Page 1245

1245 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY-FEUDAL FRANCE.

was recognized as his successor, and was

crowned as the expectant heir while still

a child. But this prince died six years before the death of his father. Eudes, the

second son of Robert, was an idiot; so Henry,

the third son, was chosen for the succession, though this act was done against the

violent opposition of Queen Constance, who

desired that the crown should be bestowed

upon her favorite, the Prince Robert, youngest of the four brothers. In the year 1031,

King Robert, being then .in his sixtieth

year and the thirty-fourth of his reign,

was attacked with a fever while on his return from a pilgrimage. He died at the town

of Melun, and was succeeded by Prince Henry.

No sooner was the new king seated on the

throne than the partial and implacable queen mother stirred up a revolt against him. So

great was her influence in the court and capital, and so critical became the aspect, that

Henry fled from Paris and sought the protection of Robert the Magnificent, the reigning

Duke of Normandy. That country had recently been the scene of tumult, intrigue,

and crime. The Duke Richard II. had died

in 1027, and was succeeded by his son, Richard III. With him his brother Robert, ambitious to gain the duchy for himself, raised

a quarrel, and the two princes took up arms

to decide the controversy. Richard at first

gained the advantage, and Robert was besieged in the castle of Falaise. The latter,

finding himself pent-up, resorted to treachery.

Pretending to desire reconciliation, he opened

the gates to his brother and invited him and

his nobles to a banquet. Thereupon Richard

sickened and died, the probable cause being

poison.

An accusation was brought against Robert, and he was excommunicated by his

brother, Archbishop Mauger, of Rouen. Presently afterwards, however, the sentence was

removed, and he gained the title not only

of Duke of Normandy, but also of the Magnificent. To him King Henry now appealed as to a protector against the malice

of his delightful mother. Robert at once

espoused the cause of the royal appellant,

marched on Paris, brought the queen mother

to obedience, and shut her up in a convent.

There she had leisure to recall the pleasures

of youth, and to hear again in dreams the thrumming of mediaeval guitars in the hands

of her troubadours.

As a reward for service rendered, King

Henry gave to his friend, Duke Robert, the

provinces of Pontoise and Gisors. These

were annexed to Normandy. At the same

time he appeased the ambition of his own

brother Robert by bestowing on him the

crown of Burgundy. Shortly afterwards the

Duke Magnificent discovered an alarming

balance against his soul in the ledger of conscience. He dreamed of the treacherous banquet at Falaise, and saw his brother's face

in the shadows. Fain would he abandon the

splendor which he had so foully won, and

regain the favor of heaven by a pilgrimage

to Jerusalem. But what of the succession to

the dukedom? He had no children save one

and he was illegitimate. Robert had been

enamored of the daughter of a tanner! Feudalism would hardly recognize the offspring

of so base a union. But nature had set on

the brow of the youth the seal of genius.

The father was anxious to have him acknowledged as his successor. At last the reluctant

barons consented. They came into the

presence of the bastard boy and swore allegiance to him who was presently to become

William the Conqueror! Then the penitent Robert, in pilgrim's garb, wended his way

to the holy places of the East, and died in

Palestine.

No sooner was Duke William acknowledged as the rightful ruler of Normandy

than he began to display the great qualities of ambition and daring for which he was

so greatly distinguished. The Norman nobles

became proud of their young suzerain, and

the bishops changed the story of his birth.

Meanwhile, King Henry of France, surprised

at seeing thus to bud from the bosom of

a tanner's daughter a plant which seemed

likely to overshadow .the realm, bitterly

repented the part which he had taken in

favor of Robert and his base-born son. He

accordingly conspired with Archbishop Mauger, uncle of the aspiring duke, to reverse

the order of events and transfer the Norman duchy to another. But William was

so firmly established in the respect and affections of his subjects that the plot against

him came to naught. Nature went forth

to victory, and legitimacy sat mouthing.

King Henry occupied the throne of France