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    Ch. 10 - Henry the First

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    Chapter 10
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    ENGLAND UNDER HENRY THE FIRST, CALLED FINE-SCHOLAR

    FINE-SCHOLAR, on hearing of the Red King's death, hurried to
    Winchester with as much speed as Rufus himself had made, to seize
    the Royal treasure. But the keeper of the treasure who had been
    one of the hunting-party in the Forest, made haste to Winchester
    too, and, arriving there at about the same time, refused to yield
    it up. Upon this, Fine-Scholar drew his sword, and threatened to
    kill the treasurer; who might have paid for his fidelity with his
    life, but that he knew longer resistance to be useless when he
    found the Prince supported by a company of powerful barons, who
    declared they were determined to make him King. The treasurer,
    therefore, gave up the money and jewels of the Crown: and on the
    third day after the death of the Red King, being a Sunday, Fine-
    Scholar stood before the high altar in Westminster Abbey, and made
    a solemn declaration that he would resign the Church property which
    his brother had seized; that he would do no wrong to the nobles;
    and that he would restore to the people the laws of Edward the
    Confessor, with all the improvements of William the Conqueror. So
    began the reign of KING HENRY THE FIRST.

    The people were attached to their new King, both because he had
    known distresses, and because he was an Englishman by birth and not
    a Norman. To strengthen this last hold upon them, the King wished
    to marry an English lady; and could think of no other wife than
    MAUD THE GOOD, the daughter of the King of Scotland. Although this
    good Princess did not love the King, she was so affected by the
    representations the nobles made to her of the great charity it
    would be in her to unite the Norman and Saxon races, and prevent
    hatred and bloodshed between them for the future, that she
    consented to become his wife. After some disputing among the
    priests, who said that as she had been in a convent in her youth,
    and had worn the veil of a nun, she could not lawfully be married -
    against which the Princess stated that her aunt, with whom she had
    lived in her youth, had indeed sometimes thrown a piece of black
    stuff over her, but for no other reason than because the nun's veil
    was the only dress the conquering Normans respected in girl or
    woman, and not because she had taken the vows of a nun, which she
    never had - she was declared free to marry, and was made King
    Henry's Queen. A good Queen she was; beautiful, kind-hearted, and
    worthy of a better husband than the King.

    For he was a cunning and unscrupulous man, though firm and clever.
    He cared very little for his word, and took any means to gain his
    ends. All this is shown in his treatment of his brother Robert -
    Robert, who had suffered him to be refreshed with water, and who
    had sent him the wine from his own table, when he was shut up, with
    the crows flying below him, parched with thirst, in the castle on
    the top of St. Michael's Mount, where his Red brother would have
    let him die.

    Before the King began to deal with Robert, he removed and disgraced
    all the favourites of the late King; who were for the most part
    base characters, much detested by the people. Flambard, or
    Firebrand, whom the late King had made Bishop of Durham, of all
    things in the world, Henry imprisoned in the Tower; but Firebrand
    was a great joker and a jolly companion, and made himself so
    popular with his guards that they pretended to know nothing about a
    long rope that was sent into his prison at the bottom of a deep
    flagon of wine. The guards took the wine, and Firebrand took the
    rope; with which, when they were fast asleep, he let himself down
    from a window in the night, and so got cleverly aboard ship and
    away to Normandy.

    Now Robert, when his brother Fine-Scholar came to the throne, was
    still absent in the Holy Land. Henry pretended that Robert had
    been made Sovereign of that country; and he had been away so long,
    that the ignorant people believed it. But, behold, when Henry had
    been some time King of England, Robert came home to Normandy;
    having leisurely returned from Jerusalem through Italy, in which
    beautiful country he had enjoyed himself very much, and had married
    a lady as beautiful as itself! In Normandy, he found Firebrand
    waiting to urge him to assert his claim to the English crown, and
    declare war against King Henry. This, after great loss of time in
    feasting and dancing with his beautiful Italian wife among his
    Norman friends, he at last did.

    The English in general were on King Henry's side, though many of
    the Normans were on Robert's. But the English sailors deserted the
    King, and took a great part of the English fleet over to Normandy;
    so that Robert came to invade this country in no foreign vessels,
    but in English ships. The virtuous Anselm, however, whom Henry had
    invited back from abroad, and made Archbishop of Canterbury, was
    steadfast in the King's cause; and it was so well supported that
    the two armies, instead of fighting, made a peace. Poor Robert,
    who trusted anybody and everybody, readily trusted his brother, the
    King; and agreed to go home and receive a pension from England, on
    condition that all his followers were fully pardoned. This the
    King very faithfully promised, but Robert was no sooner gone than
    he began to punish them.

    Among them was the Earl of Shrewsbury, who, on being summoned by
    the King to answer to five-and-forty accusations, rode away to one
    of his strong castles, shut himself up therein, called around him
    his tenants and vassals, and fought for his liberty, but was
    defeated and banished. Robert, with all his faults, was so true to
    his word, that when he first heard of this nobleman having risen
    against his brother, he laid waste the Earl of Shrewsbury's estates
    in Normandy, to show the King that he would favour no breach of
    their treaty. Finding, on better information, afterwards, that the
    Earl's only crime was having been his friend, he came over to
    England, in his old thoughtless, warm-hearted way, to intercede
    with the King, and remind him of the solemn promise to pardon all
    his followers.

    This confidence might have put the false King to the blush, but it
    did not. Pretending to be very friendly, he so surrounded his
    brother with spies and traps, that Robert, who was quite in his
    power, had nothing for it but to renounce his pension and escape
    while he could. Getting home to Normandy, and understanding the
    King better now, he naturally allied himself with his old friend
    the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had still thirty castles in that
    country. This was exactly what Henry wanted. He immediately
    declared that Robert had broken the treaty, and next year invaded
    Normandy.

    He pretended that he came to deliver the Normans, at their own
    request, from his brother's misrule. There is reason to fear that
    his misrule was bad enough; for his beautiful wife had died,
    leaving him with an infant son, and his court was again so
    careless, dissipated, and ill-regulated, that it was said he
    sometimes lay in bed of a day for want of clothes to put on - his
    attendants having stolen all his dresses. But he headed his army
    like a brave prince and a gallant soldier, though he had the
    misfortune to be taken prisoner by King Henry, with four hundred of
    his Knights. Among them was poor harmless Edgar Atheling, who
    loved Robert well. Edgar was not important enough to be severe
    with. The King afterwards gave him a small pension, which he lived
    upon and died upon, in peace, among the quiet woods and fields of
    England.

    And Robert - poor, kind, generous, wasteful, heedless Robert, with
    so many faults, and yet with virtues that might have made a better
    and a happier man - what was the end of him? If the King had had
    the magnanimity to say with a kind air, 'Brother, tell me, before
    these noblemen, that from this time you will be my faithful
    follower and friend, and never raise your hand against me or my
    forces more!' he might have trusted Robert to the death. But the
    King was not a magnanimous man. He sentenced his brother to be
    confined for life in one of the Royal Castles. In the beginning of
    his imprisonment, he was allowed to ride out, guarded; but he one
    day broke away from his guard and galloped of. He had the evil
    fortune to ride into a swamp, where his horse stuck fast and he was
    taken. When the King heard of it he ordered him to be blinded,
    which was done by putting a red-hot metal basin on his eyes.

    And so, in darkness and in prison, many years, he thought of all
    his past life, of the time he had wasted, of the treasure he had
    squandered, of the opportunities he had lost, of the youth he had
    thrown away, of the talents he had neglected. Sometimes, on fine
    autumn mornings, he would sit and think of the old hunting parties
    in the free Forest, where he had been the foremost and the gayest.
    Sometimes, in the still nights, he would wake, and mourn for the
    many nights that had stolen past him at the gaming-table;
    sometimes, would seem to hear, upon the melancholy wind, the old
    songs of the minstrels; sometimes, would dream, in his blindness,
    of the light and glitter of the Norman Court. Many and many a
    time, he groped back, in his fancy, to Jerusalem, where he had
    fought so well; or, at the head of his brave companions, bowed his
    feathered helmet to the shouts of welcome greeting him in Italy,
    and seemed again to walk among the sunny vineyards, or on the shore
    of the blue sea, with his lovely wife. And then, thinking of her
    grave, and of his fatherless boy, he would stretch out his solitary
    arms and weep.

    At length, one day, there lay in prison, dead, with cruel and
    disfiguring scars upon his eyelids, bandaged from his jailer's
    sight, but on which the eternal Heavens looked down, a worn old man
    of eighty. He had once been Robert of Normandy. Pity him!

    At the time when Robert of Normandy was taken prisoner by his
    brother, Robert's little son was only five years old. This child
    was taken, too, and carried before the King, sobbing and crying;
    for, young as he was, he knew he had good reason to be afraid of
    his Royal uncle. The King was not much accustomed to pity those
    who were in his power, but his cold heart seemed for the moment to
    soften towards the boy. He was observed to make a great effort, as
    if to prevent himself from being cruel, and ordered the child to be
    taken away; whereupon a certain Baron, who had married a daughter
    of Duke Robert's (by name, Helie of Saint Saen), took charge of
    him, tenderly. The King's gentleness did not last long. Before
    two years were over, he sent messengers to this lord's Castle to
    seize the child and bring him away. The Baron was not there at the
    time, but his servants were faithful, and carried the boy off in
    his sleep and hid him. When the Baron came home, and was told what
    the King had done, he took the child abroad, and, leading him by
    the hand, went from King to King and from Court to Court, relating
    how the child had a claim to the throne of England, and how his
    uncle the King, knowing that he had that claim, would have murdered
    him, perhaps, but for his escape.

    The youth and innocence of the pretty little WILLIAM FITZ-ROBERT
    (for that was his name) made him many friends at that time. When
    he became a young man, the King of France, uniting with the French
    Counts of Anjou and Flanders, supported his cause against the King
    of England, and took many of the King's towns and castles in
    Normandy. But, King Henry, artful and cunning always, bribed some
    of William's friends with money, some with promises, some with
    power. He bought off the Count of Anjou, by promising to marry his
    eldest son, also named WILLIAM, to the Count's daughter; and indeed
    the whole trust of this King's life was in such bargains, and he
    believed (as many another King has done since, and as one King did
    in France a very little time ago) that every man's truth and honour
    can be bought at some price. For all this, he was so afraid of
    William Fitz-Robert and his friends, that, for a long time, he
    believed his life to be in danger; and never lay down to sleep,
    even in his palace surrounded by his guards, without having a sword
    and buckler at his bedside.

    To strengthen his power, the King with great ceremony betrothed his
    eldest daughter MATILDA, then a child only eight years old, to be
    the wife of Henry the Fifth, the Emperor of Germany. To raise her
    marriage-portion, he taxed the English people in a most oppressive
    manner; then treated them to a great procession, to restore their
    good humour; and sent Matilda away, in fine state, with the German
    ambassadors, to be educated in the country of her future husband.

    And now his Queen, Maud the Good, unhappily died. It was a sad
    thought for that gentle lady, that the only hope with which she had
    married a man whom she had never loved - the hope of reconciling
    the Norman and English races - had failed. At the very time of her
    death, Normandy and all France was in arms against England; for, so
    soon as his last danger was over, King Henry had been false to all
    the French powers he had promised, bribed, and bought, and they had
    naturally united against him. After some fighting, however, in
    which few suffered but the unhappy common people (who always
    suffered, whatsoever was the matter), he began to promise, bribe,
    and buy again; and by those means, and by the help of the Pope, who
    exerted himself to save more bloodshed, and by solemnly declaring,
    over and over again, that he really was in earnest this time, and
    would keep his word, the King made peace.

    One of the first consequences of this peace was, that the King went
    over to Normandy with his son Prince William and a great retinue,
    to have the Prince acknowledged as his successor by the Norman
    Nobles, and to contract the promised marriage (this was one of the
    many promises the King had broken) between him and the daughter of
    the Count of Anjou. Both these things were triumphantly done, with
    great show and rejoicing; and on the twenty-fifth of November, in
    the year one thousand one hundred and twenty, the whole retinue
    prepared to embark at the Port of Barfleur, for the voyage home.

    On that day, and at that place, there came to the King, Fitz-
    Stephen, a sea-captain, and said:

    'My liege, my father served your father all his life, upon the sea.
    He steered the ship with the golden boy upon the prow, in which
    your father sailed to conquer England. I beseech you to grant me
    the same office. I have a fair vessel in the harbour here, called
    The White Ship, manned by fifty sailors of renown. I pray you,
    Sire, to let your servant have the honour of steering you in The
    White Ship to England!'

    'I am sorry, friend,' replied the King, 'that my vessel is already
    chosen, and that I cannot (therefore) sail with the son of the man
    who served my father. But the Prince and all his company shall go
    along with you, in the fair White Ship, manned by the fifty sailors
    of renown.'

    An hour or two afterwards, the King set sail in the vessel he had
    chosen, accompanied by other vessels, and, sailing all night with a
    fair and gentle wind, arrived upon the coast of England in the
    morning. While it was yet night, the people in some of those ships
    heard a faint wild cry come over the sea, and wondered what it was.

    Now, the Prince was a dissolute, debauched young man of eighteen,
    who bore no love to the English, and had declared that when he came
    to the throne he would yoke them to the plough like oxen. He went
    aboard The White Ship, with one hundred and forty youthful Nobles
    like himself, among whom were eighteen noble ladies of the highest
    rank. All this gay company, with their servants and the fifty
    sailors, made three hundred souls aboard the fair White Ship.

    'Give three casks of wine, Fitz-Stephen,' said the Prince, 'to the
    fifty sailors of renown! My father the King has sailed out of the
    harbour. What time is there to make merry here, and yet reach
    England with the rest?'

    'Prince!' said Fitz-Stephen, 'before morning, my fifty and The
    White Ship shall overtake the swiftest vessel in attendance on your
    father the King, if we sail at midnight!'

    Then the Prince commanded to make merry; and the sailors drank out
    the three casks of wine; and the Prince and all the noble company
    danced in the moonlight on the deck of The White Ship.

    When, at last, she shot out of the harbour of Barfleur, there was
    not a sober seaman on board. But the sails were all set, and the
    oars all going merrily. Fitz-Stephen had the helm. The gay young
    nobles and the beautiful ladies, wrapped in mantles of various
    bright colours to protect them from the cold, talked, laughed, and
    sang. The Prince encouraged the fifty sailors to row harder yet,
    for the honour of The White Ship.

    Crash! A terrific cry broke from three hundred hearts. It was the
    cry the people in the distant vessels of the King heard faintly on
    the water. The White Ship had struck upon a rock - was filling -
    going down!

    Fitz-Stephen hurried the Prince into a boat, with some few Nobles.
    'Push off,' he whispered; 'and row to land. It is not far, and the
    sea is smooth. The rest of us must die.'

    But, as they rowed away, fast, from the sinking ship, the Prince
    heard the voice of his sister MARIE, the Countess of Perche,
    calling for help. He never in his life had been so good as he was
    then. He cried in an agony, 'Row back at any risk! I cannot bear
    to leave her!'

    They rowed back. As the Prince held out his arms to catch his
    sister, such numbers leaped in, that the boat was overset. And in
    the same instant The White Ship went down.

    Only two men floated. They both clung to the main yard of the
    ship, which had broken from the mast, and now supported them. One
    asked the other who he was? He said, 'I am a nobleman, GODFREY by
    name, the son of GILBERT DE L'AIGLE. And you?' said he. 'I am
    BEROLD, a poor butcher of Rouen,' was the answer. Then, they said
    together, 'Lord be merciful to us both!' and tried to encourage one
    another, as they drifted in the cold benumbing sea on that
    unfortunate November night.

    By-and-by, another man came swimming towards them, whom they knew,
    when he pushed aside his long wet hair, to be Fitz-Stephen. 'Where
    is the Prince?' said he. 'Gone! Gone!' the two cried together.
    'Neither he, nor his brother, nor his sister, nor the King's niece,
    nor her brother, nor any one of all the brave three hundred, noble
    or commoner, except we three, has risen above the water!' Fitz-
    Stephen, with a ghastly face, cried, 'Woe! woe, to me!' and sunk to
    the bottom.

    The other two clung to the yard for some hours. At length the
    young noble said faintly, 'I am exhausted, and chilled with the
    cold, and can hold no longer. Farewell, good friend! God preserve
    you!' So, he dropped and sunk; and of all the brilliant crowd, the
    poor Butcher of Rouen alone was saved. In the morning, some
    fishermen saw him floating in his sheep-skin coat, and got him into
    their boat - the sole relater of the dismal tale.

    For three days, no one dared to carry the intelligence to the King.
    At length, they sent into his presence a little boy, who, weeping
    bitterly, and kneeling at his feet, told him that The White Ship
    was lost with all on board. The King fell to the ground like a
    dead man, and never, never afterwards, was seen to smile.

    But he plotted again, and promised again, and bribed and bought
    again, in his old deceitful way. Having no son to succeed him,
    after all his pains ('The Prince will never yoke us to the plough,
    now!' said the English people), he took a second wife - ADELAIS or
    ALICE, a duke's daughter, and the Pope's niece. Having no more
    children, however, he proposed to the Barons to swear that they
    would recognise as his successor, his daughter Matilda, whom, as
    she was now a widow, he married to the eldest son of the Count of
    Anjou, GEOFFREY, surnamed PLANTAGENET, from a custom he had of
    wearing a sprig of flowering broom (called Gen�t in French) in his
    cap for a feather. As one false man usually makes many, and as a
    false King, in particular, is pretty certain to make a false Court,
    the Barons took the oath about the succession of Matilda (and her
    children after her), twice over, without in the least intending to
    keep it. The King was now relieved from any remaining fears of
    William Fitz-Robert, by his death in the Monastery of St. Omer, in
    France, at twenty-six years old, of a pike-wound in the hand. And
    as Matilda gave birth to three sons, he thought the succession to
    the throne secure.

    He spent most of the latter part of his life, which was troubled by
    family quarrels, in Normandy, to be near Matilda. When he had
    reigned upward of thirty-five years, and was sixty-seven years old,
    he died of an indigestion and fever, brought on by eating, when he
    was far from well, of a fish called Lamprey, against which he had
    often been cautioned by his physicians. His remains were brought
    over to Reading Abbey to be buried.

    You may perhaps hear the cunning and promise-breaking of King Henry
    the First, called 'policy' by some people, and 'diplomacy' by
    others. Neither of these fine words will in the least mean that it
    was true; and nothing that is not true can possibly be good.

    His greatest merit, that I know of, was his love of learning - I
    should have given him greater credit even for that, if it had been
    strong enough to induce him to spare the eyes of a certain poet he
    once took prisoner, who was a knight besides. But he ordered the
    poet's eyes to be torn from his head, because he had laughed at him
    in his verses; and the poet, in the pain of that torture, dashed
    out his own brains against his prison wall. King Henry the First
    was avaricious, revengeful, and so false, that I suppose a man
    never lived whose word was less to be relied upon.
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