Chapter 26

[ 26 ]

       Indeed that same night he began to be greatly roasted by grave pains, giving forth a reddish bile along with other fluids, reckoning that this evil had befallen him because of the slighted offering of food and drink which he had denied the deprecating monks. Therefore, William secretly made known the marvelous sacred secret of his mind, which he had already reported to abbot Martin, to the gathered leaders of the Normans and Bretons and to the boy named Richard (with such a fine mien!), brought there with them. And when, transformed into a state of astonishment and amazement, the most noble leaders of the Breton and Norman region ascertained the unheardof and nearly monstrous design of duke William, greatly wailing they said to him: "Why did you declare such things, that you were exploring in the mind of your own heart? And if, through thorough consideration, you have in fact decided this (something which should never come to pass!), why did you report it to anyone? Who will diligently defend us from attack by menacing pagans of baleful savageness? Or, who will guard us from the snares of the Frankish nation? Let this no longer even be considered, for it shall never be carried out."
       Then William, disturbed by this barrier of resistance and dissuasion, is said to have replied: "It will both be considered and, with God's favor, carried out. Because, in fact, you ought not to resist the will of omnipotent God or oppose my intention, I pray you to favor my resolutions and, however the fortune of human affairs may perchance turn out, elect my son Richard as your duke while I still survive and, with the intention of observing both fidelity and military service, place your hands in his hands." Immediately the Bretons, with the Normans, replied to William, saying: "We have assented to this plan, and we will faithfully do what you ask." Forthwith did the Normans and the Bretons, of one mind, commend themselves to Richard, joining themselves to him by the true promise of an oath of allegiance. But William, much strengthened in force as the fluids of his indisposition became clear, began to gain strength and to do daily with his accustomed care whatever he had been able to do before.
       However, the leaders of Francia would bear a weight of envy and hatred against William but would not dare to show the malevolent intention of their thoughts. But still the instigator and exciter of accursed deeds has poured the virus of his cunning into the hearts of evil men, rejoicing that the human race is changed for the worse, that it is unable to return to the garden of delights. Therefore he has awakened hatreds, stirring the fires of strife, and has disordered agreements (now pressed down by dread) of the church of peace, causing its supports to tremble. Indeed, by a frenzy of cupidity he has roused the hearts of many, so that they are not mindful of God's judgments, nor do they even perceive them in their minds. Thus, with this devil's poison gravely spread abroad throughout its members and with a hostile frenzy thickening ever more cruelly and with the injustice of perverse men vilely growing strong, the equanimity of the whole realm would be violated and very many would be deprived of their goods, ejected from the offices due to their rank.
       Wherefore a certain leader, Arnulf by name, that most notorious marquis of the Flemish region, (note 1) profusely discolored by the foulness of this poison, has taken the fortress which is called Montreuil from count Herluin. But he, deprived of the official dignity of this fortress, (note 2) with the swiftest course has sought the aid of duke Hugh of the Franks, so that the latter would come to his assistance, for he was [Hugh's] count and his warrior, ready for every service. Duke Hugh has not received him respectfully, as he was wont to do, but has disregardfully kept him at the level of his young recruits. But Herluin, filled with the exigency of his great neediness, would pursue duke Hugh of the Franks daily, praying with repeated prayers that he assist him. However, despairing of Hugh's support and perceiving himself as abandoned by his helping patronage, he has gone to duke William of the Normans and Bretons and has fallen prostrate at his feet so that he would help him concerning the afore-described matter. William has instructed that he be welcomed with honorables efforts and be given, with great reverence, whatever he needs.
       The following day, Herluin, coming before duke William, would supplicatingly seek his help with manifold requests. Soothing him, duke William is said to have replied: "Why does duke Hugh of the Franks, your lord, not support you as he does himself? And why does he not fulfill your needs after this calamitous ruin? March speedily back to him and ascertain, with much beseeching, whether he shall ever wish to help you and whether, if someone else were to assist you, he would be displeased." Having returned without delay to duke Hugh, a suppliant Herluin would, pursuing the matter repeatedly, ask whether he were going to help him. Duke Hugh has said to him instantly: "I and Arnulf, entangled in a bond of sworn friendship, do not wish to rend the tie of our concord and love and agreement on your account." Moved in his mind by the words of this irremediable reponse of the duke, Herluin has replied to Hugh: "Since you are in no way burning with desire to assist me in my need, as would have been fitting, it is now fitting that you not be vexed if someone else should aid me." Then duke Hugh of the Franks, affirming that he was deprived of any safeguarding relief, has said: "Whoever will offer you aid, will not be acting unlawfully towards me."
       With this speech of desertion completed, Herluin has returned home to duke William and, tumbling down at his feet, has diligently announced to William everything he had heard about the matter. Immediately, William has gathered the whole army of the Bretons and the Normans and, because of the damage done by the Flemish duke Arnulf, hastened to help Herluin. And as he stood by the fortress of Montreuil and looked up at it, he has called the men of Coutances to him and said to them: "If, foremost in my grace, you wish excellently to enjoy both the glory of warfare and also greater office in my household, you will not hesitate to carry to me the stays of the palisaded rampart of the fortress of Montreuil, and you will lead away to me, captured, those who oppose us and occupy the fortress." At this word of encouragement, the men of Coutances, of one mind, have attacked the fortress as wolves do lambs, and they tear it to pieces, and they have withdrawn from fortress, carrying off before William the stays of the wall and at the same time bringing captives before him.
       But with the citadel of Montreuil taken and the roaring of baleful sedition calmed, William has ordered dinner to be prepared for him on the other side [of the walls], and to be honorably served to him on royal treasures by Herluin himself. Dining in the fortress, duke William has said to count Herluin, server of the banquet: "Behold, I am returning to you this fortress which the duke of the Flemings unjustly took away from you." And Herluin: "Lord, I will not accept this fortress because I am not able to guard or uphold it against duke Arnulf."
       Then, moved by compassion, duke William has said to Herluin: "I will protect you by aiding you, I will defend you by helping and guarding you. By repairing this one, I will construct for you a fortress, secured by the protection of impregnable towers and by the durability of its palisaded rampart, that can neither be taken nor destroyed. I will stuff it, filling it with a fruitful and abundant supply of grain and wine, and I will defend it completely, rebuilding it for you. Whichever of my leaders you select for yourself will, surrounded by a crowd of their own warrios, remain here with you. If Arnulf's warfare should assail upon you, I will swiftly assist you with the multitude of my armies. If however he should request the armistice of a negotiated peace, we will give it to him on the advice of our fideles. But if, in the meantime, he should wish to meet us at a conference, so as to make use of judgment and justice and law, we will meet with him on your account, to pass judgment according to the opinion of our followers. If he should, with a resolute heart, lay waste your heritable estates, we will, having amassed an army, consume by fire everything under his authority. [I am] a willing benevolent helper to you, a defender against your opponents, a docile hearer of your complaints, an attentive solacer of your losses, indeed a true bountiful giver of those goods which are appropriate for you." Hearing these things, Herluin, swiftly with his own fideles, has immediately fallen prostrate at William's feet. But having durably refortified the fortress and filled it with an abundance of grain and wine and hides of swine in rich abundance, indeed having affluently embellished it with the very best warriors, William, riding swiftly, has (note 3) returned with his followers to the town of Rouen.
       That same duke was, moreover, true to his word, prompt and just in judgment, most mild in speech, most humble in comportment. Furthermore, he would shine bright with tokens of all goods, and he would actively equip the churches. Since, however, he gleamed with increased zeal for all goodness, and reports concerning so great a man, publicized throughout all Francia and other realms, become frequent, and he diligently administered the laws and ordinances of the orthodox authors and of his own father, the above-mentioned duke Arnulf of the Flemings, vilely filled with the poison of viper-like cunning and perniciously allured by the passionate fire of diabolical fraud and violently encouraged by the sly and wicked advice of certain leaders of the Frankish nation, has begun to muse over and compass his (William's) mournful death. Inflamed by the malice of this baleful poison, he has sent to duke William ambassadors of a most fraudulent enterprise, who would say they were his fideles, in the most abominable fraud of deceit, if he wished to receive the present of their allegiance and affectionate friendship.
       And when they were before William, with bent face and submissive voice they began supplicatingly to address him with peace-making words: "Our lord Arnulf sends you faithful (note 4) allegiances in Christ. Unwilling that any strife be initiated against you, he requests with most humble prayers some interval of negotiated peace. And meanwhile, he wishes you to meet him at a conference and, himself, to pardon your love Herluin who has displeased him and to become bound to you, if that be pleasing, in an alliance of indissoluble friendship. Greatly distressed by gout and other infirmities, he no longer strives to dispute with anyone. He desires that his followers be regulated by law or by agreement, and he hastens to make peace for as long as he shall survive. Whereas the monarchies under your authority and his have been connected (note 5) by an uninterrupted and adjoining border, it is fitting that there be peace and concord between the two of you and between your followers, so that residents of both your realms might rejoice in such great leaders, and so that none of your followers will do any damage to any of ours, and none of our followers will, by force or power, cause any loss for yours. Let us who are neighbors due to the relationship of our lands be harmonious and of one mind in law as well. A duke of such great goodness and such great mildness should not deny this needful and meet request but should applaud it with all his might so that the state, annihilated through great booty-taking and blazes, not slip away perniciously into destruction. More than enough evils have already taken shape through the stimulus of disputes; should vileness continue this compulsion henceforward, they shall prevail, to detriment of very many people. Pass judgment concerning what is better: to explore and to effect that which is good, or to cleave to and accomplish that filthy and abominable deed which is in fact not a created thing but is the absence of goodness?" (note 6)
       The very mighty duke William, ensnared by this fraudulent deceit of the detestable ambassadors, has said secretly to count Herluin: "What seems to you to be the purpose of this proposal and embassy?" Herluin has replied: "My soul shudders that we might be ensnared or allured by the most humble prayers of those by whose treachery we have been so many times ensnared." And William, to the rest of the gathered leaders: "Since you are not ignorant that I, trapped by the tottering (note 7) course of the active life, wish to confine myself to a cloister of the contemplative life, let you, as quickly as you are able, devise with me a peace for all of our lands, for there is no offering nor any sacrifice as acceptible to God as the augmentation of peace." Moreover to Herluin he has said: "Do not dread, nor be agitated, for you will never be deprived of the relieving patronage of myself and my followers." Therefore on the advice of his fideles, duke William has given count Arnulf a negotiated peace of three months, and has sent word that he would come to the designated conference. At the appointed time of the imminent conference, William, that mightiest duke of all, has called together the army of the Normans and the Bretons, and has departed for the district of Amiens.


Duke, defender and protector of a title imparted by Christ,
Desirous of no one's aid, not even that of Christ,
And very worthy of gaining an ethereal reward,
You will let slip that mournful death for whose sake you now hasten,
By finding, by the glory of martyrdom, a worthy life of perpetual peace,
Wearing the diadem of victory.


1. Arnulf I, count of Flanders (918 - 965), son of count Baldwin II and Aelfthryth, daughter of king Alfred of Wessex, and husband of Adela, daughter of count Herbert II of Vermandois.

2. Castrum.

3. Preferring the "est" of Rouen 1173 and others.

4. Preferring the "fideles" of Rouen 1173 and others.

5. Preferring the "connexae" of CC 276.

6. Namely that which is evil, considered in a number of philosophical traditions to lack positive substance.

7. Preferring the "labanti" of Rouen 1173 and others.

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