BENEDICTINE BAD BOY
Vengeance – Minded
Forget everything you know about the bad boys of history. Guys like Robin Hood had nothing on Eustace the Black Monk. Born in the 1170 in Spain, son of Lord, blessed with a privileged and plush life, he rejected it all and instead fled to France to join the St. Vulmar monastery and become a Benedictine monk. It was in the monastery of all places that he began to develop his hard and edgy reputation as a foul-mouthed drinker, gambler and practitioner of black magic. It has been said that he received a PhD in the unconventional subject and some even believe that he had the ability to summon Satan.
In 1190, it was alleged that Hanfrois de Heresinghen had murdered Eustace’s father. When Eustace found out, he set out to exact revenge. The two men eventually fought a duel by way of proxy, but Eustace’s representative lost and Heresinghen was declared innocent of the murder. Eustace was furious and demanded a rematch, this time pitting himself directly against Heresinghen. Unfortunately for him, the powers that be would not allow it. The loss ate away at Eustace and over the course of many years he tried numerous times, unsuccessfully, to assassinate Heresinghen.
For his efforts, the powerful Count Renauld branded Eustace an outlaw and with nothing left to do but embrace his notoriety, he became a pirate and a mercenary.
Exuding an air of extreme criminality, Eustace was like a magnet for other criminals. He attracted some of the meanest and most fearless warriors and thieves in the region, and assembled a pirate army with a fleet of ships.
They hit the French and English coasts, swooping into small villages and pillaging homes. They amassed a small fortune, continuously adding more ships and more men. To make even more money and keep themselves entertained, they decided to hire themselves out as mercenaries. Eustace and his men went to work for King John of England, given the task of attacking Normandy. They handled the job with ease and soon took over the Channel Islands. Eustace seemed comfortable working for England and he even built a home in London so he could send his daughter to school. But when he found out his bitter enemy Count Renauld had allied with England, he switched sides and dedicated much of the rest of his life to waging war on England.
For all of his unsavory characteristics, Eustace had some semblance of a moral compass, though more often than not it was rather skewed.
Seeker of Truth
In Eustace’s down time from doing battle and getting in people’s faces, he would often spend time traveling the forests of France and still get in people’s faces.
One time while traveling through Flanders, he stopped a merchant from Boulogne and began to question him. The merchant new well that he was in the presence of one of the most notorious figures in all of Europe. Fearful, he decided it was in his best interest to cooperate with whatever he wanted. Eustace said to him, “I demand to know how much money you have on your person.” The merchant responded, “I swear to you kind sir, I have exactly 40 pounds tucked in my belt and another 15 sous in my coin pouch.” Eustace grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him into a hut. He searched him, pulling out all of his money and counting it. Eustace found that the merchant had told the truth. He gave him back his money and said, “If you had lied to me, you would not have only been relieved of your money, but you would also be dead.”
The merchant thanked him for his kindness and went on his way. It turns out this was a little game Eustace played frequently and it has been said that over the years, he relieved hundreds of men of their money.
Battle of Sandwich
Eustace, angry, driven and restless, could never sit still too long. When he set out in 1217 with a fleet of ships against the English navy in the Battle of Sandwich, little did he know it would be his last.
He and his men came upon a fleet of twenty ships armed to the hilt. They were overwhelmed by the attack consisting of an onslaught of arrows fired at them. However, they fought bravely, killing many Englishmen. When they tried to make their way onto his ship, Eustace wielded his oar as a weapon, breaking limbs and knocking men overboard. But then, the English pulled out their secret weapon of finely ground lime. When they hurled the powder overboard in buckets, it created a dust cloud that rendered Eustace and his men helpless by obstructing their vision and plugging their nostrils. The strategy allowed the English to board their ships and take Eustace’s men out on their own decks.
The English overpowered Eustace and his men, killing many and capturing and torturing some, including Eustace. When they were done making him pay for all of his sins against their country, by inflicting extreme physical pain, they beheaded him.
Head on a Stick
When Eustace was finally defeated and killed, the English knew they had won a major victory by stopping a relentless and dangerous man who had the potential and capability of inflicting untold levels of damage for many more years to come.
Rather brutally, the English decided to celebrate and send a strong message to would-be criminals. Eustace’s severed head was propped up on a lance and proudly paraded through the village of Canterbury to wild cheers. As with many outlaws who lived dangerous and unconventional lives, Eustace the Black Monk’s story ended on a dark note. His days as a bad boy were brought to an abrupt end. But history will never forget him.