Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens by Alison Weir

  Moreover the favours of God are harmful to idle possessors who do not turn them to gain, but to punishment. Understand what I say, for God gave you understanding. Our God is a great lender. I say this in His presence. This Creditor of ours importunately demands usury. This Creditor of ours is hard; He is a man who goes abroad and returns in the full moon. When He returns, He asks double from you, but when He receives it, He will reward you a hundredfold. O blessed commerce, in which asking usury is not criminal, paying it is not a burden. O happy trade, in which the Creditor is opportunely importunate and owes the debtor more than He is owed.

  One should fear coming to judgment without mercy, if, let it not be so, you dream that negligence in this commerce will go unpunished and forgotten. Understand what I say: this Creditor of ours has a long memory. You are punishably forgetful if you think He will forget the debt. He forgets no time, no occupation. He collects equally what He lends today and what He lent yesterday because His today is also yesterday. Days and days, years and years pass, but a thousand days and a thousand years are before His eyes, like yesterday.

  Will He not number how much He lent you, who alone reckons the sand of the sea and the drops of water and the days of the world? Will He not divide in detail your talents, who divides waters from waters in his wisdom? Perhaps you will take your Creditor to law when He asks for what He committed to you?

  Understand what I say: He is a good advocate who will argue with you. He refers before the angels, He defers to truth, He proffers terrible things, He infers horrible things. But you say to me: if offended, He promises to be merciful, He puts by punishment, He admits the penitent, He remits threats, He dismisses debts, He commits more. That is so, I say. I confess it.

  The earth is filled with the mercy of the Lord. Many strive for themselves who, though they have rejected any zeal for doing well, still hope for mercy from God when they deserve judgment, as if mercy were to be well-disposed to iniquity rather than to religion, as we believe. But it is not so. For the evil do not earn the mercy of God which even the good can not promise themselves except timidly. To hope for it is very salutary advice, but to depend on it completely is a dangerous refuge. For it is fitting that some good things mitigate judgment if we want many bad things to be judged mercifully. Partial guilt may cause mercy, not total. Virtue which accompanies the beloved to judgment intervenes. They experience a judgment of mercy who give themselves to justice. Who will act for you if He—let it not be so—pleads against you and adverse to you? It is a serious matter to fall into the hands of the living God.

  Fare well, and use your delights for the Queen, not for yourself.9


  As a nursing child desires the breast, a thirsty man water, a tired one quiet, an exile the fatherland, so my soul desires the restorative power of your presence. Your name is poured oil, to whose fragrance the lovers of truth in our fatherland hasten. Esther, who delighted more in piety than in the daintiness of the kingdom, the eastern Queen [of Sheba] who filled the earthly Jerusalem with gowns and stones, unguents and spices, whose excellence amazed Solomon, did not have a spirit beyond yours. So you, most blessed Queen, have so enriched our west with wealth of faith and virtues, customs and acts, that we do not wish to adhere with similar love to any beyond what we have.

  The odour of your religion has penetrated to the ends of the world and the firmness of your integrity and chastity are known to the surrounding regions. The Queen (the Virgin Mary), the prophet says, is at the right hand of God in a golden gown, enveloped in various colours. You are next to this Queen, whom none but queens serve, so much the happier as they are more devoted to her service. You are, I say, beside this Queen whose sons, Christ and John, you serve with insatiable desire, whose power of giving is as great as yours of receiving will be. The Queen you serve can do all things, since she brought forth the most powerful One of all, that is Christ her Son, the Spouse of your soul, beautiful in form above the sons of men.10


  I give great thanks for the generosity I received from you, but even greater thanks for your holy love for me which I have experienced. Since I am not able to accomplish this through the service of my body, I desire incessantly to pay through the affection of my heart. For however much I may feel your bodily absence, the presence of your faithful love can never be taken from my mind. Wherefore I fervently pray, and by praying I desire, that God Himself may repay you in my stead for what I am unable to do myself and that as far as He knows it to be expedient He may bring His love for you and yours for Him to perfection.

  With as much affection as I can, and as far as I dare to presume on your Highness, I beg, beseech, entreat and faithfully advise that your piety should strive for the peace and tranquillity of the churches in England. May you particularly come to the help of their weakest sons and those least powerful in their tribulations and desolation, as orphans of Christ; and according to the parable of the hen in the Gospel, console and foster them under the wings of your protection.

  May the anointing of the Holy Spirit teach you in all things and persuade you to do those things which are more pleasing to Him and expedient for you, and after the temporal kingdom may He lead you to the eternal one.11


  To his dearest lady Matilda, Queen of the English, Anselm the Archbishop, sending her his faithful service and wishing her the continual protection of divine grace.

  I am not unaware that it is pleasing to the benevolence of your dignity to know how matters are with me and how I am. Rejoicing therefore, and giving thanks about such good will of yours, I inform you that since I left England the mercy of God has kept me and everything that pertains to me in complete prosperity. Up to now I have been staying at Bec, waiting for a suitable time to resume my journey; but in the near future, before the Assumption of Saint Mary, I shall start out from here with the intention of completing, God willing, what I have begun.

  I have recently learned that God is pleased to exalt the dignity of the kingdom of my lord the King and yours, and to restore, according to your will, those things for your honour and use which were not to his liking or yours or that of your faithful servants. Therefore, as your faithful servant desiring your good in the present life and in the life to come, I rejoice and give thanks as I ought to the heavenly King from whom all these things come to you, and I pray and desire that, as you always keep undefiled the good things He has given you, He may lead you in His grace to greater and better things.

  Since it is my duty to encourage you to desire the heavenly kingdom, I exhort, beg and advise with as much affection as I can that you do not have more pleasure in rejoicing exceedingly in the passing glory of an earthly kingdom than in yearning for the eternal bliss of the celestial one. You could do this more sincerely and efficaciously if you arranged the matters subject to your authority according to the design of God rather than to the design of men. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God,” as Holy Scripture says; and “The wisdom of the flesh is at enmity with God, since it is not subject to the law of God.” Reflect on these things, tell them to our lord the King in private and in public and repeat them often, and as far as they concern you consider them carefully again. For the glory of the world passes by, as you are accustomed to say. Oh, may God make you both after this passing glory proceed to eternal glory. Amen.12


  To the highest Pontiff and universal Pope Paschal, Matilda, by God’s grace, Queen of the English, trusting he will so dispense in this life the rights of the Apostolic dignity that he may deserve to be numbered among the Apostolic senate in the joys of perpetual peace with the companies of the just.

  I give all the thanks and praise I can to your sublime Holiness, O Apostolic Man, for the things which your paternal charity, as though for admonition, has deigned to send to me and to my lord
the King, both frequently by the words of your legates, and also by your own writings. I visit the threshold of the most holy Roman Apostolic seat, and as far as it is lawful and I am able, clasping your paternal knees with my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole mind, praying with importune and opportune petition, I cease not, nor will I cease, to entreat, till I know that my submissive humility, or rather the persevering importunity of my application, is heard by you. Yet let not your Excellency be angry, let not the prudent Roman clergy, people or senate be amazed at this my rashness, that thus I presume to speak. Once, once, I say, we and the English people—then how happy!—had, under your Apostolic dignity, Anselm, our Archbishop, a foster-child of the Holy Ghost, the most prudent counsellor and pious father of us and the aforesaid people. From the most opulent treasures of his Lord, whereof we knew him to hold the keys, he took abundantly, and bestowed them upon us more abundantly; for this same faithful minister and prudent dispenser of the Lord seasoned those things which he bestowed with the most excellent salt of wisdom, softened them with the sweetness of eloquence, and sweetened them by the wonderful conceits of rhetoric. And so it was that neither did the tender lambs lack the abundant milk of the Lord, nor the sheep the richest fatness of the pastures, nor the pastors the most opulent satiety of ailments.

  But now, when all these things are otherwise, nothing remains but that the pastor, wanting food, the flock pasture, the young milk, utter forth the heaviest groans, since, by the absence of the chief pastor, Anselm, each is deprived of something, or rather, all of all things. In such lugubrious mourning, in such opprobrious grief, in such deformity and loss of our kingdom, nothing remains to me, stunned as I am, but, shaking off my stupor, to fly to the blessed Apostle Peter and his vicar, the Apostolic man. Therefore, my lord, I fly to your benignity, lest we and the people of the kingdom of England perish in such a defect and lapse. What good will our life do us when we go down to corruption?

  Let your Paternity take good counsel concerning us, and deign, within the term which my lord the King asks of your goodness, to let your paternal bowels be moved towards us, that we may both rejoice at the return of our dearest father, Archbishop Anselm, and preserve uninjured our subjection to the Holy Apostolic See. I indeed, taught by your most sound and gracious advice, will, as far as women’s strength may suffice, and with the help of worthy men, which I shall procure, endeavour with my whole power that my humility may, as far as possible, fulfil what your Highness advises. May your Paternity enjoy eternal happiness.13


  Paschal, the Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his dearest daughter Matilda, Queen of the English, greeting and apostolic blessing.

  We are greatly saddened about your husband because, although he started well at the beginning of his reign, he is now trying to spoil what follows. Now, having been placed in the fullness of power, he does not fear to provoke to fury the Almighty Lord, who was well-disposed to him in his need. We do not believe that you are unaware of what this husband of yours promised the Almighty Lord in faithful devotion when he first accepted the royal crown. Now he has taken over the churches through investitures, and he has expelled the holy man, Bishop Anselm, from the kingdom because he opposed his wicked deeds, and has taken on counsellors of perdition. Therefore we fear greatly for his salvation since we love him dearly for his previous good deeds.

  Therefore, beloved daughter, we beg you to watch more carefully over his keeping and to turn his heart away from wrong counsel so that he will not continue provoking God’s fury so greatly against himself. Remember what the Apostle says: “The unbelieving husband will be saved by the believing wife.” Reprove, beseech, rebuke, so that he may reinstate the aforesaid Bishop in his See and permit him to act and preach as his office demands, and also return the churches to his God, lest God take from him what He has given. Otherwise we can no longer endure it without smiting him and his counsellors, and those who unrightfully take possession of churches through him, with perpetual anathema. But if he consents to obey, he will obtain the help of Almighty God and the Apostolic See against all his enemies, and by the freedom of those churches he will gain protection within his kingdom through the grace of God.14


  To her piously esteemed father and devoutly revered Lord, Archbishop Anselm, Matilda, by the grace of God, Queen of the English, lowliest handmaid of his Holiness, sending perpetual greeting in Christ.

  I render countless thanks to your unceasing goodness which has not forgotten me but has deigned to show the presence of your present absence through a letter of yours. Indeed, after the clouds of sadness in which I was wrapped were driven away, the stream of your words broke through to me like a ray of new light. I embrace the parchment sent by you in place of a father, I press it to my breast, I move it as near to my heart as I can, I reread with my mouth the words flowing from the sweet fountain of your goodness, I go over them in my mind, I ponder them again in my heart and when I have pondered over them I place them in the sanctuary of my heart.

  Where everything is worthy of praise, I only wonder at what the excellency of your judgement has added about your nephew.

  For myself, I do not consider that I make any distinction between what is yours and what is mine; that means of course between what is mine and what is mine. Indeed what is yours by kinship is mine by adoption and love. Truly, the consolation of your writing strengthens my patience, gives me hope and maintains it, lifts me up as I fall, sustains me when I am slipping, gives me joy when I grieve, mitigates my anger and calms my weeping. Frequently and secretly it wisely assures me of the return of the father to his daughter, the lord to his handmaid, the shepherd to his sheep.

  In the same way however, the confidence which I have in the prayers of good men and the benevolence which, after careful investigation, I consider comes from the heart of my lord, gives me assurance. For he is more kindly disposed towards you than most people might think. With God’s help and my suggestions, as far as I am able, he may become more welcoming and compromising towards you. What he now permits to be done concerning your revenues, he will permit to be done better and more abundantly in future when you ask for it in the right way and at the right time. Although he considers himself more than a fair judge, nevertheless I beg the abundance of your loving-kindness that, having excluded the rancour of human bitterness which is not usually found in you, you may not turn away the sweetness of your love from him. May you rather show yourself before God as a devoted intercessor for him and for me, as well as for our child and the state of our kingdom. May your holiness always prosper.15


  To his reverend lady, his dearest daughter Matilda, by the grace of God Queen of the English, Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, sending his faithful service, his prayers and the blessing of God and his own, if it is worth anything.

  I give boundless thanks to your Highness by loving and praying for you for the magnitude of your holy love towards my humble self which I perceived in your letter. In it you clearly displayed with what affection you love me when you received and treated my parchment in the way you describe. Your dignity raised my spirits so much by declaring that what nature denies me your grace bestows, that those who are mine by kinship are yours by adoption and love.

  By trying to soften the heart of my lord the King towards me because of your desire for my return I perceive that you are doing what is fitting for you and advantageous for him. For if he has any bitterness of heart towards me, I am not aware of ever having deserved it in any way at all, as far as I can see. If at any time I served him he knows it, and I think he will not consign it to oblivion. If, in some respects, he dislikes me without cause, it would be advantageous for him to drive this rancour away from him lest he sin before God.

  You promise me that the King will in future grant me better and more abundant access to our revenues, of wh
ich at present he allows me a small amount. I should not be ungrateful to your benevolence because you are doing this, as far as you are able through your goodwill. But it should not be necessary to make me such a promise because no confiscation or decrease of them should take place against my will. Whoever advised him to appropriate any of these revenues advised him to commit a sin which is no slight one, nor one that should ever be tolerated. For whoever despoils a bishop of his goods can in no way be reconciled to God unless he restores to him all his goods intact. You should know that however small a part of these goods I am deprived of, it is as if I were deprived of everything. I do not say this for love of money but for the love of God’s justice.

  Your kindness prays me not to take my love away from my lord the King, but to intercede for him, for yourself, for your offspring and for your realm. I have always done this up to now. But as to the future I commit myself to the providence of God, with whom the son does not bear the iniquity of the father nor the wife that of her husband. I hope in God that I may not harbour any rancour against anybody in my heart which could separate me from God.

  May almighty God guard you and your offspring forever in His grace.16

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]