1087
A.D. 1087 . After the birth of our Lord and Saviour Christ, one
thousand and eighty-seven winters; in the one and twentieth year
after William began to govern and direct England, as God granted
him, was a very heavy and pestilent season in this land. Such a
sickness came on men, that full nigh every other man was in the
worst disorder, that is, in the diarrhoea; and that so
dreadfully, that many men died in the disorder. Afterwards came,
through the badness of the weather as we before mentioned, so
great a famine over all England, that many hundreds of men died a
miserable death through hunger. Alas! how wretched and how
rueful a time was there! When the poor wretches lay full nigh
driven to death prematurely, and afterwards came sharp hunger,
and dispatched them withall! Who will not be penetrated with
grief at such a season? or who is so hardhearted as not to weep
at such misfortune? Yet such things happen for folks' sins, that
they will not love God and righteousness. So it was in those
days, that little righteousness was in this land with any men but
with the monks alone, wherever they fared well. The king and the
head men loved much, and overmuch, covetousness in gold and in
silver; and recked not how sinfully it was got, provided it came
to them. The king let his land at as high a rate as he possibly
could; then came some other person, and bade more than the former
one gave, and the king let it to the men that bade him more.
Then came the third, and bade yet more; and the king let it to
hand to the men that bade him most of all: and he recked not how
very sinfully the stewards got it of wretched men, nor how many
unlawful deeds they did; but the more men spake about right law,
the more unlawfully they acted. They erected unjust tolls, and
many other unjust things they did, that are difficult to reckon.
Also in the same year, before harvest, the holy minster of St.
Paul, the episcopal see in London, was completely burned, with
many other minsters, and the greatest part, and the richest of
the whole city. So also, about the same time, full nigh each
head-port in all England was entirely burned. Alas! rueful and
woeful was the fate of the year that brought forth so many
misfortunes. In the same year also, before the Assumption of St.
Mary, King William went from Normandy into France with an army,
and made war upon his own lord Philip, the king, and slew many of
his men, and burned the town of Mante, and all the holy minsters
that were in the town; and two holy men that served God, leading
the life of anachorets, were burned therein. This being thus
done, King William returned to Normandy. Rueful was the thing he
did; but a more rueful him befel. How more rueful? He fell
sick, and it dreadfully ailed him. What shall I say? Sharp
death, that passes by neither rich men nor poor, seized him also.
He died in Normandy, on the next day after the Nativity of St.
Mary, and he was buried at Caen in St. Stephen's minster, which
he had formerly reared, and afterwards endowed with manifold
gifts. Alas! how false and how uncertain is this world's weal!
He that was before a rich king, and lord of many lands, had not
then of all his land more than a space of seven feet! and he
that was whilom enshrouded in gold and gems, lay there covered
with mould! He left behind him three sons; the eldest, called
Robert, who was earl in Normandy after him; the second, called
William, who wore the crown after him in England; and the third,
called Henry, to whom his father bequeathed immense treasure. If
any person wishes to know what kind of man he was, or what honour
he had, or of how many lands he was lord, then will we write
about him as well as we understand him: we who often looked upon
him, and lived sometime in his court. This King William then
that we speak about was a very wise man, and very rich; more
splendid and powerful than any of his predecessors were. He was
mild to the good men that loved God, and beyond all measure
severe to the men that gainsayed his will. On that same spot
where God granted him that he should gain England, he reared a
mighty minster, and set monks therein, and well endowed it. In
his days was the great monastery in Canterbury built, and also
very many others over all England. This land was moreover well
filled with monks, who modelled their lives after the rule of St.
Benedict. But such was the state of Christianity in his time,
that each man followed what belonged to his profession -- he that
would. He was also very dignified. Thrice he bare his crown
each year, as oft as he was in England. At Easter he bare it in
Winchester, at Pentecost in Westminster, at midwinter in
Glocester. And then were with him all the rich men over all
England; archbishops and diocesan bishops, abbots and earls,
thanes and knights. So very stern was he also and hot, that no
man durst do anything against his will. He had earls in his
custody, who acted against his will. Bishops he hurled from
their bishoprics, and abbots from their abbacies, and thanes into
prison. At length he spared not his own brother Odo, who was a
very rich bishop in Normandy. At Baieux was his episcopal stall;
and he was the foremost man of all to aggrandise the king. He
had an earldom in England; and when the king was in Normandy,
then was he the mightiest man in this land. Him he confined in
prison. But amongst other things is not to be forgotten that
good peace that he made in this land; so that a man of any
account might go over his kingdom unhurt with his bosom full of
gold. No man durst slay another, had he never so much evil done
to the other; and if any churl lay with a woman against her will,
he soon lost the limb that he played with. He truly reigned over
England; and by his capacity so thoroughly surveyed it, that
there was not a hide of land in England that he wist not who had
it, or what it was worth, and afterwards set it down in his book.
(110) The land of the Britons was in his power; and he wrought
castles therein; and ruled Anglesey withal. So also he subdued
Scotland by his great strength. As to Normandy, that was his
native land; but he reigned also over the earldom called Maine;
and if he might have yet lived two years more, he would have won
Ireland by his valour, and without any weapons. Assuredly in his
time had men much distress, and very many sorrows. Castles he
let men build, and miserably swink the poor. The king himself
was so very rigid; and extorted from his subjects many marks of
gold, and many hundred pounds of silver; which he took of his
people, for little need, by right and by unright. He was fallen
into covetousness, and greediness he loved withal. He made many
deer-parks; and he established laws therewith; so that whosoever
slew a hart, or a hind, should be deprived of his eyesight. As
he forbade men to kill the harts, so also the boars; and he loved
the tall deer as if he were their father. Likewise he decreed by
the hares, that they should go free. His rich men bemoaned it,
and the poor men shuddered at it. But he was so stern, that he
recked not the hatred of them all; for they must follow withal
the king's will, if they would live, or have land, or
possessions, or even his peace. Alas! that any man should
presume so to puff himself up, and boast o'er all men. May the
Almighty God show mercy to his soul, and grant him forgiveness of
his sins! These things have we written concerning him, both good
and evil; that men may choose the good after their goodness, and
flee from the evil withal, and go in the way that leadeth us to
the kingdom of heaven. Many things may we write that were done
in this same year. So it was in Denmark, that the Danes, a
nation that was formerly accounted the truest of all, were turned
aside to the greatest untruth, and to the greatest treachery that
ever could be. They chose and bowed to King Cnute, and swore him
oaths, and afterwards dastardly slew him in a church. It
happened also in Spain, that the heathens went and made inroads
upon the Christians, and reduced much of the country to their
dominion. But the king of the Christians, Alphonzo by name, sent
everywhere into each land, and desired assistance. And they came
to his support from every land that was Christian; and they went
and slew or drove away all the heathen folk, and won their land
again, through God's assistance. In this land also, in the same
year, died many rich men; Stigand, Bishop of Chichester, and the
Abbot of St. Augustine, and the Abbot of Bath, and the Abbot of
Pershore, and the lord of them all, William, King of England,
that we spoke of before. After his death his son, called William
also as the father, took to the kingdom, and was blessed to king
by Archbishop Landfranc at Westminster three days ere Michaelmas
day. And all the men in England submitted to him, and swore
oaths to him. This being thus done, the king went to Winchester,
and opened the treasure house, and the treasures that his father
had gathered, in gold, and in silver, and in vases, and in palls,
and in gems, and in many other valuable things that are difficult
to enumerate. Then the king did as his father bade him ere he
was dead; he there distributed treasures for his father's soul to
each monastery that was in England; to some ten marks of gold, to
some six, to each upland (111) church sixty pence. And into each
shire were sent a hundred pounds of money to distribute amongst
poor men for his soul. And ere he departed, he bade that they
should release all the men that were in prison under his power.
And the king was on the midwinter in London.

Notes:

(110) An evident allusion to the compilation of Doomsday book,
already described in A.D. 1085.
(111) Uppe-land, Sax. -- i.e. village-church.

Chronicle Years: 1083-86
Chronicle Years: 1088-91


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