The Northern Way

Part 6: A.D. 1070 - 1101

Page 3

A.D. 1088. In this year was this land much stirred, and filled with great treachery; so that the richest Frenchmen that were in this land would betray their lord the king, and would have his brother Robert king, who was earl in Normandy. In this design was engaged first Bishop Odo, and Bishop Gosfrith, and William, Bishop of Durham. So well did the king by the bishop [Odo] that all England fared according to his counsel, and as he would. And the bishop thought to do by him as Judas Iscariot did by our Lord. And Earl Roger was also of this faction; and much people was with him all Frenchmen. This conspiracy was formed in Lent. As soon as Easter came, then went they forth, and harrowed, and burned, and wasted the king's farms; and they despoiled the lands of all the men that were in the king's service. And they each of them went to his castle, and manned it, and provisioned it as well as they could. Bishop Gosfrith, and Robert the peace- breaker, went to Bristol, and plundered it, and brought the spoil to the castle. Afterwards they went out of the castle, and plundered Bath, and all the land thereabout; and all the honor (112) of Berkeley they laid waste. And the men that eldest were of Hereford, and all the shire forthwith, and the men of Shropshire, with much people of Wales, came and plundered and burned in Worcestershire, until they came to the city itself, which it was their design to set on fire, and then to rifle the minster, and win the king's castle to their hands. The worthy Bishop Wulfstan, seeing these things, was much agitated in his mind, because to him was betaken the custody of the castle. Nevertheless his hired men went out of the castle with few attendants, and, through God's mercy and the bishop's merits, slew or took five hundred men, and put all the others to flight. The Bishop of Durham did all the harm that he could over all by the north. Roger was the name of one of them; (113) who leaped into the castle at Norwich, and did yet the worst of all over all that land. Hugh also was one, who did nothing better either in Leicestershire or in Northamptonshire. The Bishop Odo being one, though of the same family from which the king himself was descended, went into Kent to his earldom, and greatly despoiled it; and having laid waste the lands of the king and of the archbishop withal, he brought the booty into his castle at Rochester. When the king understood all these things, and what treachery they were employing against him, then was he in his mind much agitated. He then sent after Englishmen, described to them his need, earnestly requested their support, and promised them the best laws that ever before were in this land; each unright guild he forbade, and restored to the men their woods and chaces. But it stood no while. The Englishmen however went to the assistance of the king their lord. They advanced toward Rochester, with a view to get possession of the Bishop Odo; for they thought, if they had him who was at first the head of the conspiracy, they might the better get possession of all the others. They came then to the castle at Tunbridge; and there were in the castle the knights of Bishop Odo, and many others who were resolved to hold it against the king. But the Englishmen advanced, and broke into the castle, and the men that were therein agreed with the king. The king with his army went toward Rochester. And they supposed that the bishop was therein; but it was made known to the king that the bishop was gone to the castle at Pevensea. And the king with his army went after, and beset the castle about with a very large force full six weeks. During this time the Earl of Normandy, Robert, the king's brother, gathered a very considerable force, and thought to win England with the support of those men that were in this land against the king. And he sent some of his men to this land, intending to come himself after. But the Englishmen that guarded the sea lighted upon some of the men, and slew them, and drowned more than any man could tell. When provisions afterwards failed those within the castle, they earnestly besought peace, and gave themselves up to the king; and the bishop swore that he would depart out of England, and no more come on this land, unless the king sent after him, and that he would give up the castle at Rochester. Just as the bishop was going with an intention to give up the castle, and the king had sent his men with him, then arose the men that were in the castle, and took the bishop and the king's men, and put them into prison. In the castle were some very good knights; Eustace the Young, and the three sons of Earl Roger, and all the best born men that were in this land or in Normandy. When the king understood this thing, then went he after with the army that he had there, and sent over all England. and bade that each man that was faithful should come to him, French and English, from sea-port and from upland. Then came to him much people; and he went to Rochester, and beset the castle, until they that were therein agreed, and gave up the castle. The Bishop Odo with the men that were in the castle went over sea, and the bishop thus abandoned the dignity that he had in this land. The king afterwards sent an army to Durham, and allowed it to beset the castle, and the bishop agreed, and gave up the castle, and relinquished his bishopric, and went to Normandy. Many Frenchmen also abandoned their lands, and went over sea; and the king gave their lands to the men that were faithful to him.

A.D. 1089. In this year the venerable father and favourer of monks, Archbishop Landfranc, departed this life; but we hope that he is gone to the heavenly kingdom. There was also over all England much earth-stirring on the third day before the ides of August, and it was a very late year in corn, and in every kind of fruits, so that many men reaped their corn about Martinmas, and yet later.

A.D. 1090. Indiction XIII. These things thus done, just as we have already said above, by the king, and by his brother and by this men, the king was considering how he might wreak his vengeance on his brother Robert, harass him most, and win Normandy of him. And indeed through his craft, or through bribery, he got possession of the castle at St. Valeri, and the haven; and so he got possession of that at Albemarle. And therein he set his knights; and they did harm to the land in harrowing and burning. After this he got possession of more castles in the land; and therein lodged his horsemen. When the Earl of Normandy, Robert, understood that his sworn men deceived him, and gave up their castles to do him harm, then sent he to his lord, Philip, king of the Franks; and he came to Normandy with a large army, and the king and the earl with an immense force beset the castle about, wherein were the men of the King of England. But the King William of England sent to Philip, king of the Franks; and he for his love, or for his great treasure, abandoned thus his subject the Earl Robert and his land; and returned again to France, and let them so remain. And in the midst of these things this land was much oppressed by unlawful exactions and by many other misfortunes.

A.D. 1091. In this year the King William held his court at Christmas in Westminster, and thereafter at Candlemas he went, for the annoyance of his brother, out of England into Normandy. Whilst he was there, their reconciliation took place, on the condition, that the earl put into his hands Feschamp, and the earldom of Ou, and Cherbourg; and in addition to this, that the king's men should be secure in the castles that they had won against the will of the earl. And the king in return promised him those many [castles] that their father had formerly won, and also to reduce those that had revolted from the earl, also all that his father had there beyond, except those that he had then given the king, and that all those, that in England before for the earl had lost their land, should have it again by this treaty, and that the earl should have in England just so much as was specified in this agreement. And if the earl died without a son by lawful wedlock, the king should be heir of all Normandy; and by virtue of this same treaty, if the king died, the earl should be heir of all England. To this treaty swore twelve of the best men of the king's side, and twelve of the earl's, though it stood but a little while afterwards. In the midst of this treaty was Edgar Etheling deprived of the land that the earl had before permitted him to keep in hand; and he went out of Normandy to the king, his sister's husband, in Scotland, and to his sister. Whilst the King William was out of England, the King Malcolm of Scotland came hither into England, and overran a great deal of it, until the good men that governed this land sent an army against him and repulsed him. When the King William in Normandy heard this, then prepared he his departure, and came to England, and his brother, the Earl Robert, with him; and he soon issued an order to collect a force both naval and military; but the naval force, ere it could come to Scotland, perished almost miserably, a few days before St. Michael's mass. And the king and his brother proceeded with the land-force; but when the King Malcolm heard that they were resolved to seek him with an army, he went with his force out of Scotland into Lothaine in England, and there abode. When the King William came near with his army, then interceded between them Earl Robert, and Edgar Etheling, and so made the peace of the kings, that the King Malcolm came to our king, and did homage, (114) promising all such obedience as he formerly paid to his father; and that he confirmed with an oath. And the King William promised him in land and in all things whatever he formerly had under his father. In this settlement was also Edgar Etheling united with the king. And the kings then with much satisfaction departed; yet that stood but a little while. And the Earl Robert tarried here full nigh until Christmas with the king, and during this time found but little of the truth of their agreement; and two days before that tide he took ship in the Isle of Wight, and went into Normandy, and Edgar Etheling with him.

A.D. 1092. In this year the King William with a large army went north to Carlisle, and restored the town, and reared the castle, and drove out Dolphin that before governed the land, and set his own men in the castle, and then returned hither southward. And a vast number of rustic people with wives and with cattle he sent thither, to dwell there in order to till the land.

A.D. 1093. In this year, during Lent, was the King William at Glocester so sick, that he was by all reported dead. And in his illness he made many good promises to lead his own life aright; to grant peace and protection to the churches of God, and never more again with fee to sell; to have none but righteous laws amongst his people. The archbishopric of Canterbury, that before remained in his own hand, he transferred to Anselm, who was before Abbot of Bec; to Robert his chancellor the bishopric of Lincoln; and to many minsters he gave land; but that he afterwards took away, when he was better, and annulled all the good laws that he promised us before. Then after this sent the King of Scotland, and demanded the fulfilment of the treaty that was promised him. And the King William cited him to Glocester, and sent him hostages to Scotland; and Edgar Etheling, afterwards, and the men returned, that brought him with great dignity to the king. But when he came to the king, he could not be considered worthy either of our king's speech, or of the conditions that were formerly promised him. For this reason therefore they parted with great dissatisfaction, and the King Malcolm returned to Scotland. And soon after he came home, he gathered his army, and came harrowing into England with more hostility than behoved him; and Robert, the Earl of Northumberland, surrounded him unawares with his men, and slew him. Morel of Barnborough slew him, who was the earl's steward, and a baptismal friend (115) of King Malcolm. With him was also slain Edward his son; who after him should have been king, if he had lived. When the good Queen Margaret heard this -- her most beloved lord and son thus betrayed she was in her mind almost distracted to death. She with her priests went to church, and performed her rites, and prayed before God, that she might give up the ghost. And the Scots then chose (116) Dufenal to king, Malcolm's brother, and drove out all the English that formerly were with the King Malcolm. When Duncan, King Malcolm's son, heard all that had thus taken place (he was then in the King William's court, because his father had given him as a hostage to our king's father, and so he lived here afterwards), he came to the king, and did such fealty as the king required at his hands; and so with his permission went to Scotland, with all the support that he could get of English and French, and deprived his uncle Dufenal of the kingdom, and was received as king. But the Scots afterwards gathered some force together, and slew full nigh all his men; and he himself with a few made his escape. (117) Afterwards they were reconciled, on the condition that he never again brought into the land English or French.

A.D. 1094. This year the King William held his court at Christmas in Glocester; and messengers came to him thither from his brother Robert of Normandy; who said that his brother renounced all peace and conditions, unless the king would fulfil all that they had stipulated in the treaty; and upon that he called him forsworn and void of truth, unless he adhered to the treaty, or went thither and explained himself there, where the treaty was formerly made and also sworn. Then went the king to Hastings at Candlemas; and whilst he there abode waiting the weather, he let hallow the minster at Battel, and deprived Herbert Losang, the Bishop of Thetford, of his staff; and thereafter about mid-Lent went over sea into Normandy. After he came, thither, he and his brother Robert, the earl, said that they should come together in peace (and so they did), and might be united. Afterwards they came together with the same men that before made the treaty, and also confirmed it by oaths; and all the blame of breaking the treaty they threw upon the king; but he would not confess this, nor even adhere to the treaty; and for this reason they parted with much dissatisfaction. And the king afterwards won the castle at Bures, and took the earl's men therein; some of whom he sent hither to this land. On the other hand the earl, with the assistance of the King of France, won the castle at Argence, and took therein Roger of Poitou, (118) and seven hundred of the king's knights with him; and afterwards that at Hulme; and oft readily did either of them burn the towns of the other, and also took men. Then sent the king hither to this land, and ordered twenty thousand Englishmen to be sent out to Normandy to his assistance; but when they came to sea, they then had orders to return, and to pay to the king's behoof the fee that they had taken; which was half a pound each man; and they did so. And the earl after this, with the King of France, and with all that he could gather together, went through the midst of Normandy, towards Ou, where the King William was, and thought to besiege him within; and so they advanced until they came to Luneville. There was the King of France through cunning turned aside; and so afterwards all the army dispersed. In the midst of these things the King William sent after his brother Henry, who was in the castle at Damfront; but because he could not go through Normandy with security, he sent ships after him, and Hugh, Earl of Chester. When, however, they should have gone towards Ou where the king was, they went to England, and came up at Hamton, (119) on the eve of the feast of All Saints, and here afterwards abode; and at Christmas they were in London. In this same year also the Welshmen gathered themselves together, and with the French that were in Wales, or in the neighbourhood, and had formerly seized their land, stirred up war, and broke into many fastnesses and castles, and slew many men. And when their followers had increased, they divided themselves into larger parties. With some part of them fought Hugh, Earl of Shropshire, (120) and put them to flight. Nevertheless the other part of them all this year omitted no evil that they could do. This year also the Scots ensnared their king, Duncan, and slew him; and afterwards, the second time, took his uncle Dufenal to king, through whose instruction and advice he was betrayed to death.


(112) i.e. jurisdiction. We have adopted the modern title of the district; but the Saxon term occurs in many of the ancient evidences of Berkeley Castle. Back

(113) i.e. of the conspirators. Back

(114) Literally "became his man" -- "Ic becom eowr man" was the formula of doing homage. Back

(115) Literally a "gossip"; but such are the changes which words undergo in their meaning as well as in their form, that a title of honour formerly implying a spiritual relationship in God, is now applied only to those whose conversation resembles the contemptible tittle-tattle of a Christening. Back

(116) From this expression it is evident, that though preference was naturally and properly given to hereditary claims, the monarchy of Scotland, as well as of England, was in principle "elective". The doctrine of hereditary, of divine, of indefeasible "right", is of modern growth. Back

(117) See the following year towards the end, where Duncan is said to be slain. Back

(118) Peitevin, which is the connecting link between "Pictaviensem" and "Poitou". Back

(119) Now called Southampton, to distinguish it from Northampton, but the common people in both neighbourhoods generally say "Hamton" to this day (1823). Back

(120) The title is now Earl of Shrewsbury. Back

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