It became, of course, subject to the Romans on the conquest of the country by them, and many relics of that great nation have been found here, burial urns, coins, etc.
After the Romans left the island the city was besieged by the West Saxons, and obliged to surrender, after a gallant defence that left three of its princes slain. The conquerors changed its name to Gleau-Cester, from whence Gloucester is derived.
Wulpher, the son of Penda, founded in it the monastery of St. Peter, and the founding of a monastic building was in that age the first step towards civilising the people near it; the city was consequently so much improved that at the beginning of the eighth century the venerable Bede declared that it was considered one of the noblest cities in the kingdom. Gloucester, however, suffered repeatedly from fire and from the ravages of the Danes, and in 1087 it was almost entirely destroyed during the war between the adherents of William Rufus and Robert of Normandy. Its castle was built in the time of the Conqueror, who frequently kept Christmas here, as did William Rufus in 1099.
The Welsh next attacked the county, and ravaged its lands with fire and sword to the gates of Gloucester.
Henry II. held a great council here to consider the best means of quelling the wild Welshmen's attacks; with what success we do not know.
Several battles between Henry III. and the barons were fought near Gloucester, the peers being enraged at his appointing a foreigner to the office of Constable of the castle. In 1319 Edward II. came to Gloucester, and entertained the abbot, and eight years afterwards his dead body was brought to the cathedral for burial; he had been most cruelly murdered in Berkeley Castle. In the cathedral is his monument, on which his effigies lie; his body, is in kingly robes of alabaster; the tomb of marble; and the workmanship overhead is curiously cut in freestone.
In 1378 Richard II. held a Parliament at Gloucester, and Henry V. held the last ever summoned here: it was in the Abbey of Gloucester that Henry VI. made oblations before setting out for France - a child of eight years old.
In 1641-2, Gloucester sided with the Parliament and defied the king, in consequence of which the ancient walls of the city were destroyed shortly after the Restoration.
The site of the castle is now occupied by the county gaol.
In Gloucester, we are told by an old writer, were twelve churches, "whereof the cathedral is of great antiquity and beautiful architecture, with a fine Gothic pinnacled tower; an east window, said to be the largest in the kingdom, and traceried walls of the choir." 1
Another unfortunate prince besides Edward II. lies in Gloucester Cathedral; the chivalrous, generous crusader Robert, Duke of Normandy, defeated at Tenchebraye when he claimed the English crown, and imprisoned by Henry I. at Cardiff, where his eyes were put out - a barbarous precaution to prevent his ever becoming king. He died at Cardiff, and was buried in Gloucester Cathedral. His effigy, made of the incorruptible Irish wood, lay cross-legged with sword and buckler on his tomb. The statue was loose, and could be lifted off the tomb.
There is a curious whispering gallery above the high altar.
The second Bishop of Gloucester, John Hooper, was one of the victims of Mary Tudor's persecution. He was twice committed to the Fleet Prison: the last time in 1553; and refusing to recant, was condemned to die at the stake. It was thought that he would have suffered with Rogers, a prebendary of St. Paul's, but he was led back to his cell, and orders were given that he should be taken to his episcopal city to suffer amongst his own people.
Next morning he was awakened before daylight, and taken by six of the Queen's Guards to the Angel Inn, St. Clements. It then stood in the fields. From thence he was conveyed to Gloucester, and there burnt, with "dreadful torments," February 9th, 1555.
But the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. He did not die in vain, and now a memorial statue near the place where he suffered attests the grateful veneration in which his memory is held in his old see.
The view of Gloucester from the tower of the cathedral is very fine, and the town has some neat buildings.
Gloucester and Tewkesbury supplied one ship for the defence of England against the Spanish Armada.
Henry III. was crowned here at ten years old, and the Dauphin Louis was excommunicated in the cathedral.
To Gloucester we owe the first Sunday Schools, established by Robert Raikes, printer, a native of the town, and the Rev. Thomas Stock, who thus upheld the old reputation of Gloucestershire; for there were four mitred abbeys in the county, at Gloucester, Cirencester, Tewkesbury and Winchcomb; and as no other county had more than two, Gloucestershire was supposed to be especially holy, and the proverb, "As sure as God's in Gloucestershire," arose from this impression.
* * * * * * * *
1. From "Abbeys and Castles."