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or heaven's ministers/' Unlike his more refined fellow nobles, Hugh the Wolf was addicted to enormous gluttony; and thus, notwithstanding his stirring life, grew so unwieldy, that he could scarcely be lifted upon his horse. The Welch gave him the scoffing title of Hugh the Fat. The enraged Lord Marcher determined to show them that he still had equal right to that of the Wolf, and mounting his war-steed, with a band of fierce vassals he crossed the marches, carrying fire, sword, and desolation whereever he went. In the midst of all this, Hugh Lupus, now an old man, fell grievously ill; and then he sent a piteous message to Anselm to come and see him. What success followed the worthy Archbishop's exhortations the chroniclers have not informed us; but the richly endowed monastery of St. Werburgh, in the city of Chester, stood for many ages a memorial of Hugh Lupus's grievous illness, and of gratitude for his restoration to health.*
But the nobleman who, beyond all others, possessed the king's confidence, and who, from his age, high station, experience, and superior talents, well deserved so, was the celebrated Robert de Meulan, or earl of Mellent. This celebrated man, (of whom Henry of Huntingdon says, "he was in worldly affairs the wisest man between England and Jerusalem, and of such great power, that he made the kings of France and England friends or foes at his pleasure,") was the son of Roger de Bellamont/ Lord of Pont-Audomare. He succeeded his uncle in the earldom of Meulan, and at the battle of Hastings
* Vide Ormerod's Cheshire.
signalized himself "by charging and breaking in upon the enemy with the force which he commanded. For this effective service he became a large sharer Jn the spoils with which William rewarded his valiant followers: he possessed sixty-four manors in Leicestershire, sixty-four in Warwickshire, besides others ]n various counties. He seems to have displayed all the haughtiness and overbearing spirit which have been considered characteristic of these great feudal lords. "If displeased with any man," says Henry of Huntingdon, "he forced him to be submissive; if pleased, he advanced him as he chose.In the reign of the Red King he went to Rouen, and demanded of duke Robert the castle of Ivery. The duke answered, that he had exchanged with his father the castle of Brien for it, which was fully equivalent; but the fierce lord of Meulan replied, "I allow not the bargain; what your father gave my father that will I have.'' Words grew high, and duke Robert caused him to be imprisoned. He was however soon released, his father paying largely; and this was, probably, the reason of his firm adherence to Beauclerc, and the eagerness with which he pursued the war against Robert in Normandy. In 1107 Henry bestowed on his favourite counsellor that splendid fief, the vacant earldom of Liecester. In the government of the borough of this lordship, Robert de Meulan seems to have conducted himself with great moderation: he conceded many privileges to the burgesses, one especially of great importance; it was, that all pleas should be discussed and decided by a jury of twenty-four townsmen. For this right the burgesses of Leicester agreed to pay him a penny a year for every house in the High Street which had a gabel; the payment therefore received the name of gavel pence. This record seems strongly to corroborate the statement which we meet in many ancient writers, relative to the great superiority of Leicester, both in size and wealth, as compared with most other towns during the middle ages; the High Street must have been long indeed, and the gabel-roofed houses most numerous, to afford a sufficient number of pence, to have paid a price at all equivalent to so important a boon.
This rich, and powerful, and influential earl, exemplified in his last years the precept of the ancient philosopher, "to call no man happy until his death." He had married Isabel, daughter of Hugh count of Vermandois, a noble who, for his prowess in the crusades, obtained the title of "Great." This lady, who it seems was considerably younger than himself, left him for another, who is supposed to have been the earl of Warren, whom, on her husband's death, she married. The faithlessness of this beloved wife caused him in his old age so much sorrow, that he fled to that usual asylum of the worn-out warrior and disappointed man, the cloister. The haughty earl of Mellent and Leicester took the cowl in the abbey of Preux in Normandy, where, in 1118, he died.
A favourable estimate of the morals of the female nobility in those days, may be formed from the manner in which the monkish chroniclers relate the faithlessness of Isabel of Vermandois. In their pages we meet with no parallel instance, and they seem to view her conduct with an indignant wonder, which speaks highly for the general morality of the times.
Such were the chief personages, both in Church and State, that assembled around Maude on her day of coronation; and not without feelings acutely painful must she have gazed on that splendid company, as the recollection arose to her mind, that, without one single exception, all were foreigners. Among the ranks of the black monks of Westminster, among the inferior attendants of the haughty Norman barons, some countryman might find a place; and from among the rude crowd that pressed around to gaze on the gorgeous ceremony, some whisper in that tongue so sweet, because the language of her infancy, might greet her ear; but well did she know, that, within the precincts of her splendid court, she would sit the solitary daughter of a proscribed race, in the midst of those to whom the name and the language of England were alike a scorn and a mockery.
What would have been the exultation of the Saxon queen, could some supernatural hand have lifted the veil of futurity, and shewn her the illustrious descendants of those very Normans proudly boasting the name of Englishman; and could some prophetic voice have whispered in her ear, that that very language, in all its essential elements, should become the vernacular tongue of one-third of the civilized world.
Maude's Patronage of Literature—Minstrelsy; Norman, Saxon, Breton —Her Charitable Foundations—St. Giles in the Fields—Priory of the Holy Trinity at Aldgate—Other Foundations—Nunnery of Clerkenwell—Commandery of St. John—General Remarks on these Establishments—Death of Maude.
FROM the concurrent testimony of historians, and more especially from the pages of her contemporary Malmsbury, we learn that the literary tastes of Maude had ample scope for their gratification in the comparatively intellectual court of Beauclerc. This monarch (who is said to have received his education at Cambridge, and who is also said to have found in the cultivation of letters a delightful solace under the many insults and privations to which his position of youngest brother exposed him,) from the period of his accession to the throne to his death was distinguished as the munificent patron of literary men. And well suited to sympathize with him, in this the most laudable of his tastes, was the Saxon princess. "At all times," says Malmsbury, "crowds of visitants and disours" (I use the Norman term, because the strict English translation, "talebearers," gives altogether an incorrect notion,) "were in endless multitudes entering and departing from her superb dwelling" (Westminster); "for this the king's liberality commanded, and her own kindness and affability attracted. She had also a singular pleasure in hearing the service of God,