|Return to The Normans
by Sarah Orne Jewett
Dukes of the Normans
DUKE RICHARD THE GOOD.
"Then would he sing achievements high
And circumstance of chivalry." -- Scott.
Richard the Fearless had several sons, and when he lay dying his nobles asked him to say who should be his successor. "He who bears my name," whispered the old duke, and added a moment later: "Let the others take the oaths of fealty, acknowledge Richard as their superior; and put their hands in his, and receive from him those lands which I will name to you."
So Richard the Good came to his dukedom, with a rich inheritance in every way from the father who had reigned so successfully, and his brothers Geoffry, Mauger, William, and Robert, accepted their portions of the dukedom, to which Richard added more lands of his own accord.
During this reign there were many changes, some very gradual and natural ones, for Normandy was growing more French and less Scandinavian all the time, and the relationship grew stronger and stronger between vigorous young Normandy and troubled, failing England. Later we shall see how our Normans gave a new impulse to England, but already there are signs and forebodings of what must come to pass in the days of Richard the Good's grandson, William the Conqueror.
We first hear now of many names which are great names in Normandy and England to this day. "It seems as if there were never any region more peopled with men of known deeds, known names, known passions and known crimes," says Palgrave; and the Norman annals abound with historical titles "rendered illustrious by the illusions of time and blazonry which imagination imparts." It is very strange how few records there are, among the state papers in France, of all this period. Every important public matter in England was carefully recorded long before this, but with all the proverbial love of going to law, and all the well-ordered priesthood, and good education of the upper classes, there are only a few scattered charters until Normandy is really merged in France. This almost corresponds to the absence, in the literary world, of papers relating to Shakespeare, which is such a puzzle to antiquarians. Here was a man well-known and beloved both in his native village and the world of London, a man who must have covered thousands of pages with writing, and written letters and signed his name times without number, and yet not one of his manuscripts and very few signatures can be found. Only the references to him in contemporary literature remain to give us any facts at all about the greatest of English writers. Of far less noteworthy men, of his time and before that, we can make up reasonably full biographies. And Normandy is known only through the records of other nations, and the traditions and reports of romancing chroniclers. There are no long lists of men and money, and no treasurer or general of Rolf's, or Longsword's time has left us his accounts. Rolf's brother, who went to Iceland while Rolf came to Normandy, in the tyrannical reign of Harold Haarfager, established in that storm-bound little country a nation of scholars and record-makers. Perhaps it was easier to write there where the only enemies were ice and snow and darkness and the fury of the sea and wind.
Yet we can guess at a great deal about the condition of Normandy. There was so much going to and fro, such a lively commerce and transportation of goods, that we know the old Roman roads had been kept in good repair, and that many others must have been built as the population increased. The famous fairs which were held make us certain that there was a large business carried on, and besides the maintenance and constant use of a large army, in some years there was also a thrifty devotion to mercantile matters and agriculture. Foreign artisans and manufacturers were welcomed to the Norman provinces, and soon formed busy communities like the Flemish craftsmen, weavers and leather-makers, at Falaise. The Normans had an instinctive liking for pomp and splendor; so their tradesmen flourished, and their houses became more and more elegant, and must be carved and gilded like the dragon ships.
A merry, liberal duke was this Richard; fond of his court, and always ready to uphold Normandy's honor and his own when there was any fighting to be done. He had a great regard for his nobles, and we begin to find a great deal said about gentlemen; the duke would have only gentlemen for his chosen followers, and the aristocrats make themselves felt more distinctly than before. The rule of the best is a hard thing to manage, it sinks already into a rule of the lucky, the pushing, or the favored in the Rouen court. The power and reign of chivalry begins to blossom now far and wide.
We begin to hear rumors too on the other side that there were wrong distinctions between man and man, and tyranny that grew hard to bear, and one Norman resents the truth that his neighbor is a better and richer man than he, and moreover has the right to make him a servant, and to make laws for him. The Norman citizens were equal in civil rights -- that is to say, they were not taxed without their own consent, need pay no tolls, and might hunt and fish; all could do these things except the villeins* and peasants, who really composed the mass of the native population, the descendants of those who lived in Normandy before Rolf came there. Even the higher clergy did not form part of the nobility and gentry at first, and in later years there was still a difference in rank and privileges between the priests of Norwegian and Danish race and the other ecclesiastics.
Before Richard the Good had been long on his throne there was a great revolt and uprising of the peasantry, who evidently did not think that their new duke deserved his surname at all. These people conceived the idea of destroying the inequality of races, so that Normandy should hold only one nation, as it already held one name. We cannot help being surprised at the careful political organization of the peasantry, and at finding that they established a regular parliament with two representatives from every district. In all the villages and hamlets, after the day's work was over, they came together to talk over their wrongs or to listen to some speaker more eloquent than his fellows. They "made a commune," which anticipates later events in the history of France in a surprising way. Freeman says that "such a constitution could hardly have been extemporized by mere peasants," and believes that the disturbance was founded in a loyalty to the local customs and rights which were fast being trampled under foot, and that the rebels were only trying to defend their time-honored inheritance. The liberty which they were eager to grasp might have been a great good, scattered as it would have been over a great extent of country, instead of being won by separate cities. The ancient Norman constitutions of the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey and the rest, antiquated as they seem, breathe to-day a spirit of freedom worthy of the air of England or Switzerland or Norway.
The peasants clamored for their right to be equal with their neighbors, and no doubt many a small landholder joined them, who did not wish to swear fealty to his over-lord. In the Roman de Rou, an old chronicle which keeps together many traditions about early Normandy that else might have been forgotten, we find one of these piteous harangues. Perhaps it is not authentic, but it gives the spirit of the times so well that it ought to have a place here:
"The lords do nothing but evil; we cannot obtain either reason or justice from them; they have all, they take all, eat all, and make us live in poverty and suffering. Every day with us is a day of pain; we gain nought by our labors, there are so many dues and services. Why do we allow ourselves to be thus treated? Let us place ourselves beyond their power; we too are men, we have the same limbs, the same height, the same power of endurance, and we are a hundred to one. Let us swear to defend each other; let us be firmly knit together, and no man shall be lord over us; we shall be free from tolls and taxes, free to fell trees, to take game and fish, and do as we will in all things, in the wood, in the meadow, on the water!"
At this time the larger portion of Normandy was what used to be called forest. That word meant something more than woodland; it belonged then to tracts of wild country, woodland and moorland and marshes, and these were the possession of the crown. The peasants had in the old days a right, or a custom at any rate, of behaving as if the forests were their own, but more and more they had been restricted, and the unaccustomed yoke galled them bitterly. Besides their being forbidden to hunt and fish in the forests, the water-ways were closed from them, taxes imposed, and their time and labor demanded on the duke's lands. There had been grants of these free tracts of country to the new nobility, and with the lands the new lords claimed also the service of the peasantry.
The people do not appear to have risen against the duke himself, so much as against their immediate oppressors, and it was one of these who was to be their punisher. You remember that Richard the Fearless' mother, Espriota, married, in the troublous times of his boyhood, a rich countryman called Sperling. They had a son called Raoul of Ivry, who seems to have been high in power and favor with the second Richard, his half-brother, and who now entered upon his cruel task with evident liking. He had been brought up among the country-folk, although he stood at this time next to the duke in office.
He was very crafty, and sent spies all through Normandy to find out when the Assembly or Parliament was to be held, and then dispersed his troops according to the spies' report, and seized upon all the deputies and these peasants who were giving oaths of allegiance to their new commanders. Whether from design or from anger and prejudice Raoul next treated his poor prisoners with terrible cruelty. He maimed them in every way, putting out their eyes, cutting off their hands or feet; he impaled them alive, and tortured them with melted lead. Those who lived through their sufferings were sent home to be paraded through the streets as a warning. So fear prevailed over even the love of liberty in their brave hearts, for the association of Norman peasants was broken up, and a sad resignation took the place, for hundreds of years, of the ardor and courage which had been lighted only to go out again so quickly.
There was another rebellion besides this, of which we have some account, and one man instead of a whole class was the offender. One of Richard's brothers, or half-brothers, the son of an unknown mother, had received as his inheritance the county of Exmes, which held three very rich and thriving towns. These were Exmes, Argentan, and Falaise in which we have already learned that there was a colony of Flemings settled, skilful, industrious weavers and leather-makers and workers in cloth and metals. Falaise itself was already very old indeed, and there remain yet the ruins of an old Roman camp, claimed to belong to the time of Julius Cæsar, beside the earliest specimen of that square gray tower with is really of earlier date through always associated with Norman feudalism. The Falaise Fair, which was of such renown in the days of the first dukes, is supposed to be the survival of some pagan festival of vast antiquity. The name of Guibray, the suburb of Falaise which gave its name to the Fair, is said to be derived from the Gaulish word for mistletoe, and wherever we hear of mistletoe in ancient history it reminds us, not of merry-makings and Christmas holidays, but of the grim rites and customs of Druids.
William, Duke Richard's brother, does not seem to have been grateful for these rich possessions, and before long there is a complaint that he fails to respond to the royal summons, and that he will not render service or do homage in return for his holding. Raoul of Ivry promptly counselled the Duke to take arms against the offender.
It was not long before William found himself a prisoner in the old tower of Rolf at Rouen. He was treated with great severity, and only avoided being hanged by making his escape in most romantic fashion. A compassionate lady contrived to supply him with a rope, and he came down from his high tower-window to the ground hand over hand. Luckily he found none of his keepers waiting for him, and succeeded in getting out of the country. Raoul had been hunting his partisans, and now he had the pleasure of hunting William himself, by keeping spies on his track and forcing him from one danger to another until he was tired of his life, and boldly determined to go to his brother the Duke and beg for mercy. He was very fortunate, for Richard not only listened to him, and was not angry at being stopped on a day when he had gone out to amuse himself with hunting, but he pardoned the suppliant and pitied his trials and sufferings, and more than all, though he did not give back the forfeited county of Exmes, he did give him the county of Eu. We hear nothing of what Raoul thought of such a pleasant ending to the troubles after he had shown such zeal himself in pursuing and harassing the Duke's enemy.
We must take a quick look at the relations between Richard the Good and Hugh Capet, Hugh of Paris's successor, and Robert of France, Hugh Capet's son, who was trying to uphold the fading dignities and power of the Carlovingian throne. Truly Charlemagne's glories were almost spent, and the new glories of the great house of the Capets were growing brighter and brighter. Our eyes already turn toward England and the part that the Norman dukes must soon play there, but there is something to say first about France.
Robert and Richard were great friends; they had many common interests, and were bound by solemn oaths and formal covenants of loyalty toward and protection of each other. Robert was a very honorable man; his relation to his father was a most curious one, for they seem to have been partners in royalty and to have reigned together over France. Richard the Fearless had done much to establish the throne of the Capets, and there was a firm bond between the second Richard and young Robert, to whom he did homage. There were several powerful chiefs and tributaries, but Richard the Good outranks them all, and takes his place without question as the first peer of France. The golden lilies of France are already in flower, and though history is almost silent through the later years of Hugh Capet's life, there are signs of great activity within the kingdom and of growing prosperity. There is an old proverb: "Happy is that nation which has no history!" and whenever we come to a time that the historians pass over or describe in a few sentences, we take a long breath and imagine the people busy in their homes and fields and shops, blest in the freedom from war and disorder.
Robert of France was a famous wit and liked to play tricks upon his associates. He was a poet too, and wrote some beautiful Latin rhymes which are still sung in the churches. There is a good story about his being at Rome once at a solemn church festival. When he approached the altar he held a chalice in his hands with great reverence, and everybody could see that it held a roll of parchment.
There could be no doubt that the king meant to bestow a splendid gift upon the church, perhaps, a duchy or even his whole kingdom; but after the service was over, and the pope and cardinals, full of expectation, hurried to see what prize was put into their keeping, behold! only a copy of Robert's famous chant "Cornelius Centurio!" It was a sad disappointment indeed when they looked at this unexpected offering!
But Robert was more than a good comrade, he was a remarkably good king, as kings went; he kept order and was brave, decided, and careful. It was true that he had fallen heir to a prosperous and well-governed kingdom, but it takes constant effort and watchfulness and ready strength to keep a kingdom or any lesser responsibilities up to the right level. He had one great trial, for his wife Bertha, being his first cousin, should not have been his wife according to the laws of the Roman Church. For the first time there was a pope of Rome who was from beyond the Alps, a German; and Robert and he were on bad terms, which resulted in the excommunication of the king of France and the queen, and at one time they were put so completely under the ban that even their servants forsook them and the whole kingdom was thrown into confusion. The misery became so great that the poor queen presently had to be separated from her husband, and this was the more grievous as she had no children, and so Robert was obliged to put her away from him and marry again for the sake of having an heir to the throne. Bertha's successor was very handsome, but very cross, and in later years King Robert used to say: "There are plenty of chickens in the nest, but my old hen pecks at me!"
In spite of the new queen's bad temper there are a good many things to be said in her praise. She was much better educated than most women of her day, and she had a great admiration for Robert's poetry, and these things must have gone far to make up for her faults.
Duke Richard's marriage was a very fortunate one. His sister Hawisa, of whom he was guardian, was asked in marriage by Duke Godfrey of Brittany, and this was a very welcome alliance, since it bound the two countries closer together than ever before, and made them forget the rivalries which had sometimes caused serious trouble. Especially this was true when a little later Richard himself married Godfrey's sister Judith, who was distinguished for her wisdom. They had a most splendid wedding at the Abbey of St. Michael's Mount, and in course of time one of their daughters married the Count of Burgundy and one the Count of Flanders.
In spite of much immorality and irregularity in those days, there was enough that was proper and respectable in the alliances of the noble families, and we catch many a glimpse of faithful lovers and gallant love-making. It was often said that Normandy's daughters did as much for the well-being of the country as her sons, and when we read the lists of grand marriages we can understand that the dukes' daughters won as many provinces by their beauty as the sons did by their bravery in war.
It is hard to keep the fortunes of all these races and kingdoms clear in our minds. We cannot help thinking of England, and looking at all this early history of the Normans and their growth in relation to it. Then we must keep track of the Danes and Northmen, who have by no means outgrown their old traits and manners, though their cousins in Normandy have given up privateering and the long ships. The history of France makes a sort of background for Normandy and England both.
These marriages of which I have just told you greatly increased the magnificence and the power of the Norman duchy and widened the territory in every way. The Norman dukes could claim the right to interfere in the affairs of those states to which they were allied, and they improved their opportunities. But the most important of all the alliances has not been spoken of at all -- the marriage of Richard the Fearless' daughter Emma to Æthelred the Unready of England.
Æthelred himself was the black sheep of his illustrious family -- a long line of noble men they were for the most part. In that age much of the character of a nation's history depended upon its monarch, and it is almost impossible to tell the fortunes of a country except by giving the biographies of the reigning king. This Æthelred seems to have had energy enough, but he began many enterprises and never ended them, and wasted a great deal of strength on long, needless expeditions, and does not appear to have made effective resistance to the enemies who came knocking at the very gates of England. He had no tact and little bravery, and was given to putting his trust in unworthy and treacherous followers. Æthelred was the descendant of good King Ælfred and his noble successors, but his own kingdom was ready to fall to pieces before he reigned over it very long, and his reign of thirty-eight years came near to being the ruin of England. There were two or three men who helped him in the evil work, who were greater traitors at heart than Æthelred himself, and we can hardly understand why they were restored to favor after their treason and selfishness were discovered. As one historian says, if we could only have a few of the private letters, of which we have such abundance two or three centuries later, they would be the key to many difficulties.
The Danes were nibbling at the shores of England as rats would gnaw at a biscuit. They grew more and more troublesome. Over in Normandy, Richard the Good was treating these same Danes like friends, and allowing them to come into his harbors to trade with the Norman merchants. In the Côtentin country they found a people much like themselves, preserving many old traditions, and something of the northern speech. The Côtentin lands were poor and rocky, but the hills were crowded with castles, well armed and well fortified, and the men were brave soldiers and sailors, true descendants of the old vikings. They sought their fortunes on the sea too, and we can trace the names of these Côtentin barons and their followers through the army of William the Conqueror to other castles in the broad English lands that were won in less than a hundred years from Æthelred's time. Very likely some of these Côtentin Normans were in league with the northern Danes who made their head-quarters on the Norman shores, and went plundering across the Channel. Soon Æthelred grew very angry, which was to be expected, and he gathered his fleets at Portsmouth, and announced that he should bring Duke Richard back a captive in chains, and waste the whole offending country with fire, except the holy St. Michael's Mount.
The fleet obeyed Æthelred's foolish orders, and went ashore at the mouth of the river Barfleur, only to find the Normans assembled from the whole surrounding country -- not a trained army by any means, but an enraged peasantry, men and women alike, armed with shepherds' crooks, and reaping hooks and flails, and in that bloody battle of Sanglac, they completely routed the English. All the invaders who escaped crowded into six of their vessels and abandoned the rest, and hurried away as fast as they could go. This was a strong link in the chain that by and by would be long enough to hold England fast, and put her at the mercy of the Normans altogether. There was peace made before very long, though the Normans considered themselves to have been grievously insulted, and laughed at the English for being so well whipped. Perpetual peace, the contract unwisely promises, and the pope interfered between the combatants, to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. After the promises were formally made, Æthelred tried to make the alliance even closer. He had children already -- one, the gallant Eadmund Ironside, who might have saved the tottering kingdom if he had only held the authority which was thrown away in his father's hands. The name of Æthelred's first queen has been lost, but she was "a noble lady, the daughter of Thored, and Ealdorman," and had been some time dead, so with great diplomacy King Æthelred the Unready, "by the grace of God Basileus of Albion, King and Monarch of all the British Nations, of the Orkneys and the surrounding Islands," as he liked to sign himself, came wooing to Normandy. Emma, the duke's sister, married him and went to England.
Æthelred gave her a splendid wedding-present of wide domains in the counties of Devon and Hants, part of which held the cathedral cities of Winchester and Exeter, the pride and defence of Southern Britain. Queen Emma gave the governorship of Exeter to her chief adviser and officer, Hugh the Norman, and her new subjects called her the Gem of Normandy, and treated her with great deference. She had the beauty of her race and of Rolf's descendants, and her name was changed to Ælfgifu, because this sounded more familiar to the English ears. At least that is the explanation which has come down to us.
Things were in a very bad way in England -- the Anglo-Saxon rule of that time was founded upon fraud and violence, and the heavy misfortunes which assailed the English made them fear worse troubles later on. The wisest among them tried to warn their countrymen, but the warnings were apparently of little use. The make-believe rejoicings at Queen Emma's coming were quickly over with, and soon we hear of her flight to Normandy. Many reasons were given for this ominous act. Some say that Æthelred disgusted her by his drunkenness and lawlessness, and others that Hugh the Norman was treacherous, and betrayed his trust to the Danes, and that the queen was a partner in the business. There is still another story, that Æthelred was guilty of a shocking massacre, and that Emma fled in the horror and confusion that it made. Yet later she returned to England as the queen of Cnut the Dane.
Now we must change from England to France altogether for a few pages, and see how steadily the power of the Normans was growing, and how widely it made itself felt. We must see Richard the Good as the ally of France in the warfare waged by King Robert against Burgundy, which was the most important event of Robert's reign. Old Hugh of Paris had carefully avoided any confusion between the rights of Burgundy and the rights of France when he established the foundation of his kingdom. He was a wise politician, and understood that it would not do to conflict with such a power as Burgundy's, which held the Low Countries, Spain, and Portugal and Italy within its influence. Since his day Burgundy had been divided, but it was still distinguished for its great piety and the number of its religious institutions. Robert's uncle was Duke of Burgundy, and he was a very old man; so Robert himself had high hopes of becoming his successor. His chief rival was the representative of the Lombard kings in Italy -- Otho William, who was son of Adalbert, a pirate who had wandered beyond the Alps, and Gerberga, the Count of Chalons' daughter. After Adalbert died Gerberga married old Duke Henry of Burgundy, and prevailed upon him to declare her son as his successor. This was illegal, but Otho William was much admired and beloved, and the great part of the Burgundians upheld his right.
Behold, then, Richard the Good and his Norman soldiery marching away to the wars! Duke Henry was dead, and King Robert made haste to summon his ally. Thirty thousand men were mustered under the Norman banner, and the black raven of war went slowly inland. What an enterprise it was to transport such a body of men and horses across country! Supplies could not be hurried from point to point as readily as in after-times, and the country itself must necessarily be almost devastated as if a swarm of locusts had crept through it. Normandy was overflowing with a military population anxious for something to do, with a lingering love for piracy and plundering. They made a swift journey, and Richard and his men were at the gates of the city of Auxerre almost as soon as the venerable duke was in his grave.
There was a tremendous siege; Robert's rival had won the people's hearts, and in the natural strongholds of the mountain slopes they defended themselves successfully. Besides this brave opposition of the Burgundians, the Normans were fought against in a more subtle way by strange phenomena in the heavens. A fiery dragon shot across the sky, and a thick fog and darkness overspread the face of the earth. Auxerre was shrouded in night, and the Norman archers could not see to shoot their arrows. Before long the leagued armies raised the siege of the border city and marched on farther into the country up among the bleak, rocky hills. Only one of the Burgundian nobles -- Hugh, Count of Chalons and Bishop of Auxerre -- was loyal to the cause of King Robert of France. Presently we shall see him again under very surprising circumstances for a count, not to speak of a bishop! The country was thoroughly ravaged, but some time passed before it was finally conquered. At last there was a compromise, and Robert's son was elected duke. His descendants gave France a vast amount of trouble in later years, and so Burgundy revenged herself and Otho William's lost cause.
Richard of Normandy had kept his army well drilled in this long Burgundian campaign, but before his reign was over he had another war to fight with the Count of Dreux. The lands of Dreux were originally in the grant made to Rolf, but later they were held by a line of counts, whose last representative disappeared in Richard the Fearless' reign. We find the country in Richard's possession without any record of war, so it had probably fallen to the crown by right. There was a great Roman road through the territory like the Watling Street that ran from Dover to Chester through England, and this was well defended as the old Roman roads always were. Chartres was joined to Dreux by this road, and Chartres was not at peace with Normandy. So a new fort and a town sprung up on the banks of the river to keep Chartres in check: Tillières, or the Tileries, which we might call the ancestor of the famous Tuileries of modern Paris.
There were several fierce battles, and sometimes gaining and sometimes losing, the Normans found themselves presently in a hard place. We are rather startled to hear of the appearance of King Olaf of Norway and the king of the Swedes as Richard's allies. The French people had not wholly outgrown their hatred -- or fear and distrust either -- of the pirates, and when the news came that bands of Northmen were landing in Brittany there was a wild excitement. Richard and the Chartres chieftain were making altogether too much of their quarrel, and King Robert, as preserver of the public peace, was obliged to interfere. After this episode everybody was more afraid of Normandy than ever, and Chartres was the gainer by the town of Dreux, with its forest and castle, that being the king's award. We cannot help wondering why Richard was persuaded to yield so easily, with all his Northmen eager enough to fight -- but they disappear for the time being, and many stories were told of their treacherous warfare in Brittany; of the pitfalls covered with branches into which they tempted their mounted enemies on the battle-field of Dôl. All this seems to have been a little private diversion on their way to the Norman capital, where they were bidden for the business with Chartres.
Then there was a fight with the bishopric of Chalons, which interests us chiefly because Richard's son and namesake first makes his appearance. Renaud, the son of Otho William, who had lost the dukedom of Burgundy, had married a Norman damsel belonging to the royal family of Rolf. This Renaud was defeated and captured by the Count-Bishop of Chalons, of whom we know something already. He was loyal to King Robert of France, you remember, in the war with Burgundy, and now he treated Renaud with terrible severity, and had broken his vows, moreover, by getting married.
King Robert gave the Normans permission to march through his dominions, and seems to have turned his back upon the Count-Bishop. There was a succession of sieges, and the army burned and destroyed on every side as it went through Burgundy, and finally made great havoc in one of the chief towns, called Mirmande in the chronicles, though no Mirmande can be heard of now in that part of the world, and perhaps the angry Normans determined to leave no trace of it for antiquarians and geographers to discover. The Count-Bishop flees for his life to Chalons, and when he was assailed there, he was so frightened that he put an old saddle on his back and came out of the city gates in that fashion to beg for mercy. The merry historian who describes this scene adds that he offered Richard a ride and that he rolled on the ground at the young duke's feet in complete humiliation. One might reasonably say that the count made a donkey of himself in good earnest, and that his count's helmet and his priestly, shaven crown did not go very well together.
The third Richard covered himself with glory in this campaign, however, and went back to Normandy triumphant, to give his old father great pleasure by his valor. But Richard the Good was very feeble now, and knew that he was going to die; so, like Richard the Fearless, he went to Fécamp to spend his last days.
When he had confessed to the bishops, he called for his faithful barons, and made his will. Richard was to be his successor, and his courage and honesty deserved it; but the old father appears to have had a presentiment that all would not go well, for he begged the barons to be loyal to the good youth. Robert, the second son, fell heir to the county of Exmes, upon the condition that he should be faithful to his brother. There was another son, Mauger, a bad fellow, who had no friends or reputation, even at that early day. He was a monk, and a very low-minded one; but later he appears, to our astonishment, as Archbishop of Rouen. No mention is made of his receiving any gift from his father; and soon Richard the Good died and was buried in the Fécamp Abbey. In after years the bones of Richard the Fearless were taken from the sarcophagus outside the abbey door, and father and son were laid in a new tomb near the high altar.
All this early history of Normandy is told mainly by two men, the saga-writers of their time -- William of Jumièges, who wrote in the lifetime of William the Conqueror, and Master Wace, of Caen, who was born on the island of Jersey, between thirty and forty years after the conquest of England. His "Roman de Rou" is most spirited and interesting, but, naturally, the earlier part of it is not always reliable. Both the chroniclers meant to tell the truth, but writing at a later date for the glory of Normandy, and in such a credulous age, we must forgive them their inaccuracies.
They have a great deal more to say about Richard the Good than about his two sons, Richard and Robert. Richard was acknowledged as duke by all the barons after his father's death, and then went in state to Paris to do homage to King Robert. This we learn from the records of his contract of marriage with the king's daughter, Lady Adela, who was a baby in her cradle, and the copy of the settlements is preserved, or, at least, the account of the dowry which Richard promised. This was the seigneurie of the whole Côtentin country, and several other baronies and communes; Cherbourg and Bruot and Caen, and many cities and lands besides. Poor little Lady Adela! and poor young husband, too, for that matter; for this was quite a heartless affair of state, and neither of them was to be any happier for all their great possessions.
In the meantime Robert, the Duke's brother, was not in the least satisfied, and made an outcry because, though he was lord of the beautiful county of Exmes, the city of Falaise was withheld from him. There was a man from Brittany who urged him to resent his wrongs, and made trouble between the brothers; Ermenoldus he was called, the theosophist; and there is a great mystery about him which the old writers stop to wonder over. He was evidently a sort of magician, and those records that can be discovered give rise to a suspicion that he had strayed far eastward with some pirate fleet toward Asia, and had learned there to work wonders and to compass his ends by uncanny means.
There was a siege of Falaise, which Robert seized and tried to keep by main strength; but Richard's army was too much for him, and at last he sued for peace. The brothers went back to Rouen apparently the best of friends; but there was a grand banquet in Rolf's old castle, and Richard was suddenly death-struck as he sat at the head of the feast, and was carried to his bed, where he quickly breathed his last. The funeral bell began to toll while the banquet still went on, and the barons made themselves merry in the old hall.
There was great lamentation, for Richard was already much beloved, and nobody doubted that he had been poisoned. So Robert came to the throne of Normandy with a black stain upon his character, and during all the rest of his life that stain was not overlooked nor forgotten.
As for the baby-widow, she afterward became the wife of the Count of Flanders, Baldwin de Lisle, and she was the mother of Matilda, who was the wife of William the Conqueror.
Farm laborers; countrymen.
Notes for Chapter 5
“Then would he sing ... circumstance of chivalry.” -- SCOTT: This couplet is from Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), near the end of "The Lay of the last Minstrel."
See the Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, volume 6, p. 219.
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"He who bears my name": The account of Richard the Fearless naming his successor closely follows Palgrave The History of Normandy and of England, Vol. 3, p. 25 , but Jewett's quotations vary from Palgrave's text.
(see Jewett's Sources)
"…peopled with men of known deeds": This is from Palgrave, The History of Normandy and of England, Vol. 3, p. 31
"rendered illustrious by the illusions of time and blazonry which imagination imparts": is slightly misquoted from p. 28. The original reads, "of time, and the blazonry which imagination imparts."
Much of the opening of this chapter is likely summarized from Palgrave's account in volume 3, Chapter 1.
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Freeman says, "such a constitution ... by mere peasants": Freeman's The History of the Norman Conquest of England v. 1, p. 256. (see Jewett's Sources)
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one of these piteous harangues: Though Jewett attibutes the following quotation to Wace (see below), it is likely she is quoting it from Thierry, History of the Conquest of England by the Normans, v. 1, p. 102. Guizot presents the same passage, in his own literal translation, in The History of France from the Earliest Times to 1848, v. 1, p. 248. (see Jewett's Sources)
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Robert of France ... Cornelius Centurio: This anecdote may be found in Palgrave, v. 3, p. 58. An account of Robert's life and of the chant is given in Singers and Songs of the Church: Being Biographical Sketches of the Hymn-writers in All the Principal Collections (1869) by Josiah Miller, pp. 23-4.
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William of Jumièges ... Master Wace: William of Jumièges, an eleventh-century French historian provides contemporary sources for the era of the Norman Conquest, according to Wikipedia. Of Master Wace, Wikipedia says: "Wace (c. 1110– after 1174), sometimes referred to as Robert Wace, was a Norman poet, who was born in Jersey and brought up in ...Normandy." Master Wace is author of the Roman de Rou, an important source for Jewett. The link is to a translation that was available to Jewett, but -- as in the example above -- I have not succeeded in finding quotations she indicates are from Wace in this translation. It is not clear, then, which translation she used. It is possible that she routinely drew her quotations from other authors.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller
Assistance from: Allison Anderson and Gabe Heller.
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