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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
Eleanora of Aquitaine
Queen of Henry II
Provencal queens—Country of Eleanora of Aquitaine—Her grandfather—Death of her father—Her great inheritance—Marriage—Becomes queen of France— Beauty—She joins the crusaders—Her guard of Amazons—Eleanora and ladies encumber the army—Occasion defeat—Refuge with queen's uncle—Eleanora's coquetries—Returns to France—Her disgusts—Taunts—Henry Plantagenet— Scandals—Birth of infant princess—Eleanora falls in love with Henry— Jealousies—She applies for divorce—Her marriage dissolved—Returns to Aquitaine—Adventures on journey—Marries Henry Plantagenet—Birth of her son—Enables Henry to gain England—Henry's love for Rosamond—Returns to Eleanora—Succeeds to the English throne—Eleanora crowned at Westminster— Costume—Birth of prince Henry—Queen presents her infants to the barons— Death of her eldest son—Her court—Tragedy played before her—Her husband —His character—Rosamond discovered by the queen—Eleanora's children— Birth of prince Geoffrey—Eleanora regent of England—Goes to Normandy— Conclusion of empress Matilda's memoir—Matilda regent of Normandy— Mediates peace—Dies—Her tomb—Eleanora Norman regent—She goes to Aquitaine.
Hereditary sovereign of Aquitaine, by her first marriage queen of France then queen-consort of Henry II., and subsequently regent of his realms,— how many regalities did Eleanora of Aquitaine unite in her own person! England, by means of the marriage of her king and Eleanora, formed a close alliance with the most polished and civilized people on the face of the earth, as the Provencals of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries undoubtedly were. With the arts, the idealities, and the refinements of life, Eleanora brought acquisitions of more importance to the Anglo-Norman people than even that "great Provence dower," on which Dante dwells with such earnestness.
But before the sweet provinces of the South were united to England by the marriage of their heiress with the heir of the Conqueror, a varied tissue of incidents had chequered the life of the duchess of Aquitaine, and it is necessary to trace them before we can describe her conduct as queen of England. It would be in vain to search on a map for the dominions of Eleanora, under the title of dukedom of Aquitaine. In the eleventh century, the counties of Guienne and Gascony were erected into this dukedom, after the ancient kingdom of Provence, established by a diet of Charlemagne, [Atlas Geographique.] had been dismembered. Julius Caesar calls the south of Gaul Aquitaine, from the numerous rivers and fine ports belonging to it; and the poetical population of this district adopted the name for their dukedom from the classics.
The language which prevailed all over the south of France was called Provencal, from the kingdom of Provence; and it formed a bond of national union among the numerous independent sovereigns under whose feudal sway this beautiful country was divided. Throughout the whole tract of country, from Navarre to the dominions of the dauphin of Auvergne, and from sea to sea, the Provencal language was spoken,—a language which combined the best points of French and Italian, and presented peculiar facilities for poetical composition. It was called the langue d'oc, sometimes langue d'oc et no, the tongue of 'yes' and 'no;' because, instead of the oui and non of the rest of France, the affirmative and negative were oc and no. The ancestors of Eleanora were called par excellence the lords of 'Oc and 'No.' William IX., her grandfather, was one of the earliest professors and most liberal patrons of the art. His poems were models of imitation for all the succeeding troubadours. [Sismondi's Literature of the South.]
The descendants of this minstrel hero were Eleanora and her sister Petronilla: they were the daughters of his son, William count de Poitou. William of Poitou was a pious prince, which, together with his death in the Holy Land, caused his father's subjects to call him St. William. The mother of this prince was the great heiress Philippa [She is likewise called Matilda.—Rer. Script, de Franc.] of Thoulouse, duchess of Guienne and Gascony, and countess of Thoulouse in her own right. Before Philippa married, her husband was William the seventh count of Poitou and Saintonge; afterwards he called himself William IV. duke of Aquitaine. He invested his eldest son with the county of Poitou, who is termed William X. of Poitou. This prince, the father of Eleanora, did not live to inherit the united provinces of Poitou and Aquitaine, which comprised nearly the whole of the south of France; his wife, Eleanora of Chatelherault, died in early life, in 1129.
The father of Eleanora left Aquitaine in 1132, with his younger brother, Raymond of Poitou, who was chosen by the princes of the crusade that year to receive the hand of the heiress of Conrad prince of Antioch, and maintain that bulwark of the Holy Land against the assaults of pagans and infidels. William fell, aiding his brother in this arduous contest; but Raymond succeeded in establishing himself as prince of Antioch. The rich inheritance of Thoulouse, part of the dower of the duchess Philippa, had been pawned for a sum of money to the count of St. Gilles, her cousin, which enabled her son to undertake the expense of the crusade led by Robert of Normandy. The count St. Gilles took possession of Thoulouse, and withheld it, as a forfeited mortgage, from Eleanora, who finally inherited her grandmother's rights to this lovely province.
The grandfather of Eleanora had been gay, and even licentious, in his youth; and now, at the age of sixty-eight, he wished to devote some time, before his death, to penitence for the sins of his early life. When his grand-daughter had attained her fourteenth year, he commenced his career of self-denial, by summoning the baronage of Aquitaine and communicating his intention of abdicating in favor of his grand-daughter, to whom they all took the oath of allegiance. [Suger. Ordericus Vitalis.] He then opened his great project of uniting Aquitaine with France, by giving Eleanora in marriage to the heir of Louis VI. The barons agreed to this proposal, on condition that the laws and customs of Aquitaine should be held inviolate, and that the consent of the young princess should be obtained. Eleanora had an interview with her suitor, and professed herself pleased with the arrangement.
It was abbot Suger, [This great minister being intimately connected with the future destiny of Eleanora of Aquitaine, a sketch of his life is desirable for purposes of perspicuity. Suger was, according to his own account, the son of indigent peasants, dependent on the great abbey of St. Denis, near Paris. Being a promising child, he served at the altar as acolyte, and showing great aptness for the partial education given to those servitors, he received further instruction from his benefactor, abbot Adam, and finally became one of the most learned monks of the Benedictine order. Philippe I. king of France, although at mortal feud with the church, on account of its opposition to his tyrannical divorce from his queen Bertha, confided the education of his second son Louis to the Benedictines of St. Denis; and here a firm friendship was established between the son of the king and Suger son of the serf. By a strange accident, the heir of Philippe I. was killed at the chase, and the friend of Suger became Louis VI. king of France. Then he effected, with the aid of his friend abbot Suger, those remarkable reforms in church and state, which occasion historians to reckon his reign among those of the greatest monarchs of France. Suger educated Louis VII., and after his accession governed France as prime-minister, and then as regent, and again as prime-minister. Suger, although an ecclesiastic, tad sufficient wisdom to moderate, rather than encourage, the tendency to ascetic bigotry in the character and conduct of the husband of Eleanora of Aquitaine, his royal pupil and master, Louis VII.—Vie de Suger, par M. d'Auvigny. Paris, 1739.] the wise premier of France, who had earnestly promoted the marriage of the crowned heir of his royal master Louis VI. with Eleanora of Aquitaine, in hopes of peacefully uniting the rich provinces of the South with the rest of the Gallic empire. According to the custom of the earlier Capetian monarchs, the peers of France recognized the heir of France as their king just before the death of his royal sire. From thence the spouse of Eleanora was surnamed Louis le Jeune, to distinguish him from his father, as he was called Louis VII. while Louis VI. was not only in existence, but reigning.
Suger, by the desire of the elder king Louis, who was declining in health, accompanied Louis le Jeune to Bourdeaux, in order that this important marriage might be solemnized as speedily as possible; the heir of France was attended by his two kinsmen, the warlike prince of Vermandois, and Thibaut the poet, count of Champagne.
Louis and Eleanora were immediately married, with great pomp, at Bourdeaux; and, on the solemn resignation of duke William, the youthful pair were crowned duke and duchess of Aquitaine, August 1, 1137. On the conclusion of this grand ceremony, duke William, [Montaigne, who speaks from his own local traditions of the South, asserts that duke William lived in his hermitage at Montserrat ten or twelve years, wearing, as a penance for his youthful sins, his armor under his hermit's weeds. It is said by others, that he died as a hermit in a grotto at Florence, after having macerated his body by tremendous penances, and established the severe order of the Guillemines. Some historians call him St. William; others give that holy prefix to the name of his son, who died in the crusades eleven years before the abdication of his sire.] grandsire of the bride, laid down his robes and insignia of sovereignty, and took up the hermit's cowl and staff. He departed on a pilgrimage to St. James's of Compostella in Spain, and died soon after, very penitent, in one of the cells of that rocky wilderness. [To this great prince, the ancestor, through Eleanora of Aquitaine, of our royal line, may be traced armorial bearings, and a war-cry whose origin has not a little perplexed the readers of English history. The patron saint of England, St. George, was adopted from the Aquitaine dukes, as we find, from the MS. of the French herald Gilles de Bonnier, that the duke of Aquitaine's mot, or war-cry, was "St. George for the puissant duke." His crest was a leopard, and his descendants in England bore leopards on their shields till after the time of Edward I. Edward III. is called 'valiant pard' in his epitaphs; and the emperor of Germany sent Henry III. a present of three leopards, expressly saying they were in compliment and allusion to his armorial bearings.]
At the time when duke William resigned the dominions of the South to his grand-daughter, he was the most powerful prince in Europe. His rich ports of Bourdeaux and Saintonge supplied him with commercial wealth; his maritime power was immense; his court was the focus of learning and luxury; and it must be owned that, at the accession of the fair Eleanora, this court had become not a little licentious.
Louis and his bride obtained immediate possession of Poitou, Gascony, Biscay, and a large territory extending beyond the Pyrenees. The very day of the threefold solemnity of this abdication, and of the marriage and coronation of Eleanor a, the news arrived that the reigning sovereign of France was struck by death, and that Louis and his young bride would be actually king and queen of France before the important day of August 1, 1137, came to a close. The bride and bridegroom were urged by the minister, Suger, to set off for Paris. They accordingly commenced their journey from Bourdeaux with all their court; they passed through Orleans, and calmed some emeutes of the French people on the road. [Vie de Suger.] The death of the reigning king, Louis VI., is usually dated August 1st; but that was, in all probability, the day on which, simultaneously with his contemporary, duke William of Aquitaine, he laid down his royal power in favor of his successor. Louis VI. had, however, but a few days to live: it is expressly declared that he was alive at the time when the royal bride and bridegroom arrived at the abbey of St. Denis. Here they were admitted to the death-bed of this great sovereign, who addressed them in these memorable words: "Remember! royalty is a public trust, for the exercise of which a rigorous account will be exacted by Him who has the sole disposal of crowns and sceptres." So spoke the great legislator of France to the youthful pair, whose wedlock had united the north and south of France. On the conscientious mind of Louis VII. the words of his dying father were strongly impressed, but it was late in life before his thoughtless partner profited by them.
Louis VII. and queen Eleanora made a most magnificent entry into Paris from St. Denis, after the funeral rites of Louis VI. were performed. Probably the practice kept up by the new-married queens of France, of always making a public entry from St. Denis into the capital, originated at this important crisis. The influence the young queen soon acquired speedily plunged her husband and France into bloody wars. She insisted on her relative, Raymond count of Thoulouse, being forced to acknowledge her sovereignty over that province. The prime-minister of France, Suger, examined into the justice of her claims, and then informed her that her kinsman had fully proved that he held 'a good bill of sale' for Thoulouse. Suger therefore advised his royal master not to interfere; as, if the justice of the case had been on the side of queen Eleanora, it was unwise to incur the expense of a war at the commencement of a new reign. Eleanora, however, prevailed with her royal lord: the war was undertaken, and proved unsuccessful.
Eleanor was very beautiful; she had been reared in all the accomplishments of the South; she was a fine musician, and composed and sang the chansons and tensons of Provencal poetry. Her native troubadours expressly inform us that she could both read and write. The government of her dominions was in her own hands, and she frequently resided in her native capital of Bourdeaux. She was perfectly adored by her southern subjects, who always welcomed her with joy, and bitterly mourned her absence when she was obliged to return to her court at Paris,—a court whose morals were severe; where the rigid rule of St. Bernard was observed by the king her husband, as if his palace had been a convent. Far different was the rule of Eleanora in the cities of the South.
The political sovereignty of her native dominions was not the only authority exercised by Eleanora in 'gay Guienne.' She was, by hereditary right, chief reviewer and critic of the poets of Provence. At certain festivals held by her, after the custom of her ancestors, [Sismondi.] called Courts of Love, all new sirventes and chansons were sung or recited before her by the troubadours. She then, assisted by a conclave of her ladies, sat in judgment, and pronounced sentence on their literary merits. She was herself a popular troubadour poet. Her chansons were remembered long after death had raised a barrier against flattery, and she is reckoned among the authors of France. [Nostradamus, History of Provence. Du Chesne.] The decisions of the young duchess-queen in her troubadour Courts of Love have met with the reprobation of modern French historians [Michelet, History of France.] on account of their immorality; they charge her with avowing the startling opinion that no true love could exist between married persons; and it is certain that the encouragement she gave to her sister Petronilla [This young princess is called Alice and Pernelle, as well as Petronilla. One of these names was her poetical cognomen, by which her native poets, the troubadours, celebrated her. The countess of Thoulouse, grandmother of this frail damsel, had likewise two names, neither of them conventual or saintly appellations; although she sought retirement in a convent after being divorced.] and the count Raoul of Vormandois offered too soon a practical illustration of these evil principles.
The amusements of queen Eleanora seemed little suited to the austere habits of Louis VII.; yet she had the power of influencing him to commit the only act of wilful injustice which stains the annals of his reign. Petronilla had made acquaintance with Raoul count of Vermandois at the magnificent festival at Bourdeaux, which comprised her royal sister's marriage and coronation. The beauty of Petronilla equalled that of queen Eleanora, but the young princess carried into practice her sister's avowed principles, and seduced Raoul of Vermandois from his wife. This prince had married a sister of the count of Champagne, whom he divorced for some frivolous pretext, and married, by queen Eleanora's connivance, Petronilla. The count of Champagne laid his sister's wrongs before the pope, who commanded Vermandois to put away Petronilla and to take back the injured sister of Champagne. Queen Eleanora, enraged at the dishonor of Petronilla, prevailed on her husband to punish the count of Champagne for his interference. Louis VII., who already had cause of offence against the count, invaded Champagne at the head of a large army, and began a devastating war, in the course of which a most dreadful occurrence happened at the storming of Vitry: the cathedral, wherein thirteen hundred persons had taken refuge, was burnt, and the poor people perished miserably. Abbe Suger, having in the question of the Thoulouse war experienced the evil influence of the young queen, had resigned his administration, and retired to his abbey of St. Denis; there he superintended the building of that beautiful structure, which is still the admiration of Europe. But when the dreadful slaughter at Vitry took place, Suger was roused by the reproofs of his friend St. Bernard, who declared him to be responsible for all the ill, since Louis VII. had previously always acted by his advice. Suger in vain pleaded that his king had now a bosom counsellor, who privately traversed his best advice; that he had striven against her influence to the verge of hostility with his king, and had retired, when he found he could do no good, to his duties as abbot, leaving the giddy Eleanora to reap the fruit she had planted. [Vie de Suger.]
It was at this juncture that St. Bernard preached the crusade at Vezalai, in Burgundy. King Louis and queen Eleanora, with all their court, came to hear the eloquent saint; and such crowds attended the royal auditors, that St. Bernard was forced to preach in the market-place, for no cathedral, however large, could contain them. St. Bernard touched with so much eloquence on the murderous conflagration at Vitry that the heart of the pious king Louis, full of penitence for the sad effects of his destructiveness on his own subjects, resolved to atone for it to the God of mercy, by carrying sword and fire to destroy thousands of his fellow-creatures, who had neither offended him nor even heard of him. His queen, whose influence had led to the misdeed at Vitry, likewise became penitent, and as sovereign of Aquitaine vowed to accompany her lord to the Holy Land, and lead the forces of the South to the relief of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem. The wise and excellent Suger endeavored to prevail on his royal master to relinquish his mad expedition to Syria, assuring him that it would bring ruin on his country; he entreated him to stay and govern his dominions, and if the crusade must be undertaken, to permit the hot-headed young nobility to lead their vassals to the East without him. But the fanaticism of the king was proof against such persuasions; moreover, the romantic idea of becoming a female crusader had got into the light head of Eleanora his queen. Louis was dubious whether to take his queen on this expedition; but as Suger was to be left regent of France during the crusade, he persuaded his royal master not to oppose her inclinations. [ibid.] Nor can it excite wonder that, if Louis VII would go crusading against all reasonable advice, his wise prime-minister should wish him to take his troublesome partner in regality with him. Eleanora was sovereign of the South, with all its riches and maritime power; and when the specimens she had already given of her impracticable conduct are remembered, it will be allowed that small chance had chancellor Suger's regency of peace and quiet if the queen remained at home.
When queen Eleanora received the cross from St. Bernard, at Vezalai, she directly put on the dress of an Amazon; and her ladies, all actuated by the same frenzy, mounted on horseback, and forming a lightly armed squadron, surrounded the queen when she appeared in public, calling themselves queen Eleanora's body-guard. They practised Amazonian exercises, and performed a thousand follies in public, to animate their zeal as practical crusaders. By the suggestion of their young queen, this band of mad-women sent their useless distaffs, as presents, to all the knights and nobles who had the good sense to keep out of the crusading expedition. This ingenious taunt had the effect of shaming many wise men out of their better resolutions; and to such a degree was this mania of the crusade carried, that, as St. Bernard himself owns, whole villages were deserted by their male inhabitants, and the land left to be tilled by women and children. It was on the Whit-Sunday of 1147 that, all matters being ready for marching to the south of France, Louis VII. received the oriflamme [The place of this standard, so celebrated in the history of France, is over the high altar of St. Denis, where its representative hangs now, or at least it did in the summer of 1844, then seen by the authors of this work. An older oriflamme, which is supposed to be coeval with the days of our Henry VI., is shown in the treasury of St. Denis: the color is, or has been, a bright red, the texture shot with gold. It is a horizontal flag, wedge-shaped, but cut into a swallow-tail at the end. It appears to have hung on a cross-bar at the top of the flag-staff, and has rings to be attached at the broad end.] from the hands of the pope himself at the abbey of St. Denis, and set forward after the Whit-holidays on his ill-advised expedition. Such fellow-soldiers as queen Eleanora and her Amazons would have been quite sufficient to disconcert the plans and impede the projects of Hannibal himself; and though king Louis conducted himself with great ability and courage in his difficult enterprise, no prudence could counteract the misfortune of being encumbered with an army of fantastic women. King Louis, following the course of the emperor Conrad, whose army, roused by the eloquence of St. Bernard, had just preceded them, sailed up the Bosphorus, and landed in Thrace.
The freaks of queen Eleanora and her female warriors were the cause of all the misfortunes that befell king Louis and his army, especially in the defeat at Laodicea. [William of Tyre and Suger, as quoted in Giffard's History of France.] The king had sent forward the queen and her ladies, escorted by his choicest troops, under the guard of count Maurienne. He charged them to choose for their camp the arid but commanding ground which gave them a view over the defiles of the valley of Laodicea. While this detachment was encamping, he, at the distance of five miles, brought up the rear and baggage, ever and anon turning to battle bravely with the skirmishing Arab cavalry, who were harassing his march. Queen Eleanora acted in direct opposition to his rational directions. She insisted on her detachment of the army halting in a lovely romantic valley, full of verdant grass and gushing fountains. The king was encumbered by the immense baggage which, William of Tyre declares, the female warriors of queen Eleanora persisted in retaining in the camp at all risks. Darkness began to fall as the king of France approached the entrance to the valley; and, to his consternation, he found the heights above it unoccupied by the advanced body of his troops. Neither the queen nor her forces being encamped there, he was forced to enter the valley in search of her, and was soon after attacked from the heights by swarms of Arabs, who engaged him in the passes among the rocks, close to the fatal spot where the emperor Conrad and his heavy horse had been discomfited but a few weeks before. King Louis, sorely pressed in one part of this murderous engagement, only saved his life by climbing a tree, whence he defended him, self with the most desperate valor. [William of Tyre.] At length, by efforts of personal heroism, he succeeded in placing himself between the detachment of his ladies and the Saracens. But it was not till the dawn of day that he discovered his advanced troops, encamped in the romantic valley chosen by his poetical queen. Seven thousand of the flower of French chivalry paid with their lives the penalty of their queen's inexperience in warlike tactics; all the provision was cut off; the baggage containing the fine array of the lady-warriors, which had proved such an encumbrance to the king, was plundered by the Arabs and Saracens; and the whole army was reduced to great distress. Fortunately Antioch was near, whose prince was the uncle of the crusading queen of France. Prince Raymond opened his friendly gates to the distressed warriors of the cross, and by the beautiful streams of the Orontes the defeated French army rested and refreshed themselves after their recent disasters.
Raymond of Poitou was brother to the queen's father, the saintly William of Poitou. There was, however, nothing of the saint in the disposition of Raymond, who was still young, and was the handsomest man of his time. The uncle and niece, who had never met before, were much charmed with each other. It seems strange that the man who first awakened the jealousy of king Louis should stand in such very near relationship to his wife; yet it is certain, that as soon as queen Eleanora had recovered her beauty, somewhat sullied by the hardships she endured in the camp, she commenced such a series of coquetries with her handsome uncle, that king Louis, greatly scandalized and incensed, hurried her out of Antioch one night, and decamped to Jerusalem, with slight leave-taking of Raymond, or none at all. It is true, many authorities say that Raymond's intrigues with his niece were wholly political, and that he was persuading Eleanora to employ her power, as duchess of Aquitaine, for the extension of his dominions, and his own private advantage. It was at Antioch that Eleanora first declared "that she would not live as the wife of a man whom she had discovered was her cousin, too near by the ordinance of the church." [Guillaume de Nangis's Chronicle, quoted by Michelet.] The Chronicle of Tours accuses her of receiving presents from Saladin, and this accusation was doubtless some recognition of her power as queen-regnant of the south of France. Eleanora, having taken the cross as an independent sovereign, of course was treated as such by the oriental powers.
Eleanora was enraged at her sudden removal from Antioch, which took place early in the spring of 1149; she entered the holy city in a most indignant mood. Jerusalem, the object of the ardent enthusiasm of every other crusader, raised no religious ardor in her breast; she was burning with resentment at the unaccustomed harshness king Louis exercised towards her. In Jerusalem, king Baldwin received Eleanora with the honors due both to her rank as queen of France, and her power as a sovereign-ally of the crusading league; but nothing could please her. It is not certain whether her uneasiness proceeded from a consciousness of guilt, or indignation at being the object of unfounded suspicions; but it is indisputable that, after her forced departure from Antioch, all affection between Eleanora and her husband was at an end. While the emperor of Germany and the king of France laid an unsuccessful siege to Damascus, Eleanora was detained at Jerusalem, in something like personal restraint.
The great abilities of Sultan Noureddin rendered this siege unavailing, and Louis was glad to withdraw, with the wreck of his army, from Asia. There are letters [In the collection of Du Chesne, which has furnished much of the information in this narrative.] still extant from Suger, by which it appears that the king had written to him complaints of the criminal attachment of his queen to a young Saracen emir of great beauty, named Sal-Addin. For this misconduct the king of France expressed his intention of disgracing her, and putting her away as soon as he arrived in his dominions, but was dissuaded from this resolution by the suggestions of his sagacious minister, who pointed out to him the troubles which would accrue to France by the relinquishment of the "great Provence dower," and that his daughter, the princess Marie, would be deprived, in all probability, of her mother's rich inheritance, if the queen were at liberty to marry again. This remonstrance so far prevailed on Louis, that he permitted his discontented spouse to accompany him to Paris, November, 1149. The royal pair made a solemn entry into the capital on their return from the crusade, with as much triumphant pomp as if they had gained great victories during an absence of two years and four months, instead of having passed their time in a series of defeats and disasters. Suger then resigned his regency to the king, with much more pleasure, as he said, than he took it. He had governed France in a manner which obtained from the king and people the appellation of "father of his country." [Vie de Suger.] The dread that Suger felt at the separation of Eleanora's southern provinces was the reason why the king continued to live with her, and allowed her to retain the dignity of queen of France.
Queen Eleanora therefore resided at Paris, with all her usual state and dignity; she was, however, closely watched, and not permitted to visit her southern dominions,—a prohibition which greatly disquieted her. She made many complaints of the gloom of the northern Gallic capital and the monkish manners of her devout husband. She was particularly indignant at the plain and unostentatious clothing of king Louis, who had likewise displeased her by sacrificing, at the suggestion of the clergy, all his long curls, besides shaving off his beard and moustaches. The giddy queen made a constant mockery of her husband's appearance, and vowed that his smooth face made him look more like a cloistered priest than a valiant king. Thus two years passed away in mutual discontent, till, in the year 1150, Geoffrey Plantagenet, count of Anjou, [Vie de Gaufred, Duc de Normand.] appeared at the court of Louis VII. Geoffrey did homage for Normandy, and presented to Louis his son, young Henry Plantagenet, surnamed Fitz-Empress. This youth was about seventeen, and was then first seen by queen Eleanora. But the scandalous chroniclers of the day declare the queen was much taken by the fine person and literary attainments of Geoffrey, who was considered the most accomplished knight of this time. Geoffrey was a married man; but queen Eleanora as little regarded the marriage engagements of the persons on whom she bestowed her attention as she did her own conjugal ties.
About eighteen months after the departure of the Angevin princes, the queen of France gave birth to another princess, named Alice. Soon after this event, Henry Plantagenet once more visited Paris, to do homage for Normandy and Anjou, a pleuritic fever having suddenly carried off his father. Queen Eleanora now transferred her former partiality for the father to the son, who had become a noble, martial-looking prince, full of energy, learned, valiant, and enterprising, and ready to undertake any conquest, whether of the heart of the gay queen of the South, or of the kingdom from which he had been unjustly disinherited. Eleanora acted with her usual disgusting levity in the advances she made to this youth. Her beauty was still unimpaired, though her character was in low esteem with the world. Motives of interest induced Henry to feign a return to the passion of queen Eleanora: his mother's cause was hopeless in England, and Eleanora assured him that, if she could effect a divorce from Louis, her ships and treasures should be at his command for the subjugation of king Stephen.
The intimacy between Henry and Eleanora soon awakened the displeasure of the king of France, consequently the prince departed for Anjou. Queen Eleanora immediately made an application for a divorce, under the plea that king Louis was her fourth cousin. It does not appear that he opposed this separation, though it certainly originated from the queen. Notwithstanding the advice of Suger, Louis seems to have accorded heartily with the proposition, and the divorce was finally pronounced by a council of the church at Baugenci, [Sir Harris Nicolas's Chronology of History.] March 18, 1152; where the marriage was not dissolved on account of the queen's adultery, as is commonly asserted, but declared invalid because of consanguinity. Eleanora and Louis, with most of their relations, met at Baugenci, and were present when the divorce was pronounced. [Bouquet des Histoires.] Suger, who had so long opposed the separation of Eleanora from his king, died a few days before that event took place. [Vie de Suger.]
It is useless for modern historians either to blame or praise Louis VII. for his scrupulous honesty in restoring to Eleanora her patrimonial dominions; he restored nothing that he was able to keep, excepting her person. When the divorce was first agitated, Louis VII. tried the experiment of seizing several of the strongholds in Guienne, but found the power of the South was too strong for him. Giffard, who never wrote a line without the guide of contemporary chronicles, has made it fully apparent that the queen of the South was a stronger potentate than the king of the North. If the lady of 'Oc' and 'No,' and the lord of 'Oui' and 'Non,' had tried for the mastery by force of arms, the civilized, the warlike, and maritime Provencals would certainly have raised the banner of St. George and the golden leopards far above the oriflamme of France, and rejoiced at having such fair cause of quarrel with their suzerain as the rescue of their princess. Moreover, Louis could not detain Eleanora without defying the decree of the pope.
On her way southward to her own country, [Script. Rer. Franc.] Eleanora remained some time at Blois. The count of this province was Thibaut, elder brother to king Stephen, one of the handsomest and bravest men of his time. Much captivated with the splendor of "the great Provence dower," Thibaut offered his hand to his fair guest. He met with a refusal, which by no means turned him from his purpose, as he resolved to detain the lady, a prisoner in his fortress, till she complied with his proposal. Eleanora suspected his design, and departed by night, without the ceremony of leave-taking. She embarked on the Loire, and went clown the stream to Tours, which was then belonging to the dominions of Anjou.
Here her good luck, or dexterous management, brought her off clear from another mal-adventure. Young Geoffrey Plantagenet, the next brother to the man she intended to marry, had likewise a great inclination to be sovereign of the South. He placed himself in ambush at a part of the Loire called 'the Port of Piles,' with the intention of seizing the duchess and her train, and carrying her off, and marrying her. "But," says the chronicler, "Eleanora was pre-warned by her good angel, and she suddenly turned clown a branch of the stream southwards, towards her own country." Thither Henry Plantagenet, the elder brother of Geoffrey, repaired, to claim the hand which had been promised him months before the divorce. The celerity with which the marriage of Eleanora followed her divorce astonished all Europe, for she gave her hand to Henry Plantagenet, duke of Normandy and count of Anjou, only six weeks after the divorce was pronounced. Eleanora is supposed to have been in her thirty-second year, and the bridegroom in his twentieth,—a disparity somewhat ominous, in regard to their future matrimonial felicity.
The duchess of Aquitaine and the duke of Normandy were married at Bourdeaux [Gervase. Brompton.] on May-day, with all the pomp that the luxurious taste of Eleanora, aided by Provencal wealth, could effect. If Henry and Eleanora could have been married a few months earlier, it would have been better for the reputation of the bride, since all chroniclers are very positive in fixing the birth of her eldest son, William, [Toone's Chronological History gives this date: it is supported by Sandford and Speed from chronicles, and the assertion of Robert of Gloucester in the following words,—"Henry was acquaint with the queen of France some deal too much, as me weened,"] on the 17th of August, 1152, little more than four months after their union on the first of May. The birth of this boy accounts for the haste with which Eleanora was divorced. Had king Louis detained his unfaithful wife, a dispute might have arisen respecting the succession to the crown of France. This child was born in Normandy, whither Henry conveyed Eleanora directly after their marriage, leaving the garrisons of Aquitaine commanded by Norman officers faithful to his interest; a step which was the commencement of his unpopularity in his wife's dominions.
Louis VII. was much displeased at the marriage of his divorced queen with Henry of Anjou. He viewed with uneasiness the union of the fair provinces of the South with Anjou and Normandy; and, in order to invalidate it, he actually forbade Henry to marry without his permission, claiming that authority as his feudal lord. His measures, we think, ought to acquit king Louis of the charge of too much righteousness in his political dealings, for which he is blamed by the superficial Voltaire. However, the hostility of Louis, who entered into a league with king Stephen, roused young Henry from the pleasures in which he was spending the first year of his nuptials; and breaking from his wedded Circe, he obtained, from her fondness, a fleet for the enforcement of his claims to his rightful inheritance. Eleanora was sovereign of a wealthy maritime country, whose ships were equally used for war and commerce. Leaving his wife and son in Normandy, Henry embarked from Harfleur with thirty-six ships, May, 1153. Without the aid of this Provencal fleet, England would never have reckoned the name of Plantagenet among her royal dynasties.
These circumstances are alluded to, with some dry humor, in the following lines by Robert of Gloucester:—
"In eleven hundred years of grace and forty-one, Died Geoffry of Plantagenet, the earl of Anjou. Henry his son and heir, earl was made thorough All Anjou, and duke of Normand:—much it was his mind To come and win England, for he was next of kind [kin], And to help his moder, who was oft in feeble chance. But he was much acquaint with the queen of France, Some deal too much, as me weened; so that in some thing The queen loved him, as me trowed, more than her lord the king; So that it was forth put that the king and she So sibbe were, that they must no longer together be. The kindred was proved so near, that king Louis there And Eleanor his queen by the pope departed were. Some were glad enow, as might be truly seen, For Henry the empress' son forthwith espoused the queen. The queen riches enow had under her hand, Which helped Henry then to war on England. In the eleventh hundred year and fifty-two After God on earth came, this spousing was ado; The next year after that, Henry his power nom [took], And with six-and-thirty ships to England com."
There is reason to believe that at this period Henry seduced the heart and won the affections of the beautiful Rosamond Clifford, under the promise of marriage, as the birth of her eldest son corresponds with Henry's visit to England at this time; for he left England the year before Stephen's death, 1153. [His proceedings in England have been detailed in the preceding biography.]Henry was busy laying siege to the castle of one of his rebels in Normandy when the news of Stephen's death reached him. Six weeks elapsed before he sailed to take possession of his kingdom. His queen and infant son accompanied him. They waited a month at Barfleur for a favorable wind, [Brompton.] and after all they had a dangerous passage, but landed safely at Osterham, December 8th. The king and queen waited at the port for some days, while the fleet, dispersed by the wind, collected. They then went to Winchester, [Sir Harris Nicolas's Chronology of History.] where they received the homage of the southern barons. Theobald archbishop of Canterbury, and some of the chief nobles, came to hasten their appearance in London, "where Henry was," say the Saxon chroniclers, "received with great honor and worship, and blessed to king the Sunday before Midwinter-day." Eleanora and Henry were crowned in Westminster abbey, December 19, 1154, "after England," to use the words of Henry of Huntingdon, "had been without a king for six weeks." Henry's security, during this interval, was owing to the powerful fleet of his queen, which commanded the seas between Normandy and England, and kept all rebels in awe.
The coronation of the king of England and the luxurious lady of the South was without parallel for magnificence. Here were seen in profusion mantles of silk and brocade, of a new fashion and splendid texture, brought by queen Eleanora [It is said she introduced the growth of silk in her southern dominions, a benefit attributed to Henry the Great.] from Constantinople. In the illuminated portraits of this queen she wears a wimple, or close coif, with a circlet of gems put over it; her kirtle, or close gown, has tight sleeves, and fastens with full gathers just below the throat, confined with a rich collar of gems. Over this is worn the elegant pelisson, or outer robe, bordered with fur, with very full loose sleeves lined with ermine, showing gracefully the tight kirtle sleeves beneath. In some portraits the queen is seen with her hair braided, and closely wound round the head with jewelled bands. Over all was thrown a square of fine lawn or gauze, which supplied the place of a veil, and was worn precisely like the faziola, still the national costume of the lower orders of Venice. Sometimes this coverchief, or kerchief, was drawn over the features down below the chin; it thus supplied the place of veil and bonnet, when abroad; sometimes it descended but to the brow, just as the wearer was disposed to show or conceal her face. Frequently the coverchief was confined, by the bandeau, or circlet, being placed on the head, over it. Girls before marriage wore their hair in ringlets or tresses on their shoulders. The church was very earnest in preaching against the public display of ladies' hair after marriage. The long hair of the men likewise drew down the constant fulminations of the church; but after Henry I. had cut off his curls, and forbidden long hair at court, his courtiers adopted periwigs; indeed, if we may judge by the queer effigy on his coins, the handsome Stephen himself wore a wig. Be this as it may, the thunder of the pulpit was instantly levelled at wigs, which were forbidden by a sumptuary law of king Henry.
Henry II. made his appearance, at his coronation, with short hair, moustaches, and shaven chin; he wore a doublet, and short Angevin cloak, which immediately gained for him from his subjects, Norman and English, the sobriquet of 'Court-mantle.' His dalmatica was of the richest brocade, bordered with gold embroidery. At this coronation, ecclesiastics were first seen in England dressed in sumptuous robes of silk and velvet, worked with gold. This was in imitation of the luxury of the Greek church: the splendor of the dresses seen by the queen at Constantinople occasioned the introduction of this corruption in the western church. Such was the costume of the court of Eleanora of Aquitaine, the queen of England, in the year of her coronation, 1154. The Christmas festivities were celebrated that year with great pomp at Westminster palace; but directly the coronation was over, the king conducted his queen to the palace of Bermondsey, where, after remaining some weeks in retirement, she gave birth to her second son, the last day of February, 1155.
Bermondsey, the first place of Eleanora's residence in England, was, as delineated in its ancient plans, a pastoral village nearly opposite to London, of a character decidedly Flemish. Rich in well-cultivated gardens and wealthy velvet meads, it possessed, likewise, an ancient Saxon palace, [Annals of the Abbey of Bermondsey.] and a priory then newly built. Assuredly the metropolis must have presented itself to the view of its foreign queen, from the palace of Bermondsey, with much more picturesque grandeur than it does at present, when its unwieldly size and smoky atmosphere prevent an entire coup d'oeil But at one glance from the opposite, bank of the river the eyes of the fair Provencal could then behold London, her royal city, situated on ground rising from the Thames. It was at that time girdled with an embattled wall, which was studded with gate-ways, both by water and land. [Dowgate and Billingsgate.] The new Tower of London kept guard on the eastern extremity of the city, and the lofty spire of the ancient cathedral presided over the western side, just behind the antique gate-way of Ludgate. This gate led to the pleasant road of the river's Strand, ornamented with the old Temple, its fair gardens and wharf, and interspersed with a few inns, [Inn was not, in early times, a word used for a house of public entertainment. Its original signification was a temporary abode in London, used by abbot, bishop, or peer.] or metropolitan dwellings of the nobility, the cultivated grounds of which sloped down to their water-stairs and boat-houses, the Thames being then the highway of London. The Strand road terminated in the majestic palace and abbey of Westminster, the old palace, with its yard and gardens, once belonging to St. Edward, and the new palace, its noble hall and water-stairs, which owed their origin to the Norman dynasty. Such was the metropolis when Henry II. succeeded to the English crown.
If the example and conduct of the first Provencal queen was neither edifying nor pleasing to her subjects, yet, in a commercial point of view, the connection of the merchants of England with her Aquitanian dominions was highly advantageous. The wine trade with Bourdeaux became considerable. [Anderson's History of Commerce.] In a few months after the accession of Eleanora as queen-consort of England, large fortunes were made by the London traders, who imported the wines of Gascony from the port of Bourdeaux; ["The land," says one of the malcontent Saxon chroniclers, "became full of drink and drunkards. Claret was 4d.. per gallon at this time. Gascon wine in general sold at 20s. per tun."] and above all (by the example of the maritime cities of Guienne), the shipping of England was governed by the ancient code of laws, called the code of Oleron. In compliment to his consort Eleanora, Henry II. adopted for his plate-mark the cross of Aquitaine, with the addition of his initial letter N. An instance of this curious fact is still to be seen in the grace-cup of Thomas a Becket. [This cup formerly belonged to the Arundel Collection, and was given by Bernard Edward, the late duke of Norfolk, to H. Howard, Esq., of Corby castle, who thus became the possessor of this highly-prized relic of Eleanora's era. The cross of Aquitaine somewhat resembles the Maltese cross; the cup is of ivory mounted with silver, which is studded on the summit and base with pearls and precious stones. The inscription round the cup is, vinum tuum bibe cum gaudio,—'Drink thy wine with joy;' but round the lid, deeply engraved, is the restraining injunction, sobrii estote, with the initials T. B. interlaced with a mitre, the peculiarly low form of which stamps the antiquity of the whole.]
The English chose to regard Henry II. solely as the descendant of their ancient Saxon line. "Thou art son," [Ailred Chronicle.] said they, "to the most glorious empress Matilda, whose mother was Matilda Atheling, daughter to Margaret, saint and queen, whose father was Edward, son to king Edmund Ironside, who was great-grandson to king Alfred." Such were the expressions of the English when Henry convened a great meeting of the nobility and chief people at Wallingford, in March, 1155; where, by the advice of his mother, the empress Matilda (who had learned wisdom from adversity), he swore to confirm to the English the laws of Alfred and Edward the Confessor, as set forth in the great charter of Henry I. At this grand convocation queen Eleanora appeared with her eldest son, then in his fourth year, and the infant Henry. The baronage of England kissed the hands of the infants, and vowed to recognize them as the heirs of the English monarchy. A few weeks after this recognition the queen lost her eldest son, who was buried at Beading, at the feet of his great-grandfather, Henry I.
The principal residences of the court were Winchester palace, Westminster palace, and the country palace of Woodstock. The amusements most favored by queen Eleanora were of a dramatic kind. Besides the Mysteries and Miracles played by the parish-clerks and students of divinity, the classic taste of the accomplished Eleanora patronized representations nearly allied to the regular drama, since we find that Peter of Blois, [Or Petrus Blesensis, who was born, 1120, at the city of Blois, of a noble family. He was preceptor to William II. of Sicily, 1157, was invited to England by Henry II., and made his chaplain, and archdeacon of Bath; likewise private secretary to the king. He spent some years at the court of England, and died about the end of the twelfth century. He wrote about one hundred and thirty letters, in the most lively and individualizing style. These he collected and perpetuated, by making many copies, at the express desire of his royal master, Henry II.] in his epistles, congratulates his brother William on his tragedy of Flaura and Marcus, played before the queen. This William was an abbot, but was master of the revels or amusements at court: he com-posed all the Mysteries and Miracles performed before the queen at Westminster and Winchester.
It is to Peter of Blois we owe a graphic description of king Henry's person and manners; likewise the picture of his court setting out in progress. "When king Henry sets out of a morning, you see multitudes of people running up and down as if they were distracted; horses rushing against horses, carriages overturning carriages, players, gamesters, cooks, confectioners, morris-dancers, barbers, courtesans, and parasites, making so much noise, and, in a word, such an intolerable tumultuous jumble of horse and foot, that you imagine the great abyss hath opened, and that hell hath poured forth all its inhabitants." We think this disorderly crew must have belonged to the queen's court, for the sketch given us by the same most amusing author of king Henry himself, would lead us to suppose that he countenanced no such riotous doings. The chaplain Peter [As edited by Hearne.] thus minutely describes king Henry, the husband of Eleanora of Aquitaine, in his letter to the archbishop of Panormitan:—"In praising David the king, it is read that he was ruddy, but you must understand that my lord the king is sub-rufus, or pale-red; his harness [armor] hath somewhat changed his color. Of middle stature he is so that among little men seemeth he not much, nor among long men seemeth he over little. His head is round, as in token of great wit, and of special high counsel the treasury."
Our readers would scarcely expect phrenological observations in an epistle of the twelfth century, but we faithfully write what we find therein:—"His head is of such quantity, that to the neck, and to all the body, it accordeth by even proportion. His een pykeled [fine], and clear as to colour while he is of pleased will; but through disturbance of heart, like sparkling fire or lightning with hastiness. His head of curly hair, when clipped square in the forehead, sheweth a lyonous visage, the nostrils even and comely, according to all the other features. High vaulted feet, legs able to riding, broad bust, and long champion arms, which telleth him to be strong, light, and hardy. In a toe of his foot the nail groweth into the flesh, and in harm to the foot over waxeth. His hands, through their large size, sheweth negligence, for he utterly leaveth the keeping of them; never, but when he beareth hawks, weareth he gloves. Each day at mass and council, and other open needs of the realm, throughout the whole morning he standeth a foot, and yet when he eateth he never sitteth down. In one day he will, if need be, ride two or three journeys, and thus hath he oft circumvented the plots of his enemies. A huge lover of woods is he, so that when he ceaseth of war he haunteth places of hawking and hunting. He useth boots without folding caps, and homely and short clothes weareth he. His flesh would have charged him with fatness, but with travel and fasting he adaunteth [keeps it down], and in riding and going travaileth he mightily his youth. Not as other kings lieth he in his palace, but travelling about by his provinces espieth he the doings of all men. He doometh those that he judges when they do wrong, and punisheth them by stronger judgment than other men. No man more wise in counsel, ne more dreadful in prosperity, ne steadfaster in adversity. When once he loveth, scarcely will he ever hate; when once he hateth, scarcely ever receiveth he into grace. 'Oft holdeth he in hand swords, bows, and hunting-gear, excepting he be at council or at book. When he may rest from worldly business, privily he occupieth himself about learning and reading, and among his clerks asketh he questions. For though your king [The king of Sicily, William the Good, afterwards Henry II.'s son-in-law.] be well y-lettered [learned], our king by far is more y-lettered. I, forsooth, in science of letters, know the cunning of them both, ye wotting well that my lord the king of Sicily a whole year was my disciple, and though by you he had the beginning of teaching, yet by me he had the benefit of more full science. [By this passage it appears that Peter Blois had been the tutor to Henry II. and the king of Sicily.] And as soon as I went out of Sicily, your king cast away his books, and gave himself up to palatine [The idleness and luxuries of the palace.] idleness. But, forsooth, our lord the king of England has each day a school for right well lettered men; hence his conversation, that he hath with them, is busy discussing of questions. None is more honest than our king in speaking; ne in alms largess. Therefore, as Holy Writ saith, we may say of him, 'His name is a precious ointment, and the alms of him all the church shall take.'" Such is the picture of the first of our great Plantagenet monarchs, drawn in minute pencilling by the man who had known him from his childhood.
It is not a very easy task to reduce to anything like perspicuity the various traditions which float through the chronicles regarding queen Eleanora's unfortunate rival, the celebrated Rosamond Clifford. No one who studies history ought to despise tradition, for we shall find that tradition is generally founded on fact, even when defective, or regardless of chronology. The learned and accurate Carte has not thought it beneath him to examine carefully the testimony that exists regarding Rosamond; and we find, from him, that we must confine her connection with Henry to the two years succeeding his marriage. He has proved that the birth of her youngest son, and her profession as a nun at Godstow, took place within that space of time, and he has proved it from the irrefragable witness of existing charters, of endowments of lands given by the Clifford family to benefit the convent of Godstow, of provision made by Henry II. for her son William Long-espee and his brother, and of benefactions he bestowed on the nunnery of Godstow because Rosamond had become a votaress therein. It appears that the acquaintance between Rosamond and Henry commenced in early youth, about the time of his knighthood by his uncle the king of Scotland; that it was renewed at the time of his successful invasion of England, when he entered privately into marriage contract [Carte. Brompton. Boswell's Antiquities.] with the unsuspecting girl; and before he left England, to return to his wife, his noble boy William, surnamed Long-espee, was born. His own words afterwards confirmed this report: "Thou art my legitimate son," said he to one of the sons of Rosamond, who met him at the head of an armed force at a time when the rebellion of the princes had distressed him; "and," continued he, "the rest are bastards." [ Lingard.] Perhaps these words afford the truest explanation of the mysterious dissensions which perpetually distracted the royal family.
How king Henry excused his perjury, both to Rosamond and the queen, is not explained by chronicle; he seems to have endeavored, by futile expedients, to keep them both in ignorance of his perfidy. As Rosamond was retained by him as a prisoner, though not an unwilling one, it was easy to conceal from her the facts, that he had wedded a queen and brought her to England; but his chief difficulty was to conceal Rosamond's existence from Eleanora, and yet to indulge himself with frequent visits to the real object of his love.
Brompton says, "That one day queen Eleanora saw the king walking in the pleasance of Woodstock, with the end of a ball of floss silk attached to his spur; coming near him unperceived, she took up the ball, and the king walking on, the silk unwound, and thus the queen traced him to a thicket in the labyrinth or maze of the park, where he disappeared. She kept the matter secret, often revolving in her own mind in what company he could meet with balls of silk. Soon after, the king left Woodstock for a distant journey; then queen Eleanora, bearing her discovery in mind, searched the thicket in the park, and discovered a low door cunningly concealed; this door she had forced, and found it was the entrance to a winding subterranean path, which led out at a distance to a sylvan lodge in the most retired part of the adjacent forest." Here the queen found, in a bower, a young lady of incomparable beauty, busily engaged in embroidery. Queen Eleanora then easily guessed how balls of silk attached themselves to king Henry's spurs. Whatever was the result of the interview between Eleanora and Rosamond, it is certain that the queen did not destroy her rival either by sword or poison, though in her rage it is possible that she might threaten both. That Rosamond was not killed may be ascertained by the charters before named, which plainly show that she lived twenty years, in great penitence, after her retirement from the king. It is extremely probable that her interview with Eleanora led to her first knowledge that Henry was a married man, and consequently to her profession at Godstow, which took place the second year of Henry's reign. The grand error in the statements regarding Rosamond is the assertion that she was a young girl seduced and concealed by the king when he was in advanced life. Now the charters collated by Carte prove that the acquaintance of Rosamond and Henry commenced in early youth, that they were nearly of the same age, and that their connection terminated soon after queen Eleanora came to England.
Twenty years afterwards, when Rosamond's death really occurred in her convent, it happened to coincide with Eleanora's imprisonment and disgrace. This coincidence revived the memory of the romantic incidents connected with Henry's love for Rosamond Clifford, The high rank of the real object of the queen's jealousy at that time, and the circumstances of horror regarding Henry's profligacy, as the seducer of the princess Alice, his son's wife, occasioned a mystery at court which no one dared to define. The common people, in their endeavors to guess this state secret, combined the death of the poor penitent at Godstow with Eleanora's imprisonment, and thus the report was raised that Eleanora had killed Rosamond. To these causes we trace the disarrangement of the chronology in the story of Rosamond, which has cast doubts on the truth of her adventures. In Brompton's narrative, we find the labyrinth [As to the labyrinth or maze at Woodstock, it most likely existed before the time of Rosamond, and remained after her death, since all pleasances or gardens in the middle age were contrived with this adjunct. Traces of them exist to this day, in the names of places near defunct royal palaces; witness 'Maze hill' at Greenwich (near the site of the maze or labyrinth of Greenwich palace), and 'the Maze' in Southwark, once part of the garden of the princess Mary Tudor's palace. We have evidence that Edward III. (between whom and the death of Rosamond little more than a century intervened) familiarly called a structure pertaining to Woodstock palace, 'Rosamond's chamber,' the locality of which he minutely describes in a letter preserved in the Foedera, vol. iv. p. 629. In this document he directs William de Montacute "to order various repairs at his manor of Woodstock; and that the house beyond the gate in the new wall be built again, and that same chamber, called Rosamond's chamber, to be restored as before, and crystal plates, and marble, and lead to be provided for it." Here is indisputable proof that there was a structure called Rosamond's chamber, distinct from Woodstock palace yet belonging to its domain, being a building situated beyond the park wall. Edward III. passed the first years of his marriage principally at Woodstock, therefore he well knew the localities of the place; which will agree with the old chroniclers, if we suppose Rosamond's residence was approached by a tunnel under the park wall.] at Woodstock, and the clue of silk, famous in the romance and ballad. His chronology of the incidents is decidedly wrong, but the actual events are confirmed by the most ancient authorities.
Queen Eleanora brought her husband a princess in the year 1156; this was the eldest daughter, the princess Matilda. The next year the queen spent in England. Her celebrated son, Richard Coeur de Lion, was born September, 1157, at a palace considered one of the finest in the kingdom, called the Beau-Monte, in Oxford. Thus, that renowned university-claims the honor of being the birthplace of this great warrior. This palace was afterwards turned into the White Friars' church, and then to a workhouse. The chamber in which Richard was born still remains, a roofless ruin, with some vestiges of a fireplace; [Boswell's Antiquities.] but such as it is, this fragment is deeply interesting to the English, as the birthplace of a hero of whom they are proud.
Eleanora of Aquitaine, in some passages of her life, appears as one of the most prominent characters of her age: she was very actively employed, either as sovereign of her own dominions or regent of Normandy, during the period from 1157 to 1172. Eleanora was crowned a second time at Worcester, with the king, in 1159. When the royal pair came to the oblation, they both took off their crowns, and, laying them on the altar, vowed never to wear them more.
A son was born to Henry and Eleanora, September 23d, after the Worcester coronation: this prince bore the name of the king's father, Geoffrey Plantagenet. The same year the king betrothed this boy to Constance, the heiress of Conan, duke of Bretagne. The infant Constance was about eighteen months older than the little prince Geoffrey. Henry had made most unjust seizure of Bretagne, by way of conquest; he, however, soothed the independent Bretons, by marrying their infant duchess to his son. His ambitious thirst for extension of empire was not sated by the acquisition of this dukedom; he immediately laid siege to Thoulouse, and, in the name of queen Eleanora, claimed that sovereignty of earl Raymond, who was in possession, and the ally of the king of France. A year was occupied with skirmishing and negotiation, during which time Eleanora acted as queen-regent in England.
Henry sent for his queen to Normandy in 1160; she went in great state, taking with her prince Henry and her eldest daughter, to meet their father. The occasion of her presence being required was the marriage of Marguerite, the daughter of her former husband Louis VII. by his second wife, with her young son Henry. Chancellor Becket went with a magnificent retinue to Paris, and brought the little bride, aged three years, to the queen at Rouen. Both bride and bridegroom were given, after their marriage, to Becket [The secular education and support of the little princess was consigned to Robert de Newburgh, one of Henry II.'s barons, who engaged to guard her person, and bring up the princess Marguerite in a manner befitting her royal birth.] for education; and this extraordinary person inspired in their young bosoms an attachment to him that ended but with their lives. Queen Eleanora kept her Christmas at Mans, with the king, in great state and splendor, the year of this betrothment.
After a sharp dispute between Henry II. and Louis VII., relative to the portion of the princess Marguerite, the king of France compromised the matter by giving the city of Gisors as a portion with another infant princess of France, named Alice, in 1162. [Louis had two daughters of that name,—one by Eleanora, and this child by his second queen, Alice of Champagne.] This child was in her third year when wedded to prince Richard, who was then seven years old. The little princess was unfortunately consigned to the king of England for education. Two marriages were thus contracted between the daughters of Louis VII. and the sons of his divorced queen,—connections which must seem most extraordinary, when we consider that the father of the brides and the mother of the bridegrooms had been married, and were the parents of children who were sisters to both. Louis VII. gave his eldest daughter by queen Eleanora in marriage to Henry the Large, count of Champagne. It was in this year that king Henry's troubles began with Thomas a Becket, who had hitherto been his favorite, his friend, and prime-minister.
The contest between the king and Becket, which fills so many folio pages of modern history, must be briefly glanced at here. It was the same quarrel which had agitated England between Henry I. and Anselm; but England no longer possessed a virtuous daughter of her royal race for a queen, who, out of pity for the poor, deprived of their usual provision, mediated between these haughty spirits. The gay, luxurious daughter of the South was occupied with her own pleasures, and heeded not the miseries which the king's sequestrations of benefices brought on the destitute part of the population. Becket appealed to the empress Matilda, the king's mother, who haughtily repulsed his suit. Becket was the son of a London citizen, who had followed Edgar Atheling on his crusading expedition, and was made prisoner in Syria; he obtained his liberty through the affection of a Syrian lady, an emir's daughter, who followed her lover after his departure, and succeeded in finding him in London, although she knew but two European words, 'London' and 'Gilbert,'—the place of abode and Christian name of her lover. The pagan maiden was baptized, by the favorite Norman name of Matilda, and from this romantic union sprang Thomas a Becket, who was remarkable for his learning and brilliant talents, and his fine stature and beauty. The love which Gilbert Becket bore to the race and blood of Alfred, which had sent him crusading with prince Edgar, rendered him the firm partisan of his niece, the empress Matilda.
Young Becket had taken the only road to distinction open to an Anglo-Saxon; yet he was of the church, but not in it, for he was neither priest nor monk, being rather a church-lawyer than a clergyman. Henry II. had distinguished this Anglo-Saxon with peculiar favor, to the indignation of his wife and mother, who warned him against feeling friendship for an Anglo-Saxon serf with the loathing that the daughters of rajahs might feel for a pariah. The see of Canterbury having remained vacant a year and a half, Henry urged his favorite to accept it, in hopes that he would connive at his plans of diverting the revenues of the church to enrich those of the crown, for this was simply the whole cause of the perpetual contest between the Anglo-Norman kings and the archbishops of Canterbury since the Conquest; but as the church supported the destitute poor, it is not difficult to decide which had the moral right. Archdeacon Becket protested that if he were once a bishop, he must uphold the rights of the church; but the king still insisted on investing him with the archbishopric. The night before his consecration, at supper, he told the king that this archbishopric would place an eternal barrier between their friendship. Henry would not believe it. Becket was consecrated priest one day, and was invested as archbishop of Canterbury the next. To the annoyance of the king he instantly resigned his chancellorship, and became a firm champion for the rights of his see. For seven years the contest between Becket and Henry continued, during which time we have several events to note, and to conclude the history of the empress Matilda. She was left [Hoveden. Gervase. Newberry.] regent of Normandy by her son, which country she governed with great wisdom and kept in a peaceful state, but she never returned to England.
In the year 1165 king Louis VII. gave the princess Alice (his youngest daughter by queen Eleanora) in marriage to the count of Blois, and at the same time endowed him with the office of high-seneschal of France, which was the feudal right of Henry II., as count of Anjou. Henry violently resented this disposal of his office; and the empress his mother, who foresaw the rising storm, and who had been thoroughly satiated with the horrors of war in her youth, wrote to pope Alexander, begging him to meet her, to mediate between the angry kings. The pope obeyed the summons of the royal matron, and the kings met Matilda and the pontiff at Gisors. The differences between Becket and Henry II. had then risen to a fearful height. It appears that Matilda was charged by the pope with a commission of peace-making between Becket and his royal master. Emboldened by the mandate of the pope, Becket once more referred to the empress Matilda as the mediator between the church and her son, and no more met with repulse. We have seen the disgust with which Matilda recoiled from any communication with Becket, as the son of a Saxon villein; nevertheless, this great man, by means of his eloquent epistles, was beginning to exercise the same dominion over the mind of the haughty empress that he did over every living creature with whom he communicated. Henry II., alarmed at his progress, sent to his mother a priest named John of Oxford, who was charged to inform her of many particulars derogatory to Becket's moral character,—events, probably, that happened during his gay and magnificent career as chancellor and archdeacon.
The demise of the duke of Bretagne had called Henry II. to take possession of that duchy, in the name of the infant duchess Constance and her betrothed lord, his son Geoffrey, when the news arrived of the death of the empress Matilda, which occurred September 10,1167. The mother of Henry II. was deeply regretted in Normandy, where she was called "the lady of the English." She governed Normandy with discretion and moderation, applying her revenues wholly to the benefit of the common weal and many public works. [Ducarel's Normandy.] While regent of Normandy, she applied her private revenues to building the magnificent stone bridge, of thirteen arches, over the Seine, called le Grand Pont. The construction of this bridge was one of the wonders of the age, being built with curved piers, to humor the rapid current of the river. The empress built and endowed three monasteries; among these was the magnificent structure of St. Ouen. She resided chiefly at the palace of Bourn, with occasional visits to the abbey of Bec.
Matilda died the 10th of September, 1167. She was interred with royal honors, first, in the convent of Bonnes Nouvelles: her body was afterwards transferred to the abbey of Bec, before the altar of the Virgin. Her son left his critical affairs in Bretagne to attend her funeral. He raised a stately marble tomb to her memory; upon it was the following epitaph, whose climax tends rather to advance the glory of the surviving son than the defunct mother:—
"Great born, great married, greater brought to bed. Here Henry's daughter, wife, and mother's laid."
["Ortu magna, viro major, sed maxima partu, Hic jacet Henrici filia, sponsa, parens."]
In this grave her body remained till the year 1282, when the abbey church of Bec being rebuilt, the workmen discovered it, wrapped up in an ox-hide. The coffin was taken up, and, with great solemnity, reinterred in the middle of the chancel, before the high altar. The ancient tomb was removed to the same place, and, with the attention the church of Rome ever showed to the memory of a foundress, erected over the new grave. This structure falling to decay in the seventeenth century, its place was supplied by a fine monument of brass, with a pompous inscription. [Her remains were discovered and exhumed, for the fourth time, January, 1847, when the ruins of the Benedictine church of Bec (Hellouin) were demolished. According to the Moniteur, a leaden coffin, containing fragments of bones and silver lace, was found, with an inscription affirming that the chest contained the illustrious bones of the empress Matilda, etc.] The character of this celebrated ancestress of our royal line was as much revered by the Normans as disliked by the English. Besides Henry II. she was the mother of two sons, Geoffrey and William, who both preceded her to the grave.
Queen Eleanora was resident, during these events, at the palace of Woodstock, where prince John was born, in the year 1166. Henry completed the noble hall of the palace of Rouen, [Thierry.] begun by Henry I. and nearly finished Joy the empress Matilda. He sent for queen Eleanora from England, to bring her daughter the princess Matilda, that she might be married to her affianced lord, Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. The nuptial feast was celebrated in the newly-finished hall of Rouen palace, first opened for this stately banquet, 1167. Queen Eleanora was left regent of Normandy by her royal lord; but the people, discontented at the loss of the empress Matilda, rebelled against her authority; which insurrection obliged Henry to come to the aid of his wife.
Guienne and Poitou became in a state of revolt soon after. [Tyrrell.] The people, who earnestly desired Eleanora, their native princess, to govern them, would not be pacified till Henry brought his queen, and left her at Bourdeaux with her son Richard. Henry, the heir of England, was entitled the duke of Guienne; but for Eleanora's favorite son, Richard, was intended the county of Poitou, subject to vassalage to his brother and father. This arrangement quieted the discontents of Aquitaine. The princess Marguerite, the young wife of prince Henry, was left in Guienne with her mother-in-law, while Henry II. and his heir proceeded to England, then convulsed with the disputes between church, and state carried on by Becket. Queen Eleanora and prince Richard remained at Bourdeaux, to the satisfaction of the people of the south, who were delighted with the presence of their reigning family, although the Norman deputies of king Henry still continued to exercise all the real power of the government.
The heart of Henry's son and heir still yearned to his old tutor, Becket,— an affection which the king beheld with jealousy. In order to wean his son from this attachment, in which the young princess Marguerite fully shared, Henry II. resolved, in imitation of the Capetian royal family, to have his son crowned king in his lifetime, and to associate him in the government. "Be glad, my son," [Hoveden.] said Henry II. to him, when he set the first dish on the table at the coronation-banquet in Westminster hall; "there is no prince in Europe has such a sewer [This being one of the functions of the grand seneschal of France, which Henry had to perform, as his feudal service at the coronation of a king of France, as count of Anjou, led to his performing the same office at his son's banquet.] at his table!"—"No great condescension for the son of an earl to wait on the son of a king," replied young Henry, aside to the earl of Leicester. The princess Maguerite was not crowned at the same time with her husband; [Peter of Blois.] she remained in Aquitaine, with her mother-in-law, queen Eleanora. Her father, the king of France, was enraged at this slight offered to his daughter, and flew to arms to avenge the affront. Yet it was no fault of king Henry, who had made every preparation for the coronation of the princess, even to ordering her royal robes to be in readiness; but when Marguerite found that Becket, the guardian of her youth, was not to crown her, she perversely refused to share the coronation of her husband.
The character of Henry II., during the long strife that subsisted between him and his former friend, had changed from the calm heroism portrayed by Peter of Blois; he had given way to fits of violence, agonizing to himself and dangerous to his health. It was said that when any tidings came of the contradiction of his will by Becket, he would tear his hair, and roll on the ground with rage, grasping handfuls of rushes in the paroxysms of his passion. [Hoveden.] It was soon after one of these frenzies of rage that, in 1170, he fell ill [Brompton. Gervase. Hoveden.] at Dromfront, in Maine: he then made his will, believing his end approaching. To his son Henry he left England, Normandy, Maine, and Anjou; to Richard he left the Aquitanian dominions; Geoffrey had Bretagne, in right of his wife; while John was left dependent on his brothers. From this order of affairs John obtained the nickname of Lackland, first given him by Henry himself, in jest, after his recovery.
During a fit of penitence, when he thought himself near death, Henry sought reconciliation with Becket. When, however, fresh contradictions arose between them, Henry, in one of those violent accessions of fury described above, unfortunately demanded, before the knights who attended in his bedchamber, [Fitz-Stephen calls the four who murdered the archbishop the barons or servants of the king's bedchamber.] "Whether no man loved him enough to revenge the affronts he perpetually received from an insolent priest?" On this hint, Fitz-Urse, Tracy, Britton, and Morville slaughtered Becket, before the altar in his cathedral, the last day of the year 1171.