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concerns of state he did not lose his religion and conscience, or make them the covers or instruments of ambition; but tempering the fierce policy of a new power by the mild lights of religion, he became a blessing to the country in which he was promoted. The English owed to the virtue of this stranger, and the influence he had on the king, the little remains of liberty they continued to enjoy; and at last such a degree of his confidence as in some sort counterbalanced the severities of the former part of his reign.
ROBERT AND WILLIAM RUFUS. Robert, though in an advanced age at his father's death, was even then more remarkable for those virtues which make us entertain hopes of a young man, than for that steady prudence which is necessary when the short career we are to run will not allow us to make many mistakes. He had indeed a temper suited to the genius of the time he lived in, and which therefore enabled him to make a considerable figure in the transactions which distinguished that period. He was of a sincere, open, candid nature; passionately fond of glory, ambitious without having any determinate object in view; vehement in his pursuits, but inconstant; much in war, which he understood and loved. But guiding himself both in war and peace solely by the impulses of an unbounded and irregular spirit, he filled the world with an equal admiration and pity of his splendid qualities and great misfortunes.
William was of a character very different. His views were short, his designs few, his genius narrow, and his manners brutal; full of craft, rapacious, without faith, without religion; but circumspect, steady and courageous for his ends, not for glory. Burke. » • » . »
Of the violent character of William, his rapacity, despotism, and voluptuousness, the reader will have formed a sufficient notion from the preceding pages. In person he was short and corpulent, with flaxen hair, and a ruddy complexion: from which last circumstance he derived the name of Rufus, or the red. In ordinary conversation his utterance was slow and embarrassed; 'in the hurry of passion precipitate and unintelligible. He assumed in public a haughty port, rolling his eyes with fierceness on the spectators, and endeavouring, by the tone of his voice and the tenor of his answers, to intimidate those who addressed him. But in private he descended to an equality with his companions, amusing them with his wit, which was chiefly pointed against himself; and seeking to lessen the odium of his excesses, by making them subjects of laughter.
HENRY THE FIRST.
A contemporary writer has left us the character of Henry as it was differently drawn by his friends and enemies after his death. By the former he was ranked among the wisest, richest, and bravest of our monarchs: the latter loaded his memory with the reproach of cruelty, avarice, and incontinence. To an indifferent observer at the present day his reign will offer little worthy of praise, unless it be the severity with which he punished offences. This was a real benefit to his people, as it not only contributed to extirpate the robbers by profession, but also checked the rapacity and violence of the barons. Still his merit will be very equivocal. As long as each conviction brought with it a fine or forfeiture to the royal exchequer, princes were stimulated to the execution of the laws by a sense of personal interest. Henry, at the same time that he visited the injustice of others, scrupled not to commit injustice himself. Probably in both cases he had in view the same object, his own emolument.
The great aim of his ambition was to aggrandize his family by augmenting his possessions on the continent. His success in this favourite project obtained for him the reputation of political wisdom; but it was purchased at the expense of enormous sums wrung from a suffering and impoverished people. If, however, the English thus paid for acquisitions in which they had little interest, they derived from them one advantage; the king's attention to foreign politics rendered him anxious to preserve peace with his more immediate neighbours. He lived on the most friendly terms with Alexander and David, successively kings of Scotland. The former had married his natural daughter Sybilla: both were the brothers of his wife Matilda. It was more difficult to repress the active and predatory dis
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position of the Welsh: but as often as he prepared to chastise their presumption, they pacified his resentment by submission and presents. As a check to this restless people, he planted among them a powerful colony of foreigners. Many natives of Flanders had found settlements in England, under the protection of his mother Matilda; and the number was now doubled by a crowd of emigrants, who had been driven from their homes by an inundation of the Rhine. Henry placed them at first on the right bank of the Tweed; but afterwards, collecting the old and new comers into one body, allotted to them for their residence the town of Haverfordwest, with the district of Ross in Pembrokeshire. They were a martial and industrious people: by attention to the cultivation of the soil, and the manufacture of cloth, they grew in numbers and opulence: and under the protection of the English kings, to whom they always remained faithful, defeated every attempt of the Welsh princes to root them out of the country.
Henry was naturally suspicious; and this disposition had been greatly encouraged by his knowledge of the clandestine attempts of his enemies. On one occasion the keeper of his treasures was convicted of a design on his life: on another, while he was marching in the midst of his army towards Wales, an arrow from an unknown hand struck him on the breast, but was repelled by the temper of his cuirass. Alarmed by these incidents, he always kept on his guard, frequently changed his apartments, and, when he retired to rest, ordered sentinels to be stationed at the door, and his sword and shield to be placed near his pillow.
The suspicious are generally dissembling and revengeful. Henry seldom forgot an injury, though he would disguise his enmity under the mask of friendship. Fraud, and treachery, and violence, were employed to ensnare those who had greatly offended him; and their usual portion was death, or blindness, or perpetual imprisonment. After his decease it was discovered that his cousin the earl of Moretoil, whom he had long kept in confinement, had also been deprived of sight. Luke de Barre", a poet, who had fought against him, was made prisoner at the close of the last war, and sentenced by the king to lose his eyes. Charles the Good, earl of Flanders, was present, and remonstrated against so direful a punishment. It was not, he observed, the custom of civilized nations to inflict bodily punishment on knights who had drawn the sword in the service of their lord. "It is not," replied Henry, "the first time that he has been in arms against me. But what is worse, he has made me the subject of his satire; and in his poems has held me up to the derision of my enemies. From his example let other versifiers learn what they may expect, if they offend the king of England." The cruel mandate was executed: and the troubadour, in a paroxysm of agony, bursting from the hands of the officers, dashed out his brains against the wall.
His dissimulation was so well known that he was mistrusted even by his favourites. When Blott, bishop of Lincoln, who had for many