Thursday, September 30, 2010

Henry of Huntingdon on William I

Henry of Huntingdon, Historum Anglorum, Lib. VI. adJin., speaking of the reign of William I.
For it is the nature [of the Normans] that, when they have so cast down their enemies as to add no more to their burdens, then they proceed to oppress each other, reducing their own folk with their lands to poverty and devastation. This appeareth more and more plainly in Normandy, England, Apulia, Calabria, Sicily and Antioch, lands of great fertility which God hath subjected to the Normans. In England, therefore, unjust taxes abounded in those days, and abominable customs. All the great folk were so blinded with greed for gold and silver, that the poet's word was true of them :
" All must needs get and get, while none asks how his gains are gotten." The more talk there wras of right, the more acts of unrighteousness ; those who were called Justiciaries were the fountainhead of all injustice. Sheriffs and reeves, whose duty was to dispense law and justice, were more savage than the thieves and robbers, and more barbarous than the most barbarous of all. The king himself had farmed out his lands as dearly as he could ; he would transfer them to another who offered more, and again to another, ever making light of his own covenant, and greed)* of greater gain. So in this year 1087 God sent plagues of sickness and famine upon England; so that he who escaped the fever died of hunger. He sent also tempests and thunder, whereby many men were slain ; nor did He spare either oxen or sheep.

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