TOP

"E li Quens d'Ou bien i feri." Roman de Rou, 1. 13,828.

The town of Eu, in the province of Caux, situated on the left bank of the river Eu or Ou, now called the Bresle, about half a league from Tréport, is as well known to English tourists as to historians, from the memorable events connected with it, and the rank of the individuals who have borne the title of its counts, the first being Geoffrey, natural son of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, created by him Count of Eu and Brionne. The nuptials of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders were celebrated at Eu, and Count Baldwin, her father, availed himself of the opportunity to obtain from the Duke of Normandy the restoration of Brionne to the sons of Gilbert son of Geoffrey, who had been dispossessed of his domains by his uncle, Richard II. Duke William so far consented that he gave the lordship of Bienfaite and Orbec to Richard, the eldest son, and those of Mole and Sap to his brother Baldwin; but the county of Eu had been given by Richard II to his half-brother William, who, by his wife Leceline, daughter of Turketil d'Harcourt, left three sons: Robert, Comte d'Eu, the subject of this memoir, William, surnamed Busac, Count of the Hiemois, and afterwards of Soissons, and Hugh, Bishop of Lisieux. The date of the death of the first William, Comte d'Eu, is not exactly known, but it was previous to 1054, when we find his son Robert one of the commanders of that division of the Norman army which defeated the French at Mortemer.

In 1066, he contributed sixty ships to the invading fleet, and fought gallantly ("bien i feri") at Senlac, and for these services received large estates in Sussex and other counties in England, with the custody of the Castle of Hastings.

In 1069, in conjunction with Robert, Comte de Mortain, he surprised the Danes in Lindsey, and drove them with great slaughter to their ships (vide p. 109, ante).

After the death of the Conqueror, the Comte d'Eu espoused the cause of Robert Court-heuse, and maintained it for some time; but, disgusted by his capriciousness, levity, and debauchery, went over, with many other Norman lords, to the side of William Rufus, allowing his castles to be garrisoned by the royal forces.

In 1077 he attended the funeral of his estimable brother, Hugh, Bishop of Lisieux, who, being seized with what he felt was a fatal illness at the village of Pont l'Evesque, begged to be carried to Lisieux, that he might breathe his last in the Abbey of St. Peter there, the building of which, begun by his predecessor, Bishop Herbert, he had most liberally completed. Placed on a convenient hand-litter, he was carried from the village, the clergy of the highest rank and the most honourable of the laity bearing their beloved father on their shoulders; but while they were using their utmost efforts to reach Lisieux, some four leagues distance from Pont l'Evesque, it became evident the Bishop's last moments were approaching, and they therefore turned out of the road on to a piece of level turf by its side. There, laid in the bright sunshine, which "shrouded the dying prelate in its blaze," amid the prayers and tears of his attached friends, "the venerable Hugh, the gem of the priesthood, and the best of men," calmly expired, 17th of July, 1077. A cross was erected in the field near the road where the Bishop died, which is called to this day (circa 1127) "the Bishop's Cross." (Writing on this, the 25th July, 1873, it is impossible for me not to mention that on this day are consigned to the tomb the earthly remains of one of the most distinguished prelates of modern times, who nearly eight hundred years since the death of Bishop Hugh, in the same month and within forty-eight hours of the same day, died "in a field by the road side," by a lamentable accident it is true, but was, nevertheless, perhaps the only other bishop whose eyes have closed in death upon a spot of green turf, golden with a July sun, and. whereupon his family proposes to erect a cross in memoriam, such as did the devoted friends of the excellent Bishop of Lisieux.) The field has since retained, the name of "Le pré l'Evesque."

The Count's other brother, William de Busac, does not occupy so honourable a place in Norman history. His rebellion against his namesake and sovereign was unjustifiable and ineffectual. Defeated and banished, his honourable reception by Henry, King of France and his marriage with the heiress of Reginald, Comte de Soissons, availed him but little. His name is all but unknown to the readers of English history, and his race dropped en quenouille after two generations.

Robert I, Comte d'Eu, died circa 1090, leaving by Beatrix his wife, one of the many noble ladies of whose family we are left in lamentable ignorance, William, who succeeded him, and who, joining in the rebellion against Rufus in 1096, was taken prisoner, and deprived of sight, as well as horribly mutilated, and a younger son, named Robert. Of his "works of piety," as Dugdale phrases it, we may record the foundation, between 1057 and 1066, of the Abbey of Tréport, near Eu, by request of his wife, and the advice of Duke William and Maurilliers, Archbishop of Rouen.