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Danes, Saxons and Normans by John G. Edgar

Herluin removed the body to the banks of the Seine


Meanwhile,

within the convent of St. Gervase and the castle of Rouen were enacted such scenes as, when reflected on, make human beings blush for human nature. No sooner did William breathe his last than his physicians, and the attendants who had watched his couch during the night, hastily left the chamber of death, and mounting their horses, rode away to look after their property; and, when the news reached the castle, the servants carried off plate, armour, clothes, linen, and everything that was not too hot or too heavy, and fled from the place. It is even said that the body of the great warrior-statesman was left on the floor with scarcely a shred of covering, and that it remained in that position for several hours.

It is most discreditable, indeed, to the memory of William's two sons, Rufus and Beauclerc, that such should have been the case. But these young men were wholly intent on their own interests. Rufus was already on his way to England, and Beauclerc was busy receiving the five thousand pounds, seeing the silver carefully weighed, and depositing the treasure in a chest, fastened with bands of iron, and secured with strong locks. Never was there a more thorough display of intense selfishness. Even Curthose, with all his faults, would not have been guilty of such filial impiety.

It almost seemed as if the Conqueror was to be denied Christian burial. But William, Archbishop of Rouen, had the decency to think of

the dead king, and ordered a procession to be arranged. Dressed in their habits, monks and priests, with cross, candles, and censers, repaired to the chamber to pray for the soul that had departed, and the archbishop gave orders that the corpse should be conveyed to Caen, and buried in the cathedral which William had built and dedicated to St. Stephen. But nobody showed the least inclination to take an active part in the obsequies.

At length a Norman knight, named Herluin, probably a kinsman of Arlette's husband, William's stepfather, volunteered to take the trouble and bear the expense. Having hired a hearse and men, Herluin removed the body to the banks of the Seine, and, having caused it to be placed in a boat, attended it, by the river and the sea, to Caen. On reaching that place the corpse was met by the Abbot of Caen, with all his monks, and by many other priests and laymen, among whom appeared Henry Beauclerc. But a fire suddenly breaking out in the town dissolved the procession, and the corpse, deserted by all but the monks of St. Stephen, was borne by them to the cathedral.

Between the altar and the choir of the Cathedral of Caen a tomb was prepared; and when the time appointed for the inhumation arrived all the bishops and abbots of Normandy assembled for the ceremony. Mass was then said; and the body, without a coffin, but clothed in royal robes, was about to be lowered, when suddenly a man, advancing from the crowd, stepped forward and interrupted the process.

"Priests and bishops," said he, in a loud voice, "this ground is mine. It was the site of my father's house. The man for whom you have now prayed took it from me by force to build his church upon it."

"It is true," said several voices.

"I have not sold my land," continued the man; "I have not pawned it--I have not forfeited it--I have not given it. Mine the ground is by right, and I demand it."

"Who art thou?" they asked.

"My name," he answered, "is Asselin Fitzarthur, and in God's name I forbid the body of the spoiler to be laid in this place. Here was the floor of my father's house--it was violently wrested from us; and I charge you, as ye shall answer for it before the face of God, not to cover this body with the earth of my inheritance."


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