William the Conqueror eBook

Edward Augustus Freeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 211 pages of information about William the Conqueror.
Maine in much the same sort in which he had defended Normandy.  He gave out that he wished to win Maine without shedding man’s blood.  He fought no battles; he did not attack the city, which he left to be the last spot that should be devoured.  He harried the open country, he occupied the smaller posts, till the citizens were driven, against Geoffrey’s will, to surrender.  William entered Le Mans; he was received, we are told, with joy.  When men make the best of a bad bargain, they sometimes persuade themselves that they are really pleased.  William, as ever, shed no blood; he harmed none of the men who had become his subjects; but Le Mans was to be bridled; its citizens needed a castle and a Norman garrison to keep them in their new allegiance.  Walter and Biota surrendered their claims on Maine and became William’s guests at Falaise.  Meanwhile Geoffrey of Mayenne refused to submit, and withstood the new Count of Maine in his stronghold.  William laid siege to Mayenne, and took it by the favoured Norman argument of fire.  All Maine was now in the hands of the Conqueror.

William had now made a greater conquest than any Norman duke had made before him.  He had won a county and a noble city, and he had won them, in the ideas of his own age, with honour.  Are we to believe that he sullied his conquest by putting his late competitors, his present guests, to death by poison?  They died conveniently for him, and they died in his own house.  Such a death was strange; but strange things do happen.  William gradually came to shrink from no crime for which he could find a technical defence; but no advocate could have said anything on behalf of the poisoning of Walter and Biota.  Another member of the house of Maine, Margaret the betrothed of his son Robert, died about the same time; and her at least William had every motive to keep alive.  One who was more dangerous than Walter, if he suffered anything, only suffered banishment.  Of Geoffrey of Mayenne we hear no more till William had again to fight for the possession of Maine.

William had thus, in the year 1063, reached the height of his power and fame as a continental prince.  In a conquest on Gaulish soil he had rehearsed the greater conquest which he was before long to make beyond sea.  Three years, eventful in England, outwardly uneventful in Normandy, still part us from William’s second visit to our shores.  But in the course of these three years one event must have happened, which, without a blow being struck or a treaty being signed, did more for his hopes than any battle or any treaty.  At some unrecorded time, but at a time which must come within these years, Harold Earl of the West-Saxons became the guest and the man of William Duke of the Normans.

CHAPTER V—­HAROLD’S OATH TO WILLIAM—­A.D. 1064?

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William the Conqueror from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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