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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Henry I. (1100—1135.)

Henry I. (1100—1135.)

Henry I., with better mental gifts than his brother, was a miracle of treachery, vindictiveness, and avarice. His praise of a man was a sure sign that he intended to ruin him. An old favourite boasted that he could build as magnificent a monastery as the king. Henry had him harassed by iniquitous law-suits till he died of a broken heart. Due de la Barre-en-Ouche, a literary knight, satirized him in a song. Henry had him seized and blinded, and the poor man dashed his brains out in despair. He was not even Henry's vassal. Juliana de Breteuil, the king's natural daughter, objecting to page 24 having her two children's eyes put out, was ordered by her amiable parent to be dragged through a frozen moat. When the last great sea-king, Magnus, was slain in Ireland he left in custody of a citizen of Lincoln an immense hoard of 20,000 lbs. in silver. Henry promptly threw the banker into a dungeon and appropriated the treasure. On the death of Gilbert, Bishop of London, Henry seized his effects. The holy man's silver and gold were carried to the king's exchequer in the episcopal boots.

The general pillage—taxation it could not be called—was passing belief. "Those who had nothing to give," says the faithful chronicler, "were driven from their humble dwellings, or, the doors being torn off their hinges, were left open to be plundered; or their miserable chattels being taken away, they were reduced to the extreme of poverty or in other way afflicted and tormented; while against those who were thought to possess something certain, new and imaginary offences were alleged; when not daring to defend themselves in a plea against the king, they were stripped of their property and plunged into misery."

His Saxon subjects he treated with undisguised contempt; while his only son, William, who, before his father's demise, providentially perished in the wreck of the White ship, had repeatedly threatened that when he came to the throne he would yoke them like beasts to the plough. A gluttonous feast of lampreys terminated Henry's career, but his death brought no redress to the miserable people.