy, and to receive his liege homage for the same. [Ordericus Vitalis. H. Huntingdon. Brompton. M. Paris. Rapin. Speed.]
Meantime, some portentous events occurred during Matilda's government. Sudden and mysterious conflagrations then, as now, indicated the sullen discontent of the very lower order of the English people. On the 3rd of June, 1137, Rochester cathedral was destroyed by fire; the following day, the whole city of York, with its cathedral and thirty churches, was burnt to the ground; soon after, the city of Bath shared the same fate. Then conspiracies began to be formed in favor of the empress Matilda in various parts of England; and lastly, her uncle, David king of Scotland, once more entered Northumberland, with banners displayed, in support of his supplanted kinswoman's superior title to the crown. [Brompton. Rapin. Ordericus Vitalis.] Queen Matilda, with courage and energy suited to this alarming crisis, went in person and besieged the insurgents, who had seized Dover castle; and she sent orders to the men of Boulogne, her loyal subjects, to attack the rebels by sea. The Boulonnois obeyed the commands of their beloved princess with alacrity, and to such good purpose, by covering the Channel with their light-armed vessels, that the besieged, not being able to receive the slightest succor by sea, were forced to submit to the queen. [Ordericus Vitalis.] At this juncture Stephen arrived: he succeeded in chastising the leaders of the revolt, and drove the Scottish king over his own border. Nevertheless, the empress Matilda's party, in the year 1138, began to assume a formidable aspect. Every day brought tidings to the court of Stephen of some fresh revolt. William of Malmesbury relates, that when Stephen was informed of these desertions, he passionately exclaimed, "Why did they make me king, if they forsake me thus? By the birth of God! [This was Stephen's usual oath.—Malmesbury.] I will never be called an abdicated king."
The invasion of queen Matilda's uncle, David of Scotland, for the third time, increased the distraction of her royal husband's affairs, especially as Stephen was too much occupied with the internal troubles of his kingdom to be able to proceed in person against him. David and his army were, however, defeated with immense slaughter by the warlike Thurstan, archbishop of York, at Cuton-Moor. The particulars of this engagement, called 'the battle of the Standard,' where the church-militant performed such notable service for the crown, belong to general history, and are besides too well known to require repetition in the biography of Stephen's queen. Matilda ["Through the mediation of Matilda, the wife of Stephen, and niece of David, a peace was concluded at Durham between these two kings, equitable in itself, and useful to both parties."—Carruthers's History of Scotland, vol. i. p. 339.] was mainly instrumental in negotiating the peace which was concluded this year between her uncle and her lord. Prince Henry, the heir of Scotland, having, at the same time, renewed his homage to Stephen for the earldom of Huntingdon, was invited by the king to his court. The attention with which the young prince was treated by the king and queen was viewed with invidious eyes by their ill-mannered courtiers; and Ranulph, earl of Chester, took such great offence at the royal stranger being seated above him at dinner, that he made it an excuse for joining the revolted barons, and persuaded a knot of equally uncivilized nobles to follow his example on the same pretence. [Speed.]
The empress Matilda, taking advantage of the fierce contention between Stephen and the hierarchy of England, made her tardy appearance, in pursuance of her claims to the crown, in the autumn of 1130. Like her uncle, Robert the Unready, the empress allowed the critical moment to slip when, by prompt and energetic measures, she might have gained the prize for which she contended. But she did not arrive till Stephen had made himself master of the castles, and, what was of more importance to him, the great wealth of his three refractory prelates, the bishops of Salisbury, Ely, and Lincoln.
When the empress was shut up within the walls of Arundel castle, Stephen might by one bold stroke have made her his prisoner; but he was prevailed upon to respect the ties of consanguinity, and the high rank of the widow and of the daughter of his benefactor, king Henry. It is possible, too, that recollections of a tenderer nature, with regard to his cousin the empress, might deter him from imperilling her person by pushing the siege. According to some of the chroniclers, the empress sent, with queen Adelicia's request that she might be permitted to retire to Bristol, a guileful letter or message to Stephen, [Gervase. Henry of Huntingdon.] which induced him to promise, on his word of honor, that he would grant her safe-conduct to that city. Though the empress knew that Stephen had violated the most solemn oaths in regard to her succession to the crown, she relied upon his honor, put herself under his protection, and was safely conducted to the castle of Bristol. King Stephen gave to his brother, Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester, and to Walleran carl of Mellent, the charge of escorting the empress to Bristol castle. This bright trait of chivalry contrasts beautifully with the selfishness and perfidy too prevalent at the era. It was during this journey, in all probability, that Henry de Blois arranged his plans with the empress Matilda for making her mistress of the royal city of Winchester, which was entirely under his influence.
While the earl of Gloucester, on behalf of his sister the empress, was contesting with king Stephen the realm of England at the sword's point, queen Matilda proceeded to France with her son Eustace, to endeavor to strengthen her husband's cause by the aid of her foreign connections; and while at the court of France, successfully exerted her diplomatic powers in negotiating a marriage between the princess Constance, sister of Louis VII., and prince Eustace, then about four years old. The queen presided at this infant marriage, which was celebrated with great splendor. Instead of receiving a dowry with the princess, queen Matilda paid a large sum to purchase her son the bride; Louis VII. in return solemnly invested his young brother-in-law with the duchy of Normandy, and lent his powerful aid to maintain him there as the nominal sovereign, under the direction of the queen his mother. This alliance, which took place in the year 1140, [Florence of Worcester. Tyrrell.] greatly raised the hopes of Stephen's party; but the bands of foreign mercenaries, which his queen Matilda sent over from Boulogne and the ports of Normandy to his succor, had an injurious effect on his cause, and were beheld with jealous alarm by the people of the land, "whose miseries were in no slight degree aggravated," says the chronicler Gervase, "by the arrival of these hunger-starved wolves, who completed the destruction of the land's felicity."
It was during the absence of queen Matilda and her son prince Eustace that the battle, so disastrous to her husband's cause, was fought beneath the walls of Lincoln, on Candlemas-day, 1141. Stephen had shut up a great many of the empress Matilda's partisans and their families in the city of Lincoln, which he had been for some time besieging. The earl of Gloucester's youngest daughter, lately married to her cousin Ranulph, carl of Chester, was among the besieged; and so determined were the two earls, her father and her husband, for her deliverance, that they encouraged their followers to swim, or ford, the deep cold waters of the river Trent, [Malmesbury. Rapin. Speed.] behind which Stephen and his army were encamped, and fiercely attacked him in their dripping garments,—and all for the relief of the fair ladies who were trembling within the walls of Lincoln, and beginning to suffer from lack of provisions. These were the days of chivalry, be it remembered. [Polydore Vergil. Speed. Malmesbury.] Speed gives us a descriptive catalogue of some of the leading characters among our valiant king Stephen's knights sans peur, which, if space were allowed us, we would abstract from the animated harangue with which the carl of Gloucester endeavored to warm his shivering followers into a virtuous blaze of indignation, after they had emerged from their cold bath. [Roger Hoveden. H. Huntingdon. Polychronicon.] His satirical eloquence was received by the partisans of the empress with a tremendous shout of applause; and Stephen, not to be behindhand with his foes in bandying personal abuse as a prelude to the fight, as his own powers of articulation happened to be defective, deputed one Baldwin Fitz-Gilbert, a knight who was blessed with a stentorian voice, to thunder forth his recrimination on the earl of Gloucester and his host in the ears of both armies. Fitz-Gilbert, in his speech, laid scornful stress on the illegitimacy of the empress's champion, whom he designated "Robert, the base-born general." [Roger Hoveden. H. Huntingdon. Speed.]
The battle, for which both parties had prepared themselves with such a sharp encounter of keen words, was, to use the expression of contemporary chroniclers, "a very sore one;" but it seems as if Stephen had fought better than his followers that day. "A very strange sight it was," says Matthew Paris, "there to behold king Stephen, left almost alone in the field, yet no man daring to approach him, while, grinding his teeth and foaming like a furious wild boar, he drove back with his battle-axe the assailing squadrons, slaying the foremost of them, to the eternal renown of his courage. If but a hundred like himself had been with him, a whole army had never been able to capture his person; yet, single-handed as he was, he held out till first his battle-axe brake, and afterwards his sword shivered in his grasp with the force of his own resistless blows, though he was borne backward to his knees by a great stone, which by some ignoble person was flung at him. A stout knight, William of Kames, then seized him by the helmet, and holding the point of his sword to his throat called upon him to surrender." [H. Huntingdon. Speed. Rapin.] Even in that extremity Stephen refused to give up the fragment of his sword to any one but the earl of Gloucester, his valiant kinsman, who, coming up, bade his infuriated troops refrain from further violence, and conducted his royal captive to the empress Matilda, at Gloucester. The earl of Gloucester, it is said, treated Stephen with some degree of courtesy; but the empress Matilda, whose hatred appears to have emanated from a deeper root of bitterness than mere rivalry of power, loaded him with indignities, and ordered him into the most rigorous confinement in Bristol castle. According to general historians, she caused him to be heavily ironed, and used the royal captive as ignominiously as if he had been the lowest felon; but William of Malmesbury says, "this was not till after Stephen had attempted to make his escape, or it was reported that he had been seen several times beyond the bounds prescribed for air and exercise."
The empress Matilda made her public and triumphant entry into the city of Winchester February 7th, where she was received with great state by Stephen's equally haughty brother, Henry de Blois, bishop of Winchester and cardinal-legate. He appeared at the head of all the clergy and monks of the diocese; and even the nuns of Winchester [Rudborne's Hist, of Winchester.] (a thing before unheard of) walked unveiled in the procession, to receive and welcome the rightful heiress of the realm, the daughter of the great and learned Henry Fitz-Conqueror, and of Matilda the descendant of the Atheling. The English had also the satisfaction of seeing the male representative of their ancient monarchs on that occasion within the walls of Winchester; for David of Scotland, the son of Margaret Atheling, was present to do honor to his niece,—the victorious rival of Stephen's crown. Henry de Blois resigned the regal ornaments, and the paltry residue of her father's treasure, into the hands of the empress. The next day he received her with great pomp in his cathedral-church, where he excommunicated all the adherents of his unfortunate brother, and promised absolution to all who should abandon his cause and join the empress. [Gesta Stephani. Gervase. Malmesbury. Rapin.]
In this melancholy position did queen Matilda find her husband's cause when she returned from her successful negotiation of the marriage between the French king's sister and her son the little count of Boulogne, whom she had left, for the present, established as duke of Normandy. The peers and clergy had alike abandoned the luckless, Stephen in his adversity; [Malmesbury. Huntingdon. Ger. Dor.] and the archbishop of Canterbury, being a man of tender conscience, had actually visited Stephen in his prison, to request his permission to transfer his oath of allegiance to his victorious rival the empress Matilda. In this predicament, the faithful consort of the fallen monarch applied herself to the citizens of London, with whom she had ever maintained a great share of popularity. They knew her virtues, for she had lived among them; and her tender affection for her royal spouse in his adversity was well pleasing to those who had witnessed the domestic happiness of the princely pair, while they lived in Tower-Royal as count and countess of Boulogne; and the remembrance of Stephen's free and pleasant conduct, and affable association with all sorts and conditions of men, before he wore the thorny diadem of a doubtful title to the sovereignty of England, disposed the magistracy of London to render every assistance in their power to their unfortunate king. [Malmesbury. Rapin.] So powerfully, indeed, had the personal influence of queen Matilda operated in that quarter, that when the magistrates of London were summoned to send their deputies to a synod at Winchester, held by Henry de Blois, which had predetermined the election of the empress Matilda to the throne, they instructed them to demand the liberation of the king in the name of the barons and citizens of London, as a preliminary to entering into any discussion with the partisans of his enemy. Henry de Blois replied, "That it did not become the Londoners to side with the adherents of Stephen, whose object was to embroil the kingdom in fresh troubles." [Ibid.]
Queen Matilda, finding that the trusty citizens of London were baffled by the priestly subtlety of her husband's brother, Henry de Blois, took the decided, but at that time unprecedented step, of writing in her own name an eloquent letter to the synod, earnestly entreating those in whose hands the government of England was vested to restore the king, her husband, to liberty. This letter the queen's faithful chaplain, Christian, delivered, in full synod, to the legate Henry de Blois. The prelate, after he had silently perused the touching appeal of his royal sister-in-law, not only refused to communicate its purport to the assembly, but, exalting his voice to the highest pitch, proclaimed "that it was illegal and improper to be recited in that great assembly, composed as it was of ecclesiastics and dignitaries; for, among other objectionable points, it was witnessed by the signature of a person who had at a former council used insulting language to the bishops." Christian was not thus to be baffled: he boldly took his royal mistress's letter out of the imperious legate's hand, and exalting his voice in turn, so as to be distinctly heard by all present, he read it aloud to the astonished conclave, in spite of the anger and opposition of him who was at that time virtually the ruling power in the realm. The following brief abstract is all that William of Malmesbury, who dedicates his history to the leader of the adverse party, Robert earl of Gloucester, thinks proper to give of Matilda's letter: "The queen earnestly entreats the whole clergy assembled, and especially the bishop of Winchester, the brother of her lord the king, to restore her said lord to his kingdom, whom abandoned persons, even such as were under homage to him, have cast into chains."
The legate endeavored to frustrate any good effect which this conjugal appeal from the faithful consort of his unfortunate brother might have produced, by dissolving the assembly, having first excommunicated the leading members of the royal party. He then declared "that the empress Matilda was lawfully elected as the domina or sovereign lady of England." The following are the words of the formula in which the declaration was delivered: "Having first, as is fit, invoked the aid of Almighty God, we elect as lady of England and Normandy the daughter of the glorious, the rich, the good, the peaceful king Henry, and to her we promise fealty and support." [Gesta Stephani Regis.] No word is here of the good old laws,— the laws of Alfred and St. Edward,—or of the great charter which Henry I. agreed to observe. The empress was the leader of the Norman party, and the head of Norman feudality, which, in many instances, was incompatible with the Saxon constitution. The imperial "domina" bore her honors with anything but meekness; she refused to listen to the counsel of her friends; she treated those of her adversaries whom misfortune drove to seek her clemency with insolence and cruelty, stripping them of their possessions, and rendering them perfectly desperate. The friends who had contributed to her elevation frequently met with a harsh refusal when they asked favors; "and," says an old historian, "when they bowed themselves down before her, she did not rise in return." [Gesta Stephani Regis. Thierry.]
Meantime, the sorrowful queen Matilda was unremitting in her exertions for the liberation of her unfortunate lord, who was at this time heavily ironed and ignominiously treated, by order of the empress. [Malmesbury. Speed.] Not only England, but Normandy was now lost to the captive monarch her husband and their young heir, prince Eustace; for Geoffrey of Anjou, as soon as he received intelligence of the decisive battle of Lincoln, persuaded the Norman baronage to withdraw their allegiance from their recently invested duke, and to transfer it to his wife the empress and her son Henry, certainly the rightful heirs of William the Conqueror. The loss of regal state and sovereign power was, however, regarded by the queen of Stephen as a matter of little moment. In the season of adversity it was not the king, but the man, the husband of her youth and the father of her children, to whom the tender-hearted Matilda of Boulogne clung, with a devotion not often to be met with in the personal history of royalty. It was for his sake that she condescended to humble herself, by addressing the most lowly entreaties to her haughty cousin, the empress Matilda,—to her who, if the report of some contemporary chroniclers is to be credited, had betrayed her husband into a breach of his marriage vow. The insulting scorn with which the empress rejected every petition which the wedded wife of Stephen presented to her in behalf of her fallen foe looks like the vindictive spirit of a jealous woman; especially when we reflect that not only the virtues of Matilda of Boulogne, but the closeness of her consanguinity to herself, required her to be treated with some degree of consideration and respect.
There appears even to be a covert reference to the former position in which these princesses had stood, as rivals in Stephen's love, by the proposal made by his fond queen. She proposed, if his life were but spared, to relinquish his society, and that he should not only forever forego all claims upon the crown and succession of England and Normandy, but, taking upon himself the vows and habit of a monk, devote himself to a religious life, either as a pilgrim or a cloistered anchorite, [Y-Podigma Neustria. Speed. Pepin.] on condition that their son, prince Eustace, might be permitted to enjoy, in her right, the earldom of Boulogne, and his father's earldom of Mortagne, the grant of Henry I. Her petition was rejected by the victorious empress with no less contempt than all the others which Stephen's queen had ventured to prefer, although her suit in this instance was backed by the powerful mediation of Henry de Blois. This prelate, who appears to have thought more of peace than of brotherhood, was not only desirous of settling public order on such easy terms for his new sovereign, but willing to secure to his nephew the natural inheritance of his parents, of which the empress's party had obtained possession. So blind, however, was this obdurate princess in pursuing the headlong impulse of her vindictive nature, that nothing could induce her to perceive how much it was her interest to grant the prayer of her unhappy cousin; and she repulsed the suit of Henry de Blois so rudely that, when next summoned to her presence, he refused to come. Queen Matilda improved this difference between her haughty rival and her brother-in-law to her own advantage; and having obtained a private interview with him at Guildford, she prevailed on him, by the eloquence of her tears and entreaties, to absolve all her husband's party whom, as pope's legate, he had a few days before excommunicated, and to enter into a negotiation with her for the deliverance of his brother. [Speed. Tyrrell.]
Nor did queen Matilda rest here. In the name of her son, prince Eustace, aided by William of Ypres, Stephen's able but unpopular minister of state, she raised the standard of her captive lord in Kent and Surrey, where a strong party was presently organized in his favor; and finding that there was nothing to be hoped for from her obdurate kinswoman, the empress Matilda, on any other terms but the unreasonable one of giving up her own fair inheritance, she, like a true daughter of the heroic house of Boulogne, and the niece of the illustrious Godfrey and Baldwin, prepared herself for a struggle with such courageous energy of mind and promptitude of action, that many a recreant baron was shamed into quitting the inglorious shelter of his castle and leading forth his vassals to strengthen the muster of the royal heroine.
In the pages of superficially written histories, much is said of the prowess and military skill displayed by prince Eustace at this period; but Eustace was scarcely seven years old at the time when those efforts were made for the deliverance of his royal sire. It is therefore plain, to those who reflect on the evidence of dates, that it was the high-minded and prudent queen, his mother, who avoided all Amazonian display by acting under the name of her son. Her feminine virtues, endearing qualities, and conjugal devotion, had already created the most powerful interest in her favor; while reports of the pride and hardness of heart of her stern relative and namesake, the new domina, began to be industriously circulated through the land by the offended legate, Henry de Blois. [Tyrrell.] William of Malmesbury mentions, expressly, that the empress Matilda never bore or received the title of regina, or queen of England, but that of domina, or lady of England. On her broad seal, which she caused to be made for her royal use at Winchester, she entitles herself "Romanorum Regina Macthildis;" and in a charter granted by her, just after the death of her brother and champion, Robert earl of Gloucester, she styles herself "Regina Romanorum, et Domina Anglorum."
The seal to which we have just alluded bears the figure of the grand-daughter of the Norman conqueror, crowned and seated on the King's bench, with a sceptre in her right hand, but bearing neither orb nor dove, the symbols of sovereign power and mercy. She was not an anointed queen, neither had the crown-royal ever been placed on her brow. [J. P. Andrews.] The garland of fleurs-de-lis, by which the folds of her matronly wimple are confined, is of a simpler form than the royal diadems of the Anglo-Norman sovereigns, as shown on the broad seals of William Rufus, Henry I., and Stephen. Probably an alteration would have been made if the coronation of Matilda, as sovereign of England, had ever taken place. But the consent of the city of London was an indispensable preliminary to her inauguration; and to London she proceeded in person to obtain this important recognition. Though the majority of the city authorities were disposed to favor the cause of Stephen, for the sake of his popular consort, Matilda of Boulogne, the Saxon citizens, when they heard that "the daughter of Molde, their good queen," claimed their homage, looked with reverence on her elder claim, and threw open their gates to receive her with every manifestation of affection.
The first sentence addressed to them by this haughty claimant of the crown of St. Edward, was the demand of an enormous subsidy. The citizens of London replied by inquiring after the great charter granted by her father. "Ye are very impudent to mention privileges and charters to me, when ye have just been supporting my enemies," was the gracious rejoinder.1 Her wise and valiant brother, Robert of Gloucester, who stood by her side, immediately perceiving that the citizens of London were incensed at this intimation of their new sovereign's intention to treat them as a conquered people, endeavored to soothe their offended pride by a conciliatory address, commencing,—
1 [We arc indebted for a drawing of the impression of another seal pertaining to Matilda the empress to the kindness of Miss Mary Aglionby, who has elegantly delineated it from a deed belonging to her family. The head-dress of the empress is simpler than that above mentioned, the veil being confined by a mere twisted fillet, such as we sec beneath helmets and crests in heraldic blazonry. The inscription, in Roman letters, is s mathimms dei gratia romanorum regina. The manner of sitting, and the arrangement of the drapery on the knees, resemble the portrait of the mother of the empress described in her biography.]
"Ye citizens of London, who of olden time were called barons ..."
Although the heroic Robert was a most complete and graceful orator, his courteous language foiled to atone to the Londoners for the arrogance of their new liege lady. Her uncle, king David, was present at this scene, and earnestly persuaded the empress to adopt a more popular line of conduct, but in vain.[Carruthers's Hist, of Scotland, p. 341.] After a strong discussion, the Londoners craved leave to retire to their hall of common council, in order to provide the subsidy.
Meantime, the empress sat down to her mid-day meal in the banqueting-hall of the new palace at Westminster, in confident expectation that the civic authorities of London would soon approach to offer, on their knees, the bags of gold she had demanded. [Thierry. Speed. Stowe. Lingard.] A dessert of a different kind awaited her, for at that momentous crisis a band of horsemen appeared on the other side of the river, and displayed the banner of Stephen's consort, Matilda of Boulogne. The bells of every church in London rang out a clamorous tocsin, and from every house rushed forth, as had doubtless been previously concerted, one champion at the least, and in many instances several, armed with whatever weapons were at hand, and sallied forth to do battle in defence of the rights and liberties of the city; "just," says the old chronicler, "like bees swarming about the hive when it is attacked." The Norman and Angevin chevaliers, under the command of the valiant earl of Gloucester, found they stood little chance of withstanding this resolute muster of the London patriots in their own narrow crooked streets. They therefore hastened to provide for the safety of their domina. She rose in haste from table, mounted her horse, and fled with her foreign retinue at full speed; and she had urgent cause for haste, for before she had well cleared the western suburb, the populace had burst into the palace, and were plundering her apartments. [Chronicle quoted in Knight's London.] The fugitives took the road to Oxford; but before the haughty domina arrived there, her train had become so small with numerous desertions, that, with the exception of Robert of Gloucester, she entered it alone. [Chronicle quoted in Knight's London. Thierry. Lingard. Stowe.]
A strong reaction of popular feeling in favor of Stephen, or rather of Stephen's queen, followed this event. The counties of Kent and Surrey were already her own, and prepared to support her by force of arms; and the citizens of London joyfully received her within their walls once more. Henry de Blois had been induced, more than once, to meet his royal sister-in-law secretly at Guildford. Thither she brought the young prince, her son, [Tyrrell.] to assist her in moving his powerful uncle to lend his aid in replacing her husband on the throne. Henry de Blois, touched by the tears and entreaties of these interesting supplicants, and burning with rage at the insolent treatment he had received from the imperial virago, whom Camden quaintly styles "a niggish old wife," solemnly promised the queen to forsake the cause of her rival. Immediately on his return to Winchester the prelate fortified his castle, and having prepared all things for declaring himself in favor of his brother, he sent messengers to the queen, begging her to put herself at the head of the Kentishmen and Londoners, and march with her son, prince Eustace, to Winchester. [Malmesbury. Gervase.]
The empress Matilda and the earl of Gloucester having some intelligence of Henry de Blois's proceedings, advanced from Oxford, accompanied by David king of Scotland, at the head of an army, to overawe him. When they approached the walls of Winchester, the empress sent a herald to the legate, requesting a conference, as she had something of importance to communicate; but to this requisition Henry de Blois only replied, "Parabo me," [Malmesbury.] that is, "I will prepare myself;" and finding that the Norman party in Winchester was at present too strong for him, he left the city, and retired to his strong castle in the suburbs, causing, at the same time, so unexpected an attack to be made on the empress, that she had a hard race to gain the shelter of the royal citadel. "To comprise," says William of Malmesbury, "a long series of events within narrow limits, the roads on every side of Winchester were watched by the queen, and the earls who had come with her, lest supplies should be brought in to those who had sworn fidelity to the empress. Andover was burned, and the Londoners having assumed a martial attitude, lent all the assistance they could to distress that princess." [Malmesbury.]
Queen Matilda, with her son and sir William Ypres, at the head of the Londoners and the Kentishmen, was soon after at the gates of Winchester. The empress, now closely blockaded in her palace, had ample cause to repent of her vindictive folly in rousing the energies of her royal cousin's spirit, by repulsing the humble boon she had craved in her despair. For nearly two months the most destructive warfare of famine, fire, and sword was carried on in the streets of Winchester; till the empress Matilda, dreading the balls of fire which were nightly thrown from the legate's castle, and which had already destroyed upwards of twenty stately churches and several monasteries, prevailed on her gallant brother to provide for her retreat. He and her uncle David cut a passage for her through the besiegers at the sword's point. She and her uncle David, king of Scotland, by dint of hard riding escaped to Lutgershall; while the earl of Gloucester arrested the pursuit by battling with them by the way, till, almost all his followers being slain, he was compelled to surrender after a desperate defence. This skirmish took place on the 14th of September, 1141.
When the earl of Gloucester was presented by his captors to queen Matilda at Winchester, she was transported with joy, beholding in him a security for her beloved consort's safety. She received him courteously, and exerted all her eloquence to persuade him to arrange an amicable treaty for the king's release, in exchange for himself. Gloucester replied, "That would not be a fair equivalent, for," said he, "twenty earls would not be of sufficient importance to ransom a king; how then, lady, can you expect that I should so far forget the interest of the empress, my sister, as to propose that she should exchange him for only one?" Matilda then offered to restore him to all his forfeit honors, and even to bestow the government of the realm on him, provided he would conclude a peace, securing England to Stephen, and Normandy to the empress. But nothing could induce him to swerve in the slightest degree from what he considered his duty to his sister. The queen, finding she could not prevail on him to enter into any arrangement for the restoration of his liberty, then committed him for safe custody to the charge of William of Ypres; "and though she might have remembered," says William of Malmesbury, "that her husband had been fettered by his command, yet she never suffered a bond of any kind to be put upon him, nor presumed on her dignity to treat him dishonorably; and finally, when he was conducted to Rochester, he went freely whenever he wished to the churches below the castle, and conversed with whom he pleased, the queen only being present. After her departure he was held in free custody in the keep; and so calm and serene was his mind, that, receiving money from his vassals in Kent, he bought some valuable horses, which were both serviceable and beneficial to him hereafter."
This generous conduct of Matilda to the man who had done so much injury to her husband and her cause, is imputed by William of Malmesbury to the dignity and merit of the valiant earl, his patron, "whose high bearing," he says, "impressed his enemies with such great respect, that it was impossible to treat him otherwise." [William of Malmesbury. Dr. Giles's edition.] A less partial writer would have given the queen due praise for the magnanimity with which she acted, under circumstances that might well have justified the sternest reprisals for his harsh usage of her captive lord; but the fact spoke for itself, and won more hearts for the queen than the wealth of England and Normandy combined could purchase for her haughty namesake and rival.
Meantime the empress, whose safe retreat to Lutgershall had been thus dearly purchased by the loss of her great general's liberty, being hotly pursued by the queen's troops to Devizes, only escaped their vigilance by personating a corpse, wrapped in grave-clothes, and being placed in a coffin, which was bound with cords, and borne on the shoulders of some of her trusty partisans to Gloucester, the stronghold of her valiant brother, where she arrived, faint and weary with long fasting and mortal terror. [Brompton. John of Tinemouth. Gervase. Knighton.]
Her party was so dispirited by the loss of her approved counsellor and trusty champion, the earl of Gloucester, that she was compelled to make some overtures to the queen, her cousin, for his release. But Matilda would hear of no other terms than the restoration of her captive husband, king Stephen, in exchange for him. This the empress peremptorily refused, in the first instance, though she offered a large sum of gold, and twelve captive earls of Stephen's party, as her brother's ransom. Queen Matilda was inflexible in her determination never to resign this important prisoner on any other condition than the release of her royal husband. As this condition was rejected, she caused the countess of Gloucester to be informed, that unless her terms were accepted, and that speedily, she would send Gloucester to one of her strong castles in Boulogne, [Malmesbury.] there to be kept as rigorously as Stephen had been by the orders of the empress and her party. Not that it was in the gentle nature of the queen to have made these harsh reprisals on a gallant gentleman, whom the fortune of war had placed at her disposal; but as the captive king was incarcerated in Bristol castle, of which the said countess of Gloucester was the chatellaine, there was sound policy in exciting her conjugal fears. Had it not been for this threat, Stephen would never have regained his liberty, for important as her brother's presence was to the empress, she obdurately refused to purchase his freedom by the release of the king. Fortunately the person of Stephen was in the keeping, not of the vindictive empress, but the countess of Gloucester; and her anxiety for the restoration of her lord led to the arrangement of a sort of private treaty between her and the queen for the exchange of their illustrious prisoners; by which it was agreed that Stephen should be enlarged forthwith on condition that his queen and son, with two of the leading nobles of his party, should be detained as hostages in Bristol castle, to insure his keeping faith by liberating the earl of Gloucester, whose son was to be left in the king's possession at Winchester, as a surety for the release of the queen and prince Eustace.
Matilda, the most tenderly devoted of conjugal heroines, hesitated not to procure the enfranchisement of her lord by putting herself and her boy into the hands of the countess of Gloucester. This she did on the festival of All Saints, November 1, 1141, on which day Stephen was liberated, and departed from Bristol on his way to Winchester. The earl of Gloucester being brought to him there from Rochester castle, received his freedom, and on the third day after set out for Bristol, leaving his son with Stephen as a pledge for the release of the queen and prince. Matilda, who had remained a voluntary, but of course a most anxious prisoner in the stronghold of her foes, was emancipated as soon as he arrived, and hastened to rejoin her husband at Winchester, and to send the heir of Gloucester back to his parents. Few episodes in the personal history of royalty are more interesting than this transaction, none better authenticated, being narrated by William of Malmesbury, whose book is dedicated to one of the principal actors engaged in this drama,—his patron, Robert earl of Gloucester.
Queen Matilda was not long permitted to enjoy the reunion which took place between her and her beloved consort, after she had succeeded in procuring his deliverance from the fetters of her vindictive rival; for nothing could induce the empress to listen to any terms of pacification, and the year 1142 commenced with a mutual renewal of hostilities between the belligerent parties. While Stephen was pursuing the war with the fury of a newly enfranchised lion, he was seized with a dangerous malady at Northampton. Matilda hastened to him on the first news of his sickness, which was so sore that for some hours he was supposed to be dead. In all probability, his illness was a return of the lethargic complaint with which he had once or twice been afflicted at the commencement of the internal troubles of his realm.
Through the tender attentions of his queen Stephen was recovered, and soon after able to take the field again; which he did with such success that the empress's party thought it high time to claim the assistance of Geoffrey count of Anjou, who was now exercising the functions of duke of Normandy. Geoffrey, who had certainly been treated by his imperial spouse, her late father king Henry, and her English partisans, as "a fellow of no reckoning," thought proper to stand on ceremony, and required the formality of an invitation, preferred by the earl of Gloucester in person, before ho would either come himself, or part with the precious heir of England and Normandy, prince Henry. The empress, impatient to embrace her first-born son, and to obtain the Angevin and Norman succors to strengthen her party, prevailed upon her brother to undertake this mission.
Gloucester left her, as he thought, safe in the almost impregnable castle of Oxford, and embarked for Normandy. As soon as he was gone, Stephen besieged the empress in her stronghold. The want of provisions rendered its fall inevitable, and there was then every hope of concluding the war by the capture of the haughty domina. By a shrewd exercise of female ingenuity, she eluded the vengeance of her exasperated rival. One night she, with only four attendants, clothed in white garments, stole through a postern that opened upon the river Thames, which at that time was thickly frozen over and covered with snow. [M. Paris. W. Malmesbury. Sim. Dunelm. Y-Podigma Neustria.] The white draperies in which the empress and her little train were enveloped from head to foot prevented the sentinels from distinguishing their persons, as they crept along with noiseless steps under the snow-banks, till they were at a sufficient distance from the castle to exert their speed. They then fled with headlong haste, through the blinding storms that drifted full in their faces, as they scampered over hedges and ditches, and heaps of snow and ice, till they reached Abingdon, a distance of six miles, where they took horse, and arrived safely at Wallingford the same night. [Y-Podigma Neustria. Malmesbury. Speed. Rapin.] The Saxon annals aver that the empress was let down from one of the towers of Oxford castle by a long rope, and that she fled on foot all the long weary miles to Wallingford. On her arrival there she was welcomed by her brother, Robert of Gloucester, who had just returned from Normandy with her son prince Henry; "at the sight of whom," say the chroniclers, "she was so greatly comforted that she forgot all her troubles and mortifications for the joy she had of his presence." [Gervase.] Thus we see that the sternest natures are accessible to the tender influences of maternal love, powerful in the heart of an empress as in that of a peasant.
Geoffrey count of Anjou, having no great predilection for the company of his Juno, thought proper to remain in Normandy with his son, the younger Geoffrey of Anjou. After three years of civil strife, during which the youthful Henry learned the science of arms under the auspices of his redoubted uncle, the earl of Gloucester, Geoffrey recalled his heir. Earl Robert of Gloucester accompanied his princely eleve to Wareham, where they parted, [Chronicles of Chester, as cited by Tyrrell.] never to meet again; for the brave earl died of a fever at Gloucester, October 31st, 1147, and was interred at Bristol. With this great man and true-hearted brother died the hopes of the empress Matilda's party for the present, and she soon after quitted England, having alienated all her friends by the ungovernable violence of her temper and her overweening haughtiness. The great secret of government consists, mainly, in an accurate knowledge of the human heart, by which princes acquire the art of conciliating the affections of those around them, and, by graceful condescensions, win the regard of the lower orders, of whom the great body of the nation, emphatically called 'the people,' is composed. The German education and the self-sufficiency of the empress prevented her from considering the importance of these things, and, as a matter of course, she failed in obtaining the great object for which she contended.
"Away with her!" was the cry of the English population; "we will not have this Norman woman to reign over us" [Thierry's Anglo-Norman History.] Yet this unpopular claimant of the throne was the only surviving child and representative of their adored queen Matilda, the daughter of a Saxon princess, the descendant of the great Alfred. But the virtues of Matilda of Scotland, her holy spirit, and her graces of mind and manners had been inherited, not by her daughter (who was removed in her tender childhood from under the maternal influence), but by her niece and name-child, Matilda of Boulogne, who had been educated under her auspices. The younger queen Matilda was, however, not only one of the best, but one of the greatest women of the age in which she lived. So perfect was she in that most important of all royal accomplishments, the art of pleasing,—that art in which her haughty cousin the empress was entirely deficient,—that her winning influence was acknowledged even by that diplomatic statesman-priest, Henry de Blois; and she was of more effectual service in her husband's cause than the swords of the foreign army which Stephen had rashly called to the support of his tottering throne.
Stephen and Matilda kept their Christmas this year, 1147, at Lincoln, with uncommon splendor, for joy of the departure of their unwelcome kinswoman, the empress Matilda, and the re-establishment of the public peace; and so completely did Stephen consider himself a king again, that, in defiance of certain oracular denouncements of evil to any monarch of England who should venture to wear his crown in that city on Christmas-day, he attended mass in his royal robes and diadem, against the advice of his sagest counsellors, both temporal and spiritual. [Gervase. Speed.] While at Lincoln, prince Eustace, the son of Stephen and Matilda (then in his thirteenth year), received the oath of fealty from such of the barons as could be prevailed upon to acknowledge him as the heir-apparent to the throne. Stephen and Matilda wore desirous of his being crowned at Lincoln, in hopes of securing to him the right of succession, but the nobles would not consent.
The mind of queen Matilda appears, during the year 1148, to have been chiefly directed to devotional matters. It was in this year that she carried into execution her long-cherished design of founding and endowing the hospital and church of St. Katherine by the Tower, [This royal institution, which under the fostering protection of the queens of England has survived the fall of every other monastic foundation of the olden times, has been transplanted to the Regent's park, and affords a delightful asylum and ample maintenance for a limited number of those favored ladies who; preferring a life of maiden meditation and independence to the careworn paths of matrimony, are fortunate enough to obtain sisterships. A nun of St. Katherine may truly be considered in a state of single blessedness.] for the repose of the souls of her deceased children, Baldwin and Maud. The same year queen Matilda, jointly with Stephen, founded the royal abbey of Feversham, in Kent, and personally superintended its erection. For many months she resided in the nunnery of St. Austin's, Canterbury, to watch the progress of the work, [Stowe.] it being her desire to be interred within that stately church, which she had planned with such noble taste. There is great probability that she was at this time in declining health, having gone through many sore trials and fatigues, both of mind and body, during the long protracted years of civil war.
The care of this popular queen, that the humbler portion of her subjects should be provided with proper accommodation for their comfort during public worship, caused her to found the noble church of St. Mary at Southampton, of which that faithful antiquary, Leland, gives the following quaint and characteristic particulars:—"There is a chapel of St. Nicholas, a poor and small thing, yet standing, at the east end of St. Marie's church, in the great cemetery, where it is said the old parish church of Old Hampton stood. One told me there, that the littleness of this church was the cause of the erection of the great church of Our Ladye, now standing, by this occasion: one Matilde, queen of England, asked 'What it meant that a great number of people walked about the church of St. Nicholas?' and one answered, 'It is for lack of room in the church.' Then she, ex voto, promised to make them a new, and this was the original of St. Marie church. This queen Matilde, or some other good person following, thought to have this made a collegiate church, but this purpose succeed did not fully." [Leyland's Itinerary, vol. iii.; second edition.]
The repose of cloistered seclusion, and heavenward employment in works of piety and benevolence, whereby the royal Matilda sought to charm away the excitement of the late fierce struggle in which she had been forced to take so active a part, were succeeded by fresh anxieties of a political nature, caused by the return of the young Henry Fitz-Empress in the following year (1149), and by the evident intention of her uncle, David of Scotland, to support his claims. The king her husband, apprehending that an attack on the city of York was meditated, flew to arms once more, on which David, after conferring knighthood on his youthful kinsman, retired into Scotland, and prince Henry returned to Normandy, not feeling himself strong enough to bide the event of a battle with Stephen at that period. [Roger Hoveden.] A brief interval of tranquillity succeeded the departure of these invading kinsmen; but queen Matilda lived not long to enjoy it. Worn out with cares and anxieties, this amiable princess closed her earthly pilgrimage at Heningham castle in Essex, the mansion of Alberic de Vere, where she died of a fever, May 3, 1151, in the fifteenth year of her husband's reign. Stephen was forty-seven years old at the time of this his irreparable loss; Matilda was probably about the same age, or a little younger.
This lamented queen was interred in the newly-erected abbey of Feversham, of which she had been so munificent a patroness, having endowed it with her own royal manor of Lillechurch, which she gave to William of Ypres for his demesne of Feversham, the spot chosen by her as the site of this noble monastic establishment, which was dedicated to St. Saviour, and filled with black monks of Cluny. The most valued of all the gifts presented by queen Matilda to her favorite abbey was a portion of the holy cross, which had been sent by her illustrious uncle, Godfrey of Boulogne, from Jerusalem, and was, therefore, regarded as doubly precious, none but heretics presuming to doubt of its being 'vera crux.' [Robert of Gloucester.] "Here," says that indefatigable antiquary, Weever, lies interred Maud, wife of king Stephen, the daughter of Eustace earl of Boulogne (brother of Godfrey and Baldwin, kings of Jerusalem) by Mary Atheling (sister to Matilda Atheling, wife to Henry, her husband's predecessor). She died at Heningham castle in Essex, the 3d of May, 1151; whose epitaph I found in a nameless manuscript.
"Anno milleno C. quinquagenoque primo, Quo sua non minuit, sed sibi nostra tulit, Mathildis felix conjux Stephani quoque Regis Occidit, insignis moribus et titulis; Cultrix vera Dei, cultrix et pauperiei. Hic subnixa Deo, quo frueretur eo. Femina si qua Polos conscendere queque meretur, Angelicis manibus diva haec Regina tenetur."
The monastic Latin of this inscription may be thus rendered: "In the year one thousand one hundred and fifty-one, not to her own, but to our great loss, the happy Matilda, the wife of king Stephen, died, ennobled by her virtues as by her titles. She was a true worshipper of God, and a real patroness of the poor. She lived submissive to God, that she might afterwards enjoy his presence. If ever woman deserved to be carried by the hands of angels to heaven, it was this holy queen."
Queen Matilda left three surviving children by her marriage with Stephen,— Eustace, William, and Mary. The eldest, prince Eustace, was, after her death, despatched by Stephen to the court of his royal brother-in-law, Louis VII., to solicit his assistance in recovering the duchy of Normandy, which, on the death of Geoffrey of Anjou, had reverted to Henry Fitz-Empress, the rightful heir. Louis, who had good reason for displeasure against Henry, reinvested Eustace with the duchy, and received his homage once more. Stephen then, in the hope of securing this beloved son's succession to the English throne, endeavored to prevail on the archbishop of Canterbury to crown him as the acknowledged heir of England. But neither the archbishop, nor any other prelate, could be induced to perform this ceremony, lest, as they said, "they should be the means of involving the kingdom once more in the horrors of civil war." [Rapin.] According to some historians, Stephen was so exasperated at this refusal that he shut all the bishops up in one house, declaring his intention to keep them in ward till one or other of them yielded obedience to his will The archbishop of Canterbury, however, succeeded in making his escape to Normandy, and persuaded Henry Plantagenet, who, by his marriage with Eleanor duchess of Aquitaine, the divorced queen of France, had become a powerful prince, to try his fortune once more in England.
Henry, who had now assumed the titles of duke of Nor-mandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, landed in England, January, 1153, before preparations were made to oppose his victorious progress. He marched directly to the relief of his mother's friends at Wallingford, and arrived at a time when Eustace was carrying on operations in the absence of the kine: his father, who had gone to London to procure fresh supplies of men and money. Eustace maintained his position till the return of Stephen, when the hostile armies drew up in battle-array, with the intention of deciding the question between the rival claimants of the crown at swords' points. An accidental circumstance prevented the deadly effusion of kindred blood from staining the snows of the wintry plain of Egilaw. "That day Stephen's horse," says Matthew Paris, "reared furiously thrice, as he advanced to the front to array his battle, and thrice fell with his forefeet flat to the earth, and threw his royal rider. The nobles exclaimed it was a portent of evil, and the men murmured among themselves; [Henry of Huntingdon. Lord Lyttolton. Speed. Tierney's Arundel.] on which the great William de Albini, the widower of the late dowager-queen Adelicia, took advantage of the pause which this superstitious panic on the part of Stephen's adherents had created to address the king on the horrors of civil war.; and, reminding him of the weakness of his cause, and the justice of that of his opponent, implored him to avoid the slaughter of his subjects, by entering into an amicable arrangement with Henry Plantagenet."
Stephen and Henry accordingly met for a personal conference in a meadow at Wallingford, with the river Thames flowing between their armies, and there settled the terms of pacification; whereby Stephen was to enjoy the crown during his life, on condition of solemnly guaranteeing the succession to Henry Plantagenet, to the exclusion of his own children. [Tierney's Arundel. Matthew Paris. Speed.] Henry, on his part, swore to confirm to them the earldom of Boulogne, the inheritance of their mother, the late queen Matilda, and all the personal property and possessions enjoyed by Stephen during the reign of his uncle, Henry I. After the treaty was ratified, William de Albini first affixing his sign manual, as the head of the barons, by the style and title of William earl of Chichester, [Tierney's Arundel.] Stephen unbraced his armor in token of peace, and Henry saluted him as 'king,' adding the endearing name of 'father,' and if Polydore Vergil and other chroniclers who relate this incident are to be believed, not without good reason.
Of a more romantic character, however, is the circumstantial account of the cause of this pacification, as related by that courtly historian Matthew Paris, which, though he only mentions it as a report, is of too remarkable a nature to be omitted here. We give the passage in his own words: "The empress, they say, who had rather have been Stephen's paramour than his foe, when she saw him and her son arrayed against each other, and their armies ready to engage on Egilaw Heath, caused king Stephen to be called aside, and coming boldly up to him, she said, 'What mischievous and unnatural thing go ye about to do? Is it meet the father should destroy the son, or the son to kill the sire? For the love of the most high God, fling down your weapons from your hands, sith that (as thou well knowest) he is indeed thine own son: for you well know how we twain were acquaint before I wedded Geoffrey!' The king knew her words to be sooth, and so came the peace." [Matthew Paris.]
No other historian records that the empress was in England at this period, much less that she was the author of the pacification. Lord Lyttelton, however, in his history of Henry II., says, "that at one of his interviews with Stephen, previous to the settlement of the succession on Henry, that prince is stated by an old author to have claimed the king for his father, on the confession of the empress, when she supposed herself to be on a death-bed." Rapin also mentions the report. That which lends most color to the tale is the fact that the empress Matilda's second son Geoffrey, on the death of his father, set up a claim to the earldom of Anjou, grounded on the supposed illegitimacy of prince Henry. The ungracious youth even went so far as to obtain the testimony of the Angevin barons, who witnessed the last moments of the count his father, to the assertion "that the expiring Geoffrey named him as the successor to his dominions, because he suspected his elder brother to be the son of Stephen." [Vita Gaufredi de Normandi.]
Prince Eustace was so much enraged at the manner in which his interests had been compromised by the treaty of Wallingford, that he withdrew in a transport of indignation from the field; and gathering together a sort of free company of the malcontent adherents of his father's party, he marched towards Bury St. Edmund's, ravaging and laying under contribution all the country through which he passed. The monks of Bury received him honorably, and offered to refresh his men; but he sternly replied, "That he came not for meat but money," and demanded a subsidy, which being denied by the brethren of St. Edmund,—"they being unwilling," they said, "to be the means of raising fresh civil wars, which fell heavily on all peacefully disposed men, but heaviest of all on the clergy,"—Eustace, reckless of all moral restraints, instantly plundered the monastery, and ordered all the corn and other provisions belonging to these civil and hospitable ecclesiastics to be carried to his own castle, near the town; and "then sitting down to dinner in a frenzy of rage, the first morsel of meat he essayed to swallow choked him," says the chronicler who relates this act of wrong and violence. According to other historians, Eustace died of a brain fever on the 10th of August, 1153. [Speed.] His body was conveyed to Feversham abbey, and was interred by the side of his mother, queen Matilda. Eustace left no children by his wife, Constance of France.
William, the third son of Stephen and Matilda, inherited his mother's earldom of Boulogne, which, together with that of Mortagne, and all his father's private property, were secured to him by the treaty of Wallingford. He is mentioned in that treaty by name, as having done homage to Henry of Anjou and Normandy. Shortly afterwards, however, this prince, though of tender age, entered into a conspiracy with some of the Flemish mercenaries, to surprise the person of prince Henry on Barham downs, as he was riding from Dover in company with the king. Stephen himself is not wholly clear from a suspicion of being concerned in this plot, which failed through an accident which befell prince William; for just before the assault should have taken place, he was thrown by his mettlesome steed, and had the ill luck to break his leg. Henry, on receiving a secret hint of what was in agitation, took the opportunity of the confusion created by William's fall to ride off at full speed to Canterbury, and soon after sailed for Normandy. It does not appear that he bore any ill-will against William de Blois for his treacherous design, as he afterwards knighted him, and confirmed to him his mother's earldom, and whatever was possessed by Stephen before his accession to the throne. This prince died in the year 1160, while attending Henry II. on his return home from the siege of Thoulouse.
The lady Marie de Blois, the only surviving daughter of Stephen and Matilda, took the veil, and was abbess of the royal nunnery of Romsey, in which her grandmother, Mary of Scotland, and her great-aunt, Matilda the good queen, were educated. When her brother William count of Boulogne died without issue, the people of Boulogne, desiring to have her for their countess, Matthew, the brother of Philip count of Flanders, stole her from her convent, and marrying her, became in her right count of Boulogne. She was his wife ten years, when, by sentence of the pope, she was divorced from him, and forced to return to her monastery. She had two daughters by this marriage, who were allowed to be legitimate; and Ida, the eldest, inherited the earldom of Boulogne, in right of her grandmother Matilda, Stephen's queen.
Stephen died at Dover, of the iliac passion, October 25, 1154, in the fifty-first year of his age, and the nineteenth of his reign. He was buried by the side of his beloved queen Matilda, and their unfortunate son Eustace, in the abbey of Feversham. "His body rested here in quietness," says Stowe, "till the dissolution; when, for the trifling gain of the lead in which it was lapped, it was taken up, uncoffined, and plunged into the river,—so uncertain is man, yea, the greatest princes, of any rest in this world, even in the matter of burial." Honest old Speed, by way of conclusion to this quotation from his brother chronicler, adds this anathema: "And restless may their bodies be also, who, for filthy lucre, thus deny the dead the quiet of their graves!"
A noble monument of Stephen and Matilda still survives the storms and changes of the last seven centuries,—the ruins of Furness abbey. That choicest gem of the exquisite ecclesiastical architecture of the twelfth century was founded, in conjugal unity of purpose, by them soon after their marriage, July 1, 1127, when only earl and countess of Boulogne. On acquiring the superior rank and power of king and queen of England, they gave additional gifts and immunities to this abbey. The transferred brotherhood of St. Benedict, who were thus enabled by the munificence of the royal pair to plant a church and monastic establishment of unrivalled grandeur in the sequestered valley of Bekansgill, or the vale of 'the deadly nightshade,' as that spot was then called in Lancashire, were not occupied merely in singing and praying for the souls of their august founders and their children, although the customs of that age rendered the performance of these offices an indispensable obligation on the part of the community, in return for endowments of lands, but the real objects for which the monks of Furness were rendered recipients of the bounty of Matilda and her lord were the civilization and cultivation of the wildest district of England. Whatever evils might result in after ages from the abuses which a despotic theocracy introduced into their practice, the statistic benefits conferred by these English fathers of the desert on the country were undeniable. They drained morasses, cleared jungles,—the haunts of wild beasts and robbers,—and converted them into rich pastures and arable lands; while they taught a barbarous and predatory population to provide honestly for the wants of life by the practice of agriculture and the various handicrafts which a progressive state of society renders necessary, and even instructed those who possessed capabilities for higher pursuits in the arts and sciences, which expand the intellect while they employ the mechanical powers of men.
The extensive remains of Furness abbey, its clustered columns, glorious arches, elaborately wrought corbels, delicate traceries, sublime elevations, and harmonious proportions, tell their own tale, not only of the perfection to which architecture and sculpture were carried under the auspices of the accomplished Matilda of Boulogne, but of the employment afforded to numerous bands of workmen in various branches during the erection of such a fabric. The busts of the royal founder and foundress still remain on either side the lofty chancel window. Noble works of art they arc, full of life-like individuality, and extremely characteristic of the persons they represent. Stephen is a model of manly beauty, with a bold and majestic aspect. They both wear their royal diadems. There is a chaste simplicity truly classical in Matilda's attitude and costume. Her veil flows from beneath the royal circlet in graceful folds on cither side her softly-moulded oval face. Her dress fits closely to her shape, and is ornamented in front with a mullet-shaped brooch. Her features are delicate and feminine, her expression sweet and modest, yet indicative of conscious dignity, and sufficiently touched with melancholy to remind us of the thorns which beset her queenly garland, during her severe struggles to support the defective title of her consort to the sovereignty of England. The portrait of Matilda which illustrates this biography is engraved from a drawing made expressly for that purpose from the bust at Furness abbey which we have just described, being the only contemporary memorial which preserves to posterity an authentic representation of this most interesting queen and admirable woman.