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Francis Lancelott Esq.    Matilda of Flanders, Queen of William the First, usually styled William the Conqueror

page 8


Great was the joy on that day of royal inauguration. The sun looked down on the brilliant assembly of earls and barons who witnessed the pompous ceremony, in the full glory of its splendour. One universal holiday reigned, and the air was rent by the joyous huzzas of the excited multitude. The appointments in the church and the halls were the richest that gold could procure, and the pageant, in magnificence, far outvied the one that had preceded it at Westminster. William deemed it wise to be recrowned along with Matilda; and before the prelate, Aldred, anointed him king, he voluntarily repeated the oath he had be­fore taken, to preserve the rights and liberties of the nation inviolate, and, above all, to uphold trial by jury. The queen, with a grace and modest dignity that won the hearts of all present, received the insignia of royalty from the hands of Aldred. But the exalted honour made her not a few enemies, as, from the day of her coronation, she was always addressed as Queen Regina, and so signed her name, whilst, before the Conquest, the queens were addressed by the Saxons only as the kings' ladies or companions, and not one of them had been crowned.
At this coronation it was, that the office of champion was instituted.    Marmion, whose descendant Sir "Walter Scott has immortalized in his well-known poem of that name, was the hold knight who, on this occasion, entered the banqueting-hall, armed cap-a-pie, and stentoriously challenged to single combat any who dared to deny that William and his consort were King and Queen of England. Probably, as Matilda had assumed the title of queen contrary to the customs of the country, the champion was sent forth to prevent the disaffected from questioning her right to regal honours; but, however this may be, the office was made hereditary, and from the Marmions descended by heirship to the Dymocks of Scrivelsbye; and, although, since the coronation of George IV., the ceremony has been omitted, ill that family, which for centuries has exercised it, the right is still preserved.
Shortly after the coronation of Matilda, her fourth son, Henry, surnamed Beauclerk, was born at Selby, in Yorkshire. To gratify the nation, the queen willed that all her lands and possessions in England should revert to him at her death.
To strengthen his possessions, and keep the Saxon spirit of rebellion in subjection, William about this period laid the foundation of the Tower of London, which, under the superintendence of the priestly architect, Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester, rapidly rose up an impregnable fortress. Thus, having overawed London and its suburbs, he, as a further safeguard, built and garrisoned a chain of strong military forts, extending from one end of the country to the other. The Saxon nobles became jealous of these measures, and many of them with­drew from court. The mighty Karls Edwin and Morcar—to the former of whom the Conqueror had first promised, and afterwards denied, one of his daughters in marriage—retired in disgust to Scotland, and there organized a plan, with the assistance of the Scottish King, the Princes of "Wales, and the King of Denmark, simultaneously to attack England. But their own dissensions, and the energetic precautions of William, defeated their daring projects.
In 1069, rebellion was rife in England, whilst Normandy was suffering from the long-continued absence of the court and nobility.
" We have grown poor and pitiable," said the Normans;" send us our good queen, and again will our trade revive, and plenty cheer our famishing boards."
William complied with their demands, for, in truth, by no other means could the safety of his wife, children, and patrimonial possessions be ensured. Matilda and her eldest son, Robert, were, as before, appointed regents of Normandy, and, at parting, William im­plored his consort to cherish peace, the arts, and industry in his native land, and to pray for the speedy restoration of tranquillity in England.
The departure of Matilda and her court aggravated the horrors of civil war in England. Trade was ruined; commerce there was none; and multitudes of peaceably-disposed citizens were compelled to starve, or join the ranks of the malcontents.
It was about this period that William, to prevent the people from meeting at night-time to discuss their grievances and plot against their oppressors, introduced into England the custom he had previously established in Normandy, known as the curfew, or couvre feu— literally, cover fire. All persons being compelled, at eight o'clock in the evening, on the tolling of a hell, to extinguish every light and fire in their dwellings, under a severe penalty.
On the departure of the queen from England, the Conqueror took the field, and rapidly marched to the north, where the powerful Waltheof, with his Saxon confederates, and the Danish army they had invited across the sea, had already obtained possession of Durham, York, and other places. He swore that he would not leave one living soul in Northumberland—an oath he strenuously endeavoured to keep. On entering Yorkshire, he marked his track with fire and sword—neither age nor sex was spared- and the slaughter of the affrighted inhabitants was terrible in the extreme. The city of York presented the  first formidable obstruction to his progress.    But what he could not gain bу force, he obtained by stratagem. By a bribe he induced the Danish commander to withdraw with his army to his ships ; and Waltheof, after a long defence, surrendered the castle of York, and accepted from the Conqueror, as the price of peace, the hand of his fair niece, Judith, in marriage. This illfated union was solemnized amidst the ruins of the city of York, where, with the indifference of a stoic, William tarried, and surrounded by the devastation he had himself effected, passed the following Christmas festival.
In 1070, the clergy, by continuing to uphold the cause of the Saxons, had so exasperated William, that he determined, at one stroke, to chastise their insolence and increase his own exchequer. Pretending that many of the rebels had secreted their gold and plate in the monasteries, he ruthlessly pillaged the sacred edifices of everything that was valuable, even to the shrines of the saints, and the consecrated vessels. He then compelled the clergy, as well as the laity, to provide him with troops of


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