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FTER spending a little time at Paris, Robert took leave of the king, and of William his son, and went forth, with a
train of attendant knights, on his pilgrimage. He had a great variety of adventures, which can not be related
here, as it is the history of the son, and not of the father, which is the subject of this narrative. Though he
traveled strictly as a pilgrim, it was still with great pomp and parade. After visiting Rome, and accomplishing
various services and duties connected with his pilgrimage there, he laid aside his pilgrim's garb, and,
assuming his proper rank as a great Norman chieftain, he went to Constantinople, where he made a great display
of his wealth and magnificence. At the time of the grand procession, for example, by which he entered the city
of Constantinople, he rode a mule, which, besides being gorgeously caparisoned, had shoes of gold instead of
iron; and these shoes were purposely attached so slightly to the
 hoofs, that they were shaken off as the animal walked along, to be picked up by the populace. This was to
impress them with grand ideas of the rider's wealth and splendor. After leaving Constantinople, Robert resumed
his pilgrim's garb, and went on toward the Holy Land.
The journey, however, did not pass without the usual vicissitudes of so long an absence and so distant a
pilgrimage. At one time Robert was sick, and, after lingering for some time in a fever, he so far recovered his
strength as to be borne on a litter by the strength of other men, though he could not advance himself, either
on horseback or on foot; and as for traveling carriages, there had been no such invention in those days. They
made arrangements, therefore, for carrying the duke on a litter. There were sixteen Moorish slaves employed to
serve as his bearers. This company was divided into sets, four in each, the several sets taking the burden in
rotation. Robert and his attendant knights looked down with great contempt on these black pagan slaves. One day
the cavalcade was met by a Norman who was returning home to Normandy after having accomplished his pilgrimage.
He asked Duke Robert if he had any message to send to his friends at home.
 "Yes," said he; "tell them you saw me here, on my way to Paradise, carried by sixteen demons."
Robert reached Jerusalem, and set out on his return; and soon after rumors came back to Paris that he had died
on his way home. The accounts of the manner of his death were contradictory and uncertain; but the fact was
soon made sure, and the news produced every where a great sensation. It soon appeared that the brothers and
cousins of Robert, who had claimed the right to succeed him in preference to his son William, had only
suspended their claims—they had not abandoned them. They began to gather their forces, each in his own separate
domain, and to prepare to take the field, if necessary, in vindication of what they considered their rights to
the inheritance. In a word, their oaths of fealty to William were all forgotten, and each claimant was intent
only on getting possession himself of the ducal crown.
In the mean time, William himself was at Paris, and only eleven years of age. He had been receiving a careful
education there, and was a very prepossessing and accomplished young prince. Still, he was yet but a mere boy.
He had been under the care of a
milita-  ry tutor, whose name was Theroulde. Theroulde was a veteran soldier, who had long been in the employ of the King
of France. He took great interest in his young pupil's progress. He taught him to ride and to practice all the
evolutions of horsemanship which were required by the tactics of those days. He trained him, too, in the use of
arms, the bow and arrow, the javelin, the sword, the spear, and accustomed him to wear, and to exercise in, the
armor of steel with which warriors were used, in those days, to load themselves in going into battle. Young
princes like William had suits of this armor made for them, of small size, which they were accustomed to wear
in private in their military exercises and trainings, and to appear in, publicly, on great occasions of state.
These dresses of iron were of course very heavy and uncomfortable, but the young princes and dukes were,
nevertheless, very proud and happy to wear them.
While William was thus engaged in pursuing his military education in Paris, several competitors for his dukedom
immediately appeared in Normandy and took the field. The strongest and most prominent among them was the Earl
of Arques. His name was William too, but, to
 distinguish him from the young duke, we shall call him Arques. He was a brother of Robert, and maintained that,
as Robert left no lawful heir, he was indisputably entitled to succeed him. Arques assembled his forces and
prepared to take possession of the country.
It will be recollected that Robert, when he left Normandy in setting out on his pilgrimage, had appointed a
nobleman named Alan to act as regent, or governor of the country, until he should return; or, in case he should
never return, until William should become of age. Alan had a council of officers, called the council of
regency, with whose aid he managed the administration of the government. This council, with Alan at their head,
proclaimed young William duke, and immediately began to act in his name. When they found that the Earl of
Arques was preparing to seize the government, they began to assemble their forces also, and thus both sides
prepared for war.
Before they actually commenced hostilities, however, the pilgrim knights who had accompanied Robert on his
pilgrimage, and who had been journeying home slowly by themselves ever since their leader's death, arrived in
Normandy. These were chieftains and nobles of
 high rank and influence, and each of the contending parties were eager to have them join their side. Besides
the actual addition of force which these men could bring to the cause they should espouse, the moral support
they would give to it was a very important consideration. Their having been on this long and dangerous
pilgrimage invested them with a sort of romantic and religious interest in the minds of all the people, who
looked up to them, in consequence of it, with a sort of veneration and awe; and then, as they had been selected
by Robert to accompany him on his pilgrimage, and had gone on the long and dangerous journey with him,
continuing to attend upon him until he died, they were naturally regarded as his most faithful and confidential
friends. For these and similar reasons, it was obvious that the cause which they should espouse in the
approaching contest would gain a large accession of moral power by their adhesion.
As soon as they arrived in Normandy, rejecting all proposals from other quarters, they joined young William's
cause with the utmost promptitude and decision. Alan received them at once into his councils. An assembly was
convened, and the question was discussed whether
Will-  iam should be sent for to come to Normandy. Some argued that he was yet a mere boy, incapable of rendering them any
real service in the impending contest, while he would be exposed, more perhaps than they themselves, to be
taken captive or slain. They thought it best, therefore, that he should remain, for the present, in Paris,
under the protection of the French king.
Others, on the other hand, contended that the influence of William's presence, boy as he was, would animate and
inspire all his followers, and awaken every where, throughout the country, a warm interest in his cause; that
his very tenderness and helplessness would appeal strongly to every generous heart, and that his youthful
accomplishments and personal charms would enlist thousands in his favor, who would forget, and perhaps abandon
him, if he kept away. Besides, it was by no means certain that he was so safe as some might suppose in King
Henry's custody and power. King Henry might himself lay claims to the vacant duchy, with a view of bestowing it
upon some favorite of his own, in which case he might confine young William in one of his castles, in an
honorable, but still rigid and hopeless captivity,
 or treacherously destroy his life by the secret administration of poison.
These latter counsels prevailed. Alan and the nobles who were with him sent an embassage to the court of King
Henry to bring William home. Henry made objections and difficulties. This alarmed the nobles. They feared that
it would prove true that Henry himself had designs on Normandy. They sent a new embassage, with demands more
urgent than before. Finally, after some time spent in negotiations and delays, King Henry concluded to yield,
and William set out on his return. He was now about twelve or thirteen years old. His military tutor,
Theroulde, accompanied him, and he was attended likewise by the ambassadors whom Alan had sent for him, and by
a strong escort for his protection by the way. He arrived in safety at Alan's head-quarters.
William's presence in Normandy had the effect which had been anticipated from it. It awakened every where a
great deal of enthusiasm in his favor. The soldiers were pleased to see how handsome their young commander was
in form, and how finely he could ride. He was, in fact, a very superior equestrian for one so young. He was
more fond, even, than other
 boys of horses; and as, of course, the most graceful and the fleetest horses which could be found were provided
for him, and as Theroulde had given him the best and most complete instruction, he made a fine display as he
rode swiftly through the camp, followed by veteran nobles, splendidly dressed and mounted, and happy to be in
his train, while his own countenance beamed with a radiance in which native intelligence and beauty were
heightened by the animation and excitement of pride and pleasure. In respect to the command of the army, of
course the real power remained in Alan's hands, but every thing was done in William's name; and in respect to
all external marks and symbols of sovereignty, the beautiful boy seemed to possess the supreme command; and as
the sentiment of loyalty is always the strongest when the object which calls for the exercise of it is most
helpless or frail, Alan found his power very much increased when he had this beautiful boy to exhibit as the
true and rightful heir, in whose name and for whose benefit all his power was held.
Still, however, the country was very far from becoming settled. The Earl of Arques kept the field, and other
claimants, too, strengthened
 themselves in their various castles and towns, as if preparing to resist. In those days, every separate
district of the country was almost a separate realm, governed by its own baron, who lived, with his retainers,
within his own castle walls, and ruled the land around him with a rod of iron. These barons were engaged in
perpetual quarrels among themselves, each plundering the dominions of the rest, or making hostile incursions
into the territories of a neighbor to revenge some real or imaginary wrong. This turbulence and disorder
prevailed every where throughout Normandy at the time of William's return. In the general confusion, William's
government scarcely knew who were his friends or his enemies. At one time, when a deputation was sent to some
of the barons in William's name, summoning them to come with their forces and join his standard, as they were
in duty bound to do, they felt independent enough to send back word to him that they had "too much to do in
settling their own quarrels to be able to pay any attention to his."
In the course of a year or two, moreover, and while his own realm continued in this unsettled and distracted
state, William became involved in what was almost a quarrel with King Henry
 himself. When he was fifteen years old, which was two or three years after his return from Paris to Normandy,
Henry sent directions to William to come to a certain town, called Evreux, situated about half way between
Falaise and Paris, and just within the confines of Normandy,
to do homage to him there for his duchy. There was some doubt among William's counselors whether it would be
most prudent to obey or disobey this command. They finally concluded that it was best to obey. Grand
preparations were accordingly made for the expedition; and, when all was ready, the young duke was conducted in
great state, and with much pomp and parade, to meet his sovereign.
The interview between William and his sovereign, and the ceremonies connected with it, lasted some days. In the
course of this time, William remained at Evreux, and was, in some sense, of course, in Henry's power. William,
having been so long in Henry's court as a mere boy, accustomed all the time to look up to and obey Henry as a
father, regarded him somewhat in that light now, and approached him with great deference and respect. Henry
re-  ceived him in a somewhat haughty and imperious manner, as if he considered him still under the same
subjection as heretofore.
William had a fortress or castle on the frontiers of his dukedom, toward Henry's dominions. The name of the
castle was Tellières, and the governor of it was a faithful old soldier named De Crespin. William's father,
Robert, had intrusted De Crespin with the command of the castle, and given him a garrison to defend it. Henry
now began to make complaint to William in respect to this castle. The garrison, he said, were continually
making incursions into his dominions. William replied that he was very sorry that there was cause for such a
complaint. He would inquire into it, and if the fact were really so, he would have the evil immediately
corrected. Henry replied that that was not sufficient. "You must deliver up the castle to me," he said, "to be
destroyed." William was indignant at such a demand; but he was so accustomed to obey implicitly whatever King
Henry might require of him, that he sent the order to have the castle surrendered.
When, however, the order came to De Crespin, the governor of the castle, he refused to obey it. The fortress,
he said, had been
com-  mitted to his charge by Robert, duke of Normandy, and he should not give it up to the possession of any
foreign power. When this answer was reported to William and his counselors, it made them still more indignant
than before at the domineering tyranny of the command, and more disposed than ever to refuse obedience to it.
Still William was in a great measure in the monarch's power. On cool reflection, they perceived that resistance
would then be vain. New and more authoritative orders were accordingly issued for the surrender of the castle.
De Crespin now obeyed. He gave up the keys and withdrew with his garrison. William was then allowed to leave
Evreux and return home, and soon afterward the castle was razed to the ground.
This affair produced, of course, a great deal of animosity and irritation between the governments of France and
Normandy; and where such a state of feeling exists between two powers separated only by an imaginary line
running through a populous and fertile country, aggressions from one side and from the other are sure to
follow. These are soon succeeded by acts of retaliation and revenge, leading, in the end, to an open and
general war. It was
 so now. Henry marched his armies into Normandy, seized towns, destroyed castles, and, where he was resisted by
the people, he laid waste the country with fire and sword. He finally laid siege to the very castle of Falaise.
William and his government were for a time nearly overwhelmed with the tide of disaster and calamity. The tide
turned, however, at length, and the fortune of war inclined in their favor. William rescued the town and castle
of Falaise; it was in a very remarkable manner, too, that this exploit was accomplished. The fortress was
closely invested with Henry's forces, and was on the very eve of being surrendered. The story is, that Henry
had offered bribes to the governor of the castle to give it up to him, and that the governor had agreed to
receive them and to betray his trust. While he was preparing to do so, William arrived at the head of a
resolute and determined band of Normans. They came with so sudden an onset upon the army of besiegers as to
break up their camp and force them to abandon the siege. The people of the town and the garrison of the castle
were extremely rejoiced to be thus rescued, and when they came to learn through whose instrumentality they had
been saved, and
 saw the beautiful horseman whom they remembered as a gay and happy child playing about the precincts of the
castle, they were perfectly intoxicated with delight. They filled the air with the wildest acclamations, and
welcomed William back to the home of his childhood with manifestations of the most extravagant joy. As to the
traitorous governor, he was dealt with very leniently. Perhaps the general feeling of joy awakened emotions of
leniency and forgiveness in William's mind—or perhaps the proof against the betrayer was incomplete. They did
not, therefore, take his life, which would have been justly forfeited, according to the military ideas of the
times, if he had been really guilty. They deprived him of his command, confiscated his property, and let him go
After this, William's forces continued for some time to make head successfully against those of the King of
France; but then, on the other hand, the danger from his uncle, the Earl of Arques, increased. The earl took
advantage of the difficulty and danger in which William was involved in his contests with King Henry, and began
to organize his forces again. He fortified himself in his castle at Arques
 was collecting a large force there. Arques was in the northeastern part of Normandy, near the sea, where the
ruins of the ancient castle still remain. The earl built an almost impregnable tower for himself on the summit
of the rock on which the castle stood, in a situation so inaccessible that he thought he could retreat to it in
any emergency, with a few chosen followers, and bid defiance to any assault. In and around this castle the earl
had got quite a large army together. William advanced with his forces, and, encamping around them, shut them
in. King Henry, who was then in a distant part of Normandy, began to put his army in motion to come to the
rescue of Arques.
Things being in this state, William left a strong body of men to continue the investment and siege of Arques,
and went off himself, at the head of the remainder of his force, to intercept Henry on his advance. The result
was a battle and a victory, gained under circumstances so extraordinary, that William, young as he was,
acquired by his exploits a brilliant and universal renown.
It seems that Henry, in his progress to Arques, had to pass through a long and gloomy valley, which was bounded
on either side by
 precipitous and forest-covered hills. Through this dangerous defile the long train of Henry's army was
advancing, arranged and marshaled in such an order as seemed to afford the greatest hope of security in case of
an attack. First came the vanguard, a strong escort, formed of heavy bodies of soldiery, armed with battle-axes
and pikes, and other similar weapons, the most efficient then known. Immediately after this vanguard came a
long train of baggage, the tents, the provisions, the stores, and all the munitions of war. The baggage was
followed by a great company of servants—the cooks, the carters, the laborers, the camp followers of every
description—a throng of non-combatants, useless, of course, in a battle, and a burden on a march, and yet the
inseparable and indispensable attendant of an army, whether at rest or in motion. After this throng came the
main body of the army, with the king, escorted by his guard of honor, at the head of it. An active and
efficient corps of lancers and men-at-arms brought up the rear.
William conceived the design of drawing this cumbrous and unmanageable body into an ambuscade. He selected,
accordingly, the narrowest and most dangerous part of the defile for the
 purpose, and stationed vast numbers of Norman soldiers, armed with javelins and arrows, upon the slopes of the
hill on either side, concealing them all carefully among the thickets and rocks. He then marshaled the
remainder of his forces in the valley, and sent them up the valley to meet Henry as he was descending. This
body of troops, which was to advance openly to meet the king, as if they constituted the whole of William's
force, were to fight a pretended battle with the vanguard, and then to retreat, in hopes to draw the whole
train after them in a pursuit so eager as to throw them into confusion; and then, when the column, thus
disarranged, should reach the place of ambuscade, the Normans were to come down upon them suddenly from their
hiding-places, and complete their discomfiture.
The plan was well laid, and wisely and bravely executed; and it was most triumphantly successful in its result.
The vanguard of Henry's army were deceived by the pretended flight of the Norman detachment. They supposed,
too, that it constituted the whole body of their enemies. They pressed forward, therefore, with great
exultation and eagerness to pursue them. News of the attack, and of the
 apparent repulse with which the French soldiers had met it, passed rapidly along the valley, producing every
where the wildest excitement, and an eager desire to press forward to the scene of conflict. The whole valley
was filled with shouts and outcries; baggage was abandoned, that those who had charge of it might hurry on; men
ran to and fro for tidings, or ascended eminences to try to see. Horsemen drove at full speed from front to
rear, and from rear on to the front again; orders and counter orders were given, which nobody would understand
or attend to in the general confusion and din. In fact, the universal attention seemed absorbed in one general
and eager desire to press forward with headlong impetuosity to the scene of victory and pursuit which they
supposed was enacting in the van.
The army pressed on in this confused and excited manner until they reached the place of ambuscade. They went
on, too, through this narrow passage, as heedlessly as ever; and, when the densest and most powerful portion of
the column was crowding through, they were suddenly thunderstruck by the issuing of a thousand weapons from the
heights and thickets above them on either hand—a dreadful
 shower of arrows, javelins, and spears, which struck down hundreds in a moment, and overwhelmed the rest with
astonishment and terror. As soon as this first discharge had been effected, the concealed enemy came pouring
down the sides of the mountain, springing out from a thousand hiding-places, as if suddenly brought into being
by some magic power. The discomfiture of Henry's forces was complete and irremediable. The men fled every where
in utter dismay, trampling upon and destroying one another, as they crowded back in terrified throngs to find
some place of safety up the valley. There, after a day or two, Henry got together the scattered remains of his
army, and established something like a camp.
It is a curious illustration of the feudal feelings of those times in respect to the gradation of ranks, or
else of the extraordinary modesty and good sense of William's character, that he assumed no airs of superiority
over his sovereign, and showed no signs of extravagant elation after this battle. He sent a respectful
embassage to Henry, recognizing his own acknowledged subjection to Henry as his sovereign, and imploring his
protection! He looked confidently to him, he said, for aid and support against his rebellious subjects.
 Though he thus professed, however, to rely on Henry, he really trusted most, it seems, to his own right arm;
for, as soon as this battle was fairly over, and while the whole country was excited with the astonishing
brilliancy of the exploit performed by so young a man, William mounted his horse, and calling upon those to
follow him who wished to do so, he rode at full speed, at the head of a small cavalcade, to the castle at
Arques. His sudden appearance here, with the news of the victory, inspirited the besiegers to such a degree
that the castle was soon taken. He allowed the rebel earl to escape, and thus, perhaps, all the more
effectually put an end to the rebellion. He was now in peaceable possession of his realm.
He went in triumph to Falaise, where he was solemnly crowned with great ceremony and parade, and all Normandy
was filled with congratulations and rejoicings.