FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
Robert, after the death of hi? father, would rule the land with weakness, rebellions would spring up in all directions, and, ultimately, enemies from without would tear the erown from his head.
This pretended prophecy weighed heavily on -Matilda's heart. Her best endeavours to restore her son Robert to his father's affections were vain, and at length her spirits became depressed, and she sunk into a slow nervous fever, from which she never recovered. As her malady increased, she increased her charities to the poor, repeatedly confessed her sins, released several state prisoners, made costly presents to the monasteries, and by complying with all the superstitious rituals of her country and times, endeavoured to make peace with God and man,
When no hope was entertained of ber recovery, a hasty message was despatched to the Conqueror in England, who, without delay, embarked for Normandy, and arrived at Caen only a few hours before she expired.
Matilda, who will ever be remembered for her long, wise and liberal rule, as Regent of Normandy, closed her earthly pilgrimage on the second of November, 1(183, in the fifty-second year of her age. She had been Duchess of Normandy thirty-one years, and Queen of England seventeen years, Her dying prayer was for the prosperity of her favourite son. Robert, who, to her great regret, was in England when she ceased to breathe.
lier remains were interred with imposing funeral solemnity in the convent of the Holy Trinity, at Caen, which Matilda herself hud founded, and where her sorrowing lord erected a magnificent tomb to her memory. But this splendid monument of the Conqueror's love for his departed queen, was despoiled during the religious wars that desolated 1'rance in the sixteenth century. A party of Calvinists entered the monastery, and, despite the earnest entreaties of the abbess and the nuns, broke into pieces the statue of Matilda that surmounted the tomb, tore open the sepulchre, and took from tho fingers of the queen's body a valuable gold ring, which, however, was afterwards given to the abbess. These rapacious fanatics had previously en-
I tercd the Abbey of St. Stephen's, in the
same city, where, after levelling the Con
queror's monument to the dust, they,
with the hope of discovering valuable
treasures, opened his grave, and strewed
his bones about the chapel.
Large as her revenues were, Matilda
died poor. The lands in Gloucester
shire, which she had obtained by the
death of the ill-fated Brithric, were set
tled on her son Henry, and her private
funds had either been lavished on her
favourite son, Robert, or expended in
charities to the poor, gifts to the church,
or patronage to literature and the arts.
According to her will, a curious docu
ment, still preserved in the Royal Library
at Paris, she bequeathed to the abbey of
the Holy Trinity all her personal pos
sessions, which, for a Queen of England,
were indeed few enough, consisting of
only a handsomely worked tunic, a mantle
embossed with gold, a candelabra, two
golden girdles, two houses in England,
a crown, sceptre, horse trappings, and
several valuable cups and other vessels.
The Conqueror was sorely grieved at the loss of lus queen. Deprived of her kindly counsel, and irritated by his firstborn again breaking out against him into open revolt, his temper became soured, and his health began to break. Even his favourite amusement of hunting he now could but ill enjoy, and he indulged in the pleasures of the table to such excess, that he became bloated and corpulent, and at length was attacked with tho dropsy. Whilst lying bedridden of this disease, his old enemy, the French Xing, jocosely demanded, "When the King of England would rise from his lying in ?" which so exasperated the debilitated monarch, that he swore to visit Paris at his clmrching with ten thousand lances by way of wax-lights.
As soon as he had sufficiently recovered to take the field, he, in pursuance of bis vow, collected a mighty army, and hastened to the French border, where he mercilessly ravaged Le Yexìn, and reduced the city of Mantes to ashes. Whilst committing this terrible vengeance on the innocent citizens of Mantes, his horse stumbled over some burning timber, and occcasioned him a