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long in making the discovery that the garrison of Marlborough would prove a great obstacle to his movements in an easterly direction. That castle was then held by an adherent of the Empress named John Fitz-Gilbert almost as arrant a villain as his new neighbour. The first correspondence passing between the two worthies seems to have been anything but complimentary. Fitz-Hubert talked of hanging his friend as soon as he should get hold of him. “Verily,” replied John, “I should vastly prefer catching you to being caught by you.”l These challenges nevertheless issued eventually in a proposal made by the Devizes captain that the two Governors should form a league of friendly co-operation involving mutual admission into each castle for purposes of consultation. The Marlborough chieftain was as wary as his tempter; and entering with apparent eagerness into the scheme, he admitted Fitz-Hubert and several followers within his lines, instantly overpowered them, and chased a remnant with ignominy back to Devizes.
The prospective value of this capture lay in the means which it seemed to offer for obtaining possession of the eagle's nest itself. But dungeon-gloom and protracted suffering had failed to subdue the stubborn spirit of the prisoner before the Earl of Gloster issuing out of the West-country with a band of knights arrived at Marlborough to demand possession of his body. This was not to be obtained without suitable compensation. The Earl therefore consented to an agreement binding himself in a penalty of 500 marks to re-deliver the prisoner into the hands of the Marlborough Governor within fifteen days and to leave hostages for its fulfilment. FitzHubert was then carried to the Empress's court at Gloucester and plied with every persuasive to order his castellans to surrender Devizes. He pleaded the sanctity of the oath he had sworn with them: his tormentors reminded him that the
1 « Quemlibet malo capere quam ab aliquo capi.” cester's Continuator.
Florence of Wor
gallows was his only alternative: and in this wavering state of mind, the stipulated fortnight over, he was again conveyed to Marlborough. The Earl recounted to Fitz-Gilbert all that had passed; expressed his belief that the prisoner was acquiescent, and demanded as an additional favour that he might be allowed to carry him on to Devizes, with this unstanding, that if peradventure the castle should yield “in the right of John” the Marlborough Governor, it should be at his disposal. But the Marlborough Governor, though he consented, evidently had no faith in the Earl's promises. He secretly sent messages to Fitz-Hubert's men whether lying in the castle or around it, vowing that no harm should be done to their leader, and urging them to adhere to their oath of non-surrender. The result was that the Earl on reaching Devizes found his plans frustrated. He retired therefore to Gloucester, leaving orders with his men to put judgment into execution as soon as it appeared that no further hope remained of bringing about a compromise. Within a short time, to the infinite joy of the Monks, the bodies of Fitz-Hubert and his two nephews were seen dangling from a gibbet before the castle walls.
Within the fort meanwhile dismay was only kept in check by despair. To surrender to the exasperated foe would have been to court the same punishment. At the best they could only sue for an act of pardon from the powers whom they had deserted and defied. But the offer of a large sum of money from the opposite party changed the aspect of affairs. Hervey of Brittany, a kinsman of the King, recovered by this means the principal fortress of the West.
HERVEY COUNT OF BRITTANY, 1141. This General, described as a man illustrious in character and expert in war, the great grandson of Hervey Duke of Orleans and grandson of Robert Fitz-Hervey who accompanied the Conqueror to England, is also the lineal ancestor
of the Marquises of Bristol, and has been further represented in the County of Wilts by the Herveys of Cole Park near Malmesbury, from whom derived Audley Hervey, Esq. Solicitor of Bath, late of Chippenham [Decises Gazette). His tenure of Devizes Castle was but of short duration: for hardly was he seated here before the disastrous battle of Lincoln dethroned his master Stephen, and enabled Matilda to ride in triumph into London the acknowledged Queen of England. Stephen was carried first to Gloucester and then shut up in Bristol Castle: and the Bishops also deserting him in his hour of need, his affairs everywhere fell into disorder. To Count Hervey the necessity of maintaining himself alone at Devizes in the midst of a district entirely devoted to the Empress was now become a task of eminent and daily increasing hazard. A huge rabble of rustics and thanes drew around the castle to cut off his supplies and precipitate the hour of his surrender. There is reason to think that the Borough itself was held against him. In the celebrated trial of Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes for cowardly surrendering Bristol Castle to Charles I. in 1643, it will be remembered that William Prynn the Parliament's advocate, while seeking to shew how tenable a castle was, even when the adjacent city or town was in the enemy's hands, quoted among his numerous precedents the successful resistance made by Devizes Castle in the time of the Empress Matilda. It is impossible to say to what particular occurrence he referred. Perhaps it was nothing but vague tradition. But as the contemporary historians certainly make mention of no other prolonged defence than the one under consideration, this of Count Hervey's was possibly the occasion. And though it be true that he eventually fled out and escaped with a slender train of followers beyond the sea, it was clearly the failure of the Royal cause and the shortness of provisions which thus determined his departure.
On the presumption that the tedium of this blockade was occasionally relieved by an attempt to storm the walls, the
accompanying engraving may be accepted as a fair representation of that mode of attack, as also of the architectural character of “the iron-belted keep" from whose summit the signal of surrender never floated till Oliver Cromwell 500 years later, planted upon it the standard of the Commonwealth.
THE EMPRESS MATILDA. Matilda was great in adversity, but unequal to the loftier exigencies of empire. Within a very few months her arrogance alienated the hearts of the Londoners and arrayed against herself the machinations of her newly acquired friend the Bishop of Winchester, the Legate. And now took place a most remarkable juncture of affairs. The Bishop of Winchester defended his palace against the Empress who occupied the city of Winchester: The Empress on her part was assailed by a body of Londoners led on by the Queen of the captured Stephen : famine was spreading in the place ; and the Bishop's party in order to eject the Empress, set fire to their own city, by which two convents were consumed, twenty churches, and more than half the houses. Retreat was now the only alternative. Matilda's body-guard headed by the King of Scots, the Earl of Gloucester her brother, Count Brian his son, and Milo of Gloucester her chamberlain, fought a passage for her through the throng, sword in hand. The survivors of the mèlée then throwing aside their defensive armour studied only how they might most swiftly reach the strongholds of the Western Counties. But in the horrible confusion that reigned, her troops were surrounded and slaughtered, her brother of Gloucester and the Scots King taken prisoners; and it was not without the greatest difficulty that she herself succeeded in reaching the castle of Ludgershall with a small troop under the conduct of Count Brian. From Ludgershall the retreat was continued on to Devizes, the fair fugitive performing this portion of her journey in male disguise; and here at last she hoped to rest awhile from the