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Duke William to look at the dints in his helmet and armour. A great race had been beaten, and a great aristocracy had fallen. There was splendid plunder going, and it was given away splendidly.

The original aristocracy, then, of this country, after the fall of Saxon ealdormen and thanes, consisted of those who held in capite from William. They were in number, according to the best authorities, about 700. Yet of these many did not hold per baroniam, but (according to the various degrees which then divided life everywhere) by tenures of inferior dignity; so that he who plumes himself on his Norman ancestry must take into consideration the tenure by which his ancestor held, if he wants to estimate his pretensions justly. Chancellor West (father of Gray's West), in a very famous tract on these matters, estimates the number of regular tenants by barony only at 250 out of the 700. These are the grandees whose names and lands, taken out of that first and greatest of blue-booksDOMESDAY, inspire reverential awe in the inquirer, and in speaking of whom in a preface, even old Dugdale grows almost poetic. Such are Earl Eustace, Earl Hugo, Earl Alan--the Warrens, Giffards, and so forth.

Lordships were showered on some families Richard de Clare held 170, Roger Bigod 123, Ralph Mortimer 131, Osbern Giffard 107; William de Warren (Earl of Warren) had 139 in Norfolk alone. But the great Leviathan who, to borrow Burke's grand image, played and frolicked in the ocean of the royal bounty,' was Hugh d'Avrances (sister's son to William), Earl Palatin of Chester, commonly called Hugh Lupus. Besides all Cheshire, except the bishop's share, which was not great, Hugh had 128 lordships; and among barons under him we find the names of Vernon and Venables. Accordingly, one is not surprised to learn from the old writers that this potentate grew very fat. He was a humorous man, too, and fond of buffoons ; for they encouraged talent' in a kind of way even in those days, and the Conqueror's joculator or minstrel had a grant of some land.

Besides those already mentioned, certain other Norman names are found predominant at this time-as Ferrers, Gurnay, Lacy, Malet, Toni, Pomeray, &c. All these were barons by tenure, and barons by tenure constituted the first body of aristocracy. The aristocracy was not then called the Peerage, but the Baronage; and dignity was territorial rather than personal. The country was a great camp held by a feudal militia, of which the King was the chief. The whole system was rooted in the land, and held on by it like a forest. To have so much land, was to be a baron; to be a baron, was to be liable to furnish so many

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knights ; to be a knight, was to hold land perhaps of the King, perhaps of a great baron. And from this state of feudalism we derive, besides many other sentiments, that respect for land as a form of property which is still so strong in England. The man who, in our day, holds his estate as the third proprietor even in succession, owes more of the respect paid him by the peasantry than be supposes to the traditions derived from times so ancient as those of which we are treating. The land may have changed hands often, but it has carried along with it some of that sentiment of regard attached to the lordship of it, as surely as its earth has the fresh smell which it gives when upturned by the husbandman. Nay it is, in one sense, the fountain of honour as much as the Crown, for its possession gave power and dignity, and that possession was less the result (in the first instance) of the king's mere grace than of the tacit, but well-understood bargain, by which the nobles and king shared the spoil, because they had shared the danger of procuring it.

To understand rightly this first form of aristocracy, it is necessary to bear in mind that titular honours are of later origin. The barons were a class of great power, but the title of baron had no existence apart from the fact of baronial possession. A title was not a man's cloak but his skin. An Earl of Chester governed Chester, like a kinglet ; and though this was not the case after the Conquest with every earl (as Selden has proved), yet the Comes was a man with general superior power and dignity, and of greater estates than a mere baron. These were the only names of dignity in England up to the end of the reign of Henry III.

When we remember the small number of the great barons at the conquest, it is not wonderful that in eight centuries few direct male descendants of the first barons by tenure should be existing in the peerage. It is rather wonderful that there should be any at all. The Byrons, however, spring from an Ernisius Burun, who held thirty-two lordships in the county of York, temp. William I.; and a Ralph de Burun, who held thirteen in Notts and Derby, temp. William II. The Berkeleys, the Talbots, the St. Johns, Lord Elgin, in the Scotch, and Lord Kinsale, in the Irish peerage, are descended from barons by tenure of those days, in the direct male line. A larger number of existing peers can show such descents through heiresses, as the Howards from the Fitz-Alans, Warrens, &c.; the Devereuxes from the Bohuns; Earl Beauchamp from the Beauchamps; the St. Alban's family from the Veres : while if all descents through females be included, the list might be considerably extended. If we stickle, however, for the Conquest, Domesday-Book,

tenure * There has rather been a set of late years in favour of Saxon origins for pedigrees, but such a thing is hard to establish. The Howards may be Saxons, but they may also be Danish. Two great houses--one English, one Scotchsprang from ihe best Saxon aristocracy--the old Earls of Northumberland ; one of whom, Cospatrick, left England and settled in Scotland after the Conquest. He was the ancestor, in Scotland, of the Earls of Dunbar, of whom the Humes, and we believe the Edgars, are cadets; in England, of the Nevills of Raby, whose heiress, Isabel, his descendant, married in the thirteenth century. The Nevills are thus a Saxon race with a Norman name. The Stanleys are just the reverse.

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tenure in capite, and the male line, we shall find only a very few up to our standard, though it is to be observed, that descendants of those original Norman barons are found among simple gentry, as the Quaker Gurneys, Blounts, Malets, Chaworths, Pomerays. Again, if ceasing to insist on baronial rank we seek knightly or landed families of the period, the Molyneuxes, Dawnays, Devereuxes, Bagots, Ashburnhams, Lumleys, Lowthers, Lambtons, are still to be found as titled representatives of them. We are to remember, that if there were only seven hundred tenants-inchief, of whom some two hundred and fifty may be presumed to have been tenants per baroniam, there were plenty of gallant chevaliers and gentlemen-less powerful though scarcely less gentle -holding lands in broad England from church or lord. There were sixty thousand or more of knight's fees in the country ; for every one of these the superior lord had to find a knight, and the island swarmed with adventurers ready to undertake the duty. Here, then, was a body ready to grasp at baronies as soon as they fell in-a body composed in the main of Normans, though plentifully mixed with Bretons and Angevins, and other races; and while some attained the baronage as years rolled by, the mass became the ancestors of many families of the gentry. It is probable that the minor men mixed earlier in marriage with the native population than the great barons, who were always on the look out for heiresses of their own race. Ordericus Vitalis, who lived into the reign of Stephen, was the son of a vassal of Roger de Montgomery, who came over with that great potentate at the Conquest. But he always calls himself “Vitalis the Englishman; and when sent over as a lad to be a monk at St. Evroult, where he wrote his history, the Normans did not understand his language. We mention this, because it tends to show that as new families rose they must have brought much English blood with them into the Norman organization, in addition to that which came naturally as the Saxons themselves entered into the governing system.*

The period between the Conqueror and Edward I. was that in which feudalism flourished in its fullest vigour. The great barons attained their highest power; heraldry arose, with its beautiful

symbolism,

symbolism, to adorn war, to distinguish families, to fix gentility; castles crowned the sloping heights of every English county; and in many a quiet valley, rich in wood and water, abbeys grew up and spread out broad and stately windows to the rays of the noon-day sun. Swarms of warriors poured to the Crusades, and left their bones in Syria and Palestine, or in quiet Greek isles, where they had retired to nurse their wounds, or returned to take their long rest at home, in churches which they had endowed. Magna Charta became law. Life was earnest in its beliefs, stormy in its ambitions, hearty in its sports. Ideas and sentiments then became fixed in the European mind which long afterwards inspired European literature, and which formed European manners.

During this long and important period, in which several political changes were slowly evolving themselves out of the stir of feudal action, the nobility of England was essentially Norman. De Clares and de Warrenns, Bohuns and Bigods, Percys and Veres, Lacys and Mowbrays, Montfichets and Mohuns were, with scores of others, the great names which lorded it over the kingdom. But time was at his usual work of change. Old baronies fell-- by deaths in battle or by the thunderbolt of an attainder, or by the need of a supply for the Holy Warsoften they ended in heiresses aud passed to other lines. New barons appeared, of whom some had apparently been Norman gentlemen, though not among the great tenants in Domesday. Several of these families are still in the Peerage.

For instance, the Herberts, or Fitz-Herberts, the Clintons, Hastingses, and Spensers, all became barons by tenure in the reign of Henry the First. Fitz-Herbert seems to have married that king's mistress. Who the Clintons were is not quite clear. The genealogists (with a natural respect for a date like 1129, when we know Geoffrey de Clinton to have been alive) dubiously try to derive Geoffrey from one William de Villa Tancredi; but Ordericus, his contemporary, obviously thought him a novus homo, and raised as a king's favourite ; and in the absence of direct evidence to the contrary this authority should be decisive. He built Kenilworth, and founded a monastery near it, and a distinguished race issued from his loins, now represented by the Duke of Newcastle. The Hastingses were, with more certainty, a Norman stock. Their first baron was Walter de Hastings, steward to Henry, and owner of a manor in Norfolk, which he held by Grand Serjeanty, viz., by taking care of the naperie' (table-linen) at the coronation. From him derived the renowned line which produced Warren Hastings, and which Lord Huntingdon represents in the peerage in our day. Hugh Vol. 103.–No. 205.

Despencer,

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Despencer, of high Norman lincage, also a steward to the same king, was ancestor of all the Spensers, and the great Edmund the poet amongst them-(who forgets Gibbon's fine appeal to them to cherish the · Fairy Queen' as the brightest jewel in their coronet '?); the Duke of Marlborough and Lord Spencer are from a younger branch of the baronial family re-established in opulence under the Tudors (chiefly, it would seem, by a marriage), and in the peerage by James I.

Other families, whose descendants are still noble, came into the baronage in the early times of which we are now speaking. A Nevill was baron by tenure in Henry I.'s reign; and Lord Abergavenny's ancestor, Geoffrey de Nevill, in that of Henry II. The first English Courtenay (of august origin), Reginald, was a baron under the last-named king; the first Grey under the first Richard ; the first Audley,* ancestor of the Stanleys, under Henry III. The male descendants of these families in the present peerage may well consider themselves, with the houses we have particularised above, the highest blood of the country, while among the gentry, the Luttrells, Corbets, and Gresleys were baronial at the same time. Even the Devereuxes, Mannerses, or Howards were not barons by tenure, but only attained baronage later when the rank was conferred by writ. The chief place in the nobility assuredly belongs to those who enjoyed the dignity in its most purely feudal form, and when the power of the order was at its greatest height.

Indeed, it requires no slight effort of the imagination to picture the magnificent position of a Baron of England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with his castles and his vassals, his wide lands and brilliant retinue. At the high festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, when the King gathered his comites, proceres, magnates, about him to hold those great assemblies-half-feasts, and half-councils, -which were the forerunners of regular parliaments’-the English earls and barons crowded to the palace, and their retainers swarmed in the town. The mornings were spent in huntings and tournaments, and the afternoons in free converse and revelry. Banners everywhere met the eye, glittering with the chequered gold and azure of the Warrennes, or the three red chevrons of the Clares, or the favourite lion of other Norman houses, who much favoured that

• Henry de Alditheley or Audley—ancestor of the old Lords Audley, of the present Lord Andley (in the female line), and of the Earl of Derby-had the inheritance from which he took his name given him by Nicholas de Verdon, in 16 Hen. III. (1262). He bore his arms with a difference,' and was, not improbably, his son.-(See Dugdale's Baronage, i. 746.) If so, he sprang from a Bertram de Verdon, who held as a baron at the Conquest by grand serjeanty.

historic

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