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ing to fear her. Unable to revenge herself, and too proud to complain, she suffered sorrow and resentment to prey on her heart; and after a long career of power, glory and prosperity, died, sick and weary of the world.' Here Macau. lay leaves her, and here we leave her, for our subject is the retributions of this life. But we know that Elizabeth of England still exists, and we also know that the seeds which we plant in our own souls and the souls of others here bring forth fruit, after their kind,' 'in the world to come.'
CONQUEROR. Our next illustration shall be taken from the life of William the Conqueror. We select him from among the thousands whom we might select — for history is crowded with such instances --- because his life is not only exceedingly interesting, but remarkably well authenticated, having been preserved to us in those minute particulars which best enable us to trace cause and effect, by so many, both friends and foes, who lived in his ay, or near it, and who had every opportunity to ascertain the truth.
William of Malmesbury, who lived within a few years of the Conqueror's death, and who (as librarian of the monastery of that name) had great facilities for the careful research which his writings evinced, thus bears witness to this fact in the preface to his third book. Normans and English,' says he, 'in. cited by different motives, have written of King William. The former have praised him to excess, while the latter, out of national hatred, have laden their Conqueror with undeserved reproach. For my part,' he adds, 'as the blood of either people flows in my veins, I shall steer a middle course.' We may remar however, that as so frequently happens with those who profess' neutrality,' his middle course,' when closely scanned, shows a most suspicious leaning to what seemed the stronger side.
The great error of the Conqueror's life consisted, it would seem, in neglect. ing the duties of the position to which he was entitled, and forcing himself into one to which his claim was, to say the least, extremely doubtful. At that time he appeared to possess every requisite for a happy and useful life -commanding intellect, a fine presence, vigorous health, a beautiful wife, who was indeed a helpmeet, and several children of unusual promise. The difficulties which had beset his early life had yielded to his address and energy, while to his fine administrative talents the condition of his native land afforded full and honorable scope. It will be remembered, too, that his most cherished plans were almost uniformly successful." He succeeded in obtaining from Edward the Con. fessor at least a verbal adoption, as his heir, in extorting from the ship-wrecked Harold a recognition of his claim, in silencing the opposition of his barons, and securing most of the alliances for which he was so anxious. He succeeded, too, not only in subjugating the Saxons, but in suppressing every revolt whereby they sought to regain their independence. Nor did he, in any of his hard. fought battles, ever receive a wound, till at the age of fifty-four he was unhorsed by his own rebellious son on the field of Archembraye.
But with all his advantages, how much of happiness did the Conqueror se. cure? Or, in the homely but expressive phrase of mercantile life, what did
he gain by his operations ?' Let us, by the help of ancient chronicles and modern research, try to ascertain.
We are told that when, previous to departing on his dangerous expedition, he invested his consort Matilda with the regency of Normandy, he associated with her their son Robert, then just turned of thirteen -- a measure which, by fostering the youth's natural pride of character, and exposing him to the evil influences of flatterers, undoubtedly led to that most undutiful conduct from which William afterward suffered so severely,
After reaching England safely, and proving victor in the sanguinary battle that rid him of his rival, the Conqueror appointed Christmas day for his coroDation. A brilliant pageant it was. And as he listened to the shouts of the multitude and the flatteries of those who rode beside him, he no doubt exulted in the success of his plans, and revelled in anticipations of his future greatness. Yet even then an incident occurred that detracted greatly from the pleasures of the day, for when the crown was placed upon his head by the Archbishop Aldred, the acclamations became so noisy that the Norman soldiers mistook them for indications of an attack from the conquered Saxons, and in hasty reFenge, set fire to the adjoining houses. As the buildings were of wood, the flames spread so rapidly that many lives were lost, and the Abbey itself was in such danger that even William, usually so self-possessed, faltered in the ceremonial.
After an absence of six months, William, with a splendid retinue, returned triumphantly to Normandy. Matilda and his children met him on his landing, and rapturously was he greeted by all classes of his countrymen, for even those who had opposed the expedition now lauded him to the skies. It was in visiting the various parts of his native realm that William saw the summer and autumn pass away; and he was preparing for the festivities of Christmas when tidings that the Saxons had taken advantage of his absence, to plan a general insurrection, compelled him to again bid his family farewell and hastily embark for England.
Having suppressed the revolt, however, the Conqueror sent for Matilda, and on her arrival, caused her to be crowned at Winchester, amid every circumstance that could contribute to the splendor of the occasion. "Tranquillity,' says Miss Strickland, 'now appeared to be completely restored; and Matilda, enjoying every happiness as a wife, a mother and a queen, seemed to be placed at the very summit of earthly felicity.' But a cloud was gathering, for spite of William's vigilance and severity, the revolts of the English became so frequent and alarming, that he deemed it necessary to send his family, for safety, to Normandy ; and another of those long separations which we know he felt so keenly, was the consequence. Indeed, from this time forth, Matilda was compelled, from one cause or another, to spend most of her time in Normandy ; while William, notwithstanding his extreme dislike to the cold English winters,' found it equally necessary to reside chiefly in England.
At length, however, promptness and energy succeeded in conquering a peace,' and William hastened to his family and native land. But now net difficulty arose - a difficulty which embittered his whole after-life, but which
probably never would have arisen had William contented himself with maintaining his own rights, instead of selfishly trespassing on those of others.
It will be remembered that, when compelled to reside in England, William at different times had given to his eldest son a share in the regency of Normandy, and great was the resentment of the young man when called upon to relinquish it into his father's hands.
The playful though rude affront which, according to Vitalis, he received from his younger brothers at the Castle of L'Aigle, increased this feeling; and failing to obtain the satisfaction he demanded, he withdrew in anger from the court. After a time, Matilda's entreaties induced him to see his father, but his tone was haughty in the extreme. When admonished as to the consequences of his conduct, Robert answered that he ‘did not come to listen to sermons with which he had been nauseated by his tutors when learning grammar, but to claim the investiture which had been promised' him. “Answer me positively,' he added, “are not these things so ? Have you not promised to bestow them on me?'
'It is not my custom to strip before I go to bed,' replied his father; and as long as I live I will not deprive myself of my native realm.'
William then proceeded to quote Scripture a practice in which, like other irreligious men, he frequently indulged, when it happened to suit his purpose — and then added : ‘Nor is it to be borne that he who owes his exist. ence to me should aspire to be my rival in mine own dominions.'
Robert made an insolent rejoinder, and then quitting his father's presence, hastened, with a party of malcontent barons, to his maternal uncle in Flanders. There he employed himself in forming a party hostile to his father, and at length, encouraged by several princes, whose envy was excited by William's success, actually took up arms against him.
But there was yet another ingredient in the Conqueror's cup, more bitter than even this, for his wife, in whom he had always placed such boundless confidence, and who, except in this one instance, certainly deserved it, had, with inexcusable weakness, so far forgotten her duty as to supply his rebellious and dissolute son with money. How keenly William felt this stroke may be gathered from the touching manner in which he addressed her. Where in all the world,' said he could you have found a companion so faithful and devoted in his affections ? Behold my wife, she whom I have loved as my own soul; to whom I have confided the government of my realms, my treasures, every thing that I possessed in the world of power and greatness; she hath supported mine adversary against me! She hath strengthened and enriched him from the wealth which I confided to her keeping ; she hath secretly employed her zeal and subtlety in his cause, and done every thing to encourage him against me!'
From Matilda's reply, as recorded by the graphic pen of their cotemporary Vitalis, we may judge how little real happiness successful ambition had secured to her. “My lord,' she answered, 'I pray you be not surprised if I feel a mother's tenderness for her first-born. By the virtue of the Most High, I protest that if my son Robert were dead and buried, far from the sight of the
living, seven feet deep in the earth, and that the price of my blood could restore him to life, I would cheerfully bid it flow. For his sake I would endure any suffering ; yea, things from which, on any other occasion, the feebleness of my sex would shrink with terror. How then can you suppose that I could enjoy the pomp and luxury with which I was surrounded, when I knew that he was pining in want and misery ?'
We need not trace the progress of this rebellion, for it is well known how, in the battle to which it led, the father was unhorsed and wounded by the son; and though when Robert recognized his antagonist, his better feelings prevailed, the reconciliation that followed was but temporary, for Matilda's health failed rapidly; and after her death, Robert ågain broke out into open rebellion.
Four years after, during which William experienced nothing but trouble and disquiet, he met with the retributive accident that caused his death.
Exasperated by the coarse witticism of the French King, William retorted, that when he rose from his sick-bed, he would offer candles' enough to 'set all France in a blaze.' And 'not long after,' says the Librarian of Malmesbury, 'in the end of August, when the corn was upon the ground, the clusters on the grapes, and the orchards laden with fruit, he collected an army, and entering France, trampled down, and laid every thing waste. Nothing could assuage his irritated mind, so determined was he to revenge this injurious taunt, at the expense of multitudes.' It was while burning the city of Mantes, and while riding hither and thither, ‘furiously commanding his people to add fuel to the conflagration,' that his horse, chancing to step upon a piece of burning timber, started, and injured his rider so severely that'he never more put foot in stirrup.'
The Conqueror's death-bed was a gloomy one, embittered by that saddest of all sad feelings - unavailing self-reproach - a feeling which he vainly sought to remove by confession and tardy reparation. It was embittered too by neglect; for though he lingered some time, and eight of his ten children were still living, Prince Henry only remained with him to the last. His favorite, William Rufus, had hastened to England to secure the crown, 'thinking,' says the chronicler, 'that it was more advantageous to look to his future benefit than to be present at his father's funeral.' The rebellious Robert was in Germany; and even Henry no sooner saw that life was extinct than he departed, to make sure of the five thousand pounds, in silver,' just bequeathed to him, ere his father's treasury should be taken possession of by the elder brother. The great officers dispersed themselves, some to offer homage to Robert, others to William Rufus; while the servants, after plundering the house, where their sovereign had just breathed his last, of every thing valuable, stripped his person,' and 'for the space of three hours' left it naked on the floor!' Nearly thirteen years afterward, circumstances similar, though not quite so flagrant, attended the death of William Rufus.
William's anxiety for money,' says the cotemporary whose one-sided 'neutrality' we have before remarked, “is the only thing for which he can be justly blamed. This he sought all opportunities for scraping together; he cared not how.
He would say and do almost any thing where the
hope of money allured him.' But what did it profit him ? 'We brought nothing into this world,' says the Apostle, “and it is certain that we can carry nothing out
It was by the charitable offices of one Hulewin, probably the step-father of William, that the corpse was conveyed to Caen, for interment. Prince Henry, having made sure of his legacy, met it at the entrance of the abbey ; but no sooner had the ceremonies commenced, than they were so completely interrupted by a fire, like that which had disturbed those of the coronation, that the body was again almost deserted, till the fire had been suppressed. Nor even then was it permitted to enter its last resting-place in peace, till an act of injustice, of which William had been guilty when he founded that abbey, thirty-five years before, had been acknowledged, and so far as might be repaired. For when the Bishop had pronounced the oration, and the attendants were about to place the body in the newly-opened grave, Fitz-Arthur, a Norman Knight, “to whose patrimony that place pertained,' stepped forward, and forbade the interment. “Bishop,' said he, “the man whom you have praised was a robber. This place was the site of my father's house, which this dead duke took violently from him; and here upon part of mine inheritance founded this Church. . i. In the name of God, therefore, I forbid you to bury him, or cover him with my glebe!' Others who were present bore witness to the truth of Fitz-Arthur's statement. Whereupon,' adds an old chronicler, • at the desire of Prince Henry, the only one of William's sons who was present, a hundred pounds of silver were paid to this brawler, to quiet his audacious claim.' Five chroniclers, who lived at or near the time, bear witness to the truth of this incident. It reminds one of the solemn 'trial of the dead among the ancient Egyptians.' If such a custom existed among us, how many flattering obituaries would remain unwritten !
Nor did the retributive circumstances which had attended the Conqueror's life cease even with his death and burial. For the way in which 'the sins of the fathers' may be 'visited on the children,' was forcibly illustrated by the death of his favorite, William Rufus, in the New Forest.' It will be recollected that among the wrongs that weighed most heavily upon the Conqueror's spirit, when he came to die, were those which he had caused by the planting of that Forest. Whether he planted it, as Tytler says, 'to gratify his passion for the chase,' or from political motives, as Blackstone and Drayton think, it is certain that do measure of his reign bad led to greater suffering. By his orders, over thirty miles of a most fertile country were totally depopulated. Churches were thrown down, whole villages destroyed, and their inhabitants, men, women, and children, to the number of one hundred thousand, it is said, thrust forth, to seek a refuge where they might.
There can be no doubt that from those suffering hearts rose many a cry to offended HEAVEN; and though Inspiration has declared, that the curse causeless shall not come,' it leaves us to infer that the curse which is not causeless may. It was only through the prayers of the man whom they had wronged by their unjust judgment, that the three friends of Job escaped a retributive chastisement; and thus spoke the SUPREME SOVEREIGN by His servant Moses :