I have also given all the anecdotes that I could collect, partly to relieve the inherent dullness of a mere catalogue of descents, and partly because many of them incidentally furnish vivid pictures of manners and customs long since passed away. --------*-------- The famous Roll of Battle Abbey is believed to have been compiled in obedience to a clause in the Conqueror's foundation charter, that enjoined the monks to pray for the souls of those "who by their labour and valour had helped to win the kingdom." The great Sussex Abbey that was "the token and pledge of the Royal Crown," had been intended to be not only a memorial of his victory, but a chantry for the slain; and the names of his companions-in-arms, enshrined on this bede-roll, might thus be read out in the church on special occasions, and notably on the anniversary feast of St. It was most likely originally copied from the muster-roll of the Norman knights, that had been prepared by the Duke's orders before his embarkation, and was called over in his presence on the field of battle, the morning after it had been fought.
The list, thus composed, was inscribed on a roll of parchment, and hung up in the Abbey Minster, with this superscription: "Dicitur a bello 'BELLUM' locus hic, quia bello Angligenae victi sunt in morte relicti, Martyris in Christi festo cecidere Calixti. Cum pereunt Angli, Stella monstrante cometa." and the robe he had worn at his coronation, and specially bequeathed to the monks by his will.
For the relics they had enshrined, a reliquary was provided, and solemnly consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester. As time went on, it became more and more an object of ambition to own an ancestor that had come over with the Conqueror; and the monks were always found willing to oblige a liberal patron by inserting his name.
"Such hath been the subtilty of some Monks of old, that, finding it acceptable unto most, to be reputed descendants to those who were Companions with Duke William in that memorable Expedition whereby he became Conqueror of this Realm, as that, to gratify them (but not without their own advantage) they inserted their Names into this antient Catalogue."—Dugdale. "Whosoever considers well shall find them always to be forged, and those names inserted which the time in every age favoured, and were never mentioned in that authenticated record." Thus its value as an authority is irretrievably lost; and though the earlier genealogists and county historians often quote and refer to it, it has latterly been altogether discredited and condemned.
He commenced building a manor house there, which was completed by his son Viscount Montague, but seldom occupied by his descendants, who transferred their residence to Cowdray, in the western division of the county: and finally, in 1717, the sixth Viscount sold the place to Sir Godfrey Webster.
The three precious memorials of the Conquest, the King's sword, his despoiled pallium, and the Roll of Battle Abbey, were then, with several other curious and interesting relics of the former monastery, removed to Cowdray, and perished in the great fire of 1793 (see Browne).
This is the only explanation I have ever heard given of the disappearance of the Roll; and though I can certainly furnish no proofs in confirmation of the statement, there would seem to be no particular reason for doubting its probability.
Nothing, at all events, now remains to us but copies of this celebrated record.
Like many of the other familiar credences of our forefathers it has fallen into disgrace and suffered obloquy.
Sir Egerton Brydges, in the Censura Literaria, calls it "a disgusting forgery:" Mr.
I certainly do not consider," he continues, "that the names were taken from the well-known Roll of which Leland made use, and which clearly differs from this register, as in fact it does from that given by John Stowe; but whatever the register may have been, it was certainly a noteworthy monument of antiquity, and the time-honoured names it enrolls deserve to be cherished by all interested in antiquity." Quite true; but they are so mangled and distorted by their strange orthography as to be mostly unrecognizable.