The Northern Way

Part 7: A.D. 1102 - 1154

Page 4

A.D. 1131. This year, after Christmas, on a Monday night, at the first sleep, was the heaven on the northern hemisphere (162) all as if it were burning fire; so that all who saw it were so dismayed as they never were before. That was on the third day before the ides of January. This same year was so great a murrain of cattle as never was before in the memory of man over all England. That was in neat cattle and in swine; so that in a town where there were ten ploughs going, or twelve, there was not left one: and the man that had two hundred or three hundred swine, had not one left. Afterwards perished the hen fowls; then shortened the fleshmeat, and the cheese, and the butter. May God better it when it shall be his will. And the King Henry came home to England before harvest, after the mass of St. Peter "ad vincula". This same year went the Abbot Henry, before Easter, from Peterborough over sea to Normandy, and there spoke with the king, and told him that the Abbot of Clugny had desired him to come to him, and resign to him the abbacy of Angeli, after which he would go home by his leave. And so he went home to his own minster, and there remained even to midsummer day. And the next day after the festival of St. John chose the monks an abbot of themselves, brought him into the church in procession, sang "Te Deum laudamus", rang the bells, set him on the abbot's throne, did him all homage, as they should do their abbot: and the earl, and all the head men, and the monks of the minster, drove the other Abbot Henry out of the monastery. And they had need; for in five-and-twenty winters had they never hailed one good day. Here failed him all his mighty crafts. Now it behoved him, that he crope in his skin into every corner, if peradventure there were any unresty wrench, (163) whereby he might yet once more betray Christ and all Christian people. Then retired he into Clugny, where he was held so fast, that he could not move east or west. The Abbot of Clugny said that they had lost St. John's minster through him, and through his great sottishness. Then could he not better recompense them; but he promised them, and swore oaths on the holy cross, that if he might go to England he should get them the minster of Peterborough; so that he should set there the prior of Clugny, with a churchwarden, a treasurer, and a sacristan: and all the things that were within the minster and without, he should procure for them. Thus he departed into France; and there remained all that year. Christ provide for the wretched monks of Peterborough, and for that wretched place. Now do they need the help of Christ and of all Christian folk.

A.D. 1132. This year came King Henry to this land. Then came Abbot Henry, and betrayed the monks of Peterborough to the king, because he would subject that minster to Clugny; so that the king was well nigh entrapped, and sent after the monks. But through the grace of God, and through the Bishop of Salisbury, and the Bishop of Lincoln, and the other rich men that were there, the king knew that he proceeded with treachery. When he no more could do, then would he that his nephew should be Abbot of Peterborough. But Christ forbade. Not very long after this was it that the king sent after him, and made him give up the Abbey of Peterborough, and go out of the land. And the king gave the abbacy to a prior of St. Neot's, called Martin, who came on St. Peter's mass-day with great pomp into the minster.

A.D. 1135. In this year went the King Henry over sea at the Lammas; and the next day, as he lay asleep on ship, the day darkened over all lands, and the sun was all as it were a three night old moon, and the stars about him at midday. Men were very much astonished and terrified, and said that a great event should come hereafter. So it did; for that same year was the king dead, the next day after St. Andrew's mass-day, in Normandy. Then was there soon tribulation in the land; for every man that might, soon robbed another. Then his sons and his friends took his body, and brought it to England, and buried it at Reading. A good man he was; and there was great dread of him. No man durst do wrong with another in his time. Peace he made for man and beast. Whoso bare his burthen of gold and silver, durst no man say ought to him but good. Meanwhile was his nephew come to England, Stephen de Blois. He came to London, and the people of London received him, and sent after the Archbishop William Curboil, and hallowed him to king on midwinter day. In this king's time was all dissention, and evil, and rapine; for against him rose soon the rich men who were traitors; and first of all Baldwin de Redvers, who held Exeter against him. But the king beset it; and afterwards Baldwin accorded. Then took the others, and held their castles against him; and David, King of Scotland, took to Wessington against him. Nevertheless their messengers passed between them; and they came together, and were settled, but it availed little.

A.D. 1137. This year went the King Stephen over sea to Normandy, and there was received; for that they concluded that he should be all such as the uncle was; and because he had got his treasure: but he dealed it out, and scattered it foolishly. Much had King Henry gathered, gold and silver, but no good did men for his soul thereof. When the King Stephen came to England, he held his council at Oxford; where he seized the Bishop Roger of Sarum, and Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and the chancellor Roger, his nephew; and threw all into prison till they gave up their castles. When the traitors understood that he was a mild man, and soft, and good, and no justice executed, then did they all wonder. They had done him homage, and sworn oaths, but they no truth maintained. They were all forsworn, and forgetful of their troth; for every rich man built his castles, which they held against him: and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works; and when the castles were made, they filled them with devils and evil men. Then took they those whom they supposed to have any goods, both by night and by day, labouring men and women, and threw them into prison for their gold and silver, and inflicted on them unutterable tortures; for never were any martyrs so tortured as they were. Some they hanged up by the feet, and smoked them with foul smoke; and some by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung coats of mail on their feet. They tied knotted strings about their heads, and twisted them till the pain went to the brains. They put them into dungeons, wherein were adders, and snakes, and toads; and so destroyed them. Some they placed in a crucet-house; that is, in a chest that was short and narrow, and not deep; wherein they put sharp stones, and so thrust the man therein, that they broke all the limbs. In many of the castles were things loathsome and grim, called "Sachenteges", of which two or three men had enough to bear one. It was thus made: that is, fastened to a beam; and they placed a sharp iron [collar] about the man's throat and neck, so that he could in no direction either sit, or lie, or sleep, but bear all that iron. Many thousands they wore out with hunger. I neither can, nor may I tell all the wounds and all the pains which they inflicted on wretched men in this land. This lasted the nineteen winters while Stephen was king; and it grew continually worse and worse. They constantly laid guilds on the towns, and called it "tenserie"; and when the wretched men had no more to give, then they plundered and burned all the towns; that well thou mightest go a whole day's journey and never shouldest thou find a man sitting in a town, nor the land tilled. Then was corn dear, and flesh, and cheese, and butter; for none was there in the land. Wretched men starved of hunger. Some had recourse to alms, who were for a while rich men, and some fled out of the land. Never yet was there more wretchedness in the land; nor ever did heathen men worse than they did: for, after a time, they spared neither church nor churchyard, but took all the goods that were therein, and then burned the church and all together. Neither did they spare a bishop's land, or an abbot's, or a priest's, but plundered both monks and clerks; and every man robbed another who could. If two men, or three, came riding to a town, all the township fled for them, concluding them to be robbers. The bishops and learned men cursed them continually, but the effect thereof was nothing to them; for they were all accursed, and forsworn, and abandoned. To till the ground was to plough the sea: the earth bare no corn, for the land was all laid waste by such deeds; and they said openly, that Christ slept, and his saints. Such things, and more than we can say, suffered we nineteen winters for our sins. In all this evil time held Abbot Martin his abbacy twenty years and a half, and eight days, with much tribulation; and found the monks and the guests everything that behoved them; and held much charity in the house; and, notwithstanding all this, wrought on the church, and set thereto lands and rents, and enriched it very much, and bestowed vestments upon it. And he brought them into the new minster on St. Peter's mass-day with much pomp; which was in the year, from the incarnation of our Lord, 1140, and in the twenty-third from the destruction of the place by fire. And he went to Rome, and there was well received by the Pope Eugenius; from whom he obtained their privileges: -- one for all the lands of the abbey, and another for the lands that adjoin to the churchyard; and, if he might have lived longer, so he meant to do concerning the treasury. And he got in the lands that rich men retained by main strength. Of William Malduit, who held the castle of Rockingham, he won Cotingham and Easton; and of Hugh de Walteville, he won Hirtlingbury and Stanwick, and sixty shillings from Oldwinkle each year. And he made many monks, and planted a vine-yard, and constructed many works, and made the town better than it was before. He was a good monk, and a good man; and for this reason God and good men loved him. Now we will relate in part what happened in King Stephen's time. In his reign the Jews of Norwich bought a Christian child before Easter, and tortured him after the same manner as our Lord was tortured; and on Long- Friday (164) hanged him on a rood, in mockery of our Lord, and afterwards buried him. They supposed that it would be concealed, but our Lord showed that he was a holy martyr. And the monks took him, and buried him with high honour in the minster. And through our Lord he worketh wonderful and manifold miracles, and is called St. William.

A.D. 1138. In this year came David, King of Scotland, with an immense army to this land. He was ambitious to win this land; but against him came William, Earl of Albemarle, to whom the king had committed York, and other borderers, with few men, and fought against them, and routed the king at the Standard, and slew very many of his gang.

A.D. 1140. In this year wished the King Stephen to take Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the son of King Henry; but he could not, for he was aware of it. After this, in the Lent, the sun and the day darkened about the noon-tide of the day, when men were eating; and they lighted candles to eat by. That was the thirteenth day before the kalends of April. Men were very much struck with wonder. Thereafter died William, Archbishop of Canterbury; and the king made Theobald archbishop, who was Abbot of Bec. After this waxed a very great war betwixt the king and Randolph, Earl of Chester; not because he did not give him all that he could ask him, as he did to all others; but ever the more he gave them, the worse they were to him. The Earl held Lincoln against the king, and took away from him all that he ought to have. And the king went thither, and beset him and his brother William de Romare in the castle. And the earl stole out, and went after Robert, Earl of Glocester, and brought him thither with a large army. And they fought strenuously on Candlemas day against their lord, and took him; for his men forsook him and fled. And they led him to Bristol, and there put him into prison in close quarters. Then was all England stirred more than ere was, and all evil was in the land. Afterwards came the daughter of King Henry, who had been Empress of Germany, and now was Countess of Anjou. She came to London; but the people of London attempted to take her, and she fled, losing many of her followers. After this the Bishop of Winchester, Henry, the brother of King Stephen, spake with Earl Robert, and with the empress, and swore them oaths, "that he never more would hold with the king, his brother," and cursed all the men that held with him, and told them, that he would give them up Winchester; and he caused them to come thither. When they were therein, then came the king's queen with all her strength, and beset them, so that there was great hunger therein. When they could no longer hold out, then stole they out, and fled; but those without were aware, and followed them, and took Robert, Earl of Glocester, and led him to Rochester, and put him there into prison; but the empress fled into a monastery. Then went the wise men between the king's friends and the earl's friends; and settled so that they should let the king out of prison for the earl, and the earl for the king; and so they did. After this settled the king and Earl Randolph at Stamford, and swore oaths, and plighted their troth, that neither should betray the other. But it availed nothing. For the king afterwards took him at Northampton, through wicked counsel, and put him into prison; and soon after he let him out again, through worse counsel, on the condition that he swore by the crucifix, and found hostages, that he would give up all his castles. Some he gave up, and some gave he not up; and did then worse than he otherwise would. Then was England very much divided. Some held with the king, and some with the empress; for when the king was in prison, the earls and the rich men supposed that he never more would come out: and they settled with the empress, and brought her into Oxford, and gave her the borough. When the king was out, he heard of this, and took his force, and beset her in the tower. (165) And they let her down in the night from the tower by ropes. And she stole out, and fled, and went on foot to Wallingford. Afterwards she went over sea; and those of Normandy turned all from the king to the Earl of Anjou; some willingly, and some against their will; for he beset them till they gave up their castles, and they had no help of the king. Then went Eustace, the king's son, to France, and took to wife the sister of the King of France. He thought to obtain Normandy thereby; but he sped little, and by good right; for he was an evil man. Wherever he was, he did more evil than good; he robbed the lands, and levied heavy guilds upon them. He brought his wife to England, and put her into the castle at... (166) Good woman she was; but she had little bliss with him; and Christ would not that he should long reign. He therefore soon died, and his mother also. And the Earl of Anjou died; and his son Henry took to the earldom. And the Queen of France parted from the king; and she came to the young Earl Henry; and he took her to wife, and all Poitou with her. Then went he with a large force into England, and won some castles; and the king went against him with a much larger force. Nevertheless, fought they not; but the archbishop and the wise men went between them, and made this settlement: That the king should be lord and king while he lived, and after his day Henry should be king: that Henry should take him for a father; and he him for a son: that peace and union should be betwixt them, and in all England. This and the other provisions that they made, swore the king and the earl to observe; and all the bishops, and the earls, and the rich men. Then was the earl received at Winchester, and at London, with great worship; and all did him homage, and swore to keep the peace. And there was soon so good a peace as never was there before. Then was the king stronger than he ever was before. And the earl went over sea; and all people loved him; for he did good justice, and made peace.

A.D. 1154. In this year died the King Stephen; and he was buried where his wife and his son were buried, at Faversham; which monastery they founded. When the king died, then was the earl beyond sea; but no man durst do other than good for the great fear of him. When he came to England, then was he received with great worship, and blessed to king in London on the Sunday before midwinter day. And there held he a full court. The same day that Martin, Abbot of Peterborough, should have gone thither, then sickened he, and died on the fourth day before the nones of January; and the monks, within the day, chose another of themselves, whose name was William de Walteville, (167) a good clerk, and good man, and well beloved of the king, and of all good men. And all the monks buried the abbot with high honours. And soon the newly chosen abbot, and the monks with him, went to Oxford to the king. And the king gave him the abbacy; and he proceeded soon afterwards to Peterborough; where he remained with the abbot, ere he came home. And the king was received with great worship at Peterborough, in full procession. And so he was also at Ramsey, and at Thorney, and at.... and at Spalding, and at....


[End of "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"]
ENDNOTES:

(162) Aurora Borealis, or the northern lights. Back

(163) "Any restless manoeuvre or stratagem." Both words occur in Chaucer. See "Troilus and Criseyde", v. 1355, and "Canterbury Tales", v. 16549. The idea seems to be taken from the habits of destructive and undermining vermin. Back

(164) Now called "Good-Friday". Back

(165) The tower of the castle at Oxford, built by D'Oyley, which still remains. Back

(166) The MS. is here deficient. Back

(167) Or Vaudeville. Back

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