Pagan Peverel: An Anglo-Norman Crusader

Pagan Peverel: An Anglo-Norman Crusader

By Susan Edgington

Crusade and Settlement: Papers read at the First Conference of the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East and presented to R.C. Smail, edited by Peter W. Edbury (University College Cardiff Press, 1985)

Introduction: Thousands of men participated in the First Crusade whose names are mentioned in none of the accounts of the expedition. One such is an Anglo-Norman knight named Pagan Peverel.

My interest in this man began far from the Holy Land, in Huntingdonshire where he figures in the Miracles of St Ivo, a compilation made largely in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The incident is worth quoting at length: it is a fair representation of St Ivo’s partisanship for the Abbey at Ramsey.

One of King Henry of England’s nobles, Pagan in name and in deed, surnamed Peverel, was misled by blind ambition and tried by sacrilegious seizure to take possession for himself of two estates belonging to St Benedict’s abbey at Ramsey, claiming falsely that they should rightly be owned and ruled by him, as much by hereditary right as by royal grant. But the brothers on the other hand were maintaining the testimony of many truthful men, that the estates had belonged to the church at Ramsey without restriction for a good while through the reigns of very many kings and without ever any objection or attack, and it seemed unfair to all and petty to the learned that after so many centuries of peace they should have to be given up now on account of some new and unheard of legal quibble. But a mind deformed by insatiable greed once intoxicated by a drug hardly ever or never stops thirsting for others. For indeed this Pagan did not cease to suggest with bullying entreaties to the royal power that it should support his wickedness. But in fact the royal will could not be turned aside to wickedness, especially to sacrilegious robbery or the diminishing of the church’s property, on account of fear of God and reverence for his saints; but rather the king ordered the cases of both sides to be aired in a fair trial. Meanwhile of course with devout prayer; the brother; entrusted their case and affairs to divine protection and the support of Saints Benedict and Ivo.

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