« PreviousContinue »
Shortly after this, the name of Walter de Godarville undoubtedly appears in several documents as resident occupier of the castle, but whether he was the nominee of Lord Willington or of the Crown may admit of a doubt. Godarville or Godard-ville was a form of spelling occasionally assumed by one of the branches of the numerous family of the Goddards of North Wilts.
The story of Hubert de Burgb.
“K. Joan. Come hither Hubert, O my gentle Hubert
Act iii. sc. 3. Mais devoted servant of the reigning family; the mailed
knight who had fought for Richard in Normandy; the general who in the Barons' wars of King John's reign had, against desperate odds, held out Dover Castle to the last; the sea-captain who with a force of only forty sail had dispersed a French fleet of eighty; and the privy councillor who in the succeeding reign rose, as a just reward, to the highest offices in the State, is so well known as a Shakspearean character that any more detailed account of his career is unnecessary. Speed entitles him “that perfect mirror of loyalty.” Shakspeare darkly hints that he carried his allegiance so far as to connive at the treachery practised against Prince Arthur; but as he also calls De Burgh into court to refute the charge, few will deny to the illustrious defendant the benefit of the doubt.
For a considerable period, Hubert de Burgh almost ruled the kingdom, under Henry III. His title was Earl of Kent; and his office of Grand Justiciary drew within his reach large pecuniary profits. But the 17th year of the young King's
reign witnessed the close of his power. Henry was opposed by the Mareschall's family, the Earls of Pembroke, (see the History of Marlborough,) and in an evil hour took to his councils a churchman and a foreigner named Peter de Rupi. bus Bishop of Winchester. By his advice the plan was adopted of extorting from the Justiciary the accumulated wealth of office. Hubert received orders to answer for all the wardships which he had ever held, all the rents of the royal demesnes, and all the aids and fines which had been paid into the Exchequer for the last twenty years. If not quite so innocent as the lamb in the fable, on whom the wolf had resolved to fasten a charge, Hubert equally felt that flight was preferable to any court of appeal. He took sanctuary, first in the church of Merton in Surrey, then at Brentwood in Essex; from which latter place he was starved out after the endurance of nearly six weeks captivity. Conducted at last to London, he was arraigned before his political enemies who clamoured for his blood, and insulted by the fickle multitude who forgat his past services. One exception must be made to the latter charge, in favour of the honest blacksmith of Brentwood, who is reported to have said, when required to construct the iron gyves in which the prisoner was to be led to London. “Do with me what you will, but I will rather die the worst death you can devise, than help to put shackles on the noble Hubert, who drave the foreigners out, and saved England to England," &c. (see his speech at large in Matthew Paris).
Henry, already stained with ingratitude, and consenting to a sentence which confiscated the whole of Hubert's per. sonal and much of his landed property, was still unwilling to super-add the crime of judicial murder. As a provisional arrangement, four of the principal men in the kingdom now came forward and offered themselves as sureties for Hubert's reappearance on some future day, provided he were suffered to remain under their custody in the Castle of Devizes guarded
from personal injury by four knights respectively appointed by themselves. Such therefore was the award finally decreed. Hubert in company with his guardians was forth with escorted to Devizes, there "to be kept” so ran the stipulation, “in honourable freedom from the mean severity with which he had hitherto been treated.” His four noble sureties were 1st Prince Richard Earl of Cornwall brother to the King, and eventually Emperor of the Romans. 2nd. Richard Mareschall Earl of Pembroke Governor of Marlborough Castle and brother-in-law to the aforesaid Prince Richard. 3rd. William Earl of Warren. 4th. William Earl of Ferrars.
Meanwhile, as the revolt of the Pembroke faction assumed a more demonstrative form, the Bishop of Winchester urged upon the King the necessity of displacing sundry of the holders of baronies in favour of foreigners who might be more devoted to his interests. Gascons and Poictevins now flocked into the country and every where assumed places of trust. In Wiltshire, Gilbert Bassett of Compton was stripped of the manor of Netheravon in favour of Peter de Mawley, and Richard Siward was arrested for marrying Gilbert Bassett's sister without royal licence. At Devizes the Bishop laboured but too successfully to supplant Godarville and to seat in his place a son or nephew of his own, named Peter de Rivaulx, a step which was strongly suspected to be only preliminary to the assassination of his imprisoned rival. Misunderstanding between the Court and Hubert's guardians in the castle had indeed broken out very soon after his commitment, as testified by the following document, referring possibly to an attempt on the part of the King to substitute other men.
“The King to the knights the guardians of Hubert de Burgh, at Devizes.
“Ye ought to recollect, touching the articles of agreement made between us and your superior lords, to whom we assigned the donjon for the safe keeping of Hubert de Burgh, that the rest of the fortress was to remain at our disposal, for us and such of our people as we might send. Now: whereas it hath been certified to us, that to our liegemen lately commissioned thither, ye have hitherto refused admittance, to our great rebuke and scandal, we now send Aylmer de St. Amand bearing an order that you admit the knights sent: and unless you return by him a sufficient reason wherefore ye have acted on this wise, know that we will see in our own person who will deny entrance into our castle. Dated at Wallingford, 2 June 17th Henry III.” Rymer.
A fortnight after the issuing of this letter, the King then lying at Woodstock, sent another to Walter de Godarville warning him neither to quit Devizes nor to suffer stores of any kind to be carried into the castle. Two days after a third missive arrives, enforced by the presence of a company of knights and serjeants, and prohibiting the importation of any other provisions than what were required for the daily sustenance of the castellans: that as to the Earl of Kent's guardians, they should be at their own charges on account of their recent contumacy. Furthermore, that if the Sheriff of Wilts should signify to Walter de Godarville that he required his assistance to go to the house of Gilbert Bassett of Compton to enforce the King's command, the said Walter might attend him with force and arms, provided nothing were carried into the castle during his absence. And finally it was commanded to the men of the town of Devizes that they should look to and take care of the King's interest.
But how did it fare all this while with the distinguished prisoner? Truly he might be said to languish in dungeongloom. A solitary apartment had become his habitual abode. All communication with the outer world was strictly forbidden, except that on one occasion he was permitted to confess to his ghostly adviser and personal friend Luke the Archbishop of Dublin. Even the attendant who supplied his daily wants was allowed to approach no nearer to him than the grating of his prison-door. Matthew of Westminster's History supplies the following incident as illustrative of the charity which could brighten the hour of his deep adversity. Having been informed one day of the death of the Earl of Chester one of his sworn foes, Hubert fetched a deep sigh; and then, calling for his Psalter, he stood devoutly before the Cross and ceased not till he had sung it all over for the good of the departed soul.
His four keepers too were changed; and, what was still more ominous of a terrible fate, he ascertained (through the friendly agency, we can hardly doubt, of the Archbishop of Dublin) that the castle itself was about to be placed in the hands of one of the Bishop of Winchester's creatures. Perceiving that no time was to be lost, he revealed the perilous situation in which he stood to two of his new keepers, and threw himself upon their generosity. They responded to the appeal and contrived his escape on the eve of Michaelmas day 1233, it being their turn then to watch. One led the way, while the other, taking Hubert on his shoulders, who was too encumbered with fetters to walk himself, carried him safely through the Ballium, or area of the castle, went out through the Ostium, passed with difficulty a deep foss, ascended to the neighbouring church of St. John and deposited him on the steps of the high altar. The escape being soon made known to the Governor, a body of castellans was instantly dispatched in pursuit, who finding the Earl in his place of refuge clasping a cross, dragged him out with violence and carried him back to the castle. The King was at that moment in Oxford, and being apprized of the affair, immediately sent orders to the Devizes Governor that the prisoner should be kept in the vault which he had previously occupied, that his person was to be loaded with three pair of iron fetters, and that none should hold any communication with him. But the matter was not suffered to rest here. So notorious a breach of the privilege of sanctuary was, in the eyes of other men besides the clergy, a flagrant transgression: and as the outrage had