« AnteriorContinuar »
Elinor liberated by her son, and appointed to the Regency—State of the Jews in England—Fitz-Ailwyn the first Lord Mayor—Richard's Naval Force for his Crusade—Elinor's Voyage to Cyprus—Berengaria—Elinor's Embassy to the Pope—Richard's Captivity—Elinor's Letters to Celestine—She proceeds to Germany with her Son's Ransom—Richard's Return—Proclamation of Tournaments—Richard's Death—Elinor's Embassy to Castile—Besieged at Mirabeau—She retires to Fontevraud, and there dies—Her Character.
THE first step taken by the gallant Cceur de Lion, after receiving the oath of allegiance from his vassals of Anjou and Normandy, was to send over to England an order for the release of his mother from her long captivity, and for her appointment as queen regent there, until he should be enabled in person to take charge of the affairs of his kingdom. And "a sadder and a better" woman did the now aged Elinor come forth from her prison towers,* to take the temporary rule of her son's most important hereditary possession. According to the long-established custom, on the occasion of the accession of a new monarch, she commanded the doors of every prison to be set open, and generously enjoined all to offer prayers for the soul of her deceased husband. To this duty she seems to have paid remarkable attention ; since it is mentioned by more than one writer that, in her sub* Later historians mention Winchester as the place ; her contemporaries do not give us the name.
sequent progress through the kingdom, she distributed large sums to the ecclesiastics for the same purpose.
Invested with plenary power, (for her affectionate son "gave commandment,'' says Matthew Paris, "to the chief men of the kingdom, that all things should be disposed according to the will of the queen,") Elinor proceeded to make strict inquiry respecting all those who had suffered by the caprice or injustice of the late king,—an office, the chroniclers remark,well suited to one who had experienced in her own person the miseries of captivity, and who could know, by actual feeling, " that most joyful refreshment of soul when set free." Accordingly, under her auspices, "whom the father had disinherited, the son restored to their rights; whom the father exiled, those the son recalled; whom the father bound in fetters, those the son set free; and whoever the father caused to be oppressed with divers penalties, the son most piously comforted."*
The forest laws, which under Beauclerc, but especially during the reign of Stephen, had greatly relaxed their pressure, under the rule of Plantagenet, had been enforced with a rigour so severe—for Henry was " a mighty hunter"—that the prisons were filled with offenders, and the woods with outlaws. To conciliate the people, therefore, and to obtain the services of a numerous and active body of men, Elinor, " above all things," says the chronicler, "gave orders, that all who had been taken for offences in
the forests should be quietly liberated; and that all outlaws of the forest, and all others who had been in custody by the will of the king, or his justiciar, should have full pardon, on swearing fidelity to his lord, Richard king of England."*
Rather more than a month from his father's death elapsed ere Richard arrived. Early in August he landed at Portsmouth, and, immediately proceeding to Winchester, took possession of the royal treasury, and ''caused to be weighed and set down " all his father's treasures. These were indeed "right royalmore than ninety thousand pounds of gold and silver, besides plate, jewellery, and an immense collection of precious stones. Here he held his first court, and a council for the general affairs of the kingdom, at which we find Elinor assisting. From Winchester he went to Salisbury— the Old Sarum of the present day, a city of remarkable strength—and there he gave, to his brother John, Hawise, the daughter and heiress of the earl of Gloster, and the custody of six castles, among which were the important ones of Marlborough and Nottingham. After proceeding on his progress as far asNottingham, Richard turned southward, and took his way toward London, where preparations were making for his immediate coronation. This ceremony occupies an important place in our histories of England, both on account of its being the first of which the chroniclers have given a full detail, and the unhappy celebrity it has obtained, in consequence
of that cruel massacre of the Jews, which formed so melancholy a conclusion to its pomp and splendour. Both these are so fully detailed in our popular histories of England, that it is unnecessary to do more than refer to them. A few remarks on the state of the Jews at this period will, however, contribute to a better understanding of many of those circumstances respecting them, which will claim our notice in the subsequent pages.
The opinion which assigns the introduction of the Jews into England to the mandate of the Conqueror, has been proved by Dr. Tovey to be erroneous; and the earliest notice of them which he has been able to discover, is in the " Canonical Excerptions ^ of Eckbright, archbishop of York in 740, where Christians are forbidden to be present at any of the Jewish feasts. Very little is known of them, however, from that time until the conquest, when their numbers were probably greatly increased by arrivals of their brethren from Normandy; where, at this period, particularly at Rouen, they were both numerous and wealthy. According to Hoveden, the Conqueror enacted, "that they should be under the king's protection; that they should not subject themselves to any other without his leave; that they, and all theirs, should belong to the king; and that if any should detain any of their goods, he might challenge them as his own.'' And on this miserable pretence of protection were this singular people willing to dwell in England, even until the period of their compulsory exile. During the reign of Rufus, they seem to have enjoyed both quiet and security; their illustrious brethren of Spain, as we have seen in a preceding chapter, had opened schools at Oxford, and the king employed them in various money transactions.
During the reign of Henry, we have no account of them, except the incidental notices in the Pipe Roll, from which it appears that they were numerous in London, and apparently wealthy and prosperous. In the tenth of Stephen, we find first mention made of the charge, afterwards so frequently brought against them, that of crucifying a child. This was said to have taken place at Norwich ; but it was probably a fiction of their enemies, since Dr. Tovey truly observes, " they are never said to have practised it, but at such times as the kings were manifestly in great want of money."
During the wasting wars of this reign, the situation of the Jews must have been most unenviable; since, by the partizans of Stephen, by the friends of the empress, and no less by the foreign mercenaries, this unfortunate race must have been considered fair objects of plunder. Nothing, however, is mentioned respecting their condition, until the eighteenth of Plantagenet, when we find that he granted them the privilege of having a cemetery adjoining each town in which they resided,—an important boon; for previously to this permission but one spot was recognized as a place of sepulture for all the Jews throughout England. This was a piece of ground extending from the northern gate of London to the watch-tower, or Barbican, and termed the Jews' garJen—a name afterwards changed for its present ap