Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

CHAPTER V.

Accession of Stephen—Parentage of Maude of Boulogne—The Knights Templars—The Battle of the Standard—Maude's Mediation with her Uncle—The Miseries of the War—Characteristic Legends—Battle of Lincoln—Exertions of Maude to procure Stephen's release—Founds Coggeshall Abbey, and the Hospital of St. Katherine—Her Death.

THERE is much simple pathos in that short sentence of the Saxon Chronicle, which describes the general alarm consequent on the death of Henry. "Then was there quickly great tribulation in the land; for every man that might, soon robbed the other." Nor were these disorders the effects of a mere transient storm, lasting only until the monarch had firmly seized the reins of government; but "such things," (says the same venerable chronicle, after detailing the fearful scenes of anarchy which ensued,) "we suffered nineteen years for our sins."

Immediately upon Henry's decease, Stephen of Blois, calculating on the distaste of the nobles to a female reign, and yet more on that general fame which proclaimed him the most popular man in England, with a precipitation which betrayed his anxiety to possess that crown, which to him indeed proved one of thorns, set sail from Witsand, and welcomed by lightning,* and heralded by thunders—fit omens of his most disastrous reign— landed on the Kentish shore.

With instinctive dread, both Dover and Canterbury closed their gates against him: — but the challenger of a crown, undaunted by these adverse indications, advanced boldly to London, when he saw her gates joyfully thrown open, and heard the myriad voices of her citizens loudly proclaim him king. The citizens of the noble and royal city of Winchester, too, through the agency of his younger brother, their bishop, opened with equal willingness their gates; while William de Pont de la Arche, by placing in the fortunate adventurer's hand the keys of the castle, and of the royal treasury, put him in possession, not merely of one of the strongest fortresses in the kingdom, but of an inestimable collection of plate and jewels, besides money to the amount of 100,000/., a sum equal in the present day to more than a million and a half.

In the mean time Hugh de Bigod, the hereditary seneschal, arrived in England; and, whether influenced by hostility to the empress, or by attachment to Stephen, or whether the tale he told were indeed true, declared on oath, before the archbishop of Canterbury, that, subsequently to the dictation of his will, Henry, irritated by some neglect or affront of the empress, had revoked it, and disinheriting

* "Moreover, it is well known, that, on the day when Stephen landed in England, there was very early in the morning, contrary to the nature of winter, a terrible peal of thunder with roost dreadful lightning, so that the world seemed well nigh about to be dissolved."— (Malmsbury.)

her and her heirs, had constituted Stephen, earl of Moretoil and Boulogne, his successor. The archbishop lent a willing ear to a statement, which, according to the feelings of the age, seemed to afford some pretext for breaking his solemnly ratified vow on behalf of one who had promised most largely to the clergy; and on the 26th of December, the day consecrated to his titular saint, Stephen, amid the acclamations of the Londoners, to whom he had guaranteed the restoration of the "good and ancient laws, and just customs of the land," was solemnly crowned in the abbey church of Westminster by the archbishop, assisted by the bishops of Salisbury and Winchester.

The queen of Stephen seems to have continued at Boulogne during the winter; for not until the following spring did her coronation take place. Then, on Easter-day, was that proud ceremony again performed in the abbey church of Westminster, and the crown placed on the brow of a second queen Maude,—one who, from her gentle character and extensive benevolence, was hailed as no unworthy successor to that namesake queen, whose memory was still affectionately cherished by the people.

Of the early life of the subject of our present memoir, Maude of Boulogne, very little is known. Her father Eustace, count of Boulogne, was early distinguished for his bravery, and accompanied his two brothers, Godfrey and Baldwin, with their gallant army, in that first crusade, when the banner of the cross was planted on the walls of Jerusalem, and his most chivalrous brother hailed by the united voice of the Christian army as alone worthy to be their king. On his return, Eustace (who, in addition to the county of Boulogne, possessed large estates in Essex) was married, by the arrangement of Beauclerc, in 1102, to Mary, the sister of queen Maude, and this daughter was his only child. He seems to have resided principally in England; but on the decease of his brother Baldwin, the second king of Jerusalem, in 1118, an embassy was sent to invite him to accept the crown, already worn by two of his brothers. He set out for Palestine, and had advanced as far as Apulia; when hearing that his cousin, Baldwin de Bourg, had been elected to the vacant throne, he generously returned back, more anxious to preserve the peace of the Christian world, than to encircle his brow with a diadem. The date and circumstances of his decease are unknown. Young Maude, as his only child, became inheritrix both of his English and continental possessions; and the king, anxious to secure these important estates in his family, married her to his favourite nephew, Stephen, the third son of his sister Adela.

Although Maude of Boulogne neither by birth nor marriage was entitled to a crown, yet few of the daughters of princes could boast relationship with so many crowned heads. Two of her father's brothers had swayed the warrior-sceptre of the kingdom of Jerusalem: on her mother's side, her grandfather, grandmother, and three uncles, wore, successively, the Scottish crown; while her aunt was the queen of England.

From the circumstance of her numerous English relations, and her large English possessions, it seems probable that Maude of Boulogne received her education in England. Under the auspices of that aunt, whom in her general character she so greatly resembled, and after whom most probably she had been named. Subsequently to her marriage her residence in London is proved by the burial of her two eldest children in the church of the Holy Trinity beside Aldgate.

The accession of Stephen to the throne seems to have been viewed, even by the few partizans of the empress, as an event so consonant to the wishes of the nation, that no hand was raised to oppose it; and in the spring the standard of the empress was raised, not by English or Norman baron, but by David of Scotland, her uncle, who crossed the border, reduced many of the northern towns, and compelled their inhabitants to swear fealty to his niece. Beneath the walls of Durham he was met by Stephen; no battle however took place—a peace was concluded ; after which Henry, the eldest son of David, did homage to Stephen, in the stead of his father, for his English fiefs in England, which consisted of the towns of Carlisle and Doncaster, together with the town and title of earl of Huntingdon.

The period of tranquillity which succeeded, as compared with the many years of warfare, was but the brief pause which so often intervenes between

« AnteriorContinuar »