Page 1280

1280 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

magistrates from the country. With a shrewd

understanding of the situation, William, in

departing for the continent, took with him

only an English army, leaving all his Norman

forces behind him. With these troops he

made his way into Maine, and soon drove

the insurgents into a bitter repentance for

their folly.

While engaged in suppressing this rebellion, William received intelligence of a

still more alarming outbreak in England.

This time it was the Norman barons themselves, who had conspired to overthrow their

master. The office of prime counselor of

the kingdom was now held by Roger Fitz Osborn, who was also Earl of Hereford.

This distinguished young lord had, during

the Conqueror's absence, paid his court

to the daughter of Ralph de Gael, earl of

Norfolk; and her he was about to take in

marriage.

The rumor of the intended union was

borne to the Conqueror, who for some

reason sent back a message forbidding the

marriage. This interference was bitterly

resented by Fitz Osborn and his prospective father-in-law. Without regard to the

interdict, the marriage was celebrated, and

the leading Norman barons were present

at the feast. While heated with wine, a

sudden disloyalty broke out among them,

Normans as they were, and a conspiracy

was made to destroy William and redivide

the realm into the three old kingdoms of

Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria. The

earls of Waltheof and Norwich entered

into the plot with Fitz Osborn and De Gael,

and the drunken revel ended in an insane

insurrection. Waltheof, however, as soon

as he was sober, washed his hands of the

disloyal business. Fitz-Osborn was confronted

on the Severn by a loyal army sent out

by Archbishop Lanfranc, primate of the

kingdom; and the insurgents under the Earl

of Norfolk were beaten down by a force

commanded by Odo, bishop of Bayeux.

Nor was it long until the whole rebellion

was brought to naught. William returned

from the continent, and the conspirators

were punished, some with mutilation, some

with imprisonment, and some with death.

It was now the fate of the Conqueror to be

touched in a still more vital part by the treason of his son Robert, duke of Maine. This prince had been honored by his father before the departure of the latter for his conquest of England. William had induced his Norman

barons to do the act of fealty to Robert as

their future sovereign. On coming to man's

estate, the duke, without regard to his father's

wishes, would fain assume the government in

his own right. Hearing of the rebellious conduct of his son, the Conqueror addressed to him

a brief but comprehensive letter. "My son,"

said he, "I will not throw off my clothes

till I go to bed." This figurative expression

was easily understood by the youth, who

openly demanded the fulfillment of the

king's promise to make him duke of Normandy. "Sire," said Robert, in an interview with his father, "I came here to claim

my right, and not to listen to sermons. I

heard plenty of them, and tedious ones, too,

when I was learning my grammar." Hereupon the estrangement broke into hostility.

Robert fled into foreign parts, but was presently received and supported by Philip of

France, who was glad to find so sharp a

weapon wherewith to hew away some of

the greatness of his rival William. The

rebel prince was established in the castle of

Gerberay, on the borders of Normandy,

and supplied with French soldiers, with

whom he made predatory forays into his

father's duchy. King William in great

wrath crossed the channel with an English

army and laid siege to the castle where

Robert had made his stand. Here it was

that the famous incident occurred in which

the king was brought within a single stroke

of losing both his crown and his life.

On a certain day, when the usual desultory fighting was going on in the vicinity of the castle, Duke Robert, who had

sallied forth, met and engaged in deadly

conflict with a stalwart Norman knight,

whom he had the good fortune to unhorse

and hurl to the ground. Springing from

his horse and drawing his sword, the duke

was about to dispatch his fallen foe when the latter cried out for help. It was

the voice of William the Conqueror, about

to perish under the sword of his son. The

latter, however, was suddenly touched

with chivalrous and filial devotion. He

threw himself on his knees before the prostrate form of his father, craved a hurried pardon, assisted the wounded William