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perils of pursuit. How long she remained is not stated. Devizes evidently was not sufficiently near the centre of her influence, “Westward ho” was still the word; but on preparing to resume progress it became manifest that the King's friends were on the alert and too numerous along the road to allow of her passing unprotected. In this emergency (and here we are tempted to quote the version of honest John Speed) “she devised,—as what will not necessity endure and a woman's wit devise ?—to be laid in a coffin as dead, bound fast with cords, and so, as if it had been her corse, carried on a horse-litter to the city of Gloucester: in which bonds of her own distress she had good occasion to remember the chains of King Stephen's captivity. To such extremities were these two princes at the self-same time subject, that whilst they turmoiled for spacious kingdoms, they brought themselves to the very extreme wants of air and of elbowroom.” History of England, p. 494.
This tragic affair happened in September 1141. An interesting personal memorial of the flight was discovered at or near the castle of Ludgershall in the year 1777. It was the silver seal of Milo of Gloucester, representing a knight on horseback in chain mail and armed with lance and shield, with the following inscription SIGILLVM MILONIS DE GLOCESTRIA. An impression of it was engraved in Vol. xiv. of the Archæologia, at which time it was in the possession of the Rev. John Selwyn minister of the parish. This was Milo the Chamberlain otherwise called the Earl of Hereford, who had aided the Empress in her escape out of Winchester: and the discovery of his seal corroborates the testimony of Gervase of Canterbury who tells us that after emerging from the horrors of the conflagration he rejoined the Empress at Gloucester, in an almost naked condition.
Matilda's PARLIAMENTS IN DEVIZES. The Earl of Gloucester who, as already stated, fell into the hands of the opposite party during this mêlée, was in the course of the following winter exchanged for King Stephen, and the belligerent parties were once more placed on a more equal footing. Two Governments might now be said to be acting in England, that of Matilda in the West and Stephen's in the East. The period of Lent coming on, gave to both a cessation from arms, which the Empress improved by moving from Gloucester to Devizes, here to debate with her knights on the prospects of another campaign. The principal transaction at this council was a resolution to despatch an embassy to Geoffrey Plantagenet Earl of Anjou the Empress's second husband, and endeavour to engage his services in her cause; and men of approved conduct were at once nominated for this important mission. But that nobleman, to whom his wife had long been an object of indifference, was moreover just now taking occasion from Stephen's misfortunes to overrun Normandy, and was but ill prepared therefore to co-operate in the more distant views of Matilda. He received the embassy coldly and sent them back to their mistress with an equivocal answer which was laid before her council at a second conference held at Devizes on the octaves of Pentecost. The Earl of Anjou, the messengers said, could not but entertain with some consideration a proposal emanating from the nobility who surrounded the Empress's person; but unfortunately, amongst them all, he was intimately acquainted only with the Earl of Gloucester, of whose prudence, fortitude, and fidelity he had indeed long had proof. If that General should think fit to venture a voyage to Normandy, his representations might possibly issue in a result more favourable to the Empress's cause in England; but the efforts of all other persons while passing and repassing on such an errand, would, he assured them, be only so much labour lost.
All present now entreated that the Earl would condescend to undertake the business himself, urging upon him its importance as involving the inheritance not only of his sister but of his nephew. Long did he excuse himself, on account of the difficulty of the negociation, the perils of the journey, and, more than all, the defenceless condition to which the Empress might possibly be reduced in his absence, through the defection of those, who, it was but too evident, had been on the point of deserting her during the recent winter while himself lay in captivity. Yielding at length to the general desire, he consented to depart if he might carry with him hostages for the good faith of the Empress's chief adherents; stipulating with them moreover that they should all retire to Oxford and there defend her till his return. And thus ended Matilda's second Parliament at Devizes.
The Earl of Anjou though himself unwilling to come over to England, consented after many delays to send his youthful son Henry (afterwards Henry II. of England) with a band of some three or four hundred horsemen, under the guidance of the Earl of Gloster; who on reaching the English shore learnt that the Empress was blockaded in Oxford. The narrative of that heroic Lady's romantic escape from the castle, through a snow-storm, her person being disguised in white attire, would draw us too far afield from our present purpose. We must therefore hasten to group together the few remaining acts and deeds of which she rendered Devizes the scene till the close of Stephen's reign.
The number and variety of legislative transactions dated by the Empress and her son Henry from Devizes lead to the inference that the castle was not unfrequently her favourite seat of empire. It was here that she signed the charter of Heytesbury Church, preserved in Bishop Osmund's Register; and it is observable that the title which she usually assumes is that which was well-known to be so agreeable to the people, viz., “Daughter of King Henry and Lady of the English.” The witnesses to the Heytesbury charter are Robert Earl of Gloster, William Gifford [of Boyton ?] her Chancellor, Master Ralph, Edward of Hurst, and Peter Boterel. See also the charters dated at Devizes of grants made by her and her son to the Cistercian Abbey of Lockswell or Drownfont near Lacock, recited at length in Bowles's History of Bremhill. A singular memorial of one of her benefactions (though it is uncertain whether this was made at Devizes] turned up at the time of Henry VIII.'s Reformation, when the convents, and among others that of of Monkton Farley were visited by order of Thomas Lord Cromwell. Richard Layton the inspector of Farley writing to his superior in 1537, sends up by the bearer a bag full of reliques, “in which ” says he "ye shall see strange things. Amongst them, Mary Magdalene's girdle, wrapped and covered with white” (sent with great reverence from house to house upon certain interesting occasions) “which girdle Matilda the Empress one of the founders of Farley gave unto them, as saith the holy father of Farley.” This Priory had been founded by the Bohun family about the year 1125. The third Humphrey de Bohun, whose defence of Trowbridge has already been related, now received marks of his Royal Mistress's favour in the form of additional endowments to his pet colony at Farley. She gave Monkton manor near Chippenham (now Mr. Esmeade's) with its tythes, advowsons, and chapelries, also an estate at Marston near Highworth, and another at Foxhanger near Devizes. The Bohun line eventually merged into two daughters, one of whom married Henry of Bolingbroke afterwards King Henry IV. (From Canon Jackson's History of Monkton Farley Priory. Wilts Magazine, No. XII.)
Her charter to the Borough of Devizes, the year of which is not given, appears to have been executed at Reading, and the only witness is the Bishop of Ely, the same warlike prelate, we may suppose, who had held out the castle against King Stephen, see page 34. This instrument is so brief that a translation of it may here be given entire.
Matilda's CHARTER TO THE Town. “ The Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry, and Lady of the English, to her Justices, Earls, and all other her Min