Robert the Magnificent, duke of Normandy: “Go and Tell My People, That You Have Seen a Christian Prince Being Carried to Paradise by Devils”

May 18, 2023

Among the celebrated pilgrims of this age, we observe the name of Robert . . . duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror. History accuses him of having caused his brother Richard to be poisoned. Remorse urged him to make the pilgrimage to Palestine; and he set out accompanied by a great number of knights and barons, bearing the scrip and staff, walking barefoot, and clothed in the sack of penitence. He attached, he said, more value to the pains he suffered for Christ’s sake than to the richest city of his dukedom. On his arrival at Constantinople, he despised the luxury and the presents of the emperor, and appeared at court in the guise of the humblest of the pilgrims. Having fallen sick in Asia Minor, he refused the services of the Christians of his suite, and caused himself to be carried in a litter by Saracens. Meeting a pilgrim from Normandy, the latter asked him if he had any message that he could deliver from him to his country.

Statue of Robert the Magnificent as part of the Six Dukes of Normandy statues in the Falaise town square in France. Photo by Michael Shea.

“Go and tell my people,” said the duke, “that you have seen a Christian prince being carried to Paradise by devils.” When he arrived at Jerusalem, he found a crowd of pilgrims, who, not having the means of paying the tribute to the infidels, awaited the arrival of some rich lord who might deign, by his charity, to open for them the gates of the holy city. Robert paid a piece of gold for each of them, and followed them into Jerusalem amidst the acclamations of the Christians. During his soujourn here he caused himself to be remarked for his devotion, and still more for his charity, which he extended even to the infidels. As he was returning into Europe, he died at Nicea, in Bithynia, regarding only the relics he had brought with him from Palestine, and regretting that he had not finished his days in the holy city.

Joseph François Michaud, History of the Crusades, trans. W. Robson (New York: Redfied, 1853), 1:27–28.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 879



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