Chapter 23

[ 23 ]

     Without delay, William has sent a certain young recruit Tetgar, a leader of his household, to the transrhenish king Henry, so that he would not hesitate to do, with his own armed band, what king Louis kept seeking from him. For king Henry and duke William were united by a covenant of indestructible friendship and newly allied one to the other through reciprocal agreements. Truly, king Henry has received Tetger honorably and has caused him to remain with him for an entire day. But afterwards he has sent him, loaded with various presents and diverse gifts, back to duke William, and with him duke Cono, privy to his secrets. William has received the latter with the marvelous reverence of inestimable awe and has inquired why that duke (so dignified! so honorable!) has come to him. Cono has replied: "You sent to our king Henry, merry over your success, so that, through your judicious advice, he and king Louis of Francia might ally with each other and, should some need beset one of them, he would be strengthened by the support of the other. Moreover, judging this advice to be salubrious for himself and for his followers and, more than this, to be steadfast and durable due to your involvement, the king has sent me to you so that you might conduct the king to a meeting, and he has instructed me to remain wherever you like as a hostage, until you have returned and brought back the king, free from all adversity."
     Hearing the message of this singular and invaluable embassy, William has sent for king Louis and imparted the pleasant outcome of the embassy. On the day set for departure, having assembled an innumerable multitude of legions, William, wishing to ascertain whether any darkness lurked in his heart, has said to duke Cono of the Saxons: "Ready yourself for the road and quickly don your shinguards. For I will send you to the town of Bayeux until, as you said, we have returned unharmed." Then Cono: "Send me wherever you like, even to the Dacians subject to your authority." And William: "You will go with me to the conference, because I do not distrust you." And Cono: "If I proceed to the city of Bayeux, I am, unhesitatingly, your fidelis. But if, as I believe shall happen, I depart with you, I will remain your trusty shield-bearer and your constant body-guard against the ambushes of your enemies." That said, they go, of one mind, with a great army to meet king Louis, who awaited them in the district of Laon along with duke Hugh the Great and count Herbert.
     Seeing the Breton and Norman legions, distinguished by such an immense multitude of warriors, duke Hugo and count Herbert were astounded, saying to one another: "What comparison is there between our army and this one? If any strife should come between us and them, they will devour us as wolves do lambs." Then Hugh the Great and count Herbert each ordered his own followers to ride separately, and forbad any of them to mingle with William's army. But king Henry was at a place called Vis‚, on the river Meuse, with an innumerable army. But as king Louis was still approaching the aforesaid conference location, William preceded him with five hundred warriors, while duke Cono, at the latter's admonition, has already gone to the king and reported his arrival in these words: "William, marquis and duke of the Normans and Bretons sends you faithful obeisance in Christ. Not wishing to keep me as a hostage against the keeping of your sacrosanct promise, he has come directly to you, and wishes to ask what should be done between you and king Louis."
     Then king Henry: ~"How powerful and dignified and honorable and good is this William, who has joined himself to me in friendship?" He replied: "Very patient and equitable, very powerful and affluent, and possessed of great and unheardof honor and practical judgment. No king, except you, and no duke or count is as eminent as William. Zealously surrounded by a throng of leaders and young recruits, he dines splendidly with golden vessels and drinking cups and, surrounded by all types of servants (both nobles and slaves), he is zealous in administering the rights and ordinances of the orthodox Fathers. There is no one more equitable in actions, there is no one holier in speech, there is no one mightier in arms. In his realm, no one dares to harm another, no one to commit theft or sacrilege. Harmonious, the inhabitants of the land live prostrate before the laws and, of one mind, remain regulated by the ordinances of the holy Fathers." And while Henry and Cono were still conversing with one another, William arrived with five hundred warriors. As soon as duke Cono heard of his arrival, he rushed outside and faithfully received William's sword, and conducted him with awe to king Henry. King Henry, however, quickly rose and went to meet duke William and, once they had kissed, both sat down.
     Then William: "King Louis faithfully sends you the tribute of his deep love and esteem. You sent duke Cono to me, as a sort of gage and hostage, so that I would come to you. But see how I, not distrusting you, have myself come with him! You have said that you would not be united to king Louis by a bond of friendship and a tie of assistance, except through my mediation. Notify the king what your prognostication is in this matter." Then king Henry: "Let king Louis come on the morrow, with you as his escort, and, with your active mediation, all the principles of the hoped-for agreement will be advantageously accomplished by our and both of your fideles." Meanwhile the Lotharingians and the Saxons began scoldingly and ironically to address Cono, saying: "How astonishingly affluent and powerful is the duke of the Norman and Breton region who, ornamented and adorned with gold, has arrived here with five hundred warriors!" But William, listening for the Dacian language, understood a little of what they, mocking him, were saying and, moved for a moment by anger, went away and expounded for king [Louis] everything he had heard from king [Henry]. But on the next day, William, with an incredible and innumerable army, prevented king Louis from going to the conference. But William's men, preceding him to the doors of the house where king Henry was abiding, began to break down, smash and tear apart the walls, and themselves to occupy the house by force and power. But, fearing their assault, king Henry turned away, a fugitive, towards another house and said to Cono, privy to his secrets: "This conference is, I suppose, neither efficacious nor appropriate for us, but will result in our downfall and destruction and, indeed, even our unheardof disgrace. Go, tell William, that richest of all dukes, to halt that vexed army from further smashing the walls or crushing the doors of our shelter, in accordance with the promise that we keep between us, so that no strife shall be born between those who differ and vary in language and dress and arms."
     Springing up, Cono soon encountered duke William, who was coming to the conference, and recounted for him what his men, who had preceded him, had done. Then William to duke Cono: "Go, and tell them to go away, on my orders." They, however, not only rejected the command of duke Cono when he arrived and begged them to go away, but the ones who were still outside also attacked the rest of the houses, demolishing them with great vehemence and roaring. Wherefore did Cono immediately with a rapid and fleet course again seek out duke William, who was drawing near the conference with the rest of his legions, and he said: "William, (note 1) mightiest duke, your followers were unwilling to leave the houses on my orders, but are hastening to smash (note 2) others! I am praying, bent down to the ground, that you not allow such things to be done, lest some unheardof carnage be born among the populace." Then William gave Cono a sword, marvelously and artfully engraved with thin gold leafings and studs, in a hilt made from six pounds of gold, to carry and show as a signal to withdraw for that legion, wheter occupying the houses or still demolishing houses. However, when Cono, again making haste, went to meet them, and showed them duke William's sword, shining with gold and gems, they did not immediately become quiet, but they did readily abandon the houses, their faces lowered before the sword, and return without a murmur to their duke, greatly pressing against one another in the course of withdrawing.
     Moreover William, coming to king Henry, said that king Louis was there. Soon king Henry, forced by William, moved forward to meet him and, once they had kissed and clasped each other's hands, they entered the house and both sat down. And having endowed each other in turn with many agreements and various gifts and presents, they were joined and allied to each other, through the resolution of duke William, most distinguished of all dukes, by an inextricable tie of friendship and support and help, while duke Hugh of the Franks (although present) had no role in their sworn union of esteem, and Herbert leader of the viceroys (note 3) was unwilling to take part.
     While the kings were speaking together secretly, duke Herman of the Saxons (note 4) began to speak to duke William in the Dacian language. Then William duke of the Normans to the duke of the Saxons: "Who taught you the language of the Dacian region, with which Saxons are unacquainted?~" He replied: "Your own mighty lineage of warlike and illustrious high birth taught me, all unwilling, the Dacian language." William: "`Unwilling' in what way?" Herman: "Because your lineage, extremely often attacking the very many strongholds of my duchy, prosecuted innumerable battles against me and brought (note 5) me, captured in battle, to their own lands; and therefore did I learn it unwillingly." Meanwhile duke Cono mockingly says to the Saxons: "How does William (note 6) duke of the Normans and Bretons seem to you? Is he not a man of marvelous power and ability, and the duke of an innumerable multitude? With the exception of our king, who is mightier, who richer, who better than he?" The Saxons replied: "We were ignorant of his affluence, and therefore we at first disparaged him with the false accusation of an unworthy reputation." As duke Cono set forth the marvelous deeds and the opulent affluence of duke William, the Saxons and the rest of those who were present began to extol him likewise in their own dialogues.
     When these matters had thus been reasonably terminated and fulfilled, there came to king Louis, returning to Laon with duke William and the rest of the leaders, an embassy worthy of exultation, announcing that a son had been born to him from his most beloved consort, Gerberga (note 7) by name. Made even merrier by hearing this, he said to duke William, in front of the aforementioned leaders: "You have copiously helped me, hitherto vilely discolored by many blows; you have consistently assisted me, annoyed by so very many inconveniences, indeed even by drawing out the greatest bounty from your own stores of wealth; and you have cherished me, protecting me from the assembly of the wicked. Therefore I pray you to be the godfather of my son, born yesterday, reborn in the font of sacred baptism, by naming him and bearing witness that his name is Lothar, in order that we, bound by a bond of even greater esteem and by fastenings of increased love, might delight in the reciprocal agreements of a single mind, because what is mine is yours, what is yours is mine."
     Truly duke William, applauding the king's request, so appropriate for himself, is said to have replied to the king: "Truly now and for as long as I shall survive, I will diligently do your bidding. With my leadership, with my aid, under my precedence in all things, you will dominate the realm of Francia and the other realms which your father, grandfather and great-grandfather, even the father of your great-great-grandfather, dominated, and we will subordinate the necks of those who rebel, haughty, against you and, with me standing by, you will disarm those who refuse to serve you. I will lift up those whom you desire to exalt, I will trample to the ground those whom you desire to thrust down, indeed, be assured that whatever your will shall be, it will be done by me."
     The leaders of the Frankish nation, moved to anger in their hearts not on their faces, were thoroughly astounded by the words spoken, from beginning to end, by both of them. And from then on they began vilely to ponder everything that might be destructive to William, with sly hearts and fraudulent aims and sophistical disputations.
     Truly William, (note 8) having left the king and his own army behind in the territory surrounding (note 9) Laon, made speedily for Laon, to a place called BiŠvres, preceded by a troop of bishops of the Frankish nation. With prodigious religious exertions, all the clergy of the see of Laon and all the laity reverently received him along with the superior bishops, and he stood as godfather to the boy, named Lothar, renewed and purified by sacrosanct moisture and oil and chrism. And then he left the child, endowed with the very greatest presents and distinguished gifts, at Laon with his mother, named Gerberga. But he himself, with his own followers, went speedily back to the king and reported to the king what respectful treatment he had received. Moreover the king wished properly to honor William (note 10) with gifts (note 11) for all that he had done, but he accepted none of them, rather with a gesture of thanks he sent everything back to the king.


Duke, distinguished by the organization of your own followers,
And bound by the favorable and steadfast alliance of a king (note 12)
Taking up that illustrious child from the nourishing waves
Of salvation-giving baptism, having now both
Sown tranquil peace through the crossroads of the world,
And taken up that adopted progeny,
Turn your steps and turn your swift steeds
And return speedily to the land of your natal soil,
Where the populace is governed by your sacred authority.
It continually awaits the support of your worthy protection
For, without you, valiant, every affair falls into confusion.


1. Preferring the "Willelme" of Rouen 1173 and other witnesses.

2. Preferring the "disrumpere" of Rouen 1173 and others.

3. Princeps satraparum.

4. Herman "duke of the Saxons" was confirmed in that title by Henry's son Otto the Great from at least 960; the title remained hereditarily in his family, the Billunger, until 1106.

5. Preferring the "deduxit" of CC 276.

6. Preferring the "Willelmo" of CC 276.

7. Gerberga was the daughter of king Henry I of Eastern Francia. Lothar, the oldest son of Gerberga and Louis of Western Francia, was probably born in 941.

8. Preferring the "Willelmus" of CC 276.

9. Pagus.

10. Preferring the "William" of CC 276.

11. Beneficia.

12. Preferring the "regis" of CC 276.

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