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Richard of Devizes Chronicle

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Richard of Devizes
page 10

prepared to return. The intercourse of the brothers did not escape the chancellor's knowledge, who providing, lest their natural genuine perverseness should increase, commanded the keepers of the coasts, that wherever that archbishop, who had abjured England for the three years of the king's travels, should disembark within the bounds of the kingdom, he should not be permitted to proceed, but by the will of the jury, to whose award the earl and the chancellor had taken oath to stand concerning every thing that should happen.

Sect. 45. A certain Robert, prior of Hereford, a monk who did not think very meanly of himself, and gladly forced himself into other people's business that he might intermix his own, had gone into Sicily to the king on the chancellor's messages, where after the rest he did not forget his own interests; and having by some means or other worried everybody, succeeded in obtaining the abbacy of Muchelney to be granted to him and confirmed by the king. Into possession of which, by the chancellor's means, he entered, against the will of the convent, neither canonically, nor with a benediction; and presently on the first day, at the first dinner, by greedily partaking of fresh eels without wine, and more than was proper, he fell into a languor, which the food, undigested and lying heavily on an inflamed stomach, brought on. And lest the languor should be ascribed to his gluttony, he caused the monks of that place to be slandered of having given him poison.

Sect. 46. Geoffrey, archbishop of York, presuming upon the consent of his brother Earl John, his shipping being ready, came to Dover, and presently having landed, first sought a church for prayer. There is there a priory of monks of the profession of Canterbury, whose oratory he entered with his clerks to hear mass, and his household was intent about unlading the ships. No sooner had the whole of his goods been landed, than suddenly the constable of the castle caused whatever be thought was the archbishop's to be brought into the town, understanding more in the command of his lord the chancellor than he had commanded. Certain also of the soldiers, armed under their tunics, and girt with swords, came into the monastery, that they might apprehend the pontiff; whom when he saw, their intention being foreknown, he took a cross in his hands, and first addressing them and extending his hands towards his followers, he says, "I am the archbishop; if ye seek me, let these go their way." And the soldiers reply, "Whether you be an archbishop or not, it is nothing to us; one thing we know, that you are Geoffrey, the son of King Henry, whom he begot on some strange bed, who before the king, whose brother you make yourself, have forsworn England for three years; if you are not come into the kingdom as a traitor to the kingdom; if you have brought letters of absolution, either say, or take the reproach." Then said the archbishop, "I am not a traitor, neither will I shew you any letters." They then laid their hands on him there before the very altar, and violently dragged him out of the church against his will, and resisting, but not with force; who immediately being set without the threshold, excommunicated by name those who had laid hands on him, both present and whilst they were still holding him; nor did he receive the horse that they offered him that he might ride with them to the castle, because it was the property of the excommunicated. And so, outraging humanity, they dragged him on foot by the hands, and carrying the cross, all through the mud of the streets to the castle. After this they desired of their own good will to deal humanely with their captive, bringing him some of the best provisions which they had prepared for themselves; but he, being firmly resolved, by what he had now suffered, rejected their victuals as if it were an offering to idols, and refused to live on anything but his own. The report spread over the kingdom more rapidly than the wind, those who had followed their lord at a distance came after, relating and complaining to all that the archbishop, the king's brother, thus landed, had been so treated and detained in prison.

Sect. 47. The archbishop was already three days in custody, and the chancellor, as soon as the case was made known to him, restored to him all his goods, and set him at liberty to depart whithersoever he should desire. He wrote, moreover, to Earl John, and to all the bishops, asserting, with an oath, that the aforesaid man had suffered the above-written injuries without his knowledge. The excuse profited little, because the occasion, which had been long sought and which spontaneously offered itself against him, was most eagerly and tenaciously laid hold of. The authors of this daring act, who laid hands on the archbishop, as well as those who consented thereto, were all specially excommunicated in every church of the whole kingdom, that at least the chancellor, who was hateful to everybody, might be involved in the general malediction.

Sect. 48. Earl John, gnashing his teeth with anger against the chancellor, whom he hated, brought a weighty complaint before all the bishops and lords of the kingdom, of the infringement of the convention by the adverse party, by the arrest of his brother, to his own dishonour. The jurors are summoned and are sworn to stand by their plighted promise, and to bring it to pass as quickly as possible, that the perjurer and breaker of his faith should repair what he had done amiss by giving ample satisfaction. The affair, hitherto confined to trifles, now bears a serious aspect; the chancellor is summoned by the powerful authority of all his and the earl's mediators, to meet him and answer to the earl's accusations, and to submit to the law, the place at Lodbridge, the day the third of the nones of October.

Sect. 49. The earl, with the greatest part of the nobility of the kingdom all favouring him, had awaited the chancellor two days at the place of meeting, and on the third, in the morning, he sent on certain of his followers to London, still waiting at the place of meeting in case he who was expected should either dare or deign to come. The chancellor, dreading in himself the earl, and being suspicious of the judges, delayed to come to the place for two days; on the third (because as every one feels conscious in his mind, so does he conceive in his breast both hope and fear for his deeds), half-way between hope and fear, he attempted to go to the meeting. And behold Henry Biset, a faithful man of his, who had seen the above-mentioned party of the earl's friends passing on, putting frequently the spur to his horse, comes to meet the chancellor, and tells him that the earl, before daylight, had gone in arms to take London; and who was there, on that day, that did not take every thing as gospel, which that honourable man told them? but yet he was not guilty of falsehood, because he thought that what he had said was

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