Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 37. KING STEPHEN

37. KING STEPHEN

    About the time of doing these things, being the year of our Lord 1135, King Henry being in Normandy, as some say, by taking there a fall from his horse, as others say, by taking a surfeit in eating lampreys, fell sick and died, after he had reigned over the realm of England five and thirty years and odd months; leaving for his heirs Matilda the empress his daughter, with her young son Henry, to succeed after him; to whom all the prelates and nobility of the realm were sworn. But, contrary to their oath made to Maud in the presence of her father before, William, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the nobles of the realm, crowned Stephen, earl of Bologne, and sister's son to King Henry, upon St. Stephen's day in Christmas week; which archbishop the next year after died, being, as it was thought, justly punished for his perjury. And many other lords, which did accordingly, went not quit without punishment. In the like justice of punishment is numbered also Roger, bishop of Salis bury; who, contrary unto his oath, being a great doer in the coronation of Stephen, was apprehended of the same king, and miserably, but justly, exter mined.

    A certain written English story I have, which addeth more, and saith, that King Stephen, having many foes in divers quarters keeping their holds and castles against him, went then to Oxford, and took the bishop of Salisbury, and put a rope about his neck, and so led him to the castle of Vies, that was his, and commanded them to render up the castle, or he would slay and hang their bishop. Which castle being given up, the king took the spoil thereof. The like also he did unto the bishop of Lincoln, named Alexander; whom in like manner He led in a rope to a castle of the bishop's, that was upon Trent, and had them deliver up the castle, or else he would hang their lord before the gate. Long it was before the castle was given Up; yet at length the king obtaining it, there entered and took all the treasure of the bishop, &c. Roger Hoveden and Fabian alleging a certain old author, whom I cannot find, referreth a great cause of this perjury unto one Hugh Bigot, steward sometime with King Henry. Who, immediately after the death of the said Henry, came into England, and before the said archbishop, and other lords of the land, took wilfully an oath, and swore that he was present a little before the king's death, when King Henry admitted for his heir (to be king after him) Stephen his nephew, forsomuch as Maud his daughter had discontented him. Whereunto the archbishop, with the other lords, gave too hasty credence. But this Hugh, saith he, scaped not unpunished, for he died miserably in a short time after. Albeit all this may be supposed rather to be wrought not without the practice of Henry, bishop of Winchester, and other prelates by his setting on, which Henry was brother unto King Stephen, &c.

HUS, when King Stephen contrary unto his oath made before to Maud, the empress, had taken upon him the crown, (as is above said,) he swore before the lords at Oxford, that he would not hold the benefices that were voided, and that he would remit the Danegelt, with many other things, which after he little performed. Moreover, because he dreaded the coming of the empress, he gave licence to his lords, every one to build upon his own ground strong castles or fortresses, as they liked. All the time of his reign he was vexed with wars, but especially with David, king of the Scots, with whom he was at length accorded; but yet the Scottish king did him no homage, because he was sworn to Maud, the empress. Notwithstanding, yet Henry, the eldest son to King David, did homage to King Stephen. But he, after repenting thereof, entered into Northumberland with a great host, and burnt and slew the people in most cruel wise, neither sparing man, woman, nor child. Such as were with child they ripped, the children they tossed upon their spears' points, and laying the priests upon the altars, they mangled and cut them all to pieces, after a most terrible manner. But by the manhood of the English lords and soldiers, and through the means of Thurstin, archbishop of York, they were met withal, and slain a great number of them, and David their king constrained to give Henry his son hostage for surety of peace. In the mean time, King Stephen was occupied in the south countries, besieging divers castles of divers bishops and other lords, and took them by force, and fortified them with his knights and servants, to the intent to withstand the empress, whose coming he ever feared.

    About the sixth year of his reign, Maud, the empress, came into England out of Normandy, and by the aid of Robert, earl of Gloucester, and Ranuiph of Chester, made strong war upon King Stephen. In the end whereof the king's party was chased, and himself taken prisoner, and sent to Bristow, there to be kept in sure hold. The same day when King Stephen should join his battle, it is said in a certain old chronicle before minded, that he being at the mass, (which then the bishop of Lincoln said before the king,) as he went to offer up his taper, it brake in two pieces. And when the mass was done, (or what time the king should have been houseled,) the rope, whereby the pix did hang, did break, and the pix fell down upon the altar.[Note: The word "housel" is employed to denote the giving or receiving the eucharist. It is derived from "host," the consecrated wafer, which again is derived from the Latin hostia, a sacrifice.]

    After this field, the queen, King Stephen's wife, (lying then in Kent,) made great labour to the empress and her council to have the king delivered and put into some house of religion, but could not obtain it. Also the Londoners made great suit to the said empress to have and to use again St. Edward's laws, and not the laws of her father, which were more strict and strange unto them than the other. Which, when they could not obtain of her and her council, the citizens of London, being therewith discontented, would have taken the empress; but she, having knowledge thereof, fled privily from London to Oxford. But then the Kentish men and Londoners, taking the king's part, joined battle against the empress; where the foresaid Robert. earl of Gloucester, and base brother to the empress, was taken, and so by exchange both the king and the Earl Robert were delivered out of prison. Then Stephen, without delay, gathering to him a strong army, straitly pursued the foresaid Matild, or Maud, with her friends, besieging them in the castle of Oxford. In the siege whereof fell a great snow and frost so hard, that a man well laden might pass over the water; upon the occasion whereof the empress, bethinking herself, appointed with her friends and retinue clothed in white sheets and so issuing out by a postern gate, went upon the ice over Thames, and so escaped to Walingford. After this. the king, (the castle being gotten.) when he found not the empress, was much displeased, and molested the country about divers ways. In conclusion, he pursued the empress and her company so hard, that he caused them to fly the realm, which was the sixth year of his reign.

    The second year after this. which was the eighth year of his reign, there was a parliament kept at London, unto the which all the bishops of the realm resorted, and there denounced the king accursed, and all them with him that did any hurt to the church, or to any minister thereof. Where upon the king began somewhat to amend his conditions for a certain space; but afterward (as my story saith) was as ill as he was before; but what the causes were my author maketh no relation thereof, &c. To return again to the story, the empress, compelled, as is said, to flee the realm, returned again into Normandy to Geoffrey Plantagenet, her husband. Who, after he had valiantly won and defended the duchy of Normandy against the puissance of King Stephen a long time, ended his life, leaving Henry his son to succeed him in that dukedom. In the mean while Robert, earl of Gloucester, and the earl of Chester, who were strong of people, had divers conflicts with the king, insomuch that at a battle at Wilton between them the king was well near taken, but yet escaped with much pain.

    It was not long after, but Eustace, son to King Stephen, who had married the French king's sister, made war on Duke Henry, of Normandy, but prevailed not. Soon after, the said Henry, duke of Normandy, (in the quarrel of his mother Maud,) with a great puissance entered into England, and at the first won the castle of Malmesbury, then the tower of London, and afterward the town of Nottingham, with other holds and castles, as of Walingford and other more. Thus between him and the king were fought many battles, to the great annoyance of the realm. During which time Eustace the king's son departeth. Upon the occasion whereof the king caused Theobald, (which succeeded next after William above mentioned,) archbishop of Canterbury, to make means to the duke for peace, which upon this condition between them was concluded, that Stephen, during his lifetime, should hold the kingdom, and Henry in the mean time to be proclaimed heir apparent in the chief cities throughout the realm. These things thus concluded, Duke Henry taketh his journey into Normandy, (King Stephen and his son William, bringing him on his way,) where William the king's son, taking up his horse before his father, had a fall, and brake his leg, and so was had to Canterbury. The same year King Stephen about October (as some say for sorrow) ended his life, after he had reigned nineteen years perjuredly.

    As Theobald succeeded after William, archbishop of Canterbury, so in York, after Thurstin, succeeded William, which was called St. William of York, who was poisoned in his chalice by his chaplains.

    In the time of this king, and about the sixteenth year of his reign, Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and legate to the pope, did hold a council at London. In the which council first began new found appeals from councils to the pope, found out by Henry, bishop of Winchester. For, as the words of an historian do record, "Appellations before were not in use in England, till Henry, bishop of Winchester, being then the pope's legate, brought them cruelly in, to his own hurt. For in that council thrice appeal was made to the bishop of Rome."

    In the time of King Stephen died Gratian, a monk of Bonony, who compiled the book called The Pope's Decrees. Also his brother, Peter Lombard, bishop of Paris, which is called the Master of Sentences, compiled his four books of the Sentences. These two brethren were the greatest doers in finding out and establishing this blind opinion of the sacrament, that the only similitude of bread and wine remained, but not the substance of them; and this they call the spiritual understanding of the mystery. And therefore no marvels if the sun in those days were seen black and dim.

    Some also affirm, that Petrus Comestor, writer of the scholastical history, was the third brother to these above named.

    In the same time and reign of the said King Stephen was also Hugo, surnamed De Sancto Victore. About the which time (as Polychronicon reciteth) lived and died Bernardus Clarevallensis.

    The author of the history called Jornalensis maketh also mention of Hildegare, the nun and prophetess in Almany, to have lived in the same age. Concerning whose prophecy against the friars, here after (by the grace of Christ) more shall be said, when we come to recite the order and number of friars and religious men crept into the church of Christ.

    We read moreover of one named Johannes de Temporibus, which by the affirmance of some of our old histories lived three hundred and sixty-one years, (servant once to Carolus Magnus,) and in the reign of Stephen, king of England, died.

    In the days also of this king, and by him, was builded the abbey of Feversham, where his son and he were buried. He builded the monastery of Finerneis and of Fomitance, the castle of Walingford, with a number of other castles more.

    During the time of the said King Stephen, in the year of our Lord 1144, the miserable Jews crucified a child in the city of Norwich.

    Much about the same time came up the order of the Gilbertines, by one Gilbert, son to Jacoline, a knight of Lincolnshire.

    Mention hath been made before of certain English councils holden in the time of this king, where it was (in one of them under Theobald, the archbishop of Canterbury) decreed that bishops should live more discreetly; should teach their flock more diligently; that reading of Scriptures should be frequented more usually in abbeys; that priests should not be rulers of worldly matters; and that they should learn and teach the Lord's Prayer and Creed in English.

    Matthew Paris writeth, how Stephen, king of England, in these days reserved to himself the right and authority of bestowing spiritual livings, and in vesting prelates, in the year 1133.

    At which time also Lotharius the emperor began to do the like, in recovering again the right and privilege taken away from Henricus his predecessor, had not Bernard given him contrary counsel.

    Here came into the church the manner of cursing with book, bell, and candle, devised in the Council of London, holden by William, bishop of Winchester, under Celestinus, which succeeded after Innocentius, A.D. 1144.

    Also Lotharius succeeded in the imperial crown Conradus, the nephew of Henricus the Fifth, aforementioned, A.D. 1138, who only amongst many emperors is not found to receive the crown at the pope's hand.

    In the days of this emperor, who reigned fifteen years, were divers popes, as Celestinus the Second, Luscius the Second, Eugenius the Third, at which time the Romans went about to recover their former old manner of choosing their consuls and senators. But the popes, then being in their ruff, in no case would abide it; whereupon arose many commotions, with much civil war amongst them. Insomuch that Pope Lucius (sending for aid to the emperor, who othervise letted at that time could not come) armed his soldiers, thinking to invade them, or else to destroy them in the senate-house. But this coming to their knowledge before, the people was all in array, and so much ado was amongst them. Pope Lucius being also amongst them in the fight, (well pelted with stones and blows,) lived not long after. Likewise Pope Eugenius after him, A.D. 1145, pursuing the Romans for the same matter, first did curse them with excommunication; after, when he saw that would not serve, he came with his host, and so compelled them at length to seek his peace, and to take his conditions, which were these; that they should abolish their consuls, and take such senators as he by his papal authority should assign them.

    Then followed Anastasius the Fourth, and after him Adrian the Fourth, an Englishman, by his name called Breakspear, belonging once to St Albans. This Adrianus kept great stir in like sort with the citizens of Rome for abolishing their consuls and senate, cursing, excommunicating, and warring against them with all power he could make, till the time he removed the consuls out of their office, and brought them all under his subjection. The like business and rage he also stirred up against Apulia, and especially against the empire, blustering and thundering against Fredericus the emperor, as (the Lord granting) you shall hear anon, after we have prosecuted such matter as necessarily apprrtnineth first to the continuation of our English story.

Previous Next