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Charters require to be examined and investigated with much care. If authentic, they are the best possible guides to history; if spurious, the most mischievous deluders. Worldly interest often tempted the monks to commit forgery, and they did not always resist this temptation so resolutely as might be wished for the honour of the order. Yet in extenuation, if not in apology, it must be remembered that their falsifications were chiefly defensive. Lands which unquestionably belonged to the Church were frequently held merely by prescriptive possession, unaocompanied by deeds and charters. The right was lawful, but there were no means of proving the right. And when the monastery was troubled and impleaded by the Norman Justitiar, or the Soke invaded by the Norman Baron, the Abbot and his brethren would have recourse to the pious fraud of inventing a charter for the purpose of protecting property which, however lawfully acquired and honestly enjoyed, was like to be wrested from them by the
captious niceties of the Norman jurisprudence or the greedy tyranny of the Norman sword. These counterfeits are sometimes detected by the pains which were taken to give them currency. It is famiJiarly known that the Anglo-Saxons confirmed their deeds by subscribing the sign of the cross, and that the charters themselves are fairly but plainly engrossed upon parchment. But instead of imitating these unostentatious instruments, the elaborate forgers often endeavoured to obtain respect for their fabrications by investing them with as much splendour as possible; and those grand crosses of gold, vermilion and azure, which dazzled the eyes and deceived the judgment of the Court when produced before a bench of simple and unsuspecting lawyers, now reveal the secret fraud to the lyux-eyed antiquary. According to Ingulphus these modes of adornment prevailed long before the reign of the Confessor. The foundation charter of Croyland, purporting to have been granted by Ethelbald, is richly adorned, from whence it obtained the name of the Golden Charter,' and the ancient chirographs, gay with paintings and illuminations, and the charters of the Mercian kings covered with embellishments, are enumerated by him amongst the treasures which were consumed when the monastery was destroyed by fire in the year 1091.* But we can state, upon the information of the most competent living authority,
fate is preparing for the sumptuous gate-house, almost the only remaining relic of a pile whose history is coeval with the establishment of Christianity in England. The example afforded to the citizens by the Dean and Chapter ought to shame them out of their Vandalism. The restoration of the Cathedral lately effected under the direction of the Dean, without the aid of any professional architect, exhibits an union of archi. tectural skill, mechanical contrivance, and correct antiquarian taste which has been seldom equalled and never surpassed. Ingulphus, p. 98.
that there is no charter of this description which is not manifestly spurious. The 'golden charter' bears the impress of falsity; and unless it be supposed that all the genuine illuminated charters in England perished by sympathy when those at Croyland felt the flame, we must infer that the writer of the history of Ingulphus erred either through ignorance or design.*
Internal evidence is often sufficiently decisive. Terms and phrases borrowed from the Anglo-Norman jurisprudence are introduced, and the institutions and usages belonging to the age of the forgery, transferred to periods when they were entirely unknown. A charter ascribed to Beortulf, king of Mercia, dated at Kingsbury on Saturday in Easter-week, 851, recites that the monks of Croyland having preferred their complaint before the Prelates and Peers of Mercia coucerning various trespasses, the King ordered Radbod the Vice dominus of Lincoln to perambulate the demesne of the monks and to return the boundaries before the King and his Council, ubicunque in ultimo Paschæ fuissemus ;' which being done, the King, with the consent of his Prelates and Peers, confirms the privileges of the monastery. These proceedings are entirely conformable to the legal usages of the reigns of Edward I. and Il.; and unless it be supposed that the proceedings of the High Court of Parliament were inherited from the Witenagemot of Mercia, the whole body of the instrument must be considered as a spurious paraphrase.+ We employ these expressions, because we apprehend that the monks did not entirely trust to their powers of invention, and that, in concerting many of these fabrications, they borrowed the substratum from a genuine instrument, which they expanded and altered in such a manner as to suit the purpose required. At least we cannot otherwise account for the consistency and pertinence of the concluding clauses, appended to many charters of which the contents are entirely supposititious.
The employment of seals amongst the Anglo-Saxons has given rise to much discussion. There can be no doubt but that seals were used for the purpose of impressing the wax which closed the epistles of the Anglo-Saxons. The seal of Ethelwald, bishop of Dunwich (830-70) has lately been discovered, and it will
The Croyland charter, in Saxon characters, in the possession of Robert Hunter, Esq. lord of ihe place, was shown to the Society of Antiquaries, as appears by their minutes, by Mr. Lethellier, in 1734.(Gough's Croyland, Pref. viii.) In the opinion of Humphry Wanly, it was not much older, if any thing at all, than Henry the Second's time. The fac-simile given by Hickes (Dissertatio Epistolaris, tab, D.) does not leave the slightest doubt of the imposture. + Ingulphus, 12, 13.
This seal was dug up by a labourer in a garden about two hundred yards from the gate of the monastery at Èye, who gave it to the child of a workman employed on a
neighbouring neighbouring farm. The child threw it on the fire, from whence its mothér rescued it.! It was afterwards purchased by Mr. Hudson Gurney, and presented by him to the British Museum. Archæologia, vol. xx. p. 480. The seal is of a yellow metal, mitre shaped, composed of two rows of arches supported by nine wolves heads, the eyes of which were formed by small garnets. The legend exhibits a mixture of Greek and Latin characters.'
be readily admitted that the Anglo-Saxons were acquainted with a custom so ancient and so obvious. But this discovery is very far from "setting at rest the question hitherto in dispute touching the use of seals amongst the Anglo-Saxons. The question remains just as it was. The point at issue is not whether seals were in use amongst the Anglo-Saxons, but whether the usage of appending a seal to a charter was considered as a legal method of executing the instrument according to the custom of AngloNorman times. In support of the affirmative no other proof can be adduced except a very few charters of Edward the Confessor; but it is the very essence of a legal custom that it should be uniform and constant, and consequently publicly known. It is commonly said that seals were introduced by the Normans:--still they were introduced by slow degrees. William the Conqueror frequently , confirmed his charters by his sign or cross alone, and until the reign of Henry II. the privilege of using a seal scarcely extended to any but the greater barons.* Edward the Confessor seems occasionally to have used a seal in imitation of the continental monarchs, but it was superfluous and without legal effect, and the addition of a seal to any document of an earlier period must inevitably cause it to be stigmatized as a monkish forgery.
As the information obtained from charters, when they stand the test of criticism, is of the highest importance, it becomes necessary to use great caution before we admit their validity. At the same time, however, that we subject them to examination, we must take into consideration those circumstances which may give a character of suspicion to documents of real authenticity. There are many documents which appear to be copies of original charters, which were made long after the Conquest for use and perusal, probably to prevent the injury which might result to the ancient · land-boc' if touched by rude or careless hands. Occasionally the calligraphist attempted not merely to repeat the words, but to represent the forms of the ancient characters, and as these imitations are easily detected by the skilful antiquary, he may be induced to condemn as a forgery what was merely intended to be an innocent fac-simile. The same reasons which occasioned the clergy to make transcripts of their charters in detached schedules or membranes, also induced them to enter their muniments in chartularies or registers. Great judg- . ment and accuracy are sometimes displayed in these collections. In the most valuable chartulary of Worcester, for instance, the transcripts which we owe to the care of Hemingius leave nothing to be desired. But the indolence of the monk would sometimes induce him to omit the subscriptions of the charter. Successive copyists modernized the language and reduced it from the pure Anglo-Saxon to the Anglo-Norman or English of the Plantaganets. Or the ignorant clerk corrupted the unintelligible document into the most barbarous jargon. In some instances a more skilful but equally injudicious scribe has destroyed the appearances of antiquity by paraphrasing the uncouth phraseology of the
SIT EGILVVALDI EP Gilbert de Baillol, the chief lord of the fee of certain lands contested in the Curia : Regis, (temp. Hen. II.) exclaimed, during the discussion of the cause, that many chi-, rographs in the names of his ancestors had been read in his hearing, but that the deeds were not fortified by the testimony of their seals. Richard de Luci, the Justiciar, inquired if he had a seal. Baillol answered in the affirmative.—The Justiciar replied, with a smile of contempt,-moris non erat antiquitus quemlibet militulum sigillum, habere, quod Regibus et præcipuis tantummodo competit personis.
land-boc' in terms which were more familiar to his contemporaries. All these possibilities, which must be considered and weighed, add to the perplexity of a study in itself sufficiently difficult and doubtful. Lastly, all generalizations to be deduced from charters, and all the general reasonings founded upon the contents of charters, must be qualified by the recollection that those which we possess relate only to some of the foundations of Wessex and Mercia and their dependencies, together with a few gleanings from Northumbria. The devastations of the Danes will account for the absence of the documents relating to the establishments which they destroyed, but it is not so easy to explain the disappearance of almost all the charters of the Bishoprics whose seats were removed after the Conquest. Lincoln succeeded to the rights of Sidvacester, and we might have expected that the muniments would have accompanied the translation, but none can be recovered;and with the exception of some few charters belonging to the Bishopric of Sealsey, and which were entered in a register of the church of Chichester, lost during the civil wars, hardly any traces whatever can be discovered of the muniments of those ancient foundations.
We must now consider the materials of the Anglo-Saxon chronicles. Genealogies and pedigrees seem to have constituted the groundwork of their civil history, Aristocracy, in its most harsh and rigid form, was the essential principle of the Anglo-Saxon vernment. The higher classes were born to command, the inheritance of the people was legal subjection, and the opinions no less than the interest of the nobility would prompt them to preserve the remembrances of their ancestry with care and fidelity. Those were the first Anglo-Saxon histories. It is not probable
that any other written memorials ascend into the heathen period; and the brief notices attached to the name of an Anglo-Saxon Ealdorman on the staff or the tablet preserved in his hall, may be conjectured to have afforded all the authentic knowledge which the chroniclers of the Minster possessed of his achievements.
Many of the genealogies of the chieftains of the Anglo-Saxon commonwealth have been preserved in the chronicles. Others, which would have been of great importance, are lost. Of the poble family of the Iclingas' only the name is known. No particulars have been preserved of the descent of the Sovereigns who, under the supremacy of Mercia, governed the Hwiccian territory* for many generations. And the genealogies of the Mercian princes themselves are not clearly deduced. Most of the Anglo-Saxon names are significant, and the alliteration which was the basis of their poetry guided them in the selection of the appellations of their children. In the kin’ of Cerdic, the same initial letter was retained for seven descents, and nearly to the same extent in a branch which sprang from the main line. If a foreign princess married an English king she assumed an English name; Emma of Normandy became the English Elfgiva. These circumstances, apparently trivial, are worthy of notice, since they show the strong nationality of the spirit which the Anglo-Saxons evinced in the matters connected with ancestry and family.
The mythological poems of the Anglo-Saxons have perished, but the former existence of_lays extremely analogous to the strains of the Scandinavian Edda may be distinctly discovered in the verse of Cædmon and his successors. Epithets denoting the power
and the attributes of the Scandinavian deities are em ployed without scruple in the metrical versions of Genesis, and the life of Judith. The history of the Bible is narrated in the phraseology of Valhalla. The Christian poet could not have borrowed from the lays of the heathen Scalld, had they been either dangerous or unintelligible to the multitude whom he addressed. Paganism must have become entirely extinct, but the imagery anciently consecrated to its doctrines must still have been familiar. A German antiquary of considerable learning, M. Ruhs, of Berlin, has promulgated a singular theory with respect to
These Wiccii seem to have inhabited all that tract which was anciently subject to the Bishops of Worcester,—all Worcestershire, excepting sixteen parishes lying beyond Abberley Hills and the river Tame,--all Gloucestershire on the east side Severn, and near the south half of Warwickshire, with Warwick town.-Gibson's Camden, 618.
† In the genealogy inserted in the Saxon Chronicle the descent of the line of Cerdic is thus given :-Cerdic, Creoda, Cyneric, Celin or Ceawlin, Cuthwine, Cuthwulf, Ceolwald, Cenred-At the beginning of the genealogy Cyneric is called, as in the history, the son of Cerdic. Hence we obtain a proof that the word sunu is not to be restricted to the first degree of descent, but that, as in biblical language, it is to be extended as a general term to descendants.