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Alexander
Alexander
269

had sworn later again and again with every religious safeguard, that, on Henry's death without a male heir, they would receive his daughter, Maud, as ‘lady of England and Normandy.’ Nevertheless the uncle and nephew had not scrupled to transfer their allegiance to Stephen. When very early in his reign, in 1137, Stephen crossed to Normandy to defend his duchy, which had been invaded by Geoffrey of Anjou, Bishop Alexander was in his train, and was probably present when Stephen received investiture of the province from Lewis, and his young son Eustace did homage and became the man of the king of France (Hen. Hunt. p. 222; Annal. Waverl., Annal. Monast. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 226). In the civil anarchy which followed, the loyalty of Alexander, as of his powerful kinsmen Roger and Nigel of Ely, became strongly suspected. The possession of castles, so many and so strong, placed these prelates in a position of independence which rendered them dangerous to the crown. Stephen's suspicions were carefully fomented by his lay advisers, jealous of the overweening power of the churchmen. Unwisely listening to their persuasions, he resolved to make himself master of the three bishops and their castles. The occasion taken was the sitting of a great council at Oxford in the summer of 1139. The bishops, when cited to the council, obeyed reluctantly. A fray which arose between their men and the followers of Count Alan of Richmond about their quarters, which had ended in bloodshed, offered the desired pretext for action. Stephen arrested Alexander and his uncle, the former in his lodging, the latter in the court itself, together with the bishop of Salisbury's son and namesake, ‘Roger the Poor,’ the king's chancellor—Nigel, bishop of Ely, managed to effect his escape—and threw them into prison until they should have surrendered the castles which he asserted they were fortifying against him. The bishops' claim to have the matter judicially investigated, and their offer to render any satisfaction which might be legally due, were contemptuously rejected. Their only hope of enlargement lay in giving up their castles and all they contained. Roger's strong castle of Devizes, after a vigorous defence by Nigel of Ely and Maud of Ramsbury, Roger's mistress, the chancellor's mother, was surrendered to Stephen on his threat of starving the elder Roger and hanging the younger. The king then hastened with his army across England to Alexander's castle of Newark-on-Trent, dragging with him its builder, whom, meanwhile, he had kept in harsh imprisonment, ‘sub vili tugurio,’ with the assurance, when the siege was laid, that he should taste no food till the fortress was surrendered. It needed all the tears and prayers of the famished bishop to induce the garrison who were holding the castle to surrender. Alexander's other castles of Sleaford and Banbury speedily followed, leaving Stephen master of the situation (Gesta Stephani, 50; Will. Malm. Hist. Novell. ii. 20; Ord. Vit. 920; Flor. Wigorn. Contin.; Hen. Hunt. 223; Hoveden, 277; Wykes, ii. 23).

This outburst of indiscreet energy, so alien to Stephen's general mildness, was the turning-point in Stephen's reign, after which his fortunes steadily declined (Stubbs, Early Plantagenets, p. 18). Such illegal violence had arrayed the whole church against him. In less than two months from the seizure of Alexander and his uncle, a great ecclesiastical council was held at Winchester (29 Aug.), under the presidency of Stephen's brother, Henry of Blois, as papal legate, to take cognisance of their sovereign's crime. Stephen was actually summoned before the synod. No formal sentence was passed, but, according to the author of the ‘Gesta Stephani’ (§ 51), Stephen made satisfaction for his ecclesiastical offence by laying aside his royal insignia and submitting to some form of penance. But no submission could undo Stephen's rash act. The day after that on which the council was held, 30 Sept. 1139, Maud landed in England; and the horrible period of anarchy and civil war began. Alexander espoused neither side openly, prudently waiting the turn of events to declare himself for the winner. We may hope that his diocese was the gainer, and that he gave heed to the weighty words of the council held at this period, that bishops should not possess castles, but devote themselves to the spiritual care of their flocks (Flor. Wigorn. Contin. ut supra, iii. p. 116). The next time we see Alexander, he is performing his religious functions as bishop in his own cathedral. This was on Candlemas day, 2 Feb. 1141, at the solemn mass which preceded the ‘battle of Lincoln,’ from the field of which Stephen was carried off a prisoner to Bristol castle, in punishment, some said, for his previous violence to God's ministers, and for having converted the western part of the holy house of St. Mary of Lincoln into a fortress furnished with engines of war for the purpose of attacking the neighbouring castle, then held by the rebel Earls of Lincoln and Chester (Will. Malm. Hist. Novell. iii. 39). The holy service, we are told, was disturbed with portents of coming misfortune. The huge