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

page 9

 

war; and after arbitrarily deposing the leading Saxon prelates, and giving their benefices to his own foreign favourites, he prohibited the use of the Saxon ver­sion of the Scriptures, and even endeavoured to supersede the Saxon language by that of the Norman.
In the schools, in the law courts, and in the royal presence, only the Norman tongue was permitted to be spoken; yet it was found to be impossible to for ever silence the language of the people. Both the Saxons and the Normans could only commune together by borrowing from each other certain words and idioms, and in this manner the two dialects became amalgamated into the elements of the copious and expressive language in which Shakspeare wrote and Campbell sun».
It is reported that, about this period, "William, tainted with the licentiousness of the times, dishonoured the fair fame of the niece of Merleswen, a Kentish noble, and that Matilda, when she heard  of the intrigue, was so enraged, that she ) caused the unfortunate Saxon girl to be hamstrung, slit in the jaws, and murdered with all the horrors of refined cruelty. Fortunately for the fair fame of Matilda, this tale of horror is somewhat doubtful, it being mentioned by but two of the early chroniclers, who both seem to regard it as a probable fiction.
The horrors of civil war had not ceased in England, when, envying the Conqueror his greatness, the King of France, in alliance with the Duke of Brittany, attacked his continental possessions with powerful forces, and encouraged the province of Maine to revolt. Matilda, perceiving the dangers of her position, sent to her royal lord for assistance. When the news reached William's ears, he was at war with the King of Scotland, who supported the Saxon rebels. He, therefore, dispatched the son of Fitz-Osborn to the queen's immediate aid, and after concluding a hasty peace with the Scottish King, himself passed over to Normandy with a large army, composed chiefly of Saxons from the districts most likely to revolt. With these troops he speedily reduced Maine to subjection, drove the King of France to sue for peace, and restored tranquil­lity throughout his continental possessions.
William next laid siege to the city of Dol, where the Norman traitor, Ralph de Guader, had taken refuge: but as Alan Fergeant and other nobles came with a large army to the besieged earl's rescue, William was driven from the field with considerable loss, and only extricated himself from the dilemma by a treaty of peace, followed by the marriage of his daughter, Constance, with the brave Alan Fergeant, the fair bride being dowered with all the lands of Chester.

CHAPTER IV.

Princess Cecil veiled a nun — Robert quarrels with his father — Quits the court of Normandy in disgust — Matilda secretly supplies his wants — Her agent taken — The Conqueror's reproof — Matilda's reply — Escape of her agent — Robert takes up arms — William Rufus knighted — Supports his father — Battle of Archembraye — Robert unconsciously wounds his father — Implores forgiveness — Matilda brings about a re­conciliation — The Conqueror returns with Robert to England — The Scots chastised —  Doomsday book — Royal Revenue — Court of Exchequer established — Itinerating justices — Conqueror's rule productive of lasting benefits.

HE Easter of 1075 was kept by Matilda and her royal lord at Fescamp, where, attended by themselves and their court, the Princess Cecil, their eldest daughter, was consecrated a nun. This princess had been educated from her earliest years in the convent founded by her mother at Caen. According to a writer of her times—"She was learned, meek, and holy, excelling all her sisters in gentleness of heart, and of righteous mind. In the paths only of godliness she walked, and throughout her life she was a peerless pattern of Christian meekness and virgin purity."
The indifference of William, and the over-fondness of Matilda for their eldest son, Robert, now gave rise to domestic troubles, so serious and protracted, as to materially influence the future life of the royal pair.
Although proud and hasty, Robert was brave, kind-hearted, and generous to a fault. The Normans, over whom he had exercised sovereign sway during the lengthened absence of their liege lord, loved him for his bravery and generosity, und knowing that his father had promised some day to resign the duchy in his favour, they had regarded him as their monarch; he therefore felt highly humiliated when "William on his return assumed the reins of royalty, and compelled him to play the part of a subject, He had another more serious cause of complaint against his parent. The heiress of the last Earl of Maine, whom, when a child, he had espoused, died in her girlhood, and on her death, his father, the Duke of Normandy, had annexed her territory to his own patrimonial dominions. Being now of age, and seconded by the voice of the nobles of Maine, he demanded to he put in possession of the dower of his wife; but William, either from ambition or personal dislike, put him off with vague promises, and kept possession of the territory.
William Rufus, the third son of William and Matilda, was politic and crafty, and as much idolized by his father as Robert was despised. From his earliest youth, he sedulously endeavoured to win his father's highest esteem, his whole ambition being to supplant his brother Robert in the sovereignty of the Conqueror's possessions. These artful efforts in time produced their fruits—when the Conqueror died, he left Rufus his richest treasure, the crown of England.
In 1076, whilst William and Matilda held their court at the castle of Eagle, so named from its height and difficulty of access, Robert's younger brothers, William and Henry, maliciously threw some dirty water over him from a balcony above, which so exasperated him, that, in the heat of the moment, he drew his sword, and was about rushing up stairs to revenge the insult, when the king, alarmed at the noise, entered sword in hand, just in time to prevent serious consequences.

 

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