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ADELAIS OF LOUVAIN.
The wreck of the " White Ship"—Parentage of Adelais—Her Marriage with Henry—Her Literary Taste—Royal Progresses—Feud of the Rival Crosses—Henry's Death—State of the People—Second Marriage of Adelais—William de Albini—Her Death.
THE death of Maude, although long lamented by the people, and recorded by every historian as a national calamity, produced no political effect; nor did Henry, engaged in active war against France, and in vigilantly superintending the affairs of England and Normandy, evince any inclination to supply her place with a second queen. The following year— the twentieth of his reign—saw him attain his highest degree of elevation, and probably the height of his wishes. Over England and Normandy he reigned in undisputed sovereignty; with France he had just concluded an honourable peace; his daughter had been crowned with the diadem of the Ceesars; and his son, to whom he had given the duchy of Normandy, had been very advantageously contracted to the daughter of the powerful Fulke, earl of Anjou, the most illustrious of an illustrious race. This young prince (to whom at the age of fourteen the whole nobility of England had done homage, as heir to the crown, at Shrewsbury) was the eldest child of the "good queen Maude," and his reign was an
ticipated with exultation both by Saxon and Norman. "Many provinces," says Malmsbury, "looked forward to the government of this youth; and it was said that now the hopes of England, like a tree cut down, would, through this boy, blossom and bring forth fruit, and thus put an end to her sufferings; but God saw otherwise, for this illusion vanished into air, as an early day was hastening him to his fate."* But, unconscious of impending calamity, engaged in affairs of state, and in sanctioning by his presence the festivals which graced the nuptials of the youthful pair, Henry protracted his stay in Normandy until the beginning of winter; nor did his numerous fleet quit Barbefleur until the 26th of November,—a day long remembered in the annals of almost every noble house in England, for the fatal wreck of the " White ship," in which three of the king's children, and a large number of the first nobility of the land, found a grave.
The royal fleet, which the hapless master of the fatal "White ship" had attempted to overtake, meanwhile arrived safely at Southampton, and anxiously did Henry await the arrival of his son. At length the melancholy tale was confided to Theobald of Blois; but he, though a nephew, not daring to communicate the sad news to the king, whispered it in the court; nor did Beauclerc learn his calamity, until at length a young page, falling
* This young prince is, by some of the chroniclers, represented as most haughty and profligate. Considering the character of many of his companions, this is not unlikely; but the story of his hatred of the Saxons— Saxon as he was both by birth and maternal descent—seems altogether untrue.
before his footstool, told him how in one moment all his long cherished plans had been blighted. The king, overcome, fell senseless on the floor; but, not deserted even in this extremity by his characteristic duplicity, he talked most learnedly, on his recovery, of " chance and change;" and, as though he had been a saint, discoursed on the duty of resignation to God. But such vain shew of submission to the will of Heaven, in one whose whole life had been spent in opposition to its commands, could not deceive his courtiers. They saw his agony in the sickness that refused food until life had almost given way, and in the deepened furrows of that brow over which no smile ever passed for the long period of sixteen years, even until death released him from his sorrow. Two nephews, and three children (Richard, and the countess of Perche, both illegitimate; andWilliam, the heir to the crown), did the king lose; while scarcely a noble family in England, or Normandy, had not to mourn, in the loss of some son or brother, the disastrous wreck of the "White ship."
Destitute of a male heir, the king now determined again to marry; and by the advice of Radulph, archbishop of Canterbury, the successor of Anselm, and his chief counsellors, (but more, it is probable, by the fame of her exquisite beauty,) he sent proposals of marriage to Godfrey Barbatus, duke of Louvain, for the hand of his daughter Adelais. Of the date of birth, or particulars of the education and early life of this "fair girl, the chosen lady of the kingdom," no historian has left
us any memorial. From the term * used by most of the chroniclers, when recording this marriage, it would appear that she was very young; and from the remark of one of them, that Henry married her for beauty, not for aggrandizement, we may well believe that beauty was her only dower. But, although the daughter of a comparatively petty German prince, Adelais was as nobly allied as the king of England;—her mother Sophia was daughter of the emperor Henry IV. of Germany (to whose son Henry had espoused his only daughter); and Wido, her father's brother, formerly bishop of Vienna, now wore the papal diadem as pope Calixtus. Toward the close of the year 1120, therefore, a numerous retinue, by command of the king, set out for Louvain, to bring from "those transmarine parts" that "virgin girl, distinguished for her elegance and modest grace, that future lady of the kingdom,"t who was to fill the royal chair of the "good/5 but unloved, queen Maude. At the commencement of the year 1121 Adelais arrived in England. She was conducted with great pomp to Windsor, and there, on the feast of Candlemas, married by the bishop of Winchester to Henry. The following day Radulf, the archbishop of Canterbury, crowned and anointed her queen at Westminster.
The young and beautiful queen soon became a general favourite. Many were the eulogies, and
* " Puella,"—(Vide Cent. Flor. Wigorn.) t Ibid.
many were the celebrations of "Aliz la bele;" but scarcely from Anglo-Norman poet (though Gaimar, or even the more poetical narrator of the Voyage of St. Brandan, were among their number) could she receive compliments more graceful than that of Henry of Huntingdon, in his Latin epigram addressed to her. Truly the fairest queen in the present day might not scorn such homage.
"What crown would'st choose, O fairest one? why seek for thee the gem? Jewels will fade upon that brow, nor glow the diadem. That gorgeous clothing, hence away; by Nature thou'rt so drest, That she herself can add no more, but owns thee loveliest: Hence, gems and pearls—aye, hence; sweet queen, their fading lustre see;They add no beauty to that brow, but borrow light from thee."
And the fair Adelais had taste sufficient to appreciate this elegant compliment; for, in respect to similarity of literary tastes, Henry was remarkably fortunate in both his queens; and the court of Adelais, even more than the court of Maude, became the general resort of every literary character of the age.
The tranquil appearance of affairs in Normandy permitted the uninterrupted residence of Beauclerc in England, for some length of time after his marriage with the fair Adelais, to whom he was greatly attached; and he settled on her, in addition to the usual provision for the queen consort, the castle and earldom of Arundel, which at this period included the greater part of Sussex. He gave also to her chaplain, Godfrey of Louvain, the bishopric of