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

page 11

 

hose, from his low stature, was possessed of military talents second only to his own, and that, if not vigorously overwhelmed with powerful forces, he would doubtless soon become master of Normandy.
William Rufus desired above all things, the downfall of his rebel brother; and that he might support his father with all due honour in the held against him, he, before quitting England, had been knighted by Lanfranc, whom the King had elevated to the archbishopric of Canterbury.
Aided by his beloved son, William Rufus, the Conqueror raised a powerful army, and hastened to crush the power and chastise the insolent disobedience of his son Robert and the rebels who supported his standard. The hostile forces met on the plains of Archembraye, near the castle of Gerberoy. The fight was fierce and bravely maintained on both sides. Towards evening, a portion of the king's troops shewed symptoms of giving way. Robert seized the propitious moment, and with a reserve of chosen veterans rushed upon them from the heights above with such overwhelming impetuosity, as at once to decide the fate of the day. The Conqueror galloped to and fro amongst his disheartened troops, and exerted his utmost to rally them, but in vain. Overcome with panic, they broke their ranks, and those that could not flee before the victors were mercilessly slaughtered.
In the melee, Robert, unconscious against whom he tilted, wounded his father in the arm with his lance and unhorsed him, which so irritated the Conqueror, that, with a voice of thunder, he shouted, " Rescue, lieges! rescue! Bу the splendour of God! would you desert your duke?"
As the well-known voice rang through the ears of Robert, a shudder of horror thrilled his frame, he dropped his lance, dismounted, rushed to the duke, and raising him from the ground, exclaimed, "My father! my poor father! Oh, that I should live to sec this. Thank God." he continued, after glancing at the wound, " it is not mortal." Then, without daring to look up, he seated his parent on his own horse, led him to a retired spot, and on his knees implored forgiveness for the crime he had unintentionally committed.
But William, who in all his previous engagements had never lost a drop of blood, was too much exasperated at being overcome by the arm of the son whom his injustice and scorn had driven from court, to immediately listen to the voice of the penitent victor. He replied only with an oath of derision, and galloped off in a fever of passion.
Although victorious, Robert was so shocked at having but narrowly escaped the crime of parricide, that, instead of pursuing the advantage he had gained, he thought only of imploring forgiveness from his offended parent. But his entreaties were vain, until backed by the supplicating tears of his fond mother. The inroads grief was making on the health of the queen, moved the stubborn heart of the Conqueror. He relented, invited the victorious penitent to Rouen, received him with kindness, forgave him his crimes and follies, and promised to grant him all that was consistent with his own honour as a king. Matilda enjoyed the society of her favourite son for only a brief period. Shortly after the reconciliation, the Conqueror returned to England, and took Robert with him, under the pretext that he required him to fight against the King of Scotland, hut with the real motive of separating him from his Norman partisans and his overfond mother.
During his stay in England, Robert achieved nothing of importance, except the founding of the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where Monkchester formerly stood.
After chastising the Scotch, and reducing his English malcontents to submission, the Conqueror caused to be compiled a great survey of all the lands and properties of his British subjects, the particulars thereof being entered in two books, called the great and little Doomsday Rooks, which are still preserved in the Exchequer.
According to Brady, this survey was begun in 1080, and finished in 1086. It was made by verdict or presentment of juries. They noted how much arable land, pasture, meadow, and wood, every man had, from the King himself down to the poorest proprietor, and what was the extent and value of the lands at the time of Edward the Confessor, and at the time of making the survey. The survey was made by counties, hundreds, and towns, in manors, hides, half-hides, and acres of land, meadow, pasture, and wood. The surveyors also specified the value of every person's estate ; the names of the monasteries and religious houses ; the number of mills and fisheries ; the amount of live stock, and how many freemen, villains, and servants there were in every town and manor. This general register, sometimes caked the " Great Terrar, or Land Book of England," was made by the Conqueror with a view to increase his income. He had reduced the Anglo-Saxons to poverty, and now that their estates were possessed by the Normans and others, he resolved to fill his royal coffers by the imposition of heavy taxes and fines on the wealthy foreigners. The scheme succeeded to perfection ; the royal revenue was raised to the sum of four hundred thousand pounds—equal to five millions at the present day—and, in addition to this fixed income, he obtained many thousands annually in the form of fines, mulcts, licenses, forfeitures, and parliamentary grants.
In 1079, the Conqueror established the Court of Exchequer; he also appointed justices to itinerate through the realm, and determine certain pleas and causes; and by encouraging his officers of state, both civil and criminal, to above everything respect the law, and do equal justice to all men, ho furthered the establishing of order and good-will amongst all his English subjects. Indeed, his measures generally, although apparently severe, were productive of lasting benefits to England; and, but for the rigour of the game laws that he introduced, and his reckless spoliation of village, hamlet, and monastery, to form his great hunting park in Hampshire, the latter years of his reign would have added to the splendour of his memory.

 

 

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