LETTER OF 1142/4 FROM BRIAN
TO HENRY OF BLOIS, BISHOP OF WINCHESTER.
To Henry, nephew of King Henry, Brian FitzCount greeting.
I am very much surprised and there is a good deal to be surprised about, concerning the matters about which I speak to you, things, that is, which I have seen and heard and which happened in my time since I came of age. You mentioned the first man who sinned, because he did not hold to his obedience, and on that I have already sent you an answer. Now again you hold forth at me about Lot and his wife. I never saw them, nor did I ever know their city, nor was I around in their time. However, I have heard it said that the Angel ordered them to leave the city where they lived and not to look back, and because the woman did look back she was turned into salt. I, on the other hand, have never been ordered not to look back. I ought, indeed, to look back at the commands of Holy Church in order that by remembering what I was commanded I should not fall into the trap of acting against them. For you, yourself, who are a prelate of Holy Church, ordered me to join the daughter of King. Henry your uncle, and help her to acquire her right, which was taken from her by force, and to keep what she now has. Not that I look back only to your command. I also take as my model the worthy' deeds of our illustrious ancestors. For when Pope Urban came to Tours with clergy from beyond the Alps and at the admonition and command of God addressed the people about the city of Jerusalem which was in the possession of the allophili, who beat, despoiled, killed Christian pilgrims arriving secretly at its gates; and he promised to those who should move to liberate it pardon and absolution for all their crimes ("ueniam et absolucionem omnium criminum suorum"), as the Pope can; many noble and mighty men were roused by the apostolic edict to leave their castles and cities and wives and children for the pilgrimage. Like Count Stephen your father, Count Robert of Normandy, the Count of St. Gilles~ Raymond, Bohemond, Robert Count of Flanders, Count Eustace of Boulogne, Duke Godfrey and many other fine and rich knights. And note that those counts were not like the Count de Mohun [who had recently deserted the Empress] I look back at men of this kind, so great men, who carried out the Pope's command, left behind so many and so great things of theirs, who even conquered Jerusalem as good knights by armed assault and set up there a good and lawful king, Godfrey by name. And while I look back at your command in aiding King Henry's daughter to the best of my power, I am not afraid of any trifling offence in this when I am backed up by Holy Church's mandate.
King Henry gave me my land … [and the letter continues with further reasons for Brian's continued support of Matilda]. Know therefore all fideles of Holy Church that I Brian FitzCount, whom the good King Henry fostered and to whom he gave arms and honor, am ready to prove those things which I assert in this writing against Henry the nephew of King Henry, Bishop of Winchester and legate of the Apostolic See either by battle or by ordeal through one cleric or one layman.
"Henry of Blois and Brian FitzCount~" English Historical Review
XXXV (1910), pp. 297-303.)
[Translation © Edmund King 1980]