Imágenes de página

laws, within a short period after the suppression of the monasteries. During these ages, when society was unsettled, and governments liable to constant change, it was only by placing charitable endowments under the broad shield of ecclesiastical protection, that they could be secured to their original purposes. The baron, whose power none might resist, shrank from laying violent hands on the property of the swordless, unpanoplied church; and he paused, ere he crossed the slight boundary that separated the fertile abbey lands from the wild wastes around, lest a higher power should avenge the wrong. And best suited to the duties required of them, were the monastic orders. The sole depositaries of the learning of the age, to whom could the education of youth with more propriety be committed? The possessors of almost all the medical skill of the day, to whom could the superintendence of the hospital be more fitly entrusted? and where could the traveller or the pilgrim, find so safe a lodging place, or, if need were, a secure and permanent retreat, as within those hallowed walls, which, while the castle might be razed to the ground, and the town itself become a heap of ruins, would stand untouched, protected by the respect of a superstitious, but yet religious and grateful people. Even in the present day, to the philosopher devoted to his absorbing pursuits; to the aged and solitary man of letters; to the lady, high-born, perchance, but thrust by adverse fortunes from the sphere in which she was destined to move, the abbey, with its noble halls, its pleasant cloisters, and its quiet cells, may still appear a vision of peace and repose, on which the mind will linger with feelings of unavailing regret.*

As it is not intended in this work to encroach upon the province of general history, except in reference to those political events in which the influence of the queen consort may be traced, the state of public affairs, during this period, will require but a short notice. In contests with his archbishop Anselm, respecting the rights of investiture, and with his gallant brother, for the sovereignty of Normandy; in reducing his refractory nobles, and in framing laws which, though characterized by great severity, were perhaps on the whole beneficial, the first years of Beauclerc's reign was past. But with affairs of state, either directly or indirectly, Maude seems never to have interfered: happy for Beauclerc's conscience, and better for his fame, had her gentle influence, after the decisive battle of Tenchebrai, induced him to have dealt less harshly with his chivalrous brother, and less cruelly toward his hapless cousin Moretoil. But, unlike her mother, Maude was neither the cherished wife, nor the beloved and respected adviser; and, while from the pages of every chronicler we learn that to the end of her short life all the wealth and honours of royalty were lavishly bestowed on her, we find not the slightest hint that Henry loved her while living, or mourned her when dead. This distaste of Beauclerc to the society of his queen, is thus clearly,

* The reader will bear in mind that these latter remarks have no reference to the peculiar religions duties of the monastic orders.

though in courtly phrase, alluded to by Malmsbury. After stating, that during the greater part of her reign she resided at Westminster, occupied in deeds of charity and devotion, he continues : "She there remained many years, enduring with complacency, when the kingwas elsewhere employed during the absence of the court; yet was no portion of royal munificence denied her, for so the king's liberality commanded:" a remark which evidently places Maude in the character of a neglected wife.

Nor is this surprising, when we call to mind the strict conventual education, and the strong religious feeling of the Saxon princess, and contrast with them the licentious habits, and the fierce and unscrupulous conduct of Beauclerc. The importance of conciliating his Saxon subjects alone, as we have seen, induced him to form this alliance; and when we learn from Malmsbury, the only chronicler who refers to her personal appearance, that Maude was "not despicable in point of beauty," so cold a remark from so courtly an historian, emphatically proves that her claim to personal attraction was indeed small, and this affords another reason for the neglect of the beauty-loving monarch. That point of state policy, the union of the Saxon and Norman lines, having been effected, Beauclerc seems to have left a wife (for whose virtues he felt no admiration, and who to beauty could advance no claim,) to pursue her own quiet pleasures, while he, in the society of his gayer and fairer mistresses, led his splendid court from city to city, or passed over to Normandy, where, on one occasion, he and his court sojourned for more than two years.

But not many years of existence were destined for the "good queen Maude." Amid her devotional services, her charitable efforts, and her liberal patronage of letters, "she was snatched away," says Malmsbury, "to the great loss of the people, but her own great advantage." Of the cause of her death, or of the circumstances attending it, no chronicle has left any information. Malmsbury, whose account of her is far more copious than that of any other writer, merely states that "she died willingly, leaving the throne, after a reign of seventeen years and six months, experiencing the fate of her family, who almost all died in the flower of their age.* In the month of May, 1118, Maude departed, leaving two children—William the Adeling, and Maude, who in 1110, at the tender age of six years, was sent to Germany, where she became the bride of the emperor Henry the Fifth.

Whether Beauclerc paid his queen the last empty honour of attendance at her funeral, is not known ;t her obsequies were, however, "splendidly celebrated at Westminster and a noble tomb (for which the London citizens yearly provided a pall, together with "oil to burn before the sepulchre of the queen," t a tribute of respect doubtless from Saxon London to the Saxon princess,) was subequently

* She probably died of consumption, since two of her brothers fell victims to that disease.

f Probably he did not; Dr. Lingard considers him to have been absent in Normandy from 1116 to the close of 1119.

J Vide Pipe Roll 31st Henry I.

raised to her memory; but of it no vestige remains.

The rude tomb, ascribed by tradition to its founder, still meets the eye; the shrine, once blazing with gems and gold, which incloses the remains of the canonized Confessor, still is pointed out to the passer-by ; but in that proud receptacle of royal ashes, no sculptured memorial, not even a stone, marks the spot where the remains of the last Saxon princess repose. Yet her memory is not forgotten; for, while every other queen is remembered but by her baptismal name, or at most by the superadded title of her house, the first wife of Beauclerc, alone, is handed down to us, with the affectionate and honourable appellation of the "Good Queen Maude/1

« AnteriorContinuar »