Imatges de pàgina

Confessor, and the fair and interesting Edith, with two archbishops—Stigand of Canterbury and Aldred of York, eleven bishops (among whom the most


eminent were Hereman of Salisbury, Leofric of Exeter, and Gyso of Wells), eleven abbots of important monastic houses, and a great number of princes and nobles. In their presence was read publicly the royal charter, which is still preserved, and bears the signatures of the King and Queen, Harold, the two archbishops, and the bishops, abbots, and thanes, who were assisting at the ceremony. The feast on this occasion lasted eight days; and the guests were not only served profusely, but large vessels full of wine and mead were placed in the fields and public roads, in order that even accidental passers-by might drink their full.

Harold increased the number of canons from two to twelve. By the charter just mentioned, they were put in possession of the manors of “ Passefelda, Walde, Upminster, Walhfare, Pippedene, Alwaretune, Wodeforda, Lambehithe, Nesingnan, Brickendune, Melnho, Alichsea, Wormeleia, Nettleswelle, Hicche, Lukintone, and Westwaltham.' Portions of these lands were assigned to each canon to supply him with food and clothing, those of which the rents were applied to the latter purpose being distinguished by the name of scrud-land, or clothing-land. Westwaltham was appropriated to the dean, in addition to his share with the rest. Each canon had also assigned to him fifteen acres in Waltham of what were termed the Northlands, in order that they might not be distressed by any accidental stoppage of their supply from the out-farms. According to the directions of the founder, the canons





of Waltham received extremely liberal rations of food. The daily allowance of each was two loaves of very white bread, and one of a coarser quality, the three being sufficient for six men; six bowls of ale, sufficient for ten men at one drinking bout; and six dishes of different kinds each day. In addition to this allowance, on feast days they were served with "pittances,” or delicacies : if it were a feast of the first dignity, each canon was to have three pittances; if of the second dignity, he was allowed two pittances; and if of the third dignity,

A pittance, from Michaelmas-day to Ash-Wednesday, consisted of twelve blackbirds, or two "agauseæ,” or two partridges, or one pheasant; during the rest of the year, it consisted of goose or chickens. On Christmas-day, Easter-day, and the day of Pentecost, and on the two feasts of the Holy Cross, wine and mead were allowed. * The object in giving the canons this profuse allowance of provisions, was to provide for strangers, and for the poor and needy, the latter receiving each day what was sent away from the Abbey table. The dean had a larger share than the others, because more persons depended upon his charity and hospitality than upon those of a simple canon.t In former times, when from the want of means of conveyance the produce of the land was necessarily consumed on the land itself, hospitality of this kind was universally practised. Even in the houses of private gentlemen there was a servant named an almoner, whose office it was to collect and distribute to the poor at his master's gate what remained of the meat and drink served at the table; and the person who distributed the bread to the guests, laid the first loaf in the alms-dish as an offering to God.

The consecration of the church of Waltham occurred a little before Whitsuntide, in the year 1062: in less than four years after this event, Harold was advanced to the throne of England. During his short but eventful reign, he conferred innumerable benefits on the Abbey, which were remembered with gratitude long after the 十 * destruction of the Anglo-Saxon dynasty. In his return from the defeat of the Danish invaders in the north, to stop the } 平 progress of his Norman rival, Harold visited Waltham for the last time. The brotherhood received him with sorrowful countenances, for their minds were filled with gloomy forebodings; and when, on the morning of his departure, Harold humbled himself in prayer before the Holy Cross, which was surrounded by the relics and precious gifts which he had conferred, one of the canons, whose eyes were fixed on the image, declared that the wooden face suddenly assumed an air of sadness, and that

De Invent. Sanctæ Crucis Waltham. p. 231. habebat, in victualibus etiam aliquantisper magis | Decano cessit præ cæteris Westwaltham, ut aliis auctus, quia pluribus habebat benefacere quam in eo præcelleret, qui primatum et regimen cæterorum simplex canonicus.

[merged small][ocr errors]

he saw the head bend downwards. His brethren were struck with consternation; and, unable to restrain the king from exposing his own person in an unequal combat, they sent with him two of the elder canons, named Osegode Cnoppe and Ailric Childemaister,* to watch the course of events, and to bring home the body of their benefactor in case he should be slain. The result of the battle of Hastings is too well known to need repeating on the present occasion.

Much obscurity still hangs over Harold's fate. The old historians not only differ in various circumstances in their account of the manner in which he was killed, but some of them have declared their belief that he escaped from the field of battle with his life. Even the canons, and afterwards the monks, of Waltham were divided in their opinions on this subject; and each party consigned their reasons to writing, in separate treatises, which were long treasured up in the Abbey library, and which are fortunately still preserved. According to the most probable of these two versions of the story, when Osegode and Ailric saw that their presentiments had been but too well founded, they repaired to the Conqueror to obtain permission to seek for Harold's body, and to carry it to Waltham for interment. With some difficulty they succeeded in their suit; but, after a long and fruitless search, Osegode was sent back to Waltham with the intelligence that they could find no traces of their king among the multitude of naked and stiffening corpses with which the field was strewed. By the advice of the other canons, Osegode took with him to Hastings Harold's beautiful mistress, Editha Swanneshals (or Edith with the Swan's neck), who recognized the body of her lover by secret marks which were known only to herself. Osegode then placed it on a bier which he had prepared for the purpose, and it was carried in solemn procession to Battle Bridge, whither the whole brotherhood of Waltham had come to meet it. They carried the corpse to Waltham, and buried it with honour in the choir of the Abbey Church.t

Those who held a contrary opinion concerning Harold's fate, said that Edith had mistaken another corpse for that of her paramour; and that the body of Harold had been found among a heap of corpses by some Saxon women, who visited the field to administer aid and comfort to their wounded and expiring countrymen. Finding him still breathing, they carried him away from the spot, ignorant that it was their king; but he was recognized by two countrymen, who took him to Winchester, where he remained in concealment two years. At the end of that period, having entirely recovered

* Ailric was probably the schoolmaster of the Abbey, for we know that a school was part of Harold's foundation.

+ This is the story given in the treatise, De Inventione Sanctæ Crucis Walthamensis.




from the effects of his wounds, he went to Germany, in the hope of inducing the old Saxons and Norwegians to assist him in the deliverance of his country from the oppressions of the Normans; but failing in this project, and becoming weary of the vanities of the world, he determined to pass the rest of his days in retirement, and he first visited Rome. From thence he returned in disguise, under the assumed name of Christian, to England, and lived ten years as a hermit, with one faithful attendant, among the rocks in the neighbourhood of Dover. He next repaired to the borders of Wales, where he lived long in solitude, exposed to the insults of the Welsh, over whom he had so often triumphed in the days of his worldly glory. He finally removed to Chester, where he died at an advanced age in a little cell attached to the church of St. John, having, according to the story, confessed on his death-bed that he was King Harold.* Such is the improbable legend which found credit with one or two of the most esteemed of our early writers.

Waltham Abbey appears to have experienced little favour from the first Anglo-Norman kings. William the Conqueror, or (according to other accounts) his son Rufus, carried away much of the valuable plate, gems, and rich vestments which had been given by Harold, to enrich his two churches at Caen in Normandy; but he seems to have left the landed possessions of the Abbey untouched.t As a sort of reparation for this injury, William Rufus is said to have given to the canons those lands of Harold in Waltham which his father had conferred upon Walcher, bishop of Durham, who made this place his residence when he came to attend the court at London. The two queens of Henry I. were almost the sole benefactors of this foundation during the first century after the Norman Conquest :—the first, Matilda of Scotland, gave to the secular canons the mill at Waltham; while Adeliza of Lorraine, Henry's second wife, bestowed upon them all the tithes of Waltham, as well those of her demesne lands as those of her tenants.

In the latter half of the twelfth century, the canons of Waltham experienced the same fate which had already struck most of the similar AngloSaxon institutions. As the power of the pope gained strength in England, it had constantly brought with it the dissolution of the ancient colleges of secular priests, to make way for the introduction of the more rigid discipline of the regular monks, who were literally the “soldiers” of papal Rome. It is probable that the secular canons of Waltham had relaxed in discipline and religion since their foundation, placed as they were amid the “fatness of the earth.” During the period of which we are now speaking, we find among them few traces of learning or literary taste, and the name of Waltham scarcely occurs in the political history of the twelfth century. Yet the few remaining writings of the monks of this place are full of vivid descriptions of the richness and beauty of the Abbey lands.

* This legend forms the body of the Vita Haroldi, printed, with the treatise De Invent. Sanct. Cr. Waltham., in the Chroniques Anglo-Normandes.

† Vita Haroldi, pp. 162, 163. De Invent. S. Crucis, pp. 252, 253.

“O Waltham! pro te fecit manus Omnipotentis

Multum in mentis, semper et hinc amo te.
Nam dedit ipse tibi similem sibimetque figuram,

Excelsam, puram, quæ veneratur ibi.


Tu ditaris ita, nam prata foves meliora ;

Stas inter nemora dite loco posita.
Te cingit fluvius necnon percurrit amænus,

Piscibus et plenus: est situs egregius.
Et licet orneris pratis latis et agellis,

Structuris bellis, floribus et teneris."* So sang in quaint and jingling rhymes one of the historians of Waltham in the reign of Henry II. The flower-decked meads which surrounded the Abbey are not unfrequently alluded to; and that which has preserved to modern times the name of Harold's Park, was celebrated in a proverbial leonine,

“Haroldi parca florum bene dicitur archa."


The numerous little streams into which the river is here divided added to the richness and diversity of the scenery, and were crossed by a number of picturesque bridges. In the time of Leland (the reign of Henry VIII.) there were “a 7 or viii. bridges in the towne of Waltham: for there be

* MS. Harl. No. 3776, fol. 3, io and v.

« AnteriorContinua »