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the nobles and people; nor, as it appears, much regarded by his father. He was now in the decline of his age, decayed in his health, forsaken by his friends, who, since the death of Eustace, fell daily from him; and having no farther care at heart for his posterity, he thought it high time to seek repose for his person. The nobles soon observed this disposition in their king, which was so agreeable to their own; therefore, by general consent, Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, was appointed mediator between both princes. All matters were soon agreed; an assembly of lords was convened at Winchester, where the king received the duke with great marks of courtesy and kindness. There the peace was confirmed by the king's charter, wherein are expressed the terms of agreement. But I shall relate only the principal.
The king, by this charter, acknowledged Henry for lawful successor to the crown; in which capacity all the nobles paid him homage: and Henry himself, with his party, paid homage to Stephen. There is likewise a reservation for William, the king's son, of all the honours possessed by his father before he came to the crown. The king likewise acknowledges the obedience of his subjects to be no longer due to him than he shall observe the conditions of this charter. And for the performance of these articles, the archbishops and bishops were appointed guarantees. There were some other articles agreed on, which are not mentioned in the charter; as a general pardon; a restitution, to the right owners, of those lands and possessions, which had been usurped in the time of the troubles; that all castles built during the war should be razed to the ground, which are said to have been above eleven hundred ; that the rights of the church should be preserved; with other matters of less moment.
Thus, by the prudence of Archbishop Theobald, the moderation of the two princes engaged, and the universal inclination of the people, a happy period was put to this tedious and troublesome war; men began to have the prospect of a long peace: nor was it easy to foresee what could possibly arise to disturb it; when discovery was made, by accident, of a most horrible piece of treachery, which, if it had met with success, would have once more set the whole nation in a flame. The duke, after the peace, attended the king to London, to be shewn to the people as the undoubted successor to the crown; and having made a progress together through some other parts of the kingdom, they came to Canterbury; where Henry received private notice of a design upon his life. It has been already observed, that the king employed in his wars a body of Flemings, to the great discontent of his own subjects, with whom they were very ungracious. These foreigners were much discontented at the peace, whereby they were likely to become useless and burdensome to the present king, and hateful to the successor. To prevent which, the commanders among them began to practise upon the levity and ambition of William the king's son. They urged the indignity he had received in being deprived of his birthright; offered to support his title by their valour, as they had done that of his father; and as an earnest of their intentions, to remove the chief impediment, by dispatching his rival out of the world. The young prince was easily wrought upon to be at the head of this conspiracy: time and place were fixed; when, upon the day appointed, William broke his leg by a fall from his horse; and the conspirators, wanting their leader, immediately dispersed. This disappointment and delay, as it usually happens among conspirators, were soon
followed by a discovery of the whole plot; whereof the duke, with great discretion, made no other use than to consult his own safety; therefore, without any show of suspicion or displeasure, he took leave of the king, and returned to Normandy.
1154. Stephen lived not above a year to share the happiness of this peace with his people; in which time he made a progress through most parts of the kingdom, where he gained universal love and veneration, by a most affable and courteous behaviour to all men. A few months after his return he went to Dover, to have an interview with the Earl of Flanders; where, after a short sickness, he died of the iliac passion, together with his old distemper the hemorrhoids, upon the twenty-fifth day of October, in the forty-ninth year of his age, and the nineteenth of his reign.
He was a prince of wonderful endowments, both in body and mind: in his person tall and graceful, of great strength as well as vigour : he had a large portion of most virtues that can be useful in a king toward the happiness of his subjects or himself; courtesy and valour, liberality and clemency, in an eminent degree; especially the last, which he carried to an extreme, though very pardonable, yet hardly consisting with prudence, or his own safety. If we except his usurpation of the crown, he must be allowed a prince of great justice; which most writers affirm to have been always unblemished, except in that single instance: for, as to his treatment of the bishops and the Earl of Chester, it seems very excusable by the necessity of the time; and it was the general opinion, if he had not used that proceeding with the latter, it would have cost him his crown. Perhaps his injustice to the empress might likewise admit a little extenuation. Four kings successively had sat on the throne without any regard to lineal
descent; a period beyond the memory of most men then alive; whereby the people had lost much of that devotion they were used to bear toward an established succession; besides, the government of a woman was then a thing unknown, and for that reason disliked by all who professed to hate innovations.
But the wisdom of this prince was by no means equal to the rest of his virtues. He came to the crown upon as fair a title as his predecessor, being elected by the general consent of the nobles, through the credit of his brother, and his own personal merit. He had no disturbance for some time, which he might easily have employed in settling the kingdom, and acquiring the love of his people. He had treasure enough to raise and pay armies, without burdening the subject. His competitor was a woman, whose sex was the least of her infirmities, and with whom he had already compounded for his quiet by a considerable pension: yet with all these advantages he seldom was master of above half the kingdom at once, and that by the force of perpetual struggling, and with frequent danger of losing the whole. The principal difficulties he had to encounter, appear to have been manifest consequences of several most imprudent steps in his conduct, whereof many instances have been produced in the history of his reign; such as the unlimited permission of building castles; his raising the siege of a weak place where the empress was shut up, and must in a few days have fallen into his hands; his employing the Flemings in his wars, and favouring them above his own subjects, and lastly, that abortive project of crowning his son, which procured him at once the hatred and contempt of the clergy, by discovering an inclination to violence and injustice that he durst not pursue: whereas, it was
nothing else but an effect of that hasty and sudden disposition usually ascribed to those of his country, and in a peculiar manner charged to this prince: for, authors give it as a part of his character to be hot and violent in the beginning of an enterprise, but to slacken and grow cold in the prosecution.
He had a just sense of religion, and was frequent in attending the service of the church, yet reported to be no great friend of the clergy; which, however, is a general imputation upon all the kings of this realm in that and some succeeding reigns, and by no means personal to this prince, who deserved it as little as any.
I do not find any alterations during this reign in the meetings of general assemblies, farther than that the commons do not seem to have been represented in any of them; for which I can assign no other reason than the will of the king, or the disturbance of the time. I observed the word Parliament is used promiscuously among authors, for a general assembly of nobles, and for a council of bishops, or synod of the clergy; which renders this matter too perplexed to ascertain anything about it.
As for affairs of the church, that deserve particular mention, I have not met with any; unless it should be worth relating, that Henry, Bishop of Winchester, the Pope's legate, who held frequent synods during this reign, was the first introducer of appeals to Rome, in this kingdom; for which he is blamed by all the monkish historians who give us the account.