CHAPTER XVII. RICHARD I AND THE CRUSADE

The death of Henry II may be taken to mark the close of an epoch in English history, the epoch which had begun with the Norman Conquest. We may call it, for want of a better name, the feudal age, - the age during which the prevailing organization, ideals, and practices had been Norman-feudal. It was an age in which Normandy and the continental interests of king and barons, and the continental spirit and methods, had imposed themselves upon the island realm. It was a time in which the great force in the state and the chief factor in its history had been the king. The interests of the barons had been on the whole identical with his. The rights which feudal law and custom gave him had been practically unquestioned, save by an always reluctant Church, and baronial opposition had taken the form of a resistance to his general power rather than of a denial of special rights. Now a change had silently begun which was soon to show itself openly and to lead to great results. This change involved only slowly and indirectly the general power of the king, but it takes its beginning from two sources: the rising importance of England in the total dominions of the king, and the disposition to question certain of his rights. Normandy was losing its power over the English baron, or if this is too strong a statement for anything that was yet true, he was beginning to identify himself more closely with England and to feel less interest in sacrifices and burdens which inured only to the benefit of the king and a policy foreign to the country. To the disposition to question the king's actions and demands Henry had himself contributed not a little by the frequency and greatness of those demands, and by the small regard to the privileges of his vassals shown in the development of his judicial reforms and in his financial measures these last indeed under Henry II violated the baronial rights less directly but, as they were carried on by his sons, they attacked them in a still more decisive way. When once this disposition had begun, the very strength of the Norman monarchy was an element of weakness, for it gave to individual complaints a unity and a degree of importance and interest for the country which they might not otherwise have had. In this development the reign of Richard, though differing but little in outward appearance from his father's, was a time of rapid preparation, leading directly to the struggles of his brother's reign and to the first great forward step, the act which marks the full beginning of the new era.

Richard could have felt no grief at the death of his father, and he made no show of any. Geoffrey had gone for the burial to the nunnery of Fontevrault, a favourite convent of Henry's, and there Richard appeared as soon as he heard the news, and knelt beside the body of his father, which was said to have bled on his approach, as long as it would take to say the Lord's prayer. Then we are told he turned at once to business. The first act which he performed, according to one of our authorities, on stepping outside the church was characteristic of the beginning of his reign. One of the most faithful of his father's later servants was William Marshal, who had been earlier in the service of his son Henry. He had remained with the king to the last, and in the hurried retreat from Le Mans he had guarded the rear. On Richard's coming up in pursuit he had turned upon him with his lance and might have killed him as he was without his coat of mail, but instead, on Richard's crying out to be spared, he had only slain his horse, and so checked the pursuit, though he had spared him with words of contempt which Richard must have remembered: "No, I will not slay you," he had said; "the devil may slay you." Now both he and his friends were anxious as to the reception he would meet with from the prince, but Richard was resolved to start from the beginning as king and not as Count of Poitou. He called William Marshal to him, referred to the incident, granted him his full pardon, confirmed the gift to him which Henry had recently made him of the hand of the heiress of the Earl of Pembroke and her rich inheritance, and commissioned him to go at once to England to take charge of the king's interests there until his own arrival. This incident was typical of Richard's action in general. Henry's faithful servants suffered nothing for their fidelity in opposing his son; the barons who had abandoned him before his death, to seek their own selfish advantage because they believed the tide was turning against him, were taught that Richard was able to estimate their conduct at its real worth.