Imágenes de página



Parentage of Maude—Her Education—Notices of the Abbeys of Wilton and Romsey—General View of Female Conventual Education—Her Marriage with Beauclerc—State of London and Westminster—Westminster Abbey—The Royal Court—Anselm—Bishop Roger—Gundulph—De Bigod—Hugh Lupus—Robert Meulan.

VERY interesting and romantic is the history of the family and early life of the " Good Queen Maude." In a happy hour, as it seemed to the Saxon race, did her grandfather, Edward, the only brother of the renowned Ironside, return from Hungary to be acknowledged by the feeble and vacillating Confessor as heir to the English crown. Too soon were their hopes destroyed: only a few months elapsed after his arrival in England ere the requiem was sung for him, and he was followed to his noble tomb in St. Paul's by the unavailing regrets of the whole nation. Again the weak-minded monarch yielded to Norman influence—the claim of Edgar, Edward's only son, was set aside in favour of Duke William. Harold, on the Confessor's death, clutched the golden circlet: the battle of Hastings was fought, and, too timid to assert his hereditary claim, Edgar "the noble child," as he is fondly termed by the Saxon Chronicle, set sail with his mother and sisters to Scotland. The important results of this voyage cannot be better related than in the precise words of the venerable Saxon Chronicle:

"This summer the child Edgar departed with his mother Agatha, and his two sisters, Margaret and Christina, and many good men with them, and came to Scotland under the protection of Malcolm, who entertained them all. Then began Malcolm to yearn after the child's sister Margaret to wife; but he and all his men long refused, and she also herself was averse, and said she would neither have him nor any one else, if the Supreme Power would grant that she in her maidenhood might please the mighty Lord in this short life in pure continence. The king, however, earnestly urged her brother, till he answered, 'Yea.' And, indeed, he durst not otherwise, for they were come into his kingdom. So that then it was fulfilled what God had long ere foreshown; and else it could not be, as he himself saith in his Gospel,—' Not even a sparrow on the ground may fall without his foreshowing.' The prescient Creator wist long before what he of her would have done, for that she should increase the glory of God in this land, lead the king aright from the path of error, bend him and his people to a better way, and suppress the bad customs which the nation formerly followed, all of which she afterwards did. The king therefore received her, though against her will, and was well pleased with her manners, and thanked God, who of his might had given him such a match."

And great and important benefits did the Saxon princess confer alike on her husband and her kingdom. She afforded a secure asylum to those of her countrymen who fled the rigour of the Norman yoke; she welcomed, with magnificent presents, learned men from all parts of the continent; she 1ntroduced the Saxon tongue into her dominions; and, both by precept and example, promoted the spread of religion; nor did she consider the civilization of the people as beneath her care; for she encouraged a taste for pomp and splendour, patronized the importation of gold and silver plate, of rich and precious foreign stuffs, increased the number of personal attendants on the king, and adopted an unusual magnificence of apparel. With affectionate admiration did the rude warrior-king behold the splendour and refinements which the taste and intelligence of his beloved Margaret had placed around him; and, fascinated by her many talents—talents which in the eyes of the unlettered monarch seemed little short of angelic—he unquestioningly listened to her counsels, and devoutly imitated her religious duties. Malmsbury tells us how that, when after attending service at Church, she used to feed large companies of the poor, Malcolm was accustomed to stand beside her \ while, as the last act of hospitality toward her grateful guests, she poured water on their hands \ and her confessor relates with what devotion he used to kiss her prayer-books and missal, and how gorgeously he had them bound, although to him, indeed, sealed volumes; for the far-feared Malcolm Canmore was unable to read a syllable. "When the queen undertook to correct some alleged abuses of the church, Malcolm stood interpreter

Ciuko Z ^¥3

between the fair and royal reformer, and such of the clergy as did not understand English, which he loved because it was the^native tongue of Margaret."*

Six-and-twenty years did this auspicious union continue; and six children attained to years of maturity: Edward, who was slain at Alnwick, with his father; Edgar, Alexander, and David, who each in turn wore the crown, (and of whom the admiring chronicler relates, "no history has ever recorded three kings, and at the same time three brothers, who were of equal sanctity, of such severe virtue, and such extensive charity "f) ; and two daughters, Mary, afterwards married to Eustace earl of Boulogne, and Maude, the subject of the present memoir. In 1093 Malcolm, with his eldest son, lost their lives at the siege of Alnwick: and his deeply attached Margaret, disgusted with life,'' says Malmsbury, "on the news of his death earnestly entreated of God to die;'* a boon soon conceded; for she followed him to the grave within a few months, leaving a character so illustrious for benevolence and piety, as to obtain for her admission into the long bead-roll of mediaeval saints, and a memory so dear to a grateful and attached people, that from this early period, even to the present day, the Scottish nation have hallowed with peculiar fondness the name of Margaret.

It is probable that the tumults consequent on Malcolm's brother assuming the crown, to the exclusion of his three nephews, were the cause of

* Southey. f Malmsbury.

Maude, with her sister, being sent to England, and consigned to the care of their aunt Christina, who, in 1085, had taken the veil. Contemporary historians concur in representing Wilton and Romsey as the abbeys in which the future queen of England found an asylum. Both of these were Saxon foundations; Wilton claimed an origin as early as the year 800, when Wulstan, duke of Wiltshire, founded a chantry which his widow Alburga converted into a nunnery; and which, in after years, became the residence of St. Editha, the fair and pious daughter of a profligate father, King Edgar. An incident related of her by Malmsbury, places her good sense in a very favourable point of view, and corroborates the opinion that convents, in those early times, were not those abodes of stern rule and severe restriction which in modern times they have become. Although the inmate of a convent, Editha chose to dress "right royally; and the right royal apparel of that age was both splendid and graceful. Her confessor, therefore—and he too was in training for a saint, being afterwards invoked as St. Ethelwold—on one occasion publicly reproved her; the royal maiden bowed not to episcopal rebuke, but replied, "I think a mind may be as pure beneath these rich vestments, as beneath your tattered furs." The good Bishop meekly assented to the truth of this reply, "reddening with joy,'' says Malmsbury, "that he had been thus stigmatized by the sparkling repartee of the damsel." While very young, Editha became abbess of Wilton; and soon after, while Dunstan was celebrating service in her presence, he marked the

« AnteriorContinuar »