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    Ch. 9 - William the Second

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    Chapter 9
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    ENGLAND UNDER WILLIAM THE SECOND, CALLED RUFUS

    WILLIAM THE RED, in breathless haste, secured the three great forts
    of Dover, Pevensey, and Hastings, and made with hot speed for
    Winchester, where the Royal treasure was kept. The treasurer
    delivering him the keys, he found that it amounted to sixty
    thousand pounds in silver, besides gold and jewels. Possessed of
    this wealth, he soon persuaded the Archbishop of Canterbury to
    crown him, and became William the Second, King of England.

    Rufus was no sooner on the throne, than he ordered into prison
    again the unhappy state captives whom his father had set free, and
    directed a goldsmith to ornament his father's tomb profusely with
    gold and silver. It would have been more dutiful in him to have
    attended the sick Conqueror when he was dying; but England itself,
    like this Red King, who once governed it, has sometimes made
    expensive tombs for dead men whom it treated shabbily when they
    were alive.

    The King's brother, Robert of Normandy, seeming quite content to be
    only Duke of that country; and the King's other brother, Fine-
    Scholar, being quiet enough with his five thousand pounds in a
    chest; the King flattered himself, we may suppose, with the hope of
    an easy reign. But easy reigns were difficult to have in those
    days. The turbulent Bishop ODO (who had blessed the Norman army at
    the Battle of Hastings, and who, I dare say, took all the credit of
    the victory to himself) soon began, in concert with some powerful
    Norman nobles, to trouble the Red King.

    The truth seems to be that this bishop and his friends, who had
    lands in England and lands in Normandy, wished to hold both under
    one Sovereign; and greatly preferred a thoughtless good-natured
    person, such as Robert was, to Rufus; who, though far from being an
    amiable man in any respect, was keen, and not to be imposed upon.
    They declared in Robert's favour, and retired to their castles
    (those castles were very troublesome to kings) in a sullen humour.
    The Red King, seeing the Normans thus falling from him, revenged
    himself upon them by appealing to the English; to whom he made a
    variety of promises, which he never meant to perform - in
    particular, promises to soften the cruelty of the Forest Laws; and
    who, in return, so aided him with their valour, that ODO was
    besieged in the Castle of Rochester, and forced to abandon it, and
    to depart from England for ever: whereupon the other rebellious
    Norman nobles were soon reduced and scattered.

    Then, the Red King went over to Normandy, where the people suffered
    greatly under the loose rule of Duke Robert. The King's object was
    to seize upon the Duke's dominions. This, the Duke, of course,
    prepared to resist; and miserable war between the two brothers
    seemed inevitable, when the powerful nobles on both sides, who had
    seen so much of war, interfered to prevent it. A treaty was made.
    Each of the two brothers agreed to give up something of his claims,
    and that the longer-liver of the two should inherit all the
    dominions of the other. When they had come to this loving
    understanding, they embraced and joined their forces against Fine-
    Scholar; who had bought some territory of Robert with a part of his
    five thousand pounds, and was considered a dangerous individual in
    consequence.

    St. Michael's Mount, in Normandy (there is another St. Michael's
    Mount, in Cornwall, wonderfully like it), was then, as it is now, a
    strong place perched upon the top of a high rock, around which,
    when the tide is in, the sea flows, leaving no road to the
    mainland. In this place, Fine-Scholar shut himself up with his
    soldiers, and here he was closely besieged by his two brothers. At
    one time, when he was reduced to great distress for want of water,
    the generous Robert not only permitted his men to get water, but
    sent Fine-Scholar wine from his own table; and, on being
    remonstrated with by the Red King, said 'What! shall we let our own
    brother die of thirst? Where shall we get another, when he is
    gone?' At another time, the Red King riding alone on the shore of
    the bay, looking up at the Castle, was taken by two of Fine-
    Scholar's men, one of whom was about to kill him, when he cried
    out, 'Hold, knave! I am the King of England!' The story says that
    the soldier raised him from the ground respectfully and humbly, and
    that the King took him into his service. The story may or may not
    be true; but at any rate it is true that Fine-Scholar could not
    hold out against his united brothers, and that he abandoned Mount
    St. Michael, and wandered about - as poor and forlorn as other
    scholars have been sometimes known to be.

    The Scotch became unquiet in the Red King's time, and were twice
    defeated - the second time, with the loss of their King, Malcolm,
    and his son. The Welsh became unquiet too. Against them, Rufus
    was less successful; for they fought among their native mountains,
    and did great execution on the King's troops. Robert of Normandy
    became unquiet too; and, complaining that his brother the King did
    not faithfully perform his part of their agreement, took up arms,
    and obtained assistance from the King of France, whom Rufus, in the
    end, bought off with vast sums of money. England became unquiet
    too. Lord Mowbray, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, headed a
    great conspiracy to depose the King, and to place upon the throne,
    STEPHEN, the Conqueror's near relative. The plot was discovered;
    all the chief conspirators were seized; some were fined, some were
    put in prison, some were put to death. The Earl of Northumberland
    himself was shut up in a dungeon beneath Windsor Castle, where he
    died, an old man, thirty long years afterwards. The Priests in
    England were more unquiet than any other class or power; for the
    Red King treated them with such small ceremony that he refused to
    appoint new bishops or archbishops when the old ones died, but kept
    all the wealth belonging to those offices in his own hands. In
    return for this, the Priests wrote his life when he was dead, and
    abused him well. I am inclined to think, myself, that there was
    little to choose between the Priests and the Red King; that both
    sides were greedy and designing; and that they were fairly matched.

    The Red King was false of heart, selfish, covetous, and mean. He
    had a worthy minister in his favourite, Ralph, nicknamed - for
    almost every famous person had a nickname in those rough days -
    Flambard, or the Firebrand. Once, the King being ill, became
    penitent, and made ANSELM, a foreign priest and a good man,
    Archbishop of Canterbury. But he no sooner got well again than he
    repented of his repentance, and persisted in wrongfully keeping to
    himself some of the wealth belonging to the archbishopric. This
    led to violent disputes, which were aggravated by there being in
    Rome at that time two rival Popes; each of whom declared he was the
    only real original infallible Pope, who couldn't make a mistake.
    At last, Anselm, knowing the Red King's character, and not feeling
    himself safe in England, asked leave to return abroad. The Red
    King gladly gave it; for he knew that as soon as Anselm was gone,
    he could begin to store up all the Canterbury money again, for his
    own use.

    By such means, and by taxing and oppressing the English people in
    every possible way, the Red King became very rich. When he wanted
    money for any purpose, he raised it by some means or other, and
    cared nothing for the injustice he did, or the misery he caused.
    Having the opportunity of buying from Robert the whole duchy of
    Normandy for five years, he taxed the English people more than
    ever, and made the very convents sell their plate and valuables to
    supply him with the means to make the purchase. But he was as
    quick and eager in putting down revolt as he was in raising money;
    for, a part of the Norman people objecting - very naturally, I
    think - to being sold in this way, he headed an army against them
    with all the speed and energy of his father. He was so impatient,
    that he embarked for Normandy in a great gale of wind. And when
    the sailors told him it was dangerous to go to sea in such angry
    weather, he replied, 'Hoist sail and away! Did you ever hear of a
    king who was drowned?'

    You will wonder how it was that even the careless Robert came to
    sell his dominions. It happened thus. It had long been the custom
    for many English people to make journeys to Jerusalem, which were
    called pilgrimages, in order that they might pray beside the tomb
    of Our Saviour there. Jerusalem belonging to the Turks, and the
    Turks hating Christianity, these Christian travellers were often
    insulted and ill used. The Pilgrims bore it patiently for some
    time, but at length a remarkable man, of great earnestness and
    eloquence, called PETER THE HERMIT, began to preach in various
    places against the Turks, and to declare that it was the duty of
    good Christians to drive away those unbelievers from the tomb of
    Our Saviour, and to take possession of it, and protect it. An
    excitement such as the world had never known before was created.
    Thousands and thousands of men of all ranks and conditions departed
    for Jerusalem to make war against the Turks. The war is called in
    history the first Crusade, and every Crusader wore a cross marked
    on his right shoulder.

    All the Crusaders were not zealous Christians. Among them were
    vast numbers of the restless, idle, profligate, and adventurous
    spirit of the time. Some became Crusaders for the love of change;
    some, in the hope of plunder; some, because they had nothing to do
    at home; some, because they did what the priests told them; some,
    because they liked to see foreign countries; some, because they
    were fond of knocking men about, and would as soon knock a Turk
    about as a Christian. Robert of Normandy may have been influenced
    by all these motives; and by a kind desire, besides, to save the
    Christian Pilgrims from bad treatment in future. He wanted to
    raise a number of armed men, and to go to the Crusade. He could
    not do so without money. He had no money; and he sold his
    dominions to his brother, the Red King, for five years. With the
    large sum he thus obtained, he fitted out his Crusaders gallantly,
    and went away to Jerusalem in martial state. The Red King, who
    made money out of everything, stayed at home, busily squeezing more
    money out of Normans and English.

    After three years of great hardship and suffering - from shipwreck
    at sea; from travel in strange lands; from hunger, thirst, and
    fever, upon the burning sands of the desert; and from the fury of
    the Turks - the valiant Crusaders got possession of Our Saviour's
    tomb. The Turks were still resisting and fighting bravely, but
    this success increased the general desire in Europe to join the
    Crusade. Another great French Duke was proposing to sell his
    dominions for a term to the rich Red King, when the Red King's
    reign came to a sudden and violent end.

    You have not forgotten the New Forest which the Conqueror made, and
    which the miserable people whose homes he had laid waste, so hated.
    The cruelty of the Forest Laws, and the torture and death they
    brought upon the peasantry, increased this hatred. The poor
    persecuted country people believed that the New Forest was
    enchanted. They said that in thunder-storms, and on dark nights,
    demons appeared, moving beneath the branches of the gloomy trees.
    They said that a terrible spectre had foretold to Norman hunters
    that the Red King should be punished there. And now, in the
    pleasant season of May, when the Red King had reigned almost
    thirteen years; and a second Prince of the Conqueror's blood -
    another Richard, the son of Duke Robert - was killed by an arrow in
    this dreaded Forest; the people said that the second time was not
    the last, and that there was another death to come.

    It was a lonely forest, accursed in the people's hearts for the
    wicked deeds that had been done to make it; and no man save the
    King and his Courtiers and Huntsmen, liked to stray there. But, in
    reality, it was like any other forest. In the spring, the green
    leaves broke out of the buds; in the summer, flourished heartily,
    and made deep shades; in the winter, shrivelled and blew down, and
    lay in brown heaps on the moss. Some trees were stately, and grew
    high and strong; some had fallen of themselves; some were felled by
    the forester's axe; some were hollow, and the rabbits burrowed at
    their roots; some few were struck by lightning, and stood white and
    bare. There were hill-sides covered with rich fern, on which the
    morning dew so beautifully sparkled; there were brooks, where the
    deer went down to drink, or over which the whole herd bounded,
    flying from the arrows of the huntsmen; there were sunny glades,
    and solemn places where but little light came through the rustling
    leaves. The songs of the birds in the New Forest were pleasanter
    to hear than the shouts of fighting men outside; and even when the
    Red King and his Court came hunting through its solitudes, cursing
    loud and riding hard, with a jingling of stirrups and bridles and
    knives and daggers, they did much less harm there than among the
    English or Normans, and the stags died (as they lived) far easier
    than the people.

    Upon a day in August, the Red King, now reconciled to his brother,
    Fine-Scholar, came with a great train to hunt in the New Forest.
    Fine-Scholar was of the party. They were a merry party, and had
    lain all night at Malwood-Keep, a hunting-lodge in the forest,
    where they had made good cheer, both at supper and breakfast, and
    had drunk a deal of wine. The party dispersed in various
    directions, as the custom of hunters then was. The King took with
    him only SIR WALTER TYRREL, who was a famous sportsman, and to whom
    he had given, before they mounted horse that morning, two fine
    arrows.

    The last time the King was ever seen alive, he was riding with Sir
    Walter Tyrrel, and their dogs were hunting together.

    It was almost night, when a poor charcoal-burner, passing through
    the forest with his cart, came upon the solitary body of a dead
    man, shot with an arrow in the breast, and still bleeding. He got
    it into his cart. It was the body of the King. Shaken and
    tumbled, with its red beard all whitened with lime and clotted with
    blood, it was driven in the cart by the charcoal-burner next day to
    Winchester Cathedral, where it was received and buried.

    Sir Walter Tyrrel, who escaped to Normandy, and claimed the
    protection of the King of France, swore in France that the Red King
    was suddenly shot dead by an arrow from an unseen hand, while they
    were hunting together; that he was fearful of being suspected as
    the King's murderer; and that he instantly set spurs to his horse,
    and fled to the sea-shore. Others declared that the King and Sir
    Walter Tyrrel were hunting in company, a little before sunset,
    standing in bushes opposite one another, when a stag came between
    them. That the King drew his bow and took aim, but the string
    broke. That the King then cried, 'Shoot, Walter, in the Devil's
    name!' That Sir Walter shot. That the arrow glanced against a
    tree, was turned aside from the stag, and struck the King from his
    horse, dead.

    By whose hand the Red King really fell, and whether that hand
    despatched the arrow to his breast by accident or by design, is
    only known to GOD. Some think his brother may have caused him to
    be killed; but the Red King had made so many enemies, both among
    priests and people, that suspicion may reasonably rest upon a less
    unnatural murderer. Men know no more than that he was found dead
    in the New Forest, which the suffering people had regarded as a
    doomed ground for his race.
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