The Northern Way

Part 6: A.D. 1070 - 1101

Page 2

A.D. 1080. This year was Bishop Walker slain in Durham, at a council; and an hundred men with him, French and Flemish. He himself was born in Lorrain. This did the Northumbrians in the month of May. (100)

A.D. 1081. This year the king led an army into Wales, and there freed many hundreds of men.

A.D. 1082. This year the king seized Bishop Odo; and this year also was a great famine.

A.D. 1083. This year arose the tumult at Glastonbury betwixt the Abbot Thurstan and his monks. It proceeded first from the abbot's want of wisdom, that he misgoverned his monks in many things. But the monks meant well to him; and told him that he should govern them rightly, and love them, and they would be faithful and obedient to him. The abbot, however, would hear nothing of this; but evil entreated them, and threatened them worse. One day the abbot went into the chapter-house, and spoke against the monks, and attempted to mislead them; (101) and sent after some laymen, and they came full-armed into the chapter- house upon the monks. Then were the monks very much afraid (102) of them, and wist not what they were to do, but they shot forward, and some ran into the church, and locked the doors after them. But they followed them into the minster, and resolved to drag them out, so that they durst not go out. A rueful thing happened on that day. The Frenchmen broke into the choir, and hurled their weapons toward the altar, where the monks were; and some of the knights went upon the upper floor, (103) and shot their arrows downward incessantly toward the sanctuary; so that on the crucifix that stood above the altar they stuck many arrows. And the wretched monks lay about the altar, and some crept under, and earnestly called upon God, imploring his mercy, since they could not obtain any at the hands of men. What can we say, but that they continued to shoot their arrows; whilst the others broke down the doors, and came in, and slew (104) some of the monks to death, and wounded many therein; so that the blood came from the altar upon the steps, and from the steps on the floor. Three there were slain to death, and eighteen wounded. And in this same year departed Matilda, queen of King William, on the day after All-Hallow-mass. And in the same year also, after mid-winter, the king ordained a large and heavy contribution (105) over all England; that was, upon each hide of land, two and seventy pence.

A.D. 1084. In this year died Wulfwold, Abbot of Chertsey, on the thirteenth day before the calends of May.

A.D. 1085. In this year men reported, and of a truth asserted, that Cnute, King of Denmark, son of King Sweyne, was coming hitherward, and was resolved to win this land, with the assistance of Robert, Earl of Flanders; (106) for Cnute had Robert's daughter. When William, King of England, who was then resident in Normandy (for he had both England and Normandy), understood this, he went into England with so large an army of horse and foot, from France and Brittany, as never before sought this land; so that men wondered how this land could feed all that force. But the king left the army to shift for themselves through all this land amongst his subjects, who fed them, each according to his quota of land. Men suffered much distress this year; and the king caused the land to be laid waste about the sea coast; that, if his foes came up, they might not have anything on which they could very readily seize. But when the king understood of a truth that his foes were impeded, and could not further their expedition, (107) then let he some of the army go to their own land; but some he held in this land over the winter. Then, at the midwinter, was the king in Glocester with his council, and held there his court five days. And afterwards the archbishop and clergy had a synod three days. There was Mauritius chosen Bishop of London, William of Norfolk, and Robert of Cheshire. These were all the king's clerks. After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out "How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire." Also he commissioned them to record in writing, "How much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, and his abbots, and his earls;" and though I may be prolix and tedious, "What, or how much, each man had, who was an occupier of land in England, either in land or in stock, and how much money it were worth." So very narrowly, indeed, did he commission them to trace it out, that there was not one single hide, nor a yard (108) of land, nay, moreover (it is shameful to tell, though he thought it no shame to do it), not even an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine was there left, that was not set down in his writ. And all the recorded particulars were afterwards brought to him. (109)

A.D. 1086. This year the king bare his crown, and held his court, in Winchester at Easter; and he so arranged, that he was by the Pentecost at Westminster, and dubbed his son Henry a knight there. Afterwards he moved about so that he came by Lammas to Sarum; where he was met by his councillors; and all the landsmen that were of any account over all England became this man's vassals as they were; and they all bowed themselves before him, and became his men, and swore him oaths of allegiance that they would against all other men be faithful to him. Thence he proceeded into the Isle of Wight; because he wished to go into Normandy, and so he afterwards did; though he first did according to his custom; he collected a very large sum from his people, wherever he could make any demand, whether with justice or otherwise. Then he went into Normandy; and Edgar Etheling, the relation of King Edward, revolted from him, for he received not much honour from him; but may the Almighty God give him honour hereafter. And Christina, the sister of the etheling, went into the monastery of Rumsey, and received the holy veil. And the same year there was a very heavy season, and a swinkful and sorrowful year in England, in murrain of cattle, and corn and fruits were at a stand, and so much untowardness in the weather, as a man may not easily think; so tremendous was the thunder and lightning, that it killed many men; and it continually grew worse and worse with men. May God Almighty better it whenever it be his will.

A.D. 1087. After the birth of our Lord and Saviour Christ, one thousand and eighty-seven winters; in the one and twentieth year after William began to govern and direct England, as God granted him, was a very heavy and pestilent season in this land. Such a sickness came on men, that full nigh every other man was in the worst disorder, that is, in the diarrhoea; and that so dreadfully, that many men died in the disorder. Afterwards came, through the badness of the weather as we before mentioned, so great a famine over all England, that many hundreds of men died a miserable death through hunger. Alas! how wretched and how rueful a time was there! When the poor wretches lay full nigh driven to death prematurely, and afterwards came sharp hunger, and dispatched them withall! Who will not be penetrated with grief at such a season? or who is so hardhearted as not to weep at such misfortune? Yet such things happen for folks' sins, that they will not love God and righteousness. So it was in those days, that little righteousness was in this land with any men but with the monks alone, wherever they fared well. The king and the head men loved much, and overmuch, covetousness in gold and in silver; and recked not how sinfully it was got, provided it came to them. The king let his land at as high a rate as he possibly could; then came some other person, and bade more than the former one gave, and the king let it to the men that bade him more. Then came the third, and bade yet more; and the king let it to hand to the men that bade him most of all: and he recked not how very sinfully the stewards got it of wretched men, nor how many unlawful deeds they did; but the more men spake about right law, the more unlawfully they acted. They erected unjust tolls, and many other unjust things they did, that are difficult to reckon. Also in the same year, before harvest, the holy minster of St. Paul, the episcopal see in London, was completely burned, with many other minsters, and the greatest part, and the richest of the whole city. So also, about the same time, full nigh each head-port in all England was entirely burned. Alas! rueful and woeful was the fate of the year that brought forth so many misfortunes. In the same year also, before the Assumption of St. Mary, King William went from Normandy into France with an army, and made war upon his own lord Philip, the king, and slew many of his men, and burned the town of Mante, and all the holy minsters that were in the town; and two holy men that served God, leading the life of anachorets, were burned therein. This being thus done, King William returned to Normandy. Rueful was the thing he did; but a more rueful him befel. How more rueful? He fell sick, and it dreadfully ailed him. What shall I say? Sharp death, that passes by neither rich men nor poor, seized him also. He died in Normandy, on the next day after the Nativity of St. Mary, and he was buried at Caen in St. Stephen's minster, which he had formerly reared, and afterwards endowed with manifold gifts. Alas! how false and how uncertain is this world's weal! He that was before a rich king, and lord of many lands, had not then of all his land more than a space of seven feet! and he that was whilom enshrouded in gold and gems, lay there covered with mould! He left behind him three sons; the eldest, called Robert, who was earl in Normandy after him; the second, called William, who wore the crown after him in England; and the third, called Henry, to whom his father bequeathed immense treasure. If any person wishes to know what kind of man he was, or what honour he had, or of how many lands he was lord, then will we write about him as well as we understand him: we who often looked upon him, and lived sometime in his court. This King William then that we speak about was a very wise man, and very rich; more splendid and powerful than any of his predecessors were. He was mild to the good men that loved God, and beyond all measure severe to the men that gainsayed his will. On that same spot where God granted him that he should gain England, he reared a mighty minster, and set monks therein, and well endowed it. In his days was the great monastery in Canterbury built, and also very many others over all England. This land was moreover well filled with monks, who modelled their lives after the rule of St. Benedict. But such was the state of Christianity in his time, that each man followed what belonged to his profession -- he that would. He was also very dignified. Thrice he bare his crown each year, as oft as he was in England. At Easter he bare it in Winchester, at Pentecost in Westminster, at midwinter in Glocester. And then were with him all the rich men over all England; archbishops and diocesan bishops, abbots and earls, thanes and knights. So very stern was he also and hot, that no man durst do anything against his will. He had earls in his custody, who acted against his will. Bishops he hurled from their bishoprics, and abbots from their abbacies, and thanes into prison. At length he spared not his own brother Odo, who was a very rich bishop in Normandy. At Baieux was his episcopal stall; and he was the foremost man of all to aggrandise the king. He had an earldom in England; and when the king was in Normandy, then was he the mightiest man in this land. Him he confined in prison. But amongst other things is not to be forgotten that good peace that he made in this land; so that a man of any account might go over his kingdom unhurt with his bosom full of gold. No man durst slay another, had he never so much evil done to the other; and if any churl lay with a woman against her will, he soon lost the limb that he played with. He truly reigned over England; and by his capacity so thoroughly surveyed it, that there was not a hide of land in England that he wist not who had it, or what it was worth, and afterwards set it down in his book. (110) The land of the Britons was in his power; and he wrought castles therein; and ruled Anglesey withal. So also he subdued Scotland by his great strength. As to Normandy, that was his native land; but he reigned also over the earldom called Maine; and if he might have yet lived two years more, he would have won Ireland by his valour, and without any weapons. Assuredly in his time had men much distress, and very many sorrows. Castles he let men build, and miserably swink the poor. The king himself was so very rigid; and extorted from his subjects many marks of gold, and many hundred pounds of silver; which he took of his people, for little need, by right and by unright. He was fallen into covetousness, and greediness he loved withal. He made many deer-parks; and he established laws therewith; so that whosoever slew a hart, or a hind, should be deprived of his eyesight. As he forbade men to kill the harts, so also the boars; and he loved the tall deer as if he were their father. Likewise he decreed by the hares, that they should go free. His rich men bemoaned it, and the poor men shuddered at it. But he was so stern, that he recked not the hatred of them all; for they must follow withal the king's will, if they would live, or have land, or possessions, or even his peace. Alas! that any man should presume so to puff himself up, and boast o'er all men. May the Almighty God show mercy to his soul, and grant him forgiveness of his sins! These things have we written concerning him, both good and evil; that men may choose the good after their goodness, and flee from the evil withal, and go in the way that leadeth us to the kingdom of heaven. Many things may we write that were done in this same year. So it was in Denmark, that the Danes, a nation that was formerly accounted the truest of all, were turned aside to the greatest untruth, and to the greatest treachery that ever could be. They chose and bowed to King Cnute, and swore him oaths, and afterwards dastardly slew him in a church. It happened also in Spain, that the heathens went and made inroads upon the Christians, and reduced much of the country to their dominion. But the king of the Christians, Alphonzo by name, sent everywhere into each land, and desired assistance. And they came to his support from every land that was Christian; and they went and slew or drove away all the heathen folk, and won their land again, through God's assistance. In this land also, in the same year, died many rich men; Stigand, Bishop of Chichester, and the Abbot of St. Augustine, and the Abbot of Bath, and the Abbot of Pershore, and the lord of them all, William, King of England, that we spoke of before. After his death his son, called William also as the father, took to the kingdom, and was blessed to king by Archbishop Landfranc at Westminster three days ere Michaelmas day. And all the men in England submitted to him, and swore oaths to him. This being thus done, the king went to Winchester, and opened the treasure house, and the treasures that his father had gathered, in gold, and in silver, and in vases, and in palls, and in gems, and in many other valuable things that are difficult to enumerate. Then the king did as his father bade him ere he was dead; he there distributed treasures for his father's soul to each monastery that was in England; to some ten marks of gold, to some six, to each upland (111) church sixty pence. And into each shire were sent a hundred pounds of money to distribute amongst poor men for his soul. And ere he departed, he bade that they should release all the men that were in prison under his power. And the king was on the midwinter in London.


(100) The brevity of our Chronicle here, and in the two following years, in consequence of the termination of "Cotton Tiberius" B iv., is remarkable. From the year 1083 it assumes a character more decidedly Anglo-Norman. Back

(101) i.e. In the service; by teaching them a new-fangled chant, brought from Feschamp in Normandy, instead of that to which they had been accustomed, and which is called the Gregorian chant. Back

(102) Literally, "afeared of them" -- i.e. terrified by them. Back

(103) Probably along the open galleries in the upper story of the choir. Back

(104) "Slaegan", in its first sense, signifies "to strike violently"; whence the term "sledge-hammer". This consideration will remove the supposed pleonasm in the Saxon phrase, which is here literally translated. Back

(105) "Gild," Sax.; which in this instance was a land-tax of one shilling to a yardland. Back

(106) -- and of Clave Kyrre, King of Norway. Vid. "Antiq. Celto-Scand". Back

(107) Because there was a mutiny in the Danish fleet; which was carried to such a height, that the king, after his return to Denmark, was slain by his own subjects. Vid. "Antiq. Celto- Scand", also our "Chronicle" A.D. 1087. Back

(108) i.e. a fourth part of an acre. Back

(109) At Winchester; where the king held his court at Easter in the following year; and the survey was accordingly deposited there; whence it was called "Rotulus Wintoniae", and "Liber Wintoniae". Back

(110) An evident allusion to the compilation of Doomsday book, already described in A.D. 1085. Back

(111) Uppe-land, Sax. -- i.e. village-church. Back

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