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Richard of Devizes Chronicle

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Richard of Devizes
page 12

Respecting the deficiencies of the king, if I have done any thing amiss in that matter, Geoffrey Fitz-Peter, William Briwere, and Hugh Bardolf, whom I received from the king as councillors, would, if it were permitted them to speak, give satisfaction for me. Why and in what I have spent the king's treasure, I am ready to give account to the utmost farthing. I do not refuse to give hostages for delivering up the castles, though in this I ought rather to fear the king; yet as I must, I must. The name which you are not able to take away, and I am still to bear, I do not set light by. In short, I give you all to know, that I depose myself from no administration given me by the king. You, being many, have besieged me alone; you are stronger than I, and I, the king's chancellor and justiciary of the kingdom, am condemned against all form of law; it is through necessity I yield to the stronger." The sun declining to the west, put an end to the allegations of the parties; the two brothers of the chancellor that was, and a certain third person, his chamberlain, who had also been his secretary, were received in hostage. The assembly is dissolved, the keys of the Tower of London being given up on the sixth of the ides of October. The chancellor started for Dover, one, to wit, of the three castles of which mention was made; and the earl delivered, to those he chose and whom he trusted most, all the fortresses of the land which had been given up to him.

Sect. 54. Messengers are immediately despatched to the Land of Promise, to the king himself, both by the condemned and the condemners, each by his own party, sufficiently instructed to accuse or excuse. The chancellor, being uncomfortable here under the appellation of his lost authority, and the recollection of his present state, whilst he endeavoured by all means to elude the prohibition of his going abroad, got scoffed, not uniformly, nor once only. I will not recount how he was taken and detained, both in the habit of a monk and in that of a woman, because it is enough, and more than enough, to recollect what inestimable property and immense treasures the Flemish stripped him of, when at length he arrived in Flanders. His passage over being known, whatever revenue he had possessed in England was confiscated. A most dreadful contention is carried on between the mighty. The chancellor suspends his diocese which had been taken from him, and he denounces his anathema upon all those who trespassed against him. Nor was the archbishop of Rouen more remiss in the same way, for in revenge for his presumptuous excommunication of the Exchequer barons, he commanded it to be announced throughout Normandy that William de Longchamp should be held as excommunicated. He was, however, unwilling to seem to fear the malediction uttered against the invaders of the aforesaid bishopric, nor did he believe that the sentence of a fugitive prelate could find its way before his majesty's throne. So the face of the church of Ely was disfigured, they ceased throughout the diocese from every work of the Lord, the bodies of the dead lay unburied by all the ways. In Normandy, the like being returned, none under the archbishop's authority communicated with the chancellor; on his entry every church was suspended, and on his departure all the bells were rung, and the altars where he officiated cast down.

Sect. 55. Two legates despatched into France by the pope, at the instigation, though secret, as is reported, of the king of the French, came to Gisorz to visit Normandy, which they understood was a chief part of the kingdom of the French, but both the constable of the castle and the seneschal of Normandy would not admit them, excusing themselves with this shadow of a reason, that the visitation of any provinCe should not be made unless with the approbation or in the presence of the lord of the land; all the kings of the English, and particularly Richard, being especially indulged with this privilege by the Holy See. No allegation, whether real or probable, availed with the legates; their almost divine power rose and swelled with rage, though against those who heeded them not: the contemned authority of Roman majesty is exercised; they lay aside high-flown sentences and long words. They threaten their adversaries with much bitterness; but, however, as they had not to plead with boys, the castle gates being shut against them, they stood without the doom. But their solace was not wanting; though they were repulsed. They reached with their power, where they could not approach in person. They excommunicated by name the constable of Gisorz and the seneschal of Normandy, there present, and suspended the whole of Normandy from every administration of the rites of the church. It was necessary to yield to their power; the church was silent immediately, and so remained the space of three weeks, until, the pope being supplicated, both the sentence against those named was remitted, and the suspension given out against Normandy. The book of liberty was restored to Normandy, and the voice of gladness, and the legates were prohibited to set foot therein.

Sect. 56. The Westminster monks, who before those days had so greatly excelled in magnanimity, that they would not stain their deeds for death itself, as soon as they saw a new era, changed also with the time, putting behind their backs whatever they had covenanted with the chancellor for his brother; with the connivance of the earl, they elected the prior of their house to be abbot, who also received immediately the benediction and staff from the bishop of London. The chancellor's brother, who by agreement should have been elected abbot, seeing the convent break their engagement, troubled thereat, departed with his half modesty, carrying off with him, however, the bond of security, having made an appeal prior to the second election before legitimate witnesses, that nothing should be done against his stipulated promotion. The monks of Muchelney, after the example of those of Westminster, though not altogether in a similar way, expelled their principal, I do not know whether abbot or abbot elect, whom they had been forced to accept, casting forth the straw of his bed after him, and thrust him, with much insult out of their island to the four winds of heaven.

Sect. 57. The archbishop of Rouen being constituted by the earl justiciary of the kingdom, and supreme over affairs, having convoked, at Canterbury, the clergy and people, as the king himself had enjoined him, directed them to proceed to the election of an archbishop. The bishops of London and Winchester, however, were not present, being detained at London by the king's business, and the question being broached among the bishops who had assembled, which of them should be esteemed the greater, whose the election ought to be, as the two aforesaid of chief dignity were absent, the prior of Canterbury solving the point of difficulty,

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