THE TRUCE OF GOD
 QUEEN CONSTANCE'S evil influence did not end when King
Her youngest son Robert was her favourite, and she
wished to see him on the throne of France. When
therefore Henry, her eldest son, became king after his
fathers death. Constance was so angry that she did all
she could to win the most powerful barons from their
allegiance to Henry I. She succeeded so well that civil
war broke out.
Henry I. determined to keep the crown that was his by
right, and he begged the Duke of Normandy, a descendant
of Rollo, to help him put down the rebellion which his
mother had provoked.
Robert of Normandy at once came to the help of his
king, and fought as his ancestors had fought of old, so
valiantly, that ever after he was known as Robert le
Diable, which means Robert the Devil.
Constance and her party were vanquished, and seeing
that she had now nothing to gain by continuing to
fight, the queen-mother made friends with her eldest
Henry I. showed that he could be generous, by forgiving
his mother, and giving the title of Duke of Burgundy to
his brother Robert, while the Duke of Normandy was
rewarded for the help he had given to the king by the
gift of large tracts of land which lay between the
river Seme and the river Oise.
The war was over, but there was still great-distress in
the land. For three years the harvests had been growing
poorer and poorer. Even the rich had little to eat,
 peasants were forced to satisfy their
hunger with roots
which they found in the forests. When these failed they
devoured human flesh.
After famine came the plague, and so many hundreds of
poor folk died, that before they could be buried wolves
came out of the forests and feasted upon the bodies.
So great was the distress that the bishops and clergy
of France met together to see if they could do anything
to help the poor oppressed people. The barons were
still grinding them down, and exacting more taxes than
were their due from their hungry, plague-stricken
We do not hear that the bishops and priests were able
to give food to those who were starving, but they did
what they could when they said that the "Peace of God" was to be held sacred.
The "Peace of God" forbade the
nobles to take from the poor more taxes than were their
due. It also forbade fighting and violence throughout
But if at first the "Peace of God" made the nobles
curb their angry passions, and behave less harshly
toward the peasants, they soon forgot all about it, and
slipped back to their usual fierce and cruel ways.
"The lords do us nought but ill," cried the peasants.
Every day is for us a day of suffering, toil and
weariness; every day we have our cattle taken from us
to work for our lords."
At length the peasants met together to find, if it were
possible, a way out of their troubles.
"Why suffer all this evil to be done to us, and not get
out of our plight?" they said to one another. "Are we
not men even as our lords? Let us learn to resist the
knight, and we shall be free to cut down trees, to hunt
and fish after our fashion, and we shall work our will
in flood and field and wood."
Poor peasants! Their wants were so simple—just to be
allowed to fish, to hunt, and to go into the woods to
 But when they ventured to send some of their
number to the nobles to complain of their sufferings,
and to tell their simple needs, listen to what was
The nobles were so angry that the peasants had dared to
complain, that they cut off the hands and feet of their
messengers. Then they sent them away, to go home as
they could, and show to those who had sent them what
they too might expect if they dared again to complain
of the wrongs which they endured.
That such things could be done showed the bishops that
the "Peace of God" had failed. They therefore now
proclaimed the "Truce of God."
By the "Truce of God" they believed that at least
certain days might be kept free from violence. It
forbade any one to fight each week from Wednesday
evening until Monday morning. Christmas Day, Easter,
Lent, and indeed all the great saints' days were also
set apart. And this proved of more use than the "Peace
of God." The nobles, finding themselves forced to curb
then- angry passions on certain days, grew gradually
less violent. Many of them laid aside their swords and
brought their wealth to the altar, and then set out,
either alone or in small companies, on a pilgrimage.
For already, in the year 1082, it had become a custom
for those who were sorry for their sins to go to the
Holy Land. If they might but touch the sepulchre in
which the body of Jesus had lain, or spend a long night
on the mount called Calvary, the pilgrims believed that
all their sins would be forgiven.
Among the nobles who went to the Holy Land at this time
was Robert, Duke of Normandy.
Before he set out the duke assembled the nobles of
Normandy, and, lest he should not return, he appointed
his little son William, who was then seven years old,
to be their lord. This little boy became William the
Great, Conqueror of England.
 Duke Robert reached Jerusalem in safety, but on
his way home he took ill and died.
At first the barons of Normandy refused to acknowledge
William as their lord. Yet he was a manly lad, and had
already begun to rule his companions. At fifteen years
of age he begged to be armed as a knight. When this was
done, "it was a sight both pleasant and terrible to see
him guiding his horse's career, flashing with his
sword, gleaming with his shield, and threatening with
his casque and javelin."
William could not subdue the rebellious barons alone,
so he asked King Henry to come to his aid.
At first Henry helped the young duke, but afterwards,
fearing lest William should grow too powerful, he went
over to the side of the barons and fought against him.
But the young duke was brave and strong. His friends,
too, were loyal and true. So when the armies of the
king and of the duke met. Henry was utterly defeated,
and never again ventured into William's lands with an
Two years after he had been defeated by William, Henry
I. died, having done little for the good of his
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