Chapter 39

[ 39 ]

       But king Louis, yielding to a perverse inclination for cunning deceit, swiftly sent prelates of prodigious reverence to Hugh so that, in accordance with that promise whereby lord and warrior are linked together, the duke would hasten readily to come to him. Therefore Hugh the Great, forced in a supplicating manner by the repeated requests of the bishops, advanced to meet the king in a village near CompiŠauml;gne, at the villa called "Crux," (note 1) and he said to the king: "On what business have you compelled me, on the basis of my promise and by extraordinary ambassadors, to hasten here?~" Moreover, the king replied: "In order that you return to me Richard, whom Osmund stole and guided to count Bernard." Hugh the Great replied: "Unless I take from Bernard by force the fortresses over which he presides, I am unable to favor your prayers and wish in any way."
       Then the king replied: "So that you may support, rather than injure, me in my need, I will grant to you that you may hold the counties of Evreux and Bayeux, yea indeed, from the Seine all the way to the sea, but I will keep what is on this side of the Seine, and as a result of these arrangments I will fulfill my will. Let us be in harmony and of one mind in every affair, as perpetually befits a king and a duke. Proceeding along this side of the Seine, I will beseige Rouen, but you will beseige Bayeux, defending it once the military band has been taken by assault. In this way we will weaken the arrogant and foreign Normans, and subordinate them to our authority. Moreover, they will in this way either grow tame and be subjugated or, banished, will go back swiftly to Dacia."
       But duke Hugh the Great forgot his promise, which he had made to Bernard, to help Richard, nay rather stripped of his memory by the beneficia and the cities he agreed with the king upon the covenant of this alliance; once the time for them to carry out their intentions has been settled, each marches back to his own home. Therefore count Bernard, familiar with this agreement, went swiftly to duke Hugh. And coming before him said, agitated in heart and mein: "Great and most trusty duke, you have been, until now, distinguished for all your merits and for the uninterrupted course of your promise, but I marvel that you have lied to an innocent boy, although you engaged yourself of your own accord by a Christian promise of confederation. It would behoove you to preserve unharmed that promise which you put forth, and not to detest it for the sake of any present of gifts or any beneficium. Normans and Bretons recognized what you promised the boy Richard, and leaders of Francia rejoiced over this decision. What is more unseemly than this infamy? And what more mean-spirited than such a blasphemy? Rumor of such treachery, and the vileness of such a wicked duke, is being noised abroad throughout almost all the cities of Francia, all are whispering about how so great a duke and advocate was ensnared and made a false promise for presents and a beneficium."
       Sighing from the depths of his heart, Hugh the Great replied to that scolding: "What you have described, you have recounted in a true and blameless speech for, having forgotten the oath of allegiance whereby I engaged myself of my own accord as the boy's defender and helper, I accepted by the king's gift the land from the Seine to the sea which ought to be held by Richard in hereditary right and I promised in return, if the king would never deny that he gave that land to me, to help him secure the land which is on this side of the Seine and, breaking my oath, I promised steadfast loyalty to him. Truly, since you are a count of marvelous talent and prodigious industry and cunning, and shrewd in all matters, I pray that you rescue me from reviling rumor by any sophism necessary. Sixteen days from now we will hasten to enter Normandy, the king and I. Moreover, he himself will beseige the town of Rouen and I, as was sworn, Bayeux. Therefore we will reduce the Normans, and the Bretons likewise, so that, humbled, they will serve us. Truly, should anyone be insolent and rebellious towards us, he will be banished. Truly, should anyone trust to armed resistance, he will be killed. If you have any discretion and talent, I pray you to deliver me, releasing me from the offense of oath-breaking." Bernard, however, perceiving that Hugh the Great had opened his heart, said to him: "Because you are so kind a lord, or perhaps because my nephew is so beloved, I will be able to reason out a better course of action than I might have had I merely been able to disturb your plan by chance." Having immediately marched back to Senlis, count Bernard, cognizant of the deliberations of the king and of his lord and of the time of the aforenamed hostile attack upon the Normans, and gladdened by his lord's benevolence in revealing his own intention, sent swiftly to Bernard, a man of Rouen and a Dacian, and secretly sent word of what he had heard from duke Hugh the Great, including Hugh's intention, in order that Bernard not defend the city with all his strength against the king but rather, having prepared a chorus of canons and monks, receive him joyfully as though rejoicing in his arrival and, by pursuing many argumentations, force the king to deny that he gave the land to duke Hugh the Great."
       Truly Bernard of Rouen, gladdened by the advice of this embassy, announced the secrets he had heard from the ambassador to the assembled Norman leaders. Moreover the Normans, knowing that Bernard never deceived any of them, yea indeed that he knew the secrets of duke Hugh the Great, likewise praised his advice very much. Truly at the time appointed for the confederated advance, having called together a Frankish military band from wherever he could, the king came into the region called Caux and began to molest people and estates by setting fires. Moreover duke Hugh the Great, allured by this type of confederation, went on with a great army to the county of Bayeux. Therefore Bernard of Rouen, not unmindful of the advice of count Bernard of Senlis, in deceit sent with peace-making words for king Louis to hasten to the city of Rouen with his bishops and leaders and to no longer lay waste his own possessions with a nation of such great savageness. But the king, gladdened by the message of this embassy and rejoicing to advance his own rule and honor by the addition of the conquered town and its leaders, came with the Frankish magnates to the city of Rouen, restraining the rest of the army from further pillaging land now under his authority. Truly Bernard and the rest of the leaders and clergy of the whole town went to meet him at the Beauvais gate, and received him with the cunning of undaunted genius.
       But at daybreak the next day Bernard came before king Louis and began in deceit to urge him with these most humble words: "Unconquered lord king, you have long been irreproachable and steadfast in your promises, and very much praiseworthy in your every deed. We have lost our duke and advocate through Arnulf's treachery, but through God's grace we have gained instead you, a king, as an advocate. We care nothing for his progeny, whom Osmund stole and carried off from you, nor will we ever wage war for him, devoting ourselves to his service, for it is wiser for us to be royal and palatine, than to be the servants and the retinue of such a count. But something we have heard is astonishing to us and beyond believability, and we have marvelled greatly at those people by whose narration we learned that you have granted to duke Hugh, who is always quarreling insolently against you, the ample land from the Seine to the edge of the sea and that, at this very moment, he is taking the Bessin region by assault, and occupying it with a great army. What you have reserved for yourself, sweetest king, is of small worth and provides little military force or other service. You have increased your foe by 20,000 armed men. Who has seen men more valiant in war, more judicious in deliberation than the men of Coutances and Bayeux? If you had kept for yourself that military band, you would indeed have been able, as William did, to be lord and master of all nations by means of their arms and their advice. Did not William, relying only on the moiety of this army, without the accompaniment of Hugh and Herbert, by himself conduct you to king Henry? Who will uphold and defend, profit and preside over this city which you have kept for yourself? The men of Bayeux and Coutances used to guard this town, a prominent Frankish and Anglian port. The abundant goods of that land were made available to us, and we were made opulent by the treasures of that country. Therefore, accept this city, for we do not have the resources to live in it, and give it to Hugh, whereby he may be able to rebel against you all the more easily. We, with all of our fellows, will go back to Dacia on a nimble navigational course and, once we have gathered an even greater military multitude, we will lay waste this land, as Rollo once did; later it will be neither yours, nor Hugh's." But the king, incited by these deceptive complaints, prayed Bernard to advise him about these matters. Then Bernard replied: "Send an ambassador to duke Hugh the Great to deny him the fields of the Bessin, and to say that he is not to hold them more than three nights, nor to stay there any longer for, in offering them to him, you yielded to evil counsel." Truly, the king immediately sent someone to say this speech to Hugh.
       And as the ambassador stood before duke Hugh and announced the news to him, he was stupefied and, his gaze fixed and frozen, said: "The cunning of two leaders has forced the king to send such a message." Retreating to Paris, therefore, at this word of denial, duke Hugh sent an ambassador to king Louis saying: "Why has what you gave me of your own accord been taken away?" The king replied: "The land of Normandy will never be upheld except by the advocacy of a single lord. That which it befits to be whole ought not to be divided. Long ago Rollo, banished beyond the limits of Dacia, claimed this land wholly for himself, and it has since been divided by no one. The Dacian nation only knows how to serve a single lord." The ambassador, moreover, diligently recounted for duke Hugh what he had heard the king set forth. Meanwhile Bernard of Senlis, hearing of the unexpected and extremely speedy retreat of his lord duke Hugh, came to him on speedy horses and said: "Duke (so steadfastly trustworthy!), since you have been released from the fetters of a noxious oath of allegiance, be mindful of that oath of allegiance whereby you betrothed yourself to help the boy Richard." And Hugh replied: "I will be unable to aid him, for the whole Norman nation is subjected to the king." Against this Bernard replied: "Wait attentively for the outcome of the affair and what future days will spawn for him."


O king, hardly mindful of yourself
And of that one's father, who benefitted you,
By whose uninterrupted assistance you now hold these realms,
And who did many things
For your sake, and who fell a sacrificial victim
Of the Starry King, who knows what lies hidden and what bursts forth,
Why do you after this now do damage
To this yet harmless, upright boy
Richard, nobly sprung from a celebrated family,
For both his sire and his grandfather once stood fast,
Rich in never-ending, truth-telling fame,
Excelling in sacred arms.
Through the plague of this disgraceful act
Countless misfortunes will shackle you, will one day
Capture you, will destroy you in the end, because of this.


1. Possibly La Croix-Saint-Ouen.

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