William of Newburgh (d.1198) was one of England’s most important historians in the twelfth century. In the following section, he details the war that broke out in 1173 between Henry II against his son, Henry, called ‘The Younger’. Henry II would also face the French and Scottish kings during this conflict. To read the entire chronicle of William of Newburgh, please see the Medieval Sourcebook.
Chapter XXVII – How King Henry the Younger revolted from his father, and stirred up the King of France and others against him.
In the eleven hundred and seventy-third year from the delivery of the Virgin, which was the twentieth of the reign of King Henry the second, when the king had returned from Ireland into England, and shortly afterwards passed over from England into Normandy, an execrable and foul dissension arose between him and his son, Henry the third, whom, two years before, as it is said above, he had caused to be solemnly consecrated as king. When the prince grew up to the age of manhood, he was impatient to obtain, with the oath and name, the reality of the oath and name, and, at least, to reign jointly with his father; though he ought of right to rule alone, for, having been crowned, the reign of his father had, as it were, expired – at least it was so whispered to him by certain persons. He was, moreover, highly indignant, because his father had sparingly supplied him with money to meet the expenses of a royal establishment.
Thus irritated and enraged against him, he secretly fled to his father-in-law, the king of France, in order thereby to create annoyance to his own father. Being graciously received by the French king – not so much because he was his son-in-law, as because he had withdrawn from his own father – he confided in his advice in all things; and being thus encouraged and instigated against his father by the virulent exhortations of the French, he was not terrified from violating the great law of nature by the example of the undutiful Absalom.
As soon as his father had discovered the hatred of his son, and ascertained whither he had fled, he sent men of distinction to the king of France, with pacific words, demanding his son by paternal right, and promising that, if any thing should appear to require amendment with regard to him, by his advice he would immediately amend it. The king of France, upon hearing these words, asked, “Who is it that sends this message to me?” They replied, “The king of England.” “It is false,” he answered, “behold the king of England is here; and he sends no message to me by you – but if, even now, you style his father king, who was formerly king of England, know ye that he, as king, is dead: and though he may still act as king, yet that shall soon be remedied, for he resigned his kingdom to his son, as the world is witness.” The messengers being thus foiled returned to their lord. Soon after, the younger Henry, by the advice of the French, devising evil from every source against his father, went secretly into Aquitaine, where his two youthful brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, were residing with their mother; and with her connivance, as it is said, brought them with him into France: for their father had granted, for his lifetime, Aquitain to the one and Brittany to the other. Hence the younger Henry believed, from the suggestions of the French, that the people of Aquitaine might very easily be gained over to his party by means of Richard; and the Bretons by the influence of Geoffrey. He also allied himself to the count of Flanders, his father’s cousin-german; a man of great power and immoderate presumption, which arose from his confidence in the numerous and warlike people whom he governed; and him also he gained over by great promises with the consent of the king of France. Then many powerful and noble persons, as well in England as in foreign parts, either impelled by mere hatred, which until then they had dissembled, or solicited by promises of the vainest kind, began by degrees to desert the father for the son, and to make every preparation for the commencement of war. The earl of Leicester, for instance, the earl of Chester, Hugh Bigot, Ralph de Fougeres, and many others, formidable from the amount of their wealth and the strength of their fortresses. Many, who placed less confidence in their wealth and power, also declared the hostility of their minds by retiring into France, in order to remain inactive. To these was added a fiercer enemy, the king of Scots, who was ready to send into the English borders his cruel people, who would spare neither sex nor age. Thus, while so many and such powerful nobles departed from the elder king, and led all men against him, as if their lives depended on it, there were still a few who adhered faithfully and firmly to him, while the rest wavered around him in uncertainty, and timidly feared to be swept away by the victory of the younger sovereign. Then the elder king at length saw (for so it was commonly reported) how unadvisedly, in fact how foolishly, he had acted by prematurely creating a successor to himself; but he little expected that in so doing those persons who were watching for a new government would eagerly follow his son. Uneasy, therefore, at the troubled state of affairs, while internal and external foes were pressing upon him; and trusting also very little to those who seemed to adhere to him, yet acted remissly, for the favour of his son, he sent for the mercenary forces of Brabancons, called Rutae; for the royal treasures (which were not spared in such an emergency) afforded him an abundant supply of ready money.
Chapter XXVIII: Of the transactions at Aumale, Chateauneuf and Verneiul
In the month of June, when kings are accustomed to go to war, the neighbouring princes, having collected their forces from every quarter, advanced in a hostile manner against the king of England, pretending, indeed, that they were only jealous for the son against the father; than which nothing could be more absurd; for in reality they engaged in this affair either through private hatred, like the king of France, or for the sake of gain, like the count of Flanders. The king of England was hardly prepared to receive the attacks of so many enemies, on account of the intestine commotions which had arisen among his own subjects, and by which he was extremely perplexed. Therefore, when, on account of his inferior force, he was unable openly to meet his assailants, he yet attentively studied how to fortify and garrison the strongholds which were on his frontiers. The king of France, having encircled the town of Verneuil, a place well calculated to sustain a long siege, resolved not to proceed further until it was taken or surrendered; but the count of Flanders, with his forces from Flanders, rushing in, laid siege to Aumale, which had been strongly garrisoned to little purpose, since the count of Aumale, lord of that town, like many others, wavered in his adherence to the elder king. It was certainly believed that he was in collusion with the count of Flanders, because the town, after a slight siege, was quickly taken; and when he was made captive by the count of Flanders, he not only surrendered all the garrison whom the king had sent thither, but he also gave up all his own castles. The Flemish army, animated by this fortunate commencement, proceeded to greater attempts, and boldly laid siege to the royal fortress called Chateauneuf, and with their engines assailed it for many days. It at length surrendered; yet the count of Flanders rejoiced not; for his brother Matthew, count of Boulogne, whom he was pleased to regard as his future successor, since he never had, nor expected to have, any descendants by his own wife, was wounded near the knee by an arrow during the siege of that town. The wound becoming worse, he was confined to his bed; and after a few days, while under medical treatment, he died. His death grieved his brother so much that he put an end to his expedition, and soon after returned in sorrow to his own country, upbraiding himself and imputing this unhappy event as a punishment for having attacked as an enemy for the sake of a wicked son, a king who was his cousin-german, and by whom he had never been injured, but by whom he had frequently been loaded with favours. On this coming to the knowledge of king Henry, he considered that he was now delivered for a time from one half of his solicitude in the war, and he soon felt greater confidence in himself against the part which remained. Having assembled the forces that were in his pay, and as many others as thought he ought not to be deserted, in his extremity, he sent a message to the king of France, who had already consumed the greater part of the summer in the siege of Verneuil, in the hope of soon gaining possession of it, to this effect; that he must either raise the siege or prepare for a pitched battle on a certain day. At first, the French (who by nature are fierce and arrogant, especially when they seem to be superior in numbers and better prepared for war) scoffed at his message, thinking that he would not venture to act upon it. But when it became known to them that he was fearlessly approaching with his army in array, then they, for the first time, began to suspect that he would attempt something decisive. Their king forthwith hastily summoned his nobles, and consulted with them about the war, and then sent a bishop and an abbot to meet the king of England, and learn from his own mouth whether he was approaching to fight; in the meanwhile he prepared his forces for the occasion. And lo, those who were sent met the king perfectly armed, proceeding with a few attendants some furlongs ahead of his army; he seemed in full confidence with himself, and was giving orders for something – I know not what. When they told him that the king of France wished to be certified about the battle, he said, with a fierce countenance and terrible voice, “Go, tell your king that I am at hand, as you see.” And when they returned in haste, and described the ferocity and resolution of the prince who was fast approaching, the king of France and his nobles held a council, in which it wasresolved that they should retire for the present, and decline the contest, that they might fight afterwards for the inheritance of their fathers. Thus they quitted their camp, and with their formidable forces retreated into France, armed, however, and with their ranks in array, that they might not seem to flee; and so those who shortly before seemed like lions, from the fierceness of their minds, and their blustering and boastful words, were suddenly found to be like hares in retreating and running away. The king of England, however, was content with the disgraceful flight of his haughty enemies, and was unwilling to drive and pursue them in their retreat: but turning his army aside to plunder the hostile camp, he entered the city with solemn joy, and congratulated his people who had acted valiantly there. An abundance of corn, wine and provisions were found in the camp, with a variety of goods, which their enemies in their hasty flight were not able to carry away with them.
Chapter XXIX: Of those who were taken at Dol.
Though Henry’s external foes, such as the king of France and the count of Flanders, whose power was very great, were thus, by the will of God, driven away, his enemies at home were by no means tranquil. Many of those assembled by agreement, and after uniting together obtained possession of the city of Dol, which indeed of right belongs to Brittany, though it is included within the limits of Normandy. On hearing this, the Brabancons, in the king’s service, soon arrived at the town, and attacked them, upon which a multitude of the insurgents fled into the town; which soon after being also taken, they were compelled to retire within the narrow limits of one castle. When they were thus shut up, the report was carried with the utmost celerity to the king, who was at Rouen. He, forgetting both food and sleep, and constantly changing his relays, passed over a large tract of country, and arrived so quickly that he seemed to have flown; and while conducting the siege of the castle, the multitude which was enclosed therein, not enduring the confinement, implored his mercy. The king agreed to give them their liberty and to spare their limbs; but upon the surrender of the castle, he ordered into custody all the noble captives found therein, and the earl of Chester, and Ralph de Fougeres, with about one hundred other nobles, fell, by the judgment of God, into the hands of the king, whom they had pursued with the bitterest hatred. However, they were treated by him with very much more clemency than they deserved, though; for a time they were confined in chains; but the two nobles abovementioned, who seemed more distinguished among the captives, after having satisfied the king that they would observe their fealty, obtained their release. In this business the clemency of so great a prince towards most treacherous betrayers and most atrocious enemies is beyond a doubt to be justly admired and applauded.
Chapter XXX: Of the siege of Leicester, the War of the King of the Scots, and the capture of the Earl of Leicester
While such things as these were being performed by the king in person, or around him, in parts beyond the sea, similar events also happened in England. When the earl of Leicester, who first deserted the king, had corrupted many by his dishonest example, Richard de Lucy, who at that time governed England under the king, upon the receipt of the royal mandate, hastily collected an army, and besieged Leicester. The town was surrendered and burnt, but he omitted to attack the castle because he was called away to more urgent affairs. Moreover, the king of the Scots, knowing how much the king of England was engaged in Normandy, entered the English frontiers with an immense force of his barbarous and blood-thirsty people, and besieged Carlisle, as well as wasted the whole of the adjacent province with rapine and slaughter; but when he found that a large army from the north of England was approaching, he relinquished the siege, and after the most horrid ravages in the county of Northumberland, he retired into his own dominions before our chiefs could come up with him. They advanced, however, with their forces across the Tweed, which divides the kingdoms of England and Scotland, and, unresisted, retaliated upon that hostile land; but they were soon recalled to England by hasty messengers, though not before they had subtly restrained the ferocity of the hostile king, by a needful truce. Thus, by a wily dissimulation, our chiefs concealed from him those events which had come to their knowledge; for the earl of Leicester with a hostile fleet from Flanders had landed upon the coast of East Anglia, and being well received by his accomplice, Hugh Bigot, a powerful and crafty man, he remained there for some time with his army. Soon after, with the co-operation and guidance of the same Hugh, his army advanced upon the city of Norwich, and took it with very little trouble, it being without a garrison, and paralyzed with sudden terror. After plundering it of all its wealth, the army returned to the camp loaded with spoil. With the same person as his counsellor and guide, he in like manner approached towards Dunwich, a celebrated maritime town, abounding in various kinds of treasures, intending to take it also by assault; but he was dismayed at the firmness of the inhabitants, who unanimously prepared themselves to receive the attack of the enemy; and when he discovered that his attempts against them would be abortive, he returned without any success. Hugh having made as much use of this army as he desired, then signified to the earl of Leicester that he ought to conduct the foreign forces, which he had brought over, into those districts and castles which were under his own jurisdiction. The earl of Leicester, however, hesitated much and long, because he could not cross the country to Leicester without great danger, through the midst of the enemies’ territory, who were said to be watching his march ; feeling, at length, confident in the numbers and valour of his allies (for he had about eighty chosen horse, and four or five thousand valiant foot), and thinking that no one would be able to oppose him on the way, because he had many friends among those who appeared to favour the king, he boldly commenced the journey, with all his forces, taking with him his wife, and Hugh de Castello, a French nobleman. But the nobles of the royal party, with an ample military force, were at St. Edmundsbury, watching him; and when the earl’s army was near that place, they brought out their forces in array against his troops. The forces of the earl were not in a position to turn either to the right hand or to the left; and so converting their constraint into courage, they boldly marched onward in order, and a desperate battle commenced ; the one party fighting for glory, and the other for safety. The victory, however, belonged to the royal party; the earl was taken captive, with his wife, a woman of masculine mind, and also Hugh of Castello, together with almost all the cavalry; but nearly the whole of the foot soldiers were killed. The prisoners of distinction were sent to the king in Normandy, and the rest were disposed of according to his discretion.
Chapter XXXI: Of the defection of David the Scot and others from the King
This unfilial madness of the son against the father raged for nearly two years, and the more important events of the first year have already been set forth in the foregoing narration. For a short time, indeed, during the winter, in parts beyond the sea, there was a cessation from the tumults of war; but it was not so in England; for the troops, who were in the fortresses belonging to the earl of Leicester, after they had remained quiet for some time, cowed by the fate which had befallen their lord, again grew bold and inflamed, as it were, to avenge this disaster; and being joined by a multitude of the wicked ones, began to infest the neighbouring counties by their incursions; and feeling that they would act with more confidence in having a prince possessing a great name, they chose for their leader and chief David, earl of Huntingdon, brother of the king of Scots, who was roving about successfully, and was proceeding prosperously in his further acts of iniquity. The earl of Ferrars also, and a nobleman named Roger de Moubray, having now openly declared their intention, which they had long concealed, followed the rest of the revolters, scarcely restraining (even during the sacred time of Lent) the impulse of the fury they had conceived ; but after the solemnity of Easter they broke out in daring adventures. Nor did the younger king at that time desist from alluring the English nobles who outwardly appeared to adhere to his father by promises and clandestine letters, and even by threats, that he might bring them over by any means to his own party; from which cause it is said that there were only a few noblemen at that time in England who were not wavering in their adherence to the king, and ready to desert him at any time, unless some check should speedily be placed upon their intentions.
Chapter XXXII: Of the King’s arrival in England, and what the Scots did there.
In the second year, therefore, of the contention that had commenced, the war was once more renewed against the elder king of England by those powerful enemies, the king of France, the count of Flanders, and the king of Scots, with all their forces. The count of Flanders (already forgetful of his brother’s death, and ambitious of possessing the English county called Kent, for which, in fact, he had already done homage to the younger Henry) was preparing a fleet to cross over into England with the young king and his forces. The king of France, intending to invade Normandy, was also preparing an army which he had collected from all quarters. When those preparations became known, the elder king, preferring that his possessions beyond the sea should be in peril rather than his own realm of England (and yet he carefully took measures that they should be fortified, for he foresaw that while he was absent, and as it were not in existence, no one in England would offer any opposition to the individual who was expected to be his successor), and anticipating the movements of his enemies, he quickly embarked for England with some cavalry and one troop of Brabancons. In the meantime, the king of the Scots, with an infinite number of barbarians of his own nation, and his accessories of mercenary cavalry and infantry from Flanders, entered the English frontiers, and obtained possession of Burgh and Appleby, two royal fortresses in Westmoreland, which he found ungarrisoned. Departing thence, he determined to lay siege again to the city of Carlisle; but an agreement being made by the affrighted citizens, that they would surrender the city to him on a certain day unless in the meantime a garrison sufficient for them should be sent by the king of England, he marched with his army to lay siege to a certain fortress by the river Tyne, called Prudhoe. Then Roger de Mowbray, whom we have before mentioned, came to him, and demanded assistance; for after two of his fortresses had been valiantly stormed and taken by Geoffrey, the natural son of the king of England, who was then bishop elect of Lincoln, he had difficulty in holding possession of a third called Thirsk. This Roger, a long time before, had given his first-born son as a hostage to the king of the Scots, who was then meditating an irruption into the province of York, and had engaged to assist and obey him in all things; and in his turn had received surety from him that he should never be left without assistance in any necessity whatsoever; but after the Scottish king had toiled at Prudhoe for many days with useless labour, (which was highly injurious to his own people,) on hearing that the military force of the county of York was raised against him, he crossed the Tyne and invaded the county of Northumberland. Everything was consumed by the Scots; to whom no kind of food is too filthy to be devoured, even that which is fit only for dogs; and while they were grasping their prey, it was a delight to that inhuman nation, more savage than wild beasts, to cut the throats of old men, to slaughter little children, to rip open the bowels of women, and to do everything of this kind that is horrible to mention. So while this army of most infamous robbers was poured into the miserable province, and the barbarians were revelling in their inhumanity, the Scottish king himself, attended by a more honourable and civilized body of military, who kept watch around him, appeared to be unemployed, and remained in observation around a very strong castle called Alnwick, in order to prevent the possibility of a band of soldiers sallying from it, and so disturbing the plunderers, who were robbing and killing around them in every direction.
Chapter XXXIII: Of the capture of the King of Scots
While matters were thus progressing in the northern parts of England, the nobles on the king’s side in the county of York, justly indignant that the Scots should infest the confines of England, assembled at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a strong body of cavalry. The occasion was so urgent that they had not time to collect their infantry together, and they came thither on Friday, the sixth day of the week, wearied by a long and laborious march. While they were there consulting together what was to be done, the more prudent declared that much had already been done, since the king of Scots, upon hearing of their arrival, had retreated so far; that this ought to suffice for the time, considering the smallness of their force, and that it was neither safe for themselves, nor useful to the king of England, to advance any further, lest they should appear to expose their scanty numbers to the infinite multitude of barbarians, to be devoured like a piece of bread; that they had not more than four hundred horse, while the enemy’s army was estimated at more than eighty thousand armed men. To this the more eager replied, that these most malignant foes ought to be attacked by all means, and that they ought not to despair of victory, which, beyond a doubt, would follow on the side of justice. Ultimately, the opinion of the latter prevailed (for God so willed it, that the event might be ascribed rather to the Divine decree than to human prudence or power), and the men of valour, among whom the principal were Robert de Stuteville, Ralph de Glanville, Bernard de Baliol, and William de Vescy, being refreshed a little by a night’s rest, set out early in the morning, and hastening forward with such swiftness as if propelled by some invisible power. For they marched twenty-four miles before five o’clock-a thing which seemed scarcely possible to be done by men loaded with the weight of armour; and while they were advancing, it is said that so dense a fog covered them that they hardly knew whither they went. Then the more prudent among them, pleading the peril of the way, declared that certain danger awaited them, unless they turned and went back. To this Bernard de Baliol, a noble and magnanimous man; said, “Let him who chooses go back, but I will go on though no one shall follow me, for I will not brand myself with perpetual infamy.” While they were thus marching onward, the fog suddenly cleared away, and they saw the castle of Alnwick before them, and joyfully they thought that it would afford them a safe place of retreat if they should be pressed by the enemy; when lo! the king of Scots, with a troop of about sixty knights or rather more, was stationed for observation in the open fields not far off, as secure as if he dreaded nothing less than an irruption from our people; the multitude of his barbarians, with part of the cavalry, being widely dispersed for plunder. When he first saw our men, he doubtless thought that they were some of his own, returning from plundering; but, upon carefully observing our leaders’ banners, he soon understood that we had now dared what he could not have suspected we would attempt. However, he was not terrified; for being surrounded by that vast, though less concentrated army, he thought (nay he did not deign to doubt) that our few and scanty troops would easily be crushed by the multitude scattered around him. Fiercely, therefore, clashing his arms, and exciting his men by his words and example, he said, “Now it will appear who knows how to be a soldier;” and rushing first upon the enemy, the others following him, he was immediately met by our men, stricken down (his horse being slain under him), and taken prisoner with almost all his troop for those who could have escaped, despising flight after he was taken prisoner, gave themselves up, of their own free will, into the hands of their enemies, in order that they might be taken prisoners along with him. Certain nobles also, who happened then to be absent, but not far off, on hearing what had occurred, soon came up at full gallop, and throwing themselves, rather than falling, into the hands of the enemy, thought it honourable to share the fate of their lord. Roger de Moubray, however, who was there at that time, on the king being captured, escaped and took refuge in Scotland. Our nobles returned joyfully in the evening with their royal prisoner to Newcastle, whence they had departed in the morning, and caused him to be safely kept in custody at Richmond, intending to send him at a convenient time to their illustrious lord the king of England. This battle was happily won, by the favour of God, on Saturday, the third of the ides of July [13th July], in the one thousand one hundred and seventy-fourth year from the fullness of time when the Word was made flesh; and the intelligence was soon circulated far and wide, and received with gladness in all the counties of England, while the bells rang for solemn joy.
Chapter XXXIV: What happened to the Army and Territory of Scotland after the King’s capture
The king of Scots being thus delivered into the hands of his enemies, the manifest vengeance of God did not permit his most hateful army to go unpunished. When the capture of their king was known, the barbarians were at first thunderstruck, and desisted from plunder; but soon after, as if impelled by the furies, they turned against each other the sword – now drunk with innocent blood – which they had taken up against their foes; for there was in that army a great number of English, since the towns and boroughs of the kingdom of Scotland are inhabited by English. On this occasion the Scots, evincing their innate hatred against them, though concealed through fear of the king, cut off as many as they met, while those able to escape took refuge in the royal fortresses. There were also in that army two brothers, Gilbert and Uctred, lords of the province of Galloway, with a numerous company of their own people; they were the sons of Fergus, formerly prince of that province, and when their father died they succeeded him, for the king of Scots, who is lord paramount of that land, had divided the inheritance between them; but Gilbert, the elder, discontented at being deprived of the whole of his paternal possessions, had always in his heart hated his brother. For a while, however, the fear of the royal displeasure had restrained the impulse of the fury he had conceived; but when the king was taken prisoner, finding himself delivered from this apprehension, he soon laid hands upon his brother, who was fearing nothing; and to gratify his execrable hatred, he killed him, though not by simple death, but with excruciating tortures. He then invaded Uctred’s dominions; and barbarians, exercising their cruelty upon barbarians, committed no small slaughter. There was, however, a son of that brother who had been so nefariously killed, by name Roland, an acute and energetic youth, who, by the co-operation of his father’s friends, resisted to the utmost his uncle’s rage. Thus the whole kingdom of Scotland was in a state of anarchy, by the most equitable disposal of God, who meted out to the wicked with that measure which they themselves had dealt to others; that is to say, those who shortly before had disturbed the peace of a harmless people, and had thirsted for the blood of the English, by a most beautiful ordinance, received retribution from each other.
Chapter XXXV: of the memorable penance of the King of England and of its consequences
King Henry the second had now come into England from Normandy, to throw the strength of his presence against his son, who was expected to arrive with the Flemish forces; but remembering how much he had sinned against the church of Canterbury, he proceeded thither immediately he had landed, and prayed, freely shedding tears, at the tomb of Thomas, the blessed bishop. On entering the chapter of the monks, he prostrated himself on the ground, and with the utmost humility entreated pardon; and, at his urgent petition, he, though so great a man, was corporally beaten with rods by all the brethren in succession. On the following night, in a dream, it was said to a certain venerable old monk of that church, “Hast thou not seen today a marvellous miracle of royal humility? Know that the result of those events which are passing around him will shortly declare how much his royal humility has pleased the King of kings.” I learned this from that most reverend and simple-minded man, Roger,’ abbot of Byland, who, while relating it, said that he had heard it from a trustworthy person, who was accidentally staying at that very time in Kent. He who touches the mountains and they, smoke, soon after clearly made known, by a notable proof, how much He valued that devotion of that smoking mountain; for on that day, and, as it is said, at that very hour in which that mountain gave forth smoke at Canterbury, the divine power overthrew his most mighty enemy the king of Scots, in the extreme confines of England: so that the reward of that pious work might not seem to have followed the work itself, but rather to have attended it, so that no man might be suffered to be in suspense on this point. This prince, departing from Canterbury, hastened to London; and having sent his military forces forward against Hugh Bigot, he made a short stay there, having been let blood. When, lo! in the middle of the night, a very swift messenger, sent by Ralph de Glanville, knocked at the gate of the palace. Being rebuked by the porter and the guards, and ordered to be quiet, he knocked the louder, saying that he brought good news on his lips, which it was positively necessary that the king should hear that very night. His pertinacity at length overcame them, especially as they hoped that he came to announce good tidings. On being admitted within the door, in the same manner he over-persuaded the royal chamberlains. When he was introduced into the royal chamber, he boldly went to the king’s couch, and aroused him from sleep. The king, on awaking, said, “Who art thou?” To which he replied, “I am the attendant upon Ralph de Glanville, your faithful liegeman, by whom I have been sent to your highness; and I come to bring good tidings.” “Ralph, our friend! Is he well?” asked the king. “He is well, my lord,” he answered; ” and, behold, he holds your enemy, the king of Scots, captive in chains at Richmond.” The king, astonished at his news, said, ” Say on;” but he only reiterated his words. “Have you no letters?” he asked; on which he produced sealed letters, containing a detail of what had been done. The king, instantly inspecting them, leaped from his bed, and, with the deepest emotion, rendered thanks, moistened with pious tears, to Him who alone does wondrous things. He then summoned the people of his household, and made them partakers of his joy. In the morning came also other messengers, reporting the same; but only one, that is, he who had come first, received the gratuity. The good tidings were immediately made public, amidst the earnest acclamations of the people, and the ringing of bells in all parts of London.
Chapter XXXVI: Of the siege of Rouen, and the insidious attack of the assailants
In the meantime, the king of France, with an overpowering army, entered Normandy from the east-that is to say, where it seemed to lie open, by reason of the castles which had been taken by the count of Flanders; and he advanced upon and besieged Rouen, the metropolis of that province. Rouen is one of the most famous cities in Europe, and is seated upon the great river Seine, by which the commerce of many regions is carried thither; and it is so well protected by that river, and by the hills about it, that scarcely a third part of it could be besieged by a single army. The younger king and the count of Flanders, surrounded by vast forces, were watching for an opportunity of crossing the sea, with the fleet which they had prepared in the port of the Morini, where there is the shortest passage into England. However, upon hearing that the elder king was already in England, and doubtless powerfully prepared to receive their attacks, they thought it would be by no means safe for them to cross over thither. So they changed their intention; thus rendering ineffectual the whole equipment of the fleet which they had prepared. Considering that the siege of Rouen would be a great undertaking, and that it would be a very profitable act to take that city, they concentrated those vast and terrible forces at that point, and increased the besieging army to an immense extent. Though so great an army had not been seen in Europe for many years previous, yet, on account of the difficult approaches to the city, they could scarcely lay siege to the third part of it. By the bridge across the river, there was both a free ingress into the town from the country, and also egress from the town into the country; so that it was supplied with all manner of necessaries in abundance: while the hostile army, nigh at hand, looked on and envied them; so that, perhaps, we might quote the remark, that “Sicilian tyrants have not found a greater torment than envy.” When strong and spirited men beheld this, almost all day going on quite near them, without the power to prevent it, they endured the sight with considerable vexation. The engines being ready to attack the city, the siege was commenced in earnest, and the army was divided into three divisions; the natural day was also divided into eight hours, so that the men might succeed each other in turns that is to say, those who were fresh might succeed the weary; and thus, by perpetually fighting, they should not leave the defenders of the walls the least time to breathe, either by day or night. But their object was defeated; for the citizens opposed this arrangement by similar skill and precaution, and also divided themselves into three bodies, and by a careful distribution met the enemy, who continued the attack in succession. Thus they provided for themselves a competent remedy against the intolerable labour and fatigue by which it was thought they would be wearied out. After they had struggled for many days with their utmost strength, and neither party had gained or lost in any respect, on the natal day of St. Lawrence [10th Aug.], the king of France, out of reverence to that excellent martyr, whom he was accustomed especially and devoutly to venerate, commanded it to be solemnly proclaimed that repose should be allowed to the city on that day. The citizens gratefully embraced that favour, and enjoyed the short interval in the most jocund manner. Young men and maidens, old men and children, as much out of joy of the day, as to irritate the enemy, shouted with loud voices in the city; while a troop of military amused themselves with tilting, in the sight of the enemy, upon the banks of the river outside the town. The count of Flanders, as it is reported, went to the king, and said: ” See, the city for which we have already toiled so much, is offered to us spontaneously, while those inside are leading dances, and those outside are sporting in security. Let the troops, therefore, silently take arms, and let the scaling-ladders be quickly placed against the wall, and we shall be masters of the town, before those men, now sporting outside it in derision of us, will be able to regain the city.” “Far be it from me to blemish my kingly honour by such a stain,” said the king; “for thou knowest that I have granted the city repose for this day, out of reverence to the most blessed Lawrence.” Upon this, all the chiefs then present, with familiar boldness, reproved his mildness, and said, “Who asks whether it be deceit or valour in an enemy?” consequently he acquiesced. So, not by the voice of the trumpet, nor that of a herald, but by the whispers of the commanders alone in the tents, was the army made ready to rush upon the city. However, by the will of God it happened, that certain clerks were at that hour amusing themselves, in some way or other, in a lofty tower of a church within the town, from which it was the custom to give a signal to the citizens when the enemy came rushing toward the walls, by ringing a very ancient but wonderfully sonorous bell. One of these clerks happened to look out of the window, and, casting his eyes over the army spread out in their tents, was at first surprised at the unusual silence in the camp, which seemed to betoken some mystery. Soon after, looking more closely from that lofty place, he observed their clandestine preparations; and when he had communicated the matter to his companions, they immediately gave the well-known signal to the city, by ringing Ruvell, for so the bell was called. When this was heard, both sides hastened forward with all their forces. The army that was already prepared rushed from the camp, and advanced to the wall with scaling-ladders; and the citizens, stimulated by the unexpected peril, seized their arms, and with ardent spirit and movements endeavoured to repel the assailants. Those also who were amusing themselves outside the town, came up with wonderful celerity. The enemy, having succeeded in placing their ladders against the wall, scaled the rampart, and then their shouts of triumph were heard. When, lo! they were bravely attacked and repulsed by the citizens, and a most furious conflict with spears was waged upon the ramparts arms and bodies met together, and much blood was shed on either side; and, at length, those who proudly had ascended were thrust headlong down again. Night put an end to the battle, and the treacherous army, after suffering much greater loss than they had inflicted, retired in confusion to the camp. The king threw the blame upon the count of Flanders, but the stain of such infamous treachery adhered most to the person of the king. From that day forward, it is certain that the besieged acted with more confidence, and the besiegers more slackly and hopelessly.
Chapter XXXVII: How the King restored Peace to England, and relieved Rouen
In the meantime, king Henry the elder, remaining in England, sent for the governors of the castles belonging to the earl of Leicester, whom he had brought with him from Normandy in bonds, and admonished them that, for the safety of their lord, they should resign those castles, issuing from which they infested the provinces. They demanded permission to confer with their lord, but it was denied them; upon which they said they would not obey the king’s wishes, unless upon the certain release of their lord. The king replied, “I will make no agreement with you upon the subject; but if you will do what I wish, you will do well.” And it is reported, that when the holy relics were brought, he swore, saying, “So may God help me, and these holy things, but the earl of Leicester shall taste nothing until you do that which I desire with respect to his castles: you may, however, depart as quickly as you can.” Then, seeing that certain and swift destruction was impending over their lord if they resisted any longer, they forthwith resigned the fortresses. Earl David, however, who had been the chief among them, having left the castle of Huntingdon, it soon afterwards surrendered to the king, and the earl hastily retired into Scotland. At these successes by the king, Hugh Bigot and the earl of Ferrars were terrified; and they also came to an agreement of their own accord, and gave security for peace and fidelity. Matters, by the will of God, being thus arranged in England, according to his vows, the king with a mighty army quickly crossed the sea, taking with him the king of Scots (who had been brought to him shortly before), the earl of Leicester, and the other noble captives. Amidst the exultations of the people throughout Normandy, at his rapid and happy return, he entered Rouen, in great pomp, in the sight of the enemy. A few days before, a messenger had arrived with the news of the capture of the king of Scots, at which the enemy were greatly grieved; but at the sudden and triumphal return of the king from England, they were stricken with astonishment. Confiding, however, in the strength of their innumerable multitudes, they persisted in the siege. The king, at night, secretly sent out a troop of Welshmen, whom he had brought from England with him, and who, taking advantage of the darkness of the woods, concealed themselves in favourable places (for men of this kind are agile and expert in woods), in order that they might observe where the supplies were conveyed to the great army. The Welshmen, availing themselves of the opportunity, rushed out from the woods, attacked the convoys, and put the horsemen by whom they were guarded to flight; and having destroyed the whole equipage, with great slaughter of men and beasts of burthen, they, retired back again to the woods. A report was soon spread that the forests were full of Welshmen; and the army suffered hunger for the space of three days on account of their supplies being intercepted. In this necessity, the siege was abandoned, and the princes departed with their vast army, carrying away no other reward for the great labour; than ignominy. They kept their ranks, however, in order to repel danger, if perchance the enemy should press upon their rear. Thus, whatever was prepared or attempted against the king of England by the malignity of his enemies, turned to his glory, God being propitious to him.
Chapter XXXVIII: Of the Reconciliation of the Kings, and the Tranquility of their Realms
While God thus smiled propitiously on this prince in all things which were done by him or around him, his enemies were so terrified and humiliated by his numerous illustrious and successful actions, that they began to treat of peace; and those persons were now made mediators for restoring unity who had been the chief inciters to discord. Accordingly, a grand conference was held between the parties, in which the fatal rancour of the princes and the disquietude of provinces were alike appeased. The count of Flanders restored to the king of England whatever of right belonged to him, but of which the chance of war had deprived him; and he claimed, for the future, security for faithful friendship on doing homage. As for that most ungrateful son, he also returned into favour with his father; and not only did he promise obedience and filial reverencefor the future, by the surety of many persons who swore to answer for his fidelity, but the king, adopting a new precaution against these ungrateful and suspected, sons, prudently exacted homage from them, which was solemnly rendered. For it was the will of his father, that he who had irreverently broken the strongest tie of nature like a spider’s web, should at least be bound to that which is honourable and useful by the civil law or the law of nations; and since it is written, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” [Eccl. iv. 12], the violator of nature in the natural law which ought to be observed to a father, might at least be true in consideration of homage and of the double tie of an oath and fealty; and he must for the future beware lest his father – who was now not only his father, but his liege lord - should justly pronounce sentence against him as it had been declared of old by the Lord of lords, through his prophet, against a disobedient people, “If then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?” [Mal. i. 6.] His youthful brothers also, whom he had influenced by the advice of the French, and led away from their father, he brought back to him; and very little question was raised about them, since their youth was their excuse. Moreover, at the instance of the king of France, and of the other princes who were there, the illustrious king of England absolutely released the earl of Leicester, and the rest of the captives, excepting the king of Scots; and after giving them their liberty, he restored their goods and honours. He intended also, at his own time, to act towards the king of Scots at once with prudence and clemency. In process of time, however, when he seemed to have forgotten those acts which had been done against him by the ungrateful and faithless, he suddenly ordered the walls of Leicester to be thrown down, and the fortifications of all those who had deserted him to be levelled; thus taking care for the future, by breaking the horns of the proud, that they should be able to attempt nothing of the same kind on any succeeding occasion. He subsequently also released the king of Scots, upon his giving security for the performance of certain stipulated covenants. Having come into England, he appointed the city of York for the performance of those stipulations. On his arrival there, in the midst of a great number of his nobles, he met the king of Scots, with the whole nobility of his realm, all of whom, in the church of the blessed prince of the Apostles, did homage and liegance to the king of England as their chief lord – that is, they bound themselves by a solemn obligation to act with him and for him against all men, even before their own sovereign. The king of Scots also before the whole multitude of the nobles of each kingdom, in the accustomed manner acknowledged the king of England as his lord and he himself to be his liege man. He also delivered up to him the three principal fortresses of the kingdom, namely, Roxburgh, Berwick, and Edinburgh, as a security. These acts being performed, the people enjoyed the long-desired peace; and the king of England became, by his success in so many enterprises, renowned throughout the world. Thus this worse than civil war, which was carried on between father and son, with such peril to so many persons, was ended.
This text is from The Church Historians of England, edited by Joseph Stevenson (London, 1856), volume 4, part 2.