Chapter 17

[ 17 ]

       Then Rollo, having secretly called together the leaders, said to them all in plaintive words: "Behold the one whom you have sought, behold the heir to our holdings, behold the one who will be set over you. To him, with your approval, will I bequeath this realm, acquired through the hardship of combat and the sweat of battle. He, in my place, will be lord and master of this nation, and a very worthy heir to our lordship. In a prophetic spirit, let us describe his virtue and contemplate how great he will be. He will steadily assist you through our laws and statutes and, as long as he lives, our right and ordinance will not be effaced. Also, he will not defraud you of the land which I have given you as your allotment (note 1) but, by increasing it, will enrich you besides. Therefore, I pray, in order to preserve your fidelity, place your hands in his and, by an oath of allegiance to our faith, make him the promise of uninterrupted and indissoluble payment of dues and military service." (note 2) That said, count Berengar, and Alan, and likewise the rest of the Bretons and the leaders of the Normans, of one mind, subjected themselves, willingly, to William. They bound themselves to him through the oath of a sacred promise, and they placed their hands, as representatives of their hearts, in his. And they vowed that they would wage war against and vanquish neighboring nations. A year later, when Rollo had died and, as we believe, been happily crowned on a heavenly throne, both the Normans and the Bretons came together as one and, with the support of our faith, ratified once more the contents of their promise to William, that most excellent duke and patrician.
       He, indeed, having reached the summit of such high office and rank, surrounded most worthily by worthy counts and warriors, vowed to Christ that he would assist the realm and do no damage to anyone. For he was endowed with the ornaments of moral purity and magnanimity, renowned for his fellowship with discretion and caution, under the guiding mercy of the Holy Spirit. He would hold as nothing the earthly things of this lifetime, just as he had vowed in his boyhood. He would actively rule the populace according to ancestral laws and would condemn the guilty to its penalties. Although himself a layman, he would hold, zealous, to the rule of a blameless life, would wisely guide the helm of ecclesiastical stewardship. He would excel everyone in spiritual and physical virtue, would surpass all in his discretion concerning public affairs. He would mould all by his own example of good will, would compel everyone by his own teaching of forbearance and fear of God. In adversity, he would be a constant supporter, in prosperity, the wisest mediator. There was truth and glory in his house, equity and justice in his works. He would censure transgressors with the word of truth, he would rebuke the idle with the harshest reproof.
       Even though he was, moreover, abundantly rich in such works of supernal stewardship, and the report of his good action, made most bountifully public nearly throughout the entire world, was become frequent, the Bretons began to be rebellious against duke William, entirely rejecting the contents of the promise which they had made. For indeed when the truthfulness of this unexpected rumor had come to the knowledge of the mightiest duke himself, he sent his ambassadors to the Bretons, that they might swiftly recover their senses and hastily come, his servants, to him at Rouen. They, however, foolishly persevering in their steadfast faithlessness, sent the ambassadors back to duke William, saying: "We will no longer wage war for you, nor will we obey you, for we have always lived under the empire of Frankish lordship. But your sire Rollo once attacked Francia with throngs of barbarians and foreigners and obtained for you, by the king's gift, the land which you now hold, so that he would be peaceful towards that realm. But the land which we occupy was not given to him to be held by his heirs, but was assigned to him in order that he might live from it until the ravaged land which he had received by the king's gift was rebuilt. Let there be nothing between us and you except friendship and concord, determined by mutual will and mutual deliberation. Until now we have had a king, we have not lacked for a leader and protector. Brittany has never devoted itself to the payment of dues to, nor subjugated itself to the sovereignty of, any land except Francia."
       However William, duke of the Dacians, hearing the message of this Breton embassy, calls together the leaders of the Normans to take counsel about the matter. Once they were collected, he recounted for their ears the sequence of that singular embassy. Then a certain Bernard, privy to duke William's secrets, and Botho, a prince of his household, marvelling at these legations, said to all: "Both marvelous and astounding to us is the reply heard in this message. Having been banished some time ago from Dacia with your father Rollo, and having barely arrived in the territory of the Angles across the open sea, we defeated those Angles who wanted to rise up against us by resisting them by force of arms, and we harshly overthrew them, to their utter destruction. After they had been peaceably calmed by king Alstem, and we had proceeded on the winds to the land of the Walgri, the Walgri also wished to resist us with an amassed army. As was fitting, we attacked them and subjugated them to ourselves in battle. Finally, we attacked Radbod of Frisia, then Ragnar of Hesbaye, and we made them our tributaries. With matters standing thus, we came to Francia, and we vexed it continuously with wars and we pillaged all that lay outside the ramparts of the towns. But as we lingered at the siege of Paris, we went back again to the Angles because of our love of king Alstem, and we subjected his men, faithless and acting unlawfully, by force and power. But once the Angles had been subjected to king Alstem by the our authoritative judgment, we returned to Francia with a larger army than before and crushed it with very many wars. However king Charles, seeing that he did not have power against us, sought peace and concord from us. He both gave his daughter in wedlock (note 3) to Rollo, your father and, as an assurance of peace, he willingly bequeathed this land to us for the perpetual possession of our heirs and he subjugated the Bretons to our service, and their lands to our sustenance. In your father's lifetime, they subjected themselves to you and to your service by the oath of an actual promise. Renewing their promise after the mournful loss of your father, they have served you until now. And now what are we doing about the furiously raving and rebellious Bretons, we who have gone through so many and such great battles? They recognize that we are womanish and drained of force, therefore they have dared to send back such an answer. They reckon that we are harmless and entirely lacking in strength due to the nourishment of this land, whereby we are bodily invigorated. Let them know that our strength has not melted away due to our frequent abode in this one realm, and let them know that our vigor is most hardy. Let them gather in negotiations whereby they may thoroughly reconsider and recover their senses concerning their earlier replies, fruitlessly tending to their own ruin and reproof; let us destroy their presumption in our prowess, and let us crush their haughtiness with our might."


Oh, behold as William, future martyr of Jesus Christ,
Grows strong, becomes vigorous, toiling in sacred effort.
Being strong and bestirring yourself, restrain
Both by force and by reason the barren, ferocious Bretons,
And fiercely pound this abominable haughtiness,
And, speaking out, blunt their malign deliberation.
For when they are torn to pieces by war, worn out by pestilence and famine,
You, indulgent, merciful, sparing, forgiving slights,
Will overcome them with the steadfast effort of an oath of allegiance
And, recovering their senses, they will obey you with awe.


1. Sors.

2. Servitium and militatio.

3. Coniugium.

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