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Phyllis may have repeated all the natural effusions of Clara the peerless and proud Lochinvar; but there also came the end of their honest and affectionate efforts. In each case the check-string of the law was tightened by the cursed love of gold, and individual wishes were despised.
Norman civilisation had given the ominous phrase, baron et femme, the antithesis of love and affection, a phrase which has to be translated in the light of the above expressions, bargain and sale; it was a dreadful substitute for the old native expression, gaffer and gammer. But this may be said for it, the mediæval courts were never pestered with actions for breach of promise, and they knew but very little of divorce, for society could not contemplate universal outbreak. Norman civilisation had rendered these things impossible. When the “chattel” had to be sold by a third party the promises of lovers were but the beginning of disappointment-a receipt for the pecuniary consideration was the only validity. But this arrangement was not the absolute remedy for villany, for even with it as a safeguard confiding damsels found too late men would betray. One instance of the wiles of a base deceiver illustrates the humanity of human nature, for they come up from their grave of six centuries with the living features of to-day. In the reign of Edward I., Agnes de Sparkesford, a beguiled Somersetshire heiress, presumably of mature years and declining opportunity, impleaded William de Potenay, a brisk youth who insidiously wandered abroad for the prey that home would deny him. Notwithstanding the candour of the age, William had acquired all the arts of the modern betrayer, “because under the hope of marriage she had enfeoffed him of her lands." This being done he coolly threw her over, telling her the insulting truth that he was married to another woman. William was clearly a finished artist, but the outraged Agnes was superior to the feebleness of love, so she “had him up.” The stolid Somersetshire jury did not appreciate his artistic qualities in the light he would have them shown. At their hands the rascal received a merited exposure and punishment. They plainly declared William came to Agnes and made her understand he would willingly marry her, “to which she consented." Then after the lapse of several days—she had been somewhat urgent, as we perceive—"he again treated with her of contracting the marriage between them, but he said to her it would be a hard thing for him to marry her, except he might be sure of her lands if he should survive her.” William's cool reasoning impressed the sympathetic damsel-an unprotected female, as we may almost perceive-to the fullest extent for which
it was designed. Agnes, acting precisely as the police details show hungry females to be acting to-day, placed him in seizin of her lands, "accepting him and pressing that the marriage should be completed”-just as confiding housemaids now do who have watches and little accumulations in the savings' banks. Then the monster laid bare his treachery : “he excused himself, urging his prior marriage "-which also is precisely what the pinks of chivalry do to confiding housemaids. The sentence of the court was worthy of the gallant's enormities, and quite in accordance with the most advanced of modern police magistrate's ideas. William was committed to gaol and ordered to pay forty marks damages-say £600 of present money-the sheriffs of Somersetshire and Hampshire being ordered to seize his lands and levy the amount of damages.
Though there were these dark spots in the arena of matrimonial legislation, post-nuptial life did not brighten in revenge of them. The schoolboy's maxim, "a bad beginning makes a good ending,” was not universally true. Incompatibility of temper had its outbursts, and by reason of its surroundings was apt to become sullen, hateful defiance. In 1209 Elias, son of Elias, gains immortality by his "contumacy.” This sturdy knave, accused of "despising his wife,” boldly admits the impeachment, “and said he wished to stand the consideration of Holy Church, and found pledges for it.” He at least had the courage of his convictions ; the details of his trouble we unfortunately do not know. Capital crimes were also known, though infrequent, but often diabolical when they did happen. A startling example of matrimonial rancour occurred in 1212, when the sheriff of Southampton was ordered to take into the king's hands a knight's fee belonging to Avice, wife of Simon de Aurefeld, who was adjudged to be burnt for the death of Simon, her husband. The hearing of that trial, now so silently reposing in the long past ages, would be a great sensation ; for in the nature of the times we may read that dame Avice had become weary of the man to whom she had been transferred as a “chattel.”
The sins of affectionate impulse then were more frequent, and often had highly ludicrous sides in the compromises they resulted in. 1240 Adam de Alta Ripa was arrested to answer H. de Pateshull, bishop of Coventry and Lichefield, why, without the episcopal license, he permitted himself to be married, seeing that his marriage belonged to the bishop, because Adam de Alta Ripa, Adam's father, held of Ralph Paynel by knight's service, the custody of whose land and heir the bishop had by sale from the king. The position of the fledgling husband was sufficiently distressing, for the servitude of the
gaol possibly awaited him. The bishop ruthlessly urging his rights, declared Adam permitted himself to be married, to the bishop's damage of 100 marks. The youth acknowledged his marriage belonged to the Right Reverend Father, and placed himself “in misericordia"—though he was of the primest of those "whose sires came over with the Conqueror.” The bishop afterwards remitted to Adam forty marks of the hundred the damage was laid at; and for this remission Adam permitted the bishop to continue to hold all the land in his custody after Adam shall come of age, until the sixty marks shall have been fully received from the issues of the estates. So the poor youth had to support his bride upon the love which had constrained him to anger the Holy Father, who probably had entertained far other views touching his matrimonial possibilities. The episode is not without grim humour ; Benedict in “reduced circumstances” is a fine suggestion, for chivalry in rags is the bathos of all dreams. It is to be hoped Adam resisted the snares of Shylock, who was a more enormous power in those days than he is in our own, though his modest rate of interest was exactly the same.
When love matters were pressed not wisely but too well under King John, the monarch was not so easily dealt with even as an incensed bishop. The weight of his hand was not only quickly and heavily felt ; it knew no relaxation until its grip had extorted the uttermost farthing, and as much more as could be squeezed out. Walter de Fellington, anxious or calculating, but equal to any occasion, first married the woman he loved, and then approached the font of rapacity. Her “ valuation appears to have been 200 marks ; John found room for an “increment” as necessary to secure his “benevolence,” the result being that Walter offered to the king 200 marks for the crime, and additionally twenty marks to have the king's goodwill concerning the wife whom he had married, and to have that part of her father's lands which rightfully belonged to her. Having won the woman, he was content to let John count the cost, the highest wisdom. But, notwithstanding his omnivorous nature, if the landless John happened to be approached on his humorous side, there was evidently a grim joke to be found in him. What, for instance, are we to say of the adventure of William Lespec, who purchased his wife's sister with a part of the inheritance which fell to his wife, and John ratified the bargain for forty marks and a good hawk! We take the including of the hawk to be a masterpiece of satire. It is indeed astonishing how John availed himself of matrimonial necessities. Had Charles I. been his equal, we should never have heard of ship money and civil war.
It would be difficult, for
instance, to advance beyond this point of opportunity, which nevertheless involves an acknowledgment of John's own treachery-Robert de Vaux owes five of his best palfreys that the king will hold his tongue about the wife of Henry Panel-except it be thus : the wife of Hugh de Neville gives 200 hens "eo quod possit jacere una nocte cum domino suo, Hugone de Nevill.” That instance of the purchase of the royal grace and goodwill is presumably unique.
But of all the matrimonial trafficking, the ways of the widows are at once the boldest and most comprehensive. As a rule, their methods seldom resort to blandishment; it is remarkable when tenderness is an item in their bargain. Speed was their maxim ; it was one John honoured, for he profited by it. Yet one of the rarest exceptions in the way of delicacy to these commercial negotiations has evidently been prompted by a widow who had quite an exceptional lover. In 1206, William de Landa--either one of the most famous of the Crusaders or his son-offers fifty marks and a palfrey for having to wife Joan, who was the wife of Thomas de Aresey, “ if he may be pleasing to the said Joan”; the sheriff is instructed to ascertain the widow's wishes, “and if the said Joan shall be pleased to have him for a husband, then the sheriff shall cause William to have seizin of Joan and her land”—both of which he obtained in the name of gentle love and the faith of a true soldier. It is fitting that the name of one of the men who led the assault of Acre should be preserved in such a record as the above. He was in truth a very perfect knight. One of the most rampagious of the northern borderers manifested the like delicacy. Young Walter de Umfraville, son of Gilbert, had left a widow, Emma, presumably in the very blush of her charms. Peter de Vaux had fallen at her feet, but he declined to obtain her in border fashion ; and this fact is the earnest pledge of the chivalry of his love. If he would not steal her he was bound to buy her, and coin with the De Vaux was always a scarcity. So he offered the king five palfreys for her "if she wished it," and with what would read as a graceful acknowledgment of the borderer's pure chivalry, John absolutely drops the commercial from his reply and simply orders Robert FitzRoger, the sheriff, “to permit it to be done."
The ways of the rank and file of these negotiations were very different. Sometimes they are interesting specimens of light diplomacy; at other times they are profound. Sarah, who was the wife of Thomas de Burgh, offers fifty marks and a palfrey, besides a former promise of £100, to be free to marry whom she pleases in the king's land, excepting he be of the land of the King of Scots, or
one of the men of the lord Archbishop of Canterbury. It is somewhat difficult to understand Sarah's tactics ; she starts as a prude in 1200, offering the £100 “not to be asked to marry,” and yet before the year expires she has become ardently anxious and so commiserating in her anxiety as thus to exclude from her choice only Scotsmen and the men of his Grace of Canterbury. Following on the heels of this, and separated from it not by months, but by weeks only, we find she has given her widowed heart and crushed affections to Simon FitzWalter, who in his haste flies off to the king with a further offer of thirty marks or six palfreys to have her incontinently, and he gets her at the price. John's appreciation of an impatient lover was at once sympathetic and accurate. Sometimes the tables are turned on the wily dames, though the operation does not seem to have been satisfactory in all instances. Geoffrey de Luvein offers four hundred marks to have the land and widow of Ralph de Cornhull, unless she can show reason why she ought not to accept him ! In some pleasant way, however, of which we are ignorant, the widow had outwitted her furious admirer, for she had offered two hundred marks, three palfreys and two hawks not to marry Geoffrey, but to be allowed to marry whom she pleases, and to have her lands. John must have been as clearly outwitted as the ardent lover, for he thus concludes the entry : “The marks are paid because she married of her own accord.”
Then we have the friendly offers of disinterested neighbours. Simon de Kime offers one hundred pounds sterling on account of Rohesia, wife of Stephen de Falconbridge, that she may have liberty to marry whom she pleases with the advice of her friends; and the sheriff of Nottinghamshire is commanded to take from her secure pledges thereupon, the said Simon de Kime to be superpledge for the £100. The arrangement had been cleverly worked out, for Simon married her forthwith. One of the best “squeezes” John ever obtained was that of Amabel, the widow of Hugh Bardolf, one of the foremost of the king's roystering companions. She gave him two thousand marks—say £30,000 of present moneyand five palfreys not to be compelled to marry, but that she may remain a widow as long as she pleases, yet if she should wish to marry, she will not do so without the king's will and assent. Dame Amabel may be credited with knowing that such a husband as John would have chosen for her might have been far less desirable than a vastly reduced fortune. At least, she had had much experience of his methods and selections.
The picture here painted from contemporary sketches of the