« НазадПродовжити »
that the whole kingdom is said, in the Saxon chronicle, “to have been covered with castles.”
This figurative expression is less extravagant than it appears to be at the first glance, when we reflect on the comparative scantiness of population, and the small division of land cleared for the use of agriculture. Populated England, as it would then appear on a map, was, perhaps, not more than one-fourth the size of the present cultivated portion of country; and over those narrow tracts of busy scenery, interspersed amongst deep and wide masses of woodland, were spread, in the latter days of King Stephen, no less than eleven hundred and fifteen castles.*
When the standard laws of the realm were ill-defined, and the great court of appeal, or that in which the king presided in person, was ambulatory, and difficult of access; the evils proceeding from the licentious conduct, even of the garrisons of royal castles, were found to be vexatious and oppressive. But these formed only a small part of the grievances arising from an inordinate multiplieation of strong holds.
Very considerable power was vested in the hands of each particular baron, by the nature of the feudal system; and, in the troubled times which shortly succeeded to the introduction of that mode of tenure in its complete form by the Normans, these great Jandholders assumed on the privilege which was granted to them by the crown, of administering the law within their immediate territories, and violated justice with impunity, in attention only to their own interests, or the dictates of their passions. Secure in their fastnesses of stone, they osten derided even the sovereign's retributive threats; and the crowu, too weak for the real good of the country, passed unnoticed their local tyranny and aggressions, while assured of their loyalty, and calculating on the aid to be afforded by their castles in a day of need. The amictions of the subordinate classes of society, when castles were $0 numerous, and their possessors so little restrained by legal
• Grose, apud Registrum Prioratus de Dunstaple, de.
maxims of justice and forbearance, are mentioned in emphatical terins by many ancient historians, and may be readily apprehended without an extract of those writers. *
The political dangers arising from such a multitude of fortresses (the nurseries of civil war,) placed in the bands of potent and factious subjects, speedily alarmed the ruling power. In the treaty between King Stephen and Henry, Duke of Normandy (afterwards Henry the Second,) it was agreed that all castles erected within a certain period, should be razed to the ground; and many were, in consequence, utterly destroyed. When Henry acceded to the throne, several other castles shared the same fate; and he prohibited all persons from erecting such fortified buildings without an especial licence from the crown. The same necessity of permission from the sovereign, or a power delegated by him, prevailed through numerous succeeding reigns, as is obvi. ous in many pages of the Beauties of England and Wales, where (in treating of the date of a castellated structure) it is observed that the founder obtained the king's licence to fortify his residence.t.
• Whilst noticing the injuries which the property, and the domestic peace, of the laborious classes appear to have sustained from the tyranny of rapa. cious and sensual chieftains, who were indifferent to remonstranco when shielded by massy lines of fortification, it must be observed that the castle of the baron afforded to the trader and artizan some occasional protection.Markets and fairs were exposed to considerable danger in these turbulent times, from open rapine, or covert but determinate injustice. By a law of William the First, it was decreed that all fairs and markets should be kept " in fortified cities, towns, or castles.” Altbough this law bad, probably, for its chief object a careful collection of the royal tolls, the security ufforded by the castle, and the redress to be there obtained in cases of dispute, were circumstances of great public advantage.
+ The Bishop of Durham, as possessing a Palatine right, had the privilege of granting licenses to fortify; and it is supposed, but I believe not proved, that the same power was possessed by other Palatine nobles. A translation
In the above remarks we view the evils arising from the existence of fortified piles (so massy and well-contrived, that, before the use of gunpowder, they were nearly impregnable) when they were diverted from their original purpose, and, instead of bar. riers of national defence, became the mere seats of barons, and the protection of local tyranny.- A view so severe, and confined to the repulsive side, would be calculated to add fresh tints of gloom and terror to the rugged fragments of those ancient structures; and might induce us to reflect, with unmixed pleasure, on the events which have dismantled their towers, and robbed their halls of almost every relic of tenantry. But there are circumstances connected with the hours in which the battlements were perfect, and the courts and passages thronged with population, that demand regret, at least through one short minute, for their present dilapidated condition.
Although a petty tyranny, of dreadful local influence, disfigured some of these abodes, and renders them still hateful to contemplation, the valorous and renowned, the Percys and Talbots of history, resided in others; and who will not be gratified to reflect that the walls within which they dwelt are still remain
from the French, of a licence to "embattle and crenalate," granted by the Bishop of Durham, is presented in the Beauties for that county, p. 228.
Few licenses to construct castles occur after the reign of Edward the Third, One, however, granted by Richard the Second, is noticed in the preface to Gruse's Antiquities; and two further instances of similar licenses, obtained in the same reign, are mentioned in the Beauties of England for the county of Durham, and will be specified in subsequent pages of this “ Introduction."
It is observed in the Beauties for Norfolk (p. 276.) that Sir Edmund Bedingfield obtained a grant, or patent, of King Edward the Fourth, in the vear 1482, 10 build his manor house, termed (sburgh Hall, with towers, battleinents, machicolations, &c. This building is a fine specimen of the castelbuted munsion.
The privilege of erecting a mansion, without a licence from the crown, or authorities thence appointed, did not exist until the reign of Henry the Eighth;
ing, the monuments of their hospitable dignity! Those ruined structures which we now behold, scattered in deserted magnificence (the striking emblems of mortal evanescence!) when new, and the boast of their respective counties, formed the schools of chivalry, and were the theatres of courtesy, wit, and wisdom, through a long succession of ages. If attentively examined, their remains present the best criteria for forming a judgment of the progress of manners and customs, in periods little illumined by the tomes of the historian.
Whilst security alone was the object of the chieftain, we have seen that the keep of his sullen retreat was as contracted, insulated, and chearless, as were his own notions of enjoyment. When each baron's castle became a court of chivalry, the select and most noble youth of the land resorted to it, and here acted as pages, until by trials of skill and exercises of hardihool, chiefly performed in the neighbourhood of the same military edifice, they proved themselves worthy to receive the honour of knighthood.
The softer manners of the age were connected with such a probationary service. Many noble, or well-dowered, females, were wards* to the great barons possessing such castles; and in the hours of festivity both sexes were mingled. The banquet and the dance, in such society, were lessons of gallant courtesy to the youthful page; and when we reflect on such scenes, while viewing these fabrics, now abandoned and lonely, we may remem. ber that some of the few bright virtues of the iron and unlettered ages, emanaled from a deference towards the weaker sex, liere carefully cultivated.
Whilst we recollect the pompous manners ascribed to the lords of such structures; their chivalric celebrations, their long ranks of retainers, and the numerous youth of both sexes protected in 24
* The minor heirs of all noble or affluent deceased vassals of the crown, were wards of the king, during the strict prevalence of the feudal system ; and the management of the estates belonging to such minors was a source of considerable profit to the royal revenue. The person of the ward was com. mitted to the guardianship of some distinguished, and favourite courtier.
their halls, as pages or as wards; we naturally enquire concern. ing the situation of those “halls” (on which tradition and fancy bave bestowed so much splendour;) and of the “bowers” in which the noble inmates of the castle reposed.
In reply to enquiries so natural, it must be observed that if we form an estimale of the imaginary needs and luxuries of life, in the middle ages, from the factitious wants or enjoyments of modern society, we shall certainly argue on most deceptive data. Grandeur and luxury are well known to be words of a comparative meaniny. Homer's heroes and princesses were both grand and luxurious, in the esteem of the commonalty, three thousand years back; and the middle classes of society, at the present day, have an amplitude of apartment, and a delicacy of provision, unknown to persons of exalted rank in ages when even tables and arrashangings were moved as valuables, and the softest form reposed upon sheets spread over straw. In calculating upon the halls and chambers required, in the early and middle centuries of English history, for the splendid reception of a large and noble family, we must not neglect to bear in remembrance this progressive change of marners,
But, although our notions of splendour are so entirely comparative, it is still certain that the large retinues of wealthy and stately barons could not receive even bare accommodation in such structures as now remain, the sole monuments of their domestic habits. It would appear to be unquestionable that the apartments in the keep tower were considered as principal rooms of state, from the earliest period down to the latest date at which defensible case tles were inhabited by their noble owners. But it is equally un. doubted that numerous buildings for the exercise of hospitality, and the reception of attendants, were constructed in the vicinity of the keep, so as to be defended by the strongest outworks of fortification, in the same early ages; and were much augmented and improved eyen under the direction of the Anglo-Normans.*
! The habitual picty of the Normans led to the introduction of a gratify