Page:Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects.djvu/135
ventes or satiric lays that entitle Richard to the name of a trouvere. His education in the south of France no doubt qualified him for such compositions; but his father's foreign dominions may also have furnished him with more valuable instruction. At the schools of Tours his half-brother Geoffrey was educated, and there Richard himself may have obtained the elements of that 'scientia' which is markedly ascribed to him in contrast with his brothers. Of Geoffrey of Brittany we know no more than that he was an accomplished knight. John's reputation for scholarship seems to rest on the fact that he once borrowed a book of the Abbot of S. Alban's. But the real interest of such inquiries does not lie in the question whether such and such kings could read or write, but in the general character of the court which was kept about them; the king might be illiterate, but if the court around him was full of learned men we may safely infer that the central figure was no contemner of learning. Of the king's daughters we know little more than that they were all married to princes who took a conspicuous place among the pioneers of medieval culture. Matilda, the eldest, was the wife of Henry of Saxony, who was not only a great conqueror but a great traveller and collector of chronicles; Eleanor, the second, married King Alfonso of Castile, the founder of the University of Palencia; and Johanna, the youngest, William, the good king of Sicily, who was not only, as we have seen, both an educated man himself, but also the patron of many learned Englishmen.
There was something, however, besides the literary wide-awakeness of Henry and his family that made England and its Court at the time a centre of literary activity. Henry was the most powerful king of the West, and his hand was in the affairs of all the Western kingdoms: and this at the time when international acquaintance was carried on upon the very largest scale. There can hardly have been a period of our history in which the intercourse between England and France was freer or more frequent. The enormous number of letters which passed between England and Rome, every letter, remember, carried by a separate messenger; the stream of