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William of Newburgh:  Book Five

Book One | Book Two | Book Three | Book Four | Book Five | Introduction


  • Chapter 1:  The acts of the king after his coronation, before he crossed the Sea
  • Chapter 2:  Of the proceedings which took place between the king of England and his enemies, after he had crossed the sea
  • Chapter 3:  Of the truce made between the kings; and of the peace of the provinces, excepting from the royal taxes
  • Chapter 4:  How knightly exercises began to be practiced in England in the time of King Richard
  • Chapter 5:  Of the return of John to his brother
  • Chapter 6:  How one Stephen was deluded by a demon
  • Chapter 7:  How the kingdom of the Normans in Sicily was overthrown
  • Chapter 8:  Of the horrible death of the duke of Austria
  • Chapter 9:  What came to pass, by God's disposal, in the province of Le Mans, for the correction of the king of England
  • Chapter 10:  Of the death of Hugh, bishop of Durham
  • Chapter 11:  Of the three illegitimate children of the same bishop, and of him who succeeded
  • Chapter 12:  How Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, celebrated a council in the church of York, under the name of legate; and of the dispute which exists between the archbishops of Canterbury and York concerning the primacy
  • Chapter 13:  Of the army of the Saracens that entered Spain from Africa
  • Chapter 14:  Of Mahomet the false prophet, and of the law which he introduced through the spirit of error, and how the same law infected many nations
  • Chapter 15:  Of the war that was renewed between our kings, after the termination of the truce
  • Chapter 16:  How the king of England was exculpated by the letters of the Old Man of the Mountain from the murder of the marquis
  • Chapter 17:  Of the warlike commotion that followed the truce between the kings, and how they entered into a treaty at Issoudun
  • Chapter 18:  How the kings proclaimed the treaty which had been agreed upon, which did not last long; and of the commotion in Brittany
  • Chapter 19:  Of the sudden death in England of the abbot of Caen
  • Chapter 20:  Of a conspiracy made in London by one William, and how he paid the penalty of his audacity
  • Chapter 21:  How the common people desired to honor this man as a martyr, and how this error of theirs was extinguished
  • Chapter 22:  Of the prodigy of the dead man, who wandered about after burial
  • Chapter 23:  Of a similar occurrence at Berwick
  • Chapter 24:  Of certain prodigies
  • Chapter 25:  Of a sign which was seen in the heavens, and of the storming of certain castles
  • Chapter 26:  Of a famine and pestilence which overran England
  • Chapter 27:  How the Germans a second time took the sign of the cross
  • Chapter 28:  Of the dissension between King Richard and the archbishop of Rouen
  • Chapter 29:  Of the death of the bishop of Ely, who deserves rather to be called the chancellor
  • Chapter 30:  Of the short war with the Bretons; and how the forty years' differences with Toulouse were ended
  • Chapter 31:  Of the capture of the bishop of Beauvais
  • Chapter 32:  Of the desertion of some from the king of France, and on what account a truce was made between him and the king of England
  • Chapter 33:  Of a wonderful event that befell at Malton
  • Chapter 34:  Of the reconciliation of King Richard and the archbishop of Rouen; and of a certain prodigy

Chapter 1:  The acts of the king after his coronation, before he crossed the sea     <to index>

[1] After the solemnities of his coronation, the king remained a short time in England, and took care to arrange the state of affairs anew, as if he had then been made king for the first time: and almost everything which seemed to have pleased him at his first accession to the throne, he now thought necessary should be changed and altered at his second coronation. The kingdom, too, which he had divided in many ways, when he was about to undertake his journey to the East (as it is more fully related in its place), he now determined to restore to its original condition, and he demanded back all that he had at that time lightly bestowed or sold for a weighty price, as if he had only lent it. It was not lawful for any one to protect his right of tenure, by virtue of an agreement, or title, or instrument, while all were crushed by the power of the crown, and no one ventured to say to him, "Will he plead against me with his great power, or oppress me with the strength of his greatness?" but he spoke gently, and with subtlety, to those who had purchased the royal possessions, saying, "It does not become you to lend on usury to a royal personage; therefore, if you have already received the money you lent me out of the fruits of your property, you ought to be content with that; but if not, I will make it up from my own property, thus taking away every pretence for keeping it back; for you have prudence enough to know the rescript of the holy see, by which you are forbidden to lend on usury to your own king, and your money ought by no means to be withheld from me, if, at a proper time, it should happen to be required."

[2] Terrified, at length, by the impending power of the king, they began to discover the artifices by which he had stripped them of their money for the expenses of his expedition to Jerusalem; and they resigned everything, without the slightest question about the profit, which they had not received. For not even the bishop of Durham, who purchased an earldom near to the borders of the Scots for a large sum, and had now possessed it for some years, had any privilege above the rest in this respect; but ceasing to be an earl, he fell back into a simple bishop; and thus, much labor and much money were sacrificed, which, however, would not have been lost to him, if they had been applied to pious uses and laid up for treasure in heaven. Yet, when he conjectured, from the change in the king's countenance, that his disposition was less favorable to him, without waiting for any demand, he resigned the earldom; nor even then, as it is said, did he by more ample concessions satisfy the king's desires, for they were insatiable.

[3] Besides this, the king, either to liberate the hostages who were left with the emperor, or for the expenses of carrying on a war with the king of France, imposed upon the whole kingdom a tribute altogether unusual; that is to say, he demanded two shillings from every carucate of land without distinction, disregarding the privileges of the clergy, of religious persons and of certain others. Also, when certain of the greater abbots of the Cistercian order waited on him to congratulate him, he said, "We approve your devotion and liberality to us, in giving the best of your substance, that is, the fleeces of your sheep, towards our ransom, as it was becoming; and if life should be granted to us, we think of repaying this favor with a favor and that we may be debtors to you for an everlasting favor it behooves you once more to declare your affection towards us, and not think it hard to accommodate us with your wool of the present year; for, when we were released by the emperor, we returned in great poverty to our own country, and confiding in you in our most urgent necessity, we took from foreign merchants the value of your wool for our needful purposes, which we shall, doubtless, restore at our exchequer in the month of October, with thanks for your approved affection." In this manner, despoiling those religious persons, under the appearance of flattery, he reduced the most celebrated of their monasteries to an unusual state of poverty.

[4] When he had disposed of his affairs in England, and appointed a discreet man, that is to say, the archbishop of Canterbury, as chief justiciary of the kingdom, he proceeded towards the sea, with an army of Englishmen, which he had summoned to cross over with him. When he received news from parts beyond sea, that the forces of the French had assembled, and were meditating an irruption into Normandy, he waited with great impatience for an opportunity of crossing over, and very frequently chided the elements; but at length the winds blew as he wished, and he crossed over. He was received by his people with congratulations; and his presence, after their long heaviness, raised their spirits to the greatest confidence.

Chapter 2:  Of the proceedings which took place between the king of England and his enemies, after he had crossed the sea    <to index>

[1] In the meantime, the king of France laid siege to Verneuil, a city strongly fortified, which his father formerly besieged in vain; and though his army was innumerable, yet in this instance he was destined to inherit the lot of his father: for the king of England being restored thus opportunely to his people in Normandy, by degrees drew his army together, and pitched his camp not far from Verneuil, at a castle which is called L'Aigle. When he had remained there some days, the French army declined the risk of engaging in battle with him; and after they had toiled in besieging the city with great and useless labor, they raised the siege and retreated. But their king, as if to remove the disgrace of a shameful retreat, destroyed, in his perverse fury, the city of Evreux, which he had previously plundered, nor did he even spare the church of Saint Taurin, the most celebrated in that part of the country; though when he had commanded it to be burnt, not one man, out of so great an army, could be found, through the fear of God, to execute so nefarious in order; so he himself, as it is said, with some lost souls of that class of men whom they call "Ribalds," entered the sacred edifice and set it on fire. Afterwards, as it is said whatever was carried out of that church was conveyed to the city of Chartres, and it acted like a firebrand to that most famous city; in consequence of which it became in a state of combustion, and was food for the flames, until it was almost consumed.

[2] So the war in those parts was carried on between these two great kings, now with prosperous and now with adverse fortune alternately, as is usual. The rigorous captivity of the king of England had, a short time before, despoiled him of his treasures, and the avarice of his enemies had infringed upon the limits of his territories; but after fortune had shown so much malice towards him, all that followed was prosperous; for in the war he did not lose one foot of the land he possessed. Of the fortresses of which he had been despoiled, he recovered the noble castle which is called Loches, with several others, by the fortune of war. He also entered the territories of the enemy, and after some exploits, which were valiantly and prosperously performed, he came to Vendome, and rested his army there for several days. The king of France, however, when he thought that he had retired from that place, pitched his camp not far from Vendome; but when he discovered the vicinity of the enemy, he retreated in the night. When the morning appeared, the king of England pursued the retreating army, and captured the carriages and baggage of the fugitive king, with certain secret treasures, and riches of various kinds, and much of his household goods.

[3] At that time, however, he was annoyed by certain wicked deserters in Aquitaine; that is to say, Geoffrey de Rancon, and the count d'Angouleme, very powerful men; and who were bold through the countenance of the French, by whom they were instigated against the king of England. The son of Henry of Navarre, however, the relative of Berengaria, queen of England, entered Aquitaine with an army and devastated the territory of each of these deserters; but when he received the news of the death of his father, he returned home for the purpose of securing the succession. After a short time, the decree of fate carried off this count de Rancon, whom I have mentioned; and the king of England coming up with his army, after a short siege, obtained possession of his famous castle, which is called Tailleburth; and soon after, directing his attack against the other deserter, he stormed the city of Angouleme, with sanguinary celerity. While these things were being acted, the king of France was proceeding very calmly, for he had skillfully kept him in suspense, in the expectation of a truce, which was already a subject of debate between them.

Chapter 3:  Of the truce made between the kings; and of the peace of the provinces, excepting from the royal taxes    <to index>

[1] In the one thousand one hundred and ninety-fourth year from the delivery of the Virgin, about the feast of the chief of the Apostles, which is called "Ad vincula" [1 Aug.], after many conflicts and various events, through the mediation of men of influence, a cessation of arms (which is called a truce) was solemnly confirmed between the kings, for one year. This was very useful to the king of England for the restoration of his strength, which had been much exhausted by his captivity; although, as it appeared to some persons, it was not very honorable, since he now held Normandy within limits which were much smaller than before. But considerations of expediency preponderated; and it was important to consult the state of affairs, although with some small loss of reputation. This was done, and the provinces which were the seat of war enjoyed a short period of repose; but in that cessation of evils, the avarice of the kings towards their subjects was vehemently manifested in their efforts to procure money, while they were meditating thoughts of war rather than of peace; arid were preparing themselves in all things for future movements.

[2] At last, in this business no opportunity was overlooked ; and when it happened that a pretence (even an imaginary one) occurred, the royal tax-gatherers did not refrain from open violence in extorting money. In the meantime, those persons especially complained -- but in vain -- of their unusual burdens, who by the religious indulgence of former sovereigns were accustomed to enjoy freedom and immunity from every secular exaction; that is to say, men of religion. And, indeed, the most Christian fathers of the kings I have mentioned were eminent patrons and protectors of men devoted to religion; but we grieve that their sons imitated them but little in this respect. Indeed, the king of England, on account of his wayward youth, was dreaded at the commencement of his reign, as one likely to be anything but a mild sovereign; but with regard to the king of France, by reason of the remembrance of his father, and the peaceful habits of his early youth, better things were expected of his future conduct; and men of every class prayed for his prosperity. When he returned home from the regions of the East, however, as it is mentioned above, he was changed into another being, through his implacable hatred towards the king of England; and he showed himself severe to almost all men, and especially to the religious orders and the clergy, as if he would avenge himself on his own subjects; whereas the king of England, through the favor of God, after he returned from captivity, was found more mild.

[3] For instance, the venerable John, archbishop of Lyons, at that time happened to be in England, and was resident in London with some men of distinction, when several of them complained in his presence of the cruelty of their own sovereign. "Say not so," he said, "for I tell you that your king is a hermit in comparison with the king of France;" and after introducing a few remarks on the habits of his sovereign, he added, that when he became of age, he spared his own treasures and extorted all the expenses of the war which he waged against the king of England, from the churches, and chiefly from the monasteries.

Chapter 4:  How knightly exercises began to be practiced in England in the time of King Richard     <to index>

[1] In the course of the truce between these kings, those military practices, that is to say exercises in arms which are commonly called tournaments, began to be celebrated in England; and the king, who established them, demanded a small sum of money to be paid by each person who wished to join in the sport. This royal exaction had no influence upon the willingness of the young knights, who were fired with the love of arms, nor did it check their ardor, nor prevent them from holding a solemn assembly for exercise; but it is notorious that a military conflict of this kind is never held in England, for exercise alone and the display of valor, without some quarrel arising; unless in the days of king Stephen, when, through his unbecoming weakness, there could be no vigor in the administration of public discipline. Moreover, in the times of the kings before him, and also in the time of Henry II, who succeeded Stephen, these knightly exercises were altogether forbidden in England; and those who, perchance, sought glory in arms and wished to join these sports, crossed over the sea, and practiced them at the very ends of the earth.

[2] The illustrious king Richard, therefore, considering that the French were more expert in battle from being more trained and instructed, chose that the knights of his own kingdom should be exercised within his own territory, so that from warlike games they might previously learn the real art and practice of war, and that the French should not insult the English knights as unskillful and uninstructed. Be it known, however, that exercises in arms of this kind were prohibited by three general councils, under three venerable pontiffs of Rome; wherefore pope Alexander, in the Lateran council, says, "Walking in the footsteps of our predecessors of happy memory, popes Innocent and Eugenius, we prohibit those detestable meetings from being held, which are called tournaments, in which knights, by previous appointment, are accustomed to assemble and with rash audacity to fight together, whence the deaths of men and the peril of souls frequently proceed. If any of those knights, therefore, shall be mortally wounded there, although absolution may not be refused where he demands it, yet let him be deprived of Christian sepulture." Although such a solemn assembly of knights is forbidden by authority, under a heavy censure, yet the fervor of those youths, who in their vanity seek glory in arms, and who rejoice in the favor of kings, who desire to have expert soldiers, has treated with contempt the provisions of this ecclesiastical decree, even to the present day.

Chapter 5:  Of the return of John to his brother    <to index>

[1] At the same time, John, the brother of the king of England, with great disgrace to himself, was serving in the army of the king of France, against his own brother. While his brother Richard was detained in Germany, he had been led astray, and enticed by the French king; so that, having broken the laws of nature, he had associated himself with his brother's enemies. As long as John had power, he was held in honor by the king of France; but when he was deprived of the fortresses which he had received in England through the profuse liberality of his father or his brother, and had become powerless (having nothing wherewith to injure his brother), then the king of France despised him, as though he no longer needed his assistance. But when John saw that his brother had not only returned in safety to his own country, but was even prospering well, he sought at length to be reconciled to him. So, at the mediation of their mother, he returned as a suppliant, and was received with sufficient fraternal affection; and afterwards he performed military service to him faithfully and valiantly against the king of France -- thus expiating former errors by his late services, and completely recovering the love of his brother towards him.

[2] Hugh de Nonant, bishop of Chester, a man unstable in all his ways, who, being pricked by his evil conscience, had fled from the face of the king of England into France, also appeased the king with no small sum of money; and having recovered his bishopric, he afterwards took care to make himself useful more in the affairs of the king than in the duties of his pastoral office.

Chapter 6:  How one Stephen was deluded by a demon    <to index>

[1] Let me in this place commemorate what is reported to have happened to Stephen, the governor of Anjou, shortly before the return of the king of England from Germany. This Stephen had been raised by king Henry from a middle station to the greatest height in the government; and during the life of that king had displayed prudence and moderation in his actions; and he pleased king Richard, his son, so well, that when he was about to set out for foreign countries, he entrusted him with the same administration of the same offices. Stephen, however, conjecturing that a king of such a delicate constitution probably would not return from the great and certain perils of such a very long and laborious pilgrimage, or perhaps would never return, began, in his long absence, to exceed the limits of the power entrusted to him, and to exercise himself in great matters, and in things too high for him.

[2] Wishing, however, to ascertain with the utmost certainty whether that prince would return to his own country, by the persuasion of a certain familiar friend, he thought he would consult a man of Toledo upon the subject, who was famous in curious arts; and he carried the reward of divination in his hands. The diviner took the man, whom he intended to delude, into a secret place, and exhibited to him a certain head, which was to be addressed by him, saying, "Inquire from this head, but use few words, and be brief; for he makes no response to a long speech and to many words." Then Stephen said, "Shall I see king Richard?" and the evil spirit replied from the head, "No." Then he asked, "How long will my administration last, which I received from the kings?" The spirit answered, "Until thy death." Thirdly, he inquired where he should die, and the response was, "In pluma." He was not permitted to inquire further; but being dismissed by the sorcerer, he went away joyfully, to experience in due time the fallacies of the demon which had been called up. He afterwards commanded his servants to take every precaution not to bring anything made of feathers near him on any occasion whatever, or to place anything of the kind under him; by this precaution promising himself a very long life, since he was not to die unless "in pluma," or amidst feathers.

[3] So, from that time, he began to act very confidently, as if he foreknew future events, to trample upon his vassals, and to oppress a certain one especially of the nobles whom he suspected and hated. This individual being unequal to him in force, fled from the face of the pursuer into a certain castle that he had; but the governor surrounded the castle with his forces to attack it; and he happened to be wandering rather carelessly about, with a few attendants, for the purpose of ascertaining on what side it could most easily be taken, when suddenly his adversary, whom despair stimulated to acts of daring, sallied out with his men through a postern-gate, and seized his foe, who was thus delivered into his hands, as if by the judgment of God. He joyfully carried him within the walls; and though he offered a large ransom for his life, yet he was cruelly put to the torture, and killed. But that castle was called "Pluma;" and the quibble of that delusive spirit was obvious, when he foretold that the unhappy man should die "in Pluma."

[4] This is similar to what happened long ago to Gerbert, the pseudo-pope. For he was devoted to sacrilegious magic, and he inquired of a brazen head when he should die; and the reply was, "When it shall be your duty to celebrate the mass in Jerusalem." So, believing the response could not quibble, and thinking that he would never visit the holy city Jerusalem, he began to live secure, as if he would never die, or, at least, would live very long indeed; but being worthy to be deluded by the devil, he was ignorant that there is a church at Rome called Jerusalem, where the Roman pontiff was accustomed every year to celebrate the sacred mysteries in a solemn manner on the Sunday when the Psalm, "Rejoice, O Jerusalem," is sung. Therefore, when he was required at the proper season to perform the customary duty, he shuddered with horror at last, though too late, at the fallacious response, and he experienced the truth of it.

[5] A similar anecdote is also narrated of Alberic, formerly earl of Northumberland; who, when he was great and powerful, not being content with his own station, went about to seek for higher honor; and having consulted an evil spirit, by means of a certain follower of that nefarious art, he heard that he should have "Graecia." At length, leaving all that he possessed, he went towards the regions of the East and entered Greece upon the faith of the oracle. After he had made a long stay in Greece to no purpose, and the Greeks happened to hear that he had come to reign over them, they drove him out of their territory, despoiled of all his goods, and they scarcely spared his life. After the lapse of some years, wearied by toil and affliction, he returned to Normandy, and was received with benignity by king Henry, on account of their old acquaintance; and he, wishing to provide for the future welfare of his wearied friend, bestowed on him in marriage a noble widow with all her patrimony. At the solemn benediction, the priest said to her, "Lady Graecia are you content to have this man?" for so she was called; then he recognized at last the astuteness of the delusive spirit, who had lifted up his covetous mind with a vain hope, by foretelling that he should have "Graecia."

Chapter 7:  How the kingdom of the Normans in Sicily was overthrown    <to index>

[1] In those days the highly flourishing kingdom of Sicily (which from its commencement under Guiscard, for more than a hundred years had retained its condition unchanged) was overthrown, more by the malice of chance than by external violence, and passed away into the power of the emperor of Germany, with the provinces annexed to it; that is to say, Campania, Apulia, and Calabria. To set this forth distinctly, the commencement of the narration must be taken up at a little earlier period.

[2] In the time, then, of William the elder, who conquered the people of England, Guiscard, who was descended from a family of moderate fortune in Normandy, finding that he gained but little profit by doing military service to that king, and having confidence in his own valor, was discontented with a humble station; and so he departed from his native country with a few companions and set out for Apulia. After he had fought there with great reputation, men of his own nation, poor and desirous of obtaining higher pay, were incited by his example, and by degrees resorted to him, and he became their chief, But those persons for whom he had fought a short time before began to malign and defraud him, and he subdued them in a short time; and availing himself of his increasing fortune, he grew so powerful that he reduced the opulent provinces of Apulia and Calabria under his power; and, by the wonderful felicity of his success, he also obtained possession of the kingdom of Sicily. Not content with this glory, he entered Greece in a hostile manner, and seized certain provinces of the emperor of Constantinople; for, after encountering him in battle, he put his forces to flight, and compelled him to escape ingloriously. The emperor again prepared for war and drew together, far and wide, the forces of the empire while Guiscard received a mandate from the Roman pontiff to bring, with the utmost celerity, assistance to the church of St. Peter, which was assailed by the emperor of Germany; so he left his son Bohemund in Greece; but not long afterwards he was poisoned by his wife, who had been tempted by the same emperor; and thus, by an unhappy end, after so much felicity, he showed how vain everything is that is of this world.

[3] He left, however, to his sons the entire right to his extensive conquests; and they reigned after him in much happiness and glory, terrible to the Greeks and Africans, and also beyond the reach of the emperors of Germany. The succession continued in this most noble race until William, the son of William, who, after he had married the daughter of Henry, the illustrious king of England, had no children by her, and was carried off by an early death. To him succeeded Tancred, the bastard, by the choice and election of the nobility -- for all despised the government of the Germans. Moreover, Constantia, the aunt of the deceased king, when the right of succession appeared to lie open to competitors, upon the death of the king, had married Henry, the son of Frederick, emperor of Germany. He (when his father died in the. expedition to the East, as it is set forth above) obtained the imperial power by legitimate succession, and made it his study to bring the territory, claimed by his wife, within the German rule. Having drawn together the forces of the empire, he invaded Campania and Apulia and obtained several cities and many castles by surrender; but when he besieged Naples, famous among cities, a pestilence arose in the camp and cut off no small part of his numerous army; he himself and the rest escaping with difficulty. His wife, however, in the meantime, who was residing at Salerno, fell into the hands of the enemy; for the fleet of Tancred having arrived there and with the assistance of the citizens (as it is said) put to flight the band of soldiers who were in attendance upon the queen at that place; she was taken prisoner arid carried away into Sicily, where she was treated with honor by king Tancred, and, after a short time, resigned to her husband.

[4] When this same emperor returned into Germany, he meditated a second expedition into Apulia to do away with his previous defeat; and as there was not sufficient money for the expenses of the war in his own treasury, he disgraced his empire by an inexpiable act of infamy. Having accidentally discovered an opportunity whereby he might promote his future expedition, he became forgetful of the honor of an emperor, and from a Christian ruler became another Saladin; for, instigated by avarice, he made captive the illustrious king of England, when he was returning unsuspiciously towards his own country from the East, where he had labored much for Christ, as it is more fully related above; and thus England, drained of its money, even to the holy chalices, provided the expenses of the war in Apulia with sufficient disgrace to the empire. Though the king was released, yet his hostages were retained in custody, because the fire of avarice, burning in the shameless breast of the emperor, had not yet said to him, "It is sufficient." Therefore he drew together innumerable troops from all parts of the empire, intending to enter the frontiers of his enemies; but before this warlike irruption, it happened that king Tancred and his sons yielded to the stroke of fate; nor was any male surviving of the royal race who could presume to claim the vacant kingdom, especially as the hereditary right of his wife was joined to the power of the emperor. Advancing, consequently, with an army, the emperor, in the name of his wife, obtained without difficulty the opulent regions of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. It is said that he granted pardon to those who had opposed him under Tancred; but he smote with cruel castigation the citizens of Salerno, and ruined that city, once so famous. The victorious Guiscard is said to have formerly done the like to the citizens of the same city; assigning to them by this the palm of perfidy, and by the example of punishment establishing discipline hereafter. Thus that noble kingdom, which by male succession had stood so long immovable, failed by a female inheritor, and fell, and thus passed away into a province of the German emperor, in the one thousand one hundred and ninety-fourth year from the delivery of the Virgin.

Chapter 8:  Of the horrible death of the duke of Austria    <to index>

[1] In the one thousand one hundred and ninety-fifth year from the delivery of the Virgin, Divine favor began to smile upon the illustrious king of England, after he had experienced such great misfortunes. For when, with much labor, he had prepared more than twenty thousand marks for the duke of Austria, to be transmitted early, the persons whom he had given to the duke as hostages for the payment of the sum exacted, suddenly presented themselves before the king, having milk and honey on their tongues; for they announced that their wicked enemy had been overwhelmed by the weight of Divine judgment, and they exhibited much joy in proof of their announcement. They also related that before his death the land had been stricken by the scourge of the same Divine power in many ways; so that from this it might be perceived that judgment was then approaching him with no tardy foot, unless he should speedily bring forth fruits meet for repentance; for he had been guilty of those many evils which came upon the Christian kingdoms from that most unhappy captivity of the king of England.

[2] For it is said that some cities of that land were destroyed by fire, for which there was no certain cause. The Danube, that very great river, overflowed as if in vengeance, and covered some of the adjacent localities, with great destruction to the people. In the middle of summer the whole of that region was dried up by an unnatural and unusual drought, and unseasonably lacked the grace of its verdure; the seeds of the fruits of the earth, when they ought to have sprung up, degenerated into worms, and a disease spread abroad like a pestilence and consumed the nobles of that land. These events did not terrify his wicked and avaricious heart, nor deter him from coveting the wealth of England yet more, though he had already received many thousand marks from the captive king; and though he was under an anathema pronounced by the Roman pontiff for those acts which he had committed against the king of England, yet being urged on more strongly by avarice, he proudly derided that sentence. Now the axe of divine punishment was put to the root of that evil tree: but since it is written "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" [Prov. 16:18], being enriched by the ransom of his noble captive, he convoked the nobles of the land and resolved to celebrate the solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord with much ostentation and glory.

[3] Accordingly, on the first day he shone forth arrayed in splendor; on the next day, however, he rendered glory to God; for on the nativity of St. Stephen [20 Dec.], after he had dined, he went forth to tilt with his knights, and his horse happening to fall, threw his rider, and crushed his foot so that the bones that were fractured broke through the skin, and projected outside. The physicians, who were soon summoned, entertained some solicitude about the cure of so great an injury, and applied those remedies which they thought expedient. On the next day, however, the foot appeared so blackened, that the physicians decided that amputation was necessary; and he himself, from the love of life, requested that the operation should be performed; but there was no one, either physician or officer of the household, or even his son, who would perform it. At last, his chamberlain was called and compelled to this -- while the duke himself, with his own hand, applied an axe to his shin bone -- he, by blows of a mallet,, struck off his foot in about three strokes. The physicians then applied medicaments; and when they visited him on the following day, they perceived, by no ambiguous signs, that he was at the gates of death; and by their looks and words told him, "Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live" [Isa. 38:1]. Thus left without hope, he sent for the bishops who had been invited, and had come to the solemnity, and in the sight of his nobles he entreated to be released from the bond of the anathema with which he was involved by the Roman pontiff. An answer was returned by the whole of the clergy that he could by no means be absolved, unless under the warranty of an oath that be would stand by the judgment of the church with regard to the injuries which he had inflicted on the king of England; and that his nobles, in like manner, should swear, that if, perchance, the judgment of the church could not be carried into effect by him, they would, in every possible way, take care to provide that nothing which might be decided should become void.

[4] After he had solemnly confirmed this obligation, he received the gift of absolution; and soon after he commanded that the hostages of the king of England should be set at liberty. After a short time, his sufferings becoming more severe, he expired; and his son, who succeeded him, wished also to become heir to his father's avarice; and lest the last will of his deceased father should be fulfilled, he joined with several noblemen, and opposed it. Whence it came to pass, by the laudable and invincible zeal of the clergy, that the body of the great duke remained unburied for some days, which cast a stain upon his disobedient son. At last, sorely troubled, he entirely released the hostages above mentioned, and wished to deliver to them four thousand marks, to be carried back to the king of England; but they, on account of the perils of the roads, preferred returning unburdened to their own country; and hastening home with alacrity, they were the first to announce their own deliverance. The king rejoiced at the news, gave thanks to God, and from that time is considered to have lived more uprightly.

Chapter 9:  What came to pass, by God's disposal, in the province of Le Mans, for the correction of the king of England    <to index>

[1] Another event is reported to have happened also at that time, in the province of Le Mans, which aptly admonished the same king of his salvation. The thing is known to many; and we insert it in our narration simply as it has been related to us by venerable men worthy of belief, who protested that they received it from the bishop of Le Mans.

[2] A certain man, one of the bishop's vassals, impelled by pious devotion, went to Spain to the shrine of the blessed apostle James and returned home in safety. After a short time, burning still more with the heat of faith and devotion, he desired to visit the sepulchre of the Lord, a far more laborious pilgrimage. Bidding, therefore, farewell to his family, he commenced his journey at a seasonable time. Once, when he was walking alone, a person of enormous size and terrible countenance suddenly stood before him in the road. The man being startled, with elevated hand, put on the armor of Christ. But the other, as if he regarded not the sign of salvation, said, "Thou wilt in no wise be able, by this means, to protect thyself from becoming mine; but if thou wilt fall down and worship me, I will make thee rich and very famous." To this, the man, overcoming fear by boldness, replied with freedom, "It is clear that thou art a being of evil omen; keep thy gifts to thyself; for the bounty of God Almighty is sufficient for me, and Him alone do I adore." Then the other said, "It behooves thee to have something of me even against thy will;" and holding out, as it were, a cloak of slight material, he cast it over the head of the man, and instantly, by its fiery contact, it burnt up his hair and blackened also the skin of his head. Then the enemy, leaping forward, caught the trembling man by the arm. But the man, when urged by such necessity as this, conscious of his recent pilgrimage, called loudly upon St. James. The blessed apostle, reverend in his appearance, soon visibly appeared, and with his powerful word rebuked the evil assailant; but when the man was rescued from the hands of his raging enemy, he listened in safety to those words, for the sake of which, as it is thought, that event befell him by the will of God.

[3] The apostle said to the evil one, "Say who thou art, and what is thy business." Compelled by this command, he replied, "I am an evil spirit, and hostile to the human race, and skilled in a thousand arts of doing injury. It was I who achieved that great scandal and downfall of the Christian possessions in the East. I it was who sowed detestable discord between the Christian kings in the Land of Promise, so that nothing could be done by them, nor could the work of God prosper in their hands. By the minister of my wickedness, that is to say, the duke of Austria, I made captive the king of England on his return from Syria, causing thereby manifold occasions of evil to Christian realms; and having accompanied that king, as he was returning from captivity, towards his own land, I now remain in these parts, and am frequently present at the royal couch, like a familiar minister; and I keep a watchful guard over his treasures, which are laid up at Chinon." Having spoken these words, the evil spirit disappeared; the apostle, also, having comforted the man, retired to the secret abode of his own brightness. The man, however, returned quickly to the city of Le Mans, and there unfolded all those events, in their order, to the bishop and men of discretion; and in proof of his good faith, he uncovered his head, which was deprived of hair, and exhibited his arm blistered by the grasp of that pestiferous hand. After this was done, he resumed his intended journey in a few days, Nor were these circumstances long hidden from king Richard; and being struck with compunction, through fear of Him who touches the mountains and they smoke, under the impulse of wiser counsel, from that time forth, as we have heard, he wished to render his couch more chaste, and he bestowed larger alms out of his treasures to the needy.

Chapter 10:  Of the death of Hugh, bishop of Durham    <to index>

[1] In these days, Hugh, bishop of Durham, yielded to fate in the forty-second year of his episcopate. And, indeed, of those chosen bishops, of whom the world was not worthy, we read of few that held office for so long a period; but the bishops of our time, to whom the world is not crucified, but dominant, and who know not how to say with the prophet, "Woe is me, that my stay is prolonged," spend a short time only in works of piety, and grief afflicts them when they are compelled to leave their wealth and their pleasures, in proportion as their joy abounds, while they were in affluence. For that bishop, it is said (I know not how deluded), while he was in prosperity, prophesied that his age would be full of years, and, in the hearing of many, pronounced that he should pass ten years in blindness; for his eyes would grow dark through old age; therefore, relying in security upon the world, he found out, though too late, the falsehood of his opinion, when the approach of death came suddenly upon him. Yet in this, whether any one deluded him, by divination, or whether he, depending on his own opinion, from the consideration of his good health, may have promised himself a very long life, is uncertain.

[2] However, until his seventieth year, in which he died, and until the disease commenced by which he was taken away, he is understood to have lived free from bodily pain, sound and healthy. He was a man most prudent in the disposal of earthly affairs; and most eloquent, though without much knowledge of literature. He thirsted after money and was full of knowledge of the means how to acquire it. As a bishop, he was not content with spiritual power or excellence, but he went about seeking secular influence; and with great loss of money that belonged to the church, and which ought rather to have been applied to religious uses, he sought for himself a great name, like that of the lofty ones of the earth. He delighted in the construction of castles and the erection of noble buildings in many places; but the more he studied to build upon the earth, the more remiss was he to build in heaven. Moreover, he had been taken from the allurements of a secular life, and at an age disallowed by the canons had been raised to the episcopacy, by reason of the nobility of his family alone; and he studiously fulfilled that saying of Solomon, "And whatsoever mine eyes desired, I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart from any joy." Although he did not spare his wealth, but, lest any of the designs of his great mind should fail, he indiscreetly poured out the wealth that he had accumulated with much trouble, yet in other respects,he was much more given to heaping up than scattering abroad.

[3] He was very indulgent to lepers, and built for them that noble hospital, not far from the city of Durham, with profuse liberality indeed, but partly by means which were not very honest; applying, by his power, no small amount of other people's property to this devotional purpose, lest his own might be too much burdened by the expenditure. Moreover, after the destruction of the Christian population in the East, when the Christian princes and a great number of people assumed the cross of the Lord, he also chose to be the companion of their pious devotion. He afterwards, on Ash Wednesday, solemnly assumed the sign of the Lord; and as a punishment for his sins, he changed his soft inner clothing for haircloth; which, however, he did not wear for any length of time. Moreover, he did not neglect the opportunity of even casting away his sacred character; and when he was warmly entreated by the king, he by no means refused the solicitudes of public administration, as it was more fully told in its place; and being after that craftily led on by the king, he purchased of him the earldom of Northumberland, and paid him all the money he had scraped together towards the expenses of his distant pilgrimage.

[4] After this was done, and the king had departed for the East, he at last removed the sacred sign from his shoulder; and in the new enjoyment of his two-fold honor of an old bishop and a young earl, he magnificently displayed his power and glory until the return of the king; but when he came back to his kingdom from captivity in Germany, the bishop observed that the face of the king did not smile upon him, and he thought he could not pacify him in any other manner than by resigning the earldom, which he had bought for a heavy sum and had possessed for a short space of time. He was not, however, able to propitiate him; and he afterwards found him grievous from his importunate exactions; for the king thought that the money-bags of so great a bishop could not easily be exhausted, especially when he offered large sums to redeem the earldom which he had formerly bought in vain. Afterwards, the king, having resolved to pass beyond the sea, eagerly demanded by his royal power the money which was offered to him, but without bestowing the earldom; the bishop thereupon petitioned, by special messengers and by gifts, that the king, for the sake of the money which had passed between them, would restore the earldom to him, or, if he did not restore it, that he would desist from his exactions; but the king cleverly cajoling his man (as he had done before), commanded him, by letters full of reverence, to come to London and pay the sum he had offered; and, like a father of his country, he should henceforth be placed, with the archbishop of Canterbury, as ruler of the whole kingdom.

[5] Elated by this favor, the bishop with great joy commenced his journey to London. He arrived at one of his own vills, which is called Creik, that Sunday [12 Feb.] when it is the custom of priests to anticipate Ash Wednesday in Lent by a feast; and there he gorged himself beyond the strength of his aged body, while his miserable stomach, which could enjoy nothing, was compelled, by the enticement of savors from the number of dishes, to take them in until it was overloaded. When he wished to be relieved of the excess of surfeit by an emetic, he was made much worse by it. So, from that day, he gradually grew weaker; yet with obstinate spirit he proceeded on his journey for some days, as far as Doncaster. As his disorder increased, he was not able to struggle on any further, and was conveyed by water to Hoveden, about the first Sunday in Lent [19 Feb.], and there he was confined to his bed. As he was now despaired of, his disorder growing worse, he made his will, by the persuasion of his friends who were present; and at this time, though late, he displayed the fruits of repentance. He had but a slight sense of pain, as he said, though his weakness gradually increased, and at length prevailing over him, he ended his life. When be was dead, the temporalities of his bishopric being thereupon brought into the treasury of the king's officers, who thoroughly examined all his secret boards, and applied whatever was found to the king's service. Not even his servants and officers escaped from inquiry; for, by the royal command, they were subjected to a strict examination, as though they had plundered his goods; and each, according to his ability, was compelled to make satisfaction out of his own substance.

Chapter 11:  Of the three illegitimate children of the same bishop, and of him who succeeded     <to index>

[1] Moreover, the bishop in question, while he was treasurer of the church of York, a short time before he was raised to the episcopate, begot three illegitimate children by different mothers; but this neither deterred him from seeking the office of bishop, through any respect for Divine decrees, nor did it impede his election; for the canons of the church were loose, and the men acted with indiscretion. St. Gregory, however, says, when writing to the clergy and nobles of the city of Naples: "We have learned by the report of certain persons that John, the deacon, who has been elected by the other party, has a little daughter. Wherefore, if they had wished to act reasonably, they ought not to have elected him, nor should he have given his consent, for with what presumption does he dare to approach the office of bishop, when he is convinced that as yet he does not possess continence of his person for any length of time, as his little daughter testifies?" If, therefore, that man, by reason of one daughter, ought not to have aspired or been elected to the office of bishop, much less ought this man to have done so, by reason of three little sons.

[2] Yet, having obtained the episcopacy, he made it his study to advance to wealth and a great name, that offspring which he begot before he became a bishop, through the allurements of carnal affection. However, during his episcopate he had no more children. His first-born, whose mother was of noble birth, chiefly loved the warfare which is of this world. The next in order, by the provident care of his father, held possession of many churches, together with the archdeaconry of Durham, yet more for the promotion of his pleasures than for any utility to the souls of men. The third son, also, whom his father loved most tenderly, by great trouble and expense on his part, became chancellor to the king of France, and by his early death he deeply wounded the affection of his father. The second son (who survived his father) was left by him in much earthly prosperity; but in the sixth month after his father's death he proved the vanity and fallacy of that felicity by following his father.

[3] At the end of a year from the death of that bishop, and after the bishopric had been despoiled in many ways by the king's officers, Philip, a native of Aquitaine, accepted that see, with the royal assent; for since he had been, for a long time, employed about the person of the king, a partaker of his labors, and acquainted with his secrets, the king wished to remunerate him nobly, as having merited highly from him; but, lest he might appear to assume the honor to himself rather than to be called by God, as Aaron was, it was subtly provided, and, by the untried but insatiable influence of the king, extorted from the electors, lest any one should think of voting against him, that they should elect him who was previously elected by the king, and that they should shadow forth the reality of the royal choice by the public appearance of an ecclesiastical election. For many persons, who aspire to ecclesiastical honors through the influence of the great, are accustomed to submit to an appearance of an election, as if it were a fair one, though it has been produced by terror, in order that they may avoid the charge of having manifestly thrust themselves into office. But this they do in vain, since the apostle says, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Gal. 6:7].

Chapter 12:  How Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, celebrated a council in the church of York, under the name of legate; and of the dispute which exists between the archbishops of Canterbury and York concerning the primacy    <to index>

[1] The bishop of Durham being dead, and the archbishop of York beyond the sea, to appease the anger of the king, which had been vehemently kindled against him, Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury -- who possessed throughout all England not only regal power in the government of the kingdom, but also apostolic rule in the management of the church -- went to the metropolis of York to exhibit the glory of this united authority. By a mandate sent before him, he commanded the prelates of the whole province solemnly to come and meet him and attend him; and, suppressing for the time the name of primate, he entered the metropolitan Church in great pomp and exercised great power in it, celebrating a council with magnificence, under the name of legate of the holy see; and no one opposed or protested against it, because all men were either stricken with terror, or were but little devoted to their own metropolitan. When this was done, and his secular jurisdiction there also completed for that time, he returned to his own province.

[2] Here, I think, I should mention the reason or occasion about which the two metropolitans of England have now contended during a long period of time. The archbishop of York is upheld by the distinct authority of St. Gregory; who, in writing to Augustine, the bishop of the Angles, says, "We wish the bishop of York to be subject to thee, my brother; but after thy death let him preside over the bishops that he may have ordained, so that he may, in no respect, be subject to the bishop of London." And he added, "Between the bishops of London and York let there be hereafter this distinction in honor: let him be esteemed the first who was first ordained." The bishop of Canterbury, however, (whom St Gregory calls the bishop of London) asserts that this authority was abrogated at a subsequent period; that is to say, when the Roman pontiff (as the venerable Bede relates) ordained that most learned man, Theodore, as bishop over the church of Canterbury, whom he also appointed as primate over all the bishops of England. His successors for many ages are known to have been distinguished by the same prerogative; whence it is clear that the prerogative was granted not to the person but to the church.

[3] On the part of the archbishop of York, it is answered that St. Gregory established a manifest and solid right, which at no time has been abrogated; although for a certain time, by reason of the time itself, it was not in use, as if the right were dormant and might be revived at the proper time. Forasmuch as the Angles had lately been converted to the faith of Christ, according to the history of the truthful Bede, rude and unlearned bishops of that nation had begun to preside over them; and in order to instruct such men, the Roman pontiff, of necessity, with pious foresight, appointed the learned Theodore, not, indeed, making void the decree of the most blessed father Gregory, but only consulting the times; but the successors of Theodore either considered that they ought in like manner to yield to the times, or when the times were better they were guilty of presumption; since the bishops of the Angles, who presided over the church of York with a kind of rustic simplicity took but little care of the prerogative of their own see, and, from the days of Paulinus the bishop, neglected the use of the pall for many years. To this the archbishop of Canterbury replies, "That, although the use of the pall was restored to the church of York, many pontiffs of that church were notoriously subject to the jurisdiction of the church of Canterbury, or to the archbishop, as their own primate." The archbishop of York rejoins, "Although as the respect of temporal necessity could not generate any prejudice to the right of the church of York, so neither could the simplicity or the negligence of the bishops of that church do so, for St. Gregory willed that its right should not be annulled, but be firm and perpetual."

[4] This vain contention concerning the primacy thus involved the metropolitans of England in a long and expensive labor. Each of them, however, most vainly writes himself "Primate of all England"; yet neither possesses the power signified by this title. Whence it was that the archbishop of Canterbury above-mentioned thought he would suppress the title of primate, that he might be received by the church of York as legate of the apostolic see. This title certainly was not sincerely suppressed, but because it could not be assumed, as he could not come as primate. Truly, he might not have been favorably received, by reason of his legation, if the clergy of that church had wished to make use of the privilege which they had obtained some years before from the holy see, by which they and their archbishop were exempt from the jurisdiction of any legate appointed in England. Doubtless they dreaded him, not without cause, as one to be feared, and thought that he was one who ought to be contended against cautiously by reason of his prerogative; and they preferred to be subject to him as legate, whom they wished as a friend and patron, rather than experience the pressure of a power against which they were unable to struggle.

Chapter 13:  Of the army of the Saracens that entered Spain from Africa    <to index>

[1] In those days, that is, in the one thousand one hundred and ninety-fifth year from the delivery of the Virgin, the Christian kings of England and France were still laboring under the disease of the bitterest hatred against one another; and, eager to commence hostilities, could hardly endure to wait for the termination of the truce, by which their malice was to a slight degree restrained. At this time a tremendous army of Saracens entered Spain, led (as it is said) by a certain false philosopher of their own superstition, who promised great things; and being joined by the Saracens in the country, and bringing destruction with them, they rushed into the Christian provinces. These Africans -- emulating the advancing fortunes of the oriental Saracens, who, under Saladin their chief, had invaded the kingdom of Jerusalem, and extirpated the title of the Christian name from Arabia, and almost from Syria also -- were desirous to equal them in valor and glory; and they designed to expel or to destroy the neighboring Christian nations, and to subject the whole of Spain to their degrading heresy. Their confidence was augmented because the times seemed to favor them since the Christian kings of nearly all Europe were in a state of dissension with one another, and so intent on fulfilling the nefarious impulses of their own greediness, that scarcely any one of them could be expected to undertake military service for the propagation or defense of the Christian faith in Spain. So, crossing the strait which separates Africa from Spain, and uniting the forces of the Spanish infidels to their own, they reveled in the Christian provinces with unbridled and sanguinary audacity; but our people, who at first were astonished at the sudden irruption of this infinite multitude, soon recovered their spirits, and determined to try the fortune of war.

[2] This land is so spacious, that beyond the part which is possessed by the Saracens, and which is no small one, it is ennobled by five Christian kingdoms, which are not undistinguished, and which fought with various fortune against those unbelievers. Much blood was shed on either side; but at length God was propitious to our people, and the hostile army, deprived of the greater part of its strength, returned with dishonor to its own country to presume less strongly, for the future, on the vain philosophy of their leader. The rumor of this hostile irruption spreading far and wide, in a short time pervaded the whole of Europe, and announced things still more atrocious, while the Christian population groaned deeply, and with just complaint accused their princes, who, uninflamed with Divine zeal, did not oppose themselves to the false faith which was gaining ground; but, according to the words of the apostle, they were consumed one of another, biting and eating each other up. Thus fighting among themselves they exhausted the Christian forces, which ought to be preserved entire against the enemies of the Christian name. Nor were they admonished by the recent example of the territory of Jerusalem, which fell most unhappily into the hands of the Saracens, while our people were disputing among themselves. For it was not confidence in his own power and strength that animated and assisted Saladin, that enemy of our holy religion, against us, but the discord of our leaders, who appeared to rule the Holy Land, and which he had craftily discovered.

[3] Yet this is but little in comparison with our ancient losses, which in fact flowed from the dissensions that enervated the strength of the Christians. For when the Roman republic was flourishing of old, the empire of Christ was as great, yea, and even greater than the empire of Rome; which, however, besides Europe, contained within its limits the most celebrated and the most extensive provinces of Asia, with almost all Africa; yet, through the intestine evils of Christian princes and people, it came to pass that the Arabians, who are also called Saracens, grew strong, and filled the earth with their nefarious sect, so that the Christian religion possessed but little space beyond the confines of Europe. The same most pestilent error also crept into Europe from Africa, which was first infected, and which, in turn, has stained no small part of Spain, even unto the present day. For the sake of those who may happen to know nothing about it, I may explain, in a few words, according to the tradition of our ancestors, the origin of this most debased sect, and how it grew so strong as to corrupt so many nations and kingdoms.

Chapter 14:  Of Mahomet the false prophet, and of the law which he introduced through the spirit of error, and how the same law infected many nations    <to index>

[1] After the times of the blessed pope Gregory -- when the Roman empire, which formerly extended from the British ocean as far as the confines of Persia, was so wasted by the commotions of tyrants and by civil wars, that it was hardly sufficient for its own defense against foreign nations -- a pagan army of Persians, enraged against the Christians, occupied with very little trouble certain of the eastern provinces of the Roman empire and of the Christian religion which were destitute of troops. There followed in the track of the Ishmaelites, who are correctly called Saracens, but more truly Hagarenes, a more consuming pest, which, according to what is written, "That which the palmer-worm hath left, hath the locust eaten" [Joel 1:4] -- persecuted the surviving Christians in the East almost to the extremity of slaughter, acting under prince Mahomet the false prophet. He, in his youth, passing through many regions for the sake of traffic, being of a sharp apprehension, in frequent conversations with Christians and Jews, learned the ceremonies and modes of worship peculiar to each religion; and that the familiarity and cooperation of most evil spirits might not be wanting to aid him in fulfilling those schemes which he had already conceived in his mind, he took care to become initiated in magical arts. Instructed in these, and being a man wonderfully crafty and eloquent, he returned to his own nation, for he was an Ishmaelite, intending to venture upon great deeds: and like that evil beast in the Apocalypse, which "had two horns like a lamb, and spake as a dragon" [Rev. 13: 11], in order that he might lead astray many by a lying appearance of innocence and simplicity, he cast a shadow over the venom of his pestilent words.

[2] At length, by words composed for seduction, and by the aid of magical arts, he so demented the queen of his nation (for it was the custom of that people to be ruled by women) that she revered him as the highest prophet of God, and wished to marry him. By this marriage with her he obtained the supreme authority over that nation, and led away the people much more than before, since they were not only influenced by reverence towards their prince, but also believed that they would incur God's displeasure if they showed any remissness in obeying his highest prophet in any respect. In all things which he enjoined the people, who had been led away, or who might be led away by him, he assumed the person of the Deity as if He spoke by him; and, by a deceitful imitation of the true prophets, he commenced with "Thus saith the Lord;" and because, in the delivery of the holy law, he knew that it was written, "The Lord spake to Moses, saying" -- that it might be understood to be Divine, and not human, which was delivered by man, he also thought fit to insert in his books, "The Lord spake to Mahomet his prophet, saying" -- in order that what was feigned by him seductively might be thought to have the weight of Divine authority.

[3] And when not only his subjects, but many others also inclined towards him of their own free will, and depended on his decision in all things, he was inflamed with the desire of extending his dominion more widely under the pretext of propagating his religion; and, as if by the precept of God, he assailed the neighboring nations. First, he invaded the Christian provinces in the East; he next turned his arms towards the lands which are under the government of Persia -- effecting by art and skill what he was unable to do by arms. Although he appeared to be religious in all things, yet he studied, in every way, to lead the conquered people to his own superstition, and to resign the ceremonies of their country, inhibiting even the idolatry of the pagans whom he subdued; but he trampled down the Christians, even to the extermination of the holy name. In this manner, in Egypt and Libya Mesopotamia and Syria, realms of high renown, and in other provinces of the East, in which the observance of the Christian religion formerly prevailed, it declined before the predominance of the Arabians, even until it was nearly extinct.

[4] When this plague-bearer, sent by God, had gone on prosperously in his inventions according to the desires of his heart, and the form of the new Antichrist, deceit being measured out by his hand, he considered, by the suggestion of the delusive spirit, the mode by which he might spread the venom of delusion more widely, and draw men into his net more strongly: he incorporated by oaths into one body the people whom he had led astray. Therefore, in this crafty vanity he composed new laws for living, and new ceremonies for sacred worship; and, in the most artful manner, he contrived that what appeared to be a Divine sanction should be obtained for his ministry, as if it were prophetic.

[5] A camel of elegant form had been privately fed from its earliest years, and was accustomed to receive its food from his hands alone; he suspended from its neck his sacrilegious volume, and sent it away before daylight. The animal, delighted at its liberty, to which it had never been accustomed, and fleeing from the touch of all who came near it, roamed over the plains. A report soon spread that a most beautiful camel had appeared, carrying mysteries on its neck. The people ran together to behold this unusual sight ; and the affair was reported to him also, who was the inventor of this nefarious contrivance. He went forth, as if to see the miracle. The animal, observing its feeder at a distance, ran up, and kneeling down licked the well-known hands. The people exclaimed that the merit of the prophet was clear; they requested that the volume might be received into his sacred hands, and that whatever mystery it might contain should be laid open. When it was open, he said, "Behold, this is the law, written not with the ink of man, but by an angelic hand; which God Almighty sends from heaven by this animal to our nation to be observed perpetually. This book will teach you how to serve God, and what great things you may hope from Him by observing his law." In this manner, under the name of religion, he promulgated the sacrilegious inventions of his own heart, and appointed that the day on which this had occurred should be solemnly observed every year; and, as we have heard, the day is called by the Saracens the "Feast of the Camel," and is preceded by a fast of one month.

[6] Since he had learned equally the traditions of the Christians and the Hebrews, he inserted some of each into his own inventions, lest it might be difficult to place confidence in him, if he preached or sanctioned practices which were altogether unusual. For example, that he might please the Jews, he prohibited men from eating the flesh of swine; and because Ishmael, the patriarch of his race, was circumcised, he admitted the rite of circumcision. Also, in a kind of sacrilegious imitation of our baptism, he instituted frequent washings of the whole body in water, as if for expiation. He embraced and taught the first part of the apostolic sentence, "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness" [Romans 13:13]; but the rest of it he relaxed, through indulgence that was agreeable to the lascivious: for, as he was a man whose libidinous habits were flagrant, lest he should seem to do one thing and to teach another, he allowed his followers every indecency of carnal lust, impudently and mendaciously pretending that a good God would not be angry at such things; and by this foul and shameful license he conciliated that obscene nation. He held in abomination gluttons and drunkards, who are grievous to the whole earth, and he taught sobriety; he scoffed at the delights of the table, and interdicted the use of wine, except on a few fixed and solemn days. Whence it is, that while the Saracens are most filthy in the torrent of their lusts, through the indulgence of their deceiver, as it has been said, they are admitted to be superior to our people (oh sorrow!) in frugality; and they reproach us (oh shame!) for our filthiness in feasting and drunkenness. That mallet of the Christian name, Saladin, some years ago, when he inquired into the mariners of our people, and heard that they usually had many kinds of meat at dinner, said, that such men were unworthy of the Holy Land. Whence it is certain, that when the luxury of our people was discovered, it incited arid animated the Saracens against us, for they gloried in their frugality, and seemed to say, "God has departed from those surfeited men; let us pursue and take them, for there is none that can deliver them."

[7] Of the same Saladin I will also relate a memorable anecdote, in few words, which I heard from a man of veracity, and by which it will appear how subtle was this scoffer at our religion in the commendation of his own sect. Two monks of the Cistercian order, who had been taken captive by Turkish robbers, were once presented to him. Understanding from their unusual habits that they were a class of Christians that professed philosophy, he inquired, through an interpreter, who they were, and of what condition or profession? They replied that they were monks who professed the rule of the blessed father Benedict. He made many inquiries about the institutes of that rule; and when, among other things, he heard of their celibacy, he inquired if they drank wine, and ate meat. They replied that at all times they had a certain small allowance of wine for their use, but they were not permitted to eat meat, unless by reason of necessity or infirmity. Then he commanded them to be committed into custody of a more indulgent kind, and that animal food only should be supplied to them, with water to drink, for their maintenance, by two women, of comely appearance, who were deputed to wait upon them. They ate the meat and drank the water; and following the example of the blessed Job, they made a covenant with their eyes, that. they would by no means think of sin, but with sobriety for their companion they abstained from discourse, being careful guardians of their own chastity.

[8] When Saladin was informed of this, he commanded the meat and water to be changed for fish and wine; and, indeed, if he did this with the intention that is spoken of by Solomon [Prov. 31:6], "Give wine to him that is of heavy heart; let him drink and forget his poverty", then it was done of a good purpose; but he was craftily laying a snare for them, that by his art he might delude their simplicity, and from this cast a calumny on their religion. So they drank the wine; and while the women encouraged them to assuage their sorrow by a rather more indulgent draught, they by no means kept that apostolic rule, "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake" [1 Tim. v. 23], for what is sufficient for the stomach is too little for hilarity; but when with hilarity forgetfulness of virtue crept in, the truth of that sentence of Solomon concerning wine became clear, for its beginning is pleasant, "but at the last it biteth like a serpent " [Prov. 23:32]. At length, they fell into the arms of the designing women. In the morning, when the effect of the wine was gone off, and their sinful state discovered, they wept bitterly, and, moist with tears, were brought forward at the command of the contriver of this scheme, who said to them, "Why are you more sad than usual?" "Because," said they, "we have sinned grievously, being overcome with wine." Then said be, "When you fed on flesh, and drank water, you cautiously kept your purpose; but without eating flesh, when you were intoxicated with wine, you were found to be betrayers of your rule and of your purpose. From this it appears, that the author of your philosophy, Benedict, was not very wise, since he forbade you to eat meat, by which the stability of the mind is not in the least disturbed, and gave you the use of wine, by which the vigor, even of the strongest reason, is enervated, as you have proved by your recent example. Therefore, was not our philosopher and legislator more prudent, who prohibited to us the use of wine, and indulged us in eating meat, which is never harmful? But what expiation is there among your people, when you have broken your vows?" Then they said, "Penance and satisfaction, according to the judgment of our senior." "Therefore," said he, "you cannot make expiation among, us return to your own people for expiation according to your rites," and he dismissed them freely to return to their homes.

[9] He was a man imbued inveterately with that pestilential doctrine, and quick in scoffing at what he did not understand; and so he seemed to sport with those men, and attempted to jest at wholesome doctrine, of which he was ignorant, carping with blind vanity at a man who was full of the Spirit of God; of whom the blessed Gregory said that he had written a rule for monks excellent in discretion, and clear in its expression. For, in truth, it was a proof of excellent discretion, that for those who were engaged upon a sacred warfare, he took care to restrain the delights of the table, which soften and relax the mind; and, according to the apostolic form of words, he wished to permit the moderate use of wine, by which the feeble flesh is revived, and the mind is not burdened.

[10] That pestiferous sect, which took its beginning through the spirit of error, and of that son of perdition, as I have said, after it had infected many provinces through the art and arms of its author, after his death, by the operations of Satan, grew yet stronger, and occupied the greater part of the world: for that pestilential man left disciples at his death, who were the inheritors of his skill and power. By these the Persians (at that time the most powerful of all nations) were afterwards subdued, and yielded to the rule of the Arabs, with the whole extent of their empire; and when they were subdued, they were led astray to receive their superstition, which was disguised under the name of religion, and under the semblance of piety. In process of time, the Arabians, who were also called Saracens, after going in a hostile manner to other parts of the world, for the sake of propagating their superstition, or of extending their rule, laid siege to Constantinople. This city, with the provinces of Greece and Thrace, was successfully defended, but with difficulty; so they passed over into Africa, and, without much opposition, invaded rather than attacked those extensive provinces in that continent, which had been under the Roman government, but which were exhausted by civil wars; and they possess them even unto this day, after exterminating our holy religion. For from the time of Constantine the Great the liberty of Christian worship prevailed far and wide in Africa; and those most valiant champions of our faith, the glorious doctor and martyr, Cyprian, and Augustine, that most brilliant vessel of Christian wisdom, flourished there.

[11] Nor was that faithless race content with such success; for with perverse fury invading Spain, which is divided from Africa by a strait of no great width, they occupied a considerable part of it, which they possess at the present day, as an appendage for the occupation of their degrading heresy. They also passed over the Pyrenean mountains, by which France and Spain are divided, and advanced against the fierce valor of the French; hoping and designing, while fortune favored them, to bring the whole of Europe into their error, and under their rule, like as they had done to other countries. But Almighty God -- whose judgments are a deep abyss, and who, when he pleased, has set bars and doors to so boisterous a sea, and has said, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed" [Job 38:11] -- He opposed an impenetrable obstacle to their rage, as they were spreading over the realm of France; for the Roman empire was sinking, and the French had made preparations, a short time before, to receive this attack. The Arabians, unable to proceed any further, were driven back into Spain.

[12] Having thus explained how the wicked pest of the Hagarenes came first from the regions of the East into Africa and Spain, whose obscene progeny in our days, following the example of the faithless Orientals, has blazed forth with a new impulse against the Christians who reside in Spain, we now return to the order of our history.

Chapter 15:  Of the war that was renewed between our kings, after the termination of the truce    <to index>

[1] The time of the truce being fulfilled, the illustrious kings of France and of England, as they had made a treaty of peace without any judgment, began in the month of July to renew the war with all their forces, although the nobility of both realms studied much to much to sow the seeds of concord. The cause of this unhappy perverseness was because the king of France could not be influenced by counsel, or respect of honor, to resign to the king of England those possessions which he had usurped from his jurisdiction, contrary to the law of nations, while he was detained in Germany; and the king of England thought it unseemly for him to make peace while his territories were thus mutilated. Thus peace was rendered hopeless, even for the future; and they met with their forces in a valley which is called Rulli. This valley is not far from Rouen, and it was under the jurisdiction of the king of England; but when his misfortune in Germany befell him, like many other places, it fell into the hands of the king of France, along with its castle.

[2] After both armies  had remained there for some days in their camps with the expectation of a battle, separated only by a moderately broad trench and by a river that flowed between them; as the castle was difficult to defend, it seemed advisable to the king of France to destroy it, and then to retreat and preserve his forces entire, until the arrival of a more opportune time for battle. So he labored day and night in undermining the center tower and the walls, while he craftily suspended the attack of his adversaries, by treating deceitfully for peace; but the king of England, perceiving the deceit from the sudden fall of the center tower, which had been undermined, with great spirit ordered the troops to prepare for battle. Upon this the French army, without awaiting the risk of battle, marched off, but with their ranks in good order, that they might appear to retire with prudence, and not to flee away with disgrace. The king of England crossed the river with his troops, but did not choose to pursue those who were retreating; but content for the time with his bloodless success, he gave his attention to the repairs of the castle. In this war the king of France, as we have heard, did nothing memorable, but the favor of propitious fortune smiled upon the king of England; for, by the aid of the stipendiary soldiers (whom they call "Rutae"), he stormed and took Issoudun, with some other fortresses, and notably extended his confines into the province of Berri, thus compensating for his losses in Normandy. By the same mercenaries he also took prisoner the count of Auvergne, who had formerly deserted, and he made himself master of his fortresses. Then, through the endeavors of good men, a truce for two months was agreed upon, in order that the vintage might be attended to; and many men who had previously shone in arms were less fiercely employed, to the end that, in the space of time, deliberations might be held concerning a truce, which, by the favor of God, might be either converted into a firm peace, or be at least continued for some years.

Chapter 16:  How the king of England was exculpated by the letters of the Old Man of the Mountain from the murder of the marquis     <to index>

[1] In these days came letters to the princes of Europe from the Old Man of the Mountain; for so were the princes of a certain Eastern nation, called Hansesisi, named in succession, not on account of age, but rather for wisdom and gravity. Of this prince and people we have made more full mention above, when we described the death of Conrad, marquis of Montferrat, who it was believed had been slain by them. These letters were composed in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin characters, and were written, not with ink, but in a manner most unwonted -- with the blood of the mussel, as they themselves stated. A trustworthy man has assured me that he had both seen and read these letters when they were solemnly presented to the king of France, when resident at Paris; the contents of which were as follows:

[2] "The Old Man of the Mountain to the Princes, and all the People of the Christian Faith, greeting:
"Whereas we have heard that the murder of the marquis of Montferrat has been attributed by many to the illustrious King Richard of England, as if he had been put to death by his contrivance, on account of some private grudge which had sprung up between them during the time when each was holding an appointment in the East -- it concerns our honor, in order to clear the said king's fame, blackened by the suspicion of a false crime, to declare the truth of this affair, which has hitherto remained concealed with ourselves. We are unwilling that the innocence of any one should suffer through our acts; but while we inflict no undeserved injury on the innocent, we, by God's help, will not suffer those who have offended against us to triumph long in the wrongs wrought against our sincerity. We signify, therefore, to the whole of you, calling Him to witness by whom we hope to be saved, that the marquis came by his death through no plot of the king; but indeed, in that he had offended us, and being admonished had failed to amend, he perished justly by the hands of our agents, pursuant to our will and command. For it is our custom first to admonish those who have in any wise acted injuriously to ourselves or our friends, to make reparation unto us; and then, if they treat our admonition with contempt, to exact the full measure of revenge at the hands of our servants, who serve us with so much devotion, as to feel no doubt of being gloriously rewarded by God if they should fall in the execution of our commands. We have also heard it publicly reported of the king, that he had induced us (as though we were anything but honest and trustworthy) to send out certain of our people, to lie in ambush for the king of France -- which is beyond all doubt false, and all invention of the most causeless suspicion, seeing that he has, God knows, never attempted anything of the kind against ourselves; and that we, out of regard for our own honor, would suffer no evil to be plotted against a man who was undeserving of such treatment at our hands. Farewell."

[3] As soon as the king of France had heard these letters solemnly recited before him, he is reported to have said that the king of England stood most honorably acquitted of so infamous a charge, and that he could, without difficulty, enter into league with him for the future, as he had been prejudiced against him for no other reason stronger than a suspicion concerning the murder of the marquis, his dearest friend. In saying these things he made no mention of a matter by which he was, beyond a doubt, the more readily induced to enter into alliance with the king of England; forasmuch as he, as it is said, aspired to the hand of his sister, who had been the consort of the king of Sicily, but of which he, however, failed to gain possession. For many noble ladies, fearing the recent example of the Danish maiden (to whom, after one night of wedlock, he had given a writing of divorce, foully and with much scandal putting her away), spurned his alliance.

[4] And besides; in addition to the daughter of the count palatine, of whom mention has been made above, he was cozened out of a marriage which he had earnestly desired and looked forward to, with another most noble damsel of the German empire, in this wise. She, albeit another powerful person bad greatly desired her hand, was conducted by her parents, who gave the preference to the petitions of royalty, with much pomp into France, and upon crossing the frontiers of her former suitor's domains, she threw herself, of her own accord, into his hands; by whom being, according to her wish, retained, and solemnly married, she disappointed the king's desires. Moreover, the king of Denmark, taking to heart the dishonor done to his divorced sister, made allegation to the apostolic see, by fitting agents, that the divorce had not been properly conducted, but managed by means of lies in favor of the French king; and having, by the production of genealogical evidence, established the fact that the kings of France and Denmark were not allied by any kindred or affinity, he earnestly demanded that judgment should be given to the effect that the divorce had been devised so as to let the king of France escape from the holy ordinance of matrimony. But it was in vain; for the fear or the favor of the French king prevailed. Finally, after this, the same king, meeting with no hindrance either front the fear of God or the vigor of the church, took to wife the daughter of a certain German duke, if, indeed, she may be called his wife, who appears more properly to have been his concubine, and to have been an intruder rather than a married woman.

Chapter 17:  Of the warlike commotion that followed the truce between the kings, and how they entered into a treaty at Issoudun     <to index>

[1] The truce being thus concluded, on which occasion it might be imagined that the hearts of the kings could have been easily softened to conciliation, their fury rekindled by certain weighty matters; and at the instigation of the devil it burst into flame, and all hope of peace faded away. Winter was come; and the solemn harbinger of Christmas, which is called the Lord's Advent, was even at the gate. But neither the severity of the winter, nor the religious attributes of the season, availed aught against their greedy desire to do evil; the Christian people were wasted by rapine, murder, and fire; and might most justly have lamented and cried of their rulers unto the Lord of lords -- "They persecute him whom thou hast smitten, and they have added unto the pain of my wounds." For at this time they were laboring under the discipline of the Lord, and the anger of God was not as yet turned away; but his hand was outstretched still. And besides this, the third year of a mighty famine, which had oppressed nearly the whole of Europe, now became heavier than in the two preceding years. Whereupon the cruelties of warfare began to rage on every side.

[2] The king of France, well assured that the king of England was elsewhere engaged, laid siege to the town of Issoudun, hoping to be able to carry it by storm, before his adversary (who was at a distance) could come up with him; but he was disappointed in his expectation, for he found the town well provided with arms and provision. As soon as he approached the walls, in order to strike terror into the defenders, he swore with petulant vanity that he would not depart thence until the town was taken, while the valorous men, who were standing, upon the walls, did not hesitate, it is said, to swear with gallant confidence to the contrary. During some days the siege was carried on with vehemence, but with the greater loss on the part of the besiegers.

[3] In the meantime the king of England, having received the news, hastened thither with alacrity; preceding with his lighter troops the bulk of his forces, which had received orders to follow him. He entered the city in safety; for the besiegers offered no opposition to him; but rather, as it were, preparing a passage for him. And now, he led out his troops in battle-array with high courage to the field; and the hearts of the French, on seeing their own inferiority in strength, sank within them. That day, forsooth, might have declared who should be the victor of this long-protracted contest, had not the prudence of the French cautiously considered the consequences which would result to themselves. For they were too weak to fight, and they honorably refused to flee, while they could scarcely hope to elude their fierce enemy, who pressed upon their rear from their own territories, even if they should attempt to escape either by valor or a dishonorable flight. Therefore, they persuaded their lord -- placed as he was in such a strait -- to decline the dubious hazard of a battle, and to deign to accept an honorable peace. The French king (it must be confessed) was in the extreme rear of his army, which had changed its front, as if about to retreat, and which was valiantly and skillfully opposed to the van of their pursuers; whereas the king of England marched at the head of his men.

[4] When the king of France had, by the agency of his nobles, demanded a parley, they met each other on horseback, at a little distance between the two armies, which halted to await the issue of the conference. Having thus conversed for a short space alone and without witnesses, they, unhelming their heads, cast themselves into each other's arms, in full view of their respective hosts. A mighty rejoicing of the forces, unstained with mutual blood, followed this agreement between, their chieftains, and the sweet name of peace was repeated in loud acclamations. These occurrences took place by God's favor on the nones of December [5 Dec. 1195], and the people returned joyfully to their own homes, converting their warlike designs into the study of peace and the celebration of the approaching solemnity of Christmas. The princes, however, kept to themselves the terms of peace, which they had secretly determined on between themselves, and which was to be proclaimed at the time which they had agreed upon. For, surely, they could not, with befitting honor, again solemnly meet together for the confirmation of so great a business before the festivities of Christmas had been duly accomplished.

Chapter 18: How the kings proclaimed the treaty which had been agreed upon, which did not last long; and of the commotion in Brittany    <to index>

[1] In the one thousand one hundred and ninety-sixth year from the delivery of the Virgin, the month of January being now begun, the princes, attended by a vast concourse of nobles, met together on the confines of their dominions in solemn conclave, when that which they had privately arranged between themselves was publicly declared and confirmed. The king of France resigned to the king of England, Arques, Eu, Aumale, Neufchatel, and those other places which he had usurped from his jurisdiction during the period of his imprisonment in Germany, except Gisors and some other castles; for the retention of which, by the assent of the king of England, the king of France remitted unto him all those towns in his jurisdictions which had fallen into his hands by the fortune of war -- to wit, Tours, famous for the body of St. Martin, the city of Issoundun, and many other fortresses, both in Berri and Auvergne. Any future misunderstanding between the two princes was likewise cautiously provided against by a penal statute affecting the infringer of these agreements. But every precaution proved futile in strengthening the proposed peace, as was soon plainly manifested.

[2] At last, the king of France repenting of what he had done, and indignant with those of his subjects who had proffered peaceful counsels, became more inclined to break than preserve the treaty; while the king of England, content with no compensation for the mutilation (however trifling) of his frontiers, found, it is said, in the very formula of the prescribed peace, the means and opportunity of irritating the French king to infringe it. So once more did the rage for war break out between the princes, to whose impulse neither the sacred seasons of Lent and Easter, nor the inclemency of the weather, which was more severe and lasting than usual, nor the famine which was raging beyond measure throughout the provinces, could oppose any obstacle, sufficient to induce them to suspend for awhile their anger which had been for a time mollified by the persuasions of their friends, and, in the interval of a truce, await the fitting season when kings should go forth to battle.

[3] An insurrection at this time also, against the king of England by the Bretons, who were bringing up among themselves the boy Arthur, under the mighty omen of his name, furnished an additional inducement to the king of France to try once more the fortunes of war. For when king Richard demanded the tutelage of his nephew, then ten years old, until he became of legal age, in order that he might the more straitly bind Brittany in his interest against external events, the Breton nobles, resenting this more out of suspicion than precaution, and exerting themselves strongly in favor of the boy, departed with him from the face of his advancing uncle into the innermost parts of Brittany. But the progress and issue of this Breton revolt shall be more fully set forth in its own place.

Chapter 19:  Of the sudden death in England of the abbot of Caen    <to index>

[1] At this time king Richard sent the abbot of Caen into England from the parts beyond the sea, armed with authority to inquire narrowly and searchingly into those matters which concerned the revenue. Now this abbot was in literature but little skilled, but in temporal concerns eminently wise and eloquent; wise (I say) according to that text, "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light" [Luke 16: 8]; for, whereas, having been raised from the discipline of the cloister to the rule of the monastery, he, according to the apostolic words, "No man that warreth [for God] entangleth himself with the affairs of this life" [2 Tim. 2:4], by avoiding all secular business, should have shown himself a child of light, yet, by undertaking and busying himself with such affairs, he manifested himself to be a child of this world, either little heeding, or refusing to understand -- as he might well have done -- how inconsistent with the profession of a monk and the duty of an abbot was this sinful action.

[2] At last, having by constant obsequiousness obtained the prince's favor under the color, it is said, of fidelity and devotedness, he thought fit to suggest to him that much loss was inflicted on his treasury through the dishonesty of the royal officials, by the discovery and punishment of which the revenue might be doubled without any additional pressure upon the provinces. The prince lent a willing ear to these words and besought him to undertake the management of this scheme, and furnished him with authority to sail over into England. Whereupon, acceding with devotion to the royal petition or command, he came to London to the archbishop of Canterbury, who was in charge of the kingdom, and signified to him the king's wishes, and the power which he himself had to carry out the royal desires. Albeit the archbishop of Canterbury did but little approve of the design, yet he did not think it his duty to gainsay the fulfillment of his appointed office. Thereupon the royal mandate went forth throughout England, that the sheriffs of the provinces should meet on a certain day in London to render up an account of their administrations before the abbot. Meanwhile, boastful and ostentatious of his power, he tarried during Lent in London, fated never to behold the festivities of Easter, nor to reckon accounts with those whom he had summoned after Easter, but destined to render up before Easter an account of his own stewardship to the Judge on high; and the more prepared he was to reckon accounts with others, the less so was he to furnish his own: for but a few days after his arrival in England he departed out of the world; and those persons who had dreaded his coming sorrowed not at his departure.

Chapter 20:  Of a conspiracy made in London by one William, and how he paid the penalty of his audacity     <to index>

[1] Between the death of the above-mentioned abbot at London, and the violent end of a certain person who had lately risen into notice, designing great events, but very few days intervened. By the decrees of fate neither of them beheld the Easter rejoicings, while death separated but by a brief interval those who resembled each other by the similarity of their cause and designs. For the abbot, in his search after the king's profit and the tranquillity of the provinces, deemed it requisite to chastise the dishonesty and unbridled avarice of the royal officials, whereas this man, being a citizen of London, as if under color of fealty to the king, took upon himself to plead the cause of the poor citizens against the insolence of the rich, alleging in powerful terms -- for he was most eloquent -- that at every royal edict the rich spared their own fortunes, and imposed by their power the entire burden on the poor, and so defrauded the king's treasury of a large amount. He was born in London, and was named William, having a surname derived from his Long Beard, which he had thus cherished in order that he might by this token, as by a distinguishing symbol, appear conspicuous in meetings and public assemblies. He was of ready wit, moderately skilled in literature, and eloquent beyond measure; and wishing, from a certain innate insolence of disposition and manner to make himself a great name, he began to scheme new enterprises, and to venture upon the achievement of mighty plans.

[2] At last, a cruel and impudent act of his against his own brother served as a signal for his fury and wickedness against others; for he had an elder brother in London from whom, during the period, when he was at school, he had been accustomed to solicit and receive assistance in his necessary expenses: but when he grew bigger and more lavish in his outlay, he complained that this relief was too tardily supplied to him, and endeavored by the terror of his threats to extort that which he was unable to procure by his entreaties. Having employed this means in vain, his brother being but little able to satisfy him (owing to his being busied with the care of his own household) -- and raging, as it were, for revenge, he burst out into crime; and thirsting for his brother's blood after the many benefits which he had received from him, he accused him of the crime of high treason. Having come to the king, to whom he had previously recommended himself by his skill and obsequiousness, he informed him that his brother had conspired against his life -- thus attempting to evince his devotion for his sovereign, as one who, in his service, would not spare even his own brother; but this conduct met with derision from the king, who probably looked with horror on the malice of this most inhuman man, and would not suffer the laws to be polluted by so great an outrage against nature.

[3] Afterwards, by favor of certain persons, he obtained a place in the city among the magistrates, and began by degrees to conceive sorrow and to bring forth iniquity. Urged onward by two great vices, pride and envy, (whereof the former is a desire for selfish advancement, and the latter a hatred of another's happiness) and unable to endure the prosperity and glory of certain citizens, whose inferior he perceived himself to be, in his aspiration after greatness he plotted impious undertakings in the name of justice and piety. At length, by his secret labors and poisoned whispers, he revealed, in its blackest colors to the common people, the insolence of the rich men and nobles by whom they were unworthily treated; for he inflamed the needy and moderately wealthy with a desire for unbounded liberty and happiness, and allured the many, and held them fascinated, as it were, by certain delusions, so closely bound to his cause, that they depended in all things upon his will, and were prepared unhesitatingly to obey him as their director in all things whatsoever he should command.

[4] A powerful conspiracy was therefore organized in London, by the envy of the poor against the insolence of the powerful, The number of citizens engaged in this plot is reported to have been fifty-two thousand -- the names of each being, as it afterwards appeared, written down and in the possession of the originator of this nefarious scheme. A large number of iron tools, for the purpose of breaking the more strongly defended houses, lay stored up in his possession, which being afterwards discovered, furnished proofs of a most malignant conspiracy. Relying on the large number who were implicated by zeal for the poorer classes of the people, while he still kept up the plea of studying the king's profit, he began to beard the nobles in every public assembly, alleging with powerful eloquence that much loss was occasioned to the revenue through their dishonest practices; and when they rose up in indignation against him in consequence, he adopted the plan of sailing across the sea, for the purpose of lamenting to the king that he should have incurred their enmity and calumny in the execution of his service.

[5] On his return to his own home again he began afresh, with his accustomed craftiness, to act with confidence, as if under the countenance of the royal favor and to animate strongly the minds of his accomplices. As soon, however, as the suspicion and rumor of the existence of this plot grew more and more confirmed, the lord archbishop of Canterbury, to whom the chief custody of the realm had been committed, thinking disguise no longer expedient, addressed a congregation of the people in mild accents, refuted the rumors which had arisen, and, with a view to remove all sinister doubts on the subject, advised the appointment of hostages for the preservation of the king's peace and fealty. The people, soothed by his bland address, agreed to his proposal, and hostages were given. Nevertheless, this man, bent upon his object, and surrounded by his rabble, pompously held on his way, convoking public meetings by his own authority, in which he arrogantly proclaimed himself the king or savior of the poor, and in lofty phrase thundered out his intention of speedily curbing the perfidy of the traitors.

[6] The pride of his discourses is plainly shown by what I have learned of a trustworthy man, who asserted that he himself had some days before been present at a meeting convened by him, and had heard him address the people. Having taken his text or theme from the Holy Scriptures, he thus began: "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" [Isaiah 12:3] -- and applying this to himself, he continued, "I am the savior of the poor. Do ye, oh, poor! who have experienced the heaviness of rich men's hands, drink from my wells the waters of the doctrine of salvation, and ye may do this joyfully; for the time of your visitation is at hand. For I will divide the waters from the waters. The people are the waters. I will divide the humble from the haughty and treacherous. I will separate the elect from the reprobate, as light from darkness."

[7] As he possessed a mouth speaking great things, and had horns like a lamb, he spoke like a dragon; and the aforesaid ruler of the realm, by advice of the nobles, summoned him to answer the charges preferred against him. When the time was come, he presented himself so surrounded by the populace, that his summoner being terrified, could only act with gentleness, and cautiously defer judgment for the purpose of averting danger. The period, therefore, at which it was possible to find him unattended by his mob being discovered by two noble citizens, especially now that the people, out of fear for the hostages, had become more quiet, he sent out an armed force with the said citizens for his apprehension. As one of them was pressing him hard, he slew him with his own axe which he had wrested from his hand, and the other was killed by some one among those who had come to his assistance. Immediately upon this, he retreated with a few of his adherents and his concubine, who clave to him with inseparable constancy, into the neighborhood of St. Mary, which is called Le-Bow, with the intention of employing it, not as a sanctuary, but as a fortress, vainly hoping that the people would speedily come to his aid; but they, although grieving at his dangerous position, yet, out of regard for the hostages or dread of the men-at-arms, did not hasten to his rescue. Hearing that he had seized upon the church, the administrator of the kingdom despatched thither the troops recently summoned from the neighboring provinces. Being commanded to come forth and abide justice -- lest the house of prayer should be made a den of thieves -- he chose rather to tarry in the vain expectation of the arrival of the conspirators, until the church being attacked with fire and smoke, he was compelled to sally out with his followers: but a son of the citizen whom he had slain in the first onset, in revenge for his father's death, cut open his belly with his knife.

Being, therefore, captured and delivered into the hands of the law, he was, by judgment of the king's court, first drawn asunder by horses, and then hanged on a gibbet with nine of his accomplices who refused to desert him. Thus, according to the Scriptures, "He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh down an hedge, a serpent shall bite him" [Eccl. 10:8], the contriver and fomenter of so much evil perished at the command of justice, and the madness of this wicked conspiracy expired with its author: and those persons, indeed, who were of a more healthful and cautious dispositions rejoiced when they beheld or heard of his punishment, washing their hands in the blood of the sinner. The conspirators, however, and seekers after novelty, vehemently deplored his death, taking exception at the rigor of public discipline in his case, and reviling the guardian of the realm as a murderer, in consequence of the punishment which he had inflicted on the mischief-maker and assassin.

Chapter 21:  How the common people desired to honor this man as a martyr, and how this error of theirs was extinguished    <to index>

[1] The extent to which this man had by his daring and mighty projects attached the minds of the wicked to himself, and how straitly he had bound the people to his interests as the pious and watchful champion of their cause, appeared even after his demise. For whereas they should have wiped out the disgrace of the conspiracy by the legal punishment of the conspirator, whom they stigmatized as impious and approved of his condemners, they sought by art to obtain for him the name and glory of a martyr. It is reported that a certain priest, his relative, had laid the chain by which be had been bound upon the person of one sick of a fever, and feigned with impudent vanity that a cure was the immediate result. This being spread abroad, the witless multitude believed that the man who had deservedly suffered had in reality died for the cause of justice and piety, and began to reverence him as a martyr: the gibbet upon which he had been hung was furtively removed by night from the place of punishment, in order that it might be honored in secret while the earth beneath it, as if consecrated by the blood of the executed man, was scraped away in handfuls by these infatuated creatures, as something consecrated to healing purposes, to the extent of a tolerably large ditch. And now the fame of this being circulated far and wide, large bands of fools, "whose number," says Solomon, " is infinite," [see Eccles 1:15, Vulgate] and curious persons flocked to the place, to whom, doubtless, were added those who had come up out of the various provinces of England on their own proper business to London.

[2] The idiot rabble, therefore, kept constant watch and ward over the spot; and the more honor they paid to the dead man, so much the greater crime did they impute to him by whom he had been put to death. To such an extent did this most foolish error prevail as even to have ensnared, by the fascination of its rumors, the more prudent, had they not used great caution in giving a place in their memory to the stories they heard concerning him. For, in addition to the fact of his having (as we have before narrated) committed murder shortly before his execution, which alone should have sufficed to every judicious understanding as a reason against the punishment being considered a martyrdom, his own confession before death must redden with a blush the countenances of those who would fain make unto themselves a martyr out of such a man, if any blood exist in their bodies. Since, as we have heard from trustworthy lips, he confessed, while awaiting that punishment by which he was removed -- in answer to the admonitions of certain persons that he should glorify God by a humble though tardy confession of his sins -- that he had polluted with carnal intercourse with his concubine that church in which had sought refuge from the fury of his pursuers, during the stay he had made there in the vain expectation of rescue; and what is far more horrible even to mention, that when his enemies had broken in upon him, and no help was at hand, he abjured the Son of Mary, because he would render him no assistance, and invoked the devil that he at least would save him. His justifiers deny these tales, and assert that they were maliciously forged in prejudice to the martyr. The speedy fall of this fabric of vanity, however, put an end to the dispute: for truth is solid and waxes strong by time; but the device of falsehood has nothing solid, and in a short time fades away.

[3] The administrator of the kingdom, therefore, carrying out the condign punishment of ecclesiastical discipline, sent out a troop of armed men against the priest who had been the head of this superstition, who put the rustic multitude to flight, and capturing those who endeavored to maintain their ground there by force, consigned them to the royal prison. He also commanded an armed guard to be constantly kept upon that place, who were not only to keep off the senseless people, who came to pray, but also to forbid the approach of the curious, whose only object was amusement. After this had lasted for a few days, the entire fabric of this figment of superstition was utterly prostrated, and popular feeling subsided.

Chapter 22:  Of the prodigy of the dead man, who wandered about after burial    <to index>

[1] In these days a wonderful event befell in the county of Buckingham, which I, in the first instance, partially heard from certain friends, and was afterwards more fully informed of by Stephen, the venerable archdeacon of that province. A certain man died, and, according to custom, by the honorable exertion of his wife arid kindred, was laid in the tomb on the eve of the Lord's Ascension. On the following night, however, having entered the bed where his wife was reposing, he not only terrified her on awaking, but nearly crushed her by the insupportable weight of his body. The next night, also, he afflicted the astonished woman in the same manner, who, frightened at the danger, as the struggle of the third night drew near, took care to remain awake herself, and surround herself with watchful companions. Still he came; but being repulsed by the shouts of the watchers, and seeing that he was prevented from doing mischief, he departed. Thus driven off from his wife, he harassed in a similar manner his own brothers, who were dwelling in the same street; but they, following the cautious example of the woman, passed the nights in wakefulness with their companions, ready to meet and repel the expected danger. He appeared, notwithstanding, as if with the hope of surprising them should they be overcome with drowsiness; but being repelled by the carefulness and valor of the watchers, he rioted among the animals, both indoors and outdoors, as their wildness and unwonted movements testified.

[2] Having thus become a like serious nuisance to his friends and neighbors, he imposed upon all the same necessity for nocturnal watchfulness; and in that very street a general watch was kept in every house, each being fearful of his approach unawares. After having for some time rioted in this manner during the night-time alone, he began to wander abroad in daylight, formidable indeed to all, but visible only to a few; for oftentimes, on his encountering a number of persons, he would appear to one or two only though at the same time his presence was not concealed from the rest. At length the inhabitants, alarmed beyond measure, thought it advisable to seek counsel of the church; and they detailed the whole affair, with tearful lamentation, to the above-mentioned archdeacon, at a meeting of the clergy over which he was solemnly presiding. Whereupon he immediately intimated in writing the whole circumstances of the case to the venerable bishop of Lincoln, who was then resident in London, whose opinion and judgment on so unwonted a matter he was very properly of opinion should be waited for: but the bishop, being amazed at his account, held a searching investigation with his companions; and there were some who said that such things had often befallen in England, and cited frequent examples to show that tranquillity could not be restored to the people until the body of this most wretched man were dug up and burnt. This proceeding, however, appeared indecent and improper in the last degree to the reverend bishop, who shortly after addressed a letter of absolution, written with his own hand, to the archdeacon, in order that it might be demonstrated by inspection in what state the body of that man really was; and he commanded his tomb to be opened, and the letter having been laid upon his breast, to be again closed: so the sepulcher having been opened, the corpse was found as it had been placed there, and the charter of absolution having been deposited upon its breast, and the tomb once more closed, he was thenceforth never more seen to wander, nor permitted to inflict annoyance or terror upon any one.

Chapter 23:  Of a similar occurrence at Berwick    <to index.

In the northern parts of England, also, we know that another event, not unlike this and equally wonderful, happened about the same time. At the mouth of the river Tweed, and in the jurisdiction of the king of Scotland, there stands a noble city which is called Berwick. In this town a certain man, very wealthy, but as it afterwards appeared a great rogue, having been buried, after his death sallied forth (by the contrivance, as it is believed, of Satan) out of his grave by night, and was borne hither and thither, pursued by a pack of dogs with loud barkings; thus striking great terror into the neighbors, and returning to his tomb before daylight. After this had continued for several days, and no one dared to be found out of doors after dusk -- for each dreaded an encounter with this deadly monster -- the higher and middle classes of the people held a necessary investigation into what was requisite to he done; the more simple among them fearing, in the event of negligence, to be soundly beaten by this prodigy of the grave; but the wiser shrewdly concluding that were a remedy further delayed, the atmosphere, infected and corrupted by the constant whirlings through it of the pestiferous corpse, would engender disease and death to a great extent; the necessity of providing against which was shown by frequent examples in similar cases. They, therefore, procured ten young men renowned for boldness, who were to dig up the horrible carcass, and, having cut it limb from limb, reduce it into food and fuel for the flames. When this was done, the commotion ceased. Moreover, it is stated that the monster, while it was being borne about (as it is said) by Satan, had told certain persons whom it had by chance encountered, that as long as it remained unburned the people should have no peace. Being burnt, tranquility appeared to be restored to them; but a pestilence, which arose in consequence, carried off the greater portion of them: for never did it so furiously rage elsewhere, though it was at that time general throughout all the borders of England, as shall be more fully explained in its proper place.

Chapter 24:  Of certain prodigies    <to index>

[1] It would not be easy to believe that the corpses of the dead should sally (I know not by what agency) from their graves, and should wander about to the terror or destruction of the living, and again return to the tomb, which of its own accord spontaneously opened to receive them, did not frequent examples, occurring in our own times, suffice to establish this fact, to the truth of which there is abundant testimony. It would be strange if such things should have happened formerly, since we can find no evidence of them in the works of ancient authors, whose vast labor it was to commit to writing every occurrence worthy of memory; for if they never neglected to register even events of moderate interest, how could they have suppressed a fact at once so amazing and horrible, supposing it to have happened in their day? Moreover, were I to write down all the instances of this kind which I have ascertained to have befallen in our times, the undertaking would be beyond measure laborious and troublesome; so I will fain add two more only (and these of recent occurrence) to those I have already narrated, and insert them in our history, as occasion offers, as a warning to posterity.

[2] A few years ago the chaplain of a certain illustrious lady, casting off mortality, was consigned to the tomb in that noble monastery which is called Melrose. This man, having little respect for the sacred order to which he belonged, was excessively secular in his pursuits, and -- what especially blackens his reputation as a minister of the holy sacrament -- so addicted to the vanity of the chase as to be designated by many by the infamous title of "Hundeprest," or the dog-priest; and this occupation, during his lifetime, was either laughed at by men, or considered in a worldly view; but after his death -- as the event showed -- the guiltiness of it was brought to light: for, issuing from the grave at night-time, he was prevented by the meritorious resistance of its holy inmates from injuring or terrifying any one with in the monastery itself; whereupon he wandered beyond the walls, and hovered chiefly, with loud groans and horrible murmurs, round the bedchamber of his former mistress. She, after this had frequently occurred, becoming exceedingly terrified, revealed her fears or danger to one of the friars who visited her about the business of the monastery; demanding with tears that prayers more earnest than usual should be poured out to the Lord in her behalf as for one in agony. With whose anxiety the friar -- for she appeared deserving of the best endeavors, on the part of the holy convent of that place, by her frequent donations to it -- piously and justly sympathized, and promised a speedy remedy through the mercy of the Most High Provider for all.

[3] Thereupon, returning to the monastery, he obtained the companionship of another friar, of equally determined spirit, and two powerful young men, with whom he intended with constant vigilance to keep guard over the cemetery where that miserable priest lay buried. These four, therefore, furnished with arms and animated with courage, passed the night in that place, safe in the assistance which each afforded to the other. Midnight had now passed by, and no monster appeared; upon which it came to pass that three of the party, leaving him only who had sought their company on the spot, departed into the nearest house, for the purpose, as they averred, of warming themselves, for the night was cold. As soon as this man was left alone in this place, the devil, imagining that he had found the right moment for breaking his courage, incontinently roused up his own chosen vessel, who appeared to have reposed longer than usual. Having beheld this from afar, he grew stiff with terror by reason of his being alone; but soon recovering his courage, and no place of refuge being at hand, he valiantly withstood the onset of the fiend, who came rushing upon him with a terrible noise, and he struck the axe which he wielded in his hand deep into his body. On receiving this wound, the monster groaned aloud, and turning his back, fled with a rapidity not at all interior to that with which he had advanced, while the admirable man urged his flying foe from behind, and compelled him to seek his own tomb again; which opening of its own accord, and receiving its guest from the advance of the pursuer, immediately appeared to close again with the same facility. In the meantime, they who, impatient of the coldness of the night, had retreated to the fire ran up, though somewhat too late, and, having heard what had happened, rendered needful assistance in digging up and removing from the midst of the tomb the accursed corpse at the earliest dawn. When they had divested it of the clay cast forth with it, they found the huge wound it had received, and a great quantity of gore which had flowed from it in the sepulchre; and so having carried it away beyond the walls of the monastery and burnt it, they scattered the ashes to the winds. These things I have explained in a simple narration, as I myself heard them recounted by religious men.

[4] Another event, also, not unlike this, but more pernicious in its effects, happened at the castle which is called Anantis, as I have heard from an aged monk who lived in honor and authority in those parts, and who related this event as having occurred in his own presence. A certain man of evil conduct flying, through fear of his enemies or the law, out of the province of York, to the lord of the before-named castle, took up his abode there, and having cast upon a service befitting his humor, labored hard to increase rather than correct his own evil propensities. He married a wife, to his own ruin indeed, as it afterwards appeared; for, hearing certain rumors respecting her, he was vexed with the spirit of Jealousy. Anxious to ascertain the truth of these reports, he pretended to be going on a journey from which he would not return for some days; but coming back in the evening, he was privily introduced into his bedroom by a maid-servant, who was in the secret, and lay hidden on a beam overhanging, his wife's chamber, that he might prove with his own eyes if anything were done to the dishonor of his marriage-bed. Thereupon beholding his wife in the act of fornication with a young man of the neighborhood, and in his indignation forgetful of his purpose, he fell, and was dashed heavily to the ground, near where they were lying.

[5] The adulterer himself leaped up and escaped; but the wife, cunningly dissembling the fact, busied herself in gently raising her fallen husband from the earth. As soon as he had partially recovered, he upbraided her with her adultery, and threatened punishment; but she answering, "Explain yourself, my lord," said she; "you are speaking unbecomingly which must be imputed not to you, but to the sickness with which you are troubled." Being much shaken by the fall, and his whole body stupefied, he was attacked with a disease, insomuch that the man whom I have mentioned as having related these facts to me visiting him in the pious discharge of his duties, admonished him to make confession of his sins, and receive the Christian Eucharist in proper form: but as he was occupied in thinking about what had happened to him, and what his wife had said, put off the wholesome advice until the morrow -- that morrow which in this world he was fated never to behold! -- for the next night, destitute of Christian grace, and a prey to his well-earned misfortunes, he shared the deep slumber of death. A Christian burial, indeed, he received, though unworthy of it; but it did not much benefit him: for issuing, by the handiwork of Satan, from his grave at night-time, and pursued by a pack of dogs with horrible barkings, he wandered through the courts and around the houses while all men made fast their doors, and did not dare to go abroad on any errand whatever from the beginning of the night until the sunrise, for fear of meeting and being beaten black and blue by this vagrant monster. But those precautions were of no avail ; for the atmosphere, poisoned by the vagaries of this foul carcass, filled every house with disease and death by its pestiferous breath.

[6] Already did the town, which but a short time ago was populous, appear almost deserted; while those of its inhabitants who had escaped destruction migrated to other parts of the country, lest they too should die. The man from whose mouth I heard these things, sorrowing over this desolation of his parish, applied himself to summon a meeting of wise and religious men on that sacred day which is called Palm Sunday, in order that they might impart healthful counsel in so great a dilemma, and refresh the spirits of the miserable remnant of the people with consolation, however imperfect. Having delivered a discourse to the inhabitants, after the solemn ceremonies of the holy day had been properly performed, he invited his clerical guests, together with the other persons of honor who were present, to his table. While they were thus banqueting, two young men (brothers), who had lost their father by this plague, mutually encouraging one another, said, "This monster has already destroyed our father, and will speedily destroy us also, unless we take steps to prevent it. Let us, therefore, do some bold action which will at once ensure our own safety and revenge our father's death. There is no one to hinder us; for in the priest's house a feast is in progress, and the whole town is as silent as if deserted. Let us dig up this baneful pest, and burn it with fire."

[7] Thereupon snatching up a spade of but indifferent sharpness of edge, and hastening to the cemetery, they began to dig; and whilst they were thinking that they would have to dig to a greater depth, they suddenly, before much of the earth had been removed, laid bare the corpse, swollen to an enormous corpulence, with its countenance beyond measure turgid and suffused with blood; while the napkin in which it had been wrapped appeared nearly torn to pieces. The young men, however, spurred on by wrath, feared not, and inflicted a wound upon the senseless carcass, out of which incontinently flowed such a stream of blood, that it might have been taken for a leech filled with the blood of many persons. Then, dragging it beyond the village, they speedily constructed a funeral pile; and upon one of them saying that the pestilential body would not burn unless its heart were torn out, the other laid open its side by repeated blows of the blunted spade, and, thrusting in his hand, dragged out the accursed heart. This being torn piecemeal, and the body now consigned to the flames, it was announced to the guests what was going on, who, running thither, enabled themselves to testify henceforth to the circumstances. When that infernal hell-hound had thus been destroyed, the pestilence which was rife among the people ceased, as if the air, which had been corrupted by the contagious motions of the dreadful corpse, were already purified by the fire which had consumed it. These facts having been thus expounded, let us return to the regular thread of history.

Chapter 25:  Of a sign which was seen in the heavens, and of the storming of certain castles    <to index>

[1] In the octaves of Pentecost [16 June 1196], and in the first hour of the day, two suns appeared in the heavens; namely, the true sun and a second, its equal in size and brilliancy. Nor was it easy to discern which of them was the true one, unless by its regular course; for the other appeared to follow it at a little higher elevation -- a presage, perchance, of the evils, which ensued: and this sign I beheld with my own eyes, with some others who were with me. After we had for some time stood gazing at so unusual a spectacle in suspense and amazement, of a sudden, like men overcome with fatigue we were casting down our eyes, the counterfeit of the true sun vanished away. Nor was it long after this that, the period of the truce which had slightly cheered the harassed people being completed, the bloodthirsty rage of the princes once more broke out. To arms rushed every one at full speed; and the provinces lately so flourishing were devastated by fire and sword.

[2] The king of France with his forces besieged Aumale, and the king of England that castle which is called Nonancourt, which was formerly in his possession, but which some time since had been seized by the French monarch. Having quickly gained possession of it, he was besought by his people to undertake the task of repelling the enemy and raising the siege; but he paid no heed to their requests, either dreading a battle, which must have been bloody to the last degree, or trusting with confidence in the valor of his men who were gallantly defending the beleaguered fortress. Turning about, with the intention of laying waste the hostile frontiers, he studiously endeavored to draw off the besiegers without mutual bloodshed; but persisting with stubborn determination in effecting his purpose, at last, after much labor and loss to his army, he obtained possession of the castle by surrender, and razed it to the ground. This loss but little afflicted the king of England, who was compensated for it by the possession of a more renowned castle; which, however, fell not long after once more into the hands of the French king, having been surprised at a moment when it was inadequately defended. The enmity between the princes waxing fiercer and fiercer, the task of restoring peace was undertaken in vain by the well-disposed and prudent, for they closed their ears to all peaceful counsel. For, as it is written, "They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of the charmers" [Psalm 8: 4, 5.]

[3] In this matter the cause of the king of England, who was only seeking his own right, was the more powerful, and his wrath beyond a doubt the juster, as has been shown above. Peace being thus despaired of -- since neither the one could by any reasoning be induced to give up that which he held unlawfully, nor the other to rest until his right was re-established, -- the more these proud princes chafed at one another, so much the more did the unhappy people lament; for whenever kings rage, the innocent people suffer for it.

Chapter 26:  Of a famine and pestilence which overran England    <to index>

[1] At this time the hand of the Lord lay heavy upon the Christian people; for, in addition to the madness of the kings which was ravaging the province, it inflicted upon them both pestilence and famine, insomuch that that prophecy seems almost fulfilled against us which says, "I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one" [Jer. 30:14]. A famine, produced by unseasonable rains, had for some years vehemently afflicted the people of France and England; but by the disputes of the kings among themselves, it now increased more than ever: and when the lower orders of the people had perished everywhere from want, a most fell and cruel pestilence -- while it in nowise spared those with whom food was abundant, so also did it shorten the long agony of hunger to the starving -- followed on its track, as though the air had been poisoned by the dead bodies of the poor.

[2] In other regions, how the affairs of that period went on is but little known to us; but, concerning England, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, during that time. On glided the flood of disease, sweeping away each day, and by that form of sickness which is called acute fever, so many persons, that scarcely could any be found either to tend the sick or to bury the dead. The customary ceremonies of the grave were dispensed with; and each hour of the day, whoever died was speedily returned to the bosom of his mother earth, unless where some more noble or wealthy individual had breathed his last. In very many places large ditches were dug for the reception of the corpses, when, by reason of their multitude, it was impossible to inter each separately in the usual manner; however, when so many died daily, even the healthy began to despond, and went about with pallid and cadaverous countenances, as if on the point of death. In the monasteries alone the disease took but little hold. At last, after raging everywhere for five or nearly six months, it yielded to the cold of winter, and was stayed. But the minds of the brawling princes were still harder even than this scourge, fierce as it was; for they joined winter to summer and autumn in their desire for war.

Chapter 27:  How the Germans a second time took the sign of the cross    <to index>

[1] The king of England had a short time before he received back his hostages who had been left with the German emperor, in acquittance of the sum which he had paid him for his ransom; at whose arrival he is reported to have exclaimed that he then for the first time felt freed from his captivity in Germany. Being thus released from so grievous an extortioner, he bent the whole power of his mind to warlike preparations; for an expedition into Syria, to which he had devoted himself on his return thence in a thoughtless moment, must not be imputed to him: for an excuse is found for him with sober judges by the necessity he was reduced to, first by the German emperor, and afterwards by the French king. As if to atone for what he had been guilty of, through the guidance of a base avarice against a Christian prince returning from the East, and to apply the monies of which he had despoiled England to pious uses, the emperor gave orders to succor the miserable remnant of the Eastern church. He considered, likewise, that it had been by his agency that those two great kings had abandoned Christ's cause and had thought of their own interests only, and by their deadly hatred against one another had broken the strength of the Christians in a tyrannical manner.

[2] Anxious, therefore, to make amends for this injury by a work of religion, in the year one thousand one hundred and ninety-five from the delivery of the blessed Virgin, and about the solemnization of St. Andrew the apostle [30 Nov.], having convoked all the chief ecclesiastics and laymen of the empire at Worms, and declared his own devotion to them all, he incited very many of them to follow his illustrious example for Christ's sake. Afterwards, sitting in solemn state in the cathedral church for eight days successively, the legate of the apostolic see, who was come to him on this very business, being enthroned at his side, and surrounded by a great company of famous men; while those who were eminent for wisdom, dignity, and eloquence, addressed each day the Christian host with powerful oratory, so great a fervor of faith and devotion lighted up within the minds of the audience, that verily it might be said, "This is the finger of God." Every day the great prelates and most famous generals, together with a multitude of powerful persons, vied with each other in assuming the Lord's symbol of the cross; and the emperor himself was prepared to be signed with the same ensign, like the rest: but he was dissuaded from his lofty purpose by the general opinion that he would better advance the welfare of the Christian expedition by remaining in the empire, superintending the timely transport of provisions to the advancing army, and, when occasion should demand, of despatching reinforcements to the troops in service. Thus was the second expedition of the German and Italian nations into Syria made ready with all despatch; while our kings, without any healthful or sober purpose, indulged their own fury alone to the peril of many.

Chapter 28:  Of the dissension between King Richard and the archbishop of Rouen    <to index>

[1] In these days a dispute arose between king Richard and Walter, archbishop of Rouen, which was the more disgraceful as they had formerly been united by the closest friendship: for this same prelate had, both before he came to the throne and afterwards, always served the prince with devotedness and fidelity, and had bound himself to him by many and distinguished services. At last, upon the king's expedition to the East, not being permitted to remain at home for the discharge of his office, lest his presence should be required, though only for a time, the archbishop set out with him to Sicily. The king, however, hearing of the tyrannical conduct of the bishop of Ely, to whom he had entrusted the guardianship and rule of the kingdom, sent him back into England, with orders to the said bishop to associate with him as a colleague in all affairs touching the administration of the realm. But not being admitted into partnership by this man, who was jealous of his own glory, he forbore, and was silent for a time.

[2] The bishop, however, being not long after rudely assailed and ignominiously expelled by the nobles of the kingdom, who were impatient of his haughtiness, he carried on by general wish and decree the management of the realm with praiseworthy rule. When the king, after a long imprisonment in Germany, had completed his agreement with the emperor, and looked for a speedy release, he summoned to his presence this devoted bishop, and left him as a willing hostage for a large sum of money in the hands of the emperor. The king having thus returned into his kingdom, and being intent on warlike affairs, this prelate, for his sake, satisfied out of his own resources (it is said) the emperor's claims, and returned with glory to his own country. But the prince, who oftentimes spared not even his friends, being straitened by his warlike necessities, requited the favor less bountifully than the other had hoped for, chiefly on account of the bishop of Ely, who had the royal ear by virtue of his office, for he was his chancellor, and who said many things which were derogatory to him to the king; for he had a prejudice against him for the reason above mentioned. Exasperated on account of the appropriation of certain rights of his church by the king -- for, alleging the necessity for war as an excuse, he would by no means repay him at present, but promised to do so on the termination of hostilities -- the archbishop appealed to the judgment of the apostolic see, and, suspending the exercise of divine service in his diocese, he hastened to Rome. The royal messengers also followed in his track; and in the presence of the pope they withstood him to his face -- never indeed denying those things which were put forward by him against the king, but excusing the royal poverty in deprecatory phrase. Thereupon the supreme pontiff is reported to have said to the accuser, "The unjust captivity of the king of England, on his return from the East, where he has been warring for Christ, whose emblem he bore, and the plundering he has undergone, while suffering a heavy and lengthened captivity in a German dungeon, are known to all the world. It would be more discreet, therefore, for you to dissimulate for awhile, even if he should have attempted greater things than these of which you speak." Thus saying, he strove to humor the prince, who was worn out, as it were, by injuries and engaged in a just war; while he sent home the bishop, whom he had cajoled and pacified by some other means.

Chapter 29:  Of the death of the bishop of Ely, who deserves rather to be called the chancellor    <to index>

[1] Among those, forsooth, whom the king thought fit to send to Rome in his cause, the most famous appear to have been the bishop of Ely, who was also the king's chancellor and the bishop-elect of Durham, who, on his arrival in Rome, gained his ordination at the hands of the supreme pontiff. The chancellor, however, on his departure from the king, fell sick, and getting worse, died in a few days -- no longer to appear before the Roman pontiff for the purpose of pleading the cause of the king of the English, but at the tribunal of the King of the angels to give all account for himself.

[2] Concerning this bishop -- who by few is styled bishop, but by all chancellor, because that from the time of his ordination he had served the palace much more than the church -- concerning, I say, the manners and actions of this bishop, and what befell him on account of his insufferable pride, when the king on undertaking the Eastern pilgrimage had thought fit to entrust the administration of all things in England to him, has been in its own place set out above. Being expelled from England, and living for a time in exile in France, as soon as he had heard that the king on his return from the East was detained in a German dungeon, he made it his first care to visit him, by which means he intended to prove the fervor of his devotion to him, and purchase by obsequiousness his more favorable consideration for the future. By his services to the distinguished captive during the whole time of his shameful captivity, he rendered himself necessary to him in many ways; and if by chance any feeling against him had taken possession of the king's mind on account of the troubles in England, he dissipated the impression by services evincing fresh assiduity. When the king's fortune once more changed, he returned with him into England, whence, tranquillity being restored, he followed him in his warlike expedition beyond the sea, and strenuously performed his duties as chancellor: those of the priest, however, only so far as that -- devoid of pastoral care and burdens -- he might appear a bishop merely in honor and advantage. Thus the name of bishop being eclipsed by that of chancellor, he was seldom called by it.

[3] After having labored with the king for some years in his fierce and bloody war with the French, with an earnestness rather secular than episcopal, he at last (as has been said) fell a victim to disease. England rejoiced at his death, for the fear of him had lain like an incubus upon her; for when he might have done much with the king, and being a man of vast spirit, could not have been forgetful of his former expulsion from England, it was evident that he would frequently plot evil against the land which had vomited him forth as some pestilential humor. The English nobles with reason dreaded him when alive, and they lamented but little when dead.

Chapter 30:  Of the short war with the Bretons; and how the forty years' differences with Toulouse were ended    <to index>

In these days the Bretons, who had already revolted from the king of England, were compelled, by the vast ravages committed on their frontiers by the royal troops, to return with their beloved Arthur into the king's favor and alliance. The war also of Toulouse, which had been an undertaking of the greatest importance with the illustrious king Henry of England and his son Richard, and had tired out the strength of many for forty years, expired by the mercy of God at the same period. For the count of St. Giles, having concluded his agreement with the king of England, married, with great honor, his sister -- formerly the consort of the king of Sicily, after whose premature death she had returned to her brother -- and by this means lulled the inveterate hatred that existed between them. Thus did the king of England, who had been engrossed with three separate wars, and was by so much the less powerful in each, two being now at an end (namely that in Brittany and that in Toulouse) returned untrammeled to the third, which he was waging with the king of France, and began to make himself more powerful and terrible to his enemies. War raged with the utmost intensity on every side; and so great was the fury of the combatants, that they neither respected the holy period of Lent, during which they devastated by fire and pillage places previously in a flourishing condition; nor showed the priests of the Lord -- whenever they by chance encountered them -- any more mercy than they granted to the people. So long and deadly a contest between the irreconcilable princes might, forsooth, have been shortened by the victory of one of them, if they could only have met and engaged; but so it was, that whenever one, relying on his own forces, wished to bring matters to an issue by a battle, the other, fearful of the doubtful event, cautiously declined it. In short, by mutual injury each sought to tire and wear out the other, and preferred the protraction of the war, in the hope of better fortune, to its speedy termination by the glory of an uncertain victory.

Chapter 31:  Of the capture of the bishop of Beauvais     <to index>

[1] The one thousand one hundred and ninety-seventh year from the delivery of the Virgin had now rolled on, and the fury of the princes had by no means abated; as if in aid of the Lord's hand, and the heaping of his anger upon the Christian people: for already was the fifth year of the mighty famine, which had vehemently distressed the countries of England and France, running its course. The king of France, who in the preceding year had acted with increased vigor, began now to slacken his efforts, and defend his own borders with less spirit; while the king of England gradually increased in strength and prosperity. At length, suddenly throwing himself upon a distinguished town called St. Valery, he carried it with great courage; obtaining thereby possession of a port abounding in provision; and having pillaged the place and razed the defenses, he departed laden with spoil. Not long after, he stormed the castle called Milly, in the district of Beauvais, and shortly discovered a treasure; that is to say, met with a success his expectation. For the bishop of Beauvais, a man of fierce disposition, and illustrious by his kindred to the king, hearing that Milly was besieged, hastily took up arms -- not those, indeed, of his own calling, but belonging to a secular, and not a spiritual warfare; and, marching with an armed host against the enemy, boldly attacked and engaged them, like a leader of war rather than in religion.

[2] But he blamed not fortune aright: for being by God's judgment vanquished, he was brought a most welcome present, a captive and in chains, to the English king, against whom, both during his Eastern expedition and captivity in Germany and his return to his own land, he had always borne himself with a hostility beyond measure malignant. During his confinement in Rouen, it is said that two of the priests of his household came as suppliants to the king, entreating his favor, that they might minister to their lord in his captivity. "Judge ye," answered the king unto them, "between me and your lord. Let all the evils which he has either actually inflicted upon me, or plotted against me, be consigned to oblivion but one. Truly, on my return from the East, and detention by the Roman emperor, out of respect for my royal person I was treated with gentleness, and served with befitting honor: but one evening your lord came; and for what purpose he was come, and what manner of business he had with the emperor at night, in the morning I became aware of; for the emperor's hand was laid heavily upon me, and soon after I was loaded with so much iron that scarce could a horse or an ass have stood under the weight of it. Pronounce justly, therefore, what sort of imprisonment your lord should look for at my hand, who procured such for me at the hands of my jailer?" So the priests, having nothing to answer to these words, departed disappointed.

[3] Thus was the warlike bishop kept in chains, treated perchance by his enemies with greater lenity than he deserved, but without doubt, more rudely than beseemed his office. He appealed, however, through his people, to the pope, that he should be freed from the hands of his detainer by ecclesiastical authority; but the pope, prudently taking into consideration that the king of England had captured the bishop, not in the pulpit, but in the field of battle, and kept him in durance more as an unbending foe than a pacific prelate, was unwilling to annoy him with demands for the release of the prisoner, but answered the appealer sagely and discreetly, reproaching him with having preferred secular warfare to that of the church, and with having taken up the lance instead of the pastoral staff -- the helmet for the mitre, the hauberk for the alb, the shield for the stole -- and the sword of steel for that of the Spirit (which is the word of God); and refusing to command that he should be set at liberty by the king of England, though he promised, at a fitting opportunity, to petition for it. So the imprisoned bishop despaired of freedom by any means short of the reconciliation of the princes; and he who, formerly a firebrand of war, had hated peace, sighed for it in the weariness of his dungeon with continual longing.

Chapter 32:  Of the desertion of some from the king of France, and on what account a truce was made between him and the king of England     <to index>

[1] At the same time there deserted from the king of France certain of the nobles of his kingdom, who were indignant at injuries endured at his hands, and complained that he was a hard master; and joining themselves to the king of England, increased his strength, while they in their turn derived it afresh from him. Among whom the count of Flanders, in grief at having been defrauded by the French king of nearly half his hereditary rights, and strengthened with the king of England's gold, received surrender of the noble town of Douay, which had been invested, and also gained possession of other fortresses. Encouraged by these successes, he laid siege to the city of Arras with increased confidence. Then did the king, as if industriously avoiding mutual encounter, carry on their business of warfare in various places. The king of England stormed certain fortresses in the district of Bourges; whilst the king of France blockaded the fortification called Angers, which had shortly before revolted from him. This was quickly surrendered and overthrown; and then he hastened to raise the siege of the city which we have already mentioned. The besiegers, however, having been apprised of his approach, desisted from their operations, and by giving ground, incited the proud enemy to pursuit: whilst by breaking down the bridges over the rivers in their rear, as he incautiously advanced, they endeavored to cut off this retreat of his army. Thus more was effected by stratagem than by force.

[2] When by the intervention of friends between the parties peace was treated of, the count neither rejected the offer nor absolutely accepted it; pretending that he had given sufficient security by the exchange of hostages with the king of England, and in return received such from him, that neither of them without the other could accept peace. Whereupon an agreement having been made between the parties, which should be ratified in due time by the king of England, the king of France returned to his own country; while the count hastened to invite the English king to give an honorable consent to the peace. The kings, therefore, not so greedy of peace as tired of war, in the one thousand one hundred and ninety-seventh year from the delivery of the Virgin, in the month of September, met together in solemn conference on the borders, with their nobles and a large attendance of their subjects. On this occasion little was done in favor of a lasting peace, insomuch that the princes' minds were hard to be cured of their long and inveterate hatred; but they preferred establishing between themselves a truce of one year and four months, as an earnest of future peace. The treaties provided that the countries should be open to traders, the provinces enjoy mutual privileges, and also that prisoners on both sides should obtain their release for a sufficient and reasonable ransom. The conference being concluded, leave was granted the combatants of returning to their own homes; and the provinces, worn out with misery, accepted this moderate repose with thanksgiving.

Chapter 33:  Of a wonderful event that befell at Malton     <to index>

[1] In these days, in the month of August, within our province of York, upon the river Derwent, a wonderful circumstance occurred, which must not be passed over in silence, but inserted in our history for the information and warning of posterity. At the monastery of Canons Regular, which is called Malton, a furnace for burning lime was prepared. As soon as, according to custom, fire should be applied from the side underneath, after sunset, the provost of the place, with certain brothers, approached and took much pains lest so great a preparation should prove in vain. About the other side was a pit of moderate size, prepared for use, in depth not more than six or seven feet; and into this fell one of the friars, as he was going round to hurry on the work, and incautiously hastening in the dark. As soon as the provost perceived that he did not immediately come out again, he inquired if he were hurt. "I am killed," answered he; which having spoken, he was hushed in the silence of death, to the great astonishment of all who were present, who indeed could have no suspicion of his fate; for the spreading darkness of night concealed the interior of the pit. One of the bystanders, however, being asked to descend to discover and announce what was the matter, went down; and sinking immediately to the ground, he also silently fell asleep in death, neither making any announcement nor coming out again; another being nevertheless ordered to descend, was speedily swallowed up in the same fate.

[2] Fear then fell upon all who were round about; yet, thinking that it was improper to remain inactive, for the sake of more cautiously exploring into the circumstance, they commanded a third to go down. He, it is said, fortifying himself with the sign of salvation, descended, and immediately exclaimed, "I die, I die; pull me out!" Then they who were standing near, seizing the top of the small ladder by which he had gone down, and to which he was clinging, drew both out together. The dress, however, in which he was clad, was torn as if rent by the violent hands of some evil assailant. The man thus rescued from destruction lay long half-dead, without sense or voice, and foaming at the month, till returning by degrees to himself he languished for several days. His tunic, however, he regarded with horror as pestilential; nor would he suffer it to be put on even after it had been mended. After the death of the said friar, and of the two young men who perished with him, upon a certain man descending on the following day to recover their bodies, he neither experienced any horrible sensations or suffered any hurt, but harmlessly, and with all confidence, raised the corpses from the deadly spot. No wound appeared on them, except in the left eyes, which looked bloody and bruised, displaying a livid mark about them, as if from a recent blow.

[3] These things I have taken care to commit to writing, exactly as I heard them, either from the narration of those present, or of men who had heard those present. The cause of the event, truly, which I am compelled to marvel at for its novelty, I am unable to fathom. It happened, indeed, some years ago, in a certain town among the East Angles, that three workmen while engaged, at the desire of the inhabitants, in cleaning out an old well, and digging deeper, in the desire of producing a larger supply of water from the bowels of the earth, were suddenly deprived of life; upon which the inhabitants filled up that well with rubbish, and resolved that the place of their death should serve as an eternal sepulchre to the dead; but this is not so wonderful, for a reason for it may possibly be given. Perchance the bottom of this well contained a hidden vein of quicksilver, or some other noxious matter, which, as it is believed, upon being laid open by the diggers, emitted a fell and pestilential vapor, which, surprising all would in a moment put all end to their existence.

Chapter 34:  Of the reconciliation of King Richard and the archbishop of Rouen; and of a certain prodigy    <to index>

[1] At this time the illustrious king Richard and Walter, archbishop of Rouen, after a long enmity, re-established in more sober regard the ancient friendship which had existed between them -- the prelate yielding up his right in favor of the prince, and the prince making satisfaction to the prelate in those matters touching the right of the church of Rouen, which he had usurped by the necessity of war -- a just exchange. For when the king had marked out a most convenient spot in the town which is called Andeli, and which was the patrimony of the church of Rouen, for building a castle upon the river Seine for the defense of Normandy, fearful lest the same should be occupied in opposition to him by the French king, he thought it advisable to seize upon it at once. The work of man being wonderfully assisted by the nature of the ground, he began to build, at a lavish expense, a very strong castle in the teeth of the French king. But the said pontiff viewed this abstraction of the patrimony of his church with dissatisfaction; and the French beheld with indignation, and vainly chafed against the invidious undertaking which they were unable to prevent. The prince, however, afterwards appeased the archbishop by a fitting compensation; to wit, by giving in exchange to the church of Rouen, for the disputed district, the famous seaport which is called Dieppe. This being done, he henceforth lent himself to the work he had begun with a confidence more cheerful, and a care more diligent in proportion as his conscience was the lighter; and the greater the defense he had secured for his own frontiers, the more did he chafe by this very fact the ferocity of the enemy.

[2] In that place, while this great undertaking was in progress, a wonderful event is related to have happened. For, as some not ignoble persons -- who assert that they were present themselves aver -- in the month of May, a little before the solemnities of the Lord's Ascension, as the king drew near, and urged on the work (for he came frequently to point out and hurry its completion, and took great pleasure in beholding its advancement), suddenly a shower of rain mixed with blood fell, to the astonishment of all the bystanders who were present with the king, as they observed drops of real blood upon their garments, and feared that so unusual an occurrence might portend evil: but the king was not dismayed at this, nor did he relax in promoting the work in which he took so great delight, that (unless I am mistaken) if even an angel from heaven had persuaded him to desist, he would have pronounced anathema against him.


Return to Index | Book One | Book Two | Book Three | Book Four | Book Five | Introduction


The Church Historians of England, volume IV, part II; translated by Joseph Stevenson (London:  Seeley's, 1861).  For ease of readability and reference, I have altered the original paragraph divisions and added the paragraph numbers; spellings have been modernized.  I have not retained Stevenson's footnotes. I believe this translation is now in the public domain. The electronic form of this presentation is ©1999 by Scott McLetchie and may not be reproduced for any commercial purposes whatsoever. It may be reproduced for non-profit educational purposes.

Select Bibliography

The latest complete edition of William's history is still that found in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I.   Edited by Richard Howlett.  Rolls Series no. 82.  London, 1884-9.   Books 1-4 of William's history appear in volume 1, book 5 in volume 2.

A new edition began to appear in 1988:  William of Newburgh.  The History of English Affairs.  Edited and with a new translation by P. G. Walsh & M. J. Kennedy.  Warminster, Wiltshire:  Aris, 1988-.  To the best of my knowledge, only volume one, containing book one of the history, has so far appeared.

A good starting point for information on William of Newburgh (as well as other medieval English historians) is Gransden, Antonia.  Historical Writing in England, volume 1.  London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974.

Nancy Partner examines William of Newburgh's work, along with that of Henry of Huntingdon and Richard of Devizes in:  Partner, Nancy F.  Serious Entertainments:  The Writing of History in Twelfth-Century England.   Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1977.

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