صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

before, publicly condemned *. It is true he recalled many grants bestowed upon creatures and undeserving- persons in the late Reign; but whether upon motives of justice or avarice I do not determine. It will be found that he died exceedingly rich for those times (by whatever means the wealth was amassed); for he did not omit any opportunity of taxing his subjects, where he could do it with a tolerable grace, though he did it not in so bare-faced a manner as Rufus had done. Thus he availed himself of an antient Norman feudal custom, on occasion of the marrying his eldest daughter f. This custom was not now first established by Henry himself, as some have supposed J; but was one of the antient aids due to the King from his subjects, and having lain dormant many years, was now revived, but not introduced otherwise than that Henry happened to be the first King, of the Norman race, who married his eldest daughter. In

* Morem fratris sui Willieluai Regis secutus. Eadmer.

t Aide a Fijle marier. % Polydore Vergil.

this he might be justifiable enough; but then be seems to have laid the tax at a prodigious high rate, for it is said, by some calculations, to have amounted to upwards of 800,000/. sterling. Among other things, Henry was very attentive to the reformation of abuses and irregularities that had crept into the Court during the Reign of his Brother.

The accounts given of William's Court are surprizing for that age, when one would suppose our ancestors to have been rough and unpolished, little addicted to the softer vices, and totally unacquainted with the effeminacies of succeeding times; but we find that, notwithstanding; men's minds were then so much turned to war and athletic diversions, excess and sensuality prevailed in a very scandalous manner among the Nobility, and even among the Clergy. Vanity, lust, and intemperance, reigned through the whole kingdom. The men appeared so effeminate in their dress and manners, that thev shewed themselves men in nothing but their attempts upon the chastity of women *. So William

* Eadmer.

[ocr errors]

of Malmsbury, speaking of the effeminacy of William Rufus'* Court, says, "Mollitie corporis certare cum r'oeminis—gressum frangere—gestu soluto—et latere nudo incedere, Adolescentium specimen erat: enerves— emolliti—expugnatores alienae pudicitiae, prodigi sua?." B) many evideuces it appears that a luxury in apparel was very general among the Nobles and Gentry of that age; even the Nuns were not free from it.

The garments of the English, before their intermixture with the Normans, were generally plain; but they soon adopted the fashions of these new-comers, and became as magnificent in their dress as their fortunes could bear*. So that we see the French have, ever since the Conquest, been the standard of the English dress; and though we often complain of the folly of our times, in adopting French modes, it appears to be a practice that has existed time immemorial. Lord Lyttelton informs us (.from Ordericus Vitalis) that there was a revolution in dress in William Rufus's reign, not only in England,

* Lord Lyttelton.

but in all the Western parts of Europe; and that, instead of close coats, which till then had been used, as most commodious for exercise and a military life, trailing garments with long sleeves, after the manner of the Asiaticks, were universally worn. The men were also very nice in curling and dividing their hair, which, on the fore-part of their heads, was suffered to grow very long, but cut short behind*;—a style of head-dressing, which, if introduced now, would spoil all the Macaroni's of the age; for their comfort, however, it may be inferred from hence that similar beings have long subsisted in some shape or other.

To return to Henry. We find the reformation of his Court was one of the first steps, towards ingratiating himself with his subjects. The Courtiers, for the most part, sure of impunity, were wont to tyrannize over the people in a shameful manner. Not content with every species of oppression, and of secretly attempting the chastity of women, they gloried in it publicly. To remedv these disorders in his Court, Henry published a

* Introduction to Life of Henry II.

very severe edict against all offenders in general, and particularly against Adulterers; and such as abused their power by oppressing the people, he ordered to be put to death without mercy. Some who were already notorious on that account were banished the Court, among whom was Ranulph Bishop of Durham, who was likewise imprisoned by the advice of the great Council of the Kingdom *. This was in the first year of Henry's Reign; but it had so little effect, that five years afterwards we find a second reformation; for, the former proclamation being ineffectual, it was necessary to publish another, with still greater penalties; and this severity was unavoidably necessary, to check the licentiousness that had crept in, from the connivance which offences of every kind had hitherto met with. Thus, we see, the dissoluteness of William Rufus's Court did not die with him; nor is it an easy thing to subdue so many-headed a monster as Vice in power. When the Magnates set bad examples in Courts, the in

* Matthew Paris.

« السابقةمتابعة »