OR THE HOUSE OF THE PLACE OF GOD
ON the occasion of a visitation of the religious houses in his diocese, St. Hugh went to Godstow. In the church there, in the middle of the choir, right before the altar, he saw a tomb decked with silken hangings and surrounded by lamps and wax-lights. Naturally he wondered who was lying thus in such state near so holy a spot in a place, in fact, that was usually reserved for the most worthy. Upon learning that it was no other than Fair Rosamund, although his informants represented lo him that King Henry for love of her had been a generous benefactor to that church, he replied with his accustomed disregard of the rank of the transgressor and regard for the plain truth, which would not allow him, after the fashion of later sentimentality, to look on this king's mistress almost in the light of an injured saint: " Bear the body hence, for she was an harlot, and bury her with the rest outside the church." He feared otherwise that the Christian religion would become less esteemed, and that other women, hearing of her honourable burial, would hesitate the less to follow in her steps. "And thus was it done," curtly adds Roger of Hovedeu, who relates the incident in his Chronicle.
Henry and Hugh were both dead in A.D. 1232, the date of the foundation of the second English Charterhouse. That the king's bastard son, William Longespee - especially if, as later traditions say, his mother was Rosamund Clifford herself - should have founded this priory, seems like a possible, act of atonement for the parents' breaches of marriage chastity, the keeping of which whole, as the wise and pure-minded Carthusian taught, could merit heavenly bliss as well as virginity, and for their sins against the dignity of womanhood, which the saintly bishop held so high, because, "whereas to man it was not granted to be, or to be called, the father of God, yet to a woman it was given that she should be the parent of God." But it is not known whether the Earl had any motive beyond religious ardour in establishing the monastery ; the greater part of his life was passed in warfare, during which he must have become inured to hardship, and there may have been something in the discipline of the Order that met with his sympathy as well as its known sanctity. The monks of Hinton, however, owed their origin scarcely less to Ela d'Evreux, his Countess ; indeed, the new Charterhouse had no eminent man of the Order to watch over it, but only these two secular persons, one of whom was much engrossed in the affairs of a very turbulent world. The history of the founders is not without some savouring of romance, but it is also illustrative of the times in which they lived, both from a religious and a social point of view, and a short relation of it may not be inaptly inserted here. ... '
Back to the Top
Copyright © Ambra Books 2003. All rights reserved.