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Augustin Thierry, History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, vol. 1 [1856]

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Augustin Thierry, History of the Conquest of England by the Normans; Its Causes, and its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & on the Continent, translated from the seventh Paris edition, by William Hazlitt (London: H.G. Bohn, 1856). In 2 volumes. Vol. 1.

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About this Title:

Volume 1 of a 2 volume work. Thierry was a pioneering liberal historian who collected large bodies of primary source material to use in his writings. He is particular remembered for his class analysis based upon the idea of conquest. This work is a classic exposition of this thesis showing the conquest of the Anglo-Saxons by the French Normans.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

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  • . . . . . The Fole of Normandie,
  • That among us woneth yet, and schulleth ever mo: . . .
  • Of the Normannes beth thys hey men, that beth of thys lond,
  • And the lowe men of Saxons. . . . .
  • Robert of Gloucester’s Chronicle. vol. I., p. 3 & 363.
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Augustin Thierry

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BY AUGUSTIN THIERRY, member of the institute.
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savill and edwards, printers, chandos-street.

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The present translation of the noblest of M. Augustin Thierry’s noble productions, has been rendered from the seventh edition, published at Paris, in 1846. It forms part of that complete collection of M. Thierry’s writings produced under his own immediate direction, and enriched with his latest emendations, which exhibit the form wherein he proposes to bequeath them to posterity. One English version of this history was brought out some years ago, but it contained no portion of the important appendix of Pièces Justificatives that add such value and interest to the work, and among which may be mentioned the Roll of Battle Abbey, and other lists of the conquerors of England, large extracts from Domesday Book illustrative of the state of England at the period, the relation, by a contemporary, of the surrender of London to the Normans, a poetical narrative of the Battle of Hastings, by an eye-witness, &c. All these accompany the present translation, and in addition, besides a few supplementary notes that casually occurred to me in the progress of my labour [distinguished from those of M. Thierry by brackets], I have given full translations of all the charters granted by Henry I. and his Norman successors. It seems strange that Magna Charta, for example, which is in every Englishman’s mouth, should be in scarcely any Englishman’s memory; the reason is, that hitherto this and the other charters of the period have never been given in a popular form.

William Hazlitt.
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L’histoire aura son Homere comme la poesie.—Chateaubriand, Preface des Etudes Historiques.

Si j’avais à recommencer ma route, je prendrais celle qui m’a conduit où je suis. Aveugle et souffrant, sans espoir et presque sans relache, je puis rendre ce temoignage, qui de ma part ne sera pas suspect: il y a au monde quelque chose qui vaut mieux que les jouissances materielles, mieux que la fortune, mieux que la santé elle-même; c’est le devouement à la science—Augustin Thierry, Dix ans d’Etudes Historiques, Preface, p. 25.

Of all the superior men I ever met, few have left so deep an impression upon my mind as M. Augustin Thierry.

I had long been acquainted with the mighty labours that have rendered him one of the leading representatives of the modern school of history; I had a vivid recollection of the enthusiasm that pervaded all the forms of our colleges, when, in utter disgust as we were with the meagre, monotonous, and mendacious narratives of Velly, or Millot, or Anquetil, we all at once saw new, grand, and comprehensive views unfolded before our dazzled and delighted eyes, by M. Augustin Thierry. I had long known that after having endowed his country with two masterpieces of literature, in which the erudition of a Benedictine is combined with the glowing style of a poet, M. Augustin Thierry had purchased with the loss of sight, worn out over old texts and manuscripts, the honour of having been one of the first to raise the standard of historical reform, and to teach France the true sources of her national origin. I knew also that, after this, as if to put the inflexible champion of learning to the utmost proof, fate had been pleased to accumulate for him affliction upon affliction; that having deprived him of sight, it next deprived him of movement; that having extinguished the light of those penetrating eyes, it had paralyzed his once robust limbs; that having for ever shut out from him the view of those monuments of the past, whose examination and study had constituted his joy, his happiness, his very life, it had not even left to his hand, mutilated with severest suffering, the power to hold a pen. But I knew, also, that M. Augustin Thierry had come victorious out of this fearful struggle; that never had his great mind striven with more vivid brilliancy than after he had, to use his own expression, become friends with darkness; that never had his march over the difficult ground of history been made with firmer and more assured step than when he was Edition: current; Page: [viii] guided on his way by the brightness of the inward light alone; I knew that the author of the Recits des Temps Merovingiens had never been more lucid, more graphic, more graceful, and at the same time more vigorous in his style, than when it had become necessary for him to commit to other hands the transcription on paper of the works cast and elaborated in that powerful brain, as in a burning furnace.

I knew all this, and it was this that made me eager to witness a spectacle, to my mind the finest of all, the spectacle of a great soul struggling with physical pain, conquering it, prostrating it, reducing it to impotence, and deriving from a loftier sentiment than the world-pride of Epictetus the power and the right to say to it: “Pain, thou art but a word!

The happiness I so desired I obtained; and as it is impossible for me, within the limits of this sketch, to analyze as I could wish, works, that after all are in every one’s hands, I will at least endeavour, ere I succinctly relate the noble life of M. Augustin Thierry, to convey to the reader the impressions made upon my mind in a visit recently paid to the historian, in the company of a lady and two other friends.

On reaching the eminence which overlooks the charming valley of Montmorency, not far from the Hermitage immortalized by Jean Jacques, you perceive to the left a narrow winding road bordered with villas in the Italian style. About half way down this road, on the right, our carriage drew up at a little gate, the threshold of which we passed full of the respectful emotion, ever created by the thought of great talent dignified by a great calamity; for here, in the summer months, dwells Augustin Thierry; hither he comes with the return of spring, to seek strength from the fresh, pure air of the valley, enabling him to continue his labours. We found ourselves in an elegant garden: before us was a lawn varied with flower beds, and beyond it a sloping shrubbery. On the right were a green-house and a summer-house; in front of the latter, lay at full length a handsome Newfoundland dog, which, raising its head, gave us a look of welcome with its mild, well-natured eyes. To the left, on the opposite side of the lawn, rose a rectangular house, white, simple, and in good taste, consisting of two stories, the lower windows opening into the garden. The façade was adorned with a Canova Venus, a Bacchus, a head of Paris, and another of Helen, standing in niches in the wall. Before the door I observed a Bath chair, painted green; this was the carriage in which the illustrious invalid took the air.

Entering a small apartment on the ground floor, furnished with simple elegance, we were received by a lady attired in black; still young, of small stature, graceful manners, and an intellectual but pensive countenance. It was Madame Augustin Thierry, wife of the historian; she who has so appreciated the beauty and happiness of associating her name with a great name, her life with a life of glory and of suffering, of quitting the vain pleasures of the world to devote herself wholly to the noblest part in the drama of life that can be assigned to a woman, the part of a guardian angel, of a providence on earth for a great soul imprisoned in a suffering body. Even had I not known that Madame Augustin Thierry is endowed with faculties that qualify her to take a direct and active part in all the labours of her husband, even had I not read the pieces, so remarkable for thought and for expression, that, proceeding from her pen, have appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, under the title of Philippe de Morvelle, the destiny that she has Edition: current; Page: [ix] adopted would suffice in my eyes to manifest that liers is a noble heart, a noble spirit.1

Having been introduced to Madame Augustin Thierry by the lady under whose auspices we had come, I sat down in a corner of the apartment, and, while the reflections I have just expressed were passing through my mind, looked over a small round table, nearly covered with books, which stood at my side; upon the books lay some embroidery-work just commenced; here was a bronze sphynx paper-weight, and there, in the middle of the table, a vase filled with flowers in their early bloom.

Ere long, we were joined by M. Augustin Thierry’s brother, M. Amédée Thierry,2 a man of middle height, grave in speech as in countenance, wherein we may read the profound depression of his fraternal heart. On his arrival the conversation became more general; but, for my own part, I scarcely listened to it, absorbed as I was in expectation of him whom I was about to see, and in endeavours to picture to myself, beforehand, the extent to which evil is able to attain the soul through the medium of the body.

At length I heard the sound of approaching steps; a door on my right opened, and a domestic appeared, carrying on his back a man, blind, paralyzed, incapable of movement. We all rose: my heart was penetrated with emotion, at the sight of a being so powerful in intellect, so powerless in body; the domestic in his every motion exhibited a respectful solicitude that sensibly affected me; he seemed thoroughly to appreciate the value of him he bore. He bent gently back towards an arm chair, in which he deposited his charge, enveloping the lower part of the motionless frame with a wrapper. This done, in an instant the scene changed, and I at once recalled a passage in the Essai sur la litterature Anglaise, where M. de Chateaubriand describes the visit of a contemporary to Milton. “The author of ‘Paradise Lost,’ attired in a black doublet, reclined in an arm-chair; his head was uncovered, his silver hair fell upon his shoulders, and his fine dark eyes shone bright in their blindness upon his pallid face.” It was the same head, with the exception of the white hair, that I now saw before me; the same face, more youthful and vigorous, the noblest blind face that can be conceived. The head was firmly set upon broad shoulders; glossy hair, of the deepest black, carefully parted over an expansive forehead, ell in curls beside each temple; beneath their arched brows opened the dark eyes; but for the vagueness of their direction, I should have imagined them animated with sight; the nose was of the purest Greek form; the mouth, with lips fine, delicate, and expressive, seemed endowed with all the sensibility of which the eyes had been deprived; the finely turned chin had a slight dimple at its extremity; there was in the contour of the face, and in the general expression of the physiognomy, a remarkable combination of energy, subtleness, and sedate tranquillity; the tones of his voice were Edition: current; Page: [x] clear, well poised, and distinct, though, from his feeble health, not sonorous, his bearing was, in the highest degree, elegant; the lower portion of the frame, as I have said, was paralyzed, but the movement of the bust and of the arms was free; the hands, of which only the forefinger and thumb appeared capable of action, were gloved.

When the name of the lady who had introduced us was announced to him, the handsome blind man smiled, and like the smile of Chactas in Renè, “that smile of the mouth, unaccompanied by the smile of the eyes, partook of the mysterious and of the celestial.” The lady approached him, and Thierry kissed, with a chivalrous air, the fair hand placed in his own.

Conversation once fairly begun, that fine head seemed as it were radiant in the light of the intellect still finer within. I have been in the company of many persons who have the reputation of good talkers, and who do talk admirably, but I have perhaps never heard anything comparable with the colloquial language of M. Angustin Thierry, in facility, perspicuity, elegance. It is, doubtless, the habit of dictation, that has given so much of style to his conversation; but whatever the cause, it may indeed be said of him, that without any effort, without any affectation whatever, he really speaks like a book.

One of our party, M. Ampère, was preparing to depart for the East; he had no sooner mentioned the circumstance, than M. Augustin Thierry discoursed to us of the East, in what, for thought and language, was an absolute poem; this blind man knows everything, recollects everything; that which he has not seen with the eyes of the body, he has seen with the eyes of the spirit. Like Milton, he is acquainted with nearly all the European languages. One of his friends told me, that he has sometimes heard him in the evening, seated in his garden, beneath the pale rays of the setting sun, singing, with his feeble voice, a love song in modern Greek; and at such moments, added my informant, ‘he seemed to me finer than Homer, or than the unknown Klepht, who himself, perhaps also blind, had composed the verses he was reciting.’

Throughout the conversation, to which I was a silent and attentive listener, I could detect in M. Augustin Thierry not the slightest trace of selfishness, not the least self-reference; on the contrary, he who had been so cruelly tried by fate, spoke of the sufferings and infirmities of others with the most unaffected and touching commiseration. And thus, from day to day, does this martyr to science intrepidly pursue the task he has imposed upon himself; at times only, when his pains are most racking, he is heard to murmur: “Oh, that I were only blind!” Except in such moments of depression, which are short and far between, and discernible only by his most intimate associates, M. Augustin Thierry seems more a stranger to his own condition than are those who surround and listen to him; science, history, poetry, anecdotes, reminiscences of his youth—he applies to these and all other subjects the same full, rich, elegant, nervous, noble diction; every shade of thought is reflected on his lips. At times, when an idea of a more peculiarly grave and lofty character arises in his mind, you can discern a movement in the muscles of the eye; those blind eyes, the dark pupil of which stands out in bold relief from the cornea, open wide; the thought within seems essaying to make its way through the opacity of the ball, and, after vain efforts to effect this, returns within, descends to the lips, which receiving it, give it forth, not only in language, but with the expression of the look; from time to time, the blind man passes his poor weak hand over those, in every sense, so speaking lips, Edition: current; Page: [xi] as if cherishing the precious organ, enriched for him with all the faculties that the other organs have lost. The two hours we spent with him seemed not a moment.

M. Augustin Thierry was born at Blois, on the 20th May, 1795, of poor and humble parents. He passed through his studies with distinguished success at the college of his native town, and judging from the first production of his youth,1 impressed with a singular energy and even enthusiasm, he must have been endowed by nature with an extreme sensibility, with an imagination highly vivid, and of such vigorous organization as must have necessitated enormous, pitiless toil to quell it. He himself relates, in the preface to his Recits des Temps Merovingiens, how the author of Les Martyrs, whom we find, as it were, a great lighthouse at the entrance to every new idea of our age, became, in a great degree, the primum mobile of his future vocation; how, one day, when alone in one of the school-rooms, reading, for the first time, Les Martyrs, and having come, in the sixth book, to the so dramatic picture of the battle of the Franks and the Romans in the marshes of Batavia, the young student suddenly felt within him, as it were, a revelation of historical truth falsified by the classic historians and restored by the powerful instinct of a great poet; how, seized with enthusiasm, he rose from his seat, and made the apartment resound, as he marched up and down its length, shouting the war-song of the terrible Franks of M. de Chateaubriand: “Pharamond, Pharamond, we have fought with the sword! &c.” and, lastly, how the memory of this electric impression remained stamped upon his mind in indelible characters.

In 1811, on quitting his college, M. Augustin Thierry entered the normal school; after passing two years there, he was appointed professor in a provincial college; the invasion of 1814 brought him to Paris. He was at this time in all the ardour of early youth; versed in the most various studies, he had as yet no particular predilection for any distinct branch of science, and his political ideas, though fervent, partook of the vagueness and confusion which characterized the period. He has himself described the condition of his mind at this time: “With a hatred of military despotism, part of the reaction of the general mind against the imperial regime, I combined a profound aversion for revolutionary tyranny, and, without any decided preference for one form of government over another, a certain distaste for the English constitution, or rather for the odious and absurd aping of it which at this period prevailed in France. I yearned for a future, I knew not exactly what; for a liberty whose definition, if I gave it any at all, assumed something of this form: a government with the greatest possible amount of individual guarantees, and the least possible amount of administrative action.

There was living at this time a celebrated political economist, then, indeed, obscure, but whom it has since been sought to elevate into a god. The daring scope of his views at first led away the ardent mind of the youthful Augustin, who, quitting the university, devoted himself with all the fervency of his nature to the study of the loftiest social problems, and attached himself to St. Simon in the capacity of secretary, and of disciple.2 Edition: current; Page: [xii] It is unnecessary to say that at this period St. Simon had propounded no idea of constructing anything at all resembling a new religion. This was a notion which occurred to him much later, if, indeed, it be not altogether a posthumous crotchet, gratuitously attributed to him by his successors. However this may have been, though limited to questions of an entirely social, industrial, or political character, this co-operation of M. Augustin Thierry in the labours of a man, whose eminent qualities as a political economist and thinker are incontestable, was of short duration; the gloomy, narrow, and despotic tendencies of sectarianism could not but jar upon a mind essentially endowed with explicitness, precision, and independence; the disciple often rebelled against the views of the master, and, besides, he felt more and more attracted towards a sphere of studies more positive in their nature. M. Augustin Thierry left St. Simon in 1817, and joined the Censeur Europeén, which, under the editorship of MM. Comte and Dunoyer, enjoyed the reputation of the most important and most high-minded of the liberal journals of the period.

The new school of history had not at this time raised its head; Velly, Garnier, Millot, Anquetil, reigned sovereign supreme. The general aspect of our own history, more especially that of the first eight centuries, was utterly disfigured; in that dull and arid nomenclature of faits et gestes royaux, the Sicambrian Chlodowig is presented to us in flowing wig and laced ruffles, the leudes of Charlemagne in the guise of the courtiers of the Œil de Bæuf, Fredegonde in fontanges, and Hermangarde in hoopedpetticoat and red-heeled shoes. “These men,” observes M. de Chateaubriand, “carried in their heads the fixed form of a solemn monarchy, ever the same, from first to last, marching sedately onwards with three orders and a parliament of grave persons in black robes and powdered hair.” No historian had thought of moving out of this beaten track, when M. Thierry, having occasion to seek, in the history of the past, materials for the polemics of the day, first descended into the arena, and young, ardent, unconscious of his vocation and of his destiny, entered upon that grand struggle, the result of which was to be the establishment of new doctrines and new principles.

In his youthful fervour and the excess of his popular enthusiasm, M. Augustin began with rushing beyond the bounds of truth into the regions of paradox. And this was to be expected. Aristocracy, assailed and decimated under Louis XI., gagged and beaten down by Richelieu and Louis XIV., dishonoured under Louis XV., beheaded by the Convention, led in a string by Napoleon, sought once more to raise its head under the Restoration; it would, perhaps, to a certain extent, have attained its object, had it been better served, and more especially had it been less compromised by the majority of those who constituted themselves its organs. Listening to its political champions, you would have supposed that it desired to pass a sponge over four centuries of progressive decay: it did not content itself with assailing accomplished facts, it denied them; and feeble, weak, obscured, lost as it was in the grand social unity, the result of ’89, instead of quietly settling down in its position, and seeking, in self-renovation, an element of strength and duration, it aimed at nothing less than the annihilation of the past, the confiscation of history. In the nineteenth century, an eloquent voice ventured to say, in the very teeth of new France—“Enfranchised race, slaves wrested from our grasp, tributary people, new people, Edition: current; Page: [xiii] leave was granted you to be free, but not to be noble; for us, all is of right, for you, all is of favour.”1 Pretensions of this sort, wholly based upon the old right of conquest, naturally brought into the field of history a plebeian, proud of his plebeian birth, and ready to oppose pride to pride. When, a century before, the Comte de Boulainvilliers sought to construct an historical system of his own, by deducing false consequences from the false proposition already generally scouted, of the distinction of conquerors and conquered in Gaul, a man of the people, the abbé Dubos, stood forward to combat fallacy with fallacy; in reply to a book which abused the fact of conquest, he wrote a very learned work2 to prove that there had been no conquest at all; that there had been an alliance between the two races and nothing more; that, five centuries later, in the tenth century, in consequence of the dismemberment of the sovereignty, and the conversion of offices into seigneuries, a dominant caste had intrusively interposed itself between kings and people; and that it was feudalism and not the Frankish invasion which had enslaved Gaul.

In reproducing the aristocratic theories of M. de Boulainvilliers, M. de Montlosier encountered at the very outset an antagonist much less accommodating than the Abbé Dubos. Far from denying the fact of conquest, M. Augustin Thierry proudly accepted it, as a premises on which to found his claims in favour of the conquered; not content with establishing the original iniquity of the fact and its fatal consequences at the period, he traced its progress through fourteen ages, subsisting ever and everywhere, and denounced it as the source not merely of evils past, but of all present difficulties. Gravely adopting the assertions of M. de Montlosier, and his imaginary division of the France of 1815 into Gauls and Franks, combating menace with menace, and paradox with paradox, he in his turn exclaimed: “We think we are one nation, yet we are two nations in the same land; two nations, hostile in their recollections of the past, irreconcilable in their projects for the future. The genius of the conquest has made its mock of nature and of time, it still hovers over this unhappy country. It is under its influence that the distinctions of castes have succeeded to those of blood, those of orders to those of castes, those of titles to those of orders.”3 Hurried on in this manner, by the necessities of polemics, beyond the bounds of the true, it continued the fight in the void. Once engaged in supplying France with the reason and solution of all things in this permanent fact of conquest, he undertook to follow it out of France, and to combat it wherever, as he conceived, he should find it. He commenced by giving in the Censeur a sketch of the revolutions of England from the Norman invasion to the death of Charles I., and not content with metamorphosing the Cavaliers and Roundheads into Normans and Saxons, he carried the theory of the conquest, and subjection of the one race by the other, even beyond the reign of Charles II.

He has himself given an account4 of these exaggerations and gropings in the dark of a young and great mind feeling its way; he has told us, with Edition: current; Page: [xiv] the frankness which belongs to a superior man, that he soon saw he was carrying too far this, in itself, so true and fecund principle of the distinction of races, that he was falsifying history by applying to epochs entirely different forms entirely identical. But he has also described how to his aberrations as a journalist, who had at first lost his way, as it were, in the past, he owed the sentiment of his true vocation, how from the very day when he first touched upon the great problem of the Germanic invasions and the dismemberment of the Roman empire, he was drawn to it by an irresistible attraction; how, upon his first glance at history he said to himself; I will be an historian: and how deeply he became impressed with the essentiality of regulating and maturing by study the passion that had risen within him.

When the Censeur Europeen succumbed beneath the blows of a censorship altogether different from its own, M. Augustin Thierry, already more especially devoted to the labours of pure erudition, contributed to the Courrier Français a series of letters in which, sketching an outline of one of his future works, he expounded his plan of a reform in the manner of studying and writing history. The exigencies of daily polemics closing this arena to him, M. Thierry, who had hitherto divided his attention between the history of the past and the business of the present, sequestered himself from the world and its politics, and engaged in a pertinacious study of facts, reading, analysing, comparing, and extracting the marrow out of every book and every manuscript that could throw a light upon his investigations. Still under the influence of the grand problem of the Germanic invasions which had struck his imagination at the outset, he digested all the documents calculated to throw light upon it, to fathom it, to solve it; and from step to step, his ideas progressively matured and developed, by five years of solitary labours, resulted at length in two works, alike admirable in their matter and their manner, and which our epoch, so encumbered with futile and absurd productions, may well regard as memorable and glorious to it, destined as they are to a permanent existence among the proudest annals of learning. The first edition of the Histoire de la Conquête de l’Angleterre par les Normands appeared in the spring of 1825; the first edition of the Lettres sur l’Histoire de France about the close of 1827; a second edition, entirely revised and recast, was published in the following year.

The reader is aware of the immense sensation produced by the former of these works, the so cherished production of an historian of twenty-six. The author was enjoying all the triumph of success when he, too late, perceived that his eyes had failed under his intense labours, and that his strength was giving way. After a journey into Switzerland, he visited Provence, accompanied by his learned friend M. Fauriel, and on his return to Paris, in 1826, found his health somewhat improved, but his sight still declining. Almost blind, he resumed his labours; a young man, obscure at this period, but whose name was destined to take a brilliant position in literature, Armand Carrel, joined him, as secretary, and by his friendly earnestness of purpose rendered the necessity of reading with the eyes of others less painful to Thierry: relieved by this co-operation, he at one time formed, with M. Mignet, the project of writing in concert a great national history, but, after some experiments which seemed to show the futility of the attempt, the project was abandoned.

His next publication was the Letters sur l’Histoire de France, shortly after the appearance of which, in the spring of 1830, the Institute elected Edition: current; Page: [xv] him a member of the Academie des Inscriptiones et Belles Lettres. He was ere long assailed by the most acute pains, and by a nervous malady of the gravest character. He had once more to renounce his beloved studies and to quit Paris. He lived, from 1831 to 1836, between Vesoul, with his brother the prefect of Haute-Saône, and the baths of Luxeuil. It was at the latter place that, in 1831, he became acquainted with and married the lady who was to alleviate his sufferings, by aiding him on his way through the evil days of premature old age. In the intervals of repose granted him by his maladies, he resumed with fresh ardour his task of historian. He first occupied himself with the revision of his Histoire de la Conquête de l’Angleterre, and then with selecting and correcting the various productions of his youth, which he collected into a volume, published in 1834, under the title of Dix Ans d’Etudes Historiques. Still full of the desire to complete his history of the Germanic invasions, he commenced in the Revue des Deux Mondes a series of letters, giving an exact and perfect picture of the civil, political, and religious life of the French of the sixth century.

These elegant, animated, and at the same time substantial productions, published in the next year under the title of Recits des Temps Merovingiens, obtained for their author the prize of 400l., founded by Baron Gobert, and awarded by the Academie Française. Almost at the same moment—in the autumn of 1835—M. Guizot recalled him to Paris, for the purpose of entrusting to him the superintendence of a great undertaking, honourable alike to the historian who conceived it and the historian who directed it. It was nothing less than to extract from the archives of every town and parish of France all the materials directly or indirectly bearing upon the history of the Third estate, so as to form a collection rivalling the great Benedictine compilations devoted to the nobility and the clergy, and to supply future genius with all the materials for a gigantic work, hitherto declared impossible—a general and complete history, namely, of the French nation. Should this splendid monument be ever constructed, on its base must be prominently inscribed the names of Francis Guizot and Augustin Thierry.

An illustrious philosopher, whose untimely death Germany still deplores, Edward Gans, writes thus:—

“It is Thierry who has triumphantly demonstrated the fallacy of those historical systems which see all France in a number of Frankish tribes; which, passing over in silence the element imported from the south, forget that up to the beginning of the thirteenth century the limits of the Frankish empire did not extend beyond the Isère, and that in the tongue of oc and no, the tongue of ouy and nenny, was likened to the barking of a dog; in a word, it is Thierry who has taught us to appreciate the true signification of what is called the fourteen centuries of the French monarchy.”1

I will add, that it is M. Augustin Thierry who, by his efforts to restore to proper names, under the two first races, their true orthography, has succeeded in fixing the moment of the metamorphosis of Franks into French; and it is M. Thierry who has demolished to its foundations the historical axiom inscribed at the head of the charter of 1814—namely, the pretended enfranchisement of the communes by Louis le Gros. He has created in our annals a glorious trace that will never be effaced; no historian, ancient or modern, has exhibited, in a higher degree than he, that human sense Edition: current; Page: [xvi] which is the very soul of history, I mean that comprehensive sensibility, synthetic without losing aught of the true, which leads a writer to attach himself to the destiny of a whole people as to the destiny of an individual; following this people, step by step, through ages, with an interest as earnest, emotions as vivid, as though he were following the steps of a friend engaged in a perilous enterprise; no one, in a word, has better realized than M. Thierry this conception of the ideal in history enunciated by himself: “La narration complete épuisant les textes, rassemblant les details epars, recueillant jusqu’aux moindres indices des faits, et des caractères, et de tout cela formant un corps, auquel vient le souffle de vie, par l’union de la science et de l’art.”1

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The principal states of modern Europe have at present attained a high degree of territorial unity, and the habit of living under one same government and in the bosom of one same civilization, seems to have introduced among the population of each state an entire community of manners, language, and patriotism. Yet there is perhaps not one of them which does not still present to the inquirer living traces of the diversity of the races of men which, in the progress of time, have combined to form that population. This variety of races is displayed under different aspects. Here a complete separation of idioms, local traditions, political sentiments, and a sort of instinctive hostility, distinguish from the great national mass the population of particular districts, of limited extent; there a simple difference of idiom, or even of accent, marks, though more faintly, the limit of the settlements formed by peoples of diverse origin, and long separated by deep-seated animosities. The further we go back from the time in which we live, the more distinct do these varieties become; we clearly perceive the existence of several peoples in the geographical circumscription which bears the name of one alone: instead of varying provincial dialects, we find complete and regular languages; and that which in the light of the present seems merely defective civilization and protracted resistance to progress, assumes, in the past, the aspect of original manners and patriotic adherence to ancient institutions. Edition: current; Page: [xviii] In this way, facts themselves of no social importance, retain great historical value. It is a falsification of history to introduce into it a philosophical contempt for all that does not enter into the uniformity of existing civilization, or to regard as alone worthy of honourable mention the peoples with whose name the chances of events have connected the idea and the destiny of that civilization.

The populations of the European continent and its islands have come at various periods into juxtaposition, usurping the one from the other, territories already occupied, and arrested only in their progress, at the point where natural obstacles, or resistance more powerful than their attack, the result of some extraordinary combination of the conquered, absolutely compelled them to stop. Thus the conquered of various epochs have become, so to speak, ranged in layers of populations, in the different directions taken by the great migration of peoples. In this movement of successive invasions, the most ancient races, reduced to a few families, have deserted the plains and flown to the mountains, where they have maintained a poor but independent existence; while the invaders, invaded in their turn, have become serfs of the soil in the plains they occupied, from want of a vacant asylum in the impregnable recesses already possessed by those whom themselves had driven there.1

The conquest of England by William duke of Normandy, in the year 1066, is the last territorial conquest that has been operated in the western portion of Europe. The conquests effected there since that period have been political conquests, quite different from those of the barbarians, who transferred themselves and their families to the conquered territory, and apportioned it out among themselves, leaving to the conquered merely life, and this on condition of their doing all Edition: current; Page: [xix] the work and keeping quiet. This invasion having taken place at a period nearer to our own than those of the populations which, in the fifth century, dismembered the Roman empire, we possess numerous documents elucidating well nigh every fact connected with its history, and which are even complete enough to give us a just idea of what a conquest in the middle ages was, how it was executed, and how maintained, what description of spoliations and sufferings it inflicted on the vanquished, and what means were employed by the latter to react against their invaders. Such a picture carefully traced in all its details, and set off in fitting colours, has an historical interest more general than might at first seem to belong to the limits of time and place within which itself is circumscribed, for almost every people in Europe has, in its actual existence, something derived from the conquests of the middle ages. It is to these conquests that the majority of them owe their geographical limits, the name they bear, and, in great measure, their internal constitution, that is to say, their distribution into orders and classes.

The higher and lower classes who, at the present day, keep so distrustful an eye upon one another, or actually struggle for systems of ideas and of government, are in many countries the lineal representatives of the peoples conquering and the peoples conquered of an anterior epoch. Thus the sword of the conquest, in renewing the face of Europe and the distribution of its inhabitants, has left its ancient impress upon each nation created by the admixture of various races. The race of the invaders, when it ceased to be a separate nation, remained a privileged class. It formed a military nobility, which, to avoid gradual extinction, recruiting its numbers from time to time from the more ambitious, adventurous, and turbulent of the inferior ranks, domineered over the laborious and peaceful masses below them, so long as the military government derived from the conquest endured. The invaded race, despoiled of property in the soil, of command, and of Edition: current; Page: [xx] liberty, not living by the sword but by the compulsory labour of their hands, dwelling not in castles but in towns, formed a separate society beside the military association of the conquerors. Whether it retained, within the walls of its towns, the remains of Roman civilization, or whether, aided by only a slight vestige of that civilization, it had commenced a new civilization of its own, this class raised its head in proportion as the feudal organization of the nobles by descent or political affiliation, declined.

Hitherto the historians of the modern peoples, in relating these great events, have transported the ideas, the manners, and the political position of their own time to past ages. The chroniclers of the feudal period placed the barons and peerage of Philip-Augustus in the court of Charlemagne, and confounded the savage government and brute force of the conquest with the more regular rule and more fixed usages of the feudal establishment. The historians of the monarchical era, who have constituted themselves exclusively the historians of the prince, have proceeded on even narrower and more singular ideas; they modelled the Germanic royalty of the first conquerors of the Roman empire, and the feudal royalty of the 12th century, upon the vast and powerful royalties of the 17th. In the history of France, the various invasions of Gaul, the numerous populations, different in origin and manners, settled upon its territory, the division of the soil into several countries, because there were several peoples, and lastly, the union, which it required six hundred years to effect, of all these countries under one sceptre; these are facts wholly neglected by the writers in question. The historians formed by the 18th century are, in like manner, absorbed in the philosophy of their period. Witnesses of the progress of the middle classes, and organs of their wants as against the legislation and the opinions of the middle ages, they have not calmly viewed or correctly described the old times in which the classes they championed scarce enjoyed Edition: current; Page: [xxi] civil existence. Full of a disdain inspired by abstract right and reason, they treated facts as nought: a process which may be very well with the view of operating a revolution in men’s minds and in the state, but by no means proper in the composition of history. Yet we must not be surprised at all this; whatever superiority of mind a man may possess, he cannot overpass the horizon of his century; each new epoch gives to history new points of view and a special form.

In the present day, however, it is no longer permissible to write history for the profit of one single idea; our age will not sanction it; it requires to be told everything, to have portrayed and explained to it the existence of nations at various epochs; and that each past century shall have assigned to it its true place, its colour, and its signification. This is what I have endeavoured to do with the great event of which I have undertaken to write the history. I have consulted none but original texts and documents, either for the details of the various circumstances narrated, or for the characters of the persons and populations that figure in them. I have drawn so largely upon these texts, that, I flatter myself, little is left in them for other writers. The national traditions of the less known populations and old popular ballads, have supplied me with infinite indications of the mode of existence, the feelings, and the ideas of men at the period and in the places whither I transport the reader.

As to the narrative, I have adhered as closely as possible to the language of the ancient historians, contemporaries of the facts related, or but little removed from them in point of time. When I have been obliged to supply their inadequacy by general considerations, I have sought to give authority to these by citing the original passages on which I had relied in my deductions. Lastly, I have throughout preserved the narrative form, so that the reader might not abruptly pass from an old tradition to a modern commentary, or my work Edition: current; Page: [xxii] present the incongruous aspect of fragments of chronicles intermingled with dissertations. I thought, besides, that if I applied myself rather to relate than to lecture, even in the exposition of general facts and results, I might communicate a sort of historical life to the masses of men as well as to the individual personages, and that thus the political career of nations might offer somewhat of that human interest which is aroused by an unaffected account of the mutations of fortune and adventures of an individual.

I propose, then, to exhibit, in the fullest detail, the national struggle which followed the conquest of England by the Normans established in Gaul; to reproduce every particular afforded by history of the hostile relations of two peoples violently placed together upon the same soil; to follow them throughout their long wars and their obstinate segregation, up to the period when, by the intermixture of their races, manners, wants, languages, there was formed one sole nation, one common language, one uniform legislation. The scene of this great drama is England, Scotland. Ireland, and also France, by reason of the numerous relations which the successors of the Conqueror had, since the invasion, with that portion of the European continent. On the French side of the Channel, as well as on the other, their enterprises have modified the political and social existence of many populations whose history is almost completely unknown. The obscurity in which these populations have become involved does not arise from any unworthiness on their part to have had historians, equally with other populations; most of them, on the contrary, are remarkable for an originality of character which distinguishes them in the most marked manner from the great nations into which they have been absorbed, and in resistance to a fusion with which they have displayed a political activity, the moving cause of many great events that have hitherto been erroneously attributed to the ambition of particular individuals, or to other accidental causes. The research into Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] the history of these populations may contribute to solve the problem, hitherto undecided, of the varieties of the human race in Europe, and of the great primitive races whence these varieties derive.

Under this philosophical point of view, and independent of the picturesque interest which I have endeavoured to create, I hoped to aid the progress of science by constructing, if I may use the expression, the history of the Welsh, of the Irish of pure race, of the Scots, both those of the primitive and those of the mixed race, of the continental Bretons and Normans, and more especially of the numerous population then, as now, inhabiting Southern Gaul, between the Loire, the Rhone, and the two seas. Without assigning to the great facts of history less importance than they merit, I have applied myself with peculiar interest to the local events relating to these hitherto neglected populations, and while necessarily relating their revolutions in a summary manner, I have done this with that sort of sympathy, with that sentiment of pleasure, which one experiences in repairing an injustice. The establishment of the great modern states has been mainly the work of force; the new societies have been formed out of the wrecks of the old societies violently destroyed, and in this labour of recomposition, large masses of men have lost, amid heavy sufferings, their liberty, and even their name as a people, replaced by a foreign name. Such a movement of destruction was, I am aware, inevitable. However violent and illegitimate it may have been in its origin, its result has been the civilization of Europe. But while we render to this civilization its due homage, while we view with glowing admiration the noble destiny it is preparing for the human race, we may regard with a certain tender regret the downfal of other civilizations that might one day have also grown and fructified for the world, had fortune favoured them.

This brief explanation was necessary to prevent that feeling of surprise which the reader might otherwise have felt Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] upon finding in this work, the history not merely of one, but of several conquests, written in a method the very reverse of that hitherto employed by modern historians. All of these, following what seemed to them the natural path, go from the conquerors to the conquered; they take their stand in the camp where there is triumph, rather than in that where there is defeat, and exhibit the conquest as accomplished the moment that the victor has proclaimed himself master, taking no more heed than he to the ulterior resistance which his policy has afterwards defeated. Thus, for all those who, until recently, have written the history of England, there are no Saxons after the battle of Hastings and the coronation of William the Bastard; a romance writer, a man of genius, was the first to teach the modern English that their ancestors of the eleventh century were not all utterly defeated and crushed in one single day.

A great people is not so promptly subjugated as the official acts of those who govern it by the law of the strongest would appear to indicate. The resuscitation of the Greek nation proves how great a misconception it is to take the history of kings, or even that of conquering peoples, for that of the whole country over which they rule. Patriotic regret lives on in the depth of a nation’s heart, long after the desire to raise its fallen condition has become hopeless. This sentiment of patriotism, when it is no longer adequate to the creation of armies, still creates bands of guerillas, of political highwaymen in the forest or on the mountain, and venerates as martyrs those who die in the field or on the gibbet, in its cause. Such is what recent investigations have taught us with reference to the Greek nation,1 and what I have myself discovered with respect to the Anglo-Saxon race, in tracing out its history where no one previously had sought it, in the popular legends, traditions, and ballads. The resemblance between Edition: current; Page: [xxv] the state of the Greeks under the Turks and that of the English of Saxon race under the Normans, not only in the material features of the subjugation, but in the peculiar form assumed by the national spirit amidst the sufferings of its oppression, in the moral instincts and superstitious opinions arising out of it, in the manner of hating those whom it would fain, but could not, conquer, and of loving those who still struggled on while the mass of their countrymen had bent the neck—all this is well worthy of remark. It is a resemblance in the investigation of which much light may be thrown upon the moral study of man.

To keep in view the distinction of races in England after the conquest, does not merely communicate importance to facts before unperceived or neglected: it gives an entirely new aspect and signification to events celebrated in themselves, but hitherto incorrectly elucidated. The protracted quarrel between Henry II. and archbishop Becket is one of these events; a version of that affair, entirely differing from the account previously most accredited, will be found in the present work. If, in relating the struggle between these famous personages, the philosophic historians have taken part against the weaker and more unfortunate of the two, it is from not having viewed the struggle under its true aspect, from not having been thoroughly acquainted with all the elements of which the mutual hate of the antagonists was composed. They have wholly laid aside, in reference to a man assassinated with the most odious circumstances, all those principles of justice and philanthropy which they so energetically profess. Six hundred years after his murder, they have assailed his memory with the fiercest malignity; and yet there is nothing in common between the cause of the enemies of Thomas Becket, in the twelfth century, and that of philosophy in the eighteenth. Henry II. was no citizen king, no champion of religious independence, no systematic antagonist of papal domination; there was nothing of the sort, as will Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] be seen, in his inveterate hostility to a man against whom he was the first to solicit the assistance of the pope.

If the grave circumstances which marked the dispute of the fifth king of Norman race with the first archbishop of English race since the conquest, are to be attributed, more than to any other cause, to the still living animosity between conqueror and conquered, another fact, equally important, the great civil war under John and Henry III. was also a quarrel of races rather than of government. Its real motive was the fear, well or ill founded, which the barons of Norman origin entertained, of experiencing a conquest, in their turn, on the part of other foreigners called into England by the kings, and of being despoiled of their territories and of the ruling power by Poitevins, Aquitans, and Provençals, as, a century and a half before, they themselves had dispossessed the Saxons. It was this material, personal interest, and no lofty desire to found political institutions, that made the barons and knights of England rise up against their kings. If this great aristocratic movement was sustained by popular favour, it was because the alarm of a second conquest, and the indignation against those who sought to bring it about, were common to the poor and to the rich, to the Saxon and to the Norman.

A close examination of all the political phenomena that accompanied the conquests of the middle ages, and of the part taken in them by religion, have led me to a new manner of considering the progress of papal power and of catholic unity. Hitherto historians have represented this power as extending itself solely by metaphysical influence, as conquering by persuasion, whereas it is certain that its conquests, like all other conquests, have been effected by the ordinary means, by material means. The popes may not have headed military expeditions in person, but they have been partners in almost all the great invasions and in the fortune of the conquerors, even in that of conquerors still pagans. It was the destruction of the independent churches effected throughout Christian Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] Europe concurrently with that of the free nations, which gave reality to the title of universal, assumed by the Roman church long before there was anything to warrant the assumption. From the fifth century up to the thirteenth, there was not a single conquest which did not profit the court of Rome quite as much as it profited those who effected it with sword and lance. A consideration of the history of the middle ages under this hitherto unnoticed aspect has given me, for the various national churches which the Roman church stigmatized as heretical or schismatic, the same sort of interest and sympathy which I expressed just now for the nations themselves. Like the nations, the national churches have succumbed to powers that had no sort of right over them; the independence they claimed for their doctrines and their government was a part of the moral liberty consecrated by Christianity.

Ere I conclude, I would say a few words as to the plan and composition of this work. Pursuant to its title, it will be found to contain a complete narrative of all the details relating to the Norman conquest, placed between two other briefer narratives—one, of the facts preceding and preparing that conquest; the other, of those which flowed from it as necessary consequences. Before introducing the personages who figure in the great drama of the conquest, I was desirous of making the reader acquainted with the ground on which its various scenes were to take place. For this purpose, I have carried him with me from England to the Continent, from the Continent to England. I have explained the origin, the internal and external situation, the first relations of the population of England with that of Normandy, and by what chances these relations became so complicated as necessarily to involve hostility and invasion. The success of the Norman invasion crowned by the battle of Hastings, produced a conquest, the progress, settlement and direct results of which form several distinctly marked epochs.

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The first epoch is that of territorial usurpation: it commences with the battle of Hastings, on the 14th of October, 1066, and embracing the successive progress of the conquerors from east to west and from south to north, terminates in 1070, when every centre of resistance had been broken up, and every powerful native who survived had submitted or abandoned the country. The second epoch, that of political usurpation, begins where the first ends; it comprehends the series of efforts made by the Conqueror to disorganize and denationalize the conquered population. It terminates in 1076 with the execution of the last chief of Saxon race, and the decree degrading the last bishop of that race. During the third epoch, the Conqueror is engaged in subjecting to regular order the violent results of the conquest, and in converting the forcible possession of lands by his soldiers into legal if not legitimate property; this epoch terminates in 1086, by a comprehensive review of all the conquerors in possession of estates, who, renewing to the king in a body the oath of fealty, figure for the first time as an established nation, and no longer as merely an army in the field. The fourth epoch is occupied with the intestine quarrels of the conquering nation, and with its civil wars, whether for the possession of the conquered territory or for the right of rule there. This period, more extended than the preceding, terminates in 1152, with the extinction of all the pretenders to the throne of England, except one, Henry, son of Geoffroy, earl of Anjou, and of the empress Matilda, niece of the Conqueror. Lastly, in the fifth epoch, the Normans of England and of the continent, having no intestine dissensions wherein to expend their activity and their strength, either go forth from their two centres of action to conquer and colonize abroad, or extend their supremacy without themselves moving. Henry II. and his successor Richard I. are the representatives of this epoch, filled with wars upon the continent, and with new territorial or political conquests. It Edition: current; Page: [xxix] terminates, in the earlier part of the thirteenth century, by a reaction against the Anglo-Norman power, a reaction so violent that Normandy itself, the native land of the kings, lords, and chivalry of England, is severed for ever from the country to which it had given its conquerors.

With these various epochs correspond successive changes in the lot of the Anglo-Saxon nation; it first loses the property in the soil; next, its ancient political and religious organization; then, favoured by the divisions of its masters, and siding with the kings against their revolted vassals, it obtains concessions which give it a momentary hope of once more becoming a people, and it even essays a vain attempt to enfranchise itself by force. Lastly, overwhelmed by the extinction of parties in the Norman population, it ceases to play any political part, loses its national character in public acts and in history, and falls altogether into the condition of an inferior class. Its subsequent revolts, extremely rare of occurrence, are simply referred to by the contemporary writers as quarrels between the poor and the rich; and it is the account of an outbreak of this nature, which took place at London in 1196, under the conduct of a person evidently or Saxon race, that concludes the circumstantial narrative of the facts relating to the conquest.

Having brought the history of the Norman conquest up to this point, I have carried on, in a more summary form, that of the populations of various race which figure in the main body of the work. The resistance they opposed to the more powerful nations, their defeat, the establishment of the conquerors among them, the revolutions they essayed and accomplished, the events, political or military, over which they exercised an influence, the fusion of people, languages, and manners, and the exact period of this fusion, all this I have endeavoured clearly to exhibit and to demonstrate. This last portion of the work, where a special article is devoted to each race of men, begins with the continental populations which have since Edition: current; Page: [xxx] become French. Next come those, now called English, each in its rank; the Welsh, whose spirit of nationality is so tenacious that it has survived a territorial conquest; the Scots, who have never undergone any such conquest, and who have struggled with such vast energy against a political conquest; the Irish, who had better have become serfs, like the Anglo-Saxons, than have preserved a precarious liberty at the expense of peace, of individual and family happiness, and of the civilization of their country; lastly, the population of England herself, of Norman or Saxon origin, where these national differences become a distinction of classes, less and less marked, as time progressed.

I have only now to mention one other historical innovation, of no less importance than the rest; the retaining the orthography of the Saxon, Norman, and other names, so as to keep constantly marked out the distinction of races, and to secure that local colouring, which is one of the conditions, not merely of historic interest, but of historic truth. I have, in like manner, taken care not to apply to one period the language, forms, or titles of another. In a word, I have essayed thoroughly to reintegrate political facts, details of manners, official forms, languages, and names; so as, by restoring to each period comprised in my narrative its external aspect, its original features, its reality, to communicate to this portion of history the certitude and fixity which are the distinguishing characteristics of the positive sciences.

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  • BOOK I.

    from the establishment of the britons to the ninth century.

    bc 55—ad 787.

    • Ancient populations of Britain—Picts and Scots—Social state of the Britons—Then form of government—Attacks from without—Internal discords—The Saxons called in as auxiliaries of the Britons; become their enemies—Conquests of the Saxons in Britain—Emigration of the Angles—Conquests of the Angles—Anglo-Saxon colonies—Settlement of Britons in Gaul—Political state of Gaul—Influence of the Gaulish bishops; their friendship towards the Franks—Conversion and baptism of Chlodowig, king of the Franks—Successes of the Franks; their conquests—State of the Britons in Gaul; their quarrels with the Gaulish clergy; their wars with the Franks—Heresy of Britain—Character of pope Gregory—His desire to convert the Anglo-Saxons—Roman missionaries sent into Britain—Conversion of an Anglo-Saxon king—Plan of ecclesiastical organization—Ambition of bishop Augustin; Religious belief of the Welsh—Conferences of Augustin with the Welsh clergy—His vengeance upon them—Return of the Anglo-Saxons to paganism—Fresh successes of the Romish priests—Essays at conversion in Northumberland—Conversion of Northumberland—Anglo Saxon church—Attempts of the Romish clergy against the church of Ireland—Religious zeal of the Irish—Catholic devotion of the Anglo-Saxons—Rupture of the Anglo-Saxons from the Romish church—Respective limits of the various populations of Britain—Remnant of the British race—Feelings of the historian with regard to the conquered peoples . p. 1
  • BOOK II.

    from the first landing of the danes in england to the end of the domination.


    • First landing of the Danish pirates—Their character; their conquests in England—Invasion of Ragnar Lodbrog; his death-song—Descent of the Danes in the south—Destruction of the monasteries—Termination Edition: current; Page: [xxxii]of the kingdom of East Anglia—Invasion of the kingdom of Wessex—Resistance of Alfred—Flight of king Alfred—His return; he attacks the Danes, and concludes peace with them—Successive combinations of the English territory under a sole royalty—Descent of Hastings upon England—Election of king Edward—Conquests of king Athelstan—Victory of Brunanburg—Defeat of Erik the Dane—Political results of the defeats of the Danes—Fresh emigrations from Denmark—Massacre of the Danes—Grand armament of Swen—Patriotic firmness of archbishop Elfeg; his death—Ethelred takes refuge in Gaul—Foundation of the empire of the Franks—Dismemberment of that empire—Invasion of Gaul by the Danes or Normans—New states formed in Gaul—Limits and populations of the kingdom of France—Exile of Roll, son of Roguvald—The Norwegian exiles establish themselves at Rouen—First negotiation of the French with the Normans—Roll elected chief of the Normans—Second negociation—Cession of Neustria and Brittany—Conference at Saint-Clair-sur-Epte—Conversion and baptism of Roll, first duke of Normandy—Division of Normandy—Language and manners of the people of Bayeux—Social state of Normandy—Insurrection of the peasants of Normandy—Violent measures to suppress the insurrection—Language and political relations of the Gallo-Normans—Ethelred recalled—Godwin saves the life of a Danish chief—Knut the Dane becomes king of all England—Proscriptions in England—Marriage of king Knut; remarkable change in his character and conduct—He institutes Peter’s pence—Temporal power of the popes—Pilgrimage of Knut to Rome—Letter written by king Knut—Rise of Godwin—Harold and Hardeknut, kings of England—Preparations for war between the Anglo-Saxons and the Anglo-Danes—Harold sole king of England—Alfred, son of Ethelred, reappears in England—His violent death—Hardeknut’s barbarity—His exactions—The Danes driven from England—Election of Edward, son of Ethelred—His marriage with Editha—Re-establishment of English independence—Hostility of the people to the Norman favourites of king Edward. . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 55

    from the insurrection of the english people against the norman favourites of king edward to the battle of hastings.


    • Eustache of Boulogne lands at Dover; his quarrel with the inhabitants—Patriotic resistance of Godwin—Grand armament of king Edward—Proscription of Godwin and his sons—Triumph of the Norman favourites—William, duke of Normandy—His origin and character—His visit to England—His ambitious projects—Landing of Godwin and his sons—Their entry into London—Terror and flight of the Norman favourites—Reconciliation of Godwin with king Edward—Death of Godwin—Death of Siward, chief of Northumberland—Talents and popularity of Harold son of Godwin—Insurrection of the Northumbrians against Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii]Tosti—Banishment of Tosti—Hostility of the Romish church to the English people—Friendship between the Romish church and the duke of Normandy—Harold visits Normandy—He is imprisoned by the count de Ponthieu—His release—He is received at Ronen by duke William—Request made him by William—Harold’s oath upon relies—His return to England—Death of king Edward—Election of Harold—Indignation of the duke of Normandy—Tosti persuades Harold of Norway to make a descent upon England—Message from William to Harold—William’s negotiation with the Romish church—Temporal sovereignty of the church at this period—The dispute between William and Harold referred to the pope—Alexander II. decides in favour of William—Convocation of the states of Normandy—William baffles this opposition—Grand military preparations—Enrolment of men from all countries—William seeks to form allies—National animosity between the Normans and Britons—Conan, earl of Brittany, refuses his assistance—He is poisoned—Departure of the Norman fleet—Harold of Norway lands in England—Harold of England attacks the Norwegians—Rout of the Norwegians—Landing of the Norman army at Pevensey—Harold marches against the Normans—He forms an entrenchment seven miles from their camp—Message from William to Harold—Reply of the latter—State of the Anglo-Saxon army—Preparations of the two armies—Attack upon the Anglo-Saxon camp—Victory of the Normana—The body of Harold recognised by his mistress. . . . . . . 128
  • BOOK IV.

    from the battle of hastings to the taking of chester, the last city conquered by the normans.


    • Battle of Romney—Taking of Dover—Capitulation of Kent—Election of king Edgar—Defection of Edwin and Morkar—Blockade of London—Proceedings of the citizens—Submission of London—William proclaimed king—The ceremony of the coronation disturbed by conflagration—Division of the spoils among the Normans—Extent of the conquered territory—Sufferings of the conquered—Courageous resistance of three Saxons—Fortresses erected in London—Ancient lists of the conquerors of England—William revisits Normandy—Revolt of Kent—Eustache, count of Boulogne, comes to the assistance of the English—Limits of the territory invaded—Return of king William—He marches into the west—Siege of Exeter—Division of lands in the western provinces—Imprisonment and deposition of Brihtrik—Resistance of the monks of Winchcomb—Their punishment—The English chiefs retire to the north—Conspiracy against the Normans—King Edgar flies into Scotland—State of the Scottish population—Friendship of the kings of Scotland for the men of Teutonic race—William marches into the north—Taking of Oxford, &c.—Taking of York—Archbishop Eldred’s malediction upon king William—His despair and death—Weariness of the Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv]Normans—Insurrection of the western provinces—Landing of the sons of king Harold—Suppression of the western revolt—State of the northern provinces—March of Robert Comine against Durham—His defeat and death—Alliance between the northern English and the Danes—Arrival of Danish succours in England—The English and Danes besiege and take the city of York—York retaken by the Normans—Devastation of Northumberland—Taking of Durham—Ravages and cruelties exercised by the conquerors—St. John of Beverley intimidates the Norman soldiers—Completion of the conquest in the north—Famine in the conquered districts—Division of houses and lands—French colony in Yorkshire—Distribution of English domains and heiresses—Tosti killed by Osulf in a spirit of national vengeance—Second submission of the English chieftains and of king Edgar—Defeat of Edrik the Saxon—Invasion of Wales—Fresh emigrants from Gaul—Society of gain and loss among the soldiers of the Conquest—Brothers-in-arms—March of William upon Chester—Taking of Chester—Battle near the Ruddlan marshes—Utility of local details. . . . . . . . . 180
  • BOOK V.

    from the formation of the camp of refuge in the isle of ely, to the execution of the last saxon chief.


    • Deplorable condition of the Anglo-Saxons after their defeat—Emigration to Greece of many Englishmen, who enter the service of the Byzantine court—Many other English withdraw into the forests, and by armed brigandage make their last protest against their conquerors—General terror of England—Camp of refuge—Patriotre contributions of the English church—King William orders the strict visitation of all the monasteries and convents—Spoliation of the churches—Arrival of three pontifical legates—Circulars of the legates—Deposition of Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury—Deprivation of the bishops and abbots of English race—Lanfrane, archbishop of Canterbury. Miserable condition of the English churches—Establishment of the primacy of Canterbury—Submission of the archbishop of York to the see of Canterbury—Introduction of foreign prelates into English bishoprics—Character of the new bishops—The complaints of the English conveyed to Rome—The pope sides with the Normans—Disinterested conduct of Guimond, monk of Saint Leufroy, in Normandy—The saints of English race are assailed by the Normans—Insurrection led by three English prelates—The laws of Edward are confirmed by king William—Futility of this concession—Recommencement of persecution—Paul, an abbot of Norman race—Accession of refugees to the camp of refuge—Death of Edwin—Ivo Taille-bois, an Angevin chief—His character—Angevin monks established at Spalding—Hereward, chief of the Saxon partisans—Anglo-Saxon chivalry—Torauld, a Norman abbot, transferred to the abbey of Peterborough—Fresh alliance between the English and the Edition: current; Page: [xxxv]Danes—Retreat of the Danes—Attack on the camp at Ely by the Normans—Treachery of the monks of Ely—Defeat of the insurgents—Hereward preserves his independence—His exploits—His marriage—Dishonourable conduct of the Normans towards him—His death—Atrocious cruelties exercised by the Normans upon the insurgents of Ely—The monks of Ely receive the punishment of their treachery—Peace between the Normans and the king of Scotland—Vaulcher, bishop of Durham—Deprivation of Gospatrick; promotion of Waltheof—King William visits Gaul—Revolt of the people of Mans against the Normans—Establishment of the corporation of Mans—Troubles of that corporation—Devastation and submission of Maine—Alliance of Edgar with the king of France—Third submission of king Edgar—English women take refuge in the convents—Marriage concluded contrary to the order of the king—Marriage festival at Norwich—Conspiracy of Normans and English against the king—Preparations to meet it; defeat of the conspirators—Proscription of Raulf de Gael, and sentence upon Roger, earl of Hereford—Ruin of the family of William Fitz-Osbern—Impeachment of Waltheof—His execution—He is honoured as a martyr—Pilgrimage to his tomb—His widow, Judith la Normande—Wulfstan, the last bishop of Anglo-Saxon race—Superstitions founded upon the national turn of mind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238
  • BOOK VI.

    from the quarrel between king william and his eldest son robert, to the last visit of william to the continent.


    • Discords among the victors—Quarrel between William and his son Robert—Robert demands Normandy—He joins his father’s enemies—William curses his son—Conspiracy against and murder of Vaulcher—Devastation of Northumberland—Miserable condition of the northern provinces—Anglo-Saxon outlaws—Popular poems in their honour—Ambition of Eudes—His arrest—Results of the Norman conquest—Toustain, abbot of Glastonbury—Saxon monks killed or wounded by his order—Death of Matilda—Severance of interests between the king and the Normans—Domesday book—Levies upon the Normans and English—Equalization of property in the hands of the Normans—Laws of William against hunting—Political reasons for the severity of these laws—Expropriation of the English subsequent to the conquest—Emigration of Normans to Scotland—Descent of the Danes—Preparations for defence—Singular order issued to the English—Motives for the armament of king Knut—Termination of alliance between the English and the Danes—General assembly and review of the Normans—Ordinances of king William—State of the Anglo-Saxon population—Anxiety and mental torments of king William—Establishment of episcopal jurisdiction—Separation of the civil and ecclesiastical tribunals—Conduct of William with reference to the pope—Aspect of the conquered country . . . . . . . 289
    Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi]

    from the death of william the conqueror, to the last general conspiracy of the english against the normans.


    • Quarrel between king William and Philip I., king of France—King William burns the town of Mantes—Last moments of king William—His death—His funeral—Election of William Rufus—The goldsmith Otho, banker of the invasion—Verses in praise of the Conqueror—Civil war among the Normans—Termination of the civil war—Treaty between William Rufus, king of England, and his brother Robert, duke of Normandy—Revolt of the English monks of the convent of St. Augustin—Conspiracy of the monks of this convent against their Norman abbot—Alliance between the monks and the citizens of Canterbury—Tyranny of the Norman bishops and counts—Fresh vexations inflicted upon the monks of Croyland—New quarrels among the Normans—Moderation of Eudes Fitz-Hubert—Heavy burdens imposed upon the English—Terror of the English on the approach of the king—Severity of the forest laws—Last chase of William Rufus—His death—Henry elected king of England—He addresses himself to the English—Utter insincerity of his promises—He wishes to marry an Englishwoman—Opposition of the Norman nobles to the contemplated match—Marriage of the king to Editha, Edgar’s niece—More civil war—Revolt of earl Robert de Belesme—His banishment—State of the English population—Renewed quarrel between the king and his brother Robert—Levy of money in England—Duke Robert becomes his brother’s prisoner—The son of duke Robert takes refuge in France—Foreign abbots installed into English monasteries—Sufferings and complaints of the English monks—Popular superstitions—Embarkation of the children of king Henry—Their shipwreck—Indifference of the English to the calamity thus endured by the king and the Norman families—Invectives of the English historians on this occasion—Mabile, daughter of Robert Fitz-Aymon—Norman anecdote—English anecdote—Trial and sentence of the Saxon Brihtstan—Anglo-Norman tribunals—Oath taken to Matilda, surnamed the Empress—Marriage of Matilda with the earl of Anjou—Festivities at Rouen on the occasion—Election of Stephen of Blois—His popularity with the Norman barons—His rupture with them—Conspiracy of the English—Flight of the conspirators—Subsequent insurrections—Difficulties experienced by the historian . . . . . . . . . . 325
  • Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373
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bc 55—ad 787

Ancient populations of Britain—Picts and Scots—Social state of the Britons—Their form of government—Attacks from without—Internal discords—The Saxons called in as auxiliaries of the Britons; become their enemies—Conquests of the Saxons in Britain—Emigration of the Angles—Conquests of the Angles—Anglo-Saxon colonies—Settlement of Britons in Gaul—Political state of Gaul—Influence of the Gaulish bishops; their friendship towards the Franks—Conversion and baptism of Chlodowig, king of the Franks—Successes of the Franks; their conquests—State of the Britons in Gaul; their quarrels with the Gaulish clergy; their wars with the Franks—Heresy of Britain—Character of pope Gregory—His desire to convert the Anglo-Saxons—Roman missionaries sent into Britain—Conversion of an Anglo-Saxon king—Plan of ecclesiastical organization—Ambition of bishop Augustin; Religious belief of the Welsh—Conferences of Augustin with the Welsh clergy—His vengeance upon them—Return of the Anglo-Saxons to paganism—Fresh successes of the Romish priests—Essays at conversion in Northumberland—Conversion of Northumberland—Anglo Saxon church—Attempts of the Romish clergy against the church of Ireland—Religious zeal of the Irish—Catholic devotion of the Anglo-Saxons—Rupture of the Anglo-Saxons from the Romish church—Respective limits of the various populations of Britain—Remnant of the British race—Feelings of the historian with regard to the conquered peoples.

Ancient tradition informs us that the great island which now bears the name of the united kingdom of England and Scotland, was primitively called the Country of the Green Hills, then the Island of Honey, and thirdly, the Island of Bryt or Edition: current; Page: [2] Prydyn;1 the Latinization of the latter term produced the name Britain. From the most remote antiquity, the isle of Prydyn, or Britain, was regarded, by those who visited it, as divided from east to west, into two large unequal portions, of which the Firth of Forth, and the Clyde, constituted the common limit. The northern division was called Alben (Albyn, Alban, Latinè Albania), that is to say, the region of mountains; the other portion, towards the west was named Kymru, towards the east and south Loegwr. These two denominations were not, like the first, derived from the nature of the country, but from the appellation of two distinct nations, who conjointly occupied nearly the whole extent of Southern Britain, the Kymrys and the Lloëgrwys, or, according to the Latin orthography, the Cambrians and the Logrians.

The nation of the Cambrians boasted the higher antiquity; it had come in a mass from the eastern extremities of Europe, across the German ocean. A portion of the emigrants had landed on the coast of Gaul; the remainder, disembarking on the opposite shores of the straits (Fretum Gallicum, Fretum Morinorum), had colonized Britain, which, say the Cambrian traditions,2 had previously no other inhabitants than bears and wild cattle, and where, consequently, the colonists established themselves as original occupants of the soil, without opposition, without war, without violence.3 The claim is honourable, but scarcely historical; the great probability is that the Cambrian emigrants found in the island men of another origin and of a different language from their own, whom they dispossessed of the territory. This probability is rendered almost matter of fact, by the existence of many names of places altogether foreign to the Cambrian language, and by ruins of an unascertained period, which popular tradition assigns to an extinct race of hunters who employed foxes and wild cats, instead of dogs in the chase.4 This aboriginal population of Britain was driven back towards the west and north by the gradual invasion of the foreigners who landed on the eastern shores.

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A portion of the fugitives passed the sea to the large island called by its inhabitants Erin (Latiné, Iierne, Inverna, Iiernia, Hibernia), and to the other western islands, peopled, according to all appearance, by men of the same race and language with the British aborigines. Those who retreated into North Britain, found an impregnable asylum in the lofty mountains which extend from the banks of the Clyde to the extremity of the island, and maintained their position here under the name of Gael or Galls (more correctly, Gadhels, Gwyddils), which they still retain. The wreck of this dispossessed race, augmented, at different periods, by bands of emigrants from Erin, constituted the population of Alben, or the highlands of Britain, a population foreign to that of the plains of the south, and its natural enemy, from the hereditary resentment growing out of the recollection of conquest. The epoch at which these movements of population took place is uncertain; it was at a later period, but equally unascertained, that, according to the British annals, the men called Logrians landed on the south of the island.1

These, according to the same annals, emigrated from the south-western coasts of Gaul, and derived their origin from the primitive race of the Cambrians, with whom they could readily converse.2 To make way for these new comers, the previous colonists voluntarily, says the old tradition, but more probably on compulsion, retired to the shores of the western ocean, which then exclusively assumed the name of Cambria, while the Logrians gave their own appellation to the southern and eastern coasts of the island, over which they diffused themselves. After the establishment of this second colony, there came a third band of emigrants, issuing from the same primitive race, and speaking the same language, or, at all events, a dialect very slightly differing from it. The district which they had previously occupied was the portion of western Gaul comprehended between the Seine and the Loire; these, like the Logrians, obtained lands in Britain with very little difficulty. It is to them that the ancient annals and the national poems especially assign the name of Brython or Briton, which, among foreigners, served to designate Edition: current; Page: [4] generally all the inhabitants of the island. The precise site on which they settled is not known; but the most probable opinion places them to the north of the Cambrians and Logrians, on the frontier of the Gaelic population, between the Firth of Forth and that of Solway.

These nations of common origin were visited at intervals, either pacifically, or in a hostile manner, by various foreign tribes. A band from that portion of the Gaulish territory now called Flanders, compelled permanently to quit their native country, in consequence of a great inundation, passed the sea in sail-less vessels, and landed on the Isle of Wight and the adjacent coast, first as guests, and then as invaders.1 The Coranians2 (Corraniaid, latinè, Coritani), men of Teutonic descent, emigrating from a country which the British annals designate the Land of Marshes, sailed up the gulf formed by the mouth of the Humber, and established themselves on the banks of that river and along the eastern coast, thus separating into two portions the territory of the Logrians. Lastly, Roman legions, led by Julius Cæsar, disembarked on the eastern point of the district now called Kent. They encountered a determined resistance at the hands of the Logrian-Britons, entrenched behind their war-chariots; but, ere long, thanks to the treachery of the tribes of foreign race, and more especially the Coranians, the Romans, penetrating into the interior of the island, gradually achieved the conquest of the two countries of Logria and Cambria. The British annals call them Caisariaid, Cæsarians,3 and enumerate them among the invading peoples who made but a temporary stay in Britain: “After having oppressed the land during four hundred years,” say these annals, “and having exacted from it the yearly tribute of three thousand pounds of silver, they departed hence for Rome, in order to repel the invasion of the black horde. They left behind them only their wives and young children, who all became Cambrians.”4

During this sojourn of four centuries, the Romans extended their conquests and their domination over the whole southern portion of the island, up to the foot of the northern mountains which had served as a rampart for the aboriginal population Edition: current; Page: [5] against the Cambrians. The Roman invasion stopped at the same limit with the British invasion; and the Gael remained a free people throughout the period that their former conquerors were groaning under a foreign yoke. They more than once drove back the imperial eagles; and their ancient aversion for the inhabitants of Southern Britain grew stronger and stronger amidst the wars which they had to maintain against the Roman governors. The pillage of the coloniæ and municipia, adorned with sumptuous palaces and gorgeous temples, increased, by a new feature, this national hostility. Every spring, the men of Alben, or Caledonia,1 passed the Clyde in boats of osier covered with leather: becoming formidable to the Romans, they obliged the latter to construct, on the limits of their conquest, two immense walls, furnished with towers, and extending from one sea to the other.2 These irruptions, which grew more and more frequent, acquired a terrible celebrity for the people of Alben, under the designation of Scots and Picts, the only terms employed by the Latin writers, who appear to have been unacquainted with the appellation, Gael.3

The former of these two names appertained to the inhabitants of the island of Erin, which the Romans called indifferently Hibernia or Scotia. The close relationship between the British highlanders and the men of Hibernia, with the frequent emigrations from the one country to the other, had produced this community of name. In northern Britain itself, the term Scots was applied to the inhabitants of the coasts and of the great archipelago of the north-west, and that of Picts to the eastern population on the shores of the German ocean. The respective territories of these two peoples, or distinct branches of one population, were separated by the Grampian hills, at the foot of which, Gallawg (Galgacus), the leading chieftain of the Northern Forests (Calyddon), had valiantly combated the imperial legions. The manner of Edition: current; Page: [6] life of the Scots wholly differed from that of the Picts; the former, dwellers on the mountains, were hunters or wandering shepherds; the latter, enjoying a more level surface, and more fixedly established, occupied themselves in agriculture, and constructed solid abodes, the ruins of which still bear their name. When these two peoples were not actually leagued together for an irruption into the south, even a friendly understanding ceased at times to exist between them; but on every occasion that presented itself of assailing the common enemy, the two chiefs, one of whom resided at the mouth of the Tay, the other among the lakes of Argyleshire, became brothers, and set up their standards side by side. The southern Britons and the Roman colonists in their fear and their hate, made no distinction between the Scots and the Picts.1

Upon the departure of the legions, recalled to defend Rome against the invading Goths, the Britons ceased to recognise the authority of the foreign governors who had been left in charge of their provinces and towns. The form, and even the name of these administrators perished; and in their place arose once more the ancient authority of the chiefs of tribe, which had been abolished by the Romans.2 Old genealogies, carefully preserved by the national poets,3 ascertained those who were entitled to claim the dignity of chief of a district or family; for these words were synonymous in the language of the ancient Britons4 among whom the ties of family relationship constituted the basis of the social state. With them, people of the lowest condition committed to memory the whole line of their descent, with a care which, among other nations, was peculiar, in such matters, to the wealthy and exalted. Every Briton, poor as well as rich, had to establish his genealogy, ere he could be admitted to the full enjoyment of his civil rights, or of any property in the district of which he was a native; for each district belonged in original ownership to one particular primitive family, and no man could legally possess any portion of its soil unless he were by descent Edition: current; Page: [7] a member of that primitive family, become, by gradual extension, a tribe.

Above this singular social order, of which the result was a federation of petty sovereignties, some elective, some hereditary, the Britons, delivered from the Roman authority, raised, for the first time, a high national sovereignty: they created a chief of chiefs, (Penteyrn,) a king of the country, as their annals express it, whom they made elective. This new institution, which seemed destined to give the people more union and more strength against external aggressions, became, on the contrary, a cause of divisions, of weakness, and, ere long, of subjection. The two great populations who shared the southern portion of the island, respectively asserted the exclusive right of furnishing candidates for the monarchy. The seat of this central royalty was in the Logrian territory, in the ancient municipal town, called by the Britons Lon-din, the town of ships, (Llundain, latinè, Londinium.) The Cambrians, jealous of this advantage, maintained that the royal authority belonged of right to their race, as the most ancient, as that which had received the others on the soil of Britain. To justify this claim, they carried back the origin of the power they sought, far beyond the time of the Roman conquests, attributing its institution to a certain Prydyn, son of Aodd, a Cambrian, who, according to their account, had combined the whole island under one monarchical government, and decreed that this government should for ever remain vested in his nation.1 With what fable this fable was met by the southern and eastern peoples, is not known; but this is certain, that the dispute grew fiercer and fiercer, until at last this rivalry of self-love had lighted up civil war throughout south Britain. The intervention of the tribes of foreign origin, ever hostile to the two great branches of the British population, encouraged its discords and nourished the intestine war. Under a succession of chiefs, called national, but regularly disowned as such by a portion of the nation, no army was levied to replace the Roman legions which had guarded the frontiers against the invasions of the Gaelish tribes.

Accordingly, amidst the disorders which thus afflicted South Edition: current; Page: [8] Britain, the Picts and Scots broke down the two great Roman walls, and passed into south Britain, at the same time that other enemies, not less formidable, burst upon the country from the sea. These were pirates come forth from the coasts and islands along the German ocean, to pillage and then return home laden with booty. When the great ships of Roman construction were forced by tempests back to port, the light vessels of these men of the sea1 dashed boldly on at full sail, and suddenly attacking the tall ships amid the terror and confusion of the storm, seldom failed to capture them. Several British tribes made singly great efforts against the enemy, and in a number of engagements defeated their aggressors, both of German and of Gallic race. The inhabitants of the southern coasts, who had frequent communication with the continent, solicited foreign aid; once or twice Roman troops, coming over from Gaul, fought for the Britons, and assisted them in repairing the great walls of Hadrian and Severus.2 But, ere long, the Romans themselves were driven from Gaul, by three invasions of barbarians from the south, the east, and the north, and by the national insurrection of the maritime districts of the west.3 The legions fell back upon Italy, and from that time forth the Britons had no succour to expect from the empire.4

At this period, the dignity of supreme chief of all Britain was in the hands of one Guorteyrn,5 a Logrian. On several occasions he assembled around him all the chiefs of the British tribes, in order to take, in concert with them, measures for the defence of the country against the northern invasions. But little union prevailed in these deliberations, and, justly or not, Guorteyrn had many enemies, more especially among the western people, who seldom assented to anything proposed Edition: current; Page: [9] by the Logrian. The latter, in virtue of his royal preeminence, and by the counsel of several tribes, though without the consent of the Cambrians,1 suddenly adopted the resolution of introducing into Britain a population of foreign soldiers, who, in consideration of pecuniary subsidies and grants of land, should, in the service of the Britons, carry on the war against the Picts and Scots. At about the epoch when this decision was formed, a decision which the Cambrians denounced as base and cowardly, chance directed to the shores of Britain three German piratical ships, commanded by two brothers, called Henghist and Horsa,2 who landed in Kent, on the same promontory where the legions of Rome had formerly disembarked.

It would appear that the three vessels had come to Britain on this occasion on a mission, not of piracy, but of trade. They were of the nation of the Jutes, or, more correctly, Iutes, a nation forming part of a great league of peoples spread over the marshy coasts of the ocean, north of the Elbe, and all designating themselves by the general name of Saxons, or men with the long knives.3 Other confederations of the same kind had been already formed among the Teutonic tribes, either for the better defence of all from the Romans, or in order the more advantageously to assume the offensive against them. Such had been the league of the Alamans, or men of men, and that of the Franks, or men rude in fight.4 On landing, the Saxon chiefs, Henghist and Horsa, received from the British king, Guorteyrn, a proposition to enrol them and an army of their countrymen in his service. There seemed nothing strange in this to men with whom war was a business. They at once promised a considerable body of troops in exchange for the little island of Thanet,5 formed on the coast of Edition: current; Page: [10] Kent, on one side by the sea, and on the other by a river with two arms. Seventeen vessels speedily brought over from the north the new military colony, which divided out its new settlement, and organized itself there according to its national customs, under the command of the two brothers, he promoters of the enterprise. It received from its hosts, the Britons, all the necessaries of life; it fought well and truly for them on several occasions, advancing against the Picts and Scots its standard of the White Horse, emblem of the name of its two leaders; each time, the mountain bands, strong in numbers, but ill armed with long, brittle pikes, fled before the great axes, the national weapon of the Saxon confederation.1 These exploits created throughout Britain infinite rejoicing and warm friendship for the Saxons.

“Having overthrown our enemies,” says an ancient poet, “they celebrated with us the festival of victory: we vied with one another how best to show to them our gratitude and our loving welcome! but woe to the day when we loved them! Woe to Guorteyrn and his craven councillors.”2

In effect, the good understanding was of no long duration between those who made war and those for whom it was made; the former soon demanded more land, more provisions, and more money than had been stipulated, and menaced, in the event of refusal, to pay themselves by pillage and usurpation.3

To render these threats more effective, they called to their aid fresh bands of adventurers, either belonging to their own nation or to other peoples of the Saxon confederation. The emigration continuing, the lands assigned by the Britons no longer sufficed; the bounds agreed upon were violated, and ere long a numerous German population collected upon the coast of Kent. The natives, who at once needed its aid and feared it, treated with it on the footing of nation with nation. On either side there were frequent embassies and fresh treaties, broken almost as soon as concluded.4 At length, the Edition: current; Page: [11] last ties were broken: the Saxons formed an alliance with the Picts; they sent messengers inviting them to descend in arms towards the south; and themselves, favoured by this diversion, advanced into the interior of Britain from east to west, driving the British population before them, or forcing it to submit. The latter, indeed, did not give way to them unresistingly; they once even drove them back to the seacoast, and compelled them to re-embark; but they soon returned with increased numbers, and with a fiercer determination subdued the country for many miles on the right bank of the Thames, and did not again quit the conquered lands. One of the two brothers who commanded them was killed in battle;1 the other, from a mere military chief, became the ruler of a province;2 and his province, or, to use the customary language, his kingdom, was called the kingdom of the men of Kent; in the Saxon language, Kent-wara-rike.3

Twenty-two years after the first landing of the Germans, another Saxon chief, named Œlla, came with three vessels to the south coast of Kent, and, driving the Britons back towards the north-west, established a second colony, which received the name of the kingdom of the South Saxons, (Suth-seaxna-rice.) Eighteen years afterwards, a certain Kerdic,4 followed by the most powerful army that had yet passed the ocean to seek lands in Britain, disembarked on the southern coast, to the west of the south Saxons, and founded a third kingdom, under the name of West Saxony, (West-seaxna-rice, more briefly, West-seax.)5 The chiefs who succeeded Kerdic gradually extended their conquests to the vicinity of the Severn: this was the ancient frontier of the Cambrian population; the invaders did not find this population disposed to give place to them; it maintained against Edition: current; Page: [12] them an obstinate struggle, during which other emigrants, landing on the eastern coast, obtained possession of the left bank of the Thames, and the great city of Londin, or London. They called the territory in which they established themselves East Saxony,1 (East-seaxna-rice, East-seax.) All these acquisitions were made at the expense of Logria and of the race of Logrian-Britons, who had invited the Saxons to come and dwell beside them.

From the moment that the city of London was taken, and the coasts of Logria became Saxon, the kings and chiefs selected to oppose the conquerors were all of the Cambrian race. Such was the famous Arthur. He defeated the Saxons in numerous battles; but, despite the services he rendered to his people, he had enemies among them, as had been the case with Guorteyrn. The title of king obliged him to draw his sword against the Britons almost as often as against the foreigner, and he was mortally wounded in a battle with his own nephew. He was removed to an island formed by several streams, near Afallach, (Insula Avallonia,) now Glastonbury, south of the bay into which the Severn discharges itself. He there died of his wounds, but as it was at the time that the western Saxons invaded this territory, amid the tumult of invasion, no one exactly knew the circumstances of the death of Arthur, or the spot where he was buried. This ignorance surrounded his name with a mysterious celebrity: long after he was no more, his followers still looked for him; the need they felt of the great war chief, who had conquered the Germans, nourished the vain hope of one day seeing him return. This hope was not abandoned; and for many centuries the nation, which had loved Arthur, did not despair of his recovery and return.2

The emigration of the inhabitants of the marshes of the Elbe and the neighbouring islands, gave the desire for a Edition: current; Page: [13] similar emigration to nations situated further east, near the shores of the Baltic sea, and who were then called Anghels, or Angles, (Engla, Anglen.) After having experimented with petty partial incursions upon the north-east coast of Britain, the entire population of the Angles put itself in motion, under the conduct of a military chief, named Ida, and his twelve sons. Their numerous vessels came to anchor between the mouths of the Forth and the Tweed. The better to succeed against the Britons of these districts, they formed an alliance with the Picts, and the confederate troops advanced from east to west, striking such terror into the natives, that the king of the Angles received from them the appellation of the flame-man, (Flamddwyn.) Despite his ferocity and his valour, Ida encountered, at the foot of the mountains in which the Clyde takes its rise, a population that resisted him. “The flame-man has come against us,” says a contemporaneous British poet; “he asks us in a loud voice: ‘Will you give me hostages? are you ready?’ Owen, brandishing his lance, replied: ‘No, we will not give thee hostages; no, we are not ready.’ Urien, chief of the land, then cried: ‘Children of one race, united by one cause, let us, having raised our standard on the mountains, rush into the plain; let us throw ourselves upon the flame-man, and combine in the same slaughter, him, his army, and his auxiliaries.’ ”1

This same Urien, at the head of the northern Britons, descendants of the ancient emigrants from Armorican Gaul, gained several victories over the confederated invaders. The chief of the Germans perished on the banks of the Clyde; but in a decisive battle, in which the combatants on one side were the Picts and Angles, on the other the men of the valley of the Clyde, the men of the banks of the Forth and of Deifr and Brynich. (or Bryneich and Deywr, or Dewyr,) that is to say, of the mountainous country north of the Humber, the British cause was lost. Here perished a great number of chiefs wearing the collar of gold, a token of elevated command among the Britons.2 Aneurin, one of the most celebrated bards, fought in the first ranks, and survived this signal defeat, which he sang in a poem that has come down to us.3

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The victors spread themselves over the whole of the eastern country, between the Forth and the Humber. Those of the conquered to whom the foreign yoke was insupportable, took refuge in the south, in the country of the Cambrians, which then, as now, was called Wales. The conquering Germans gave no new names to the northern country; they retained the ancient geographical denominations, and themselves made use of them to distinguish their different colonies, according to their place of settlement. They called themselves, for example, men of the north of the Humber, (Northan-hymbra-menn, latinè, Nord-anhymbri, Northumbri,) men of Deifr, men of Brynich, or, according to the Latin orthography, Northumbrians, Deirians, Bernicians. The territorial designation of the Angles, (East-engla-land, East Englas, latiné, Orientales Angli, East Anglia,) was only given to a small portion of the eastern coast, where men of that nation, before the general emigration, had founded a colony, few in number, but capable of maintaining itself against the hostility of the natives, by the aid of the East-Saxons, north of whom they dwelt.

The ancient population of the Coranians, established for several centuries south of the Humber, and whom so long a sojourn among the Britons had not reconciled with them, readily joined the Anglo-Saxon invaders as they had formerly joined the Romans. In their alliance with the conquerors, their national appellation disappeared from the district they inhabited; but the name of their allies did not take its place; both were lost, and the country between the Humber and the Thames was thenceforward called the country of Merk1 (Myrcan, Myrena-rice,) or Mercia, perhaps from the nature of the soil, chiefly marshy, perhaps from the vicinity of the free Britons of whom this kingdom formed the frontier or march, as the Germans called it.2 It was Angles from the territories of Deira and Bernicia, or from the eastern coast, who, under this name, founded the eighth and last Germanic colony in Britain.3 The limits of the people of Mercia, Edition: current; Page: [15] (Myrena-menn,) a mixture of Coranians and Angles, were not at first at all definite; this people progressively extended its territory towards the west at the expense of the Cambrians, and towards the south at the expense of the Saxons themselves, with whom they did not feel themselves united by community of origin, so closely as the Saxons were among themselves.1

Of these eight colonies, principalities, states, or kingdoms, call them what you will, founded in Britain within the space of a century, by the conquests of the Saxons and Angles, none possessed any territory on the coast of the western sea, except the western Saxons, who, however, did not extend north of the Bristol Channel. The western coasts, almost throughout their extent, from the mouth of the Clyde to the Land’s-End, remained in the hands of the native race, and more peculiarly of the Cambrian-Britons. The irregular form of these coasts, isolated from the great mass of this still free population, the tribes who dwelt towards the south, beyond the Bristol Channel, and towards the north beyond the Solway Firth; but between these two opposite points was a long tract of compact land, though more or less contracted, according to the projection of the coast into the ocean. This mountainous and unfertile territory was the abode of the Cambrians,2 (Gwylt Wallia,) who there offered a poor, but secure asylum to emigrants from every corner of Britain, to all who, as the ancient historians expressed it, preferred suffering with independence, to a beautiful country under foreign servitude.3 Others crossed the ocean to seek in Gaul a country which their ancestors had peopled at the same time with Britain, and where still dwelt men of their race, and speaking their language.4

Many vessels full of fugitive Britons landed in succession on the western point of Armorica, in the districts which, Edition: current; Page: [16] under the Romans, and even before them, had been called territories of the Osismians, of the Curiosolites, and of the Venetes. By the consent of the ancient inhabitants, who recognised in them brothers by descent, the new-comers diffused themselves over all the northern coast, as far as the Rance, and towards the south-east, as far as the lower stream of the Vilaine. On this peninsula they founded a separate state, whose limits frequently varied, but beyond which the cities of Rennes and Nantes remained down to the middle of the ninth century. The increasing population of this western nook of land, the immense number of people of Celtic race and language1 who thus found themselves agglomerated together, preserved it from the irruption of the Roman tongue, which, under forms more or less corrupt, gradually spread throughout Gaul. The name of Brittany was given to these coasts, and superseded the various names of the indigenous populations, while the island which, for so many centuries, had borne this appellation, lost it, and, adopting that of its conquerors, began to be called the land of the Saxons and Angles, or, in one word, England, (Engel-seaxna-land, Engla-land.)

At the time when the men of Britain, flying before the Anglo-Saxons, settled on the point of land called the Horn of Gaul,2 other expatriated Saxons fixed their abode on a more northern point of the coast of Gaul, near the town whose ancient name was changed into that of Bayeux.3 At the same time, also, the Germanic league, whose members, for two centuries, had borne the name of Franks, that is to say, undaunted, descended, in several bands, from the mouths of the Rhine and the Meuse, upon the central lands of Gaul. Two other nations of Teutonic race had already thoroughly invaded and fixed their abode in the provinces of the south, between the Loire and the two seas. The western Goths or Visigoths4 occupied the country west of the Rhone; the Burgundiones1 Edition: current; Page: [17] that to the east. The establishment of these two barbarous nations had not taken place without violence and ravage; they had usurped a portion of the possessions of each native family; but the love of repose, and a certain spirit of justice which distinguished them among all the Germans, had speedily softened their manners; they contracted relationships with the conquered, whom their laws treated with impartiality, and gradually came to be regarded by them as simply friends and neighbours. The Goths for the most part adopted the Roman manners, which they found generally in use among the civilized inhabitants of Gaul; their laws were, in great measure, mere extracts from the imperial code; they prided themselves in a taste for the arts, and affected the polished elegance of Rome.2

The Franks, on the contrary, filled the north of Gaul with terror and devastation; strangers to the manners and arts of the Roman cities and colonies, they ravaged them with indifference and even with a sort of pleasure.3 Being pagans, no religious sympathy tempered their savage humour. Sparing neither sex nor age, say the ancient historians, destroying churches as readily as private houses, they gradually advanced towards the south, invading the whole extent of Gaul; while the Goths and Burgundians, impelled by a similar ambition, but with less barbarous manners—sometimes at peace with each other, more often at war—essayed to make progress in the opposite direction. In the then weak condition of the central provinces, still united, but only in name, to the Roman empire, and utterly disgusted with that empire, which, in the words of an ancient Gaulish poet, made them feel the weight of its shadow,4 there was reason to suppose that the inhabitants of these provinces, incapable of resisting the conquering nations who pressed upon them on three sides, would come to terms with the least ferocious of them; in a word, that the Edition: current; Page: [18] whole of Gaul would submit either to the Goths or to the Burgundians, Christians like itself, to escape the grasp of the Franks. Such would have been its true policy; but those who disposed of its fate decided otherwise.

These were the bishops of the Gaulish cities, to whom the decrees of the Roman emperors assigned high administrative authority,1 and who, by favour of the disorders caused by the invasion of the barbarians, had found means illegally to aggrandize this already exorbitant power. The bishops, who at that time all bore the title of popes or fathers, were the plenipotentiaries of the Gaulish cities, either with the empire, becoming more and more distant, or with the Germans, each day approaching nearer. Their diplomatic negotiations were conducted altogether at their own will and discretion,2 and, whether from habit or fear, no one ever thought of saying them nay; for their power was backed by the sanguinary executive laws of the empire in its decline.

Sons of Rome, and strictly bound by the imperial ordinances to recognise as their patron and common head the bishop of the eternal city,3 to do nothing without his consent, to receive his decrees as laws, and his policy for their rule of conduct, to model their own faith upon his, and thus, by the unity of religion, to contribute to the unity of empire, the bishops of the Gaulish provinces, when the imperial power ceased to have any compulsory action upon them, and when they had become altogether independent of it, did not enter upon a new path. From instinct or from calculation, they still laboured, as we are told by one of their own body, to retain under the authority of Rome, by the tie of religious faith, the countries where that political subjection was broken.4 Their aversion or their good-will towards the emigrant Edition: current; Page: [19] peoples of Germany was not measured by the degree of barbarism and ferocity of those nations, but by their supposed aptitude to receive the Catholic faith, the only faith that Rome had ever professed. Now this aptitude was calculated to be far greater in a people still pagan, than in schismatic Christians, wittingly and willingly separated from the Roman communion, such as the Goths and Burgundians, who professed the faith of Christ, according to the doctrine of Arius. But the Franks were strangers to any Christian belief, and this consideration sufficed to turn the hearts of the Gaulish bishops towards them, and to make them all, as a nearly contemporary author expresses it, desire the domination of the Franks with a desire of love.1

The portion of the Gaulish territory occupied by the Frank tribes extended at this period from the Rhine to the Somme, and the tribe most advanced into the west and south was that of the Merowings or children of Merowig,2 so called from the name of one of their ancient chiefs, renowned for his bravery, and respected by the whole tribe as a common ancestor.3

At the head of the children of Merowig was a young man, named Chlodowig,4 who combined with the warlike ardour of his predecessors a greater degree of reflection and skill. The bishops of the portion of Gaul still subject to the empire, partly as a precaution for the future, partly out of their hatred to the Arian powers, entered, of their own motion, into relations with this formidable neighbour; sending to him frequent messages, replete with flattering expressions. Many of them visited him in his camp, which, in their Roman politeness, Edition: current; Page: [20] they dignified with the name of Aula Regia, or royal court.1 The king of the Franks was at first very insensible to their adulations, which in no degree kept him from pillaging the churches and treasures of the clergy: but a precious vase, taken by the Franks from the cathedral of Reims, placed the barbarian chief in relations of interest, and ere long, of friendship, with a prelate more able or more successful than the rest. Under the auspices of Remigius or Remi, bishop of Reims, events seemed themselves to concur in promoting the grand plan of the high Gaulish clergy. First, by a chance, too fortunate to have been wholly fortuitous, the king, whom they desired to convert to the Roman faith, married the only orthodox princess then existing among the Teutonic families; and the love of the faithful wife, as the historians of the time express it, gradually softened the heart of the infidel husband.2 In a battle with some Germans who sought to follow the Franks into Gaul and to conquer their part also, Chlodowig, whose soldiers were giving way, invoked the god of Chlothilda (such was the name of his wife), and promised to believe in him, if he conquered: he conquered, and kept his word.3

The example of the chief, the presents of Chlothilda and of the bishops, and perhaps the charm of novelty, brought about the conversion of a number of Frank warriors, as many, indeed, according to the historians, as three thousand.4 The baptism took place at Reims; and all the splendour that could still be furnished by the arts of the Romans, which were soon to perish in Gaul in the hands of the barbarians, was displayed in profusion to adorn this triumph of the Catholic faith. The vestibule of the cathedral was decorated with tapestry and garlands; veils of various colours softened the glare of day; the most exquisite perfumes burnt abundantly in vases of gold and silver.5 The bishop of Reims Edition: current; Page: [21] advanced to the baptistry in pontifical robes, leading by the hand the Frankish king who was about to become his spiritual son: “Father,” said the latter, marvelling at so much pomp, “is not this that kingdom of heaven which you promised me?”1

Messengers speedily conveyed to the pope of Rome intelligence of the baptism of the king of the Franks; whereupon letters of congratulation and friendship were addressed from the eternal city to the king who thus bowed his head beneath her yoke: and he, in return, sent rich presents, as tributes of filial submission, to the blessed apostle Peter, the protector of the new Rome. From the time that king Chlodowig was declared son of the Roman church, his conquests spread in Gaul, almost without effusion of blood. All the cities of the north-west, to the Loire and to the territory of the British emigrants, opened their gates to his soldiers. The garrisons of these cities passed over to the service of the German king, and among his skin-clad warriors retained the arms and banners of Rome.2 Ere long, the limits of the territory or kingdom of the Franks were extended towards the southeast, and, at the instigation of those who had converted him, the neophyte entered, sword in hand, the lands conquered by the Burgundians.3

The Burgundians were Arians, that is, they did not believe that the second person of the Trinity was co-substantial with the first; but, despite this difference of doctrine, they in no way persecuted the priests and bishops who, in their cities, professed the creed adopted by the church of Rome. The bishops, little grateful for this toleration, corresponded with the Franks, encouraging them to invasion, and sought to avail themselves of the dread of this invasion to persuade the king of the Burgundians to embrace the Roman faith, which they described to be the only true, evangelical, and orthodox faith. The king, named Gondebald,4 although a barbarian, and their Edition: current; Page: [22] master, opposed them with great gentleness; while they addressed him in a tone of menace and arrogance, calling him madman, apostate, and rebel to the law of God.1 “Nay, not so,” he answered, mildly; “I obey the law of God; but I cannot, like you, believe in three gods. Besides, if your faith be the better one, why do not your brother bishops prove it so, by preventing the king of the Franks from marching upon us to destroy us?”2

The entrance of the Franks was the only answer to this embarrassing question: they signalized their passage by murder and fire; they tore up the vines and fruit-trees, pillaged the convents, carried away the sacred vessels, and broke them up without the slightest scruple. The king of the Burgundians, reduced to extremity, submitted to the conquerors, who imposed a tribute on him and all his cities, made him swear to be for the future their ally and soldier, and returned to the north of the Loire, with an immense booty. The orthodox clergy declared this sanguinary expedition to be a pious, illustrious, and holy enterprise for the true faith.3 “But,” said the aged king, “can faith co-exist with coveting other men’s goods, and thirsting for their blood?”4

The victory of the Franks over the Burgundians again brought all the cities on the banks of the Rhone and Sâone under the sway of the Roman church and of the palace of San Giovanni di Latran, where thus, bit by bit, was gathered together the heritage of the ancient Capitol. Six years afterwards, under similar auspices, began the war against the Visigoths. Chlodowig assembled his warriors in a circle, in a large field, and said to them:—“I like not that these Goths, who are Arians, should occupy the best part of Gaul; let us go against them, with the aid of God, and drive them away; let us subject their territory to our power: we shall do well in this, for the land is very good.”5 The proposition pleased the Franks, who Edition: current; Page: [23] adopted it with acclamations, and joyously proceeded on their march towards the good land of the south. The terror of their approach, say the old historians, resounded far before them;1 the mind of the inhabitants of the south of Gaul was so agitated, that in many places men imagined terrible signs and prognostics, announcing all the horrors of invasion. At Toulouse, it was said, a fountain of blood burst forth in the centre of the town, and flowed for an entire day.2 But amidst the public consternation, one class of men was impatiently calculating the days of the march of the barbarian troops. Quintianus, the orthodox bishop of Rodez, was detected intriguing for the enemy, and he was not the only member of the high clergy guilty of these machinations.3

The Franks passed the Loire; and ten miles from the city of Poitiers, a bloody battle took place, in which the ancient inhabitants of southern Gaul, the Gallo-Roman population of Aquitaine and Arvernia (Arvernia, Alvernia, Alvernh, Auvergne),4 aided the Goths in defence of the country. But their cause did not prevail against the conquering ardour of the Franks, powerfully assisted by the fanaticism of the orthodox Gauls; Alarik, king of the Goths, was killed fighting; and the Arvernians in this defeat lost the principal personages of their nation, whom they entitled senators, in imitation of the Romans. Few cities were taken by assault; the surrender of the majority was the result of treachery. All whose consciences had been troubled by the Arian domination, revenged themselves by inflicting every possible injury upon their ancient rulers. The Goths, unable to retain the country, abandoned Aquitaine, and passed into Spain, or took refuge in the fortresses on the Mediterranean; the victorious bands, in whose ranks were combined, under the orders of the converted king, pertinacious pagans and orthodox fanatics, marched to the foot of the Pyrenees, pillaging the cities, devastating the rural districts, and carrying away the inhabitants Edition: current; Page: [24] into slavery.1 Wherever the victorious chief encamped, the orthodox prelates besieged his tent. Germerius, bishop of Toulouse, who abode twenty days with him, eating at his table, received a present of five hundred coins and gold crosses, and silver chalices and patines, three gilt crowns, and three robes of fine linen, taken from the Arian churches.2 Another bishop, who was unable to come himself, wrote thus to the king of the Franks: “Thou shinest in power and majesty; and when thou fightest, to us is the victory.”3

Such was the domination which, extending from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, at length completely surrounded on all sides the western nook of land in which the Britons had taken refuge. Frankish governors established themselves in the cities of Nantes and Rennes. These cities paid tribute to the king of the Franks; but the Britons refused to pay it, and alone dared the attempt to save their narrow country from the destiny of Gaul. This enterprise was all the more perilous to them, that their Christianity, the fruit of the preaching of missionaries from the churches of the East, differed in some points from the doctrines and practices of the Romish church. These, Christians for several centuries past, and perhaps the most fervent Christians in the world, had come into Gaul, accompanied by priests and monks of greater knowledge than those of the isolated province where they fixed their abode.4 They purified the still very imperfect faith of the ancient inhabitants of this country; they even extended their gratuitous preaching into the surrounding territories: and, as their missionaries sought no gain, not accepting money or even maintenance from any one,5 they were everywhere well received. The citizens of Rennes chose an emigrant Briton as their bishop, and the Bretons instituted bishops in many cities of their new country, where there had been none before. They founded this religious constitution as they had founded their Edition: current; Page: [25] civil constitution, without asking permission or advice from any foreign power.1

The chiefs of the Breton church held no intercourse with the prelates of Frankish Gaul, and did not attend the Gaulish councils convoked by the rescripts of the Frank kings. This conduct soon drew upon them the animosity of the other clergy. The archbishop of Tours, who claimed the spiritual superintendence of the whole extent of country which the Roman emperors had named the third Lyonnese (Lugdunensis tertia), summoned the clergy of Brittany, as inhabiting his ancient diocese, to recognise him as metropolitan, and receive his commands. The Bretons did not consider that the imperial circumscription of the Gaulish territories imposed upon them the slightest obligation to subject to the authority of a foreigner the national church, which they had transplanted from beyond seas; moreover, it was not their custom to attach the archiepiscopal supremacy to the possession of a particular see, but to decree it to the most worthy among their bishops. Their religious hierarchy, vague and fluctuating at the popular will, was not rooted in the soil, or graduated in territorial divisions, like those which the emperors instituted when they converted Christianity into a means of government. Accordingly, the ambitious pretensions of the prelate of Tours seemed wholly futile to the Bretons, who paid no heed whatever to it; the Gaulish bishops excommunicated them. They were equally unmoved at this, feeling no regret at being deprived of the communion with strangers, from whom they had themselves separated.2

In punishment of its political and religious independence, this small nation underwent frequent and formidable invasions on the part of the powerful conquerors of Gaul. The Frank kings, having assembled around them, in high council, the governors of their provinces, whom they called grafs, (grav, græf, geref, gerefa, overseer, prefect) and the Gauls counts (comites), the count of the Breton frontier was questioned as to the religious faith of the Bretons: “They do not believe in the true dogmas,” answered the Frank captain; Edition: current; Page: [26] “they do not walk in the straight path.”1 Thereupon war was voted against them by acclamation; an army, collected in Germany and in the north of Gaul, descended towards the mouth of the Loire; priests and monks quitted their books and threw aside the long robe, to accompany, sword in hand and baldric on shoulder, the soldiers, whose laughter they excited by their awkwardness.2 After the first victory, the conqueror issued from his camp, on the river Ellé or Blavet, manifestos respecting the tonsure of the priests and the lives of the monks of Brittany;3 enjoining them, under pain of corporal punishment, to adhere in future to the rules of the Romish church.4

All the differences of opinion and practice between the orthodox church and the Bretons of Gaul, were common to them with the men of the same race who continued to inhabit the island of Britain. The most important point of this schism was the refusal to believe in the original degradation of our nature, and in the damnation of children dying unbaptized. The Britons thought that, in order to become better, man has no need of a supernatural grace gratuitously to enlighten him, but that, by his own will and reason, he may raise himself to moral well being. This doctrine had been professed, from time immemorial, in the poems of the Celtic bards; a Christian priest, born in Breton, and known by the name of Pelagius,5 introduced it into the churches of the East, and created a great sensation by his opposition to the dogma of the culpability of all men, through the fault of their first father. Denounced to the imperial authority as the enemy of the Catholic doctrines, he was banished the Roman world,6 and sentences of proscription were hurled against Edition: current; Page: [27] his disciples. The inhabitants of the island of Britain, already separated from the empire, escaped these persecutions, and might indulge in peace their belief that no man is born guilty; they were simply visited from time to time by orthodox missionaries, who endeavoured to bring them over, by persuasion, to the doctrines of the Romish church.

In the early period of the Saxon invasion, there came into Britain two Gaulish preachers, Lupus, bishop of Troyes, and Germanus, bishop of Auxerre: these men combated the Pelagians, not with logical arguments, but with citations and texts. “How can it be pretended,” said they, “that man is born without original sin, when it is written: “We are born in sin?”

This sort of proof was not without its effect upon simple minds,1 and Germanus of Auxerre succeeded in raising up in Britain that which the orthodox termed the honour of the Divine grace.2 It must be admitted in praise of this person, that an ardent conviction and a charitable zeal were the only motives of his preaching, and that he had a brother’s love towards those whom he essayed to convert. He gave proof of this by himself marching at the head of his proselytes against the conquering Saxons, whom he drove back with the cry of Hallelujah, repeated thrice by his whole troop:3 unhappily, it was not thus that the missionaries, deputed by the Romish church, treated the British population established in Wales.

At the time when the Anglo-Saxons had completed the conquest of the finest portion of the island of Britain, the dignity of bishop or pope of Rome was held by a personage skilfully zealous for the propagation of the catholic faith and the aggrandizement of the new Roman empire, which was establishing itself on the primacy of the see of St. Peter. This pope, Gregory, successfully laboured to concentrate more and more strictly, around the metropolis of the west, the bonds of the episcopal hierarchy created by the policy of the emperors. The Frank kings, orthodox chiefs of armies Edition: current; Page: [28] still semi-pagan,1 were the faithful allies of pope Gregory; and their power, dreaded from afar, gave support and sanction to his pontifical decrees. When he thought fit to impose upon the bishops of Gaul some new law of subordination towards himself or his chosen vicars, he addressed his ordinance to the glorious personages, Hildebert, Theodorik, or Theodebert,2 charging them to enforce its execution by their royal power, and to punish recusants.3 Preposterous flattery, the epithets of most illustrious, most pious, most Christian, and the donation of certain relics, “which, worn round the neck in battle, will protect the wearer from all danger,” were, on the part of the Roman pontiff, the easy payment of the good offices of the barbarian king.4

A similar alliance with the conquerors of Britain, for the benefit of the orthodox faith and of the pontifical supremacy, was an early object of the zeal and ambition of pope Gregory; he formed the design of converting the Anglo Saxons to the doctrines of catholicism, and of applying their domination, as that of the Franks, to the aggrandizement of his spiritual power, which was unrecognised by the British Christians. These, defeated and dispossessed, gave no uneasiness to the Roman pontiff in his projects; they were deficient neither in faith nor in zeal, but, between them and their pagan enemies, any compact was impossible. Resentment of foreign usurpation, and anxiety to provide for the national defence, absorbed all their thoughts; they had neither leisure nor inclination to negotiate with their conquerors pacific relations, which might subsequently create a title of legitimacy for the Anglo-Saxon conquest.5

Pope Gregory thus found the field open to him; and, to pave the way for his enterprise, he sought in the slave markets of various places youths of Anglo-Saxon race, of Edition: current; Page: [29] seventeen or eighteen years of age.1 These his agents bought and placed in monasteries, imposing upon them the task of making themselves acquainted with the doctrines of the catholic faith, so as to be able to teach them in their native language. It would seem that these missionaries on compulsion did not answer the purpose of their masters, for pope Gregory, soon laying aside his fantastic expedient, resolved to intrust the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Romans of tried faith and solid learning. The chief of this mission was named Augustin; he was, ere his departure, consecrated bishop of England. His companions followed him, full of zeal, as far as the city of Aix in Provence; but here they conceived alarm at their enterprise, and desired to retrace their steps. Augustin returned alone, to seek from Gregory, in the name of the mission, permission to withdraw from this perilous journey, the result of which, he said, was extremely precarious among a people of an unknown tongue.2 But the pope would not consent. “It is too late to retreat,” he said; “you must accomplish your enterprise without listening to the ill-disposed; were it possible, I myself would willingly labour with you in this good work.”3 The missionaries belonged to a convent founded by pope Gregory on his own estate, in the very house where he was born; all had sworn obedience to him as to their spiritual father: they therefore obeyed, and went first to Chalons, where dwelt Theodorik, son of Hildebert, king of half the eastern portion of the country conquered by the Franks.4 They next repaired to Metz, where, over the other half, reigned Theodebert, also son of Hildebert.5

The Romans presented to these two kings letters full of panegyrical expressions, calculated to excite their good will, by flattering their vanity to the highest degree. Pope Gregory knew that the Franks were at war with the Saxons of Germany, their neighbours on the north, and, availing himself of this circumstance, he did not hesitate to describe Edition: current; Page: [30] the Anglo-Saxons beyond seas, whom these monks were on their way to convert, as subjects of the Franks: “I have felt,” he wrote to the two sons of Hildebert, “that you would ardently desire the happy conversion of your subjects to the faith which you yourselves profess, you, their lords and kings; this conviction has induced me to send Augustin, the bearer of these presents, with other servants of God, to labour there under your auspices.”1

The mission had also letters for the grandmother of the two young kings, the widow of Sighebert, father of Hildebert, a woman of lofty ambition and rare ability in intrigue, who, in the name of her two grandsons, governed one half of Gaul. She was of the nation of the Goths, then driven by the Frank invasion beyond the Pyrenees. Before her marriage, her name had been Brune, which in the Germanic language signified brilliant; but the Frank king, who espoused her, desiring, say the historians of the time, to augment and adorn her name, called her Brunehilde, that is to say, brilliant girl,2 (Brunehaut, latinè, Brunechildis.) From an Arian she became a catholic, received the unction of the sacred oil, and thenceforward displayed great zeal for her new belief; the bishops vied with each other in praising the purity of her faith, and, in consideration of her pious works, omitted to cast a single glance at her personal immoralities or her political crimes. “You, whose zeal is so ardent, whose works are so pious, whose excellent soul is strong in the fear of the Almighty God,” wrote pope Gregory to this queen, “we pray you to aid us in a great work. The English nation has manifested to us a desire to receive the faith of Christ, and we would satisfy its desire.”3 The Frank kings and their grandmother were in no degree anxious to verify the truth of this ardent desire of the Anglo-Saxon people, or to reconcile it with the evident repugnance and terror of the missionaries: they welcomed the mission, and defrayed its expenses on its way towards the sea. The chief of the western Franks,4 although at war with his relations of the east, received the Romans as graciously as they, and assisted them with men of Edition: current; Page: [31] the Frank nation to act as interpreters between them and the Saxons, who spoke almost the same language.1

By a fortunate chance, it happened that the most powerful of the Anglo-Saxon chiefs, Ethelbert,2 king of Kent, had just married a woman of Frank origin, who professed the Catholic religion. This news raised the courage of the companions of Augustin, and they landed with confidence on the promontory of Thanet, already famous for the disembarkation of the ancient Romans, and of the two brothers who had opened to the Saxons the way into Britain. The Frank interpreters repaired to Ethelbert, and announced to him men who had come from afar to bring him joyful tidings, the offer of an endless happiness in heaven, an eternal kingdom with the true and living God, if he would believe in their words.3 The Saxon king at first gave no positive answer, and ordered that the strangers should remain in the isle of Thanet, until he had deliberated upon what course to adopt with regard to them. We may well suppose that the Christian wife of the pagan king did not remain inactive at this important juncture, and that all the effusions of domestic tenderness were employed to render Ethelbert favourable to the missionaries. He consented to hold a conference with them; but not having wholly overcome his distrust, he could not bring himself to receive them in his palace, or even in his royal city, but visited them in their island, where, further, he required that the interview should take place in the open air, to prevent the effect of any witchcraft which these strangers might employ against him.4 The Romans proceeded to the conference with studied display, in a double rank, preceded by a large silver cross, and a picture representing Christ; they explained the object of their journey, and made their propositions.5

“These are fine words and fine promises,” answered the pagan king; “but as this is all new to me, I cannot at once put faith in it, and abandon for it the belief which I, with my Edition: current; Page: [32] whole nation, profess. However, since you have come so far to communicate to us what you yourselves seem to think good and true, I will not ill treat you; I will furnish you with provisions and lodging, and will leave you free to make known your doctrine, and to convert to it whom you can.”1

The monks repaired to the capital city, which was called the city of the men of Kent, in Saxon, Kentwara-Byrig (Cantware-byrig, Canterbury); they entered it in procession, bearing their cross and their picture, and chanting litanies. They had soon made some proselytes; a church built by the Britons in honour of St. Martin, and deserted since the Saxon conquest, served them for the celebration of mass. They struck the imaginations of men by great austerities; they even performed miracles, and the sight of their prodigies gained the heart of king Ethelbert, who at first had seemed to apprehend sorcery on their part. When the chief of Kent had received baptism, the new religion became the road to royal favour, and numbers accordingly rushed into that path, though king Ethelbert, as the historians tell us, constrained no man.2 As a pledge of his faith, he gave houses and lands to his spiritual fathers; such in all countries was the first payment which the converters of the barbarians demanded. “I supplicate thy grandeur and munificence,” said the priest to the royal neophyte, “to give me some land and all its revenues, not for myself, but for Christ, and to confer these upon me by solemn grant, to the end that thou in return mayst receive numerous possessions in this world, and a still greater number in the world to come.” The king answered: “I confirm to thee in full property without reserve, all this domain, in order that this land be to thee a country, and that in future thou cease to be a stranger among us.”3

Augustin assumed the title of bishop of Kent, (Kent-ware, Cant-wara, latinè, Cantuarii.) The mission extended its labours beyond this territory, and by the influence of example, obtained some success among the eastern Saxons, whose chief, Sighebert, was a relation of Ethelbert. Pope Gregory learned Edition: current; Page: [33] with infinite joy the result of the preaching which had rendered a portion of the conquerors of Britain Christians and Catholics; the latter point, indeed, was the great feature with him, for his attachment to the creed of Nicea and to the doctrines of Saint Augustin rendered him the mortal enemy of all that savoured of schism or heresy; in his purism of orthodoxy, he went so far as to refuse the host to heretics dying in vindication of the faith of Jesus Christ. “The harvest is great,” wrote Augustin to him, “but the husbandmen are few.” Upon this intelligence, a second deputation of missionaries departed from Rome with letters addressed to the bishop of Gaul, and a sort of diplomatic note for Augustin, the grand plenipotentiary of the Roman church in Britain. The note addressed to Melitus and to Laurentius, chiefs of the new mission, was conceived in these terms:

“Gregory, the servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved brother, the abbot Melitus.

“We have been in a state of great anxiety since the departure of our congregation, which you have taken with you, because we have heard nothing of the successful progress of your journey.

“When the Almighty God shall bring you to the presence of that most reverend man, our brother, bishop Augustin, say to him that I have long been cogitating upon the matter of the English people, and the result is this; the fanes of the idols which are amongst that people ought by no means to be demolished, but the idols that are in them ought to be destroyed, the temples, meanwhile, sprinkled with holy water, altars constructed, and relics of the saints deposited. If these temples are well constructed, it is necessary that they be changed from the worship of demons to the service of the true God; so that whilst the people do not see their temples destroyed, they may lay aside the error of their hearts, and, recognising the true God, adore Him in those very places to which they have been in the habit of resorting.

“In the same manner, let this be done: as these people have been in the habit of slaying many cattle in the sacrifices to their demons, so for their sakes ought there to be some solemnity, the object of it only being changed. Then upon a dedication, or upon the nativity of some of the holy martyrs, Edition: current; Page: [34] whose relics are in the churches, let it be permitted to make arbours with the branches of trees, around what once were but heathen temples. Then celebrate such solemnities with religious feasts, so that the people will not immolate animals to the devil, but slay them and partake of them, with thanks and praises to God, for that abundance which has been bestowed upon them by Him who is the giver of all things; and thus whilst exterior joys are permitted to them, they may with the greater facility be attached to those joys that are of the spirit. For be it remembered, that it is not possible at once to deprive those whose minds are hardened, of all things. He who tries to reach the highest place, does so gradually, and step by step, and is never elevated by leaps. When our Lord made himself known to the people of Israel in Egypt, He still reserved for his own use the sacrifices which it had been accustomed to tender to the demon, and he even commanded them to immolate animals in His honour; so that as their hearts changed they would lose one portion of the sacrifice; that whilst the animals were immolated, as they had been immolated, yet being offered to God, and not to idols, the sacrifices may no longer be the same.”1

Together with these instructions, Melitus and Laurentius delivered to Augustin, the ornament of the pallium, which, according to the ceremonial the Romish church had borrowed from the Roman empire, was the living and official emblem of the power to command given to bishops. They at the same time brought a plan of an ecclesiastical constitution, prepared beforehand at Rome to be applied to the provinces of England, as the domain of the spiritual conquest became extended over them. According to this project, Augustin was to appoint twelve bishops, and to fix in London, when that city should become Christian, the metropolitan see, upon which the twelve other bishoprics should be dependent. In like manner, as soon as the great northern city, called in Latin Eboracum, and in Saxon Eoforwic, Everwic, (York), should have received Christianity, Augustin was to institute there a bishop, who, in his turn receiving the pallium, should become Edition: current; Page: [35] the metropolitan of twelve others. The latter metropolitan, though dependent upon Augustin during his life, was under the successors of Augustin to be subject only to Rome.1

Regarding these arrangements solely under their material aspect, we may fancy we see the revival under other forms of the partition of provinces conquered or to be conquered, which in anterior ages so often occupied the Roman senate. The see of the first archbishop of the Saxons was not established at London, as the papal instructions had ordered; and either to conciliate the new Christian king of Kent, or in order to watch him more closely, and to be nearer at hand to oppose in him any return of old habits, Augustin fixed his abode in the city of Canterbury, in the very palace of Ethelbert, the king himself retiring to Reculver. Another Roman missionary was fixed as a simple bishop in London, the capital of the eastern Saxons; and Rofeskester, now Rochester, became the seat of a second bishopric. The metropolitan and his two suffragans had the reputation of performing miracles, and the fame of their marvellous works soon spread even into Gaul. Pope Gregory skilfully made use of this intelligence to re-animate in the hearts of the Frank kings the love and fear of Rome;2 but, while fully availing himself of the renown of Augustin, it was not without umbrage that he saw this renown augment, and his subaltern agent viewed by men as another apostle.3 There exists an ambiguous letter, wherein the pope, not venturing to express his whole opinion on this matter, appears to caution the apostle of the Saxons not to forget his rank and his duty, and to recommend him quietly to modify the exercise of his supernatural powers.4

“On learning,” says Gregory, “the great marvels that our God has been pleased to operate by your hands, in the eyes of the nation he has elected, I rejoiced thereat, because external prodigies efficaciously serve to give souls an inclination towards Edition: current; Page: [36] internal grace: but you yourself must take good heed, that amidst these prodigies your spirit be not inflated and become presumptuous; beware least that which outwardly raises you in consideration and honour, should inwardly become unto you a cause of fall, by the allurements of vain glory.”1 These counsels were not without their meaning; the ambitious character of Augustin had already manifested itself in a sufficiently evident manner: unsatisfied with his dignity of metropolitan of the English, he coveted a more flattering and more assured supremacy over nations long since Christian. In one of his despatches to Rome, there was, among other things, this brief and peremptory question: “How am I to deal with the bishops of Gaul and the bishops of the Britons?”2 “As to the bishops of Gaul,” answered Gregory, somewhat alarmed at the question, “I have not given thee, and I do not give thee any authority over them: the prelate of Arles has received the pallium from me; I cannot take his power from him; it is he who is the chief and judge of the Gauls; and as for thee, thou art forbidden to put the reaping-hook of judgment in the corn-field of another.3 As for the bishops of the Briton-race, I confide them all to thee; teach the ignorant, strengthen the weak, and chastise evil doers.”4

The enormous difference which the Roman pontiff thought proper to establish between the Gauls, whom he protected against the pretensions of Augustin, and the Cambrians, whom he abandoned to him, will be understood, when we call to mind that the Cambrians were schismatics. This unfortunate remnant of a great nation, restricted to a mere corner of their ancient country, had lost all, says one of their old poets, but their name, their language, and their God.5 They believed in one God in three persons, a rewarder and avenger, but not punishing, as the Romish church maintained, the sins of the father in his posterity; granting his grace to whomsoever practised justice, and not damning children who die before they have possibly committed a single sin. To these disagreements as to dogma, the result of the Pelagian or semi-Pelagian Edition: current; Page: [37] opinions retained by the Britons, were added other differences relating to points of discipline and arising from local customs, or from the oriental traditions which the British church, a daughter of the churches of the east, followed in preference. The form of the clerical tonsure and that of the monastic habit were not the same in Britain as in Italy and Gaul; they did not in Britain celebrate the festival of Easter precisely at the period fixed by the decrees of the popes. Although very rigid, the rules of the British monasteries were in this way peculiar, that very few of the monks took orders, either of priesthood or clerkship, and that all the rest, simple laymen, laboured with their hands the whole day, exercising some art or trade for their own support and that of the community.1 The Cambrians had bishops; but these bishops were, most of their time, without any fixed see: they lived sometimes in one town, sometimes in another, true overseers; and their archbishop, in the same way, lived now at Kerleon (Caër-Lleon) on the Usk, now at Menew, (Mynyw, latine Menevia) since named Saint David’s; this archbishop, independent of all foreign authority, did not receive the pallium, or solicit it. These were crimes in the eyes of the Roman clergy, who desired that all should bow beneath the supremacy of their church,2 and fully sufficed to warrant pope Gregory, according to his view of the matter, in not recognising any of the bishops of Cambria as a religious authority, and in handing them over to the guardianship and correction of one of his missionaries.

Augustin, by an express message, conveyed to the clergy of the conquered Britons the order to acknowledge him archbishop of the whole island, under pain of incurring the anger of the Romish church, and that of the Anglo-Saxon kings. For the purpose of demonstrating to the Cambrian priests and monks the legitimacy of his pretensions, he invited them to a conference on the banks of the Severn, the boundary of their territory and that of the conquerors. The assembly was Edition: current; Page: [38] held in the open air, under a large oak.1 Here Augustin called upon the Britons to reform their religious practices according to the discipline of Rome, to join the Catholic unity, to give obedience to himself, and to employ themselves, under his direction, in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. In aid of his harangue, he produced a counterfeit blind man, a Saxon by birth, and pretended to restore him to sight;2 but neither the eloquence of the Roman nor his miracle could awe the Cambrians, and make them abjure their ancient spirit of independence. Augustin was not discouraged; he appointed a second interview, to which repaired, with a complaisance which proved their good faith, seven bishops of British race and many monks, chiefly from a large monastery called Bangor,3 situated in North Wales, on the banks of the Dee.

On their approach, the Roman did not deign to rise from his seat; and this token of pride at once wounded them. “We will never admit the pretended rights of Roman ambition,” said their spokesman, Dimothus, “any more than those of Saxon tyranny. In the bond of love and charity, we are all subjects and servants to the church of God, yea, to the pope of Rome, and every good Christian, to help them forward, both in deed and in word, to be the children of God; but for the submission of obedience, we owe that only to God, and, after God, to our venerable head, the bishop of Kerleon on Use. Besides, we would ask why those who glorify themselves upon having converted the Saxons, have never reprimanded them for their acts of violence towards us and their spoliation of us?”4

The only answer made by Augustin was a formal summons to the Welsh priests to acknowledge him as archbishop, and to aid him in converting the Germans of the island of Britain. The Welshmen unanimously replied that they would not unite in friendship with the invaders of their country, until these had restored all which they had unjustly wrested from Edition: current; Page: [39] them: “And as for the man,” added they, “who does not rise and pay us respect when he is only our equal, how much greater the contempt he would manifest for us, if we admitted him superior.”1 “Well, then,” exclaimed the missionary, in a threatening tone, “since you will not have peace with your brethren, you shall have to endure war with your foes; since you refuse to join me in teaching the way of life to the Saxons, ere long, by a just judgment of God, you shall have to suffer from the Saxons the bitter pains of death.”2

And, in effect, but a short time had elapsed when the king of an Anglo-Saxon tribe, still pagan, marched from the north country to the very spot where the conference had been held The monks of Bangor, bearing in mind the menace of Augustin, quitted their convent in the utmost terror, and fled to the army which the chief of the Welsh province of Powis assembled. This army was defeated, and in the rout the victorious king perceived a body of men singularly clad, without arms, and all kneeling. He was told that these were the people of the great monastery, and that they were praying for the safety of their countrymen. “If they cry to their God for my enemies,” said the Saxon, “they are fighting against me, though without arms;”3 and he had them all massacred, to the number of two hundred. The monastery of Bangor, whose chief had been the spokesman in the fatal interview with Augustin, was razed to the ground; “and it was thus,” say the ecclesiastical authors, “that the prediction of the holy pontiff was accomplished, and those perfidious men who had slighted his counsels in aid of their eternal salvation, punished with death in this world.”4 It was a national tradition among the Welsh, that the chief of the new Anglo-Saxon church caused this invasion, and pointed out the monastery of Bangor to the pagans of Northumberland. It is impossible to affirm anything positive on this point; but the coincidence of time rendered the imputation so grave as to make the friends of the Romish church desirous of destroying all traces of that coincidence. In almost all the manuscripts of the sole historian of these events, they inserted the statement that Augustin was dead when the defeat of the Britons and the massacre of Edition: current; Page: [40] the monks of Bangor took place.1 Augustin was, indeed, old at this period; but he lived at least a year after the military execution which he had so exactly predicted.

On his death, Laurentius, a Roman, like himself, took the title of archbishop; Melitus and Justus were still bishops, the one of London, the other of Rochester. The first had converted to Christianity Sighebert, a relation of Ethelbert, who, in the novelty of his conversion, manifested infinite zeal, and surrounded his growing clergy with honours and authority. But this state of things was not of long duration: this fervent king was succeeded by princes indifferent or even opposed to the new worship; and when the two sons of Sighebert (familiarly termed Sibert, or Sib) had committed their father to the tomb, they returned to paganism, and abolished all the laws directed against the old national religion. Being, however, of gentle disposition, they at first did not persecute either bishop Melitus or the small number of true believers who continued to listen to him; they even attended the Christian church, to pass the time, or perhaps with a sort of inward doubting.

One day that the Roman was administering the communion of the Eucharist to his faithful, the two young chiefs said to him: “Why dost thou not offer to us, as well as to the others, some of that white bread which thou didst use to give our father Sib?”2 “If,” answered the bishop, “you will wash in the fountain of salvation, wherein your father was washed, you shall, like him, share this wholesome bread.” “We will not enter the fountain; we have no need of it; but still we desire to refresh ourselves with that bread.”3 They several times renewed this singular request; the Roman on each occasion repeated that he could not accede to it; and they, imputing his refusal simply to ill will, became irritated, and said: “Since thou wilt not please us in so easy a matter, thou shalt quit our country.”4

And they drove him and all his companions from London. The exiles went into Kent, to Laurentius and Justus, whom Edition: current; Page: [41] they found also discouraged by the indifference manifested towards them by the successor of Ethelbert. They all resolved to pass into Gaul. Melitus and Justus departed together; but Laurentius, on the point of following them, determined to make one last effort to turn the mind of the king of Kent, still wavering and uncertain, he believed, as to the religion of his ancestors. The last night that he was to pass among the Saxons, he had his bed set up in the church of Saint Peter, built at Canterbury by the old king; and in the morning he issued from it, bruised, wounded, and bleeding. In this state he presented himself before Edbald,1 son of Ethelbert. “See,” he cried, “what the apostle Peter hath done unto me in punishment of my having for a moment thought of quitting his flock.”2 The Saxon king was struck by this spectacle, and trembled lest he himself should incur the hostility of the holy apostle, who so severely chastised his friends. He invited Laurentius to remain, recalled Justus, and promised to employ all his authority in reconverting those who, following his example, had fallen into apostasy. Thanks to the aid of the temporal arm, the faith of Christ arose once more, never again to be extinguished, on both banks of the Thames. Melitus was the successor of Laurentius in the archiepiscopal see; Justus succeeded Melitus; and the king of Kent, Edbald, who had been on the point of driving them all away, was complimented by the sovereign pontiff upon the purity of his belief and the perfection of his Christian works.3

A few years after these events, a sister of Edbald, Ethelberge,4 was married to the pagan chief of the country north of the Humber. The bride left Kent, accompanied by a priest of Roman birth, named Paulinus, who was beforehand consecrated archbishop of York, according to the plan of pope Gregory, and in the hope that the faithful wife would convert the infidel husband. The king of Northumberland,5 named Edition: current; Page: [42] Edwin,1 allowed his wife Ethelberge to practise the Christian religion under the auspices of the man she had brought with her, whose black hair and brown thin face astonished the light-haired inhabitants of the country.2 When the wife of Edwin became a mother, Paulinus gravely announced to the Anglo-Saxon king that he had obtained for her the blessing of child-bearing without pain, on condition that the child should be baptized in the name of Christ.3 In the effusion of his paternal joy, the pagan consented to all his wife desired; but, on his part, he would not hear of any proposition of baptism, though he allowed free speech to those who desired to convert him, argued with them, and sometimes embarrassed them.4

In order to attract him, if possible, towards celestial things by the bait of worldly goods, there came from Rome a letter addressed by pope Boniface “to the glorious Edwin:” “I send you,” wrote the pontiff, “the benediction of your protector, the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, that is to say, a linen shirt ornamented with gold embroidery, and a mantle of fine wool of Ancona.”5 Ethelberge, in the same way, received as a pledge of the blessing of the apostle Peter, a gilt ivory comb and a silver mirror. These gifts were accepted, but they did not decide king Edwin, whose reflective mind could only be gained over by a strong moral impression.6

The life of the Saxon had been marked by an extraordinary adventure, of which he thought he had kept the secret wholly to himself; but it had probably escaped him amidst the endearments of wedded life. In his youth, before he became king, he had incurred a great peril; surprised by enemies, who sought his life, he had fallen into their hands. In the prison where he languished, without hope of safety, his heated imagination had, in a dream, brought before him an unknown personage, who approached him with a grave air, and said: “What wouldst thou promise to him who would and could save Edition: current; Page: [43] thee?” “Aught that it shall ever be in my power to perform,” answered the Saxon. “Well,” replied the unknown, “if he who can save thee only required of thee to live according to his counsels, wouldst thou follow them?” Edwin swore it, and the apparition, stretching forth his hand, and putting it on his head, said, “When such a sign shall again present itself to thee, recal this moment and our conversation.”1 Edwin escaped his danger by some happy chance, but the memory of his dream remained engraven on his mind.

One day that he was alone in his apartment, the door suddenly opened, and he saw enter a personage, who advanced gravely forward like the man in his dream, and who, without pronouncing a single word, placed his hand upon his head. It was Paulinus, to whom, according to the ecclesiastical historians,2 the Holy Spirit had revealed the infallible means of overcoming the king’s obstinacy. The victory was complete; the Saxon, struck with utter amazement, fell with his face to the ground, whence the Roman, now his master, graciously raised him.3 Edwin promised to be a Christian: but firm in his good sense, he promised for himself alone, saying that the men of the country should themselves decide what to do.4 Paulinus asked him to convoke the great national council, called in the Saxon language, wittena-ghemote, the assembly of the sages, summoned around the German kings on all important occasions, and at which were present the magistrates, the rich landed proprietors, the warriors of high grade, and the priests of the gods.5 King Edwin explained to this assembly the reasons of his change of faith; and addressing all present, one after another, he asked them what they thought of this new doctrine.

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To this question, the chief of the pagan high priests, Coifi, thus replied:—“Your majesty sees, and can judge of that religion, which is now expounded to us; whilst I can truly declare to you, that which I most assuredly know, namely, that there is no advantage in the religion to which we hitherto have adhered. There is no one, for instance, who has been more devout in the worship of our gods than myself, and yet, there are many who receive greater benefits from you, who are possessed of more dignified offices, and who are far more prosperous in all their undertakings than myself. If our gods could be of any avail, assuredly they would have assisted him who paid the most court to them. It follows from this, that if, upon a due examination, you shall find that the new doctrines that are preached to you are better and superior to the old, then you are bound, in common with us all, not to delay the adoption of them.”1

A chief of the warriors then arose, and spoke thus:—“The life of man,” said he, “on this earth, in comparison to that space of time which is unknown to us, is like to that which may happen when you with your nobles and attendants are seated at supper, in the winter season, and when a fire is lighted in the midst, and the room is filled with the genial heat, whilst the whirlwind rages, the rain beats, and the snow falls outside, and a sparrow flutters quickly in at one door, and flies as hastily out at the other. During the brief period that it is within the room, the chill of winter does not touch it; but in an instant the serenity it has enjoyed in its flight has disappeared—and as you look upon it, it has flashed from the darkness of winter at one door, into the darkness of winter in which it disappears at the other—such, too, is the brief measure of human existence. We know not what went before, and we are utterly ignorant as to what shall follow. If the new doctrine can make you more certain as to this, then it is one, in my opinion, that ought to be adopted by us.”2

After the other chiefs had spoken, and the Roman had explained his dogmas, the assembly, voting as in sanction of national laws, solemnly renounced the worship of the ancient gods. But when the missionary proposed to destroy the Edition: current; Page: [45] images of those gods, none among the new Christians felt himself firmly enough convinced to brave the perils of such a profanation; none save the high priest, who demanded of the king arms and a full-horse, that he might thus violate the rule of his order, which prohibited priests to assume warlike habits, or to ride on anything but a mare.1 Then, girt with a sword, and brandishing a pike, he galloped to the temple, and in sight of all the people, who thought him mad, he struck the walls and images with his lance. A wooden house was raised wherein king Edwin and a great number of men were baptized.2 Paulinus having thus really achieved the archbishopric of which he bore the title, traversed the countries of Deire3 and Bernicia, and baptized in the waters of the Swale and the Glen those who hastened to obey the decree of the assembly of sages.4

The political influence of the great kingdom of Northamberland drew towards Christianity the population of the East-Angles, or eastern English, dwelling south of the Humber, and north of the eastern Saxons. This people had already heard some discourses of the Roman bishops of the south; but the two religions were still so equally balanced, that the chief of the country, Redwald,5 had two altars in the same temple, one to Christ and the other to the Teutonic gods, whom he invoked alternately.6 Thirty years after the conversion of the people on the banks of the Humber, a woman of that country converted the chief of the kingdom of Mercia, which then extended from the Humber to the Thames. The Anglo-Saxons who latest retained their ancient worship, were those of the southern coasts; they did not renounce it until the end of the seventh century.7

Eight Roman monks were successively archbishops of Canterbury, before that dignity, instituted for the Saxons, was attained by a man of Saxon race, Berhtwald, or Brithwald. Edition: current; Page: [46] The successors of Augustin did not renounce the hope of constraining the clergy of Cambria to yield to their authority. They overwhelmed the Welsh priests with summonings and messages; they even extended their ambitious pretensions over the priests of Erin, as independent as the Britons of all foreign supremacy, and so zealous for the Christian faith, that their country was surnamed the Isle of Saints. But this merit of holiness, without complete subjection to the power of the Romish church, was as nothing in the eyes of the members of that church who had established their spiritual dominion over the portion of Britain conquered by the Anglo-Saxons. They sent messages full of pride and acerbity to the inhabitants of Erin: “We, the deputies of the apostolic see in the western regions, of late foolishly credited the reputation of your island for holiness; but we now fully regard you as no better than the Britons.1 The journey of Columban into Gaul, and that of a certain Dagaman into Britain, have fully convinced us of this, for among other things, this Dagaman passed by the places we inhabit, and not only refused to eat at our table, but even to take his meals in the same house with us.”2

This journey into Gaul, cited in proof of the ill doctrines and perversity of the Christians of Hibernia, had in it circumstances which deserve mention. Columban, or more correctly Colum, an Irishman by birth, and a missionary by inspiration, filled with a desire to seek adventures and perils for the sake of the Christian faith, had put to sea with twelve chosen companions. He passed into Britain, and thence into Gaul; then proceeding to the eastern frontier of that country, by which German paganism was rushing in or threatening to do so, he resolved to establish a place of prayer and preaching.3 After having traversed the vast forests of the Vosges, he selected as a residence the ruins of a Roman fortress, called Luxovium, now Luxeuil, in the centre of which was a spring of mineral waters and magnificent baths, adorned with marble basins and statues. These ruins furnished Columban and his companions with materials for Edition: current; Page: [47] building a house and an oratory, and the monastery founded by them was established according to the rule of the convents of Ireland.1 The reputation for sanctity of these cenobites from beyond sea, soon attracted numerous disciples, and the visits of powerful personages. Theodorik, the Frank king, in whose country they were, came to recommend himself to their prayers.

Columban, with a freedom which no member of the Gallo-Frankish clergy had permitted himself, severely remonstrated with the visitor upon the wicked life he led, instead of espousing a lawful wife, with concubines and mistresses.2 These reproaches displeased the king less than they did the king’s grandmother, that Brunechild whose piety pope Gregory had so lauded, and who, the more absolutely to govern her grandson, dissuaded him from, and gave him a distaste for marriage.3 At the instigation of this woman, as cunning as she was ambitious, the Frank lords and the bishops themselves laboured, by malignant observations, to indispose Theodorik towards the chief of the foreign monks. He was accused of being of but doubtful orthodoxy, of creating a schism in the Gaulish church, of following an unwonted rule, by which no lay visitor was admitted into the interior of the monastery.4 After a scene of violence, in which the king, coming to Luxeuil, penetrated into the refectory, and in which Columban asserted his rule with inflexible courage, the Irishman was ordered to retrace the same road he had come.5 An escort of soldiers, under the order of count Theudoald and bishop Suffronius, conducted him to Besançon, from Besançon to Autun, from Autun to Nevers, and thence by the Loire to Nantes, where he embarked for Ireland.6 But his adventurous destiny and his ardent zeal took him back to Gaul, whence he crossed the Helvetian Alps into Italy, where he died. Such was the man from whose conduct the bishops of Saxon Britain judged that the Christianity of the inhabitants of Hibernia was of a suspicious nature, and that it had need to be purified and reformed by them.7

The same church which expelled the censurer of the Frank Edition: current; Page: [48] kings from Gaul, gave to the Anglo-Saxon kings consecrated crosses for standards, when they went to exterminate the ancient Christians of Britain.1 The latter, in their national poems, attribute much of their disasters to a foreign conspiracy, and to monks whom they call unjust.2 In their conviction of the ill-will of the Romish church towards them, they daily became more confirmed in their determination to reject her dogmas and her empire; they preferred addressing themselves, as they repeatedly did, to the church of Constantinople, for counsel in theological difficulties. The most renowned of their ancient sages, Cattawg, at once bard and Christian priest, curses, in his political effusions, the negligent shepherd who does not guard the flock of God against the wolves of Rome.3

But the ministers and envoys of the pontifical court, thanks to the religious dependence in which they held the powerful Anglo-Saxon kings, gradually, by means of terror, subdued the free spirit of the British churches. In the eighth century, a bishop of North Cambria celebrated the festival of Easter on the day prescribed by the catholic councils; the other bishops arose against this change; and, on the rumour of this dispute, the Anglo-Saxons made an irruption into the southern provinces where the opposition was manifested.4 To obviate foreign war and the desolation of his country, a Welsh chief attempted to sanction, by his civil authority, the alteration of the ancient religious customs; the public mind was so irritated at this, that the chieftain was killed in a revolt. However, the national pride soon declined, and weariness of a struggle constantly renewing, brought a large portion of the Welsh clergy to the centre of catholicism. The religious subjection of the country was thus gradually effected; but it was never so complete as that of England.

5 The kings of the Saxons and of the Angles had for the city of Rome and the see of St. Peter, a veneration which they frequently testified by rich offerings, and even by annual tributes, under the name of Rome-money or Church-money. The Edition: current; Page: [49] successors of the ancient leaders of adventurers Henghist, Horsa, Kerdic, Ælla and Ida, taught by the Roman clergy to assume the peaceful symbols of the royal dignity, and to bear, instead of the hatchets of their ancestors, staves with gilt ornaments, ceased to place the exercises of war in the first rank.1 Their ambition now was to see around them, not like their fathers, troops of warriors, but numerous converts under the rule of Saint Benedict, the most in favour with the pope. They themselves in many cases cut off their long hair to devote themselves to seclusion, and, if the need of an active life detained them amidst public affairs, they reckoned the consecration of a monastery as one of the great days of their reign. This event was celebrated with all the pomp of national solemnities;2 the chiefs, bishops, warriors, sages of the people, were assembled, and the king sat in the midst of them surrounded by his family. When the newly built walls had been sprinkled with holy water, and consecrated in the names of the blessed apostles Peter or Paul, the Saxon king arose and said aloud:—3

“Thanks be given unto God Most High, that I have been enabled to do somewhat in honour of Christ and the holy apostles. All you here present be witnesses and guarantees of the donation, made by me to the monks of this place, of the lands, waters, meres, weirs, and fens hereafter set forth. I will that they have and hold them, in full and royal manner,4 so that no tax be levied upon them, and that the monastery be subject to no power on earth, save the holy see of Rome; for it is here that those among us who cannot go to Rome, shall visit Saint Peter. Let those who succeed me, whether my son, my brothers, or any other person, inviolably maintain this donation, if they would participate in eternal life, if they would be saved from eternal fire: whosoever shall abridge any part of it, may the porter of heaven abridge his share of heaven; whosoever shall add to it, may the porter of heaven add to his share of heaven.”5 The king then took the roll of parchment on which was set forth the deed of donation, and drew a cross upon it; after him, his wife, his sons, his brothers, his sisters, the bishops, Edition: current; Page: [50] the public officers, and all persons of high rank, successively subscribed the same sign, repeating the form: “I confirm it by my mouth and by the cross of Christ.”1

This good understanding between the Anglo-Saxons and the court of Rome, or rather the absolute submission of the former to the latter, which gradually converted its religious primacy into political suzerainty, was not of very long duration. The illusion upon the imagination wore off, the dependence was more and more felt. While some kings bowed their head before the representative of the apostle who opened and shut the doors of heaven,2 there were others who repudiated the infliction of the law of the foreigner, disguised under the name of the Catholic faith.3 In this struggle, the members of the Saxon clergy, the spiritual sons of the Romish church, at first ranged themselves on her side and defended her power;4 but afterwards, themselves drawn into the current of national opinion, they claimed to owe to papacy only the duties of respect which the British Christians had offered to render it in the time of Augustin, and which it had so harshly disdained. The English people then became to the court of Rome, what the Cambrians had been at the time of their schism; by a conduct less religious than politic, it accordingly united itself with their national enemies; it excited foreign ambition against them, as it had excited their own ambition against the indigenous Britons. It promised, in the name of Saint Peter, their country and their goods, with absolution from all sin, to whomsoever would march against them; and to recover the tribute at first paid voluntarily, and then refused by slackened zeal or patriotic economy, it engaged in an enterprise, the aim of which was the subjection of the nation.

The detail of these later events and their consequences will occupy the greater portion of this history, devoted, as its title indicates, to the narrative of the fall of the Anglo-Saxon people. But we have not yet regularly attained this point; the reader’s attention must still be directed to the victorious Germanic race and the conquered Celtic race; he must view the white standard of the Saxons and of the Angles gradually Edition: current; Page: [51] driving the red standard of the Kymri1 back towards the west. The Anglo-Saxon frontiers, continually enlarging in the west, after being extended on the north to the Forth and the Clyde, were again contracted in this direction at the close of the seventh century. The Picts and the Scots, attacked by Egfrith,2 king of Northumberland, skilfully drew him into the gorges of their mountains, defeated him, and after their victory advanced south of the Forth as far as the Tweed, the banks of which they then made the limits of their territory. This limit, which the inhabitants of the south never afterwards altered, marked from that day the new point of separation between the two parts of Britain.3 The tribes of Anglian race who inhabited the plain between the Forth and the Tweed became by this change embodied with the population of Picts and Scots, or Scotch, the name which this mixed population soon took, and from which was formed the modern name of the country.

At the other extremity of the island, the men of Cornwall, isolated as they were, long struggled for independence, aided occasionally by the Britons of Armorica.4 In the end, they became tributaries of the western Saxons; but this was never the case with the people of Wales: “Never,” exclaim their old poets, “no, never shall the Kymri pay tribute; they will fight till death for the possession of the lands, bathed by the Wye.”5 It was, in fact, the banks of that river which stayed the progress of Saxon domination; the last chieftain by whom it was extended was a king of Mercia, named Offa.6 He passed the Severn by the chain of mountains which, as it were the Apennines of southern Briton, had hitherto protected the last asylum of the conquered. Almost fifty miles beyond these mountains, on the west, Offa, instead of these natural boundaries, constructed a long rampart and trench, which extended from south to north, from the Wye to the valleys Edition: current; Page: [52] through which runs the Dee.1 Here was permanently fixed the frontier of the two races of men who, with unequal shares, conjointly inhabited the south of the island of Britain, from the Tweed to Cape Cornwall.

North of the bay into which the Dee discharges itself, the country inclosed between the mountains and the sea had already, for half a century, been subjugated by the English, and depopulated of the ancient Britons. The fugitives from these countries had reached the great asylum of Wales, or rather, the corner of land, bristling with mountains, which is washed by the sea at the bay of Solway. Here they for a long period preserved a sort of savage liberty, distinguished from the English race, in the language of that race, by the name of Cambrians; a name that remained attached to the country which was their asylum.2 Beyond the plains of Galloway, in the deep valleys of the Clyde (Ystrad-Clwyd), small British tribes, who, favoured by the locality, had maintained their freedom among the Angles, maintained it likewise among the Scots and Picts, when these had conquered all the lowlands of Scotland to Annandale and the Tweed. This last remnant of the pure race of Britons had for their capital and fortress the town, built upon a rock, which is now called Dumbarton, (Dun-briton, the town of the Britons.) So far down as the tenth century, we find traces of their independent existence; but after that period, they ceased to be designated by their ancient national name, either because they were all at once annihilated by some war, or because they had insensibly become incorporated with the mass of the population which surrounded them on all sides.

Thus disappeared from the island of Britain, with the exception of the remnant left in the small and sterile province of Wales, the Celtic race of Cambrians, Logrians, and Britons especially so called, partly direct emigrants from the eastern extremity of Europe, and partly colonists who had come into Britain, after an intermediate stay of various duration, on the western coast of Gaul. This poor wreck of a great nation had the glory of defending the possession of their last corner of territory against the efforts of an enemy immensely superior Edition: current; Page: [53] in numbers and wealth; often defeated, they were never subjugated, and, from century to century, they bore deep within their hearts the immovable conviction of a mysterious eternity reserved for their name and their language. From the very outset of their national defeats, this eternity was announced to them by the Welsh bards;1 and each time that, in the progress of years, a new foreign invader traversed the mountains of Cambria, let his victories have been as complete as they might, he still heard this cry from the vanquished: “Do thy worst: thou canst not destroy our name or our language.” Chance, valour, and more particularly the nature of the country, composed of rocks, lakes, and sands, vindicated the daringly sanguine prediction; but in itself, it must be ever regarded as a remarkable proof of energy and imagination in the petty people who unhesitatingly acted upon it as a national article of faith.2

The ancient Britons lived and breathed in poetry: the expression may seem extravagant, but it is not so in reality; for, in their political maxims, preserved to our own times, they place the poet-musician beside the agriculturist and the artist, as one of the three pillars of social existence.3 Their poets had but one theme: the destiny of their country, its misfortunes and its hopes. The nation, a poet in its turn, caught up and adopted their fictions with earnest enthusiasm, giving the wildest construction to their simplest expressions: that which in the bard was merely a patriotic wish, became to the excited imagination of the hearers a national promise; his expectations were for them prophecies; his very silence was a confirmation of their dreamiest speculations. That he sang not the death of Arthur, was a proof that Arthur still lived; and when the harper, without any particular meaning, sounded a melancholy strain, the auditors at once spontaneously applied to the vague melody the name of some spot become mournful to the nation, as the scene of a battle lost, of some triumph of the foreign aggressor.4 These memories of the past, these hopes of the future, embellished, Edition: current; Page: [54] in the eyes of the later Cambrians, their land of rocks and marshes. Though poor,1 they were gay and sociable; they bore misery lightly, as a transient suffering, and awaited, with untiring patience, the grand political revolution which was to give back to them all they had lost, to render them, as one of their bards2 expresses it, the crown of Britain.

Centuries after centuries passed away; yet, notwithstanding the predictions of the poets, the land of the ancient Britons did not come back again to the hands of their descendants. If the foreign oppressor was vanquished, it was not by the nation justly entitled to this retributive victory; his defeat and his subjection in no degree benefited the refugees of Wales. The narrative of the reverses of the Anglo-Saxons, invaded and subjugated in their turn by a people from beyond seas, will occupy the following pages. And here this race, hitherto victorious over all those that had preceded it in Britain, will excite a species of interest to which it had not previously given rise; for its cause will become the good cause, the cause of the suffering and oppressed. If distance of time ever weakens the impression produced in former ages by contemporary calamities, it is when the want of vivid memorials throws the veil of oblivion more or less completely over the sufferings of those who have so long since passed away. But in presence of the old documents wherein these sufferings are described with a minuteness and a naiveté which seem actually to bring before us the men of remote ages, a sentiment of gentle pity awakens in our hearts, and blending with the impartiality of the historian, softens him, without in the least impairing his determination to be honest and just.

Edition: current; Page: [55]


First landing of the Danish pirates—Their character; their conquests in England—Invasion of Ragnar Lodbrog; his death-song—Descent of the Danes in the south—Destruction of the monasteries—Termination of the kingdom of East Anglia—Invasion of the kingdom of Wessex—Resistance of Alfred—Flight of king Alfred—His return; he attacks the Danes, and concludes peace with them—Successive combinations of the English territory under a sole royalty—Descent of Hasting upon England—Election of king Edward—Conquests of king Athelstan—Victory of Brunanburg—Defeat of Erik the Dane—Political results of the defeats of the Danes—Fresh emigrations from Denmark—Massacre of the Danes—Grand armament of Swen—Patriotic firmness of archbishop Elfeg; his death—Ethelred takes refuge in Gaul—Foundation of the empire of the Franks—Dismemberment of that empire—Invasion of Gaul by the Danes or Normans—New states formed in Gaul—Limits and populations of the kingdom of France—Exile of Roll, son of Roguvald—The Norwegian exiles establish themselves at Rouen—First negotiation of the French with the Normans—Roll elected chief of the Normans—Second negotiation—Cession of Neustria and Brittany—Conference at Saint-Clair-sur-Epte—Conversion and baptism of Roll, first duke of Normandy—Division of Normandy—Language and manners of the people of Bayeux—Social state of Normandy—Insurrection of the peasants of Normandy—Violent measures to suppress the insurrection—Language and political relations of the Gallo-Normans—Ethelred recalled—Godwin saves the life of a Danish chief—Knut the Dane becomes king of all England—Proscriptions in England—Marriage of king Knut; remarkable change in his character and conduct—He institutes Peter’s pence—Temporal power of the popes—Pilgrimage of Knut to Rome—Letter written by king Knut—Rise of Godwin—Harold and Hardeknut, kings of England—Preparations for war between the Anglo-Saxons and the Anglo-Danes—Harold sole king of England—Alfred, son of Ethelred, reappears in England—His violent death—Hardeknut’s barbarity—His exactions—The Danes driven from England—Election of Edward, son of Ethelred—His marriage with Editha—Re-establishment of English independence—Hostility of the people to the Norman favourites of king Edward.

For more than a century and a half, almost the entire of southern Britain had borne the name of England, and in the language of its German-descended possessors, that of Edition: current; Page: [56] Briton or Welsh, had meant serf or tributary,1 when a body of men, of unknown race, entered, in three vessels, a port on the eastern coast. In order to learn whence they came and what they wanted, the Saxon magistrate of the place2 proceeded to the shore where they had landed; the strangers suffered him to approach; then surrounding him and his escort, they fell upon them, killed them, and, having pillaged the town, returned with the booty to their ships and departed.3

Such was the first appearance in England of the northern pirates, variously called Danes4 or Normans,5 according as they came from the islands of the Baltic sea or the coast of Norway.

They descended from the same primitive race with the Anglo-Saxons and the Franks; their language had roots identical with the idioms of these two nations: but this token of an ancient fraternity did not preserve from their hostile incursions, either Saxon Britain, or Frankish Gaul, nor even the territory beyond the Rhine, then exclusively inhabited by Germanic tribes. The conversion of the southern Teutons to the Christian faith had broken all bond of fraternity between them and the Teutons of the north. In the ninth century the man of the north still gloried in the title of son of Odin, and treated as bastards and apostates the Germans who had become children of the church: he made no distinction between them and the conquered populations whose religion they had adopted. Franks or Gauls, Lombards or Latins, all were equally odious to the man who had remained faithful to the ancient divinities of Germany. A sort of religious and patriotic fanaticism was thus combined in the Scandinavian with the fiery impulsiveness of their character, and an insatiable thirst for gain. They shed with joy the blood of the priests, were especially delighted at pillaging the churches, Edition: current; Page: [57] and stabled their horses in the chapels of the palaces.1 When they had devastated and burned some district of the Christian territory: “We have sung them the mass of lances,” said they, mockingly; “it commenced early in the morning, and lasted until night.”2

In three days, with an east wind, the fleets of Denmark and Norway, two-sailed vessels, reached the south of Britain.3 The soldiers of each fleet obeyed in general one chief, whose vessel was distinguished from the rest by some particular ornament. The same chief commanded when the pirates, having landed, marched in troops, on foot or on horseback. He was called by the German title, rendered in the southern languages by the word king:4 but he was king only on the sea and in the battle-field; for, in the hour of the banquet the whole troop sat in a circle, and the horns, filled with beer, passed from hand to hand without any distinction of first man or last. The sea-king5 was everywhere faithfully followed and zealously obeyed, because he was always renowned as the bravest of the brave, as one who had never slept under a smoke-dried roof, who had never emptied a cup seated in the chimney-corner.6

He could guide his vessel as the good horseman his steed, and to the ascendancy of courage and skill were added, for him, the influence created by superstition; he was initiated in the science of the runes; he knew the mystic characters which, engraved upon swords, secured the victory, and those which, inscribed on the poop and on the oars, preserved vessels from shipwreck.7 All equal under such a chief, bearing Edition: current; Page: [58] lightly their voluntary submission and the weight of their mailed armour, which they promised themselves soon to exchange for an equal weight of gold, the Danish pirates pursued the road of the swans, as their ancient national poetry expressed it.1 Sometimes they coasted along the shore, and laid wait for the enemy in the straits, the bays, and smaller anchorages, which procured them the surname of Vikings or children of the creeks; sometimes they dashed in pursuit of their prey across the ocean. The violent storms of the north seas dispersed and shattered their frail vessels; all did not rejoin their chieftain’s ship at the rallying signal, but those who survived their shipwrecked companions were none the less confident, none the more depressed; they laughed at the winds and waves that had failed to harm them: “The strength of the tempest,” they sang, “aids the arm of the rower; the storm is our servant; it throws us where we desired to go.”2

The first great army of Danish and Norman corsairs that visited England, landed upon the coast of Cornwall, the natives of which district, reduced by the English to the condition of tributaries, joined the enemies of their conquerors, either in the hope of gaining a certain degree of liberty, or simply to satisfy their passion of national vengeance. The Northmen were repulsed, and the Britons of Cornwall remained under the yoke of the Saxons; but shortly afterwards, other fleets, steering to the eastern coast, brought Danes in such vast numbers, that no force could prevent their penetrating to the heart of England. They ascended the course of the great rivers, until they had found a commodious station; here they quitted their vessels, moored them or laid them up dry, spread over the country, everywhere seized beasts of burden, and from mariners became men and horses, as the chroniclers of the time express it.3 They at first contented themselves with pillaging and then retiring, leaving behind them on the coasts a few military posts and small entrenched camps, to protect their next return; but soon changing their tactics, they established themselves fixedly, as masters of the soil and of the inhabitants, Edition: current; Page: [59] and drove back the English race of the north-east towards the south-west, as the latter had driven back the ancient British population of the Gaulish sea towards the other sea.1

The sea kings who connected their names with the events of this great invasion are, Ragnar-Lodbrog and his three sons, Hubbo, Iugvar, and Afden. Son of a Norwegian and of the daughter of a king of one of the Danish isles, Ragnar had obtained, either fairly or by force, the crown of all these islands; but fortune becoming unfavourable to him, he lost his territorial possessions, and then equipping several vessels and assembling a troop of pirates, turned sea king. His first expeditions were in the Baltic and upon the coasts of Friesland and Saxony; he next made numerous descents in Brittany and Gaul, ever successful in his enterprises, which procured for him great wealth and great renown. After thirty years of successes, obtained with a simple fleet of barks, Ragnar, whose views had enlarged, resolved to essay his skill in a more scientific navigation, and had two vessels constructed, which surpassed in dimensions anything that had been hitherto seen in the north. Vainly did his wife Aslauga, with that cautious good sense which, among the Scandinavian women, passed as the gift of prophecy, urge upon him the perils to which this innovation exposed him; he would not listen to her, and embarked, followed by several hundred men. England was the object of this novel expedition. The pirates gaily cut the cables which held their two vessels, and, as they themselves expressed it in their poetical language, gave the rein to their great sea-horses.2

All went well with the sea king and his companions so long as they were on the open sea; it was when they approached the coast that their difficulties commenced. Their large ships, unskilfully steered, struck upon shoals, whence vessels of Danish construction would easily have extricated themselves, and the wrecked crews were obliged to throw themselves upon the land, destitute of every means of retreat. The coast on which they thus disembarked against their will was that of Northumberland; they advanced in good order, ravaging and pillaging according to their custom, the same Edition: current; Page: [60] as though they were not in a hopeless position. On hearing of their devastations, Œlla, the king of the country, marched and attacked them with superior forces; the combat was furious, though very unequal; and Ragnar, enveloped in a mantle his wife had given him on his departure, penetrated the enemy’s ranks four times. But, nearly all his companions having perished, he himself was taken alive by the Saxons. King Œlla proved cruel to his prisoner; not content with putting him to death, he inflicted unwonted tortures upon him. Lodbrog was shut up in a dungeon, filled, say the chroniclers, with vipers and venomous serpents. The death song of this famous sea king became celebrated as one of the chefs-d’œuvre of Scandinavian poetry. It was attributed, upon very slight foundation, to the hero himself; but whoever the author may have been, the production bears the vivid impress of the warlike and religious fanaticism which in the ninth century rendered the Danish and Norman Wikings so formidable.1

“We struck with our swords, in the time when, yet young, I went towards the east, to prepare the repast of blood for the wolves, and in that great combat wherein I sent the people of Helsinghie2 in crowds to the palace of Odin. Thence our vessels bore us to the mouth of the Vistula, where our lances pierced the cuirasses, and our swords broke the bucklers.

“We struck with our swords, on the day when I saw hundreds of men prostrate on the sand, near a promontory of England; a dew of blood dropped from our swords; the arrows whistled as they went seeking the helmets; it was for me a pleasure equal to that of holding a beautiful girl in my arms.

“We struck with our swords, the day when I laid low that young man, so proud of his long hair, who in the morning had been wooing the young girls and the widows. What is the lot of a brave man, but to fall among the first? He who is never wounded, leads a wearisome life; man must attack man or resist him, in the great game of battle.

“We struck with our swords; and now I feel that men are the slaves of destiny, and obey the decrees of the spirits who Edition: current; Page: [61] preside over their birth. Never did I think that death would come to me through this Œlla, when I urged my vessels so far across the waves, and gave such banquets to the wild beasts. But I smile with pleasure when I reflect that a place is reserved for me in the halls of Odin, and that soon, seated there at the great banquet table, we shall drink flowing draughts of beer, in our cups of horn.

“We struck with our swords. If the sons of Aslanga knew the anguish I suffer, if they knew that venomous serpents wind themselves around me and cover me with bites, they would all shudder, and would rush to the combat; for the mother whom I have left them has given them valiant hearts. A viper now tears open my breast, and penetrates to my heart; I am conquered; but soon, I hope, the lance of one of my sons will pierce the side of Œlla.

“We struck with our swords in fifty and one combats; I doubt whether among men there is a king more famous than I. From my youth I have shed blood, and desired an end like this. The goddesses sent by Odin to meet me, call to me and invite me; I go, seated among the foremost, to drink beer with the gods. The hours of my life are passing away; I shall die laughing.”1

This lofty appeal to vengeance and to the warlike passions, first sung in a funeral ceremony, passed from mouth to mouth wherever Ragnar-Lodbrog had admirers; not only his sons, his relations, his friends, but a crowd of adventurers and young men from every northern kingdom responded to it. In less than a year, and without any hostile intelligence reaching England, eight sea kings and twenty ïarls or chiefs of secondary rank, confederating together, united their vessels and their soldiers. This was the largest fleet that had ever left Denmark on a distant expedition. Its destination was Northumberland, but a mistake of the pilots carried it more to the south, towards the coast of East Anglia.2

Incapable of repelling such a great army, the people of the country gave the Danes a pacific reception, of which the Edition: current; Page: [62] latter availed themselves to collect provisions and horses, while awaiting reinforcements beyond seas; on the arrival of these, deeming themselves sure of success, they marched upon York, the capital of Northumberland, devastating and burning everything on their way. The two chiefs of this kingdom, Osbert and Œlla, concentrated their forces under the walls of the city for a decisive battle. The Saxons at first had the advantage; but dashing on prematurely in pursuit of the enemy, the latter, perceiving their disorder, turned upon them, and completely defeated them. Osbert was killed while fighting, and, by a singular destiny, Œlla, falling alive into the hands of the sons of Lodbrog, expiated by unheard of tortures, the tortures he had inflicted on their father.1

Vengeance thus consummated, another passion, that of power, took possession of the confederate chiefs. Masters of a portion of the country north of the Humber, and assured by messengers of the submission of the rest, the sons of Ragnar-Lodbrog resolved to retain this conquest. They garrisoned York and the principal towns, distributed lands among their companions, and opened an asylum to people of every condition who chose to come from the Scandinavian provinces to augment the new colony. Thus Northumberland ceased to be a Saxon kingdom; it became the rallying point of the Danes, for the conquest of the south of England. After three years preparation, the great invasion commenced. The army, led by its eight kings, descended the Humber as far as the heights of Lindsay, and there landing, marched in a direct line from north to south, pillaging the towns, massacreing the inhabitants, and, with fanatic rage, taking especial delight in burning the churches and monasteries.2

The Danish vanguard was approaching Croyland, a celebrated monastery, the name of which will often figure in these pages, when it met a small Saxon army, which, by dint of courage and good order, held it in check for a whole day. It was a levy en masse of all the people of the neighbourhood, commanded by their lords and by a monk called brother Toli, who, before taking the vows, had borne arms.3 Three Danish Edition: current; Page: [63] kings were slain in the battle; but, on the coming up of the others, the Saxons, overwhelmed by numbers, were nearly all killed in defending their posts. Some of the fugitives hastened to the monastery to announce that all was lost, and that the pagans were approaching. It was the hour of matins, and all the monks were assembled in the choir. The abbot, a man of advanced age, addressed them thus: “Let all those among you who are young and robust retire to a place of safety, carrying with them the relics of the saints, our books, our charters, and everything that we have of value. I will remain here with the old men and the children, and perhaps by the mercy of God the enemy will take pity on our weakness.”1

All the able-bodied men of the community, to the number of thirty, departed, and having loaded a boat with the relics, sacred vases, and other valuables, took refuge in the neighbouring marshes. There remained in the choir only the abbot, a few infirm old men, two of whom were upwards of an hundred years old, and some children, whom their parents, according to the devotional custom of the period, were bringing up under the monastic habit. They continued to chant the psalms at all the regular hours; when that of the mass arrived, the abbot placed himself at the altar in his sacerdotal robes. All present received the communion, and almost at the same moment the Danes entered the church. The chief who marched at their head killed with his own hand the abbot at the foot of the altar, and the soldiers seized the monks, young and old, whom terror had dispersed. They tortured them, one by one, to make them reveal where their treasure was concealed, and on their refusing to answer, cut off their heads. As the prior fell dead, one of the children, ten years of age, who was greatly attached to him, fell on his body, embracing him, weeping, and asking to die with him. His voice and face struck one of the Danish chiefs; moved with pity, he drew the child out of the crowd, and taking off his frock, and throwing over him a Danish cassock, said: “Come with me, and quit not my side for a moment.” He thus saved him from the massacre, but no others were spared. After having vainly sought the treasure of the abbey, the Danes Edition: current; Page: [64] broke open the marble tombs in the church, and, furious at not finding any riches in them, scattered the bones, and set fire to the church. They then proceeded eastward, to the monastery of Peterborough.1

This monastery, one of the chefs-d’œuvre of the architecture of the period, had, according to the Saxon style, massive walls pierced with small semi-circular windows, which rendered it the more easy to defend. The Danes found the doors closed, and were received with arrows and stones by the monks and the country people who had shut themselves up with them: in the first assault, one of the sons of Lodbrog, whose name the chroniclers do not mention, was mortally wounded; but, after two attacks, the Danes entered by storm, and Hubbo, to revenge his brother, killed, with his own hand, all the monks, to the number of eighty-four. The apartments were pillaged, the sepulchres burst open, and the library used to feed the fire applied to the building: the conflagration lasted fifteen whole days.

During a night march of the army towards Huntingdon, the boy whom a Danish chief had saved at Croyland, escaped, and regained the ruins of his late abode. He found the thirty monks returned, and employed in extinguishing the fire, which still burned. He recounted to them the massacre with every detail; and all, full of grief, proceeded to seek the bodies of their brethren. After several days labour, they found that of the abbot, headless and crushed by a beam; the rest were afterwards discovered, and buried near the church in one grave.2

3 These disasters occurred partly in the territory of Mercia, and partly in that of East Anglia, or Eastern English. The king of the latter country, Edmund, speedily paid the penalty of the indifference with which, three years before, he had witnessed the invasion of Northumbria; surprised by the Danes in his royal residence, he was led a prisoner before the sons of Lodbrog, who haughtily commanded him to acknowledge himself their vassal. Edmund pertinaciously refused; whereupon the Danes, having bound him to a tree, essayed upon him their skill in archery. They aimed at the Edition: current; Page: [65] arms and legs, without touching the body, and at length terminated this barbarous sport by striking off the head of the Saxon king with an axe. He was a man of little merit or reputation, but his death procured for him the greatest renown then attainable, that of holiness and martyrdom. Common opinion, in the middle ages, sanctified the memory of any one who had perished by the hand of the pagans; but here something else was in operation, a peculiar feature of the Anglo-Saxon character, the tendency to surround patriotic sufferers with a religious halo, and to regard as martyrs those who had died defending the national cause, or persecuted by its enemies.

East-Anglia, entirely subjected, became, like Northumberland, a Danish kingdom, and a point of emigration with the adventurers of the north. The Saxon king was replaced by a sea king, called Godrun, and the indigenous population, reduced to a state of demi-servitude, lost all property in their territory, and in future cultivated it for the foreigners. This conquest involved in great danger the kingdom of Mercia, which, already encroached upon in its eastern portion, had the Danes upon two of its frontiers. The ancient kingdoms of Eastsex, Kent, and Suth-sex, had no longer an independent existence; for more than a century past they had all three been annexed to that of West-sex (Wessex), or of the western Saxons.1 Thus the struggle was between two Danish kingdoms and two Saxon kingdoms. The kings of Mercia and Wessex, hitherto rivals and enemies, leagued together in defence of that portion of England which remained free; but despite their utmost efforts, the whole of the territory north of the Thames was overrun; Mercia became a Danish province; and of the eight kingdoms originally founded by the Saxons and the Angles, but one alone remained, that of Wessex, which at this time extended from the mouth of the Thames to the Bristol Channel.

In the year 871, Ethelred, son of Ethelwolf, king of Wessex, was mortally wounded in a battle with the Danes, who had passed the Thames and invaded his territory. He left several children; but the national election fell upon his brother Edition: current; Page: [66] Alfred, a young man of two and twenty, whose courage and military skill inspired the Saxons with the most vivid hopes.1 Alfred twice succeeded, by arms or negotiation, in relieving his kingdom from the presence of the Danes; he repulsed several attempts to invade his southern provinces by sea, and for seven years maintained the boundary line of the Thames. It is probable that no other Danish army would ever have overpassed that boundary, had the king of Wessex and his people been thoroughly united; but there existed between them germs of discord of a very singular nature.

King Alfred was more learned than any of his subjects; while quite a youth he had visited the southern countries of Europe, and had closely observed their manners; he was conversant with the learned languages, and with most of the writings of antiquity. This superior knowledge created in the Saxon king a certain degree of contempt for the nation he governed. He had small respect for the information or intelligence of the great national council, the Assembly of Wise Men. Full of the ideas of absolute power, that so frequently recur in the Roman writers, he had an ardent desire for political reforms, and framed infinite plans, better in themselves, we may perhaps concede, than the ancient Anglo-Saxon practices they were destined to replace, but wanting in that essential requisite, the sanction of a people who neither understood nor desired these changes. Tradition has vaguely preserved some severe features of Alfred’s government; and long after his death, men used to speak of the excessive rigour he applied to the punishment of prevaricators and other evil judges.2 Although this severity had for its object the good of the Anglo-Saxon nation, it was far from agreeable to a people, who at that time more highly valued the life of a free man than regularity in the administration of public affairs.

Besides, this rigour of king Alfred towards the great, was not accompanied by affability towards the small; he defended these, but he did not like them; their petitions and their appeals were distasteful to him, and his house was closed against them.

“If any needed his aid,” says a contemporary writer, “whether Edition: current; Page: [67] in a case of personal necessity, or against the oppression of the powerful, he disdained to give audience to their plaint; he gave no support to the weak, regarding them as of no consideration whatever.”1

Thus, when, seven years after his election, this learned king, unconsciously odious, having to repel a formidable invasion of the Danes, summoned his people to defend the land, he was fearfully astonished to find them indisposed to obey him, and even careless about the common peril. It was in vain that he sent to each town and hamlet his war messenger, bearing an arrow and a naked sword, and that he published this ancient national proclamation, to which hitherto no Saxon, capable of bearing arms, had refused obedience: “Let each man that is not a nothing, whether in the town or country, leave his house and come.”2 Very few men on this occasion accepted the invitation; and Alfred accordingly found himself almost alone, surrounded solely by the small circle of private friends who admired his learning, and whom he sometimes affected to tears by reciting his works to them.3

Favoured by this indifference of the nation towards the chief whom itself had chosen, the enemy made rapid progress. Alfred, abandoned by his people,4 in turn abandoned them, and quitting, says an ancient historian, his warriors, his captains, and all his people, fled to save his life.5 Concealing himself as he went, in the woods and on the moors, he reached, on the limits of the Cornish Britons, the confluence of the rivers Tone and Parret. Here, in a peninsula surrounded by marshes, the Saxon king sought refuge, under a feigned name, in the hut of a fisherman, compelled himself to bake the bread which his indigent host permitted him to share with his family. Very few of the people knew what had become of him,6 and the Danish army entered his kingdom without Edition: current; Page: [68] opposition. Many of the inhabitants embarked from the western coasts to seek an asylum in Gaul, or in Erin, called by the Saxons, Ireland;1 the remainder submitted to pay tribute, and to cultivate the land for the Danes. It was not long ere they found the ills of conquest a thousand times worse than those of Alfred’s rule, which in the hour of suffering had appeared to them insupportable, and they regretted their former condition and the despotism of a king chosen from among themselves.2

3 On his part, calamity suggested to Alfred new thoughts, and he earnestly meditated the means of saving his people, and of regaining their favour. Fortified in his island against hostile surprise by entrenchments of wood and earth, he led there the wild and rugged life reserved in all conquered countries for those of the conquered who will not submit to slavery, the life of a brigand in the woods and marshes and mountain gorges. At the head of his friends, formed into bands, he pillaged for their support the Danes, enriched with Saxon spoils, or failing these, the Saxons who obeyed them and acknowledged them as masters. All whom the Danish yoke burdened, all who had become guilty of high treason to the men in power, by defending against them their goods, their wives, or their daughters, came to range themselves under the orders of the unknown chief who refused to share the general servitude. After a systematic warfare of stratagems, surprises, and nocturnal combats, the partisan leader resolved to avow himself, to make an appeal to the whole western country, and openly to attack, under the Anglo-Saxon standard, the Danish head-quarters, at Ethandun, on the borders of Wiltshire and Somersetshire, close to a forest called Selwood, or the Great Forest.4 Before giving the decisive signal, Alfred determined to make a personal observation of the Danish position; he entered their camp disguised as a harper, and with his Saxon songs entertained the Danish army, whose language differed very little from his own;5 he visited every part of the encampment, and on his return to his own quarters despatched messengers Edition: current; Page: [69] throughout the surrounding country, appointing as the rendezvous for all Saxons who would arm and fight under his command, a place called Egberthes-stane (Egbert’s-stone), on the eastern edge of Selwood, and a few miles from the enemy’s camp.

During three consecutive days, armed men from all quarters arrived at the spot indicated, singly or in small bands. Each new comer was hailed by the name of brother, and received with cordial and tumultuous joy. Some rumours of the movement reached the camp of the Danes; they discerned around them symptoms of agitation; but, as every Saxon was true to his cause, their information on the subject was extremely vague, and not knowing precisely where the insurrection would commence, they took no further steps than doubling their outposts. It was not long ere they saw the White Horse, the banner of Wessex, bearing down upon them. Alfred attacked their redoubts at Ethandun in the weakest point, carried them, drove out all the Danes, and, as the Saxon chronicles expresses it, remained master of the carnage, (Wœl-stow.)

Once dispersed, the Danes did not again rally, and Godrun, their king, did that which was a frequent occurrence with people of his nation under circumstances of peril: he promised that if the conquerors would relinquish their pursuit of him, he and his people would be baptised, and retire to their territories in East Anglia, and henceforth live there in peace. The Saxon king, who was not in a position to carry matters to extremity, accepted the proposal; Godrun, with his captains, swore on a bracelet consecrated to their gods1 that they would in all good faith receive baptism. King Alfred officiated as spiritual father to the Danish chief, who, putting the neophytical white robe over his armour, departed with the wreck of his army for the land whence he had come, and where he engaged for the future to remain. The limits of the two populations were fixed by a definitive treaty, sworn to, as its preamble set forth, by Alfred, king; Godrun, king; all the Anglo-Saxon wise-men, and all the Danish people.2 Edition: current; Page: [70] These limits were, on the south, the course of the Thames as far as the Lea, which discharges its waters into the greater stream not far from London; on the north and east, the Ouse and the great highroad constructed by the Britons and renewed by the Romans, called by the Saxons Wetlenga-street, the way of the sons of Wetla.1

The Danes settled in the towns of Mercia, and in the country north of the Humber, did not consider themselves bound by the agreement between Alfred and Godrun, and the war accordingly still proceeded on the northern frontier of Wessex. The ancient kingdoms of Sussex (Suthsex, Suth-Seaxna-land) and Kent, delivered by him from foreign servitude, unanimously proclaimed Alfred their liberator and their king. Not a single voice was raised against him, either in his own country, where his former unpopularity had been effaced by his recent services, or in those which his predecessors had by conquest subjected to their sway.2 All those portions of England which were not occupied by the Danes, thenceforth formed one single state; and thus for ever disappeared the ancient division of the English people into various peoples, corresponding in number to the bands of emigrants which had incessantly come from the islands and coasts of Germany.3 The flood of Danish invasion had permanently thrown down the line of fortresses which had before separated kingdom from kingdom, and isolation, frequently hostile, was now replaced by the union ever produced by common misfortunes and common hopes.

When the general division of Anglo-Saxon England into kingdoms was abolished, the other territorial divisions assumed an importance which they had not previously possessed.

It is from this period that historians begin to make mention Edition: current; Page: [71] of skires, scires, shires, or portions of kingdoms,1 and of hundreds and tithings, local circumscriptions, indeed, as old in England as the establishment of the Saxons and Angles, but of which little notice was taken, while there prevailed above them a more extended political circumscription. The custom of reckoning families as simple units, and then aggregating them in tens or hundreds, to form districts and hundreds, is found amongst all peoples of Teutonic origin. If this institution plays a principal part in the laws which bear the name of Alfred, it is not that he invented it, but, on the contrary, because, finding it deeply rooted in the soil of England, and well nigh uniformly diffused throughout all the kingdoms he peacefully annexed to that of Wessex, it was essential for him to make it the great basis of his regulations for the establishment of public order. He himself instituted neither tythings nor hundreds, nor the municipal officers called tything-men and hundred-men, nor even that form of procedure which, modified by the action of time, resulted in trial by jury. All these things existed among the Saxons and Angles prior to their emigration.

The king of Wessex, after his second accession to the throne, acquired such celebrity as a brave, and more especially as a wise man, that we scarce meet in history with any trace of that unpopularity under which he at first laboured. Without relaxing in his earnest care to maintain the independence he had achieved for his people, Alfred found leisure for the studies he still loved, but now without preferring them to the men for whom he destined their fruit. There have come down to us from his pen, productions in verse and in prose, remarkable for their wealth of imagination, and for that luxurious imagery which constitutes the distinctive character of the old German literature.2

The remainder of Alfred’s life was occupied in these labours, and in war. The oath sworn to him by the Danes of East Anglia, first on the bracelet of Odin, and then on the cross of Christ, was broken by them at the first appearance of a fleet Edition: current; Page: [72] of pirates on their coasts. They saluted the new comers as brothers, and the combined influence of the recollections thus awakened, and of national sympathy, induced them to quit the fields they were cultivating, and to detach from the smoke-discoloured beam, where it had been peacefully suspended, the weighty battle-axe, or the club bristling with iron spikes, which they called the Morghen stürna (star of the morning). Very soon afterwards, in their case violating no treaty, the Danes of the Humber marched towards the south, to join, with the men of East Anglia, the army of the famous seaking, Hasting, who adopting, as the southern poets expressed it, the ocean for his home,1 passed his life in sailing from Denmark to the Orcades, from the Orcades to Gaul, from Gaul to Ireland, from Ireland to England.

Hasting found the English, under king Alfred, well prepared to receive him as an enemy, and not as a master. He was defeated in several engagements; a portion of his routed army took refuge among the Northumbrian Danes; another body became incorporated with the Danes of East Anglia; such of them as had realised any booty by their sea and land expeditions, became citizens in the towns, and farmers in the country districts; the poorer sort repaired to their ships, and followed their indefatigable chief to new enterprises. They crossed the English channel and ascended the Seine.2 Hasting, standing at the prow of his own vessel, was wont to collect the other vessels of his corsair-fleet by the sound of an ivory horn, which hung from his neck, and which the inhabitants of Gaul called the thunder.3 On the instant that this dreaded blast was heard in the distance, the Gaulish serf quitted the field on which he was employing his compulsory labours, and fled, with his little property, to the depths of the neighbouring forests; while his master, the noble Frank, filled with equal terror, raised the drawbridge of his stronghold, hastened to the donjon to examine the state of the Edition: current; Page: [73] armoury, and buried the money-tribute he had been levying from the surrounding district.1

On the death of the good king Alfred, his son Edward,2 who had distinguished himself in the war against Hasting, was elected by the Anglo-Saxon chieftains and wise men to succeed him. Ethelwald,3 a son of Ethelred, Alfred’s elder brother and predecessor, was daring enough to protest, in the name of his hereditary rights, against the national choice. This pretension was not only rejected; it was regarded as an outrage upon the laws of the land, and the great council pronounced the banishment of the offender, who, instead of obeying the sentence thus legally passed upon him, threw himself, with some partisans, into the town of Wimborne, on the south-western coast, swearing that he would either maintain his position there or die.4 But he did not keep his oath: on the approach of the English army, he fled without a blow, and, taking refuge with the Northumbrian Danes, turned pagan and pirate. The Danes having, some time after, made him leader of an expedition against his countrymen, Ethelwald invaded the Anglo-Saxon territory, but was defeated and killed in the first encounter. Hereupon king Edward assumed the offensive against the Danes, expelled them from the eastern coast, from the mouth of the Thames to Boston Wash, and shut them up in their northern provinces by a line of fortresses, erected along the banks of the Humber.5 His successor, Ethelstan,6 passed that river, took York, and compelled the inhabitants of Scandinavian race to swear, in the customary form, that they would do all that he should command them to do.7 One of the Danish chiefs was honourably received in the palace of the Saxon king, and admitted to his table; but, four days of this peaceful life sufficed to disgust him: he fled to the sea-coast, and embarked in a Edition: current; Page: [74] pirate ship, as incapable as a fish, says an ancient historian, of living out of water.1

The English army advanced to the Tweed, and Northumberland was annexed to the territories of Ethelstan, who was thus the first king that ever reigned over all England. In the ardour of this triumph, the Anglo-Saxons overpassed their ancient northern limit, and perturbated by an invasion the descendants of the Picts and Scots, and the tribe of ancient Britons who inhabited the valley of the Clyde. An offensive league was immediately formed between these nations, and the Danes arriving from beyond seas to deliver their countrymen from the domination of the men of the south. Olaf, son of Sithrik, last Danish king of Northumberland, was named generalissimo of this confederation, which comprised within its ranks the men of the Baltic, the Danes of the Orcades, the Galls or Gael of the Hebrides, armed with the long two-handed sword which they called glay-more or the great sword, the Galls of the Grampians, and the Cambrians of Dumbarton and Galloway (latinè Galwidia), bearing long, slight pikes. The two armies met north of the Humber, at a place called in Saxon Brunanburgh, or the town of fountains (Bamborough). Victory declared for the English, who compelled the wreck of the confederates to make a painful retreat to their ships, their islands, and their mountains. The conquerors named this day the Day of the Great Fight,2 and celebrated it in national songs, fragments of which have come down to us.

“The king Ethelstan, chief of chiefs, he who bestows the collar of honour on the brave, and his brother, the noble Edmund, fought at Brunanburgh with the edge of the sword. They clove the wall of the bucklers, they threw down the warriors of renown, the race of the Scots, and the men of the ships.

“Olaf fled with the petty remnant of his people, and wept upon the waters. The foreigner speaks not of this battle, seated at his fire-side, with his family; for their relations fell in it, and their friends returned not from it. The kings of the north, in their council-halls, will lament that their warriors Edition: current; Page: [75] ventured to play the game of carnage with the sons of Edward.

“King Ethelstan and his brother Edmund returned to the land of Wessex. They left behind them the raven feasting on corses, the black raven with the pointed beak, and the toad with hoarse voice, and the eagle famishing for flesh, and the voracious kites, and the yellow wolf of the woods.

“Never was there greater carnage in this island, never did more men perish by the edge of the sword, since the day when the Saxons and Angles came from the east across the ocean, and entering Britain, noble war-makers, vanquished the Welsh,1 and took possession of the country.”

2 Ethelstan made the Cambrians of the south pay dearly for the succour which their northern brethren had afforded to the enemy; he ravaged the territory of the Welsh, and imposed tribute upon them; the king of Aberfraw, as the old instruments express it, paid to the king of London tribute in money, in oxen, in falcons, and in dogs of chace.3 The Cornish Britons, expelled from the city of Exeter, which hitherto they had inhabited conjointly with the English,4 were driven beyond the Tamar, which then became, as it still continues, the boundary of Cornwall. Ethelstan subjected to his power, by war or by policy, all the populations of various origin which inhabited the Isle of Britain.5 He appointed as governor of the Northumbrian Anglo-Danes, a Norwegian, Erik, son of Harold, a veteran pirate, who turned Christian to obtain this command.

On the day of his baptism, he swore to maintain and defend Northumberland against all pirates and pagans, Danes or otherwise;6 from a sea-king he became a provincial king, a folk-king, as the Scandinavians expressed it.7 But this too Edition: current; Page: [76] pacific dignity soon ceased to please, and he returned to his ships. After some years’ absence, he revisited the Northumbrians, who received him joyfully, and again adopted him as their chief, without the sanction of king Edred,1 Ethelstan’s successor. This king accordingly marched against them, and compelled them to abandon Erik, who, in his turn, in revenge for their desertion, attacked them, by the aid of five pirate-bands from Denmark, the Orcades and the Hebrides. He fell in the first encounter, and with him the five sea-kings his allies.2 His death, glorious in the eyes of a Scandinavian, was celebrated by the skalds or northern poets, who, paying no heed to the baptism which Erik had received from the English, placed him in a far different paradise from that of the Christians.

“I have dreamt a dream,” chants the panegyrist of the pirate; “Methought I was at daybreak in the hall of Walhalla,3 preparing all things for the reception of the men killed in battles.

“I awakened the heroes from their sleep; I asked them to rise, to arrange the seats and the drinking cups, as for the coming of a king.

“ ‘What means all this noise?’ cried Braghi;4 ‘why are so many men in motion, and why all this ordering of seats?’ ‘It is because Erik is on his way to us,’ replied Odin; ‘I await him with joy. Let some go forth to meet him.’

“ ‘How is it that his coming pleases thee more than the coming of any other king?’—‘Because in more battle-fields has his sword been red with blood; because in more places has his ensanguined spear diffused terror.’

“ ‘I salute thee, Erik, brave warrior! enter; thrice welcome art thou to this abode. Say, what kings accompany thee; how many come with thee from the combat?’

“ ‘Five kings accompany me,’ replied Erik; ‘I am the sixth.’ ”5

The territory of the Northumbrians had now lost that title of kingdom which it had hitherto preserved, and was divided Edition: current; Page: [77] out into provinces. The district between the Humber and the Tees was called Yorkshire,—in Saxon, Everwicshire. The rest of the country, as far as the Tweed, retained the general name of Northumbria, Northan-humbra-land, though with several local circumscriptions, such as the land of the Cambrians, Cumbra-land, next to the Solway Firth; the land of the Western Mountains, Westmoringa-land; and lastly, Northumberland proper, along the coast of the eastern sea, between the rivers Tyne and Tweed. The Northumbrian chiefs, in passing under the supreme authority of the Anglo-Saxon kings, retained the Danish title they had borne since the invasion; they continued to be called ïarls, or eorls according to the Saxon orthography of the word. The original signification of the term is no longer known, but the Scandinavians applied it to every description of commander, military or civil, who acted as lieutenant of the supreme chief, the kining or king. By degrees the Anglo-Saxons introduced their new title into their southern and western territories, qualifying by it the magistrates to whom was delegated the government of the larger provinces, formerly called kingdoms, and the supremacy over all the local magistrates, over the administrators of shires, scire-gerefas, shire-reeves, sheriffs, over the administrators of towns, port gerefas, port reeves, and over the ealdermen, aldermen. The latter title, before the introduction of that of eorl, had been the generic appellation of the higher Anglo-Saxon magistracies; it thenceforward descended a step, and was only applied to inferior jurisdictions and to municipal dignitaries.

Most of the new Danish citizens of England turned Christians in order to remove from themselves one marked indication of alienship. Several, in consideration of grants of land, assumed the title and the employment of perpetual defenders of the church, of that church whose edifices, before, they had with such peculiar delight destroyed and burned. Some of them even entered religious orders, and professed a rigid and sombre austerity, a reminiscence under another form, of the rugged, though free, condition of their former life.1

In the revolution which combined all England, from the Edition: current; Page: [78] Tweed to Cape Cornwall, in one sole and undivided body politic, the power of the kings, now monarchs, acquired force with extension, and became, for each of the populations thus united together, more oppressive than the ancient sway of its own peculiar kings had been. The association of the Anglo-Danish provinces with the Anglo-Saxon provinces necessarily involved the latter to a certain extent in the strict and distrustful system which weighed upon the former, as peopled with foreigners who were subjects against their will. The same kings, exercising concurrently in the north the right of conquest, in the south that of legitimate sovereignty, soon yielded to the tendency to confound these two characters of their power, and to make but a very slight distinction between the Anglo-Dane and the Anglo-Saxon, the foreigner and the native, the subjugated and the subject. They began to entertain an exaggerated idea of themselves and of their power; they surrounded themselves with a pomp hitherto unknown; they ceased to be popular like their predecessors, who, invoking the people as councillor in all things,1 ever found the people ready to do that which itself had counselled. Their conduct created new sources of weakness for England. Great as she henceforth seemed to be, under chiefs whose titles of honour occupied several lines,2 she was in reality less capable of resisting an external enemy than at the period when, with few provinces, but these governed alike without display and without despotism, she saw inscribed at the head of her national laws these simple words:—“I, Alfred, king of the West Saxons.”

The Danish inhabitants of England, unwilling subjects of kings of foreign race, had their eyes constantly directed towards the sea, in the hope that some favourable breeze would bring them liberators and leaders from their old country. They had not long to wait; in the reign of Ethelred, son of Edgard, the descents of the Northmen upon Britain, which had never been wholly discontinued, suddenly assumed a very menacing character. Seven war-ships appeared off the coast of Kent, and their crews pillaged the isle Edition: current; Page: [79] of Thanet; three more vessels, sailing from the south, ravaged the vicinity of Southampton, while other pirate troops landed on the eastern coast, and took up positions on several points. The alarm extended itself to London: Ethelred immediately convoked the great national council; but, under this supine and ostentatious monarch, the assembly was composed of bishops and courtiers more disposed to flatter the prince and encourage his indolence, than to give him sound advice.1 Conforming to the king’s aversion for anything like prompt or energetic measures, they thought they could get rid of the Danes by offering them a sum equivalent to the gain which these pirates had calculated upon realizing by their invasion of England.

There existed, under the name of Dane-money, Dane-gheld,2 an impost of twelvepence upon every hide of land throughout the country, levied from time to time for the payment of the troops who guarded the coasts against the Scandinavian corsairs.3 This money the council proposed to give the new invaders, in the shape of a tribute: the offer was accepted, and the first payment, amounting to £10,000, received, on condition of their forthwith quitting England. They departed accordingly, but only to return in greater numbers, for the purpose of obtaining a larger sum. Their fleet sailed up the Humber, devastating both banks. The Saxon inhabitants of the adjacent provinces ran in arms to give the enemy battle; but on the eve of combat, three of their leaders, Danes by origin, betrayed them, and passed over to the foe. Every Northumbrian Dane abandoned his new faith and his new fidelity, and made close friendship and alliance with the pagan pirates from the Baltic.4

The breezes of spring wafted up the Thame a fleet of eighty war-ships, commanded by two kings, Olaf of Norway, and Swen of Denmark,5 the latter of whom, after having received baptism, had returned to the worship of Odin. The Edition: current; Page: [80] two kings, in token of possession, having planted one lance on the shore of the Thames, and thrown another into the current of the first river they crossed after landing, marched, says an old historian, escorted by their wonted leaders, fire and sword.1 Ethelred, whose consciousness of his unpopularity made him fear to assemble an army,2 once more proposed to give money to the enemy, on condition of their retiring in peace; they demanded eighty thousand pounds, which the king immediately paid them, satisfied with their promises and with the conversion of a Danish chief, who received in Winchester cathedral, amid vast ceremony, that baptism which one of the Danes present on the occasion contemptuously declared that he had already received twenty times, without the slightest effect.3

The truce granted by the invaders was far from being a peaceful truce; in the vicinity of their cantonments they outraged the women and slew the men.4 Their insolence and their excesses raising the indignation of the natives to the highest point, brought about, ere long, one of those acts of national vengeance which it is alike difficult to condemn or to justify, because a noble instinct, the hatred of oppression, is mixed up in them with the indulgence of atrocious passions. In pursuance of a vast conspiracy, formed under the eyes and with the connivance of the royal magistrates and officers, all the Danes of the late invasion, men, women, and children, were, in the same hour of the same day, attacked and killed in their quarters, by their hosts and neighbours. This massacre, which excited general attention, and the odious circumstances of which afterwards served as a pretext for the enemies of the English nation, took place on St. Brice’s day, in the year 1003. It did not extend to the northern and eastern provinces, where the Danes, longer established, and become cultivators or citizens, formed the majority of the population; but all the recent invaders, with very few exceptions, perished, and among them a sister of the king of Denmark. To avenge this massacre, and to punish what he Edition: current; Page: [81] called the treason of the English people, king Swen assembled an army far more numerous than the first, and in which, if we are to credit the ancient historians, there was not a single slave, or even freed man, nor an old man, every soldier in it being noble, or a free man, the son of a free man, and in the full vigour of life.1

This army embarked in tall ships, each of which had a distinctive badge designating its commander. Some had at the prow figures of lions, bulls, dolphins, men, in gilt copper; others bore at their mast-head birds spreading their wings and turning with the wind; the sides of the ships were painted in various colours, and the bucklers of polished steel were suspended along them in rows.2 The king’s own ship had the elongated form of a serpent, the prow forming its head, the twisted stern its tail; it was on this account called the Great Dragon.3 On landing in England, the Danes, falling into battalions, unfurled a mystic standard, termed by them the Raven. It was a flag of white silk, in the centre of which appeared the black figure of a raven, with open beak and outspread wings; three of king Swen’s sisters had worked it in one night, accompanying their labour with magic songs and gestures.4 This banner, which, according to the superstitious ideas of the Scandinavians, was a certain pledge of victory, augmented the ardour and confidence of the invaders. In every place they visited on their way, writes an old historian, they gaily ate the repast unwillingly prepared for them, and on departing, slew the host and burned his house.5

They seized all the horses they could find, and, according to the tactics of their predecessors, converting themselves into cavalry, rapidly traversed the country, and, presenting themselves in directions where they were wholly unexpected, surprised castles and towns, one after another. In a very short time they had conquered all the south-eastern provinces, from the mouth of the Ouse to Spithead. King Ethelred, who was never prepared to fight, could devise no other expedient than to purchase truces of a few days each, for various Edition: current; Page: [82] sums of money—a temporizing policy, which compelled him to burden the people with constantly increasing taxes.1 Thus the English who had the good fortune to escape being pillaged by the Danes, could not avoid the oppressive exactions of their own king; so that, under the one form if not under the other, they were sure to be stripped of all they possessed.

While the administrators of England thus made their dastardly bargains with the foreign foe at the expense of the people, there was one man found who, a rich and powerful magnate of the land, preferred death to giving a sanction to such conduct by his own example. This was the archbishop of Canterbury, Elfeg. A prisoner of the Danes, on the capture of his metropolitan city, and dragged among their baggage from encampment to encampment, he remained day after day in chains, without even uttering the word ransom. The Danes, first breaking this silence, offered to restore their captive to liberty on condition of his paying them three thousand gold pieces, and counselling king Ethelred to give them four times that amount in addition. “I have no money of my own,” replied the archbishop; “and I will not deprive my ecclesiastical territory of one penny on my account; neither will I counsel my sovereign aught that is contrary to the honour of my country.”2 The Danes, more eager for money than for the archbishop’s blood, pressed their demand. “You urge me in vain,” replied Elfeg; “I am not one who will furnish Christian flesh for pagan teeth to tear, and it were doing so to give up to you that which my poor people have been saving for their sustenance.”3

The Danes at length lost all patience, and one day that they had been drinking copiously of wine just brought them from the south, they bethought themselves of trying the archbishop, by way of pastime. He was led bound, and seated upon a miserable horse, to the centre of the encampment, which served alike for the council-chamber, the judgment-seat, and the banqueting-hall; here the chiefs and the more distinguished warriors were seated in a circle, on great stones; close by was a heap of the bones, the jaws and horns of the Edition: current; Page: [83] oxen consumed at the recent repast.1 As soon as the Saxon prelate was in the midst of the circle, a great cry arose from all around: “Gold, bishop, gold, or we will cause thee play a game shall make thee noted through the world.”2 Elfeg calmly replied: “I offer you the gold of wisdom, that you renounce your superstitions and be converts to the true God; if you heed not this counsel, know that you shall perish as Sodom, and shall take no root in this land.” At these words, which they regarded as a menace to themselves and an insult to their religion, the mock judges rose furiously from their seats, and rushing upon the archbishop, beat him to the earth with the backs of their hatchets; several of them then ran to the heap of bones, and taking up some of the largest, rained a deluge of blows upon the prostrate Saxon. The archbishop, having fruitlessly endeavoured to kneel, in order to offer up a last prayer, fell forward in a senseless condition; his sufferings were terminated by the barbarous compassion of a soldier, whom he had converted and baptised on the previous day, and who now split his skull with his axe. The murderers at first intended to throw the corpse into a neighbouring marsh; but the Anglo-Saxons, who honoured Elfeg as a martyr for Christ’s and for his country’s sake, purchased the body at a heavy cost, and buried it at London.3

Meantime king Ethelred practised without any scruple that which the archbishop of Canterbury, at the sacrifice of his life, had refused to counsel him to do. One day his collectors of taxes levied the tribute for the Danes; next day the Danes themselves came and exacted the tribute over again, on their own account.4 On their departure, the royal agents again presented themselves, and treated the wretched people more harshly than before, reproaching them as traitors and as purveyors for the enemy.5 The real purveyor for the Danes, Ethelred, at length exhausted the patience of the people who had made him king for the common defence. Hard to bear as foreign domination might be, it was deemed better to undergo it at once, than to await, amid constant suffering, under a king alike without valour and Edition: current; Page: [84] without virtue, the moment when, instead of subjection, there would be slavery. Several of the midland provinces submitted spontaneously to the Danes; Oxford and Winchester soon afterwards opened their gates, and Swen, advancing through the western countries as far as the Bristol Channel, assumed, without opposition, the title of king of all England.1 Terrorstruck at finding himself thus forsaken, Ethelred fled to the Isle of Wight, and thence passed over into Gaul, to seek an asylum with his wife’s brother, the chief of one of the western provinces, adjoining the mouth of the Seine.2

In wedding a foreigner, Ethelred had conceived the hope of obtaining from the powerful relations of his wife aid against the Danes; but he was deceived in this expectation. The union, which was to have procured defenders for England,3 had only the effect of bringing over from Gaul infinite solicitors for employment, greedy seekers of money and dignities. When the invasion came, it was found that all the towns which the weak monarch had entrusted to these foreigners were the first surrendered to the Danes.4 By a singular chance, the Gaulish prince whose alliance the king of England had sought as a support in the struggle against the power of Scandinavia, was himself of Scandinavian origin, the son of an old pirate chief who had conquered the Gaulish province he afterwards bequeathed as an inheritance to his posterity, had established in it his corsair comrades, and had, in common with them, formed of it a state which, after their own national appellation, he called Normandy, or the land of the Northmen.5

Normandy on the south adjoined Brittany, a state founded, as we have seen, by refugees from Britain; and on the east, the extensive country from which it had been severed, northern Gaul, which, since the settlement in it of the Franks, had borne the new name of France. The descendants Edition: current; Page: [85] of these German emigrants were still, after a lapse of five centuries, separated from the indigenous Gauls, less by manners and ideas than by social condition. It was in this profoundly marked difference between their social condition, and in the terms which served to express it, that the distinction between the races was most clearly indicated. In the tenth century, to designate civil liberty, there was, in the spoken language of France, but one word, frankise or franchise,1 according to the various dialects, and Franc signified at once free, powerful, and rich.

The mere invasion of the children of Merowig and the conversion of their kings to Catholicism, would not, perhaps, have sufficed to establish at this point the predominance of the conquering population. In less than three centuries after their settlement in Gaul, these terrible invaders had almost become Gauls; the regal descendants of Chlodowig, as inoffensive as their ancestors had been fierce and formidable, limited their ambition to a good table, and to riding about in an easy waggon, drawn by trained oxen.2 But at this period there existed between the Rhine and the Forest of Ardennes, in the territory called by the Franks Oster-rike, or Eastern-kingdom, a population in whom the Teutonic character had better resisted the influence of southern manners. Coming last to the conquest of Gaul, and excluded from the rich provinces and great cities of the south, it was filled with a desire to obtain a portion of that more valuable territory, and even to supplant in their possessions the Franks of Neoster-rike, or Western Kingdom.3 This daring project, long pursued with various success, became accomplished in the eighth century, when, under the outward form of a ministerial revolution, there was a regular invasion of the Neustrian Franks by the Austrasian Franks. A fresh division of lands took place throughout well nigh all Gaul; a second race of kings arose, strangers to the first, and the conquest, in its renewal, assumed a more durable character.

And this was not all; the warlike activity of the Franks, aroused by this powerful impulse, carried them in every direction Edition: current; Page: [86] beyond their ancient limits; they effected conquests towards the Danube and the Elbe, beyond the Pyrenees and the Alps. Masters of Gaul and of both banks of the Rhine, of the ancient territory of the Saxon confederation, and of a portion of the Slavonian provinces, of almost all Italy, and of the north of Spain, the second prince of the new dynasty, Karl, surnamed the Great—Charlemagne—exchanged his title of king for that of emperor or Cæsar, which had disappeared from the west for more than three centuries past. He was a man of indefatigable activity, and endowed with that administrative genius which embraces in its grasp the pettiest details alike with the great whole, and which, most remarkably, reappears from time to time, almost identically the same, at epochs the most differing from each other. But with all its resources, this genius, wanting the action of ages, could not fuse into a single body so many nations of various origin, manners, and language; under the outward semblance of union the natural isolation still subsisted, and to keep the empire from dissolution in its very cradle, the great emperor had to be in constant action on every point. So long as he himself lived, the peoples of the western continent, strangers to each other, remained aggregated under his vast domination; but this factitious union began to disappear when the Frank Cæsar had gone down, in imperial robes, to his tomb in the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle.

Soon, a spontaneous movement of revolt agitated, almost at the same moment, the whole of these unconsentingly associated nations. Gaul aimed at separation from Germany, Italy at separation from both. Each of these great masses of men, in its movement, drew with it the portion of the conquering people which dwelt in its bosom, as mistress of the soil, invested with titles of power and honour, Latin or German.1 Frank drew the sword against Frank, brother against brother, father against son. Three of the grandsons of Charlemagne fought against each other, in the centre of Gaul;2 one at the head of an army of Gauls and Gallo-Franks, another followed by Italians, the third commanding an army of Teutons and Edition: current; Page: [87] Slaves. This domestic dissension of the royal descendants of the Frankish Cæsar was but a reflection of the quarrel between these nations, and it was this circumstance which rendered it so protracted and so pertinacious. The kings made and unmade ten divisions of that empire which the peoples desired altogether to dissolve;1 they exchanged oaths in the German and in the Romane2 tongue, which they almost immediately violated, compelled to discord by the turbulence of the masses, whom no treaty could satisfy.

It was amidst this disorder, at a time when civil war raged from one end of the vast empire of the Franks to the other, that the Danish or Norman Vikings (Norman was the national designation by which they were known in Gaul,) afflicted the country with incessant invasions. Their mode of conducting war was entirely novel in its character, and such as to disconcert even the best framed measures of defence. Their fleets of large boats, impelled both by sail and by oar, entered the mouths of rivers, and ascending them sometimes up to their source, landed alternately on either bank, bands of intrepid and well-disciplined depredators. Whenever a bridge or other obstacle impeded the navigation, the crews drew their vessels on shore, and, placing them on rollers, conveyed them beyond the obstacle. From the greater they passed into the smaller rivers, and from one of these into another, seizing upon all the more considerable islands, which they fortified as winter quarters, depositing there, under huts constructed in rows, their booty and their captives.

Making their attacks thus by surprise, and, whenever they were prepared for, retreating with the utmost rapidity, they devastated whole districts to such an extent that, to use the expression of a contemporary writer, “where they had passed, no dog remained to bark.” Castles and fortified places were the sole refuge against them; but at this first epoch of their irruptions, very few of these existed, and even the walls of the old Roman towns were falling into decay. While the rich seigneurs flanked their manor-houses with turreted towers, and surrounded them with deep ditches, the inhabitants of the plains emigrated in crowds from their villages Edition: current; Page: [88] to the neighbouring forest, where they encamped in huts defended by palisades and felled trees. Ill protected by the kings, dukes, and counts of the land, who often entered into treaties with the enemy on their own account, at the expense of the peasantry, the latter sometimes became inspired with the courage of despair, and, armed merely with clubs, would encounter the axes of the Normans.1 In other cases, finding all resistance vain, depressed and demoralized, they renounced their baptismal vow to propitiate the pagan conqueror, and in token of initiation into the worship of the northern gods, ate of the flesh of a horse sacrificed at their altars. This apostasy was very general in the quarters most exposed to the disembarkation of the pirates, who even recruited their ranks from among the very people that had lost all by their ravages; we are, indeed, assured by ancient historians, that the famous sea-king, Hasting, was the son of a labourer near Troyes.

Nearly a century elapsed between the first and the second descent of the Normans upon Gaul, in which interval was accomplished, amid calamities of every description, the dismemberment of the empire founded by Karl the Great. Not only had there been detached from the Gaulish territory, lands whose natural limits had anciently separated them from it, but, in the very heart of that territory itself, there had taken place a division, based upon geographical congruities, upon local traditions, upon differences of language or dialects. Brittany, which, independent under the first Frankish dynasty, had been subjected by the second, commenced the movement, and, in the first half of the ninth century, became once more a separate state. She had her national princes, free from all foreign suzerainty, and even her conqueror-princes, who took from the grandson of Charlemagne the towns of Rennes, Vannes, and Nantes. Fifty years later, the ancient kingdom of the Visigoths, the district between the Loire, the Rhone, and the Pyrenees, after having long, and with various success, struggled against the Frank domination, became, under the name of Aquitaine or Guienne, a distinct sovereignty; whilst, on the other side of the Rhone, a new sovereignty was formed Edition: current; Page: [89] of Provence and the southern part of the ancient kingdom of the Burgundians. At the same time, the provinces along the Rhone, whither the flood of Germanic invasions had brought the Teutonic idiom, raised a political barrier between themselves and the countries where the Roman dialect prevailed. In the intermediate space left by these new states, that between the Loire, the Meuse, the Scheldt, and the Breton frontier, was compressed the kingdom of the Gallo-Franks, or France. Its extent exactly corresponded with that of the Neoster-rike, or a Neustrithe of the ancient Franks; but the latter name was now only applied to the westernmost seacoast, in the same way that its correlative, Oster-rike, or Austrasia, formerly extending over the whole of Germany, became insensibly limited to districts towards the Danube.

This new kingdom of France, the genuine cradle of modern France, contained a mixed population, German under one aspect, Gaulish or Roman under another; and foreigners applied to it different names according to the different point of view under which they regarded it. The Italians, the Spaniards, the English, and the Scandinavian nations called the people of Gaul Franks; but the Germans, who asserted this noble appellation for themselves, denied it to their western neighbours, whom they termed Wallons or Welches.1 In the country itself there prevailed another distinction: the landed proprietor in dwelling amidst his vassals and coloni, solely occupied in war or the chace, and who thus lived conformably with the manners of the ancient Franks, assumed the title of frank-man, or that of baron, both taken from the language of conquest.2 Those who had no manor-house, and who inhabited towns (villæ), hamlets, or villages, in masses, after the Roman fashion, derived from this circumstance a special designation: they were called villeins or manans (manentes).3 There were villeins reputed free, and villeins serfs of the glebe; but the freedom of the former, Edition: current; Page: [90] constantly menaced and even invaded by the lord, was feeble and precarious. Such was the kingdom of France, as to its extent and as to the different classes of men who inhabited it, when it underwent that grand invasion of the northern pirates which was to terminate the long series of such expeditions by a territorial dismemberment. For the cause of this famous event, we must turn to the history of the north.

About the close of the ninth century, Harold Harfagher (Harold with the beautiful hair), king of one portion of Norway, extended, by force of arms, his power over the remainder, and made of the whole country one sole kingdom. This destruction of a number of petty states previously free, did not take place without resistance; not only was the ground disputed inch by inch, but, after the conquest was completed, many of the inhabitants preferred expatriation and a wandering life on the sea, to the domination of a foreign ruler. These exiles infested the northern seas, ravaged the coasts and islands, and constantly laboured to excite their countrymen to insurrection. Political interest thus rendered the conqueror of Norway the most determined enemy of the pirates. With a numerous fleet he pursued them along the coasts of his own kingdom, and even to the Orcades and Hebrides, sinking their vessels, and destroying the stations they had formed in many of the islands of the northern seas. He, moreover, by the severest laws, prohibited the practice of piracy and of every species of armed exaction throughout his states.1

It was an immemorial custom of the Vikings to exercise upon every coast, without distinction, a privilege which they termed strandhug, or impressment of provisions. When a vessel found its stores drawing to an end, the pirate-crew landed at the first place where they perceived a flock insecurely guarded, and seizing upon the animals, killed them, cut them up, and carried them off without payment, or, at best, with a payment quite below the value of the goods. The strandhug was thus the scourage and terror of the country districts which lay along the sea-coast or the banks of rivers, and all the more so that it was at times exercised by men not Edition: current; Page: [91] professional pirates, but to whom power and wealth gave impunity.1

There was at the court of king Harold, among the ïrals or chieftains of the first rank, a certain Rognvald, whom the king greatly loved, and who had served him zealously in all his expeditions. Rognvald had several sons, all of them noted for their valour; of these, the most renowned was Rolf, or, by a sort of euphony common to many of the Teutonic names, Roll. He was so tall that, unable to make use of the small horses of his country, he always marched on foot, a circumstance which procured him the appellation of Gang-Roll, Roll the Walker. One day that the son of Rognvald, with his companions, was on his return from a cruise in the Baltic, before landing in Norway, he shortened sail off the coast of Wighen, and there, whether from actual want of provisions, or simply availing himself of a favourable opportunity, he exercised strandhug. Chance brought king Harold into the vicinity at the particular juncture; the peasants laid their complaints before him, and at once, without heeding the position of the offender, the monarch summoned a Thing, or great council of justice, to try Roll according to law. Ere the accused appeared before the assembly, which would in all probability sentence him to banishment, his mother hastened to the king, and implored for pardon; but Harold was inexorable. Hereupon this woman, inspired by anger, the result of maternal tenderness, proceeded to improvise, as frequently occurred with the Scandinavians when they were highly excited. Addressing herself to the king, she said to him, in verse: “Thou expellest from the country and treatest as an enemy a man of noble race; listen, then, to what I tell thee, it is dangerous to attack the wolf; when once he is angered, let the herd in the forest beware.”2

Despite these somewhat vague menaces, the sentence was pronounced; and Roll, finding himself banished for life, collected some vessels, and sailed towards the Hebrides. These islands had been adopted as an asylum by a portion of the Norwegians who emigrated after the conquests of Harold; Edition: current; Page: [92] and all these men were of high birth and great military reputation. The new comer entered into association with them for the purposes of piracy, and his vessels added to theirs formed a numerous fleet, which it was agreed should act under the orders, not of one sole chieftain, but of the confederates generally, Roll having no other pre-eminence than that of his personal merits and his name.1

Sailing from the Hebrides, the fleet doubled the extreme point of Scotland, and proceeding towards the south-east, entered the Scheldt; but as Gaul in that direction, naturally poor and already devastated on several occasions, offered very little to take, the pirates soon put to sea again. Going further south, they sailed up the Seine as far as Jumièges, five leagues from Rouen. It was just at this period that the limits of the kingdom of France had been definitely fixed between the Loire and the Meuse. To the protracted territorial revolutions which had lacerated that kingdom, there had succeeded a political revolution, the object of which, realized a century later, was the expulsion of the second dynasty of the Frank kings.2 The king of the French, a descendant of Karl the Great, and bearing his name, the only resemblance between them, was disputing the crown with a competitor whose ancestors had never worn that crown. By turns conquerors and conquered, the king of ancient race and the king by election were masters alternately; but neither the one nor the other was powerful enough to protect the country against foreign invasion; all the forces of the kingdom were engaged, on either side, in maintaining the civil war; no army, accordingly, presented itself to stay the pirates, or prevent them from pillaging and devastating both banks of the Seine.

The report of their ravages soon reached Rouen, and filled that city with terror. The inhabitants did not expect any succour, and despaired of being able to defend their walls, already in ruins from former invasions. Amidst the universal dismay, the archbishop of Rouen, a man of prudence and firmness, took upon himself to save the city, by capitulating with the enemy before the first attack.3 Without being deterred Edition: current; Page: [93] by the hatred often so cruelly testified by the pagans of the north towards the Christian clergy, the archbishop repaired to the camp, near Jumièges, and spoke to the Norman chief through the medium of an interpreter. He talked and did so well, promised so much, gave so much, says an old chronicler, that he concluded a truce with Roll and his companions, guaranteeing them admission to the city, and receiving from them, in return, an assurance that no violence should be committed by them. It was near the church of St. Morin, at one of the gates of the Seine, that the Norwegians peaceably landed. Having moored their vessels, all the chiefs went through the city in different directions; they attentively examined the ramparts, the quays, the fountains, and finding everything to their taste, resolved to make it the citadel and head quarters of their new establishment.1

After thus entering upon possession, the Norman chiefs, with their principal troops, continued to ascend the Seine. At the point where that river receives the waters of the Eure, they established a fortified camp, in order to await the arrival of a French army which was then on its march against them. King Carl, or Charles, as it was called in the Romane language, finding himself for the moment sole master of the kingdom, had resolved, by a great effort, to repel the new invasion: his troops, led by one Raghenold, or Regnauld, who bore the title of duke of France, took up a position on the right bank of the Eure, at some distance from the Norman camp. Among the counts who had hoisted their banners at the command of the king, to oppose the pagans, was a converted pagan, the famous sea-king, Hasting. Twenty years before, weary of a life of adventure, he had made his peace with the kingdom of France, accepting the county of Chartres. In the council of war, held by the French, Hasting, consulted in his turn, advised a parley with the enemy before risking a battle; although this advice was regarded with suspicion by many lords of the army, it prevailed; and Hasting Edition: current; Page: [94] departed with two persons who knew the Danish language, to communicate with the Normans.

The three envoys followed the course of the Eure, until they came opposite the spot where the confederates had raised their intrenchments. There, stopping and raising his voice so as to be heard on the opposite bank, the count de Chartres cried: “What, ho! brave warriors, what is the name of your lord?” “We have no lord,” replied the Normans, “we are all equal.”1 “For what purpose come you into this country? what seek you here?” “To drive out the inhabitants, or subject them to our power, and make for ourselves a country. But who art thou who speakest our language so readily?” The count replied: “Have you not heard of Hasting, the famous pirate, who scoured the seas with so many vessels, and did so much injury to this kingdom?” “Aye,” replied the Normans, “we have heard of him. Hasting began well, but he has made a bad ending.” “Will you submit to king Charles, who offers you fiefs and honours, on condition of faith and service?” “By no means; we will submit to no one, and all that we acquire by our arms we will assert the dominion of; go and tell this, if thou wilt, to the king, whose messenger thou art.”2

On his return to the camp, Hasting delivered this answer, and in the consultation which followed, advised them not to attempt to force the pagan intrenchments. “’Tis the counsel of a traitor,” cried a lord, named Rolland; and several others repeated the cry. The old sea-king, either from indignation, or because he felt himself not entirely without reproach, immediately quitted the army, and even abandoned his county of Chartres, going none knew whither. But his predictions were verified: on attacking the intrenched camp, the troops were totally defeated, and the duke of France perished by the hand of a fisherman of Rouen, who served in the Norwegian army.

Free to navigate the Seine at will, Roll and his companions ascended it to Paris, and laid siege to that city, but without being able to make themselves masters of it. One of the Edition: current; Page: [95] principal chiefs having been taken prisoner by the besieged, in order to redeem him, they concluded a year’s truce with king Charles, during which time they ravaged the northern provinces, which had ceased to be French. On the expiration of the truce, they returned in all haste to Rouen, from which city they proceeded to surprise Bayeux, which they took by assault, killing the count and many of the inhabitants. This count, Beranger, had a daughter of great beauty, named Popa, who, in the division of the booty, fell to the share of Roll, and whom the Scandinavian wedded, according to the rites of his religion and the law of his country.1

Evreux and several other neighbouring towns next fell into the hands of the Normans, who thus extended their dominion over the greater part of the territory to which the old name of Neustria was given. Guided by a certain political good sense, they ceased to be cruel when they no longer encountered resistance, and contented themselves with a tribute regularly levied upon the towns and country districts. The same good sense induced them to create a supreme chief, invested with permanent authority; the choice of the confederates fell upon Roll, “whom they made their king,” says an old chronicler; but this title, which was perhaps merely given him in the language of the north, was ere long replaced by the French title of duke or count. Pagan as he was, the new duke made himself popular with the native inhabitants. After having cursed him as a pirate, they loved him as a protector, whose power secured them at once from new attacks by sea, and from the miseries caused in the rest of the land by civil war.2

Having become a territorial power, the Normans carried on a better sustained, and, so to speak, more methodical war upon the French. They leagued themselves with other Scandinavians, probably Danes by origin, who occupied the mouth of the Loire, and agreed simultaneously to pillage the whole territory between that river and the Seine. The devastation Edition: current; Page: [96] extended into Burgundy and Auvergne. Paris, attacked a second time, resisted successfully, as did Chartres, Dijon, and other strong places; but many unfortified towns were destroyed or sacked. At last, in the year 912, sixteen years after the occupation of Rouen, the French, of all conditions, harassed by these continual hostilities, began to complain, and to demand that the war should be put an end to, at whatever price; the bishops, the counts, and the barons, remonstrated with the king; the citizens and peasants implored mercy as he passed. An old author has preserved the expression of the popular murmurs: “What do we see in all places? Churches burnt, people killed; by the fault of the king and his weakness, the Normans do as they please in the kingdom; from Blois to Senlis there is not an acre of corn, and no man dares labour either in the fields or in the vineyards. Unless the war be finished, we shall have dearth and dearness.”1 King Charles, who was surnamed the Simple, or the Fool,2 and to whom history has continued the former of these names, had sufficient good sense on this occasion to listen to the voice of the people; perhaps, also, in yielding to it, he thought to achieve a stroke of policy, and, by the alliance of the Normans, to secure himself against the powerful intrigues which tended to dethrone him.3 He convoked his barons and bishops in a grand council, and, according to the formula of the time, demanded of them aid and advice. All counselled him to conclude a truce, and to negotiate for peace.

The man best adapted successfully to conduct this negotiation was the archbishop of Rouen, who, notwithstanding the difference of religion, exercised the same kind of influence over Roll that the bishops of the fifth century had obtained over the conquerors of the Roman empire. His relations with the other bishops and with the lords of France had not been interrupted; perhaps he was even present at their Edition: current; Page: [97] consultations; but present or absent, he willingly undertook to convey and to support their offers of peace. The archbishop went to the son of Rognvald, and said to him—“King Charles offers you his daughter Gisla in marriage, with the hereditary seigneury of all the country situated between the river Epte and the borders of Brittany, if you consent to become Christian, and to live in peace with the kingdom.”1

The Norman this time did not answer. “We will obey no one:” other ideas, another ambition than that of an adventurer, had come to him, since he had governed no longer a mere band of pirates but a vast territory. Christianity, without which he could not rank as the equal of the great lords of France, had ceased to be repugnant to him; and the habit of living amidst Christians had extinguished the fanaticism of most of his companions. With regard to the marriage, he thought himself free to contract a new one, and, becoming a Christian, to dismiss the wife whom he had married with pagan ceremonies. “The words of the king are good,” said he to the archbishop; “but the land he offers me is insufficient; it is uncultivated and impoverished; my people would not derive from it the means of living in peace.” The archbishop returned to the king, who charged him to offer Flanders in his name, although he had in reality no other right over that kingdom than that of a disputed claim; but Roll did not accept this new proposal, replying that Flanders was a poor country, muddy, and full of swamps. Then, not knowing what else to give, Charles the Simple sent word to the Norman chief that, if he would, he should have in fief Brittany, conjointly with Neustria: this offer was of the same kind with the preceding, for Brittany was a free state, the suzerainty of the kings of France only extending there to the county of Rennes, taken from the French by the Breton princes half a century before. But Roll heeded little this; he did not perceive that they only gave him an old quarrel to fight out, and the arrangement was accepted.2

In order to ratify the treaty in the most solemn manner, the king of France and the chief of the Normans repaired to Edition: current; Page: [98] the village of St. Clair-sur-Epte. Each was accompanied by a numerous train; the French pitched their tents on the one bank of the river, and the Normans on the other. At the hour fixed for the interview, Roll approached the king, and, remaining standing, placed his hands between those of the monarch, pronouncing the formula:—

“Henceforth I am your vassal and your man, and I swear faithfully to protect your life, your limbs, and royal honour.” Then the king and the barons gave to the Norman chief the title of count, and swore to protect his life, his limbs, his honour, and all the territory set forth in the treaty of peace.1

The ceremony seemed at an end, and the new count was about to retire, when the Frenchmen said to him: “It is fitting that he who receives such a gift as this, should kneel before the king and kiss his foot.” But the Norman answered: “Never will I bend the knee before any man, or kiss the foot of any man.” The lords insisted on this formality, a last remnant of the etiquette formerly observed in the court of the Frank emperors; whereupon Roll, with an affected simplicity, signed to one of his men to come and kiss the king’s foot for him. The Norwegian soldier, stooping without bending the knee, took the king’s foot, and lifted it so high to put it to his mouth, that the king fell upon his back. Little accustomed to the niceties of ceremony, the pirates burst into a shout of laughter; there was a momentary tumult, but this absurd incident produced no serious result.2

Two clauses of the treaty remained to be fulfilled, the conversion of the new count or duke of Normandy, and his marriage with the daughter of the king; it was arranged that this double ceremony should take place at Rouen, and many of the high barons of France repaired thither as an escort to the bride. After a brief lesson, the son of Rognvald received baptism at the hands of the archbishop, to whose counsels he listened with the greatest docility. On quitting the baptismal font, the neophyte inquired the names of the most celebrated churches and of the most revered saints in his new country. The archbishop repeated to him the names of six churches and three saints, the Virgin, Saint Michael and Saint Peter. “And who is the most powerful protector?” Edition: current; Page: [99] asked the duke. “Saint Denis,” answered the archbishop. “Well, before dividing my land among my companions, I will give a part of it to God, to Saint Mary, and to the other saints whom you have named.”1 And during the seven days he wore the white habit of the newly baptised, he gave each day an estate to one of the seven churches that had been indicated to him. Then, having resumed his ordinary dress, he occupied himself with political affairs and with the grand partition of Normandy among the Norwegian emigrants.2

The country was divided out by the cord, say the old chroniclers: such was the mode of mensuration used in Scandinavia. All the lands, whether desert or cultivated, except those of the churches, were shared out afresh, without any attention to the rights of the natives. The companions of Roll, chiefs or soldiers, became, according to their rank, seigneurs of the towns and rural districts, sovereign proprietors, great or small, of domains. The former proprietors were compelled to accommodate themselves to the will of the new comers, to give place to them if they so required, or to hold of them their own domain under lease or in vassalage. Thus the serfs of the country changed masters, and many freemen became serfs of the glebe. New geographical denominations even resulted from this repartition of territorial property, and usage thenceforth attached to many of the domains the names of the Scandinavian warriors to whose portion they had fallen.3 Although the condition of the craftsmen and peasants of Normandy differed little from what it was in France, the hope of a more complete security, and the movement of social life which generally accompanies a rising empire, induced many artizans and labourers to emigrate and establish themselves under the government of duke Roll. His name, which the French pronounced Rou, became widely popular; he was deemed the greatest enemy of robbers, and the most vigorous justiciary of his time.

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Although the majority of the Norwegians, following the example of their chief, had eagerly accepted baptism, it appears that a certain number of them refused it, and resolved to preserve the customs of their ancestors. These dissentients united together to form a kind of separate colony, and settled in the environs of Bayeux. They were, perhaps, attracted thither by the manners and language of the inhabitants of Bayeux, who, Saxons by origin, still spoke in the tenth century a German dialect. In this district of Normandy, the Norwegian idiom, differing but little from the popular language, became fused with it, and purified it, in a measure, so as to render it intelligible to the Danes and the other Scandinavians.1 When, after several generations, the repugnance of the Norman barons of Bessin and the Cotentin for Christianity had yielded to the force of example, the impress of the Scandinavian character was still found among them in a striking degree. They were remarkable among the other lords and knights of Normandy for their extreme turbulence, and for an almost permanent hostility to the government of the dukes; some of them even long bore pagan devices on their shields, and opposed the old war cry of the Scandinavians, Thor aide! to that of Dieu aide! the cry of Normandy.2

Peace was not of long duration between the French and the Normans, and the latter skilfully profited by circumstances to extend their dominion towards the east, almost to the point where the river Oise joins the Seine;3 on the north, their territory was bounded by the little river Bresle, and by that of Coësnon on the south-west. The inhabitants of this district were all called Normans by the French, and by foreigners, with the exception of the Danes and the Norwegians, who only gave this name, honourable in their eyes, to that portion of the population which was really of Norman race and language. Edition: current; Page: [101] This, the least numerous portion, stood, with regard to the mass, whether native or emigrant, of the other parts of Gaul, on the same footing as the sons of the Franks with regard to the sons of the Gauls. In Normandy, the mere qualification of Norman was from the first a title of nobility: it was the sign of liberty and of power, of the right to levy taxes from the citizens and serfs of the country.1

All the Normans, by name and by race, were equal in civil rights, though not equal in military grades and political dignities. No man among them was taxed without his own consent, or subject to toll for his goods by land or by water: all enjoyed the right of hunting and fishing to the exclusion of the villeins and peasants, terms which, in point of fact, comprehended the whole mass of the native population. Although the court of the dukes of Normandy was organized almost wholly upon the model of that of the kings of France, the higher clergy did not at first form a part of it, on account of their French origin; at a later period, when a great number of men of Norwegian or Danish race had assumed the ecclesiastical habit, a certain distinction in rank and privileges continued to subsist, even in the monasteries, between them and the other ecclesiastics.2

This distinction, still more oppressive in the political and civil order, soon raised against it the ancient population of the country. In less than a century after the establishment of the new state, of which it was the oppressed portion, this population conceived the idea of destroying the inequality of races, so that the country of Normandy should contain only one nation, as it bore but one name. It was under the reign of Rikhart or Richard II., third successor of Roll, that this great project manifested itself. In all the districts of Normandy, the inhabitants of the villages and hamlets began, in the evening, after the hour of labour, to assemble and talk together of the miseries of their condition; these groups of politicians were composed of twenty, thirty, or an hundred persons, and often the assembly formed into a circle to listen Edition: current; Page: [102] to some orator who animated them by violent speeches against the lords of the country, counts, viscounts, barons, and knights. Ancient chronicles in verse present to us, in a manner vivid and powerful, if not authentic, the substance of these harangues.1

“The lords do nothing but evil; we cannot obtain either reason or justice from them; they have all, they take all, eat all, and make us live in poverty and suffering. Every day is with us a day of pain; we gain nought by our labours, there are so many dues and services. Why do we allow ourselves to be thus treated? Let us place ourselves beyond their power; we are men like they, we have the same limbs, the same height, the same power of endurance, and we are an hundred to one. Let us swear to defend each other; let us be firmly knit together, and no man shall be lord over us; and we shall be free from tolls and taxes, free to fell trees, to take game and fish, and do as we will in all things, in the wood, in the meadow, on the water.”2

These appeals to natural right, and to the power of the greater number, did not fail to produce an effect, and many people of the hamlets mutually swore to keep together, and to aid each other against all comers.3 A vast association for common defence spread over the whole country, comprehending, if not the entire mass, at all events the agricultural class of the indigenous population. The associates were divided into various circles, which the original historian designates by the term conventicula; there was at least one for every county, and each chose two members to form the superior circle or central assembly.4 The business of this assembly was to prepare and organize throughout the country the means of resistance or insurrection; it sent from district to district, and from village Edition: current; Page: [103] to village, eloquent and persuasive persons, to gain over new associates, to register their names, and to receive their oaths.1

Affairs had arrived at this point, and no open rebellion had yet broken out, when the news reached the court of Normandy that throughout the country the villeins were holding councils and forming themselves into a sworn association.2 There was great alarm among the lords, thus threatened with losing at one blow their rights and their revenues. Duke Richard, who was then too young to act for himself, sent for his uncle Raoul, count of Evreux, in whom he placed full confidence. “Sire,” said the count, “rest in peace, and let me deal with these peasants; do not yourself stir, but send me all the knights and men-at-arms at your disposal.”3

In order to surprise the chiefs of the association, count Raoul sent able spies in every direction, whom he specially charged to discover the place and hour at which the central assembly was to be held; upon their reports he marched his troops, and arrested in one day all the deputies of the inferior circles, some while sitting, others while they were receiving in the villages the oaths of the associates.4 Whether from passion or calculation, the count treated his prisoners with extreme cruelty. Without any trial, without the slightest inquiry, he inflicted upon them mutilations or atrocious tortures; of some he put out the eyes, of others he cut off the hands or feet; some had their legs burned, others were impaled alive, or had melted lead poured over them.5 The unfortunate men who survived these tortures were sent back to their families, and on the way paraded through the villages, to spread terror around. And in effect, fear prevailed over the love of liberty in the hearts of the Norman peasants; the great association was broken up; no more secret assemblies were held, and a mournful resignation succeeded, for several centuries, to the momentary enthusiasm.6

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At the period of this memorable attempt, the difference of language which had at first separated the nobles and commons of Normandy scarcely existed; it was by his genealogy that the man of Scandinavian origin was distinguished from the Gallo-Frank. Even at Rouen, and in the palace of the successors of Roll, no other language was spoken at the commencement of the eleventh century than Romane or French. The town of Bayeux alone was still an exception, and its dialect, a mixture of Saxon and Norwegian was easily understood by the Scandinavians. Accordingly, when fresh emigrants came from the north to visit their Norman relations, and seek from them a portion of land, it was around Bayeux that they established themselves in preference. So again, it was there, if we are to credit ancient chronicles, that the Norman dukes sent their children to learn to speak Danish. The Danes and the Norwegians maintained relations of alliance and affection with Normandy so long as they found in the resemblance of language the token of an ancient national fraternity. Several times, during the quarrels which the first dukes had to sustain against the French, powerful succours were sent them from Norway and Denmark, and, Christians as they were, they were aided by kings who still remained pagans; but when the use of the Romane language became universal in Normandy, the Scandinavians ceased to look upon the Normans as natural allies; they even ceased to give them the name of Normans, and called them Frenchmen, Romans, or Welskes, in common with the other inhabitants of Gaul.1

These ties of relationship and friendship were already greatly relaxed in the first years of the eleventh century, when the king of England, Ethelred, married the sister of this same Richard, fourth duke of Normandy, whom we have just mentioned. It is probable, indeed, that if the branch of Scandinavian population established in Gaul had not been at this time entirely detached from its northern trunk, the Saxon king would not have conceived the hope of being supported by the grandson of Roll against the power of the northern kings. The little readiness shown by the Norman Richard to assist his brother-in-law, did not arise from any scruple or moral repugnance, but because Richard did not see in this Edition: current; Page: [105] intervention anything favourable to his own interest, which he was skilful in discerning and ardent in pursuing, consistently with the character which already distinguished the inhabitants of Normandy.

Whilst Ethelred in exile was receiving the hospitality of his brother-in-law, the English, under the dominion of the foreigner, regretted, as in the time of the flight of Alfred and the first Danish conquest, the sway of him whom they had deserted in disgust; Swen, whom, in the year 1014, they had allowed to assume the title of king of England, died in that same year, so suddenly as to occasion his death being attributed to an impulse of patriotic indignation. The Danish soldiers, stationed in the towns or in their vessels at the mouths of the rivers, chose as successor to their late chief, his son Knut, who was then on a mission to the country along the Humber with the tributes and hostages from the English of the south. The latter, encouraged by his absence, sent a messenger to the exile in Normandy, telling him, in the name of the English nation, that they would again accept him as king, if he would promise to govern better.1

In answer to this message, Ethelred sent his son Edward, charging him to salute, in his name, the whole English people,2 and to take a public oath that for the future he would fulfil his duties as a sovereign with fidelity,3 would amend whatever was not liked, and forget everything that had been done or said against his person. The friendship sworn between the nation and the king was confirmed on both sides by mutual pledges, and the Wittenagemote pronounced a sentence of perpetual outlawry against any Dane who should style himself king of England.4

Ethelred again assumed his emblems of honour; it is not exactly known over what extent of territory he reigned, for the Danish garrisons, although driven from some towns, still retained many others, and even the city of London remained in their hands. Perhaps the great road called Wetlingastreet, Edition: current; Page: [106] served, for the second time, as a line of demarcation between the free provinces and the provinces subject to foreign domination. King Knut, son of Swen, dissatisfied with the portion which the Anglo-Saxons obliged him to accept, returned from the north; and landing near Sandwich, in a fit of rage, cut off on the sea-shore the hands and noses of all the hostages his father had received. This futile cruelty was the signal for a fresh war, which Ethelred, for the future faithful to his promises, courageously maintained with various success. Upon his death, the English chose for king, not one of his legitimate children, who remained in Normandy, but his natural son, Edmund, surnamed Iron Sides, who had given great proofs of courage and skill. By his energetic conduct, Edmund raised the fortunes of the English nation; he took London from the Danes, and fought five great battles with them.1

After one of these battles, fought on the southern boundary of Warwickshire, and lost by the Danes, one of their captains, named Ulf,2 separated from his men in the rout, and flying to save his life, entered a wood, with the paths of which he was unacquainted. Having wandered about it all night, at daybreak he met a young peasant driving a herd of oxen. Ulf saluted him, and asked his name. “I am called Godwin,3 son of Ulf-noth,”4 answered the herdsman; “and you, if I mistake not, are one of the Danish army?” The Dane, obliged to declare himself, begged the young man to tell him at what distance he was from the vessels stationed in the Severn or the adjacent rivers, and by what road it would be possible for him to reach them. “The Dane must be mad,” answered Godwin, “who looks for his preservation at the hands of a Saxon.”5 Ulf intreated the herdsman to leave his herd, and to guide him on his way, joining to his entreaties the promises most calculated to tempt a poor and simple man. “The way is long,” said the young herdsman, “and it will be dangerous to guide you. The peasants, emboldened by our victory of yesterday, are armed throughout the country; they would show Edition: current; Page: [107] no mercy either to your guide or to yourself.” The chief drew a gold ring from his finger and presented it to the young Saxon, who took it, looked at it with curiosity, and after a moment’s reflection, returned it, saying: “I will not take it, but I will give you my aid.”1 They passed the day in the cottage of Godwin’s father, and when night came, as they departed, the old peasant said to the Dane: “Know that it is my only son who trusts to your good faith; there will be no safety for him among his countrymen from the moment that he has served you as a guide; present him, therefore, to your king, that he may take him into his service.”2 Ulf promised to do far more than this, and he kept his word; on his arrival at the Danish camp, he seated the peasant’s son in his tent, upon a seat raised as high as his own, treating him as his own son.3 He obtained for him from king Knut military rank, and ultimately the Saxon herdsman attained the dignity of governor of a province in that part of England occupied by the Danes. This man, who from the condition of a cowherd was raised by the protection of foreigners to the highest dignities of his country, was, by a singular destiny, to contribute more than any other man to the downfal of the foreign domination. His name will soon figure among the great names of this history, when, perhaps, there will be some interest in calling to mind the origin and singularity of his fortune.

The victories of the Anglo-Saxons over the Danes led to an armistice and a truce which was solemnly sworn to, in the presence of the two armies, by the kings, Edmund and Knut; they mutually exchanged the name of brother,4 and by common consent fixed the limit of their respective kingdom at the Thames. On the death of Edmund, the Danish king passed this boundary, which was to have been inviolable; he had secretly gained over several interested or ambitious chieftains, and the terror caused by his invasion gave success to their intrigues. After a brief resistance, the Anglo-Saxons of the southern and western provinces submitted, and acknowledged the son of Swen as king of all England. Knut swore in return to be just and benevolent, and with his bare hand Edition: current; Page: [108] touched the hands of the principal chiefs, in token of sincerity.1

Despite these promises and the facility with which he had gained the crown, Knut was at first suspicious and cruel. All those who had been remarkable for their attachment to the ancient liberty of the country and the Anglo-Saxon royalty, some even of those who had betrayed this cause for that of the foreign power, were banished from England or put to death. “Whoever will bring me the head of an enemy,” said the Danish king, with the ferocity of a pirate, “shall be dearer to me than a brother.”2 The relations of the two last kings, Ethelred and Edmund, were proscribed in a body; the sons of Ethelred were then at the court of Normandy; but those of Edmund, who had remained in England, did not escape persecution. Not venturing to put them to death before the eyes of the English people, Knut sent them to Scandinavia, and carefully insinuated to the petty king to whose care he confided them, what were his intentions respecting them; but the latter feigned not to understand him, and allowed his prisoners to escape into Germany. Thence, for greater security, they went to the court of the king of Hungary, who now began to figure among the Christian powers. They were received with honour, and one of them afterwards married a cousin of the emperor of the Germans.3

Richard, duke of Normandy, seeing the impossibility of establishing his nephews on the throne of England, and wishing to have the benefit of a close alliance with that country, adopted an entirely personal policy; he negotiated with the Danish king to the prejudice of the sons of Ethelred. By a singular but skilfully conceived arrangement, he proposed that Knut should marry the mother of these two children, who, as we have seen, was his sister: she had received at her baptism the name of Emme or Emma, but on her arrival in England the Saxons had changed this foreign name into that of Alfghive, signifying present from the genii. Flattered at the idea of becoming once more the wife of a king, Emma consented to this second union, and left it doubtful, say the old Edition: current; Page: [109] historians, which had acted with most dishonour, she or her brother.1 She soon became the mother of a new son, to whom the power of his father promised a fortune very different from that of the children of Ethelred, and, in the intoxication of her ambition, she forgot and slighted her first-born, who, on their part, kept out of their native land, gradually forgot its manners and even its language; they contracted in exile foreign habits and friendships: an event of little importance in itself, but which had fatal consequences.

Secured in his power by a possession of several years, and by a marriage which made him, in a measure, less foreign to the English nation, king Knut gradually became gentler; a new character was developed in him; his ideas of government were as elevated as his epoch and situation were capable of; he had even the desire to be impartial between the English and the Danes. Without at all diminishing the enormous taxes which the conquest had imposed on England, he employed them partly in purchasing of his countrymen their return to Denmark, and thus rendering less sensible the division of the inhabitants of England into two races, races hostile and of unequal condition. Of all the armed Danes who had accompanied him, he only retained a chosen troop of a few thousand men, who formed his guard, and who were called Thingamanna, that is to say, men of the palace. The son of an apostate to Christianity, he proved a zealous Christian, rebuilding the churches that his father and himself had burned, and magnificently endowing the abbeys and monasteries.2 From a desire to please the national feelings of the Anglo-Saxons, he raised a chapel over the grave of Edmund, king of East Anglia, who, for a century and a half past, had been venerated as a martyr of the faith and of patriotism; the same motive led him to erect at Canterbury a monument to the archbishop Elfeg, a victim, like king Edmund, to the cruelty of the Danes: he wished, further, to have the body of this saint, which had been buried at London, removed hither, and the inhabitants of that city having refused to deliver it up, the Danish king, suddenly resuming, for an act of devotion, the habits of the conqueror and pirate, had the Edition: current; Page: [110] coffin forcibly carried off by the troops, between two lines of whom, with drawn swords, it was conveyed to the Thames, and there placed in a ship of war, having for its figure-head the upper part of an enormous dragon, richly gilt.1

During the time of the partition of England into independent kingdoms, several of the Anglo-Saxon kings, especially those of Wessex and Mercia, had, at different periods, established certain payments in favour of the Romish church. The object of these purely gratuitous gifts was to procure a better reception and aid, in case of need, for the English pilgrims who visited Rome, to support a school there for youths of that nation, and to go towards the expense of the lights in the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul.2 The payment of these dues, which in the Saxon language were called Rom-feoh, Rom-skeat, Rome-money, Rome-tax, more or less regular, according to the degree of zeal of the kings and people, was entirely suspended in the ninth century by the Danish invasions. Wishing to expiate, in some degree, the evil which his country had done to the church, and to surpass in munificence all the Anglo-Saxon kings, Knut revived this institution, giving it a greater extent, and subjected England to a perpetual tribute, called Peter’s pence (Rom-feth). This tax, paid at the rate of a penny of the money of the time, for each inhabited house, was, in the terms of the royal ordinances, to be levied every year, to the praise and glory of God, on the day of the feast of the prince of the apostles.3

The pecuniary homage of the ancient Saxon kings to the Romish church had not in any way increased the religious dependence of England. This dependence and the power of the church were then of an essentially spiritual nature; but in the course of the ninth century, in consequence of the revolutions which took place in Italy, the supremacy of the court of Rome assumed quite a new character. Several towns, which had escaped from the authority of the emperors of Constantinople, or been taken by the Franks from the Lombard kings, had placed themselves under the subjection of the pope, who thus combined the character of temporal sovereign with Edition: current; Page: [111] that of head of the church; the name of Patrimony of Saint Peter ceased from that time to be applied to private domains, separated by great distances, spread through Italy, Sicily, and Gaul, but served to designate a vast and compact territory, possessed or ruled sovereignly, by seigneural title.1 Pursuant to the fixed and universal law of political development, this new state was not, more than any other, to be without ambition, and its necessary tendency was to abuse, in promotion of its material interests, the moral influence which its chief exercised over the kingdoms of the west. After such a revolution, the transmission of an annual tribute to the pontifical court could not fail to have, at all events in the idea of that court, a meaning wholly different from before. Notions hitherto unheard of began to germinate there; the pope and those about him spoke of the universal suzerainty of Saint Peter over all countries, however distant, which had received the Christian faith from Rome. England was of this number; the re-establishment, therefore, of a tax, though meant merely as a proof of Christian fervour, was perilous for the political independence of that kingdom. No one there, it is true, suspected the consequences which might result from the perpetual obligation of Saint Peter’s pence, neither the king, who formed the engagement from religious zeal, or from vanity, nor the people, who had submitted to it without a murmur, as an act of devotion; yet half a century sufficed to develop these consequences, and to enable the court of Rome to treat England as a fief of the apostolic see.

About the year 1030, king Knut resolved to go in person to Rome, to visit the tombs of the apostles, and receive the thanks due to his liberalities; he set out with a numerous retinue, bearing a wallet on his shoulder, and a long staff in his hand.2 Having accomplished his pilgrimage, and on the point of returning to the north, he addressed to all the English nation a letter, throughout which there prevails a tone of kindliness that contrasts singularly with the education and first acts of royalty of the son of Swen.

“Knut, king of England and Denmark, to all the bishops and primates, and all the English people, greeting. I hereby Edition: current; Page: [112] announce to you that I have been to Rome for the remission of my sins, and the welfare of my kingdoms. I humbly thank the Almighty God for having granted me, once in my life, the grace of visiting in person his very holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints who have their habitation either within the walls, or without the Roman city. I determined upon this journey, because I had learned from the mouths of wise men, that the apostle Peter possesses great power to bind or to loose, and that he keeps the keys of the celestial kingdom; wherefore I thought it useful to solicit specially his favour and patronage with God.

“During the Easter solemnity was held here a great assembly of illustrious persons—namely, pope John, the emperor Kunrad, and all the chief men of the nations, from Mount Gargano to the sea which surrounds us. All received me with great distinction, and honoured me with rich presents: I have received vases of gold and silver, and stuffs and vestments of great price. I have conversed with the emperor, the lord pope, and the other princes, upon the wants of all the people of my kingdoms, English and Danes. I have endeavoured to obtain for my people justice and security in their pilgrimages to Rome, and especially that they may not for the future be delayed on their road by the closing of the mountain passes, or vexed by enormous tolls. I also complained to the lord pope of the immensity of the sums exacted to this day from my archbishops, when, according to custom, they repair to the apostolical court to obtain the pallium. It has been decided that this shall not occur for the future.

“I would also have you know that I have made a vow to Almighty God to regulate my life by the dictates of virtue, and to govern my people with justice. If during the impetuosity of my youth I have done anything contrary to equity, I will for the future, with the help of God, amend this to the best of my power; wherefore, I require and command all my councillors and those to whom I have confided the affairs of my kingdom, to lend themselves to no injustice, either in fear of me, or to favour the powerful. I recommend them, if they prize my friendship and their own lives, to do no harm or violence to any man, rich or poor; let every one in his place enjoy that which he possesses, and not be disturbed in that enjoyment, either in the king’s name or in the Edition: current; Page: [113] name of any other person, nor under pretext of levying money for my treasury; for I need no money obtained by unjust means.

“I propose to return to England this summer, and as soon as the preparations for my embarkation shall be completed. I intreat and order you all, bishops and officers of my kingdom of England, by the faith you owe to God and to me, to see that before my return all our debts to God be paid—namely, the plough dues, the tithe of animals born within the year, and the pence due to Saint Peter from every house in town and country; and further, at mid August, the tithe of the harvest, and at Martinmas the first fruit of the seed; and if, on my landing, these dues are not fully paid, the royal power will be exercised upon defaulters, according to the rigour of the law and without any mercy.”1

It was in the reign of Knut, and favoured by the protracted wars that he prosecuted to reunite the other Scandinavian kingdoms to Denmark, that Godwin, the Saxon peasant, whose singular adventure we have before related, gradually rose to the highest military honours. After a great victory gained over the Norwegians, he obtained the dignity of earl, or political chief of the ancient kingdom of Wessex, now reduced to the state of a province. Many other English zealously served the Danish king in his conquests in Norway and on the shores of the Baltic. He employed the Saxon navy to destroy that of the petty kings of the north, and having dispossessed them, one after the other, he assumed the new title of emperor of the north, by the grace of Christ, king of kings.2 Despite this intoxication of military glory, however, the national antipathy to the Danish domination did not cease; and on the death of their grea king, as his contemporaries called him, things resumed their course. Nothing remained of the apparent fusion of two races under the same flag; and this empire, raised for a moment above all the kingdoms of the north, was dissolved in the same manner as the vast empire of Charlemagne. The Scandinavian populations expelled their Danish conquerors, and chose national chiefs Edition: current; Page: [114] for themselves. More anciently subjected, the Anglo-Saxons could not all at once regain their liberty in so complete a manner; but they secretly attacked the power of the foreigners, and commenced by intrigues a revolution that was to be terminated by force.1

The Danish king died in the year 1035, and left three sons, of whom one only, named Hardeknut, (Harda-knut, Horda-knut, Hartha-knut,) that is, Knut the strong or the brave, was born of the Norman Emma; the others were the children of a first wife. Knut had at his death desired that the son of Emma should be his successor; such a nomination was rarely without influence upon those to whom the German customs gave the right of electing their kings. But Hardeknut was then in Denmark; and the Danes of London,2 eager to have a chief, that they might be united and powerful against the discontented Saxons, elected as king another son of Knut, named Harold.3 This election, sanctioned by the majority, met with some opponents, whom the English hastened to join, in order to nourish and envenom the domestic quarrel of their masters. The provinces of the south-west, which, for the whole duration of the conquest, were always the first to rise and the last to submit, proclaimed Hardeknut king, while the Danish soldiers and sailors installed Harold in London. This political schism again divided England into two zones, separated by the Thames. The north was for Harold, the south for the son of Emma; but the struggle carried on in these two names was in reality the struggle between the two great interests of the all-powerful conquerors to the north of the Thames, and the less feeble of the conquered to the south.

Godwin, son of Ulfnoth, was then chief of the vast province of Wessex, and one of the most powerful men in England. Whether he had already conceived the project of using the power he derived from the foreigners for the deliverance of his nation, or felt a personal affection for the younger son of Knut, he favoured the absent claimant, and invited the widow of the late king into the west. She came, Edition: current; Page: [115] accompanied by some Danish troops,1 and bringing with her part of her husband’s treasures. Godwin assumed the office of general in chief and protector of the kingdom in the name and in the absence of the son of Emma.2 He received, for Hardeknut, the oaths of fidelity of the whole southern population. This ambiguous insurrection, which, under one aspect, appeared the struggle of two pretenders, under another, a war of nation against nation, did not extend north of the Thames. There the mass of the Saxon inhabitants swore, in common with the Danes, fidelity to king Harold; there were only a few individual exceptions, as the refusal of Ethelnoth,3 an Englishman by birth and archbishop of Canterbury, to consecrate the king elected by the foreigners, and to give him the sceptre and crown of the Anglo-Saxon kings.4 Harold, according to some historians, crowned himself with his own hand, without any religious ceremony; and renewing in his heart the ancient spirit of his ancestors, he conceived a hatred for Christianity. It was the hour of worship, and when the people were repairing to church, that he selected to send for his hunting dogs, or have his table served.5

A fierce war between the south and north of England, between the Saxon population and the Danish population, appeared inevitable. This expectation occasioned a sort of panic among the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of the left bank of the Thames,6 who, despite their apparent fidelity to the king recognised by the Danes, feared lest they should be treated as rebels. Many families quitted their houses, and sought shelter in the forests. Whole troops of men, women, and children, with their cattle and goods, proceeded to the marshes, which extended for more than a hundred miles over the four counties of Cambridge, Huntingdon, Northampton, and Lincoln.7 This district, which appeared a vast lake interspersed with islands, was only inhabited by monks, who owed to the munificence of the ancient kings vast houses built amidst the waters, upon piles and earth brought from a distance.1 Edition: current; Page: [116] The poor fugitives settled in the willow groves which covered these low and muddy lands. Wanting many of the necessaries of life, and having nothing to do the whole day, they assailed with solicitations, or with visits of simple curiosity, the monks of Croyland, Peterborough, and other neighbouring abbeys. They went to and fro unceasingly to demand assistance, counsel or prayers;2 they followed the monks or servants of the convent at every turn, importuning them to pity their lot. In order not to depart from the observance of their rules, the monks shut themselves up in their cells, and deserted the cloister and the church, because the crowd flocked there. Wulf, a hermit, who lived alone in the marshes of Pegland, was so alarmed at finding himself suddenly surrounded by men and noise, that he abandoned his cabin, and fled to seek other deserts.

The war, so desired on one side of the Thames, and so dreaded on the other, did not take place, because the absence of Hardeknut being protracted, the enthusiasm of his Danish partisans subsided,3 and the English of the south did not think the moment had arrived for them to raise their national standards, not as favourers of a Danish pretender, but as enemies to all the Danes. The Norman woman, whose presence served to give to the insurrection a colour less offensive in the eyes of a foreign power, made peace with this power, and surrendered the treasure of Knut to the rival of her own son. Godwin and the other Saxon chiefs of the west, forced by her desertion to acknowledge Harold as king, swore obedience to him, and Hardeknut was forgotten.4 At the same time there happened a tragical event, the story of which has only reached us enveloped in much obscurity. A letter from Emma, who was living at London on good terms with king Harold, was sent, it would appear, to the two sons of Ethelred in Normandy; their mother informed them in it that the Anglo-Saxon people appeared disposed to make one of them king, and to shake off the Danish yoke; she Edition: current; Page: [117] invited one of them to come secretly to England, to advise with her and their friends.1 Whether the letter was genuine or forged, the sons of Ethelred received it with joy, and the younger of the two, Alfred, embarked by the consent of his brother, with a troop of Norman or Boulognese soldiers,2 which was contrary to the instructions of Emma, if, indeed, the invitation proceeded from her.3

The young Alfred landed at Dover, and advanced south of the Thames, where he was likely to encounter less danger and difficulty, because the Danes were not numerous there. Godwin went to meet him, perhaps to ascertain his capacity, and to concert with him some plan for the national deliverance. He found him surrounded by foreigners, who had come in his train to share the high fortune he hoped to find in England, and this sight suddenly converted the favourable disposition of the Saxon chief towards Alfred into hatred. An ancient historian on this occasion puts into the mouth of Godwin a speech to the assembled chiefs, in which he represents to them that Alfred was come escorted by too many Normans; that he had promised to these Normans possessions in England, and that they must not allow this race of foreigners, known throughout the world for their craft and daring, to become masters in the country.4 Whatever may have been the fact as to this harangue, Alfred was abandoned, if not betrayed by Godwin and the Saxons,5 who in truth had not summoned him from beyond seas, nor drawn him into the peril in which they left him. Harold’s officers, informed of his landing, surprised him with his companions in the town of Guildford, while they were unarmed and dispersed in different houses. They were all seized and bound, without any attempt being made to defend them.6

More than six hundred foreigners had followed young Alfred; they were separated from him, and treated with the Edition: current; Page: [118] greatest barbarity; nine of each ten perished in horrible tortures; the tenth alone obtained his life. The son of Ethelred, transferred to the island of Ely, in the heart of the Danish territory, was brought before judges, who condemned him to lose his eyes as a violator of the peace of the country. His mother took no steps to save him from this punishment. She deserted the orphan, says the ancient chronicler;1 and other historians reproach her with having been an accomplice in his death.2 The latter assertion may be doubted, though it is a singular circumstance that Emma, on being shortly afterwards banished from England by king Harold, did not repair to Normandy with her own relations and the second son of Ethelred, but sought a foreign asylum in Flanders,3 whence she addressed herself to the son of Knut in Denmark, intreating him to revenge his maternal brother, the son of Ethelred the Saxon, who, said Emma, had been assassinated by Harold, and betrayed by Godwin.4

The treachery of Godwin was the war-cry of the Normans, who in their blind resentment accused the Saxons rather than the Danes of the massacre of their countrymen, victims of a too hazardous enterprise. There are, besides, many versions of this affair,5 of which not one is supported by sufficient proofs to be regarded as the true one. An historian, among the most worthy of belief, commences his narration in these words: “I am now going to relate what the story-tellers recount of the death of Alfred:”6 and at the end of his narrative, he adds, “This being the common rumour, I have not omitted it, but as no chronicle mentions it, I affirm it not.”7 What appears, beyond doubt, is the execution of the son of Ethelred, and of several hundred men who had accompanied him from Normandy and France, to excite the Saxons to insurrection; the interview of Godwin with this young man, and more especially, the premeditated treachery of which he is Edition: current; Page: [119] accused by many writers, appear to be fabulous circumstances, superstructed on one genuine fact. However unworthy of belief these fables may be, they are far from being destitute of historical importance, in consequence of the credit they obtained in foreign countries, and the national resentment which they excited against the English people.

On the death of Harold, the Anglo-Saxons, still not bold enough to choose a king of their own race, concurred with the Danes in electing the son of Emma and Knut.1 The first act of royalty done by Hardeknut was to order the body of his predecessor, Harold, to be disinterred, and after the head had been cut off, to be thrown into the Thames. Some Danish fishermen found the body, and again buried it at London, in the cemetery set apart for their nation, who even in the grave were resolved to be distinguished from the English.2 Having given this example of vengeance and barbarity against one dead brother, the new king, with a great show of fraternal affliction, commenced an extensive judicial inquiry into the murder of Alfred. He himself being a Dane, no man of Danish race was cited by him to appear before the justice-seat, and Saxons were alone charged with a crime which could only have been useful to their masters. Godwin, whose power and doubtful designs inspired great fears, was the first accused; he presented himself, according to the English law, accompanied by a great number of relations, friends and witnesses, who, with him, swore that he had taken no part, directly or indirectly, in the death of the son of Ethelred. This legal proof was not sufficient with a king of foreign race; and in order to give it value, it was necessary for the Saxon chief to back it with rich presents, the details of which if not wholly fabulous, would lead one to believe that many of the English assisted their countryman to buy off this prosecution, instituted in bad faith. Godwin gave king Hardeknut a vessel adorned with gilt metal and manned with eighty soldiers, each with a gilt helmet, a gilt axe upon his left shoulder, a javelin in his right hand, and on each arm bracelets of gold, weighing six ounces.3 A Saxon bishop, Edition: current; Page: [120] named Leofwin,1 accused of having assisted the son of Ulfnoth in his alleged treason, like Godwin, cleared himself by presents.

In general, in his relations with the conquered, Hardeknut showed less cruelty than avarice; his love of money equalled and perhaps exceeded that of the pirates his ancestors. He overwhelmed England with taxes, and more than once his collectors fell victims of the hatred and despair they excited. The citizens of Worcester killed two in the exercise of their functions. As soon as the news of this murder reached the Danish authorities, two chieftains of that nation, Leofrik and Siward, the one governor of Mercia, the other of Northumbria, united their forces and marched against the rebel city, with orders to waste it by fire and steel. The inhabitants abandoned their houses in a body, and took refuge in one of the islands formed by the Severn; they here raised intrenchments, and resisted, until the wearied assailants allowed them to return in peace to their dwellings.2

Thus the spirit of independence, which the conquerors called revolt, gradually revived among the sons of the Saxons and the Angles. Misery and insults were not wanting to awaken in their minds regret for their lost liberty.3 The Dane who bore the title of king of England was not the only oppressor of the natives; under him was a whole nation of foreigners, each of whom did his best towards the evil work. This superior class, of whom the English were subjects and not fellow citizens, did not pay taxes like the English, but, on the contrary, shared the imposts levied by their chief, receiving, at fixed periods, large distributions of money.4 When the king, in his military reviews or pleasure excursions, used the house of a Dane as his lodging, the Dane was paid, sometimes in money,5 sometimes with the fat cattle which the Saxon Edition: current; Page: [121] peasant had thus fed for the table of his conquerors.1 But the house of the Saxon was the inn of the Dane; the foreigner there gratuitously enjoyed fire, food, and bed; he occupied the place of honour as master.2 The head of the family might not drink without his guest’s permission, nor be seated in his presence. The latter could at pleasure insult the wife, the daughter, or the servant3 of his Saxon, and if he defended or avenged them, he found no asylum; he was pursued and tracked like a wild beast; a price was set on his head as on a wolf’s; he became a wolf’s head, to adopt the Anglo-Saxon expression;4 and nothing remained for him but to fly to the forest with the wolves, to become a brigand there, and war against the foreign conquerors, and the natives, who slumbered like cowards beneath the yoke of these foreigners.

These long accumulated sufferings at length produced their fruits; on the death of king Hardeknut, which took place suddenly amidst a marriage feast, before the Danes assembled to elect a new king, a great insurrectionary army was formed under the command of a Saxon named Howne.5 Unfortunately, the patriotic exploits of this army are now as little known, as the name of its chief is obscure. Godwin and his son, Harald (or Harold, according to the Saxon orthography), now raised the standard of independence of their country, against every Dane, king or claimant, chief or soldier. Beaten back rapidly to the north, driven from town after town, the Danes left the country, and landed, greatly diminished in number, on the shores of their old country.6 They in their turn related a story of treachery, the romantic circumstances of which are found, equally fabulous, in the history of several nations; they said that Harold, son of Godwin, had invited Edition: current; Page: [122] the chiefs among them to a grand banquet, to which the Saxons came armed, and attacked them unexpectedly.1

It was not a surprise of this kind, but open war, which put an end to the dominion of the Scandinavians in England. Godwin’s son and Godwin himself, played, at the head of the revolted nation, the most conspicuous part in this national war. At the moment of deliverance, the whole care of public affairs was confided to the son of the cowherd Ulfnoth, who, in saving his country from the hands of the foreigners, had accomplished the extraordinary fortune he had begun by saving a foreigner from the hands of his countrymen.2 Godwin, had he desired it, might have been named king of the English; few suffrages would have been denied him, but he preferred to direct the attention of the people towards a man unconnected with the recent events, without enviers, without enemies; inoffensive to all from his absence from public affairs, interesting to all by his misfortunes—towards Edward, the second son of Ethelred, the same whose brother he was accused of having betrayed and put to death. By the advice of the chief of Wessex,3 a great council, assembled at Gillingham, decided that a national message should be sent to Edward in Normandy, to announce to him that the whole people had elected him king, but upon condition that he should bring but few Normans with him.4

Edward obeyed, says an ancient chronicle,5 and came to England with very few men. He was proclaimed king on his arrival, and crowned in the cathedral of Winchester. On giving him the crown and sceptre, the bishop made him a long speech upon the duties of royalty, and the mild and equitable government of his Anglo-Saxon predecessors. As he was unmarried, he selected for his queen the daughter of the powerful and popular man to whom he owed his kingdom. Various evil rumours circulated on the subject of this marriage; it was said that Edward, alarmed at the immense authority of Godwin, had taken him for a father-in-law, to avoid having Edition: current; Page: [123] him for an enemy.1 Others say that, before procuring the election of the new king, Godwin had exacted from him an oath, by God and his soul, that he would, if elected, marry his daughter.2 However this may have been, Edward received in marriage a young person of great beauty and learning, modest and of a sweet disposition; she was called Edith, a familiar diminutive for Edswith or Ethelswith.3 “I have often seen her in my childhood,” says a contemporary, “when I went to visit my father, who was employed in the king’s palace. If she met me on my return from school, she interrogated me upon my grammar, poetry, or even logic, in which she was well versed; and when she had entangled me in the meshes of some subtle argument, she never failed to bestow upon me three or four crowns by her servant, and to send me to have refreshment in the pantry.”4 Edith was mild and kind to all who approached her; those who disliked the somewhat savage pride of character of her father and brother, praised her for not resembling them, as is poetically expressed in a Latin verse, then much esteemed: “Sicut spina rosam, genuit Godwinus Editham.”—“As the thorn produces the rose, so Godwin produced Edith.”5

The withdrawal of the Danes, and the complete destruction of the rule of the conquest, in awakening patriotic thoughts, had rendered the Anglo-Saxon customs dearer to the people. They desired to restore them in all their pristine purity, freed from all that the mixture of races had added to them of foreign matter. This wish led them to revert to the times which preceded the great Danish invasion, to the reign of Ethelred, whose institutions and laws were sought out with a view to their re-establishment.6 This restoration took place to the utmost extent possible, and the name of king Edward became connected with it; it was a popular saying that this good king had restored the good laws of his father Ethelred. But, in truth, he was no legislator; he promulgated no new code; the only thing was, that the ordinances of the Danish Edition: current; Page: [124] kings ceased in his reign to be executed.1 The tax of the conquest, at first granted temporarily under the name of Danegheld, as we have seen above, then levied each year, during thirty years, for the foreign soldiers and sailors,2 was in this manner abolished, not through the spontaneous benevolence of the new king, but because there were no longer any Danes in England.

That is to say, there were no longer any Danes living in the country as rulers; such had all been expelled; but the English, restored to liberty, did not drive from their habitations the laborious and peaceable Danes who, swearing obedience to the common law, were content with existing simply as cultivators or citizens. The Saxon people did not, by way of reprisals, levy taxes on them, or render their condition worse than their own. In the eastern, and especially in the northern provinces, the children of the Scandinavians continued to exceed in number those of the Anglo-Saxons; these provinces were distinguished from the midland and southern by a remarkable difference of idiom, manners, and local customs,3 but not the slightest resistance was raised to the government of the Saxon king. Social equality soon drew together and fused the two nations, formerly hostile. This union of all the inhabitants of the English soil, formidable to foreign invaders, stayed their ambitious projects, and no northern king dared to assert in arms the heritage of the sons of Knut. These kings even sent messages of peace and friendship to the peaceable Edward: “We will,” said they, “allow you to reign unmolested over your country, and we will content ourselves with the lands which God has given us to rule.”4

But under this exterior appearance of prosperity and independence, new germs of trouble and ruin were silently developing themselves. King Edward, son of a Norman woman, Edition: current; Page: [125] brought up from infancy in Normandy, had returned almost a foreigner to the country of his ancestors;1 a foreign language had been that of his youth; he had grown old among other men and other customs than the customs and men of England; his friends, the companions of his pleasures and his sorrows, his nearest relatives, the husband of his sister, were all beyond seas. He had sworn to bring with him but few Normans, and but few, in fact, accompanied him, but many followed him: those who had loved him in his exile, those who had more or less assisted him when he was poor, all hastened to besiege his palace.2 He could not help receiving them at his fireside and at his table, or even the preferring them to the, to him, strangers from whom he derived his fireside, his table, and his title. The irresistible tendency of early affections so misled him, that he gave all the high dignities and great offices of the country to men born in another land, and who cared not for England. The national fortresses were placed under the guard of Norman warriors; Norman priests obtained bishoprics in England, and became the chaplains, councillors, and intimate confidants of the king.

Many who called themselves cousins to Edward’s mother passed the Channel, sure of a good reception.3 None who solicited a favour in the Norman tongue4 met with a denial; their language even banished from the palace the national language, which became an object of ridicule with the foreign courtiers; flattery was ever addressed to the king in the favourite idiom. All the ambitious English nobility spoke or stammered in their houses the new court language, as alone worthy of a well born man.5 They cast aside their long Saxon cloaks, for the short wide-sleeved Norman mantle; they imitated in their writing the lengthened form of the Norman letters; instead of signing their name at the bottom of civil acts, they affixed seals of wax, in the Norman fashion. In short, all the ancient national customs, even in the most trifling things, were abandoned to the lower class.6

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But the people who had shed their blood that England might be free, and who were not so delighted with the grace and charm of the new customs, deemed that they saw the revival, under another form, of a foreign government. Godwin, although among his countrymen the highest in dignity and the next after the king, fortunately had not forgotten his plebeian origin, and joined the popular party against the Norman favourites. The son of Ulfnoth and his four sons, all brave warriors and greatly beloved by the people, resisted, with erect front, the Norman influence, as they had drawn their swords against the Danish conquerors.1 In the palace, where their daughter and sister was lady and mistress, they returned with insolence the insolence of the parasites and courtiers from Gaul; they ridiculed their exotic customs, and contemptuously denounced or jested at the weakness of the king, who abandoned to them his confidence and the fortune of the country.2

The Normans carefully collected their observations and envenomed them at leisure; they incessantly repeated to Edward that Godwin and his sons grossly insulted him, that their arrogance was unbounded, and that it was easy to discern in them the ambition of reigning in his stead, and the intention to betray him.3 But while these accusations were current in the king’s palace, in the popular meetings4 the conduct and character of the Saxon chief and his sons were judged far differently. “Is it astonishing,” asked the people, “that the author and support of Edward’s reign should be indignant at seeing new men from a foreign nation raised above him? and yet never does he utter one harsh word to the man whom he himself created king.” The Norman favourites were denounced as infamous informers, fabricators of discord and trouble,5 and there was ever a prayer, in acclamations, Edition: current; Page: [127] for long life to the great chief, to the chief magnanimous by sea or land.1 They cursed the fatal marriage of Ethelred with a Norman, that union contracted to save the country from foreign invasion,2 and from which a fresh invasion was now the result, a new conquest, under the mask of peace and friendship.

The traces and perhaps the original expression of these national maledictions are found in a passage of an ancient historian, in which the singular turn of the ideas and the vivacity of the language seem to reveal the style of the people: “The all-powerful God must have proposed to himself at once two plans of destruction for the English race, and must have framed a sort of military ambuscade against it; for on one hand he let loose the Danish invasion; on the other he created and cemented the Norman alliance, so that, if we escaped the blows aimed at our faces by the Danes, the cunning of the Normans might be at hand to surprise us.”3

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Eustache of Boulogne, lands at Dover; his quarrel with the inhabitants—Patriotic resistance of Godwin—Grand armament of king Edward—Proscription of Godwin and his sons—Triumph of the Norman favourites—William, duke of Normandy—His origin and character—His visit to England—His ambitions projects—Landing of Godwin and his sons—Their entry into London—Terror and flight of the Norman favourites—Reconciliation of Godwin with king Edward—Death of Godwin—Death of Siward, chief of Northumberland—Talents and popularity of Harold, son of Godwin—Insurrection of the Northumbrians against Tosti—Banishment of Tosti—Hostility of the Romish church to the English people—Friendship between the Romish church and the duke of Normandy—Harold visits Normandy—He is imprisoned by the count de Ponthieu—His release—He is received at Ronen by duke William—Request made him by William—Harold’s oath upon relics—His return to England—Death of king Edward—Election of Harold—Indignation of the duke of Normandy—Tosti persuades Harold of Norway to make a descent upon England—Message from William to Harold—William’s negotiation with the Romish church—Temporal sovereignty of the church at this period—The dispute between William and Harold referred to the pope—Alexander II, decides in favour of William—Convocation of the states of Normandy—William baffles this opposition—Grand military preparations—Enrolment of men from all counties—William seeks to form allies—National animosity between the Normans and Britons—Conan, earl of Brittany, refuses his assistance—He is poisoned—Departure of the Norman fleet—Harold of Norway lands in England—Harold of England attacks the Norwegians—Rout of the Norwegians—Landing of the Norman army at Pevensey—Harold marches against the Normans—He forms an entrenchment seven miles from their camp—Message from William to Harold—Reply of the latter—State of the Anglo-Saxon army—Preparations of the two armies—Attack upon the Anglo-Saxon camp—Victory of the Normans—The body of Harold recognised by his mistress.

Among those who came from Normandy or France, to visit king Edward, was a certain Eustache, who on the other side of the channel bore the title of count de Boulogne. He held the hereditary government, under the suzerainty of the kings Edition: current; Page: [129] of France, of the town of Boulogne and a small territory along the coast, and in token of his dignity of lord of a maritime country, when he was armed for war, wore in his helmet two long plumes of whalebone.1 Eustache had just married Edward’s sister, the widow of another Frenchman named Gualtier de Mantes.2 The Saxon king’s new brother-in-law sojourned with him for some time, with a numerous retinue. He found the palace filled with men born, like himself, in Gaul, and speaking its idiom, so that England appeared to him a conquered country, in which the Normans and French had the right to do anything they pleased. After having rested, on his return home, in the city of Canterbury, the count proceeded towards Dover; at about a mile from the town, he made his escort halt, quitted his travelling palfrey, and mounted the charger which one of his men led in his right hand;3 he put on his coat of mail, and all his companions did the same. In this menacing attire they entered Dover.4

They insolently paraded the town, marking the best houses to pass the night in, and authoritatively established themselves in them. The inhabitants murmured; one of them had the courage to stop on the threshold one of the Frenchmen who was about to take up his quarters in his house. The foreigner drew his sword and wounded the Englishman, who liastily arming with his household, attacked and killed the aggressor. On hearing this, Eustache de Boulogne and his troop left their lodgings, remounted their horses, and besieging the house of the Englishman, murdered him, says the Saxon chronicle, before his own hearth.5 They then went through the town, sword in hand, striking men and women, and crushing children under the feet of the horses.6 They had not proceeded far before they met a body of armed citizens; and in the combat which took place, nineteen of the Boulognese were killed. The count fled with the remainder, Edition: current; Page: [130] and not venturing to seek the harbour to embark, he turned back and hastened to Gloucester, where king Edward then resided with his Norman favourites.1

The king, say the chronicles, gave his peace to Eustache and his companions.2 He believed, on the bare word of his brother-in-law, that all the blame lay with the citizens of Dover, and, violently enraged against them, he sent for Godwin, in whose government the town was included. “Go without delay,” said Edward, “and chastise, by a military execution,3 those who attack my relations with arms in their hands, and disturb the peace of the country.” Less prompt to decide in favour of a foreigner against his countrymen, Godwin suggested that instead of exercising a blind vengeance upon the whole town, the magistrates should be cited, in legal form, to appear before the king and royal judges, to account for their conduct. “It is not right,” said he to the king, “to condemn, without hearing them, men whom it is your duty to protect.”4

Edward’s fury, aggravated by the clamours of his courtiers and favourites, now turned wholly against the English chief, who himself, charged with disobedience and rebellion, was cited to appear before a great council convoked at Gloucester. Godwin at first was little moved by this accusation, thinking the king would soon be calmer, and that the other chiefs would do him justice.5 But he soon learned that by means of the royal influence and the intrigues of the foreigners, the assembly had been corrupted, and that a sentence of banishment would be pronounced against himself and his sons. Both father and sons hereupon resolved to oppose their popularity to these machinations, and to make an appeal to the English against the foreign courtiers, although it was far from their intention, says the ancient chronicle, to offer any violence to their national king.6

Godwin raised a troop of volunteers in the country south of the Thames, the whole extent of which he governed. Harold, his eldest son, assembled a great number of men on Edition: current; Page: [131] the eastern coast, between the Thames and Boston Wash; his second son, Swen or Sweyn, engaged the inhabitants of the Severn and the Welsh frontier in this patriotic confederation. The three armies united near Gloucester, and demanded of the king, by messengers, that count Eustache and his companions, with some other Normans and Boulognese at the court, should be given up to the judgment of the nation. Edward made no answer to these requests, and sent an order to the two great chiefs of the northern and central provinces, Siward and Leofrik, both Danes by birth, to march south-west, with all the forces they could assemble. The inhabitants of Northumbria and Mercia, though they armed at the call of the two chiefs for the defence of the royal authority, did so with little ardour. Siward and Leofrik heard their soldiers murmur that it was an entire miscalculation to suppose that they would shed the blood of their countrymen for any foreign interest, or for Edward’s favourites.1

Both chieftains saw the force of this; the national distinction between the Anglo-Saxons and the Anglo-Danes had become too slight for the old hatred of the two races to be again worked for the profit of the enemies of the country. The chiefs and warriors of the northern provinces refused positively to cross arms with the insurgents of the south; they proposed an armistice between the king and Godwin, and that their dispute should be investigated before an assembly held at London. Edward was compelled to yield; Godwin, who did not desire war for the sake of war, willingly consented; and on one side and the other, says the Saxon chronicle, they swore the peace of God and perfect friendship.2 This was the formula of the time, but, on one side at least, these promises were insincere. The king availed himself of the interval before the meeting of the assembly, fixed for the autumnal equinox, to augment the number of his troops, while Godwin retired to the south-western provinces, and his band of volunteers, having neither pay nor quarters, returned to their families. Breaking his word, although indirectly, Edward proclaimed his ban for the levy of an army, south as well as north of the Thames.3

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This army, say the chroniclers, was the greatest that had been seen under the new reign.1 The king gave the command of it to his foreign favourites, amongst whom in the first rank, figured a youthful son of his sister Goda and the Frenchman Gualtier de Mantes. Edward quartered his forces in and near London, so that the national council opened in the centre of a camp exposed to the influence of terror and of royal seduction. Godwin and his two sons were cited by this council, deliberating under compulsion, to absolve from their oaths and their attendance the few men who remained with them,2 and to appear without escort and unarmed. They replied that they were ready to obey the first of these two orders, but that before appearing in the assembly alone and unprotected, they demanded the king’s peace and hostages to guarantee their personal safety both coming and going.3 Twice they repeated this demand, which the military array displayed in London fully justified on their part,4 and twice they were met by a refusal, and the summons to appear without delay, with twelve compurgators to affirm their innocence on oath. They did not appear, and the great council declaring them contumacious, banished them, granting them only five days of peace to quit England with all their family.5 Godwin, his wife Ghitha or Edith, and three of his sons, Sweyn, Tosti, and Gurth, proceeded to the eastern coast, whence they embarked for Flanders. Harold and his brother Leofwin went westward, to Brig-stow, now Bristol, and crossed the Irish sea. Before the expiration of the five days, and in contempt of the decree of the assembly, the king sent a troop of horse in pursuit of them, but the commander of the party, who was a Saxon, either could not or would not overtake them.6

The property of Godwin and his children was seized and confiscated. His daughter, the king’s wife, was deprived of all her possessions in land, goods or money. It was not right, the foreign courtiers ironically said, that while the family of this woman was undergoing the evils of exile, she Edition: current; Page: [133] herself should sleep upon down.1 The weak-minded Edward went so far as to allow her to be confined in a cloister; the favourites maintained that she was his wife in name only, although she shared his bed, and he himself did not contradict this proposition, upon which his reputation for sanctity was partly founded.2 The days which followed were days of rejoicing and high fortune for the foreigners, and Normandy furnished more governors than ever to England. The Normans gradually obtained there the same supremacy which the Danes had formerly achieved by the sword. A monk of Jumièges, named Robert, became archbishop of Canterbury; another Norman monk was made bishop of London; Saxon prelates and abbots were deposed, to make room for Frenchmen and pretended relations of king Edward on the mother’s side;3 the governments of Godwin and his sons became the property of men bearing foreign titles. One Eudes was made chief of the four counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Cornwall, and the son of Gualtier de Mantes, named Raulfe, had charge of Herefordshire and of the fortresses erected against the Welsh.4

A new guest from Normandy, the most considerable of all, now came with a numerous train to visit king Edward and the towns and castles of England;5 this was William, duke of Normandy, bastard son of the last duke Robert, whose violent character had gained for him the surname of Robert the Devil. He was born to Robert by a young girl of Falaise, whom the duke saw one day on his return from hunting, by the side of a brook, washing linen with her companions. Her beauty made a great impression on Robert, who, wishing to have her for a mistress, sent, says the poetical chronicle,6 one of his most discreet knights to make propositions to the family. The father at first treated the offer with disdain; but on reflection he went to consult one of his brothers, a hermit in the neighbouring forest, a man of great religious reputation, Edition: current; Page: [134] who replied that in all things it was fitting to do the will of the prince; the request was accordingly granted, says the poet, and the night and hour fixed. The name of the young Norman was Arlete, a corruption of the ancient Danish name Herleve; the duke Robert loved her tenderly, and the child he had by her was brought up with as much care as though he had been the son of a lawful wife.1

William was only seven years of age when his father was seized with a desire to make a pilgrimage on foot to Jerusalem, to obtain forgiveness for his sins. The Norman barons wished to prevent this, by representing to him that it would be unwell for them to remain without a chief. “By my faith,” answered Robert, “I will not leave you without a lord. I have a little bastard, who will grow and be a gallant man, if it please God; and I am certain that he is my son. Receive him, then, as your lord; for I make him my heir, and give him from this time forth the whole duchy of Normandy.”2 The Norman barons did as the duke desired, “because,” says the old chronicle,3 “it suited them to do so.” They swore fidelity to the child, placing their hands between his.4 Duke Robert dying on his pilgrimage, several chiefs, and especially the relations of the ancient dukes, protested against this election, saying that a bastard could not command the sons of Normans.5 The seigneurs of Bessin and the Cotentin, more turbulent than the rest, and still more proud of the purity of their descent, placed themselves at the head of the malcontents, and raised a numerous army; but they were defeated in a pitched battle at the Val des Dunes, near Caen, with the assistance of the king of France, who maintained the cause of the young duke from personal interest, and in order to exercise some influence over the affairs of the country. William, as he advanced in years, became more and more dear to his partisans; the day on which he for the first time assumed armour, and mounted his first war-horse without using the stirrup, was a day of rejoicing throughout Normandy. From his youth he occupied himself with military matters, and made Edition: current; Page: [135] war on his neighbours of Anjou and Brittany. He was passionately fond of fine horses, and had them brought, say his contemporaries, from Gascony, Auvergne, and Spain, selecting always those which had proper names by which their genealogy was distinguished.1 The young son of Robert and Arlete was ambitious and vindictive to excess; he impoverished his father’s family as much as he could, to enrich and elevate his relations on the mother’s side. He often punished in the most cruel manner the jests in which the stain of his birth involved him, whether on the part of foreigners or of his countrymen. One day, while he was attacking the town of Alencon, the besieged cried from the walls: “Hides! hides!” and beat skins of leather, in allusion to the trade of William’s tanner grandsire. The bastard immediately cut off the hands and feet of all the prisoners who were in his power, and made his slingers throw the amputated members into the town.2

While traversing England, the duke of Normandy might well have thought that he had not quitted his own duchy; Normans officered the fleet he found stationed at Dover; at Canterbury, Norman soldiers formed the garrison of a fortress built on the side of a hill;3 other Normans came in every place to salute him, attired as captains or prelates. The favourites of Edward respectfully gathered round the chief of their native land, around their natural seigneur, to adopt the language of the period. William appeared in England more a king than Edward himself, and his ambitious mind was not slow in conceiving the hope of becoming such in reality at the death of this prince, so entirely the slave of Norman influence. Such thoughts could not fail to arise in the mind of the son of Robert; and yet, if the testimony of a contemporary is to be believed, he allowed nothing of it to appear, and never mentioned the subject to king Edward, believing that circumstances would adapt themselves to his ambitious purposes.4 On his side, Edward, whether or not he guessed these projects, and contemplated the one day having his friend for successor, said nothing to him about it, but simply received him with Edition: current; Page: [136] the greatest tenderness; gave him arms, horses, dogs, and falcons,1 in a word, all sorts of presents and assurances of affection. Entirely absorbed in the remembrance of the country in which he had passed his youth, the king of England thus yielded to an oblivion of his own nation; but this nation did not forget itself, and those who still loved it soon found occasion to draw the king’s attention towards them.

In the summer of the year 1052, Godwin set out from Bruges with several vessels, and landed on the coast of Kent.2 He sent secret messengers to the Saxon garrison of the port of Hastings, in Suth-sex, or, by euphony, Sussex; other emissaries spread themselves north and south. On their solicitation, numbers of men fit to bear arms bound themselves by oath to the cause of the exiled chief, all vowing, says an old historian, to live and die with him.3 The news of this movement reached the royal fleet, which was cruizing in the eastern sea, under the command of the Normans, Eudes and Raulfe; they went in pursuit of Godwin, who, finding his forces inferior, retreated before them, and took shelter in Pevensey Roads, while a tempest arrested the progress of the hostile ships. He then coasted along the south as far as the Isle of Wight, where his two sons, Harold and Leofwin, joined him from Ireland with a small army.4

The father and sons then together began to open communications with the inhabitants of the southern counties. Wherever they touched, the people supplied them with provisions, and bound themselves to their cause by oath, giving hostages for their fidelity;5 all the royal soldiers, all the royal ships they found in the ports, deserted to them.6 They sailed towards Sandwich, where they landed without any obstacle, notwithstanding Edward’s proclamation, which ordered every inhabitant to stay the progress of the rebel chief. The king was then at London; he commanded all the warriors of the Edition: current; Page: [137] west and north to that city. Few obeyed the order, and those who did, came too late.1 Godwin’s ships freely ascended the Thames, to the suburb of London, then called Southward (Southwark).2 When the tide went down, they cast anchor, and secret emissaries dispersed among the inhabitants of London, who, following the example of the outports, swore to will whatever the enemies of foreign influence should will.3 The vessels passed under London bridge without impediment, and landed a body of troops, who drew up on the banks of the river.

Before bending a single bow, the exiles4 sent a respectful message to king Edward, entreating a revision of the sentence which had been pronounced against them. Edward at first refused; other messengers followed, and meantime Godwin could scarcely restrain the irritation of his friends. On his side, the king found the men who remained under his standard little inclined to draw the sword against their own countrymen.5 His foreign favourites, who foresaw that peace among the Saxons would be their ruin, urged him to give the signal for battle; but necessity making him wiser than usual, he did not heed the Normans, and consented to abide by the decision of the English chiefs of the two parties. These met under the presidency of Stigand, bishop of East Anglia, and unanimously decided that the king should accept from Godwin and his sons the oath of peace, and hostages, giving them, on his part, equivalent guarantees.

On the first intimation of this reconciliation, the Norman and French courtiers hastily mounted their horses, and fled in every direction—some to a western fortress guarded by the Norman Osbert, surnamed Pentecoste; others to a northern castle, also commanded by a Norman. The Normans, Robert, archbishop of Canterbury, and William, bishop of London, left the city by the eastern gate, followed by some armed men of their nation, who, even while thus retreating, massacred several English children. They reached the coast, and embarked in fishing-boats. In his agitation and haste, the archbishop left in England his most precious effects, and Edition: current; Page: [138] among other things the pallium which he had received from the Roman church, as the ensign of his dignity.1

A great council of the wise men was held out of London, and this time they assembled freely. All the chiefs and best men of the country, says the Saxon chronicle, were there. Godwin spoke in his own defence, and justified himself from every accusation before the king and the people;2 his sons exculpated themselves in the same way. Their sentence of banishment was revoked, and another sentence, unanimously decreed, banished all the Normans from England, as enemies of the public peace, promoters of discord, and calumniators of the English to their king.3 The youngest son of Godwin, called Ulfnoth, like his ancestor the cowherd of the west, was placed, with a son of Sweyn, in the hands of Edward, as hostages for the peace. Still, even at this moment, influenced by his fatal friendship for the foreigners, the king sent them both to the care of William duke of Normandy. Godwin’s daughter left her convent, and returned to inhabit the palace; all the members of this popular family were reinstated in their honours, with one exception, Sweyn, who renounced them of his own will. He had formerly carried off a nun, and had committed a murder in a fit of passion; to satisfy justice, and appease his own remorse, he condemned himself to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem barefooted. He rigorously accomplished this painful task; but a speedy death was the result.4

Bishop Stigand, who had presided over the assembly held for the great reconciliation, replaced the Norman Robert in the archbishopric of Canterbury; and, pending the negotiation for the pallium for himself from the Roman church, he officiated in that which Robert had left on his departure. The Normans, Hugh and Osbert Pentecoste, gave up the keys of the castles they held, and obtained safe conducts to leave England,5 but on the request of the weak Edward, some exceptions were made to the decree of banishment pronounced against the whole body of foreigners. Raulfe, the son of Edition: current; Page: [139] Gualtier de Mantes, and of the king’s sister; Robert, surnamed the Dragon, and his son-in-law, Richard Fitz-Scrob; Onfroy, the equerry of the palace; Onfroy, surnamed Pied-de-Guai, and several others for whom the king entertained a personal friendship, or who had taken little part in the late troubles, obtained the privilege of inhabiting England, and of retaining their offices.1 William, bishop of London, was also recalled some time after, and re-established in his see. A Fleming, named Herman, remained bishop of Wilton. Godwin opposed with all his might this tolerance, so contrary to the public feelings,2 but his voice did not prevail, because too many people wished to conciliate the king, and thus succeed to the credit of the foreign courtiers. The result showed which of these were the best politicians, the court people or the austere Godwin.3

It is difficult exactly to estimate the degree of the sincerity of king Edward in his return to the national interest, and his reconciliation with the family of Godwin. Surrounded by his countrymen, he perhaps thought himself enslaved, and regarded his obedience to the wishes of the nation that had made him king as a constraint. His ulterior relations with the duke of Normandy, his private conferences with the Normans who remained about his person, are the secrets of this history. All that the chronicles of the time say is, that an apparent friendship existed between the king and his father-in-law, and that, at the same time, Godwin was utterly detested in Normandy. The foreigners whom his return had deprived of their places and honours, those to whom the facile and brilliant career of courtier to the king of England was now closed, never named Godwin without calling him traitor, enemy of his king, murderer of the young Alfred.

This last accusation was the most accredited, and it followed the Saxon chief to the hour of his death. One day, at the table of Edward, he suddenly fell fainting, and upon this incident was founded a story altogether romantic and doubtful, though repeated by several historians. They relate that one of his servants, while pouring him out a cup of wine, stumbled Edition: current; Page: [140] with one foot, but stayed his fall with the other. “Well,” said Godwin to the king, smiling, “the brother has come to assist the brother.” “Ay,” answered Edward, casting a significant look on the Saxon chief, “brother needs brother, and would to God mine still lived!” “O king,” exclaimed Godwin, “why is it that, on the slightest recollection of your brother, you always look so angrily on me? If I contributed even indirectly to his death, may the God of heaven grant that this piece of bread may choke me!”1 Godwin put the bread in his mouth, say the authors who relate this anecdote, and was immediately strangled. The truth is, that his death was not so sudden; that falling from his seat, and carried out by his two sons, Tosti and Gurth, he expired five days after.2 In general, the account of these events varies, according as the writer is of Norman or English race. “I ever see before me two roads, two opposite versions,” says an historian of less than a century later; “I warn my readers of the peril in which I find myself.”3

Shortly after the death of Godwin, died Sig-ward or Siward, the chief of Northumberland, who had at first followed the royal party against Godwin, but subsequently voted for peace, and the expulsion of the foreign favourites. He was a Dane by birth, and the population of the same origin, whom he ruled, gave him the title of Siward-Digr, Siward the Strong;4 a rock of granite was long shown, which he had, it was said, split with one blow of an axe.5 Attacked by dysentery, and feeling his end approach: “Raise me,” said he to those who surrounded him; “let me die like a soldier, and not huddled together like a cow; put me on my coat of mail, place my helmet on my head, my shield on my left arm and my gilt axe in my right hand, that I may expire in arms.”6 Siward left one son, named Waltheof, too young as yet to succeed to his government, which was given to Tosti, Godwin’s third son. Harold, who was the eldest, succeeded his Edition: current; Page: [141] father in the government of all the country south of the Thames, and transferred to Alfgar, son of Leofrik, governor of Mercia, the administration of the eastern provinces, which he had previously governed.1

Harold was now, in power and military talents, the first man of his time; he drove back within their ancient limits the Welsh, who at this time made several incursions into England, encouraged by the incapacity of the Frenchman Raulfe, Edward’s nephew, who commanded the foreign garrison at Hereford. Raulfe showed little vigilance in guarding a country which was not his own; or if, in virtue of his power as chief, he called the Saxons to arms, it was to exercise them, against their will, in the warfare of the continent, and make them fight on horseback, contrary to the custom of their nation.2 The English, embarrassed by their horses, and abandoned by their general, who fled with his Normans at the first peril, could not resist the Welsh; the vicinity of Hereford was occupied, and the town itself pillaged. It was then that Harold came from the south of England; he drove the Cambrians beyond their frontiers, and compelled them to swear that they would never again pass them, and to receive a law that every man of their nation found in arms east of the entrenchment of Offa, should have the right hand cut off. It would appear that the Saxons, on their part, constructed a similar entrenchment, and that the space between the two became a kind of neutral ground for the traders of both nations. The antiquarians imagine that they can still distinguish the traces of this double line of defence, and upon the heights several remains of ancient fortified posts, established by the Britons on the west, and by the English on the east.3

Whilst Harold was thus increasing his fame and his popularity with the southern Anglo-Saxons, his brother Tosti was far from acquiring the love of the Anglo-Danes of the north. Tosti, although a Dane by the mother’s side, from a false national pride treated those whom he ruled more as subjects than as citizens voluntarily combined together, and made them feel the yoke of a conqueror rather than the authority of a Edition: current; Page: [142] chief. He violated their hereditary customs at will, levied immense taxes, and put to death those who had offended him, without any trial. After several years of oppression, the patience of the Northumbrians became exhausted, and a troop of insurgents, led by two men of distinction in the country, suddenly appeared at the gates of York, the residence of Tosti. The chief fled, but his officers and ministers, Saxons and Danes, were put to death in great numbers.1

The insurgents seized the arsenal and the treasure of the province; then, assembling a great council, they declared the son of Godwin deprived of his charge, and outlawed. Morkar, one of the sons of the Alfgar who, on the death of Leofrik his father, had become chief of all Mercia, was elected to succeed Tosti. The son of Alfgar proceeded to York, took the command of the Northumbrian army, and drove Tosti towards the south. The army advanced on the territory of Mercia, as far as the town of Northampton, and many of the inhabitants of the district joined it. Edwin, the brother of Morkar, who held a command on the Welsh frontier, levied, in aid of his brother, some troops in his province, and even a body of Cambrians, induced by the promise of pay, and partly perhaps by the desire to satisfy their national hatred in fighting against Saxons, even though under a Saxon banner.2

On the news of this great movement, king Edward sent Harold, with the warriors of the south and east, to meet the insurgents. Family pride wounded in the person of a brother, joined to the natural aversion of the powerful against any energetic act of popular independence, seemed calculated to render Harold a pitiless enemy of the population which had expelled Tosti, and the chief whom it had elected. But the son of Godwin showed himself superior to such vulgar influences, and before drawing the sword on his countrymen, he proposed to the Northumbrians a conference of peace. The latter set forth their grievances, and the grounds of their insurrection. Harold endeavoured to exculpate his brother, and promised in the name of Tosti better conduct for the future, if the people of Northumberland would pardon and again receive him; but the Northumbrians unanimously protested against any reconciliation Edition: current; Page: [143] with him who had so tyrannized over them.1 “We were born free,” said they, “and brought up free; a haughty chief is insupportable to us, for we have learned from our ancestors to live free or to die.” They charged Harold himself to bear their answer to the king; Harold, preferring justice and the peace of the country, to the interest of his own brother,2 went to Edward; and it was he also who, on his return, swore to the Northumbrians, and subscribed with his hand, the peace which the king granted them in sanctioning the expulsion of Tosti and the election of the son of Alfgar.3 Tosti, enraged with the king and with his countrymen who thus abandoned him, and more especially with his brother, whom he deemed bound to defend him, right or wrong, quitted England, hatred deep in his heart, and took up his residence with the count of Flanders, whose daughter he had married.

Since the kingdom had been freed from the dominion of the Danes, the law instituted by king Knut for the annual tribute called Peter’s pence had undergone the same fate with the other laws decreed by a foreign power. The public authority obliged no one to observe it, and Rome only received the voluntary offerings and gifts of individual devotion. Accordingly, the ancient friendship of the Roman church for the English nation rapidly declined. Injurious reflections, couched in mystic language, were made upon this nation and its king in the halls of St. Giovanni Latran;4 the Saxon bishops were accused of simony,5 that is, of buying their sees for money, a reproach of which great use was made against others by the court of Rome, and which the court of Rome itself frequently incurred, accustomed as it was, in the language of a contemporary proverb, to sell everything.6 The archbishop of York, Eldred, underwent the first attack. He went to the eternal city to solicit the pallium, the usual token of the high catholic prelacy, as the purple mantles transmitted by the Cæsars were the signs of royalty with the vassal kings of ancient Rome. The Roman priests refused the archiepiscopal Edition: current; Page: [144] mantle to Eldred; but a Saxon chief who accompanied him threatened, in reprisal, to prevent any money being sent to the apostolic see,1 and the Romans yielded, retaining in their hearts deep anger at having been constrained to yield, and an eager desire for revenge.

The Norman Robert de Jumièges, expelled by the English patriots from the see of Canterbury, now proceeded to Rome, to complain that the sacred character had been violated in his person; he denounced as an usurper and an intruder, the Saxon Stigand, whom the popular voice had elevated to his place. The pontiff and the Roman cardinals listened favourably to his complaints; they declared it a crime in the Saxon prelate to have assumed the pallium which the Norman had abandoned in his flight; and the complainant returned to Normandy with papal letters which declared him legitimate archbishop of Canterbury.2 Stigand, the elected of the English, seeing the danger of not being acknowledged at Rome, meanwhile opened negotiations, and addressed to the reigning pope a demand for the pallium; but a circumstance, impossible to foresee, occasioned other embarrassing difficulties to arise out of this demand. At the time it reached the pontifical court, the papacy was in the hands of a man chosen by the principal Roman families, against the will of the king of Germany, who, in virtue of the title of Cæsar, transmitted to him by the Frank emperors, asserted that no sovereign pontiff could be created without his consent.

This pope was Benedict, the tenth of that name: disposed to be indulgent, because his power was insecure and he needed friends, he granted the pallium to archbishop Stigand. But an army advancing from beyond the mountains, soon enforced the election of a new pope, who, having expelled Benedict, assumed, without any scruple, the pontifical ornaments abandoned by the defeated pontiff, degraded him, excommunicated him, and annulled all his acts. Stigand thus found himself once more without a pallium, and charged, in the eye of the papal power, with the crime of usurpation, and with another, and still greater crime, that of having sought the good graces of Edition: current; Page: [145] an excommunicated anti-pope.1 The journey from Canterbury to Rome was at this time one of great difficulty; Stigand was in no haste to justify himself before the successful rival of Benedict X., and the old ferment of hatred against the English became more violent than ever.2

Another incident furnished the Romans with the means of associating in their hatred the desire of vengeance, which the so-called treason of Godwin had excited in many of the Normans, and the ambitious projects of duke William. There was at the court of Normandy a monk named Lanfranc, a Lombard by origin, famous in the Christian world for his knowledge of jurisprudence, and for works devoted to the defence of catholic orthodoxy; this man, whom duke William cherished as one of his most useful councillors, fell into disgrace for having blamed the Norman duke’s marriage with Matilda, daughter of Baldwin, count of Flanders, his relation in one of the degrees prohibited by the church. Nicholas II., successor to the anti-pope Benedict, obstinately refused to acknowledge and sanction this union; and it was with him that the Lombard monk, banished from his lord’s court, took refuge. But far from complaining of the duke of Normandy, Lanfranc respectfully pleaded before the sovereign pontiff in favour of the marriage, of which he himself had before not approved.3 By dint of intreaties and great address, he obtained a dispensation in form, and for this signal service was received by the duke with greater friendship than before. He became the soul of his councils and his plenipotentiary at the court of Rome. The respective pretensions of the Romish clergy and of the duke of Normandy over England, the possibility of giving effect to them, now became, it would appear, the object of serious negotiations. An armed invasion was not perhaps yet thought of, but the relationship of William to Edward seemed a great means of success, and, at the same time, an incontestable claim in the eyes of the Romans, who favoured throughout Europe the maxims of hereditary royalty against the practice of election.4

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For two years internal peace had reigned in England without interruption. The animosity of king Edward to the sons of Godwin disappeared from want of aliment, and from the habit of constantly being with them. Harold, the new chief of this popular family, fully rendered to the king that respect and deferential submission of which he was so tenacious. Some ancient histories tell us that Edward loved and treated him as his own son,1 but, at all events, he did not feel towards him that aversion mingled with fear with which Godwin had ever inspired him; and he had now no longer any pretext for retaining, as guarantees against the son, the two hostages whom he had received from the father. It will be remembered that these hostages had been confided by the suspicious Edward to the care of the duke of Normandy. They had, for more than ten years, been far from their country, in a sort of captivity. Towards the end of the year 1065, Harold, their brother and their uncle, deeming the moment favourable for obtaining their deliverance, asked permission of the king to go and demand them in his name, and bring them out of exile. Without showing any repugnance to release the hostages, Edward appeared greatly alarmed at the project which Harold had formed of going in person to Normandy. “I will not compel you to stay,” said he; “but if you go, it will be without my consent; for your journey will certainly bring some evil upon yourself and upon your country. I know duke William and his crafty mind; he hates you, and will grant you nothing unless he gain greatly by it; the only way safely to obtain the hostages from him were to send some one else.”2

The brave and confiding Saxon did not adopt this advice; he departed on his journey, as on a party of pleasure, surrounded by gay companions, with his falcon on his wrist and his hounds running before him.3 He sailed from one of the ports of Sussex. Contrary winds drove his two vessels from their track towards the mouth of the Somme, upon the territory of Guy, count de Ponthieu. It was the custom of this maritime district, as of many others in the middle ages, Edition: current; Page: [147] that every stranger thrown on the coast by tempest, instead of being humanely succoured, was imprisoned and put to ransom. Harold and his companions were subjected to this rigorous law; after being despoiled of all their more valuable property, they were thrown by the lord of the territory into his fortress of Belrain, now Beaurain, near Montreuil.1

To escape from the wearisomeness of a protracted captivity, the Saxon declared himself the bearer of a message from the king of England to the duke of Normandy, and sent to require William to obtain his release, that he might come to him. William did not hesitate, and demanded from his neighbour, the count de Ponthieu, the liberty of the captive, at first menacingly, and with no mention of ransom. The count de Ponthieu was deaf to the threats, and only yielded to the offer of a large sum of money and a fine estate upon the river Eaume.2 Harold proceeded to Rouen, and the bastard of Normandy had the satisfaction of having in his power the son of the greatest enemy of the Normans, one of the chiefs of the national league which had banished from England the friends and relations of William, the upholders of his pretensions to the English crown.3 Duke William received the Saxon chief with great honours and an appearance of frank cordiality: he told him that the two hostages were free on his request alone, that he could immediately return with them; but that as a courteous guest he ought not to depart so abruptly, but at least remain some days to see the towns and festivals of the country. Harold went from town to town, from castle to castle, and with his young companions took part in all the military sports. The duke created them knights, that is to say, members of the high Norman militia, a kind of warlike brotherhood, into which every rich man who devoted himself to arms, was introduced under the auspices of an associate, who, with great ceremony, gave him a sword, a baldric plated with silver, and a bannered lance. The Saxon warriors received from their godfather in chivalry presents of fine weapons and valuable horses.4 Edition: current; Page: [148] William then proposed to him, by way of trying their new spurs, to follow him in an expedition he had undertaken against his neighbours of Brittany. Since the treaty of St. Clair-sur-Epte, each new duke of Normandy had attempted to give effect to the claim of suzerainty which Charles the Simple had ceded to Roll; the result had been continual wars and a national enmity between these two states, separated only by the little river Coësnon.

Harold and his friends, foolishly tenacious of acquiring a reputation for courage among the Normans, did for their host, at the expense of the Bretons, deeds of valour which were one day to cost themselves and their country dear. The son of Godwin, robust and active, saved at the passage of Coësnon several soldiers who were perishing in the quicksands. He and William, so long as the war lasted, had but one tent and one table.1 On their return, they rode side by side, enlivening the way with friendly conversation,2 which one day the duke turned upon his youthful friendship with king Edward: “Edward and I,” said he to the Saxon, “lived under the same roof, like two brothers; he promised me if ever he became king of England, to make me heir to his kingdom; Harold, if thou wouldst aid me in realising this promise, be sure that, if I obtain the kingdom, whatever thou askest thou shalt have.”3 Harold, taken by surprise at the excess of this unexpected confidence, could not help answering it by some vague words of compliance, whereupon William continued: “Since thou consentest to serve me, thou must engage to fortify Dover castle, to dig a well there of fresh water, and deliver it up, when the time comes, to my people; thou must also give thy sister in marriage to one of my barons, and thyself marry my daughter Adeliza; moreover, on thy departure, thou must leave me, as guarantee for thy promise, one of the two hostages thou reclaimest, and I will restore him to thee in England when I come there as king.” Harold felt at these words all the peril in which he himself stood, and in which he had unconsciously involved his two young relations. To escape from the more pressing embarrassment, Edition: current; Page: [149] he acquiesced in word to all the demands of the Norman;1 and he who had twice taken up arms to drive foreigners from his country, promised to deliver to a foreigner the principal fortress of that country, with no intention, indeed, of fulfilling this unworthy engagement, thinking to purchase, by a falsehood, his safety and his repose. William did not pursue the conversation further; but he did not long leave the Saxon at rest on the point.

On arriving at the castle of Bayeux, duke William held his court, and thither convoked the great council of the high barons of Normandy. According to the old histories, on the eve of the day fixed for the assembly, William collected from the churches of the town and neighbourhood all the relics they possessed. Bones taken from their shrines, and the entire bodies of saints were laid, by his order, in a large tub or trough, which was placed, covered with rich cloth of gold, in the council-hall.2 When the duke was seated on his throne of ceremony, crowned with a worked circlet, holding in his hand a drawn sword, and surrounded by a crowd of Norman lords, amongst whom was the Saxon, two small reliquaries were brought and placed upon the golden cloth which covered and concealed the larger box of relics. William then said: “Harold, I require thee, before this noble assembly, to confirm, by oath, the promises thou hast made to me; namely, to aid me to obtain the kingdom of England after the death of king Edward, to marry my daughter Adeliza, and to send thy sister, that I may wed her to one of my people.”3 The Englishman thus a second time taken by surprise, and not venturing to deny his own words, approached the two reliquaries, extended his hand over them, and swore to execute, as far as lay in his power, his agreement with the duke, if he lived and God aided him. All the assembly repeated, God aid him!4 Then William made a sign; the cloth of gold was raised, and the bones and sacred bodies revealed which filled the box to the brim, and upon which the son of Godwin had sworn, without suspecting their Edition: current; Page: [150] presence. It is said, that at this sight he shuddered and changed countenance, terrified at having made so formidable an oath.1 Shortly afterwards Harold departed, taking his nephew with him, but, much against his inclination, leaving his younger brother Ulfnoth in the hands of the duke of Normandy. William accompanied him to the seaside, and made him fresh presents, delighted at having surprised the man the most capable of impeding his projects, into a solemn promise, backed by a terrible oath, to serve and aid him.2

When Harold, on his return home, presented himself to king Edward, and recounted all that had passed between himself and duke William, the king became pensive, and said: “Did I not warn thee that I knew this William, and that thy journey would bring great evils upon thyself and upon thy nation? Heaven grant that these evils happen not in my time!”3 These words and this mournful expression would seem to prove that Edward had really, in the days of his youth and heedlessness, made the rash promise to a foreigner, of a royalty that did not belong to him. It is not known whether, subsequent to his accession, he had by any expressions nourished William’s ambitious hopes; but, in default of specific words, his constant friendship for the Norman had, with the latter, supplied the place of positive assurances, and given grounds for believing him still favourable to his views.

Whatever might before have been the secret negotiations of the duke of Normandy with the Roman church, henceforward there was afforded them a fixed basis, a distinct direction. An oath sworn upon relics, however absurd the oath might have been, called, if it were violated, for the vengeance of the church; and in such a case, in the opinion of the period, the church struck legitimately. Whether from a secret presentiment of the perils with which England was threatened by the spirit of ecclesiastical revenge, combined with the ambition of the Normans, or from a vague impression of superstitious terror, a fearful depression came over the English nation. Gloomy reports were spread from mouth to Edition: current; Page: [151] mouth; fears and alarms spread abroad, without any positive cause for alarm; predictions were dug up from the graves of the saints of the old time. One of these prophesied calamities such as the Saxons had never experienced since their departure from the banks of the Elbe;1 another announced the invasion of a people from France, who would subject the English people, and abase their glory in the dust for ever.2 All these rumours, hitherto unheeded or unknown, perhaps indeed purposely forged at the time, were now thoroughly credited, and kept every mind in the expectation of some vast and inevitable evil.

The health of king Edward, a man of naturally weak constitution, and who had become more alive, as it would appear, to the destiny of his country, declined rapidly after these events. He could not conceal from himself that his love for foreigners was the sole cause of the peril which terrified England; his mind was thus still more overwhelmed than was even that of the people. In order to drown these thoughts, and perhaps, also, the remorse which beset him, he occupied himself wholly with religious exercises. He made great donations to the churches and monasteries; and his last hours came upon him amidst this mournful and inactive life. Upon his death-bed he was entirely absorbed in his melancholy forebodings; he had frightful visions, and, in his melancholy ecstacies, the menacing passages of the Bible recurred involuntarily, and in a confused manner, to his mind. “The Lord has bent his bow,” he would exclaim, “the Lord has prepared his sword; he brandishes it like unto a warrior; his anger is manifested in steel and flame.”3 These words froze with horror those who surrounded the king’s bed;4 but the archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, could not refrain from a smile of contempt at men who trembled at the dreams of a sick old man.5

However weak the mind of the aged Edward, he had the Edition: current; Page: [152] courage, before he expired, to declare to the chiefs who consulted him as to the choice of his successor, that in his opinion the man worthy to reign was Harold, son of Godwin.1 In pronouncing the name of Harold, under the circumstances, the king showed himself superior to his habitual prejudices, and even to the ambition of advancing his own family; for there was then in England a grandson of Edmund Ironsides, born in Hungary, where his father had taken refuge at the time of the Danish proscriptions. This young man, whose name was Edgar, had neither talent nor acquired glory, and having passed his childhood in a foreign country, could hardly speak the Saxon tongue.2 Such a candidate could not compete in popularity with the brave and rich Harold, the destroyer of foreign power.3 Harold was the man most capable of encountering the dangers which seemed to menace the country; and even had the dying king not designated him to the choice of the other chiefs, his name would have been pronounced by every mouth.4 He was elected the day after the funeral of Edward, and consecrated by archbishop Stigand, whom the Roman church, as we have seen, persisted in not acknowledging.5 The grandson of the cowherd, Ulfnoth, showed himself, from the day of his accession, just, wise, affable, active for the good of his country, not sparing himself, says an old historian, any fatigue by land or by sea.6

Much anxious care was needed on his part to overcome the public discouragement which displayed itself in different ways. The appearance of a comet, visible in England for nearly a month, produced upon every mind an extraordinary impression of wonder and fear. The people collected in the streets and public places of the towns and villages, to contemplate this phenomenon, which they regarded as a confirmation of the national forebodings. A monk of Malmesbury, who studied astronomy, composed upon this comet a sort of Edition: current; Page: [153] poetical declamation, in which were these words: “Thou hast, then, returned at length, thou who wilt cause so many mothers to weep! Many years have I seen thee shine; but thou seemest to me more terrible now, that thou announcest the ruin of my country.”1

The commencement of the new reign was marked by a complete return to the national customs abandoned under the preceding reign. In the charters of king Harold the ancient Saxon signature replaced the seals lately appended in the Norman fashion.2 He did not, however, carry reform so far as to deprive of their offices or expel from the country the Normans, whom, despite the law, a compliance with the affections of king Edward had spared. These foreigners continued to enjoy all civil rights, but little grateful for this generosity, they began to intrigue, at home and abroad, for the duke of Normandy. It was a messenger from them who announced to William the death of Edward, and the election of the son of Godwin.

When the duke received this great news, he was in his park, near Rouen, trying some new arrows.3 All at once he appeared pensive, gave his bow to one of his people, and crossing the Seine, repaired to his palace at Rouen; he stopped in the great hall, and walked to and fro, now seating himself, now rising and changing his seat and position, unable to remain in any one place. None of his people dared to approach him; all remained apart, looking at each other in silence.4 An officer, admitted to more than ordinary familiarity with William, happening to enter, the others pressed around him to learn from him the cause of the great agitation they remarked in the duke. “I know nothing certain,” answered the officer, “but we shall soon learn.” Then advancing alone to William: “My lord,” he said, “why not communicate your intelligence to us? It is reported in the town that the king of England is dead, and that Harold has seized upon the kingdom, thus breaking his faith to you.”—“They report truly,” answered the duke; “my anger is touching the death of Edward, and the injury Harold has done me.” “Sir,” returned the courtier, “chafe not at a thing that Edition: current; Page: [154] may be amended: for Edward’s death there is no remedy, but there is one for the wrong that Harold has done; yours is the right: you have good knights; strike boldly; well begun is half done.”1

A man of Saxon race, and Harold’s own brother, that Tosti whom the Northumbrians had expelled, and whom Harold, become king, had refused again to impose upon them, hastened from Flanders to urge William not to allow the perjurer to reign in peace.2 Tosti boasted to the foreigners that he had more credit and power in England than the king his brother, and promised the possession of the country to whomsoever should unite with him to make its conquest.3 Too prudent to engage in a great undertaking upon the mere word of an adventurer, William, to test his power, gave him some vessels, with which, instead of landing in England, Tosti sailed to the Baltic, to seek other aid, and to excite the ambition of the northern kings against his country. He had an interview with Swen, king of Denmark, his relation by his mother’s side, and called upon him to aid him against his brother and his nation. But the Dane gave a harsh refusal. Tosti withdrew in utter discontent, and went to seek elsewhere a king less tenacious about justice.4 He found in Norway Harald or Harold, the son of Sigurd, the most valiant of the Scandinavians, the last among them who led the adventurous life whose charm had vanished with the religion of Odin. In his southern expeditions, Harold had carried on his pursuits alternately by land and by sea; he had by turns been pirate and soldier of fortune, viking and varing, as the language of the north expressed it.5 He had served in the east under the chiefs of his nation, who for nearly two centuries had possessed a portion of the Slavonian provinces. Then, impelled by curiosity, he had been to Constantinople, where other Scandinavian emigrants, mercenary troops under this Edition: current; Page: [155] same name of varings, in which the conquerors of the Russ towns prided themselves, acted as the imperial guard.1

Harold was brother to a king, but he deemed it no derogation to enrol himself in this troop. He kept guard, axe on shoulder, at the gates of the imperial palace, and was employed with the corps to which he belonged in Asia and Africa. Enriched by the booty acquired in these expeditions, he wished to depart, and offered his resignation; finding that it was intended to detain him by force, he escaped by sea, taking with him a young woman of high birth. After this, he cruized as a pirate along the coasts of Sicily, and thus augmented the treasure he carried with him in his ship.2 He was a poet, like most of the northern corsairs, who in their long voyages, and when their progress was slackened by calms, amused themselves with celebrating, in verse, their successes and their hopes. On his return from the long voyaging in which, as he expressed it in his songs, he had led his vessel afar, the terror of the labourers, his dark vessel, filled with grim warriors, Harold raised an army, and made war upon the king of Norway, in order to dispossess him. He asserted an hereditary claim to the crown of that kingdom; but soon perceiving the difficulty of conquering it, he made peace with his competitor, on the condition of a division; to complete the arrangement, it was agreed that the treasure of the son of Sigurd should be shared between them, as well as the territory of Norway. In order to gain over to his views this man, so famous throughout the north for his wealth and courage, Tosti approached him with honied words. “The world knows well,” said he, “that there exists not a warrior worthy to be compared with thee; thou hast only to will it, and England will be thine.” The Norwegian allowed himself to be persuaded, and promised to put his fleet to sea, as soon as the annual melting of the ice should set the ocean free.3

Pending the departure of his Norwegian ally, Tosti essayed his fortune on the northern coasts of England, with a band of adventurers collected in Friesland, Holland, and Flanders. Edition: current; Page: [156] He pillaged and devastated several villages; but the two great chiefs of the provinces laying along the Humber, Morkar and Edwin, united their forces, and pursuing his vessels, compelled him to seek a retreat on the coast of Scotland.1 Meantime Harold, son of Godwin, tranquil in the south of England, witnessed the arrival of a messenger from Normandy, who addressed him in these terms: “William, duke of Normandy, reminds thee of the oath which thou didst swear to him, by mouth and by hand, upon good and holy relics.”2 “It is true,” answered the Saxon king, “that I swore such an oath to duke William; but I swore it under compulsion. I promised that which did not belong to me, and which I could not perform; for my royalty is not mine, and I cannot divest myself of it, without the consent of the country; nor, without the consent of the country, can I marry a foreign wife. As to my sister, whom the duke claims, to marry her to one of his chiefs, she died this year; would he have me send him her body?”3 The Norman ambassador took back this answer; and William replied by a second message, couched in terms of gentle remonstrance,4 intreating the king, if he would not consent to fulfil all the sworn conditions, to execute at least one of them, and to take as a wife the young girl he had promised to marry. Harold again replied that he would not, and to settle the point, married a Saxon wife, the sister of Edwin and Morkar. Then the last words of rupture were pronounced; William swore that within the year he would come and demand the whole of his debt, and pursue the perjurer to the very places where he thought he had the surest and firmest footing.5

As far as publicity could go in the eleventh century, the duke of Normandy published what he called the Saxon’s gross dishonesty.6 The general influence of superstitious ideas prevented indifferent spectators of this dispute from understanding the patriotic conduct of the son of Godwin, and Edition: current; Page: [157] his scrupulous deference to the will of the people who had made him king. The opinion of the majority upon the continent was with William against Harold, with the man who had employed holy things as a snare, and accused of treason the man who refused to commit it. The negotiation commenced with the Romish church by Robert de Jemièges and the monk Lanfranc was actively pursued, from the moment that a deacon of Lisieux had borne beyond the mountains the news of the alleged crime of Harold and the English nation. The duke of Normandy laid an accusation of sacrilege against his enemy before the pontifical court; he demanded that England should be placed under the ban of the church and declared the property of the first occupant, sanctioned by the pope.1 He founded his demand upon three principal causes of complaint: the murder of young Alfred and his Norman companions, the expulsion of the archbishop Robert from the see of Canterbury, and the perjury of king Harold.2 He also pretended to have incontestable claims to the royalty, in virtue of his relationship to king Edward, and the intentions which this king had, he said, manifested on his death-bed. He affected the character of a plaintiff awaiting justice, and desiring that his adversary shall be heard. But Harold was summoned in vain to defend himself before the court of Rome. He refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of that court in the matter, and deputed no ambassador there, too proud to submit the independence of his crown to foreigners, and too sensible to believe in the impartiality of the judges invoked by his enemy.3

The consistory of Saint John Latran was at this time governed by a man whose celebrity surpasses that of any other man of the middle ages; Hildebrand, monk of Cluny. created archdeacon of the Romish church by pope Nicholas II. After having reigned several years under the name of this pope, he found himself sufficiently powerful to elect one of his own choice, who took the name of Alexander II.; and to maintain him on his throne, despite the ill will of the imperial court. All the views of this personage, who was gifted with indefatigable activity, tended to transform the religious supremacy Edition: current; Page: [158] of the holy see into an universal sovereignty over the Christian states. This revolution, commenced in the ninth century by the reduction of several towns of central Italy to the obedience or suzerainty of the pope, was continued during the two following centuries. All the cities of Campania, of which the pontiff of Rome was the immediate metropolitan, had passed, voluntarily or by force, under his temporal power; and, strange circumstance, in the first half of the eleventh century, Norman knights, emigrants from their country, had been seen leading the Roman troops to this conquest, under the banner of Saint Peter.1 At the same epoch, other Normans, pilgrims or adventurers, had taken service under the petty lords of southern Italy; then, like the Saxons with the Britons, they had broken their engagement, seized the fortresses, and established their dominion over the country. This new power, having put an end, if not to the pretensions, at all events to the power of the Greek empire over the towns of Apulia and Calabria, suited the religious intolerance of the court of Rome, and flattered its ambition, in the hope of an authority readily obtained over simple-minded warriors, filled with veneration for the holy see. In fact, several of these new dukes or counts successively declared themselves vassals of the prince of the apostles, and consented to receive a banner of the Roman church, as a feudal investiture of the lands which they themselves had conquered. Thus the church profited by the power of the Norman arms gradually to extend her sovereignty in Italy, and accustomed herself to look upon the Normans as destined to combat in her service, and to do her homage for their conquests.

Such were the singular relations which the chance of events had created, when the complaints and demand of the duke of Normandy reached the court of Rome. His mind full of his favourite idea, the archdeacon Hildebrand thought the moment favourable for attempting on the kingdom of England that which had succeeded in Italy; he applied all his efforts to substitute for the ecclesiastical discussion on the indifference of the English, the simony of their bishops, and the perjury of their king, a formal negotiation for the conquest of the country, at the common cost and for the common profit. Notwithstanding Edition: current; Page: [159] the reality of these purely political projects, the cause of William against Harold was examined in the assembly of cardinals, without any other question being discussed than that of the hereditary right, the sanctity of the oath, and the veneration due to the relics. These did not appear to several of those present sufficient grounds to warrant, on the part of the church, an armed aggression against a Christian people; and when the archdeacon persisted, a murmur arose, and the dissentients told him that it was infamous to authorize and encourage homicide;1 but he was unmoved at this, and his views prevailed.

In the terms of the sentence which was pronounced by the pope himself, William duke of Normandy was permitted to enter England, to bring that kingdom back to the obedience of the holy see, and to re-establish there for ever the tax of Saint Peter’s pence.2 A bull of excommunication, directed against Harold and all his adherents, was given to William’s messenger, and to it was added a banner of the Roman church and a ring containing one of the hairs of Saint Peter, set under a diamond of great price.3 This was the double emblem of military and ecclesiastical investiture; the consecrated banner which was to consecrate the invasion of England by the duke of Normandy, was the same which, a few years before, the Normans Raoul and William de Montreuil had planted, in the name of the church, on the castles of Campania.4

Before the bull, the banner, and the ring had arrived, duke William assembled, in a cabinet council, his most intimate friends, to demand their advice and assistance. His two brothers by the mother’s side, Eudes and Robert, one of them bishop of Bayeux, the other count of Mortain; William Fitz-Osbern, seneschal of Normandy, or ducal lieutenant for civil administration, and some high barons, attended the conference. All were of the opinion that it was proper to make a descent upon England, and promised to serve him with body and goods, even to selling or pledging their inheritances. “But this is not all,” said they; “you must seek aid and Edition: current; Page: [160] counsel from the body of the inhabitants of this country; for it is right that those who pay the cost should be asked their consent.”1 William, say the chroniclers, then convoked a great assembly of men of every class in Normandy—warriors, churchmen, and merchants, all the richest and most considerable personages of the land. The duke explained his projects to them, and solicited their assistance; the assembly then withdrew, in order to deliberate more free from influence.2

In the debate which followed, opinions seemed greatly divided; some wished to aid the duke with vessels, munitions, and money; others protested against any kind of aid, saying that they had already more debts than they could pay. This discussion was not carried on without tumult, and the members of the assembly, risen from their seats and divided into groups, spoke and gesticulated with great noise. In the midst of this confusion, the seneschal of Normandy, William Fitz-Osbern, raised his voice, and said: “Why dispute ye thus? he is your lord, he has need of you; it were better your duty to make your offers, and not to await his request. If you fail him now, and he gain his end, by God he will remember it; prove, then, that you love him, and act accordingly.” “Doubtless,” cried the opponents, “he is our lord; but is it not enough for us to pay him his dues? We owe him no aid beyond the seas; he has already enough oppressed us with his wars; let him fail in his new enterprise, and our country is undone.”3 After a long discussion, resulting in various opinions, it was determined that Fitz-Osbern, who knew the position of each man present, should be the messenger to excuse the limited offers of the assembly.4

The Normans returned to the duke, and Fitz-Osbe n spoke thus: “I do not believe that there are in the whole world people more zealous than these; you know the aids they have given you, the onerous services they have rendered you; well, sire, they will do more, they offer to serve you beyond the sea as they have done here. Forward, then, and spare them in nothing; he who hitherto has only supplied you with two good mounted soldiers, will now supply four.” “No! Edition: current; Page: [161] no!” exclaimed the Normans; “we did not charge you with such an answer; we did not say that, and it shall not be so. In things within his own country we will serve him as is due; but we are not bound to assist him to conquer another man’s country. Besides, if once we rendered him double service, and followed him across the sea, he would make it a right and a custom for the future; he would burden our children with it; it shall not be, it shall not be!” Groups of ten, twenty, thirty, formed; the tumult was general, and the assembly separated.1

Duke William, surprised and enraged beyond measure, dismulated his anger, and had recourse to an artifice, which has scarcely ever failed of its effect when powerful personages have desired to overcome popular resistance. He sent separately for the same men whom he had first convoked in a body; commencing with the richest and most influential, he intreated them to aid him out of pure favour and as a voluntary gift, affirming that he had no intention of making it an ill precedent for the future, or of abusing their own liberality against them; offering even to confirm his verbal assurance by letters sealed with his own great seal.2 None had the courage to pronounce a refusal to the face of the chief of the country, in an interview with him alone. That which each agreed to do was immediately registered; and the example of the first summoned, decided those who came afterwards. One subscribed for ships, another for armed soldiers, others promised to march in person; priests gave money, merchants merchandize, peasants their goods.

Presently after this, the consecrated banner and the bull authorizing the invasion of England arrived from Rome, which greatly increased the popular ardour; every one brought what he could; mothers sent their sons to enrol their names for the salvation of their souls.3 William published his ban in the neighbouring countries; he offered good pay and the pillage of England to every able man who would serve him with lance, sword, or cross-bow. A multitude accepted the invitation, coming by every road, far and near, from north and south. Edition: current; Page: [162] They came from Maine and Anjou, from Poitou and Brittany, from France and Flanders, Aquitaine and Burgundy, from the Alps and the banks of the Rhine.1 All the professional adventurers, all the military vagabonds of Western Europe hastened to Normandy, by long marches; some were knights and chiefs of war, the others simple foot-soldiers and sergeants of arms, as they were then called; some demanded money-pay, others only their passage and all the booty they might make. Some asked for land in England, a domain, a castle, a town; others simply required some rich Saxon in marriage.2 Every thought, every desire of human avarice presented itself. William rejected no one, says the Norman chronicle, and satisfied every one as well as he could. He gave, beforehand, a bishopric in England to a monk of Fescamp, in return for a vessel and twenty armed men.3 During the spring and summer, in all the ports of Normandy, workmen of every kind were employed in constructing and fitting up ships; smiths and armourers forged lances, swords, and coats of mail, and porters went to and fro continually, transporting the completed arms from the workshops to the vessels.4 While these preparations were actively going on, William went to Philip, king of the French, at Saint Germain, and saluting him with the form of deference which his ancestors had often omitted towards the kings of the Frank country: “You are my seigneur,” said he; “if it please you aid me, and I, by God’s grace, obtain my right over England, I promise to do you homage for it, as though I held it from you.” Philip assembled his council of barons, without which he could not decide any important affair, and the barons were of opinion that they ought not in any way to aid William in his conquest. “You know,” said they to the king, “how ill the Normans obey you now; it will be still worse when they possess England. Besides, it would cost us a great deal to assist the duke, and if he fail in his enterprise, the English will be our Edition: current; Page: [163] enemies for ever.” Thus defeated in his object, duke William withdrew, greatly discontented with king Philip, and addressed the same request to the count of Flanders, his brother-in-law, who also declined to aid him.1

Despite the national enmity of the Normans and Bretons, there existed between the dukes of Normandy and the counts of Brittany alliances of relationship, which complicated the relations of the two states without rendering them less hostile. At the time when duke Robert, the father of William, departed on his pilgrimage, he had no nearer relation than the Breton count Allan or Alain, a descendant of Roll by the female side, and it was to him that, on his departure, he confided the charge of his duchy and the guardianship of his son. Count Alain had not long delayed to declare the birth of his pupil doubtful, and to favour the party which wished to deprive him of the succession; but after the defeat of this party at the Val des Dunes, he died, poisoned, according to all appearances, by the friends of the young bastard. His son Conan succeeded him, and still reigned in Brittany at the time of William’s great armament for the conquest of England. He was a daring man, dreaded by his neighbours, and whose principal ambition was to injure the duke of Normandy, whom he regarded as an usurper and as the murderer of his father. Finding the latter engaged in a difficult enterprise, Conan thought the moment favourable for declaring war against him, and sent him, by one of his chamberlains, the following message:

“I hear that thou art about to cross the sea, to conquer the kingdom of England. Now duke Robert, whose son thou pretendest to be, on departing for Jerusalem, remitted all his heritage to count Allan, my father, who was his cousin. But thou and thy accomplices poisoned my father: thou hast appropriated to thyself his seigneury, and hast detained it to this day, contrary to all justice, seeing that thou art a bastard. Restore me, then, the duchy of Normandy, which belongs to me, or I will make war upon thee to the last extremity, with all the forces at my disposal.”2

The Norman historians admit that William was somewhat alarmed at this message, for the slightest diversion might Edition: current; Page: [164] defeat his projects of conquest; but he found means to get rid, without much difficulty, of the enemy who declared himself with such rash boldness. The chamberlain of the count of Brittany, gained over doubtless by bribes, rubbed with poison the mouthpiece of the horn which his master used in the chase, and, to make assurance doubly sure, poisoned also his gloves and the reins of his horse.1 Conan died a few days after the return of his messenger. Count Eudes, his successor, was careful not to imitate him, or alarm William the Bastard as to the validity of his rights: on the contrary, uniting with him in a friendship, quite new between the Bretons and the Normans, he sent his two sons to aid him against the English. These two young men, Brian and Allan, came to the rendezvous of the Norman troops,2 accompanied by a body of horse, who gave them the title of Mactierns,3 whilst the Normans called them counts. Other rich Bretons, not of purely Celtic race, and who bore names of French form, such as Robert de Vitry, Bertrand de Dinand, and Raoul de Gaël, also came to the duke of Normandy to offer him their services.4 The rendezvous of the vessels and troops was at the mouth of the Dive, a river which empties itself into the ocean, between the Seine and the Orne. For a month, the winds were contrary, and detained the Norman fleet in port. Then a southern breeze carried them as far as the roadstead of Saint Valery, at the mouth of the Somme;5 there the bad weather recommenced, and it was necessary to wait some days. The fleet anchored, and the troops encamped Edition: current; Page: [165] upon the shore, greatly incommoded by the rain, which did not cease to fall in torrents.1

During this delay, some of the vessels, shattered by a violent tempest, sank with their crews; this accident created a great sensation among the troops, fatigued by protracted encamping. In the long leisure of their days, the soldiers passed hours conversing under their tents, exchanging their reflections upon the perils of the voyage and the difficulties of the enterprise.2 No combat had yet taken place, and, said they, already many men were dead; they reckoned and exaggerated the number of bodies that the sea had thrown on the sand. These conversations abated the ardour of the adventurers, at first so full of zeal; some even broke their engagement and withdrew.3 To check this tendency so fatal to his projects, duke William had the dead secretly interred, and increased the rations of provisions and strong liquors;4 but the want of active employment continually brought back the same thoughts of sadness and discouragement. “The man is mad,” said the murmuring soldiers, “who seeks to seize the land of another; God is offended with such designs, and proves it by refusing us a favourable wind.”5

6 Despite his strength of soul and habitual presence of mind, William was a prey to uneasiness which he could hardly conceal. He was frequently seen to go to the church of Saint Valery, the patron of the place, to remain there a long time in prayer, and each time that he quitted it, to look at the cock which surmounted the bell-tower, and showed the direction of the wind. If it seemed turning towards the south, the duke appeared joyful; but if the wind blew from the north or west, his face and manner became still more depressed. Whether it was an act of sincere faith, or merely to furnish some occupation to his sad and discouraged troops, he took from the church the coffer which contained the relics of the saint, and had it carried in procession with great ceremony through the camp. The whole army joined in prayer. The chiefs made rich offerings; every soldier, to the very lowest, gave his piece of money; and the following night, as if Edition: current; Page: [166] heaven had granted a miracle, the wind changed, and the weather became calm and serene. At daybreak of the 27th September, the sun, hitherto each day enveloped in clouds, appeared in all its splendour.1 The camp was immediately raised, all the preparations for embarkation executed with great ardour and no less promptitude, and some hours before sunset the entire fleet was ready. Four hundred ships with large sails, and more than a thousand transport vessels, made for the open sea, amid the sound of trumpets and a shout of joy, sent forth from sixty thousand mouths as from one.2

The vessel in which William sailed was in the van, bearing at its mast-head the banner sent by the pope, and a cross on its own flag. Its sails were of different colours, and on them in various places were painted the three lions, the arms of Normandy; at the prow was the carved figure of a child, bearing a bow bent, with the arrow ready to quit the string.3 Lastly, large lanterns suspended from poles, a necessary precaution for a night-passage, were to serve as a beacon to the whole fleet, and to indicate the rallying point. This vessel, a better sailer than the rest, outstripped them during the day, and at night left them far behind. In the morning, the duke sent a sailor to the mast-head to see if the other vessels were coming. “I see only sky and sea,” answered the sailor; whereupon they dropped anchor. The duke affected a gay countenance, and, lest fear and anxiety should spread among the crew, he had a copious repast and wines highly spiced given to them. The sailor again ascended, and now said that he saw four vessels; a third time, he exclaimed: “I see a forest of masts and sails.”4

Whilst this great armament was preparing in Normandy, Harold, king of Norway, faithful to his engagements with the Saxon Tosti, had assembled several hundred ships of war and transports. The fleet remained some time at anchor, and the Norwegian army, pending the signal for departure, encamped upon the coast as the Normans had done at the Edition: current; Page: [167] mouth of the Somme. Vague impressions of discouragement and anxiety were produced by the same causes, but under a still more gloomy aspect, conformable with the pensive imagination of the inhabitants of the north. Several soldiers believed they had had prophetic revelations during their sleep. One of them dreamed that he saw his companions landed on the coast of England, and in presence of the English army; that in front of this army, riding upon a wolf, was a woman of gigantic stature; the wolf held in his jaws a human body, dripping with gore, and when he had devoured it, the woman gave him another.1 A second soldier dreamed that the fleet sailed, and that a flock of crows, vultures, and other birds of prey were perched upon the masts and sails of the vessels; on an adjacent rock a woman was seated, holding a drawn sword in her hand, and looking at and counting the vessels: “Go,” said she to the birds, “go without fear, you shall have enough to eat, and you shall have plenty to choose from, for I go with them.”2 It was remarked, not without terror, that at the moment when Harold placed his foot on the royal boat, the weight of his body pressed it down more than usual.3

Despite these threatening presages, the expedition sailed towards the southwest under the command of the king and his son Olaf. Before landing in England, they touched at the Orcades, islands inhabited by men of Scandinavian race, and two chiefs and a bishop joined them. They then coasted along the eastern shore of Scotland, where they met Tosti and his vessels. They sailed thence together, and, on their way, attacked the maritime town of Scarborough. Finding the inhabitants prepared to make an obstinate defence, they took possession of a high rock which commanded the town, and raised there an enormous pile of trunks of trees, branches and stubble, which, firing, they rolled down upon the houses, and then, favoured by the conflagration, forced the gates of the town and pillaged it.4 Relieved by this first success from their superstitious terrors, they gaily doubled Holderness at the Edition: current; Page: [168] mouth of the Humber; and ascended that river. From the Humber they passed into the Ouse, which runs near York. Tosti, who had the direction of the campaign, wished first of all to regain this capital of his ancient government, in order again to instal himself there. Morkar, his successor, Edwin, Morkar’s brother, and young Waltheof, son of Siward, governor of Huntingdonshire, assembled the inhabitants of the surrounding country, and gave battle to the foreigners south of York, upon the banks of the Humber; conquerors at first, but then obliged to retreat, they shut themselves up in the city, where the Norwegians besieged them. Tosti assumed the title of chief of Northumberland, and issued a proclamation dated from the foreigner’s camp: a few weak-minded men acknowledged him, and a small number of adventurers answered his appeal.1

While these things were passing in the north, the king of the Anglo-Saxons remained with all his forces on the southern coast, to watch the movements of William, whose invasion, which had been long expected, gave rise to much alarm.2 Harold had passed the whole summer and autumn upon his guard, between the landing-places nearest to Normandy;3 but the delay of the expedition occasioned it to be believed that it would now not be made before the winter. Moreover, the danger was greater from the enemy in the north, already masters of a portion of the English territory, than from an enemy who had not yet set foot in England; and the son of Godwin, prompt and daring in his projects, hoped in a few days to expel the Norwegians, and return to his post to receive the Normans. He made rapid marches at the head of his best troops, and arrived by night under the walls of York, just as the inhabitants had agreed to surrender to the allies of Tosti. The Norwegians had not yet made their entry: but, on the word of the inhabitants and the conviction of the impossibility of their retracting that word, they had broken up the lines, and were reposing. On their part, the inhabitants of York had no other idea than that of receiving on the next day Tosti and the king of Norway, who were to hold a great council in the city, to regulate the government of all the province, and distribute, Edition: current; Page: [169] among the foreigners and deserters, the lands of the rebel English.1

The unexpected arrival of the Saxon king, who had marched so as to avoid the enemy’s outposts, changed the whole face of things. The citizens of York resumed their arms, and the gates of the city were closed and guarded, so that no one could quit it for the camp of the Norwegians. The following day was one of those autumnal days in which the sun is still in all its vigour; the portion of the Norwegian army which left the camp on the Humber to accompany their king to York, not expecting to have enemies to combat, were without their coats of mail, on account of the heat; and of their defensive arms had only retained their helmets and bucklers. At some distance from the town the Norwegians suddenly perceived a great cloud of dust, and in the midst of this cloud something glittering like steel in the sunshine. “Who are these men advancing towards us?” said the king to Tosti. “It can only be,” said the Saxon, “Englishmen coming to demand pardon and implore our friendship.”2 The advancing mass growing gradually more distinct, soon appeared a numerous army, ranged in battle order. “The enemy! the enemy!” exclaimed the Norwegians, and they detached three horsemen to bring up in all haste the soldiers who remained behind in the camp and on board the ships. The king unfurled his standard, which he called the ravager of the world!3 the soldiers drew up around it, in a long narrow line, curved at the extremities. They stood pressed against each other, their lances planted in the ground with the points turned towards the enemy. Harold, son of Sigurd, rode through the ranks on his black charger, singing extempore verses, a fragment of which has been transmitted to us by the northern historians: “Let us fight,” said he, “let us advance, though without our cuirasses, to the edges of blue steel; our helmets glitter in the sun; that is enough for brave men.”4

Before the two armies met, twenty Saxon cavaliers, men Edition: current; Page: [170] and horses clothed in steel, approached the Norwegian lines; one of them, in a loud voice, cried: “Where is Tosti, son of Godwin?”—“Here,” answered the son of Godwin himself. “If thou art Tosti,” returned the messenger, “thy brother greets thee by me, and offers thee peace, his friendship, and thy ancient honours.” “These are fine words, and very different to the insults and hostilities they made me submit to a year ago. But if I accept these offers, what shall be given to the noble king Harold, son of Sigurd, my faithful ally?” “He,” answered the messenger, “shall have seven feet of English land, or a little more, for his height passes that of other men.” “Say, then, to my brother,” answered Tosti, “that he prepare to fight: for none but liars shall ever say that the son of Godwin deserted the son of Sigurd.”1

The battle immediately began, and at the first shock of the two armies the Norwegian king was killed by an arrow which pierced his throat. Tosti took the command; and then his brother Harold sent a second time to offer him peace and life, for himself and the Norwegians.2 But all exclaimed that they would rather die than owe aught to the Saxons. At this moment, the men from the ships arrived, armed with cuirasses, but fatigued with their march under a burning sun. Although numerous, they did not sustain the attack of the English, who had already broken the first line of the battle and taken the royal banner. Tosti was killed, with most of the Norwegian chiefs, and, for the third time, Harold offered peace to the conquered. They accepted it; Olaf, the son of the dead king, the bishop and surviving chief of the Orcades, retired, with twenty-three vessels, having sworn friendship to England.3 The country of the English was thus delivered from a new conquest by the men of the north. But while these enemies withdrew, to return no more, other foes approached, and the same breeze in which the banners of the victorious Saxons waved, also swelled the Norman sails, and urged them on towards the coast of Sussex.

By an unfortunate chance, the vessels which had long been cruizing upon this coast had just returned to port from want of provisions.4 The troops of William thus landed, without Edition: current; Page: [171] resistance, at Pevensey near Hastings, the 28th of September 1066, three days after the victory of Harold over the Norwegians. The archers landed first; they wore short coats, and their hair was shaved off; then came the cavalry, wearing coats of mail and helmets of polished steel, of a nearly conical form, armed with long and strong lances, and straight double-edged swords. These were followed by the workmen of the army, pioneers, carpenters, and smiths, who brought on shore, piece by piece, three wooden castles, ready prepared beforehand. The duke was the last to land; at the moment his foot touched the sand, he slipped and fell on his face. A murmur arose, and voices exclaimed: “God preserve us! this is a bad sign.” But William, rising, said immediately: “Lords, what is’t you say? What, are you amazed? I have taken seizin of this land with my hands, and, by the splendour of God, all that it contains is ours.” The repartee prevented the effect of the evil presage. The army took the road towards Hastings, and near that place marked out a camp, and raised two of the wooden castles as receptacles for provisions. Bodies of troops overran the neighbouring country, pillaging and burning houses. The English fled from their dwellings, hiding their goods and cattle, and hastened in crowds to the churches and churchyards, which they deemed the surest asylum against enemies, who were Christians like themselves. But, in their thirst for booty, the Normans paid little heed to the sanctity of places, and respected no asylum.

Harold was at York, wounded, and resting from his fatigues, when a messenger arrived in great haste, to inform him that William of Normandy had landed, and planted his banner on the Anglo-Saxon territory.1 He immediately marched towards the south with his victorious army, publishing, on his way, an order to all the provincial governors to arm their fighting-men, and bring them to London. The militia of the west came without delay; those of the north were later, on account of the distance; but there was still reason to believe that the king of the English would soon find himself surrounded by the forces of the whole country. One of those Normans who had been made exceptions to the law of exile pronounced Edition: current; Page: [172] against foreigners, and who now played the part of spies and secret agents of the invader, sent word to the duke to be upon his guard, for that in four days the son of Godwin would have an hundred thousand men with him.1 Harold, too impatient, did not await the expiration of the four days; he could not overcome his desire to close with the foreigners, especially when he learned the ravages of every kind which they were committing round their camp. The hope of sparing his countrymen further evil, and perhaps the desire of attempting against the Normans a sudden and unforeseen attack, like that which had succeeded against the Norwegians, determined him to march to Hastings, with an army four times less numerous than that of the duke of Normandy.2

But William’s camp was carefully guarded against a surprise, and his outposts extended to a great distance. Some detachments of cavalry falling back, gave notice of the approach of the Saxon king, who, they said, was advancing furiously.3 Failing in his design of attacking the enemy by surprise, the Saxon was obliged to moderate his impetuosity; he halted at a distance of seven miles from the Norman camp, and suddenly changing his tactics, intrenched himself, to await them behind ditches and palisades. Some spies, who spoke French, were sent to the foreign army to observe its disposition and force. On their return, they related that there were more priests in William’s camp than there were fighting men on the English side. They had mistaken for priests all the soldiers of the Norman army who wore shaved beards and short hair. Harold smiled at this report: “They whom you saw in such great numbers,” said he, “are not priests, but brave warriors, who will soon show us what they are worth.”4 Some of the Saxon chiefs advised the king to avoid a battle, and to retreat towards London, ravaging the country on his way, to starve out the foreigners. “I!” exclaimed Harold,5 “I ravage the country which has been confided to my care! By my faith, that were indeed treason, Edition: current; Page: [173] and I prefer taking the chances of battle with the few men I have, my courage, and my good cause.”

The Norman duke, whose totally opposite character led him, in every circumstance, to neglect no means that occurred, and to place interest above all personal pride, profited by the unfavourable position in which he saw his adversary, to renew his demands. A monk, called Dom Hugues Maigrot, came, in William’s name, to require the Saxon king to do one of three things; either to surrender the crown to the duke of Normandy, or to submit the matter to the arbitration of the pope, or to refer its decision to the chance of a single combat. Harold shortly answered: “I will not resign the crown, I will not refer the matter to the pope, I will not fight a single combat.” Not discouraged by these positive refusals, William again sent the Norman monk, to whom he dictated his instructions in the following terms: “Go and say to Harold, that, if he will fulfil his compact with me, I will leave him all the land which is beyond the Humber, and will give his brother Gurth all the land that Godwin held; if he persist in not accepting my offer, thou shalt say to him, before all his people, that he is a perjurer and a liar, that he and all those who support him are excommunicated by the pope, and that I have the papal bull for this.”

Dom Hugues Maigrot delivered this message in a solemn tone, and the Norman chronicle says that at the word excommunication the English chiefs looked at each other, as though they stood in the presence of a great danger. One of them spoke: “We ought,” said he, “to fight, whatever the danger may be; for it is not here the question of receiving a new lord, as if our king were dead; the matter in hand is very different. The duke of Normandy has given our lands to his barons, his knights, and all his people, most of whom have already rendered him homage for them; they will all have their donations carried into effect if the duke becomes our king, and he will be bound to give them our goods, our wives, and our daughters, for all is promised them beforehand. They come, not only to ruin us, but to ruin our descendants also, to take from us the country of our ancestors; and what shall we do, or where shall we go, when we have no longer any country?” And hereupon the English unanimously took an oath to make neither peace, truce, nor treaty, with the Edition: current; Page: [174] invader, and to drive out the Normans or die in the attempt.”1

A whole day was employed in these futile messages; it was the eighteenth since the battle fought with the Norwegians near York. Harold’s precipitate march had not as yet permitted any additional troops to join him. Edwin and Morkar, the two great northern chieftains, were at London, or on the road to London; none but volunteers came, one by one, or in small bands, citizens armed in haste, monks who quitted their cloisters to obey the call of their country. Among the latter was Leofrik, abbot of the great monastery of Peterborough, near Ely, and the abbot of Hide, near Winchester, who brought with him twelve of his monks, and twenty warriors raised at his expense.2 The hour of battle appeared at hand; Harold’s two young brothers, Gurth and Leofwin, had taken their positions near him; the former endeavoured to persuade him not to be present in the action, but to go to London to seek fresh reinforcements, whilst his friends sustained the attack of the Normans. “Harold,” said the young man, “thou canst not deny that, whether on compulsion or willingly, thou hast sworn to duke William an oath upon the relics of saints; why risk a combat with a perjury against thee? For us, who have taken no oath, the war is just, for we defend our country. Leave us, then, to fight the battle; thou shalt aid us if we retreat, and if we die thou wilt revenge us.”3 To these words, so touching in the mouth of a brother, Harold replied that his duty forbad him to remain apart while others risked their lives; too confident in his courage and his good cause, he drew up his troops for the combat.4

On the ground, which has ever since borne the name of Battle,5 the lines of the Anglo-Saxons occupied a long chain of hills, fortified by a rampart of stakes and willow hurdles. In the night of the 13th October, William announced to the Normans that the next day would be the day of battle. Edition: current; Page: [175] Priests and monks who had followed the invading army in great numbers, attracted, like the soldiers, by the hope of booty,1 met to pray and chaunt litanies, while the warriors prepared their arms. The time which remained to them, after this first care, was employed by them in confessing their sins and receiving the sacrament. In the other army, the night was passed in a very different manner; the Saxons diverted themselves with noisily singing old national songs, and emptying, around their fires, horns filled with beer and wine.2

When morning came, in the Norman camp, the bishop of Bayeux, brother, on the mother’s side, of duke William, celebrated mass and blessed the troops, armed with a hauberk under his rochet; he then mounted a large white courser, took a baton of command, and drew up the cavalry. The army was divided into three columns of attack; in the first were the men-at-arms from the counties of Boulogne and Ponthieu, with most of the adventurers engaged individually for pay; in the second were the Breton, Manceaux, and Poitevin auxiliaries; William in person commanded the third, composed of the Norman chivalry. In front and on the flanks of each of these bodies were infantry, lightly armed, wearing quilted coats, and armed with long bows or with steel crossbows. The duke was mounted on a Spanish charger, which a rich Norman had brought him on his return from a pilgrimage to St. Iago in Galicia. He wore around his neck the most revered of the relics upon which Harold had sworn, and the standard, blessed by the pope, was carried at his side by a young man, named Toustain le Blanc.3 At the moment, ere the troops began their march, the duke, raising his voice, thus addressed them:—

“Fight your best, and put every one to death; for if we conquer, we shall all be rich. What I gain, you gain; if I conquer, you conquer; if I take the land, you will share it. Know, however, that I am not come here merely to take that which is my due, but to revenge our whole nation for the felon acts, perjuries, and treason of these English. They put to death the Danes, men, and women, in the night of Saint Brice. Edition: current; Page: [176] They decimated the companions of my relation, Alfred, and put himself to death. On, then, in God’s name, and chastise them for all their misdeeds.”1

The army soon came in sight of the Saxon camp, northwest of Hastings. The priests and monks who accompanied it, retired to a neighbouring hill, to pray and watch the combat.2 A Norman, named Taillefer, spurred his horse in front of the array, and began the song, famous throughout Gaul, of Charlemagne and Roland. As he sang, he played with his sword, throwing it far into the air, and catching it, as it fell, in his right hand; the Normans repeated the burthen, or shouted, Dieu aide! Dieu aide!3

Coming within shot, the archers began to discharge their arrows, and the cross-bowmen their bolts; but most of the shots were rendered useless by the high parapets of the Saxon redoubts. The infantry armed with lances, and the cavalry, advanced to the gates of the redoubts, and endeavoured to force them. The Anglo-Saxons, all on foot around their standard, planted in the ground, and forming behind their palisades a compact and solid mass, received the assailants with heavy blows of their axes, ævissimæ secures, as the historian calls them,4 one blow of which broke the lances and cut through the coats of mail.5 The Normans, not being able to penetrate the redoubts, or to tear up the stakes, fell back, fatigued with their useless attack, upon the division commanded by William. The duke then made all his archers advance, and ordered them not to shoot straightforward, but into the air, so that the arrows might fall into the enemy’s camp. Many of the English were wounded, most of them in the face, by this manœuvre; Harold himself had his eye pierced with an arrow; but nevertheless, continued to issue his orders and to fight. The attack of the infantry and cavalry again commenced, amid cries of Notre Dame! Dieu aide! Dieu aide! But the Normans were driven back from one of the gates of the camp, to a deep ravine, covered with brushwood and grass, the growth of time, into which they and their horses fell one Edition: current; Page: [177] upon the other, and thus perished in great numbers.1 There was a moment of terror in the foreign army. The report spread that the duke had been killed, and at this news a retreat commenced. William threw himself before the fugitives and barred their passage, threatening them, and striking them with his lance; then uncovering: “I am here,” he exclaimed; “look at me, I still live, and, with the help of God, I will conquer.”2

The cavalry returned to the redoubts, but they could not force the gates or make a breach; the duke then thought of a stratagem to induce the English to quit their position; he ordered a thousand horse to advance and immediately retreat. The sight of this feigned flight made the Saxons lose their coolness; they all rushed in pursuit, their axes hanging from their necks.3 At a certain distance, a body previously disposed, joined the fugitives, who turned; and the English, surprised in their disorder, were assailed on every side by blows of lances and swords, from which they could not defend themselves, having both their hands occupied in wielding their great battle-axes. When they had lost their ranks, the redoubts were forced; horse and foot made their way into them, but the combat was still fierce, hand to hand. William had his horse killed under him; Harold and his two brothers fell dead at the foot of their standard, which was torn up and replaced by the banner sent from Rome. The wreck of the English army, without chief and without standard, prolonged the struggle till the end of the day, so late that the combatants of the two parties only recognised each other by their language.4

Then, and not till then, did this desperate resistance end. Harold’s followers dispersed, many dying upon the roads of their wounds and the fatigue of the combat. The Norman horse pursued them, granting quarter to none.5 The victors passed the night on the field of battle, and the next day at sunrise, duke William drew up his troops and called over the names of all those who had crossed the sea with him, from the Edition: current; Page: [178] list which had been drawn up before their departure, at St. Valery. Numbers of these lay, dead or dying, beside the conquered.1 The fortunate survivors had, for the first fruits of their victory, the spoils of the dead enemy. In turning over the bodies, thirteen were found with a monk’s habit under their armour; they were the abbot of Hide and his twelve companions: the name of their monastery was the first written in the black book of the conquerors.2

The mothers and wives of those who had come from the neighbourhood to fight and die with their king, united to seek together and bury the bodies of their relations. That of king Harold lay for a long time on the field of battle, without any one daring to claim it. At length, Godwin’s widow, Ghitha, subduing for the moment her grief, sent a message to duke William, asking his permission to render the last honours to her son. She offered, say the Norman historians, to give the weight of his body in gold. But the duke sternly refused, saying that a man who had been false to his word and to his religion, should have no other sepulchre than the sand of the shore. He relented, however, if we are to believe an old tradition, in favour of the monks of Waltham abbey, which Harold had founded and enriched. Two Saxon monks, Osgod and Ailrik, deputed by the abbot of Waltham, demanded and obtained permission to transport the remains of their benefactor to their church. They sought among the mass of bodies, despoiled of arms and clothes, examining them carefully one after the other, but could not recognise the body of him they sought, so much had his wounds disfigured him. Despairing ever to succeed in their research unaided, they addressed themselves to a woman whom Harold, before he became king, had kept as a mistress, and intreated her to assist them. She was called Edith, and surnamed the Beauty with the swan’s neck.3 She consented to accompany the two monks, and was more successful than they in discovering the corpse of him whom she had loved.

All these events are related by the chroniclers of Anglo-Saxon race, in a tone of despondency which it is difficult to convey. They call the day of the battle a bitter day, Edition: current; Page: [179] a day of death, a day stained with the blood of the brave.1 “England, what shall I say of thee,” exclaims the historian of the church of Ely; “what shall I relate to our descendants? Woe to thee! thou hast lost thy national king, and thou hast fallen into the hands of the foreigner; thy sons have perished miserably, thy councillors and thy chiefs are conquered, dead, or disinherited.”2 Long after the day of this fatal fight, patriotic superstition still saw traces of fresh blood upon the ground where it had taken place; they were visible, it was said, on the heights north-west of Hastings, when a slight rain had moistened the soil.3 Immediately after his victory, William made a vow to build an abbey on the spot, dedicated to the Holy Trinity and Saint Martin, the patron of the warriors of Gaul.4 The vow was soon accomplished, and the high altar of the new monastery was raised on the very spot where the standard of king Harold had been planted and torn down. The outer walls were traced around the hill which the bravest of the English had covered with their bodies, and the whole extent of the adjacent land, upon which the famous scenes of the battle had taken place, became the property of this abbey, which was called, in the Norman language, L’Abbaye de la Bataille.5 Monks from the great convent of Marmoutiers, near Tours, came to settle here and pray for the souls of all who had died on the field.6

It is said, that, when the first stones of the edifice were laid, the architects discovered that there would be a deficiency of water; they went, quite disconcerted, to acquaint William with this untoward circumstance: “Work, work away,” replied the conqueror, in a jovial tone, “for if God give me life, there shall be more wine among the monks of Battle Abbey than there is water in the best convent of Christendom!”7

Edition: current; Page: [180]


Battle of Romney—Taking of Dover—Capitulation of Kent—Election of king Edgar—Defection of Edwin and Morkar—Blockade of London—Proceedings of the citizens—Submission of London—William proclaimed king—The ceremony of the coronation disturbed by conflagration—Division of the spoils among the Normans—Extent of the conquered territory—Sufferings of the conquered—Courageous resistance of three Saxons—Fortresses erected in London—Ancient lists of the conquerors of England—William revisits Normandy—Revolt of Kent—Eustache, count of Boulogne, comes to the assistance of the English—Limits of the territory invaded—Return of king William—He marches into the west—Siege of Exeter—Division of lands in the western provinces—Imprisonment and deposition of Brihtrik—Resistance of the monks of Winchcomb—Their punishment—The English chiefs retire to the north—Conspiracy against the Normans—King Edgar flies into Scotland—State of the Scottish population—Friendship of the kings of Scotland for the men of Teutonic race—William marches into the north—Taking of Oxford, &c.—Taking of York—Archbishop Eldred’s malediction upon king William—His despair and death—Weariness of the Normans—Insurrection of the western provinces—Landing of the sons of king Harold—Suppression of the western revolt—State of the northern provinces—March of Robert Comine against Durham—His defeat and death—Alliance between the northern English and the Danes—Arrival of Danish succours in England—The English and Danes besiege and take the city of York—York retaken by the Normans—Devastation of Northumberland—Taking of Durham—Ravages and cruelties exercised by the conquerors—St. John of Beverley intimidates the Norman soldiers—Completion of the conquest in the north—Famine in the conquered districts—Division of houses and lands—French colony in Yorkshire—Distribution of English domains and heiresses—Tosti killed by Osulf in a spirit of national vengeance—Second submission of the English chieftains and of king Edgar—Defeat of Edrik the Saxon—Invasion of Wales—Fresh emigrants from Gaul—Society of gain and loss among the soldiers of the Conquest—Brothers-in-arms—March of William upon Chester—Taking of Chester—Battle near the Ruddlan marshes—Utility of local details.

While the army of the king of the Anglo-Saxons and the army of the invader were in presence of each other, some fresh vessels from Normandy had crossed the Channel to Edition: current; Page: [181] join the main fleet stationed in the bay of Hastings. Those who commanded them, landed, by mistake, several miles further to the north, in a place then called Rumeney, now Romney. The inhabitants received the Normans as enemies, and a combat took place, in which the latter were beaten.1 William learned their defeat a few days after his own victory, and to save from a similar misfortune the succours he still expected from the opposite shore, he resolved, first of all, to secure the possession of the south-eastern coast. Instead, therefore, of advancing to London, he fell back to Hastings, where he remained some time, to see if his presence alone would not suffice to determine the population of the neighbouring country to voluntary submission. But no one coming to sue for peace, the conqueror again commenced his march with the remains of his army, and some fresh troops which, in the interval, had joined him from Normandy.2

He proceeded along the sea coast, from north to south, devastating every thing on his way.3 At Romney, he avenged, by burning the houses and massacring the inhabitants, the defeat of his soldiers; thence he marched to Dover, the strongest fortress on the whole coast, and of which he had formerly endeavoured to make himself master, without danger and without fighting, by the oath into which he had entrapped Harold. Dover castle, recently completed by the son of Godwin for better purposes, was constructed on a rock bathed by the sea, naturally steep, and which, with great difficulty and labour, had been hewn on every side, so as to make it present the appearance of a vast wall. The details of the siege made by the Normans are not known; all the historians tell us is, that the town of Dover was fired, and that, either from terror or treason, the garrison of the fortress surrendered it.4 William passed a week at Dover, erecting additional walls and defensive works; then changing the direction of his march, he left the coast, and proceeded towards the capital city.

The Norman army advanced by the great Roman road, Edition: current; Page: [182] which the English called Wtling-street, the same which had figured so often as a common boundary in the divisions of territory between the Saxons and Danes. This road led from Dover to London, through the middle of Kent; the conquerors passed through a portion of this county without any one appearing to dispute their passage; but in a spot where the road, approaching the Thames, ran near a forest, adapted for concealing an ambuscade, a large body of armed Saxons suddenly presented themselves. They were commanded by two priests, Eghelsig, abbot of the monastery of Saint Augustin at Canterbury, and Stigand the archbishop of Canterbury, the same who had crowned king Harold.1 It is not precisely known what passed at this meeting; whether a combat took place, followed by a treaty between the two armies, or whether the capitulation was concluded before they crossed weapons. The Kentish army, it appears, stipulated for all the inhabitants of the province that they would offer no further resistance, on condition of remaining, after the conquest, as free as they had been before.2

In treating thus for themselves alone, and separating their own from the national destiny, the men of Kent (if it be true, indeed, that they concluded this compact) did more harm to the common cause than good to themselves; for no act of the time shows that the foreigner kept faith with them, or distinguished them from the other English, in his laws and oppressive measures. Archbishop Stigand, whether he had taken part in this capitulation, or had fruitlessly opposed it, a conjecture more conformable with his haughty and daring character,3 quitted the province which thus laid down its arms, and went towards London, where, as yet, no one thought of surrendering. The inhabitants of that great city, and the chiefs assembled there, had resolved to fight a second battle, which, well arranged and well conducted, would, according to all appearance, be more fortunate than the first.4

But there was wanting a supreme chief, under whose command the whole strength and will of the country should rally; Edition: current; Page: [183] and the national council, which had to name this chief, was slow in giving a decision, agitated and divided as it was by intrigues and contending claims. Neither of the brothers of the late king, men capable of worthily filling his place, had returned from the battle of Hastings. Harold had left two sons still very young, and little known to the people; it does not appear that they were at this time proposed as candidates for the crown. The claimants most powerful in renown and fortune were Edwin and Morkar, brothers-in-law to Harold, and chiefs of Northumbria and Mercia. They had with them the votes of all the men of the north of England; but the citizens of London, the people of the south, and the party malcontent with the late reign, opposed to them young Edgar, king Edward’s nephew, surnamed Etheling, the illustrious, because he was of the ancient royal race.1 This young man, feeble in character, and of no acquired reputation, had not, a year before, been able to outweigh the popularity of Harold; he counterbalanced now that of the sons of Alfgar, and was supported against them by Stigand himself, and by Eldred, archbishop of York.2 Of the other bishops, several would accept for a king neither Edgar nor Edgar’s competitors, and required the people to submit to the man who came with a bull from the pope and a standard of the church.3 Some acted thus, from blind obedience to the spiritual power, others from political cowardice; others, again, of foreign origin and gained over by the foreign pretender, played the part for which they had been paid in money or promises. They did not prevail, and the majority of the great national council fixed their choice on the man least able to command in difficult circumstances—the youthful nephew of Edward. He was proclaimed king, after considerable hesitation, during which much precious time was lost in futile disputes.4 His accession did not combine the divided opinions; Edwin and Morkar, who had promised to head the troops assembled at London, withdrew this promise, and retired to their governments in the north, taking with them the soldiers of those provinces, Edition: current; Page: [184] over whom they were all-influential. They madly thought they could defend the northern provinces apart from the rest of England. Their withdrawal weakened and discouraged those who remained at London with the new king; depression, the fruit of civil discord, took the place of the first impulse of patriotism which had been excited by the foreign invasion.1 Meantime, the Norman troops were approaching from several directions, overrunning Surrey, Sussex, and Hampshire, pillaging and burning the towns and villages, and massacring the inhabitants, armed or unarmed.2 Five hundred horse advanced as far as Southwark, engaged a body of Saxons who met them, and burned in their retreat all the houses on the right bank of the Thames.3 Judging from this that the citizens were prepared to stand on their defence, William, instead of approaching London and besieging it, turned towards the west, and passed the Thames at Wallingford, in Berkshire. He formed a fortified camp in this place, and left troops there to intercept the Saxon succours that might come from the western counties; then proceeding north-east, he himself encamped at Berkhamsted, in Hertfordshire, for the purpose of intercepting all communication between London and the northern counties, and preventing the return of the sons of Alfgar, should they repent their inaction.4 By these tactics the great Saxon town was entirely hemmed in; numerous bodies of scouts ravaged the environs, and cut off the provisions, without engaging in any decisive battle; more than once, the inhabitants of London came to blows with the Normans; but by degrees, becoming worn out, they were conquered, less by the strength of the enemy, than by the fear of famine, and by the discouraging thought that they were isolated from all succour.5

There existed in the city two powers, accord between which it was necessary but very difficult to maintain—the court and the guild, or municipal confraternity of the citizens.6 Edition: current; Page: [185] The municipality, entirely free, was ruled by its elective magistrates; the court had for its chief the officer designated Staller, or Standard-bearer.1

This post, at once civil and military, had just been restored to the person who filled it under Edward; an old soldier, named Ansgar, whose legs were paralyzed with fatigue and wounds, and who was carried on a litter wherever his duty called him.2 William had met him in 1051, at the court of king Edward. He thought it possible to gain him over to his cause, and sent him, by a secret emissary, his propositions and offers, which were no less than, in case of success, the lieutenancy of the kingdom. We cannot say whether Ansgar was moved by these promises, but he certainly received them with circumspection, and, preserving absolute secrecy with respect to them, adopted a course calculated to relieve him from the peril of having personal correspondence with the enemy. Of his own authority, or in conjunction with the king’s council, he assembled the principal citizens of London, and addressing them by the name which the members of the municipal corporation gave each other, said: “Honourable brothers, our resources are nearly exhausted, the city is threatened with assault, and no army comes to its aid. Such is our situation; but when strength is exhausted, when courage can do no more, artifice and stratagem still remain. I advise you to resort to them. The enemy is not yet aware of our miserable position; let us profit by that circumstance, and send them fair words by a man capable of receiving them, who will feign to convey your submission, and, in sign of peace, will lay his hand in theirs, if required.”3

This counsel, the aptness and merit of which it is difficult to comprehend, pleased the chiefs of the citizens, as coming from an able politician and experienced warrior. They flattered themselves, it would appear, with the hope of obtaining a suspension of hostilities, and protracting the negotiations until the arrival of succours, but the result was quite different. The messenger sent to deceive duke William, returned himself deceived, loaded with presents and devoted to his cause. Edition: current; Page: [186] When he appeared before the principal citizens to give an account of his mission, an anxious crowd followed and pressed behind him. His singularly daring speech consisted of boundless eulogy of the armed pretender, to whom he attributed every royal virtue, and a promise, in his name, of peace, justice, and obedience to the wishes of the English nation. These words, so different from the reports in circulation of the implacable severity of the conqueror of Hastings, far from raising the cry of treachery, were received by the crowd, if not by the magistrates themselves, with joy and confidence. There was, in favour of the peace party—and the duke of Normandy, one of those popular outbursts which nothing can resist, and which are soon followed by futile repentance. People and magistrates unanimously resolved by acclamation to carry, without further delay, the keys of the city to duke William.1

The court of the young king Edgar, without army or free communication beyond the walls, was incapable of counteracting the will of the citizens, or of compelling them to incur the chances of a desperate resistance. This government, created in the midst of disorder, and which, notwithstanding its popularity, was in want of the most ordinary resources, found itself necessitated to declare that it no longer existed. The king himself, accompanied by archbishops Stigand and Eldred, and by Wulstan, bishop of Worcester, several chiefs of high rank, and the leading citizens, came to the camp at Berkhamsted, and made their submission, most unhappily for the country.2 They gave hostages to the duke of Normandy, swore to him the oath of fidelity, and, in return, the duke promised them, on his faith, to be gentle and clement towards them. He then marched to London, and, despite the promise just issued from his lips, allowed his people to devastate everything on the way.3 Upon the road from Berkhamsted to London, was the rich monastery of Saint Alban, built near the vast ruins of an ancient Roman municipium. On approaching this abbey, William beheld with surprise great trunks of trees disposed so as to intercept the passage, or render it difficult. He sent for the abbot, Frithrik. “Why,” asked the conqueror, “hast thou thus cut down thy woods?” Edition: current; Page: [187] “I have done my duty,” answered the Saxon monk; “and if all of my order had done the same, as they might and ought to have done, thou wouldst not, perhaps, have advanced thus far into our country.”1 William did not go quite to London, but halting at a distance of some miles, sent forward a numerous detachment of soldiers to construct a fortress for his residence in the heart of the city.2

Whilst the works were proceeding in all haste, the council of war held by the Normans, in their camp, discussed the means of promptly completing the conquest, so favourably commenced. William’s more intimate friends said that to mitigate the resistance of the provinces still free, their future movements should be preceded by his assuming the title of king of the English. This proposition was, no doubt, most agreeable to the duke of Normandy, but with his usual circumspection, he feigned indifference to it. Although the possession of the crown was the object of his enterprise, it appears that weighty reasons induced him to seem less ambitious than he really was, of a dignity which, raising him above the conquered, would, at the same time, separate his fortune from that of all his companions in arms. William modestly excused himself, and demanded at least some delay, saying that he had not come to England for his own interest alone, but for that of the whole Norman nation; that, besides, if it were the will of God that he should become king, the time to assume the title had not arrived, too many counties and too many men still remaining to be subjected.3

The majority of the Norman chiefs were inclined to take these hypocritical scruples literally, and to decide that in reality it was not yet time to create a king, when the captain of one of the auxiliary bands, Aimery de Thouars, to whom the royalty of William would naturally give less umbrage than to the natives of Normandy, energetically rose, and, in the style of a flatterer and mercenary trooper, exclaimed: “It is too modest of you to appeal to warriors, whether or no they will have their lord a king; soldiers have nothing to do with questions of this nature; and besides, our discussions only serve to retard that which, as a matter of feeling, we all so Edition: current; Page: [188] ardently desire.”1 Those Normans who, after William’s feigned excuses, might have ventured to concur in them, thought very different after the Poitevin had spoken, fearing to appear less faithful and less devoted than he to their common chief. They therefore unanimously decided that, before carrying the conquest further, duke William should be crowned king of England, by the few Saxons whom he had succeeded in terrifying or corrupting.

The ceremony was fixed for Christmas-day, then close at hand. The archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, who had sworn the oath of peace to the conqueror, in his camp at Berkhamsted, was invited to attend and crown him, according to ancient custom, in the church of the monastery of the west, called in English, Westmynster, near London. Stigand refused to bestow his blessing on one covered with the blood of men, and an invader of the rights of others.2 But Eldred, archbishop of York, with greater worldly discretion,3 seeing, say the old historians, that it was needful to fall in with the times, and not to oppose the will of God, by whom the powers of the world are raised up, consented to fulfil the office.4 The church of Westminster abbey was prepared and decorated as in the old days, when, by the free vote of the best men of England,5 the king of their choice presented himself to receive investiture of the power which they had conferred upon him. But this previous election, without which the title of king could only be a vain mockery, the bitter insult of the strongest, did not take place for the duke of Normandy. He left his camp, and walked between two ranks of soldiers to the monastery, where awaited him several timid Saxons, affecting, however, a firm countenance, and an air of freedom, in their dastardly and servile office. Far around, all the approaches to the church, the squares and streets of the then suburban village of Westminster, were guarded by armed cavalry, who, as the Norman narratives have it,6 were to Edition: current; Page: [189] keep the rebels in check, and watch over the safety of those whose office called them to the interior of the temple.1 The counts, the barons, and other war-chiefs, in number two hundred and sixty, entered the church with their duke.

When the ceremony opened, Geoffroy, bishop of Coutances, ascending a platform, asked the Normans, in the French language, whether they were all content that their lord should take the title of king of the English; and at the same time, the archbishop of York asked the English, in the Saxon language, whether they accepted the duke of Normandy for their king. Hereupon there arose in the church acclamations so vehement that they resounded beyond the doors, and reached the ears of the cavalry who occupied the neighbouring streets. They took the sound for a cry of alarm, and, according to their secret instructions, hastily set fire to the houses. Several rushed to the church, and at sight of their drawn swords and of the flames, all present dispersed, Normans as well as Saxons; the latter rushed to extinguish the fire, the former to seek plunder amid the tumult and confusion. The ceremony was interrupted by this sudden event, and there only remained hastily to complete it, the duke himself, the archbishop Eldred, and a few priests of the two nations. Tremblingly they received from him whom they called king, and who, according to an ancient narrative, himself trembled in common with them, an oath to treat the Anglo-Saxon people as well as the best king ever elected by that people.2

But on the same day London was to learn the value of such an oath in the mouth of a foreign conqueror; an enormous war tribute was imposed on the citizens, and their hostages were imprisoned.3 William himself, who could not really believe that the benediction of Eldred and the acclamations of a few dastards had made him king of England, in the legal sense of this word, and, consequently, at a loss how to frame his manifestoes, sometimes falsely styled himself king by hereditary succession, and sometimes, in all frankness, king by the edge of the sword.4 But if he hesitated as to words, he had no hesitation as to deeds, but showed his real position by the attitude of hostility and distrust which Edition: current; Page: [190] he maintained towards the people; he dared not yet establish himself in London, nor inhabit the embattled castle which had been hastily constructed for him. He retired accordingly to Barking, until his engineers had given more solidity to this work, and laid the foundation of two other fortresses, destined to keep in check, says a Norman author, the changeable spirit of a too numerous and too haughty people.1

During the period that the king remained at Barking, the two Saxon chiefs, whose fatal withdrawal had caused the subjection of the great city, intimidated by the augmented power which the possession of London and the title of king gave to the invader, came from the north to swear to him the oath which the English chiefs were accustomed to swear to their ancient kings.2 The submission of Edwin and Morkar did not, however, involve that of the provinces they had governed, and the Norman army did not advance to occupy these provinces; they remained concentrated around London, and upon the southern and eastern coasts nearest Gaul. The partition of the wealth of the invaded territory now almost solely occupied them. Commissioners went over the whole extent of country in which the army had left garrisons; they took an exact inventory of property of every kind, public and private, carefully registering every particular; for the Norman nation, even in those remote times, was already extremely fond of deeds, and documents, and law forms.3

A close inquiry was made into the names of all the English partisans of Harold, who had either died in battle, or survived the defeat, or by involuntary delays had been prevented from joining the royal standard. All the property of these three classes of men, lands, revenues, furniture, houses, were confiscated; the children of the first class were declared for ever disinherited; the second class were, in like manner, wholly dispossessed of their estates and property of every kind, and, says one of the Norman writers, were only too grateful for being allowed to retain their lives.4 Lastly, those who had not taken up arms were also despoiled of all they possessed, for having had the intention of taking up arms; but, by special grace, they were allowed to entertain the hope Edition: current; Page: [191] that after many long years of obedience and devotion to the foreign power, not they, indeed, but their sons might perhaps obtain from their new masters some portion of their paternal heritage. Such was the law of the conquest, according to the unsuspected testimony of a man nearly contemporary with and of the race of the conquerors.1

The immense product of this universal spoliation became the pay of those adventurers of every nation who had enrolled under the banner of the duke of Normandy. Their chief, the new king of England, retained, in the first place, for his own share, all the treasure of the ancient kings, the church plate, and all that was most rare and precious in the shops of the merchants.2 William sent a portion of these riches to pope Alexander with Harold’s standard, in exchange for that which had triumphed at Hastings;3 and all the foreign churches in which psalms had been chanted, and tapers burnt for the success of the invasion, received in recompence crosses, sacred vessels, and cloth of gold.4 After the king and clergy had taken their share, that of the soldiers was awarded according to their rank and the conditions of their engagement. Those who, at the camp of the Dive, had done homage for lands, then to be conquered, received those of the dispossessed English;5 the barons and knights had vast domains, castles, villages, and even whole cities; the simple vassals had smaller portions.6 Some received their pay in money, others had stipulated that they should have a Saxon wife, and William, says the Norman chronicle, gave them in marriage noble dames, great heiresses, whose husbands had fallen in the battle. One only among the knights who had accompanied the conqueror, claimed neither lands, gold, nor wife, and would accept none of the spoils of the conquered. His name was Guilbert Fitz-Richard: he said that he had accompanied his lord to England because such was his duty, but that stolen Edition: current; Page: [192] goods had no attraction for him, and that he would return to Normandy and enjoy his own heritage, a moderate but legitimate heritage, and, contented with his own lot, would rob no one.1

The new king employed the last months of the winter of 1066 in making a sort of military progress through the provinces then invaded. It is difficult to determine exactly the number of these provinces, and the extent of country which the foreign troops freely occupied and overran. Yet by carefully examining the accounts of the contemporary writers, we find, at all events, negative proofs that the Normans had not advanced in a north-easterly direction beyond the rivers, the mouths of which form Boston Wash; or towards the south-west, not beyond the high territory which bounds Dorsetshire. The city of Oxford, nearly equi-distant between these two opposite points, upon a straight line drawn from one to the other, had not yet surrendered; but perhaps this ideal frontier had been passed, either to the north or to the south of Oxford. It is equally difficult to deny or to affirm this, or to fix, at any particular moment, the limits of a gradual invasion. The whole extent of country really occupied by William’s garrisons and held by him in a more than nominal manner, in virtue of his title of king, were in a short time bristling with citadels and fortresses;2 all the inhabitants were disarmed, and obliged to swear obedience and fidelity to the new chief imposed on them by the lance and sword. They swore, but in their hearts they did not hold this foreigner legal king of England; in their eyes the true king was young Edgar, fallen and a captive as he was. The monks of Peterborough abbey gave a remarkable proof of this. Having lost their abbot, Leofrik, on his return from the battle of Hastings, they chose, as his successor, their prior, named Brand; and as it was their custom to submit the election of the dignitaries of their monastery to the approval of the supreme chief of the country, they sent Brand to Edgar. According to the chronicle of the monastery, they took this step, because all the inhabitants of the country thought that Edgar would again be king. Information of the fact soon reached William’s ears, and his Edition: current; Page: [193] rage was unbounded. “From that day,” continues the contemporary narrator, “every evil and every tribulation has fallen upon our house. May God have mercy on it.”1

The prayer of this monk might well have been repeated by every inhabitant of the conquered provinces, for each had his full share of grief and misery: the men had to undergo indigence and servitude; the women insult and outrage more cruel than death itself. Those who were not taken par mariage were taken par amours, as it was termed in the language of the conquerors, and became the plaything of the foreign soldiers, the least and lowest of whom was lord and master in the houses of the conquered. “Ignoble grooms, base scum of armies,” say the old annalists, “did as they pleased with the noblest women, and left them nothing but to weep and wish for death.2 These licentious knaves were amazed at themselves; they went mad with pride and astonishment at beholding themselves so powerful, at having servants richer than their own fathers had ever been.3 Whatever they willed, they deemed it fully permissible to do; they shed blood at random, tore the bread from the mouths of the wretched people, and took everything, money, goods, land. . . .”4

Such was the fate which extended itself over the men of English race, as the three-lion banner advanced into their country, and waved over their towns. But this destiny, everywhere equally severe, assumed different appearances, according to the diversity of places. The towns were not struck so hard as the country; this town or district was afflicted in a different way from that; around a common centre of misery, if we may thus express ourselves, there were the varied forms and the multiplicity of circumstances which are ever exhibited by the course of human affairs.

The city of Dover, half consumed by fire, was allotted to Eudes, bishop of Bayeux, who could not, say the ancient documents, calculate its exact value, because it was so devastated.5 He distributed the houses among his soldiers and people; Raoul de Courtespine (Crookthorne), received three, with the Edition: current; Page: [194] field of a poor woman.1 William Fitz-Geoffroy had three houses, one of which was the ancient Guildhall,2 near Colchester in Essex; Geoffroy de Mandeville alone had forty manors, or houses surrounded with cultivated land; fourteen Saxon proprietors were dispossessed by Engelry, and thirty, by one Guillaume. A rich Englishman, to secure his safety, placed himself under the power of the Norman Gualtier, who made him his tributary;3 another Englishman became a serf on the glebe of his own field.4 The domain of Sutton, in Bedfordshire, that of Burton and the town of Stafford, fell to the lot of Guy de Riencourt. He possessed these lands during his life. But Richard, his son and heir, lost the greater part of them to king Henry I. at dice.

In Suffolk, a Norman chief appropriated the lands of a Saxon lady, named Ediva the fair;5 the entire city of Norwich was set aside as the private domain of the conqueror; it had paid to the Saxon kings thirty pounds and twenty pence; but William exacted seventy pounds a year, a horse of value, an hundred pence for the queen his wife, and twenty pounds for the salary of the officer who commanded there in his name. A strong citadel was built in the centre of the city,6 for its inhabitants being men of Danish origin, the conquerors feared that they might demand and receive aid from the Danes, who often cruised on the coast.7 In Dorchester, instead of an hundred and seventy-two houses that were there in the time of king Edward, eighty-eight alone remained; the rest were a heap of ruins; at Warham, of an hundred and thirteen houses, sixty-two had been destroyed;8 at Bridport, twenty houses disappeared in the same manner, and the poverty of the inhabitants was such, that more than twenty years after not one had been rebuilt.9 The Isle of Wight was invaded by William Fitz-Osbern, seneschal of the Norman king, and became a portion of his vast domains in England; he transmitted it to his son, then to his grand-nephew, Baldwin, Edition: current; Page: [195] called in Normandy, Baudoin des Reviers, and in England, Baldwin de l’Isle.1

Near Winchester, in Hampshire, was the monastery of Hide, the abbot of which, accompanied by twelve monks and twenty men-at-arms, had gone to the battle of Hastings and fallen there. The revenge which the conqueror exercised on this monastery was mingled with a sort of pleasantry; he divested the domains of the monastery, as ransom in land for the patriotic crime of its thirteen members, of one barony for the abbot’s share of the offence, and one knight’s fee for each of the twelve monks.2 Another circumstance that may be mentioned among the joyeusetés of the conquest, is that a dancing girl, named Adeline, is named in the roll of partition of the same county, as having received a fief from Roger, one of the Norman counts.3

In Hertfordshire, an Englishman had redeemed his land by a payment of nine ounces of gold; and yet, to avoid a violent ejectment, he was obliged to become the tributary of a soldier named Vigot or Bigot.4 Three Saxon warriors, Thurnoth, Waltheof and Thurman, associated in a brotherhood of arms, possessed near Saint Albans a manor which they held of the abbot on the terms of defending it with their swords, in case of need.5 They faithfully fulfilled this office against the Norman invaders; but, overcome by numbers and obliged to fly, they abandoned their domain. It fell to the share of a noble baron, called Roger de Toëny, who had soon to defend his new property against the three expelled Saxons. The latter, who had sought refuge in the neighbouring forests, assembled there a small troop of men, driven out like themselves, and unexpectedly attacking the Normans established on their lands, killed several, and burned their houses.6

These facts, taken at random from among a thousand others which it would be wearisome to enumerate, will enable the reader to figure to himself the sad but varied scenes presented by English counties of the south and east, while Edition: current; Page: [196] the Norman king was installing himself in the Tower of London. This fortress, constructed in one of the angles of the city wall, close to the Thames, received the name of the Palatine Tower, a name formed from an old Roman title that William bore in Normandy, conjointly with that of duke or count. Two other fortresses, built westward, and confided to the care of the Normans Baynard and Gilbert de Montfichet, took respectively the name of their keepers.1 The three-lion banner was planted on William’s donjon, and over the two others floated those of Baynard and Montfichet. But these captains had first both sworn to lower their flags and to raise that of the king, their lord, on his first command, preferred in anger or without anger, supported by a great force or a small, for offence committed or without offence committed, as the formal acts set forth. Before making, amid the sound of trumpets, their first entry into their towers, before they garrisoned them with their men, they placed their hands in the hands of the Norman king, and acknowledged themselves his liege-men. In a word, they had promised to undergo as a just and legal decree, their sentence of depossession, if ever they voluntarily took part against their lord and separated their banner from his.

The same oath was sworn to the chief of the conquest by other leaders, who again received from inferior dignitaries a similar oath of fealty and homage. Thus the troops of the conqueror, although scattered and dispersed over the land of the conquered, remained united by a vast chain of duty, and observed the same subordination as when in his ships or behind his fortifications at Hastings. The subaltern owed fealty and service to his military superior, or to him from whom he had received in fief either lands or money. Upon this condition, those who had realized the larger share of the spoil, bestowed a portion of their superfluity upon those who had been less fortunate; the knights received from the barons, men-at-arms from their captains; in their turn these gave to the squires, the squires to the sergeants, the sergeants to the archers and grooms. In a word, the rich gave to the poor; but the poor soon became enriched by the gains of the Edition: current; Page: [197] conquest; and thus, among these classes of combatants,1 great fluctuations took place, because the chances of war rapidly advanced men from the lowest ranks to the highest.

Men who had crossed the sea in the quilted frocks and with the dark wooden bow of foot soldiers, appeared upon war-horses and girded with the knightly baldric, to the eyes of the new recruits who crossed the sea after them. He who had came over a poor knight, soon had his own banner and his company of men-at-arms, whose rallying cry was his name. The drovers of Normandy and weavers of Flanders, with a little courage and good fortune, soon became in England great men, illustrious barons; and their names, base or obscure on one side of the Channel, were noble and glorious on the other.

“Would you know,” says an ancient roll in the French language, “what are the names of the great men who crossed the sea with the conqueror, William the Vigorous?2 Here are their surnames as we find them written, but without their baptismal names, which are often wanting or are changed; they are, Mandeville and Dandeville; Omfreville and Domfreville; Bouteville and Estouteville; Mohun and Bohun; Biset and Basset; Malin and Malvoisin. . . . ” All the other names are in like manner arranged so as to assist the memory, by the rhythm and alliteration. Several of the same kind have been preserved to our days; they were found written upon great pages of vellum, in the archives of churches, and decorated with the title of Book of the Conquerors.3 In one of these lists, the names are arranged in groups of three: Bastard, Brassard, Baynard; Bigot, Bagot, Talbot; Toret, Trivet, Bouet; Lucy, Lacy, Percy. . . . . Another catalogue of the conquerors of England, long preserved in the treasury of Battle abbey, contained names singularly low and fantastic, as Bonvilain and Boutevilain, Trousselot and Troussebout, L’Engayne and Longue Epée, Œil-de-bœuf and Front-de-bœuf.4 . . . . . Lastly, several authentic documents designate as Norman knights in England, a Guillaume le charretier, a Edition: current; Page: [198] Hugues le tailleur, a Guillaume le tambour;1 and among the surnames of the chivalry collected from every corner of Gaul, figure a great many mere names of towns and districts—Saint-Quentin, Saint-Maur, Saint-Denis, Saint-Malo, Tournai, Verdun, Fismes, Chalons, Chaunes, Etampes, Rochefort, La Rochelle, Cahors,2 Champagne, Gascogne. . . . Such were the men who assumed in England the titles of nobleman and gentleman,3 and planted it there by force of arms, for themselves and their descendants.

The mere valet of the Norman man-at-arms, his groom, his lance-bearer, became gentleman on the soil of England; they were all at once nobles by the side of the Saxon, once rich and noble himself, but now bending beneath the sword of the foreigner, driven from the home of his ancestors, having nowhere to lay his head.4 This natural and general nobility of all the conquerors at large, increased in proportion to the personal authority or importance of individuals. After the nobility of the Norman king, came that of the provincial governor, who assumed the title of count or earl; after the nobility of the count came that of his lieutenant, called vice-count or viscount; and then that of the warriors, according to their grade, barons, chevaliers, ecuyers, or sergents, not equally noble, but all nobles by right of their common victory and their foreign birth.5

Before marching to conquer the northern and western provinces, William, ever provident, desiring to deposit in a secure place the booty he had realized in the provinces already conquered, considered that his new wealth would be nowhere so safe as in his own country. On the eve of his return to Normandy, he confided the lieutenancy of his royal power to his brother Eudes, and to William Fitz-Osbern. With these two viceroys were joined other lords of note, as coadjutors and councillors: Hugh de Grantmesnil, Hugh de Montfort, Walter Giffard, and William de Garenne (Warrenne.) The new king Edition: current; Page: [199] proceeded to Pevensey, to embark from the same spot on which, six months before, he had landed. Several vessels awaited him there, decorated in token of joy and triumph.1 A great number of English had repaired thither, by his order, to cross the Channel with him. Among them were king Edgar, archbishop Stigand, Frithrik, abbot of Saint Albans, the two brothers Edwin and Morkar, and Waltheof, son of Siward, who had not arrived in time to fight at Hastings. These men, and several others whom the conqueror also took with him, were to serve as hostages and guarantees for the quiescence of the English; he hoped that, deprived by their absence of its most powerful and most popular chiefs, the nation would be less turbulent, less prompt to insurrection.2

In this port, where for the first time he had set foot in England, the conqueror distributed presents of every kind to those of his soldiers who again crossed the sea, in order, says a Norman author, that no one on his return might say that he had not gained by the conquest.3 William, if we may believe the same author, his chaplain and biographer, brought more gold and silver to Normandy than was contained in all Gaul.4 The whole population of the town and country districts, from the sea to Rouen, hastened to meet him, and saluted him with cries of enthusiasm. The monasteries and secular clergy rivalled each other in their zealous efforts to entertain the conqueror of the English, and neither monks nor priests remained unrecompensed.5 William gave them gold in money, sacred vessels, and bullion, with stuffs richly embroidered, which they displayed in the churches, where they excited the admiration of travellers.6 It would appear that embroidery in gold and silver was an art in which the English women excelled; the commerce of that country, already very extended, brought there also many precious things, unknown in the north of Gaul.7 A relation of the king of France, named Raoul, came with a numerous suite to the court held by king William during Easter. The French, equally with the Normans, viewed with curiosity Edition: current; Page: [200] and amazement the chased gold and silver plate, and the drinking cups of the Saxons, made of large horns, adorned with metal at the two extremities. They were astonished at the beauty and long hair of the young English hostages or captives of the Norman king. “They remarked,” says the contemporary narrator, “these things and many others equally new to them, that they might relate them in their country.”1

Whilst this display was made on one side the Channel, on the other the insolence of the conquerors was deeply felt by the conquered. The chiefs who governed the subjected provinces outvied each other in oppressing the natives, the people of rank equally with the commons, by exactions, tyranny, and outrage. Bishop Eudes and Fitz-Osbern, inflated with their new power, scorned the complaints of the oppressed people, and refused all remedy;2 if their soldiers pillaged the houses or violated the wives of the English, they applauded them, and punished the unfortunate sufferers who dared to complain.3 Excess of suffering drove the people of the eastern coast to attempt the emancipation of themselves from the Normans by the aid of a foreign power. Eustache, count of Boulogne, the same who in the reign of Edward had occasioned such tumult in England,4 was now at enmity with king William, who kept his son prisoner. Eustache was renowned for his military skill, and, besides, his connexion with king Edward caused the Anglo-Saxons to regard him as a natural ally.

The people of Kent therefore sent a message to Eustache, and promised to assist him to take Dover, if he would make a descent and succour them against the Normans. The count of Boulogne consented, and landed near Dover under favour of a dark night. All the Saxons of the district took up arms: Eudes de Bayeux and Hugh de Montfort, the two governors of the town, had gone beyond the Thames with part of their troops. Had the siege lasted two days, the inhabitants of the neighbouring provinces would have come in great numbers to join the besiegers;5 but Eustache and his men, prematurely endeavouring to take Dover castle by surprise, Edition: current; Page: [201] met with an unexpected resistance on the part of the Normans, and were discouraged after this one effort. A false report of the approach of Eudes, returning, it was said, with the main body of his troops, struck them with a panic terror. Eustache sounded a retreat; his soldiers hastened in disorder to their vessels, and the Norman garrison, seeing them dispersed, left the town to pursue them. Several fell in their flight from the steep rocks upon which Dover castle stands. The count owed his life solely to the speed of his horse, and the Saxon insurgents returned to their houses through bye-roads. Such was the result of the first attempt made in England to overthrow the Norman dominion. Eustache shortly after made his peace with the duke of Normandy; and, forgetting his allies of a day, solicited the riches and honours which their enemy had to bestow.1

In Herefordshire, beyond the great chain of mountains, which had formerly protected the independence of the Britons, and which might still serve as a rampart for that of the English, there dwelt, before the invasion, upon lands which he had received from the munificence of king Edward, a Norman, named Richard Fitz-Scrob. He was one of those whom the Saxons exempted from the sentence of exile pronounced in the year 1052 against all the Normans living in England. In return for this favour, Fitz-Scrob, on William’s landing, became chief intriguer for the conquest, established a correspondence with the invaders, and placed himself at the head of some bodies of soldiers, emigrants from Gaul, who, since the time of Edward, had garrisoned several castles near Hereford. He visited them in these castles, and, making frequent sallies, endeavoured to force the neighbouring towns and villages to submit to the conqueror. But the population of the west made an energetic resistance, and, commanded by the young Edrik, son of Alfrik, repulsed the attacks of Fitz-Scrob and his soldiers.2

The young Saxon chief had the art to interest in his cause several chiefs of the Welsh tribes, hitherto mortal enemies of the English.3 Thus the terror of the Normans reconciled for the first time the Cambrians and the Teutons of Britain, and Edition: current; Page: [202] did that which, in former times, the invasions of the northern pagans could not accomplish. Supported by the inhabitants of Wales, Edrik successfully assumed the offensive against Richard Fitz-Scrob and his soldiers, who are called in the chronicles of the time, castellans of Hereford.1 Three months after the departure of king William for Normandy, he drove them from the territory they occupied, pillaged their encampments, and delivered all the country about the river Lugg.2 South of this district, upon the coasts of the Bristol channel, and in the north, upon the territories adjoining the mountains, there were, at this period, neither military posts established by the Normans, nor strongholds built or possessed by them. The conquest, if we may so express ourselves, had not yet reached that point; its laws did not prevail there, its king was not acknowledged there, any more than in the north of England from Boston Wash to the Tweed.

In the midland districts the enemy’s scouts freely possessed the open country; but many fortified towns had not yet surrendered, and even in the parts where the invasion seemed accomplished, the conquerors were not without alarm; for messengers, sent from the provinces where independence still reigned, went secretly from town to town to rally the friends of the country, and revive the courage which had been depressed by the rapidity of the defeat. Every day, one or more of the men most in credit with the people, disappeared from under the eyes of the foreign authorities; those who, following the first impulse of terror, had repaired to William’s camp, and sworn to him the oath of peace and submission, were invited by patriotic addresses to break their compact with the stranger, and to join the party of good and brave men who aimed at restoring the liberty transmitted them by their forefathers.3

4The news of this agitation and these operations, reaching William in Normandy, obliged him to hasten his return to England. He embarked at Dieppe, on a cold night in the month of December, and, on his arrival, placed in the fortresses of Sussex new governors, selected in Normandy from Edition: current; Page: [203] among the men in whom he most confided. He found in London a fermentation which seemed to presage some approaching movement; fearing that his three castles, with their towers garnished with war-machines, would not suffice to protect him against a popular insurrection, he resolved to avert it, or at least defer the moment, by exercising that craft, that cunning of the fox, which the ancient historians attribute to him,1 in lulling the patriotic spirit which he despaired of destroying. He celebrated at London, with great pomp, the festival of Christmas, and assembling around him several Saxon chiefs and bishops, overwhelmed them with false caresses; he appeared full of affability, and gave the kiss of welcome to every new comer;2 whatever was asked, he granted; whatever was counselled, he assented to; and all were the dupes of his artifices.3

After having thus gained over a portion of the more important class, king William directed his attention to the people; a proclamation, written in the Saxon language and addressed to the inhabitants of London, was published in his name, and read aloud in the churches and streets. It ran thus: “Learn all what is my will. I fully consent that all of you enjoy your national laws, as in the days of king Edward; every son shall inherit from his father, after his father’s death; none of my men shall do you any wrong.”4 Upon this promise, insincere as it was, the effervescence of the people of London was calmed; its solace rendered men’s minds less disposed to run the perilous risks of opposing power. Exempt for a moment from the three scourges which the conquest had brought into England, outrages, foreign laws, and expropriation, the inhabitants of the great Saxon city abandoned the cause of those who were suffering elsewhere, and, upon a calculation of gain and loss, resolved to remain quiet. How long they were permitted to enjoy the conqueror’s concessions is not known, but meantime they made no objection to his marching from London with his best troops, for the subjugation of the provinces that still remained free.

The Norman king first proceeded to the south-west, and crossing the hills which separate Dorsetshire from Devonshire, Edition: current; Page: [204] marched against Exeter.1 It was in this city that, after the battle of Hastings, the mother of Harold had taken refuge, and here she had collected the wreck of her treasures, which she devoted to the cause of that country for which her son had died. The citizens of Exeter were numerous and full of patriotic zeal: contemporary history renders to them this testimony, that, young and old, they hated with mortal hate the foreign invader.2 They fortified their towers and their walls, sent for armed men from all the adjacent districts, and engaged the services of the foreign sailors in their port. They also sent messages to the people of the towns around, inviting their co-operation in resisting the foreign king, with whom, say the chronicles, they had before nothing to do.3

The approach of the invading army was heralded to the inhabitants of Exeter from afar, by the intelligence of its ravages; every place through which it passed was utterly devastated. The Normans halted at a place four miles distant, whence William sent to the citizens a summons to submit and to swear to him the oath of fidelity. “We shall not,” they replied, “swear the oath of fidelity to the pretended king, or admit him within our walls; but if he thinks proper to receive, by way of tribute, the impost we pay to our kings, we will give it to him.” “I require subjects,” answered William, “and I am not accustomed to take them on any such conditions.” The Norman troops advanced, headed by a battalion of English, who had joined the foreign army, either on compulsion, or from utter want of other means of support, or in the idea of enriching themselves by the pillage of their countrymen. Ere the first assault began, the magistrates and leading citizens of Exeter, in pursuance of some secret negotiation, came to the king, delivered hostages, and demanded peace on terms of surrender. But on their return, the body of citizens, far from fulfilling the engagement thus made, kept the gates closed, and stood to their arms.

William invested the city, and bringing within sight of the ramparts one of the hostages he had received, had his eyes put out. The siege lasted eighteen days; a considerable portion of the Norman army perished; their place was supplied Edition: current; Page: [205] by fresh troops, and the miners laboured to sap the walls; but the determination of the citizens was inflexible. It is quite probable that they would have wearied William out, had not the chiefs again betrayed them. Some historians relate that the inhabitants of Exeter repaired to the foreign camp, in the attitude of suppliants, with their priests bearing missals and sacred vessels in their hands.1 The Saxon chronicle has merely these words, mournful from their very brevity: “The citizens surrendered the town, because their thanes deceived them.”2

A great number of women, escaping the outrages which followed upon the surrender of Exeter, took refuge with Harold’s mother, first in one of the islands of the Severn, and then in the city of Bath, which had not as yet been taken by the enemy; hence they gained the western coast, and, in default of a more direct route, embarked for Flanders. Fortyeight houses had been destroyed in the siege;3 the Normans applied their materials to the construction of a fortress, which they called Rougemont, from its site being a hill of red earth. This castle was then confided to the keeping of Baldwin, son of Gilbert Crespin, also called Baldwin de Brionne, who received for his share as conqueror, and for his salary as viscount of Devonshire, twenty houses in Exeter, and an hundred and fifty-nine manors in the county.4

During this campaign, a defensive alliance had been formed between the Anglo-Saxons and the ancient Britons of Cornwall. After the taking of Exeter, the two populations thus united were involved in one common ruin, and the territory of both was shared out among the conquerors. One of the first names inscribed on the partition roll was that of the wife of the conqueror, Matilda, daughter of Baldwin, earl of Flanders, whom the Normans called the Queen, a title unknown to the English, who only employed in their language the terms, dame or wife.5 Matilda obtained as her portion of the conquest, all the lands of a rich Saxon, named Brihtrik.6 Edition: current; Page: [206] This personage, if we are to credit the chronicles, was not unknown to Matilda; on the contrary, he had formerly, when ambassador from king Edward at her father’s court, incurred her deep resentment by refusing to marry her. It was Matilda herself who requested the king her husband to adjudge to her, with all his lands, the Englishman who had slighted her; and she satisfied at once her vengeance and her avarice, by appropriating the lands and by imprisoning their owner in a fortress.1

It was probably in continuation of this first invasion of the west, that Somersetshire and Gloucestershire were conquered and apportioned out. Various facts prove that this conquest was not accomplished without resistance. According to the local tradition, the monastery of Winchcombe was at this time deprived of all its possessions, because the monks, ill advised and short sighted men, as an ancient historian calls them, took upon themselves to oppose king William.2 Their abbot, Godrik, was removed by the Norman soldiers and imprisoned at Gloucester; and the monastery, become odious to the conquerors, was transferred to Eghelwig, abbot of Evesham, whom the contemporary annalists surname the Circumspect,3 one of those men whose national treason assumes, to feeble minds, the shape “of the fear of God, and veneration of the king appointed by Him.”4 On the first intelligence of the first defeat of his countrymen, Eghelwig had hastened to swear true faith to the foreigner, “for whom God had declared.” When the conquest had extended itself into the western provinces, he solicited a share in the spoil, and, in imitation of his friends the conquerors, expelled several English from their domains; to others, he sold his protection at a heavy price, and then leaving them to be killed by the Normans, entered upon their lands. His character and conduct caused him to be distinguished by king William, who greatly delighted in him;5 he governed the rebellious monks of Winchcombe entirely to the satisfaction of the Conqueror, until the arrival from beyond seas of a monk named Galand, to whom he remitted the abbey.

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The theatre of English independence thus became more and more limited in the west; but the vast regions of the north still offered an asylum, a retreat, and battle-fields to the patriots. Hither repaired those who had no longer home or family, whose brothers were dead, whose daughters dishonoured; those who, in the language of the old annalists, preferred a life of war to slavery.1 They made their way from one forest or deserted place to another, until they had passed the furthest line of fortresses erected by the advancing Normans, and once beyond this girdle of slavery, found themselves among free Englishmen. Remorse soon brought to them the chiefs who, the first to despair of the common cause, had the first given an example of voluntary submission. They made their escape from the palace in which the Conqueror had detained them captives, under a false show of affection, calling them his dear friends, his special friends,2 and making use of their presence at his court as a ground of reproach against the nation, which refused to recognise a king thus surrounded by its national chiefs. When Edwin and Morkar departed for the north, the prayers of the poor, say the historians of English race, accompanied them in their flight, and the priests and monks offered up fervent orisons for their safety and success.3

4On the arrival of the sons of Alfgar in their former governments of Mercia and Northumbria, every indication of a patriotic movement manifested itself from Oxford to the Tweed. No Norman had as yet passed the Humber, and but very few had reached the central parts of Mercia. This province maintained an uninterrupted communication, by its north western frontier, with the Welsh population, who, forgetting their ancient grievances, made common cause with the Saxons against the new invaders. It was rumoured that the English and Welsh chieftains had held several councils together in the mountains, that they had unanimously resolved to deliver their island from Norman domination, and were despatching emissaries in every direction to arouse popular indignation and revolt. The great camp of independence was to be formed beyond the Humber; the city of Edition: current; Page: [208] York was to be its first bulwark, and its last, the lakes and marshes of the north. Large numbers of men had sworn never to sleep beneath the shelter of a roof until they had effected the national deliverance; they lay under the open sky or in tents, whence the Normans contemptuously designated them savages1 Among them was young Edrik, the son of Alfrik, who had so energetically maintained the Saxon cause in Herefordshire.

It is impossible to say how many projects of national deliverance, well or ill conceived, were formed and destroyed at this period. History scarcely deigns to mention some two or three of the men who preferred war to servitude; the same power which defeated their efforts, effaced the memory of them. One Norman chronicler denounces, with bitter reproaches, a conspiracy, the object of which, he tells us, was to make a sudden attack upon the soldiers of every foreign garrison throughout England, on the first day of Lent, when, according to the devotion of the period, they all repaired to church, bare-footed and unarmed.2 The historian, while thanking God for the discovery of this abominable machination, regrets that the chiefs of the plot had, by flight, escaped the vengeance of the Great conqueror. Their flight, it appears, was directed to the northern provinces, where they were shortly afterwards joined by another fugitive, young Edgar, the lawful king, according to the political maxims of the period, by the election of the people and the consecration of the church. He proceeded onwards, accompanied by his mother Agatha, his two sisters Margaret and Christina, a chieftain named Merlsweyn, and many other good men, as the Saxon chronicle expresses it;3 and passed the frontier which, since the defeat of king Egfrith by the Picts and Scots, had separated England from the land of Albyn.

The invasions of the Danish pirates, though extending north as well as south of the Tweed, had not displaced this boundary. The only political result of the domination exercised for a time by the Danes over the mixed population of Picts, Britons, and Saxons, which occupied the territory between the Forth and the Tweed, had been to augment this Edition: current; Page: [209] mixture of races by a new accession of Germanic population. Hence it was, that south of the Forth, and more peculiarly towards the east, the preponderating idiom was a Teutonic dialect, interspersed with Gallic and British words, and more nearly approximating, in its grammatical forms, to the Danish than to the Anglo-Saxon. About the time when this change was gradually operating in the southern districts of Albyn, in the northern a more rapid revolution united into one state and under one authority the Picts of the eastern coast and the Scots of the western mountains, who had hitherto existed as separate nations, each ruled by its own independent chief. Their union was not effected without some violence; for the two peoples, though apparently of the same origin, though speaking a language almost identical,1 and naturally disposed to act in co-operation against a common adversary, were rivals in time of external peace.

The Scots, hunters of the mountains, and leading a more rugged and more active life than their neighbours of the plain, deemed themselves nobler than the latter, whom they contemptuously designated the bread-eaters.2 But, notwithstanding this assumed scorn of bread, the chieftains of the Scots were very desirous of extending over the corn-growing plains, the power which they exercised in their mountain land of rocks and lakes. They pursued this object year after year, by art and by arms; but the Pict nation successfully resisted them, until it became enfeebled by the incursions and victories of the Danes.3 Kenneth Mac-Alpin, king of western Albyn, availing himself of the occasion, descended into the land of the Picts; the bread-eaters were conquered, and the great proportion of them submitted to the authority of Kenneth; the remainder, withdrawing to the extreme north, sought to retain a king of their own nation and their own choice,4 but they failed in this object; and Kenneth, king of the Scots, became king of all Albyn, which thenceforward bore the name of Scotland. The nation of the Picts lost its name in its incorporation with the Scots; but it does not appear that Edition: current; Page: [210] the fusion was effected on unequal terms, as would, doubtless, have been the case, had the conquerors and the conquered been of different race. The latter had not to undergo any slavery, any political degradation; serfage, the ordinary result of foreign conquest in the middle ages, was not established in Scotland. Ere long there existed north of the Forth but one people, and it early became a fruitless attempt to seek the traces of the idiom which the Picts had spoken in the time of their independence. The kings of the victors, quitting their native mountains, came to dwell with the vanquished at Dunfermline and at Scone. They brought with them the consecrated stone chair in which, according to an ancient custom, they sat at their inauguration, to take the accustomed oath to the people, and to which an ancient national superstition attached the fate of the Scottish race.

At the period of the Norman invasion of England, there remained not the slightest vestige of the original separation of the Scottish Gael into two distinct populations; the only national division observable in the kingdom of Scotland was that between the men who spoke the Gaelic language, called also Erse, i.e. Irish,1 and the descendants of the Teutonic colonists, whose idiom was alike intelligible to the English, the Danes, and the Germans. This population, the nearest to England, though called Scottish by the English, had much closer affinity with the latter people (from the resemblance of languages and the community of origin) than with the Scots of Gaelic race. These, who combined with a somewhat savage pride, habits of independence derived from their organization in separate clans or tribes, had frequent disputes with the Teutonic population of the southern plains, and even with the kings of Scotland. The latter almost invariably found the southern Scots disposed to aid them in their projects against the liberty of the clans; and thus the instinctive enmity of these two races, fruit of the diversity of origin and language, turned to the profit of royal despotism. This experience, more than once highly profitable to the successors of Kenneth Mac-Alpin, gave them a great affection for the lowlanders of Scotland, and generally for men of English origin; they preferred these strangers to the men who descended Edition: current; Page: [211] from the same ancestry with themselves; they favoured, to their utmost ability, the Scots by name, at the expense of the Scots by race, and received with earnest cordiality every immigrant from England.

It was this political tendency which induced the Scottish king Malcolm, surnamed Kenmore, to receive as welcome and honoured guests the youthful Edgar, his relatives, and his friends.1 He saluted Edgar as the true and lawful king of the English, and proffered him a secure asylum and succours wherewith to raise his fallen fortunes. He gave to all the expatriated and dispossessed chiefs who accompanied their king, offices and estates, taken despotically, in all probability, from his own British or Gaelic subjects, and he himself espoused Edgar’s youngest sister Margaret. This princess was not acquainted with the Gaelic tongue, so that she had frequent occasion for an interpreter when she conversed with the chieftains of the northern and western tribes, and with the bishops of those districts; her interpreter was her husband Malcolm, equally versed in both idioms,2 though after his reign the kings of Scotland disdained to speak or even to know the language of the ancient Scots, of the people from whom they descended, and from whose name was derived that of the country.

The news of the alliance formed between the Saxons and the king of Scotland, and the hostile assemblages formed in the north of England, determined William not to await an attack, but energetically to assume the offensive.3 His first military operation in this new expedition was the siege of Oxford. The citizens resisted the foreign king, and insulted him from their ramparts; but a portion of the wall having been sapped, gave way, and the Normans entering by the breach, avenged themselves upon the inhabitants by fire and massacre.4 Of seven hundred and twenty houses, nearly four hundred were destroyed.5 The monks of St. Frideswide’s abbey, following the example of their brethren Edition: current; Page: [212] of Hide and Winchcomb, took up arms to defend their monastery, and, as a consequence, were all expelled from it after the victory of the Normans.1 Warwick was next taken, then Leicester, which was utterly destroyed, with its castle and its church;2 then Derby, one-third of which was in like manner demolished.3 After the siege and capture of Nottingham, a strong citadel was erected there, and confided to the keeping of the Norman, William Peverel. This William had for his share of the conquest, fifty-five manors in Nottinghamshire, and in the town itself forty-eight houses belonging to English merchants, twelve the property of soldiers, and eight taken from agriculturists. He fixed his own abode in Derbyshire, on a peaked rock, where his castle seemed suspended in the air, as it were the nest of a bird of prey.

From Nottingham the Norman troops proceeded eastward to Lincoln, which they compelled to capitulate and to give hostages. Here, besides seventy-four other houses destroyed, an hundred and ninety-six were demolished to make room for a citadel and other fortifications, with which the foreigners here surrounded themselves more carefully than elsewhere;4 for in this town, the population of which was of Danish origin, the conquerors, as at Norwich, feared an attack from the transmarine Danes.5 Among the Lincoln hostages imprisoned in the Norman fortresses as guarantees of the peace of the county, was a young man named Thurgot, of Danish origin, who succeeded in opening his prison, gaining over his keepers with the aid of money.6 He went secretly to the port of Grimsby, at the mouth of the Humber, to some Norwegian merchants, whose vessel was about to sail. It happened that this vessel had been detained, awaiting certain ambassadors, whom the conqueror had resolved to send into the north, to dissuade the kings of those parts from interesting themselves in the Saxon cause, or lending it any assistance. The Norwegians unhesitatingly received the young fugitive, and concealed him in the hold of their vessel so effectually, that the Norman coast inspectors, who visited it at the moment Edition: current; Page: [213] of departure, suspected nothing.1 The ambassadors embarked, and when they had lost sight of land, the hostage suddenly appeared, to their great astonishment. They desired the sailors to return, that they might, as they said, restore the fugitive to king William;2 but the Norwegians answered, mockingly: “The wind is too favourable, the vessel sails well; it were pity to baulk her.” The dispute grew so warm, that the two parties came to blows, but the sailors were the strongest; and as the vessel advanced into the open sea, the Normans became more tractable.3

On leaving Lincoln, which, by a kind of French euphony, they called Nicole,4 the invading troops marched upon York; at the spot where the rivers unite whose junction forms the Humber, they met the confederate army of Anglo-Saxons and Welsh. Here, as at the battle of Hastings, by the superiority of their numbers, and by their armour, they drove the enemy from his position, though defended inch by inch.5 Many of the English perished; the survivors sought refuge within the walls of York; but the conquerors, following close upon them, made a breach in the wall and entered the city, killing all, say the chroniclers, from the child in arms to the old men. The wreck of the patriot army (or as the Norman historians designated it, the army of factious robbers), descended the Humber in boats,6 and then went northward to Scotland, or the English territory adjoining Scotland. Here the conquered men of York rallied: “Hither retired,” says an old chronicler, “Edwin and Morkar, the noble chiefs, and other men of distinction, bishops, priests, men of every rank, sad to find their cause the weakest, but not resigned to slavery.7

The conquerors built a citadel in the centre of York, which thus became a Norman fortress, and the bulwark of conquest in the north. Its towers, garrisoned by five hundred men, completely armed, having several thousand squires and soldiers, menaced Northumbria. The invasion, however, was not at this period continued over this country, and it is even doubtful whether Yorkshire was ever occupied in its whole breadth Edition: current; Page: [214] from the ocean to the mountains. The capital, subdued before its territory, was the advanced post of the conquerors, and a perilous post; they worked there night and day to complete their lines of defence; they forced the poor Saxon, who had escaped the massacre, to dig ditches and to repair for the enemy the ruin which the enemy had made. Fearing that they might, in their turn, be besieged, they collected provisions from every quarter, and stored them in the donjon. At this juncture the archbishop of York, Eldred, the same who had officiated at the coronation of the foreign king, came to his metropolis to celebrate a religious solemnity.1 On his arrival, he sent to his estates near York for provisions for his use. His servants, leading horses and carts laden with wheat and other provisions, were met by chance at one of the gates by the viscount or Norman governor of the city, followed by a great train. “Who are you?” asked the Norman, “and to whom are you taking these things?” “We are,” they answered, “the servants of the archbishop, and these things are for the use of his house.” The viscount, very indifferent about the archbishop or his house, ordered the armed men who escorted him to take both horses and carts to the citadel of York, and to deposit the provisions in the Norman storehouses.

When the archbishop, the friend of the conquerors, found himself also struck by the conquest, there arose in him a sentiment of indignation which his calm and cautious soul had not before experienced. He immediately proceeded to the king’s quarters, and presented himself before him in his pontifical dress, holding his pastoral staff. William rose to offer him, according to the custom of the time, the kiss of peace, but the Saxon prelate drew back, and said: “Listen to me, king William; thou wert a stranger, and yet, God wishing to punish our nation, thou didst obtain, at the cost of much blood, the kingdom of England; then I crowned thee king; I crowned thee and blessed thee with my own hand: but now I cure thee, thee and thy race, because thou hast merited it, in becoming the persecutor of the church of God, and the oppressor of her ministers.”

The Norman king listened, without emotion, to the impotent malediction of the old priest, and tranquilly silenced the Edition: current; Page: [215] indignation of his flatterers, who, trembling with rage and drawing their swords, demanded permission to punish the insolence of the Saxon. He allowed Eldred to return in peace and safety to his church of York; but this affair cast deep affliction into the heart of the archbishop, and perhaps remorse for having contributed to the establishment of the foreign domination. The destruction at one blow of his dreams of ambition, and the sad conviction that he himself was not exempt from the insults of the foreigner or from the general servitude, threw him into a slow illness, which gradually undermined his strength. A year after, when the Saxons, who had again rallied, advanced to attack the city of York, Eldred’s grief and languor redoubled; and as if he feared, more than death, the presence of those who had remained faithful to their country, he prayed to God, say the chroniclers, to take him from this world, that he might not behold the total ruin of that country, and the destruction of her church.1

War was still proceeding in the extremities of England,—agitation was everywhere;—all expected that the fugitives from York would return, by land or by sea, and make some new effort. The irksomeness of this struggle, apparently interminable, began to produce its effect upon the soldiers, and even upon the leaders, of the invading army; many, thinking themselves rich enough, resolved to renounce these fatigues; others considered that the lands of the English were not worth the trouble and danger of obtaining them; others wished to see their wives, who overwhelmed them with messages and intreaties to return to them and their children.2 King William was greatly alarmed at this increasing tendency; to reanimate the zeal of his troops, he offered more than he had yet given, and promised, when the conquest should be completed, lands, money, and honours in abundance. He caused imputations of cowardice to be diffused with reference to those who might abandon their leader, surrounded by danger in a foreign land. Bitter and not very decent jests were directed against the Norman who were in such haste to recal their protectors and the fathers of their children. But, despite all these manœuvres, Hugh de Grantmesnil, earl of Norfolk, his brother-in-law Onfroy du Edition: current; Page: [216] Tilleul, keeper of the castle of Hastings, and many others departed, leaving their lands and honours, to become, as the courtiers of William expressed it, the slaves of their lascivious ladies, at the expense of their honour as vassals to their lord. Their departure made a deep impression upon the new king; seeing in the future greater difficulties than he had yet encountered, he sent his wife Matilda to Normandy, to remove her from danger, and to give himself entirely to the prosecution of the war.1 New events soon justified his apprehensions.

One of Harold’s two sons, Edmund, came from Ireland, where he and his brother had sought refuge, either after the battle of Hastings or after the taking of Exeter, and brought, to aid the English, sixty-six vessels and a small army.2 He entered the mouth of the Avon, and laid siege to Bristol; but failing to take it, returned to his vessels, sailed along the south-western coast, and landed in Somersetshire. On his approach, all the inhabitants of the country rose against the Normans, and the insurrection extended to Devonshire and Dorsetshire. The alliance of the Britons of Cornwall with their Saxon neighbours was renewed, and together they attacked the foreign troops who were stationed in this district, under the command of one Dreux de Montaigu.3 There were sent to reinforce these Normans the English auxiliaries, who had found it easier to join the enemy than to resist them; and, as at the siege of Exeter, they were placed in the front to receive the first attack. They were led by Ednoth, formerly one of Harold’s great officers,4 whom William wished to get rid of by sending him against the insurgents; for it was his policy, says an ancient historian, to set these foreigners against each other, calculating to find his advantage in it, on whatever side victory might fall.5 Ednoth perished with many of his people; the insurrection remained on foot, and the son of Harold returned to Ireland for his brother and fresh troops.

Edmund and Godwin, sailing together, and doubling the Land’s End, entered the mouth of the Tamar, in Devonshire. They imprudently ventured onwards in this territory, where Edition: current; Page: [217] the Normans, quartered in the southern provinces, had assembled all their forces to oppose a barrier to the insurrection of the west. Two chiefs, one of whom was Brian, son of Eudes, the earl or duke of Brittany, attacked them unexpectedly, and destroyed more than two thousand of them, English, Welsh, and Irish. The sons of the last Saxon king again regained their vessels, and set sail, deprived of all hope.1 To complete the destruction of the insurgents in Dorsetshire and Somersetshire, Geoffroi, bishop of Coutances, marched thither with the garrisons of London, Winchester, and Salisbury. He seized many men, armed, or suspected of having taken up arms, and caused them to be cruelly mutilated.2

This defeat, and the retreat of the auxiliaries from Ireland, did not wholly depress the western population. The movement, commenced in the south, had extended over all the frontier of the Welsh territory; the inhabitants of the country around Chester, a country still free from invasion, marched to Shrewsbury, and joining the soldiers of young Edrik Guilda (Wild), whom the Normans called Le Sauvage (the Forester), drove back the foreigners towards the east.3

The two chiefs, Brian and William, who had defeated the sons of Harold, and subdued the men of Devon and Cornwall, then marched from the south; and the king himself, leaving Lincoln, advanced with his chosen troops. Near Stafford, at the foot of the mountains, he encountered the main body of the insurgent army, and destroyed it in one engagement. The other Norman captains marched upon Shrewsbury, and this town, with the surrounding country, fell again under the dominion of the foreigner; the inhabitants gave up their arms; a few brave men only, who resolved to retain them, withdrew to the seacoast or to the mountain fastnesses. They continued the war with little advantage, against small parties of the enemy, lying in ambush in the woods and narrow valleys, for the straggling soldier or adventurous scout, or the messenger bearing the orders of the chief; but the high roads, the cities and the villages, were open to the enemy’s troops. Terror took the place of hope in the hearts of the conquered; they avoided each other, instead of uniting, and the entire south-western portion of the country was once more silent.4

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In the north, the city of York was still the extreme limit of the conquest; the Norman soldiers who occupied this city did not seek to advance beyond it; even their excursions in the country south of York were not without danger for them. Hugh Fitz-Baudry, viscount or governor of the city, dared not venture to Selby or to cross the Ouse without a numerous escort. The Norman soldiers were no longer in safety the moment they had quitted their ranks and their arms; for bands of insurgents, who reassembled as fast as they were dispersed, continually harassed the troops on their marches, and even the garrison of York.1 William Malet, the colleague of Fitz-Baudry in the command of this garrison, went so far as to declare in his despatches that without prompt succours he would not answer for his post. This news, conveyed to king William, caused great alarm. The king himself hastily departed, and on his arrival before York, found the citizens, leagued with the inhabitants of the surrounding districts, besieging the Norman fortress. He attacked them with superior forces, spared no one, say the chroniclers,2 dispersed those whom he did not kill, and laid the foundations of a second stronghold, of which he confided the works and keeping to his most intimate confident, William Fitz-Osbern, his seneschal and marshal for Normandy and England.3

After his departure, the English again rallied, and besieged the two castles; but they were driven back with loss, and the Normans tranquilly completed their new works of defence. Assured of the possession of York, the conqueror resumed the offensive, and endeavoured to extend the limits of the conquest to Durham; he intrusted this perilous expedition to one Robert Comine or De Comines, whom he invested, by anticipation, with the title of earl of Northumberland.4 His army was not numerous, but his confidence in himself was great, and increased beyond all measure when he found himself nearly at the end of his journey, without having encountered any resistance. He was already in sight of the towers of Durham, which the Normans called the fortress of the northern rebels,5 when Eghelwin, the Saxon bishop of the city, met him, and advised him to be prudent and to beware Edition: current; Page: [219] of a surprise.1 “Who would attack me!” answered Comine. “None of you, I imagine, would dare to do so.”2 The Normans entered Durham, and massacred a few unarmed men, as if to insult and defy the English; the soldiers encamped in the squares, and their chief took up his quarters in the bishop’s palace.

When night came, the inhabitants of the banks of the Tyne lighted signal fires on all the hills; they assembled in great numbers, and hastened to Durham. By day-break they were before the gates, which they forced, and the Normans were attacked from every side, in streets with whose turnings they were unacquainted. They sought to rally in the episcopal palace; they erected barricades there, and defended it for some time, shooting their arrows on the Saxons from the roof, until the latter terminated the contest by setting fire to the mansion, which was burned, with all those who were in it.3 Robert Comine was of the number. He had brought with him twelve hundred horse, completely armed; the number of the foot soldiers and military attendants who accompanied him is not known, but all perished.4 This terrible defeat made such an impression on the Normans, that a numerous body of troops, sent to avenge the massacre, and who had advanced as far as Elfertun, now Northallerton, half-way between York and Durham, refused, seized with a panic terror, to proceed further. It was reported that they had been struck motionless by a supernatural power, by the power of Saint Cuthbert, whose body reposed at Durham, and who thus protected his last home.5

The Northumbrians who gained this great victory were the descendants of Danish colonists, and there had never ceased to exist between them and the population of Denmark relations of reciprocal friendship, the fruit of their common origin. When they found themselves threatened by the Norman invasion, they demanded aid from the Danes, in the name of the ancient brotherhood of their ancestors; and similar solicitations were addressed to the kings of Denmark by the Edition: current; Page: [220] Anglo-Danish inhabitants of York, Lincoln, and Norwich.1 A crowd of Saxon refugees pleaded the cause of their country with the northern nations, earnestly intreating them to undertake a war against the Normans, who were oppressing a nation of the great Teutonic family, after having killed its king, the near relative of several kings of the north.2 William, who in his life had never uttered one word of the northern language which his ancestors had spoken, foresaw from the outset this natural alliance of the English with the Danes, and it was this had made him build so many fortresses on the eastern coasts of England. He also several times sent to Swen, king of Denmark, accredited ambassadors, skilful negotiators, bishops of insinuating tongue, with rich presents, to persuade him to remain in peace. But the man of the north would not be seduced, or consent, say the Danish chronicles, to leave the English nation in servitude to a people of foreign race and language. He collected his fleet and his soldiers.3 Two hundred and forty vessels sailed for Britain, led by Osbiorn, brother of king Swen, and his two sons, Harold and Knut. On hearing of their departure, the English waited with impatience the days which must elapse ere the arrival of these sons of the Baltic, once so terrible to them, and pronounced with tenderness names which their fathers had cursed. They also expected mercenaries from the coasts of ancient Saxony and Friesland;4 the Saxons who had sought refuge in Scotland also promised aid. Encouraged by their victory, the inhabitants of Northumberland made frequent excursions south of their country, to the encampments of the foreigners.5 The governor of one of the castles of York was killed in a skirmish of this kind.6

It was in the interval between the two festivals of the Virgin Mary in autumn, that the son of king Swen, Osbiorn his brother, and five other Danish chiefs of high rank, landed in England.7 They boldly attempted a descent on the part Edition: current; Page: [221] of the coast best guarded, the south-east; but successively repulsed from Dover, Sandwich, and Norwich, they returned northwards, and entered the mouth of the Humber, as their ancestors had formerly done, but under quite different auspices.1 As soon as the news of their approach spread over the surrounding districts, the chiefs of English race in every direction, all the English in a body, left their villages, houses, and fields, to form friendship and alliance with the Danes, and join their ranks.2 The young king Edgar, Merlsweynn, Gospatrick, Siward Beorn, and many other refugees, hastened from Scotland. There came, also, Waltheof son of Siward, who had escaped, like Edwin and his brother, from the palace of king William; he was still very young, and was remarkable, as his father had been, for his great height and extraordinary vigour of body.3

The Saxons forming the advanced guard, the Danes the main body, the patriot army marched upon York, some on horseback, others on foot, says the Saxon chronicle, all filled with hope and joy.4 Messengers preceded them to inform the citizens that their deliverance was at hand, and ere long the city was invested on every side. On the eighth day of the siege, the Normans who had charge of the two castles, fearing that the neighbouring houses might furnish the assailants with materials for filling up the moats, set fire to them.5 The flames made rapid progress, and it was by their light that the insurgents and their auxiliaries, aided by the inhabitants, penetrated into the city, and forced the foreigners to shut themselves up in their two citadels, which on the same day were carried by assault.6 In this decisive combat there perished several thousand men of France, as the English chronicles express it.7 Waltheof, in ambuscade at one of the gates of the castle, killed with his own axe a score of Normans, who sought to fly.8 He pursued an hundred knights Edition: current; Page: [222] to a neighbouring wood, and to save himself the trouble of a further chase, set fire to the wood, and with it burned the whole party of fugitives. A Dane, at once warrior and poet, composed on this deed of arms a song, in which he praised the Saxon chief as being brave as Odin, and felicitated him on having supplied the English wolves with an ample repast of Norman corses.1

The conquerors gave quarter to the two governors of York, Gilbert de Gand and Guillaume Malet, the wife and children of the latter, and a few others, who were conveyed to the Danish fleet. They destroyed, perhaps imprudently, the fortifications raised by the foreigners, in order to efface all vestige of their passage.2 Young Edgar, once more king in York, concluded, according to the ancient Saxon custom, a treaty of alliance with the citizens;3 and thus for a while was revived the national royalty of the Anglo-Saxons. The territory and power of Edgar extended from the Tweed to the Humber; but William, and with him slavery, still reigned over the whole of the south, over the finest counties, the richest and largest towns.

Winter approached; the Danish fleet took up quarters in the mouths of the Humber, Ouse, and Trent. Their army and that of the free Saxons awaited the return of spring to advance towards the south, to drive back the conquerors, and confound king William, as the historians of the period express it.4

William was not without alarm; the news of the taking of York and the complete defeat of his people had transported him with rage and vexation; he had vowed not to lay aside his lance until he had killed all the Northumbrians;5 but moderating his anger, he first essayed stratagem, and sent able messengers to Osbiorn, brother of king Swen, the commander-in-chief of the Danish fleet. He promised this chief to give him secretly a large sum of money, and to allow him freely to take provisions for his army from the whole eastern coast, Edition: current; Page: [223] if, at the end of winter, he would depart without fighting. Tempted by avarice, the Dane was faithless to his mission and a traitor to the allies of his country; to his eternal dishonour, exclaim the chroniclers, he promised to do all that king William desired.1

William was not content with this one precaution; after having quietly deprived the free Saxons of their principal support, he directed his attention to the Saxons of the subjected districts, satisfied some of their complaints, checked the elated insolence of his soldiers and agents, conciliated by slight concessions the weak mind of the masses, gave them a few good words, and in return received from them fresh oaths and additional hostages. He then marched upon York, by long marches, with his best troops. The defenders of the city learned at the same time the approach of the Norman cavalry and the departure of the Danish fleet. Abandoned as they were, and deprived of their highest hopes, they still resisted, and were killed by thousands in the breaches of their walls.2 The fight was long, and the victory dearly purchased. King Edgar was obliged to fly, and all who could escape followed him to Scotland. Malcolm, king of this country, again received him with kindness, and offered an asylum to all of every class, who emigrated from the north of England.3

A second time master of York, the Conqueror did not stop there; he continued the rapid march of his troops northwards. They precipitated themselves on the land of Northumbria in the very frenzy of vengeance;4 they burned the fields under cultivation, as well as the hamlets and towns, and massacred the flocks with the men.5 This devastation was prosecuted upon a studied and regular plan, in order that the brave men of the north, finding their country uninhabitable, might be compelled to abandon it, and to disperse in other districts. They sought refuge in the mountains of Cumberland, once the asylum of the Cambrians, at the extremities of the eastern coast, in the marshes, and upon the sea, where, respectively, they became robbers and pirates against Edition: current; Page: [224] the foreigner, and were gravely charged in the proclamations of the Conqueror with violating the public peace and with leading a dishonourable life.1 The Normans entered Durham for the second time; and their slumbers were not disturbed, as those of Robert Comine had been.

Previous to their entering this city, which was for them the key to the whole northern country, the bishop of Durham, Eghelwin, the same who had given Robert Comine the warnings which had proved so futile, had resolved with the principal inhabitants to fly to some place where, says an ancient English poet, neither Norman, nor Burgundian, nor brigand, nor vagabond could reach them.2 Carrying with them the bones of that Saint Cuthbert whose formidable power the Normans themselves believed they had experienced, they reached a place in the mouth of the Tweed, called Lindisfarn-ey, and more commonly, Holy Island,3 a peninsula, peopled more with relics than with men, which twice a day, at high tide, was surrounded by the water, and twice also, at ebb tide, again joined the mainland. The great church of Durham, abandoned and left without guardians, became the asylum of the wounded, poor, and sick Saxons, who lay, to the number of several thousand, upon the bare stone, worn out with misery and hunger.4

The conquering army, the divisions of which covered a space of an hundred miles, traversed in every direction this territory, now for the first time invaded by them, and the traces of their passage were profoundly marked there. Old historians relate, that from the Humber to the Tyne, not one rood of land remained under cultivation, not a single village inhabited.5 The monasteries which had escaped the ravages of the Danish pagans, that of Saint Peter on the Wear, and that of Whitby, inhabited by nuns, were profaned and burned.6 South of the Humber, if we may believe the same Edition: current; Page: [225] narrators, the ravages were not less terrible. They say that, between York and the Eastern sea, every living thing was put to death, man and beast,1 all except those who sought refuge at Beverly, in the church of Saint John the archbishop. This was a saint of Anglo-Saxon race, and on the approach of the conquerors, a great crowd of men and women hastened with all their valuables to the church dedicated to their sainted countryman, that he, remembering in heaven that he was born a Saxon, might protect them and their property from the fury of the foreigner. The camp of the Normans was then seven miles from Beverly, and a report spread there that this church was the refuge of the rich and the depository of the wealth of the country. Several adventurous scouts hastened, under the command of one Toustain, to be the first at the pillage. They entered Beverly without resistance, marched direct to the cemetery where the terrified crowd had sought shelter, and leaped the walls, without heeding the Anglo-Saxon saint any more than they did those who invoked him. Toustain, the chief of the band, running his eye over the groups of English, saw an old man richly attired and wearing gold bracelets, according to the custom of his nation. He galloped towards him, sword in hand; the terrified old man sought refuge in the church, and Toustain followed him thither; but he had scarcely passed the doors, when his horse slipped on the pavement, and fell, crushing him in its fall.2 At the sight of their captain half dead, the other Normans turned their horses’ heads, and, their imagination deeply struck, hastened in terror to the camp to relate this terrible example of the power of Saint John of Beverly. When the army proceeded on its march, no soldier dared expose himself to the vengeance of the saint, and the territory of his church, if we are to believe the legend, was the only spot which remained covered with dwellings and cultivation amidst the general destruction of the country.

3William, pursuing the wreck of the free Saxon forces, advanced to the foot of the great Roman wall, the remains of which still extend east and west from the mouth of the Tyne to the Solway Firth. He then returned to York, Edition: current; Page: [226] whither he had brought from Winchester the gold crown, the gilt sceptre, the mantle lined with fur, and all the other insignia of English royalty; these he displayed with great pomp during the feasts of the Nativity, as if to challenge those who some months before had fought for king Edgar and their country.1 There no longer remained any one capable of accepting the challenge; a last assembly of patriots on the banks of the Tyne had been dispersed;2 and such, in the northern provinces, was the end of resistance: the end of liberty, according to the English; of rebellion, according to the Normans.3

Upon both banks of the Humber, the cavalry of the foreign king, his counts, his bailiffs,4 could for the future freely travel on the roads and through the towns. Famine, the faithful companion of conquest, followed their steps; in the year 1067 it had already desolated the counties which had been invaded; in 1070 it extended over all England, manifesting itself in its utmost horrors in the newly conquered districts. The inhabitants of Yorkshire and of the territory further north, after feeding on the flesh of the dead horses left by the Norman army on their way, ate human flesh.5 More than an hundred thousand persons, of all ages, perished of famine in this district.6 “It was a frightful spectacle,” says an old annalist, “to behold, in the roads and streets, at the doors of houses, human bodies devoured by the worms, for none remained to scatter a little earth over them, all being destroyed by famine or the sword. This distress was felt only by the natives; the foreign soldier lived in plenty; for him, in the heart of his fortresses, there were vast stores of provisions, and more was sent him from abroad, in return for the gold wrung from the English. Moreover, famine aided him entirely to quell the conquered; often, for the remains of the repast of a groom in the Norman army, the Saxon, once illustrious among his countrymen, in order to sustain his Edition: current; Page: [227] miserable life, came to sell himself and his whole family to perpetual slavery.1 The act of sale was registered upon the blank page of some missal, where may still be found, half effaced, and serving as a theme for the sagacity of the antiquaries, these monuments of the wretchedness of a bygone period.

The territory on both sides of the Humber, devastated as it lay, was partitioned out among the conquerors with the same order which had regulated the division of the southern countries. Several allotments were drawn out of the houses, or rather the ruins of York; for in the two sieges which this city had suffered, it was so devastated that, several centuries afterwards, the foundations of the ancient suburbs were still seen in the open country, more than a mile distant.2 King William appropriated the greater number of the houses which remained standing;3 the Norman chiefs shared the rest, with the churches, shops, and even the butchers’ stalls, which they then let out.4 William de Warenne had twenty-eight villages in Yorkshire alone, and William de Percy more than eighty manors.5 Most of these domains, in the list drawn up fifteen years after, had for their description these simple words: waste-land.6 A property which, in the time of king Edward, had produced sixty pounds rent, produced less than five in the hands of its foreign possessor, and upon a domain in which two Englishmen of rank had lived at their ease, there were found after the conquest only two wretched serfs, scarce able to render their Norman lord a tenth of the revenue of the ancient free cultivators.7

Vast districts of land, north of York, were the portion of the Breton Allan, whom the Normans called Alain, and whom his countrymen in their Celtic tongue surnamed Fergan, that is, the Red. This Alain constructed a strong Edition: current; Page: [228] castle and works of defence, near his principal manor, called Ghilling, on a steep hill which was nearly surrounded on every side by the rapid river Swale. This fortress, says an old narrative, was designed to protect him and his men from the attacks of the disinherited English.1 Like most of the other captains of the conquering army, he gave a French name to the castle which became his dwelling, calling it Richemont, from its raised situation, commanding the surrounding country.2

The entire island, formed by the ocean and the rivers at the easternmost point of Yorkshire, was the share of Dreux Bruere, a captain of Flemish auxiliaries. This man married one of William’s relations, and killed her in a fit of passion; but ere tidings of the murder were circulated, he hastened to the king, and asked him to give him money in exchange for his lands, for that he wished to return to Flanders. William gave the Fleming the sum he required, and did not learn until afterwards the reason of his abrupt departure.3 The island of Holderness then became the property of Eudes de Champagne, who afterwards married the conqueror’s maternal sister. When the wife of Eudes had given birth to a son, he told the king that his island was not fertile, that it produced nothing but oats, and begged him to grant him some land capable of producing wheat, wherewith to support the child.4 King William, say the ancient acts, gave him the entire town of Bytham, in Lincolnshire.

Not far from this island of Holderness, on the banks of the Humber, Gamel Fitz-Quetel, who had come from Meaux in France, with a troop of men of the same town, took a certain portion of land, where he fixed his abode and that of his companions. They, wishing to attach to their new habitation a remembrance of their native town, gave it the name of Meaux, and this name remained for some centuries that of an abbey founded in the same place.5 Gamel, chief of the Meaux adventurers, and possessor of the principal manor of their little colony, negotiated with the Norman chiefs who Edition: current; Page: [229] occupied the neighbouring lands, in order that their respective possessions might be immutably determined. Several conferences, or parliaments, as they were then called, were held with Basin, Sivard, Franco, and Richard d’Estouteville. All by common accord measured their portions of land and set up marks, “so that,” says the old narrative, “their posterity should have nothing to dispute about, and that the peace which existed between them should be transmitted to their heirs.”1

The great domain of Pontefract, the spot where the Norman troops had forded the river Aire, was the share of Gilbert de Lacy, who, following the example of nearly all the other Norman captains, built a strong castle there.2 It appears that this Gilbert was the first who with his troops passed the mountains west of York, and invaded the adjoining county of Lancaster, which then formed part of Cheshire. He appropriated to himself, in this county, an immense territory, the chief town of which was Blackburn, and which extended south and east to the borders of Yorkshire. To form this great domain, he expelled, according to an ancient tradition, all the English proprietors from Blackburn, Rochdale, Tollington, and the vicinity. Before the conquest, says the tradition, all these proprietors were free, equal in rights, and independent of each other; but after the Norman invasion, there was in the whole county but one lord.3

King William, with his chosen troops, had not advanced beyond Hexham; it was his captains, who, penetrating further, conquered the rest of Northumbria, north and west. The mountainous district of Cumberland was reduced to a Norman county; one Renouf Meschin took possession of it, and the land of marsh and moor, called Westmoreland, was also brought under the power of a foreigner,4 who divided among his soldiers the rich domains and beautiful women of the county. He gave the three daughters of Simon Thorn, proprietor of the two manors of Elreton and Todewick, one to Onfroy, his squire, another to Raoul Tortesmains, and the third to one Guillaume de Saint Paul.5 In Northumberland proper, Ivo de Vescy took the town of Alnwick, with the Edition: current; Page: [230] granddaughter and all the inheritance of a Saxon who had fallen at Hastings.1 Robert de Brus obtained by conquest, say the ancient acts, several hundred manors and the dues of the port of Hartlepool in Durham;2 as a last instance of these territorial usurpations, Robert d’Omfreville had the forest of Riddesdale, which belonged to Mildred, son of Akman; in token of investiture of this domain, he received from king William the sword which the latter had worn on his entry into Northumberland, and swore upon it that he would use it to free the land of wolves and of the enemies of the conquest.

When the Northumbrians, after having expelled Tosti, brother of Harold, in a national insurrection, had chosen for their chief Morkar, brother of Edwin, Morkar had by their consent placed in the goverment of the country beyond the Tees, young Osulf, son of Edulf.3 Osulf kept his command up to the time when the Normans passed the Tyne; he was then obliged to fly, like the rest, to the forest and mountain. In his place was appointed a Saxon, named Kopsi, whom the inhabitants of Northumbria had expelled with Tosti, who eagerly desired to be revenged on them, and whom for this reason the new king imposed on them as their chief.4 Kopsi installed himself in his post under the protection of the foreigners; but after having exercised his office for some time, he was assailed in his house by a body of the disinherited, led by the Osulf whose spoils he had received. He was quietly taking his dinner, expecting no attack, when the Saxons fell upon him, killed him, and immediately dispersed.5

Similar instances of daring vengeance, of which the historians cite but a few, must certainly have taken place in many districts; but however numerous they may have been, they could not save England. An immense force, regularly governed, and regularly distributed, mocked the virtuous but impotent efforts of the friends of independence. The patriots themselves, with their great chiefs, whose names alone called forth many men, lost all courage, and again capitulated. Waltheof, Gospatrik, Morkar, and Edwin, made their peace with Edition: current; Page: [231] the conqueror. It was upon the banks of the Tees that this reconciliation, so fatal to the Saxon cause, took place. King William held his camp there, and there he received the oaths of Gospatrik and Waltheof. The former, who was absent and who made his submission by proxy, obtained the government of Northumbria, vacant by the death of Kopsi, with the title of earl.1 Waltheof placed his bare hand in that of the Norman king, and became earl of the two counties of Huntingdon and Northampton.2 He married Judith, one of the nieces of his new friend; but as the result will show, the bed of the foreign woman was harder for the Saxon chief than the bare ground upon which he had feared to lay, in keeping faith with his country.3 Ere long, king Edgar himself came for the second time to abjure his national title and the rights which he held from the people.4 He was a man of little vigour of soul, who was ever led, in good or evil, by circumstances and by the example of others. He was not more faithful to the Normans than to England, and the wind of resistance once more rising, Edgar again fled to Scotland, amid the imprecations of the foreigners.5 The English, indulgent in their misery, pardoned his fickleness, and although deserted by him, still loved him: “He was young and handsome,” say the ancient chroniclers, “and descended from the true race, the best race of the country.”6

After the conquest of the north, that of the north-western counties adjoining the Welsh territory appears to have been speedily accomplished. Edrik, surnamed the Forester, no longer stayed the Norman bands who overflowed on every side, and ceased to trouble by his incursions their settlements, hitherto so precarious, near the entrenchment of Offa. Raoul de Mortemer took the young partisan chief prisoner, and, with the sanction of a council of war, deprived him of Edition: current; Page: [232] all his estates, for having, says an ancient history, refused to obey the conquest, although several times summoned to do so.1 The Norman army, which reduced the population of the Welsh marches, did not stop at Offa’s Dyke, but passing that ancient frontier, west of Shrewsbury, penetrated the territory of the Cambrians. This was the commencement of that subjugation of Wales, which, from that time, the conquerors of England prosecuted without intermission.2 The first Norman fortress raised upon the Welsh territory was built sixteen miles from Shrewsbury, by a chief named Baldwin. The people of the place called it, in the Cambrian language, Tre-Faldwin, the castle of Baldwin; but the name which the Normans retained for it was Mont-Gomery, in compliment to Roger de Montgomery, earl of Shropshire and of all the conquered portion of Wales.3

The town of Shrewsbury, fortified with a citadel built upon the site of fifty-one houses, was reserved in the demesne of king William.4 The taxes were here received for the king’s exchequer5 (so the Normans called that which the Romans had named fiscus). The agents of the conqueror did not demand more tribute than the town had paid in the time of English independence; but an authentic protest of the inhabitants shows the value to them of this apparent moderation. “The English inhabitants of Shrewsbury,” runs the passage in Domesday Book, “say that it is hard for them to pay the whole of the tax which they paid in the time of king Edward, and to be taxed for as many houses as then existed; for fifty-one houses have been pulled down for the earl’s castle; fifty others are so devastated as to be uninhabitable; forty-three Frenchmen occupy houses which paid taxes in the time of Edward; and, moreover, the earl has given to the abbey he has founded thirty-nine citizens who formerly contributed with the rest.”6

These monasteries, founded by the Normans in the towns or country districts of England, were peopled with monks Edition: current; Page: [233] who had come over with the foreign troops. Each new band of soldiers was escorted by a new band of tonsured priests, who repaired to the country of the English pour gaaingner, as the phrase ran. In the year 1068, the abbot of St. Riquier in Ponthieu, proceeding to the port of Wissant to embark for England, found there more than an hundred monks of every order, with a crowd of soldiers and merchants, all like himself about to pass the Channel.1 Benedictines from Seez in Normandy, poor, absolutely destitute, came to establish themselves in a vast habitation given them by Roger de Montgomery, and received for their table the tithe of all the venison killed in Shropshire.2 Other monks of St. Florent at Saumur emigrated to occupy a church which, by right of conquest, had fallen to the Angevin Guillaume de Brause.3 In Staffordshire, near Stone-upon-Trent, was a little oratory, where two nuns and a Saxon priest passed their lives praying in honour of the local saint, Wolfed: all three were killed by one Enisant, a soldier of the conquering army, and “this Enisant,” says the old legend, “killed the priest and the two nuns, that his sister, who accompanied him, might have their church.”4

When the conquest grew flourishing, not merely young soldiers and old captains, but whole families, men, women, and children, emigrated from almost every corner of Gaul to seek their fortune in England; this country had become for foreigners, as it were a land newly discovered, which had to be colonised, and which belonged to every comer. “Noël and Celestria, his wife,” says an ancient deed, “came in the army of William the Bastard, and received in gift from the same bastard the manor of Elinghall with all its dependencies.”5 According to an old rhyme, the first lord of Coningsby, named William, came from Brittany, with his wife Tiffany, his servant Maufas, and his dog Hardigras.6 Sworn brotherhoods-in-arms, Edition: current; Page: [234] societies of gain and loss, for life and death, were formed between those who together ran the risks of the invasion.1 Robert d’Ouilly and Roger d’Ivry sailed to the conquest as leagued brothers, confederated by faith and by oath;2 they wore dresses and arms alike, and divided, share and share alike, the English lands they conquered; Eudes and Picot, Robert Marmion and Gauthier de Somerville, did the same.3 Jean de Courcy and Amaury de St. Florent swore their brotherhood-in-arms in the church of Notre Dame at Rouen; they made a vow to serve together, to live and die together, to share together their pay and all that they should gain by their good fortune and their swords.4 Others, at the moment of departure, relinquished all the property they possessed in their native land, as of little value compared with what they hoped to conquer. Thus Geoffrey de Chaumont, son of Gedoin, viscount of Blois, bestowed upon his niece Denise the lands he had at Blois, Chaumont, and Tours. “He departed for the conquest,” says a contemporary history, “and afterwards returned to Chaumont, with an immense treasure, large sums of money, great stores of rare commodities, and the titles of possession of more than one rich domain.”5

There now only remained to invade the country around Chester, the one great city of England that had not yet heard the tramp of the foreigners’ horses. Having passed the winter in the north, king William undertook in person this last expedition;6 but as he was about to leave York, loud murmurs arose in his army. The reduction of Northumberland had fatigued the conquerors, and they foresaw in the invasion of the shores of the western sea and of the river Dee, still greater fatigues. Exaggerated accounts of the ruggedness of the country and the determined ferocity of the inhabitants, circulated among the soldiers.7 The maladie du pays was felt by the Angevin and Breton auxiliaries, as, the year before, it had attacked the Normans, and they in their turn loudly complained of the severity of the service, more Edition: current; Page: [235] intolerable, they said, than slavery, and in great numbers demanded leave to return home. William, unable to overcome the pertinacity of those who refused to follow him, feigned to despise them. He promised repose after the victory to those who should remain faithful to him, and great estates as a reward for their labour; he then traversed, by roads until then deemed impracticable for horses, the chain of mountains which extends, north and south, the whole length of England, entered as a conqueror the city of Chester, and, according to his custom, erected a fortress there. He did the same at Stafford; at Salisbury, on his return to the south, he distributed abundant rewards among his soldiers.1 He then went to his royal castle at Winchester, the strongest in England, and which was his spring palace, as that of Gloucester was his winter palace, and his summer palace the Tower of London, or the abbey of Westminster, near London.2

Troops commanded by a Fleming named Gherbaud remained behind to keep and defend the newly conquered province; Gherbaud was the first captain who bore the title of earl of Chester; to support this title and his post, he was exposed to great perils, both from the English and from the Welsh, who long harassed him.3 He became disgusted with these fatigues, and returned to his own country. Hereupon king William gave the earldom of Chester to Hugh d’Avranches, son of Richard Gosse, surnamed Hugh-le-Loup, and who bore a wolf’s head painted on his shield. Hugh-le-Loup and his lieutenants passed the Dee, which formed, at the extremity of Offa’s Dyke, the northern limit of the Welsh territory. They conquered Flintshire, which became part of the Norman country of Chester, and built a fortress at Rhuddlan.4 One of these lieutenants, Robert d’Avranches, changed his name to that of Robert de Rhuddlan, and from an opposite fancy, Robert de Malpas or de Maupas, governor of another castle built upon a steep hill, gave his own name to this place, which still bears it. “They both,” says an ancient historian, “made war with ferocity, and shed at pleasure the blood Edition: current; Page: [236] of the Welsh.” They fought a sanguinary battle at the marshes of Rhuddlan, a place already marked as calamitous in the memory of the Cambrians, from a great battle they had lost there against the Saxons towards the close of the eighth century. A singular monument of these two national disasters still existed a few years ago in Wales, in the form of a melancholy air, without words of its own, but which was applied to many mournful subjects, and which was called the Air of the Marshes of Rhuddlan.

1Old histories relate that when Hugh-le-Loup was installed, with his title of earl, in the county of Chester, he sent to Normandy for one of his old friends, called Nigel or Lenoir, which Lenoir brought with him five brothers, Houdard, Edward, Volmar, Horsuin and Volfar, among whom Hugh distributed lands in his earldom; he gave to Lenoir the town of Halton, near the Mersey, and made him his constable and hereditary marshal, that is to say, that whenever the earl of Chester should go to war, Lenoir and his heirs, in going, were to march at the head of the army, and, in returning, at the extreme rear. They had for their share in the division of the spoils taken from the Welsh all four legged beasts of more than one colour. In time of peace, they exercised high justice in the district of Halton, and received all fines; their followers had the privilege of pre-emption in Chester market before all other persons, except the servants of the earl, when these presented themselves first. Besides these prerogatives, the constable Lenoir obtained for himself and his heirs the highway and street tolls at Chester fairs, the market dues throughout Halton, all animals found straying in that district, and lastly, the right of stallage, or the liberty of selling, free from all tax or toll, every kind of merchandise, except salt and horses.2

Houdard, the elder of the five brothers, was to Lenoir much the same that the latter was to earl Hugh; he was hereditary seneschal of the constablery of Halton. Lenoir, his lord, gave him for his service and homage, the lands of Weston and Ashton.3 He had, as war profit, all the bulls taken from the Welsh,4 and the best ox, as recompence for the man-at-arms Edition: current; Page: [237] who bore his banner.1 Edward, the second brother, received from the constable as much land in Weston as an ox could plough in two days;2 two others, Volmar and Horsuin, received a domain in the village of Runcorn; and the fifth, Volfar, who was a priest, obtained the church of Runcorn.3

These singular details are of little interest in themselves; but they may aid the reader in forming an idea of the varied scenes of the conquest, and investing, with their original colours, the facts of greater importance. All these arrangements, all the divisions of possessions and offices which took place in Cheshire between the Norman governor, the first lieutenant of this governor, and the five companions of the lieutenant, give a true and vivid idea of the transactions of the same kind which were taking place, at the same time, throughout England. When, in future, the reader meets with the titles of earl, count, constable, seneschal, when, in the course of this history, he hears of the rights of jurisdiction, of market dues, of tolls, of war and justice profits, let him call to mind Hugh d’Avranches, his friend Lenoir, and the five brothers who accompanied Lenoir; and then, perhaps, he will perceive some reality in these titles and forms, which, considered abstractedly, have only a vague and uncertain meaning. Through the distance of ages, we must make our way to the then living men; we must, as well as we can, realize them living and acting upon the land, where not even the dust of their bones is now to be found; and it is with this design that many local facts, that many now unknown names, have been introduced into this history. The reader must fix his imagination upon these; he must repeople ancient England with her conquerors and her conquered of the eleventh century; he must figure to himself their various situations, interests, and languages; the joy and insolence of the one, the misery and terror of the other; the whole movement which accompanies the deadly war between two great masses of men. For seven hundred years these men have ceased to exist; but what matters this to the imagination? With the imagination there is no past, and even the future is of the present.

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Deplorable condition of the Anglo-Saxons after their defeat—Emigration to Greece of many Englishmen, who enter the service of the Byzantine court—Many other English withdraw into the forests, and by armed brigandage make their last protest against their conquerors—General terror of England—Camp of refuge—Patriotic contributions of the English church—King William orders the strict visitation of all the monasteries and convents—Spoliation of the churches—Arrival of three pontifical legates—Circulars of the legates—Deposition of Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury—Deprivation of the bishops and abbots of English race—Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury—Miserable condition of the English churches—Establishment of the primacy of Canterbury—Submission of the archbishop of York to the see of Canterbury—Introduction of foreign prelates into English bishoprics—Character of the new bishops—The complaints of the English conveyed to Rome—The pope sides with the Normans—Disinterested conduct of Guimond, monk of Saint Leufroy, in Normandy—The saints of English race are assailed by the Normans—Insurrection led by three English prelates—The laws of Edward are confirmed by king William—Futility of this concession—Recommencement of persecution—Paul, an abbot of Norman race—Accession of refugees to the camp of refuge—Death of Edwin—Ivo Taillebois, an Angevin chief—His character—Angevin monks established at Spalding—Herewaid, chief of the Saxon partisans—Anglo-Saxon chivalry—Torauld, a Norman abbot, transferred to the abbey of Peterborough—Fresh alliance between the English and the Danes—Retreat of the Danes—Attack on the camp at Ely by the Normans—Treachery of the monks of Ely—Defeat of the Insurgents—Hereward preserves his independence—His exploits—His marriage—Dishonourable conduct of the Normans towards him—His death—Atrocious cruelties exercised by the Normans upon the insurgents of Ely—The monks of Ely receive the punishment of their treachery—Peace between the Normans and the king of Scotland—Vaulcher, bishop of Durham—Deprivation of Gospatrick; promotion of Waltheof—King William visits Gaul—Revolt of the people of Mans against the Normans—Establishment of the corporation of Mans—Troubles of that corporation—Devastation and submission of Maine—Alliance of Edgar with the king of France—Third submission of king Edgar—English women take refuge in the convents—Marriage concluded contrary to the order Edition: current; Page: [239] of the king—Marriage festival at Norwich—Conspiracy of Normans and English against the king—Preparations to meet it; defeat of the conspirators—Proscription of Raulf de Gael, and sentence upon Roger, earl of Hereford—Ruin of the family of William Fitz-Osbern—Impeachment of Waltheof—His execution—He is honoured as a martyr—Pilgrimage to his tomb—His widow, Judith la Normande—Wulfstan, the last bishop of Anglo-Saxon race—Superstitions founded upon the national turn of mind.

The whole country of the Anglo-Saxons was conquered, from the Tweed to Cape Cornwall, from the English Channel to the Severn, and the conquered population was overrun in every direction by the army of the conquerors. There were no longer any free provinces, no longer masses of men in military organization; there were only a few scattered remains of the defeated armies and garrisons, soldiers who had no chiefs, chiefs without followers. War was now continued against them in the form of individual persecution; the most prominent were tried and condemned with some show of form; the remainder were handed over to the discretion of the foreign soldiers, who made them serfs on their domains,1 or massacred them, with circumstances which an ancient historian declines to detail, as incredible and monstrous to relate.2 Those who retained any means of emigration proceeded to the ports of Wales or Scotland, and embarked thence, as the old annals express it, to carry their grief and misery through foreign lands.3 Denmark, Norway, and the countries where the Teutonic language was spoken, were generally the goal of these emigrations; but English fugitives were also seen journeying to the south, and soliciting an asylum among nations of an entirely different language.

The rumour of the high favour which the Scandinavian guard of the emperors enjoyed at Constantinople, induced a certain number of young men to seek their fortune in that direction. They assembled under the command of Siward, the late chief of Gloucestershire, sailed along the coast of Spain, and landed in Sicily, whence they addressed a proposition to the imperial court,4 and were, in accordance with it, Edition: current; Page: [240] incorporated in the select troop which, under the German name of Varings, guarded the chamber of the emperors, and had the custody of the keys of the towns in which they were quartered, and at times of that of the public treasure. The Varings, or as the Greeks pronounced it, Varangs, were in general Danes, Swedes, or Germans; they allowed their hair to grow in the northern fashion, and their principal weapon was the great double-bladed axe, which they ordinarily bore on the right shoulder. This body, whose aspect was truly formidable, had for centuries been renowned for their strict discipline and inflexible fidelity. The example of the first Saxons who enrolled themselves in it was followed by others, and ultimately the body of Varings was almost entirely formed of Englishmen, or, as the Greeks, in their still classic idiom called them, of Barbarians from the island of Britain.1 The Anglo-Saxon tongue, or a dialect compounded of Saxon and Danish, became, to the exclusion of Greek, the official language of these guards of the imperial palace; it was in this language that they received the orders of their chiefs, and that they themselves addressed to the emperor, on high festival days, their felicitations and their homage.2

Of the Saxons who could not or would not emigrate, many sought refuge in the forests with their families, and, if they were rich and powerful, with their servants and vassals.3 The roads along which the Norman convoys passed were infested by their armed bands; they resumed from the conquerors in detail that which the conquerors had taken from them in mass, and thus obtained ransom for their heritages, or revenged by assassination the massacre of their countrymen.4 These refugees are called brigands by the historians favourable to the conquest,5 who in their narratives treat them as men wilfully and wickedly armed against lawful order. “Every day,” say they, “were committed infinite thefts and homicides, instigated by the innate wickedness of the natives, and the Edition: current; Page: [241] immense riches of this kingdom;”1 but the natives thought they had a right to recover as best they might these riches of which they had been deprived; and if they became robbers, it was only, in their opinion, to obtain their own property. The order against which they rose, the law which they violated, had no sanction in their eyes; and thus the English word outlaw2 thenceforth lost in the mouth of the subjugated people its once unfavourable meaning, so much so, that the old tales, the popular legends and romances of the English, have spread a sort of poetic colouring over the person of the proscribed men, and the wandering and free life they led in the greenwood.3 In these romances, the outlaw is ever the most joyous, the bravest of men;4 he is king in the forest, and fears not the king of the country.

It was more especially the north country, which had most energetically resisted the invaders, that became the land of these armed wanderers, of this last protest of the conquered. The vast forests of Yorkshire were the abode of a numerous band, who had for their chief a man named Sweyn, son of Sigg.5 In the midland counties and near London, even under the walls of the Norman castles, there were formed many of these troops, who, rejecting slavery to the last, say the historians of the time, took up their dwelling in the desert.6 Their encounters with the conquerors were always sanguinary, and whenever they appeared in some inhabited place, it was a pretext for the foreigner to redouble his tyranny; he punished the unarmed for the trouble occasioned him by the armed; and the latter, in their turn, frequently paid formidable visits to those who were pointed out to them as friends of the Normans. Thus the country was kept in a state of perpetual terror. To the danger of perishing by the sword of the Edition: current; Page: [242] foreigner, who thought himself a demigod among brutes, who understood neither prayer nor explanation nor excuse proffered him in the tongue of the conquered, was added that of being regarded as a traitor or lukewarm patriot by the free Saxons, frantic with despair as the Normans were with pride.1 Thus no man dared to walk alone, even on his own grounds around his own house; the abode of every Englishman who had sworn peace and given hostages to the conqueror was closed and fortified like a town in a state of siege.2 It was filled with weapons of every description, bows and arrows, axes, maces, poniards, and iron forks; the doors were furnished with bolts and bars. When the hour of rest arrived, at the moment of closing up everything, the head of the family arose and repeated aloud the prayers which were said at sea on the approach of a storm; he concluded thus: “The Lord bless us and help us;” and all present answered Amen. This custom subsisted in England for more than two centuries after the conquest.3

In the northern part of Cambridgeshire, there is a vast extent of low and marshy land, intersected in every direction by rivers. All the waters from the centre of England, which do not flow into the Thames or the Trent, empty themselves into these marshes, which in the latter end of autumn overflow, cover the land, and are charged with fogs and vapours. A portion of this damp and swampy country was then, as now, called the Isle of Ely; another the Isle of Thorney, a third the Isle of Croyland. This district, almost a moving bog, impracticable for cavalry and for soldiers heavily armed, had more than once served as a refuge for the Saxons in the time of the Danish conquest; towards the close of the year 1069, it became the rendezvous of several bands of patriots from various quarters, assembling against the Normans.4 Former chieftains, now dispossessed of their lands, successively repaired hither with their clients, some by land, others by water, by the mouths of the rivers. They here constructed entrenchments of earth and wood, and established an extensive armed Edition: current; Page: [243] station, which took the name of the camp of refuge.1 The foreigners at first hesitated to attack them amidst their rushes and willows, and thus gave them time to transmit messages in every direction, at home and abroad, to the friends of old England. Become powerful, they undertook a partisan war by land and by sea, or, as the conquerors called it, robbery and piracy.

Every day, to the camp of these “robbers,” these “pirates” in the good cause, came some Saxon of rank, layman or priest, bringing with him the last remnant of his fortune or the contribution of his church; among them were Eghelrik, bishop of Lindisfarn, and Sithrik, abbot of a monastery in Devonshire. The Normans charged them with outraging religion and dishonouring the holy church, in abandoning themselves to this infamous career;2 but these interested reproaches did not stay them. The example of the insurgent prelates encouraged many men, and the ascendancy which they exercised over all minds, for good as for evil, became favourable to the patriotic cause. The churchmen, hitherto lukewarm in that cause, rallied there with zeal. Many of them, it is true, had already nobly devoted themselves to their country’s cause, but the mass had applied to the conquerors the apostolic precept of submission to the powers that be.3 The conquest had, in general, treated them somewhat better than the rest of the nation; all their lands had not been taken; the asylum of their habitations had not been everywhere violated. In the vast halls of the monasteries, whither the Norman spies had not yet penetrated, the Saxon laymen could assemble in great numbers, and, under the pretext of pursuing their religious exercises, could freely converse and conspire. They brought with them the money that had escaped the grasping perquisitions of the conquerors, and deposited it in the treasury of the sanctuary, for the support of the national cause, or the subsistence of their children, should they themselves perish in the struggle. Sometimes the abbot Edition: current; Page: [244] of the monastery removed the gold plates and precious stones with which the Saxon kings had adorned the altars and reliquaries, thus disposing of their gifts for the salvation of the country which they themselves had loved in their lives. Brave and faithful messengers conveyed the produce of these common contributions, through the Norman posts, to the camp of refuge,1 but these patriotic operations did not long remain secret. King William, by the counsel of William Fitz-Osbern, his seneschal, soon ordered perquisitions in all the convents of England, and removed all the money that the rich English had deposited there, with most of the vases, reliquaries, and precious ornaments.2 He also took from the churches, where they had been deposited, the charters which contained the false promises of clemency and justice made by the foreign king when his victory was yet uncertain.3 This vast spoliation took place in the Lent, which, in the ancient calendar, terminated the year 1070; and in the octave of Easter there arrived in England, pursuant to William’s application to that effect, three legates from the apostolic see; Ermenfroy, bishop of Sion, and the cardinals John and Peter. The Conqueror founded great designs upon the presence of these representatives of his ally, pope Alexander, and he kept them with him a whole year, honouring them, says an old historian, as though they were angels of God.4 Amidst the famine which was sweeping off the English by thousands, brilliant festivals were celebrated in the fortified palace of Winchester. There the Roman cardinals, again placing the crown upon the head of the Norman king, effaced the futile malediction which the archbishop of York, Eldred, had fulminated against him.5

After these entertainments there was held at Winchester an assembly of all the foreigners, laymen or priests, who had realized a great fortune by the spoliation of the English.6 Edition: current; Page: [245] The Saxon bishops were summoned to attend, in the name of the authority of the Roman church, by circulars, the haughty style of which was calculated to warn them what the result of this great council, as it was called, would be with regard to them. “The church of Rome,” said the envoys, “has the right to superintend the conduct of all Christians; and it more especially behoves her to make inquiry into your deportment and manner of life; you whom she has instructed in the faith of Christ, and to remedy the decline among you of that faith which you hold from her. It is to exercise over you this salutary inspection that we, the ministers of the blessed apostle Peter, and authorized representatives of our lord the pope Alexander, have resolved to hold a council with you, to seek out and uproot the evil things that pullulate in the vineyard of the Lord, and to plant others in their place, profitable to the body and the soul.”1

The real meaning of these mystic words was, that the new king, in concert with the pope, had resolved to get rid of the whole body of the high clergy of English race; the legates gave a sort of religious colour to this political operation. Such was their mission, and the first prelate whom they struck was the archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand, the same who had marched in arms against the foreigner, and refused to crown him king. But these his actual offences were not mentioned; the decree of ecclesiastical degradation was based upon other causes, upon an honester pretext, as an ancient historian expresses it.2 The ordination of Stigand was annulled, first because he had assumed the archbishopric of Canterbury in the life-time of archbishop Robert, exiled by the English people; secondly, because he had celebrated mass in the pallium of the said Robert; and finally, because he had received his own pallium from Benedict, declared antipope and excommunicated by the church.3

When the friend of king Harold and of his country had been, in the ecclesiastical language, struck by the axe of correction as a barren tree,4 his lands were divided between Edition: current; Page: [246] king William, the bishop of Bayeux, the king’s brother, and Adeliza, wife of Hugh de Grantmesnil, who, doubtless conciliated by this handsome present, came to inhabit England, and brought her husband back with her.1 The English bishops, to whom no canonical objection could be found, were none the less struck. Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, Eghelmar, bishop of East Anglia, Eghelrik, bishop of Sussex, and other prelates, with the abbots of the principal monasteries, were deposed nearly at the same time. At the moment of pronouncing sentence upon each, each was compelled to swear upon the gospel that he regarded himself as deprived of his dignity for ever, and that, whoever his successor might be, he would do nothing to disparage him, by protesting against him.2 The deprived bishops were conducted either to a fortress, or to a monastery, which was to serve as a prison. Those who had formerly been monks, were forcibly re-cloistered in their old monasteries, and it was officially announced that, disgusted with the bustle and noise of the world, they had been anxious to rejoin the companions of their youth.3

Several members of the high Saxon clergy found means to escape this fate; archbishop Stigand and the bishop of Lincoln both fled to Scotland; Eghelsig, abbot of Saint Augustin, sailed to Denmark, and remained there, although demanded by the Conqueror, as the king’s fugitive.4 Eghelwin, bishop of Durham, upon the point of leaving also for exile, solemnly cursed the aggressors of his country, and declared them separated from the communion of Christians, in the grave and sombre formula by which this separation was pronounced.5 But his words fell harmless upon the Norman king: William had priests to gainsay the Saxon priests, as he had swords to break the Saxon swords.

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Lanfranc, that monk of Lombard origin whom we have seen playing the part of negotiator at the court of Rome, still lived in Normandy, greatly renowned for his learning as a jurist, and still equally beloved by the pope and the new king.1 Him the legate of Alexander II. proposed as successor of Stigand in the archbishopric of Canterbury, and William fully approved the choice, in the hope that the ability of Lanfranc would greatly contribute to consolidate the conquest. Queen Matilda and the Norman lords hastened his departure for England, where he was joyfully received by the Normans, who hypocritically celebrated his arrival as that of “an institutor sent from God to reform the evil habits of the English.”2 Lanfranc was named archbishop by the election of the king and his barons, contrary to the ancient custom of the Anglo-Saxon church, where the prelates were elected by the body of the clergy, and the abbots by the monks.3 This custom was one of those which the conquest could not permit to remain, for all the religious, as well as the civil power, was to pass from the natives to the conquerors.

When archbishop Lanfranc made his first entry into the metropolis transferred to his sway, he was seized with a profound sentiment of sadness on seeing the state to which the Normans had reduced it. The church of Christ at Canterbury was devastated by pillage and conflagration, and the high altar, despoiled of its ornaments, was well nigh buried under a heap of rubbish.4

At the feast of Pentecost, a second council was held at Windsor, and Thomas, one of the king’s chaplains, was named archbishop of York, in the place of the Saxon Eldred, who had died of grief. Thomas, like Lanfranc, found his metropolitan church destroyed by fire, with its ornaments, charters, titles, and privileges; he found the territory of his diocese ravaged, and the Normans, who inhabited it, so saddened by the spectacle of their own devastations, that they even hesitated to settle on the lands which they had taken.5 Edition: current; Page: [248] Thomas took possession of all the domains of the church of York, but, whether from disgust or terror, no man, Norman or Saxon, would rent them.1

The pope sent his own pallium to Lanfranc, in token of investiture, and loaded him with flatteries. “I long for you,” he said, “and am only consoled for your absence by reflecting on the happy fruits which England will derive from your care.”2 It was thus that, viewed from a distance, the hideous operations of the conquest appeared under agreeable colours. The mission of Lanfranc to England, his real and avowed mission, was to make religion subservient to the enslavement of the English, to complete, says an old narrator, the ruin of the conquered nation, by the mutual embraces of royalty and the priesthood.3 The more effectually to realize this object, the archbishop of Canterbury proposed to the Conqueror a new plan of ecclesiastical constitution, a plan as favourable to the ambition of the prelate as to the stability of the conquest. “It is necessary,” said Lanfranc to king William, “that there should be in England but one religious chief, in order that the royalty you have conquered may be maintained in all its integrity. It is necessary that the church of York, the church of the land of rebellion, though ruled by a Norman, should become subject to that of Kent; it is necessary, above all, that the archbishop of York shall not enjoy the prerogative of crowning the kings of England, lest some day, voluntarily, or on compulsion, he lend his ministration to some Saxon or Dane, elected by the revolted English.”4

The church of Kent or Canterbury was, as we have already seen, the first church founded by the missionaries from Rome among the yet pagan Saxons; upon this priority in point of time had been established the vague idea of a kind of hierarchal pre-eminence, but without any effective supremacy having resulted from it, either for the church of Kent or for those who governed it. The metropolitan see of York had remained its equal, both conjointly exercising the chief superintendence Edition: current; Page: [249] over all the bishoprics of England.1 It was this order of things that archbishop Lanfranc undertook to reduce to absolute unity; a new thing, say the historians of the period, a thing unheard of before the reign of the Normans.2 He ransacked the archives for every possible privilege, however ambiguous, of every pope that had so evinced his affection for the church of Canterbury, the eldest daughter of papacy in Britain. He established the axiom that the law should proceed whence the faith had proceeded, and that as Kent was subject to Rome, because from Rome it had received Christianity, so York ought to be hierarchally subject to Kent.3

Thomas, the Norman archbishop of York, whose personal independence this policy tended to destroy, was not sufficiently devoted to the cause of the conquest to agree, without opposition, to this new constitution.4 He requested his colleague Lanfranc to cite some authentic titles in support of his pretensions. This was an embarrassing demand; but Lanfranc eluded it by assuring him that good and valid acts and titles would not be wanting if, unfortunately, they had not all perished four years before in the burning of his church.5 This evasive answer terminated the dispute, aided, indeed, by certain official warnings, which the indiscreet adversary of king William’s confident received, and which signified to him that if, for the peace and unity of the kingdom, he did not submit to receive the law from his colleague, and to acknowledge that the see of York had never been the equal of the other metropolitan see, he and all his relations would be banished not only from England, but from Normandy.6 Thomas insisted no further, but did his duty as a faithful son of the conquest; he resigned into the hands of Lanfranc all the power which his predecessors had exercised south of the Humber, and, making a solemn profession of obedience and Edition: current; Page: [250] fidelity, retained only the name of archbishop; for Lanfranc, with the title of primate, concentrated in his own person all its rights.1 In the language of the conquerors, he became, by the grace of God, father of all the churches; in the language of the conquered, all the churches fell under his yoke and were his tributaries.2 He expelled whom he chose, replacing them with Normans, Frenchmen, men of Lorraine, men of every country and every race, provided they were not English;3 and it is to be remarked, that in the general dispossessing of the former prelates of England, those of foreign birth who had been naturalized in the country were spared; for example, Hermann, Guis, and Walter or Gualtier, all three men of Lorraine, who retained the bishoprics of Wells, Sherborne, and Hereford.

Most of the bishoprics and abbeys were employed, as had formerly been the property of the rich, the liberty of the poor, and the beauty of the women, in paying the debts of the conquest. One Remi, formerly a monk at Fecamp, received the bishopric of Lincoln for a vessel and twenty armed men whom he had brought, in 1066, to the rendezvous of the Norman troops.4 This man and the other prelates come from beyond seas—a spiritual arriere-ban—everywhere expelled the monks who, according to a custom peculiar to England, lived upon the domains of the episcopal churches; and king William thanked them for this, holding, says a contemporary writer, that monks of English race could only bear him ill will.5 A class of adventurers, priests in name only, poured down upon the prelacies, archdeaconries, and deaneries of England,6 carrying with them the spirit of violence and rapine, the haughty and domineering manners of the foreign ruler; many of them became noted for their splendid ostentation and their disorderly life—several for their infamous actions.7 Robert de Edition: current; Page: [251] Limoges, bishop of Lichfield, pillaged the monastery of Coventry; he took the houses and goods of the monks who inhabited it, forced open their caskets and their coffers, and ultimately pulled down their houses, to build with the materials an episcopal palace, the cost of furnishing which was defrayed by melting down the gold and silver ornaments that decorated the church.1 The same Robert made a decree forbidding the Saxon priests the use of nourishing food and instructive books, fearing, say the historians, lest good eating and learning might render them too strong and too bold against their bishop.2

Nearly all the Norman bishops disdained to inhabit the ancient capitals of their dioceses, which were, for the most part, petty towns, and transferred their residences to places better adapted for the luxurious enjoyment of life; it was thus that Coventry, Lincoln, Chester, Salisbury, and Thetford, became episcopal towns.3 In general, the churchmen introduced by the invasion were a new affliction for England; and their tyranny, which assailed consciences, was even more odious than the brute force of the men of the sword. In some cases, indeed, the Norman abbots also wielded the sword, though only against unarmed monks; more than one English convent was the scene of military executions. In that governed by one Turauld or Torauld, of Fecamp, the abbot was accustomed to cry, “A moi, mes hommes d’armes,” whenever his monks resisted him in any point of ecclesiastical discipline. His warlike exploits in this way became so noted, that the Conqueror thought himself called upon to punish him, and, a singular mode of chastisement, sent him to rule the abbey of Peterborough in Northamptonshire, a post dangerous from its vicinity to the Saxon camp of refuge, “but very fit,” said William, “for an abbot who is so good a soldier.”4 Delivered from this formidable chief, the monks were none the better off; for in his place they received one Guerin de Lire, who, in the words of an ancient narrative, took the last crown from their purses, to gain for himself the Edition: current; Page: [252] renown of wealth among those who had once seen him poor.1 This Guerin had the bodies of his predecessors, the abbots of English race, dug up, and threw their bones out of doors.2

Whilst these things were going on in England, fame was publishing abroad by the pens of hired priests, or priests who wished to be hired, that William, the powerful, the victorious, the pious, had civilized that country, until then barbarous, and revived Christianity there, until then greatly neglected.3 The truth, however, was not wholly stifled: the cries of the oppressed reached even to Rome; and in that Roman court, accused by contemporary historians of being so venal,4 there were some conscientious men who denounced the revolution operating in England, as odious and contrary to the ecclesiastical laws. The degradation in a body of the Saxon bishops and the principal abbots, and the intrusion of Normans into their places, was warmly censured.5 But the death of Alexander II., and the accession, under the name of Gregory VII., of that archdeacon Hildebrand who, as we have seen, had displayed so much zeal in favour of the invasion, reduced well nigh to silence the impeachers of the new church founded by the Norman conquest. Her canonical legitimacy ceased to be questioned, and two individuals only, Thomas, archbishop of York, and Remi, bishop of Lincoln, were cited before the pontifical court, the one because he was the son of a priest, the other because he had bought the episcopal dignity with money.6

Lanfranc accompanied them to Rome, laden with presents for the pope and principal citizens. All three largely distributed the gold of the English in the city of the apostles, and thus acquired great renown.7 This conduct smoothed all difficulties for them; the affair of the two Norman prelates Edition: current; Page: [253] was privately arranged, and, instead of an investigation into their conduct, there was merely an arranged scene, in which both returned to the pope, in sign of obedience, their ring and pastoral staff; then Lanfranc pleaded their cause, proving that they were useful, nay, very necessary to the new king and to the arrangements of the kingdom;1 and the pope answered: “Decide the affair as thou thinkest fit; thou art the father of that country; I place the two pastoral rods2 at thy disposition.” Lanfranc took them and returned them to Remi and Thomas; then having himself received from Gregory VII. the confirmation of his title of primate of all England, he departed with his companions.

Thus the churches of the English continued to be handed over without obstacle, and by the consent of the Roman church, to priests of every nation. The prelate of foreign race delivered his homilies to a Saxon auditory in the French language, and because they listened patiently, from fear or apathy, grew elated with the power of his discourse, which, he said, miraculously insinuated itself into the ears of the barbarians.3 A sort of shame, and the desire to exhibit to the Christian world something different from this ridiculous spectacle, induced William to seek some ecclesiastic whom the opinion of the period extolled, from afar, for the austerity of his monastic life. Such was Guimond, a monk of the abbey of La Croix-Saint-Leufroi, in Normandy; the king invited him to cross the sea, and he at once obeyed the order of his temporal lord. On his arrival, the Conqueror told him that he designed to retain him there, and to raise him to a high ecclesiastical dignity: this is the monk’s answer, if we may believe an historian only a few years posterior:4

“Many motives lead me to avoid ecclesiastical dignities and power; I will not enumerate them all. I shall only say that I do not conceive how it were possible for me worthily to be the religious chief of men whose manners and language I Edition: current; Page: [254] do not understand, and whose fathers, brothers, and dear friends have died under your sword, or have been disinherited, banished, imprisoned, or cruelly enslaved by you. Search the Holy Scriptures, and see whether any law there permits the pastor of God’s flock to be violently imposed on it by the will of an enemy. That which you have forcibly acquired by war, at the cost of the blood of so many men, can you without sin share it with me, with those who, like me, have sworn to despise the outer world, and who, for the love of Christ, have renounced the goods of this world? It is the law of all monks to abstain from rapine, and to accept of no share of any spoil, even as an offering to the altar; for as the Scriptures say, he that offereth in sacrifice the goods of the poor, acteth as one who sacrificeth the son in the presence of the father. When I recal to mind these divine precepts, I feel terrified; your England seems to me a vast prey; and I fear to touch either her or her treasures, as I should fear to touch a burning brasier.”1

The monk of Saint Leufroi again crossed the sea, and returned to his cloister; but the report soon spread that he had exalted the poverty of the monks above the wealth of the prelates; had, in the very teeth of the king and his barons, denounced the acquisition of England as plunder; and had treated as spoliators and intruders all the bishops and abbots installed in that country against the will of the English. His words displeased many who, not desiring to imitate him, calumniated him, and succeeded, by their intrigues, in driving him from the country. Guimond went to Rome, and thence to Apulia, to one of the towns conquered and possessed by the Normans.2

The hatred which the clergy of the conquest bore to the native English extended even to the saints of English race, and in more than one place their tombs were opened and their bones scattered abroad.3 Whatever had formerly been an object of veneration with the country, was regarded by the new comers as base and despicable.4 But the violent aversion with which the English saints inspired the Normans Edition: current; Page: [255] was based upon political considerations, apart from their general contempt for all that the conquered people respected. In many instances, religious veneration had been, with the English, but a reflection of patriotism, and among the saints then invoked in England, several had become such for dying by the hands of the enemy, in the time of the Danish invasions; as Elfeg, archbishop of Canterbury, and Edmund, king of East Anglia. Such saints as these would necessarily give umbrage to the new invaders; for their worship kept alive the spirit of revolt, and hallowed old memories of courage and independence. The foreign prelates, accordingly, with archbishop Lanfranc at their head, did not long delay to proclaim that the Saxon saints were not true saints, nor the Saxon martyrs true martyrs.1

Guerin de Lire attacked Saint Adhelm; Lanfranc undertook to degrade Saint Elfeg, by lessening the merits of his so fine and so patriotic death. “That which constitutes martyrdom,” said the primate, “is the cause and not the death; I see in this saint of yours, merely a man who was killed by the pagans in default of a ransom which he could not pay himself, and with which he would not burden others.”2 Perhaps with analogous views, and to give a new direction to the mind of the English, he seized, throughout England, the copies of the Bible, and corrected them with his own hand, on the pretext that Saxon ignorance had theretofore corrupted the text; but all did not credit this broad assertion, and Lanfranc, notwithstanding his renown for virtue and learning, incurred in his own time the reproach of having falsified the Sacred Books.3

Violence done to popular conviction, reasonable or superstitious, often arouses the courage of the oppressed more than the loss even of liberty and property. The insults lavished upon objects of long-established devotion, the sufferings of the bishops, a sort of fanatic hatred to the religious innovations of the conquest, strongly agitated men’s minds, and became the mobile of a great conspiracy, which extended over Edition: current; Page: [256] all England.1 Many priests engaged in it, and three prelates were its chiefs: Frithrik, abbot of Saint Albans; Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, the only man of English race who retained a bishopric; and Walter, bishop of Hereford, a Fleming, the only foreigner who, a bishop prior to the conquest, had remained faithful to the cause of his adopted country.2 The name of the young king Edgar was again pronounced; popular songs were circulated in which he was called the beautiful, the brave, the darling of England.3 The two brothers Edwin and Morkar quitted the court of the Norman for the second time. The city of London, hitherto peaceable and resigned to the foreign yoke, began to be turbulent, and, as the old historians express it, in a language unfortunately somewhat vague, to face king William.4

To meet this new peril, William resorted to the means he had more than once found successful, promises and lies. Frithrik and the other insurgent chiefs, invited by him to Berkhamsted, to treat of peace, repaired to that ill-omened place, where, for the first time, Saxon hands had, in sign of subjection, touched the armed hand of the conqueror. They found the king there, with his bosom-friend and councillor the primate Lanfranc. Both affected towards them an air of gentleness and good faith;5 and there was a long discussion upon their respective and mutual interests, which terminated in an accommodation. All the relics of the church of Saint Alban had been brought to the place of conference; an open missal was laid upon these relics, at the page of the gospel for the day; and king William, placing himself in the position in which he had formerly placed Harold, swore, by the holy relics and by the sacred gospels, inviolably to observe the good and ancient laws which the holy and pious kings of England, and above all, king Edward, had theretofore established.6 The abbot Frithrik and the other English, satisfied with this concession, repaid William’s oath with the oath of fidelity sworn to their ancient kings, and then separated, dissolving Edition: current; Page: [257] the great association they had formed for the deliverance of the country.1 Bishop Wulfstan was sent into Cheshire to calm the excitement of the people there, and to make a pastoral visitation which no Norman prelate dared undertake.2

These good and ancient laws, these laws of king Edward, the mere promise of which sufficed to allay insurrections, were not a particular code or system of written provisions; by these words was understood simply the mild and popular administration which had existed in England in the time of the national kings. During the Danish domination, the English, in their prayers to the Conqueror, demanded, under the name of the laws of Ethelred, the destruction of the odious rule of the conquest; to demand the laws of Edward, under the Norman domination, was to make the same prayer, a futile prayer, which, notwithstanding his promises, the new conqueror could not grant. Even had he honestly maintained all the legal practices of the olden time, and enforced their observance to the letter by his foreign judges, they would not have borne their former fruits. There was an entire error in terms in the demand thus made by the English nation; for it was not the absence of its ancient criminal or civil laws that rendered its situation so disastrous, but the destruction of its independence and of its existence as a nation.3 Neither William nor his successors ever manifested any particular hatred to the Saxon legislation, civil or criminal; they allowed it to be observed in various points, and the Saxons were none the better for this concession. They left the rates of fines for theft and murder committed upon the English to vary as before the conquest, according to the division of the great provinces;4 they allowed the Saxon, accused of murder or robbery, to justify himself, as by the old custom, by the ordeal of red hot iron and boiling water; while the Frenchman, accused by a Saxon, appealed to single combat, or if the accused declined Edition: current; Page: [258] the combat, freed himself by oath, according to the law of Normandy.1 This difference of procedure, operating altogether against the conquered population, did not disappear until a century and a half later, when the decrees of the Roman church had everywhere prohibited the ordeal of fire and water.2

Moreover, among the ancient Saxon laws there were some which were especially favourable to the conquest; such as that which rendered the inhabitants of each hundred responsible for every offence committed in the hundred, the perpetrator of which was unknown3—a law well adapted, in the hands of the conquerors, to spread terror throughout the country. As to these laws, it was the interest of the Conqueror to maintain them, and as to those which related to their private transactions, their preservation was a matter of indifference to him. He accordingly fulfilled the promise he had made to the Saxon conspirators, without troubling himself as to whether they put a different construction upon that promise. He summoned before him, at London, twelve men from each county, who declared upon oath, to the best of their knowledge and belief, the ancient laws and customs of the country, omitting nothing, and adding nothing.4 What they said was formed into a sort of code, in the French idiom of the time, the only legal language acknowledged by the government of the conquest. The Norman heralds then went throughout the country, announcing, to the sound of the horn, “the laws which king William granted to all the people of England, the same that king Edward his cousin observed before him.”5

The laws of Edward were published, but the times of Edward did not return for England, and the chiefs of the patriotic movement were the first to experience the futility of this concession. From the moment their league was dissolved, they were persecuted to extremity by the power they had Edition: current; Page: [259] constrained to treat with them.1 Bishop Walter fled to Wales; the Norman soldiers were ordered to pursue him into that country, over which the dominion of William did not extend; but the prelate escaped them, favoured by the forests and mountains. King Edgar, perceiving that snares were laid for him, again fled to Scotland. Bishop Wulfstan, a man of feeble mind and character, gave all the securities required from him, and thus found favour with the Conqueror; he offered the abbot of Saint Alban’s to obtain pardon for him at the same price; but Frithrik was too proud to accept it on such terms. He assembled all his monks in the great hall, and taking leave of them with emotion: “My brothers, my friends,” he said, “this is the hour in which, as the holy Scriptures tell us, we must flee from one city to another before our persecutors.” Taking with him provisions and some books, he proceeded to the isle of Ely and the camp of refuge, where he died shortly afterwards.2

King William, irritated at this flight of a man whom he thought dangerous, directed all his fury against the monastery of Saint Alban. He seized its domains, cut down its woods, and resolved to destroy it utterly.3 But the primate Lanfranc severely reproached him for this purpose, and, by dint of persuasion, secured the preservation of the abbey, and permission to place in it an abbot of his own choice. Lanfranc had brought with him to England a young man named Paul, who passed for his son, and upon him he bestowed the vacant abbey.4 The first administrative act of the new abbot was to demolish the tombs of all his predecessors, whom he denounced as brutes and idiots, because they were of English race. Paul sent over to Normandy for his relations, among whom he distributed the offices and part of the property of his church. “They were all,” says an ancient historian, “men without the slightest literary culture, and ignoble in their manners to a degree which it is impossible to describe.”5

The reader must now turn his attention to the isle of Ely, Edition: current; Page: [260] that land of marsh and rushes, as the chroniclers term it, which was the last refuge of Anglo-Saxon independence.1 Archbishop Stigand and bishop Eghelwin quitted Scotland for this place.2 Edwin and Morkar, after having wandered for some time in the forests and country districts, also came there with other chiefs.3 The king, who had just succeeded by his craft alone in dissolving the conspiracy of the patriot priests, essayed craft once more, ere he employed force against the Saxons of the camp of Ely. Morkar was for the third time the dupe of his false professions; he allowed himself to be persuaded to quit the camp of refuge for the court,4 but he had scarce set foot beyond the entrenchments raised by his companions than he was seized and put in irons, in a fortress the keeper of which was Roger, the founder and proprietor of the castle of Beaumont in Normandy.5 Edwin also quitted the isle of Ely, not to submit like his brother, but to attempt his deliverance. For six months he sought aid and collected friends in England, Scotland and Wales; but at the moment when he found himself strong enough to attempt his enterprise, two traitors sold him to the Normans. He defended himself for a long time with twenty knights against greatly superior forces. The final combat took place near the coast of the North Sea, towards which the Saxon chief was retreating, in the hope of finding some means of embarking there; but he was stopped by a brook which the rising tide had swollen. Overcome by numbers, he fell; his enemies cut off his head, and carried it to the Conqueror,6 who was touched, and wept, say some historians, over the fate of a man whom he loved, and whom he would fain have attached to his fortune.

Such was the lot of Edwin and Morkar, the sons of Alfgar, and brothers-in-law of king Harold, both victims to the cause which they had several times abandoned. Their sister, Lucy, shared the fate of all the Englishwomen who were left without a protector. She was given in marriage to Ivo Taille-Bois, the chief of the Angevin auxiliaries, who received Edition: current; Page: [261] with her all the ancient domains of the family of Alfgar.1 The bulk of these were situated about Spalding, towards the borders of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, in the marshy country called Holland, near the camp of refuge. Ivo Taille-Bois settled in this place; he became for the farmers of the ancient domain what in the Saxon language was called the hlaford, and, by contraction, the lord of the land.2 This name ordinarily signified loaf-giver, distributor of bread, and in old England designated the head of a large house, him whose table fed many men. But other ideas, ideas of dominion and servitude, were substituted for this honourable signification, when the men of the conquest received from the natives the title of lords. The foreign lord was a master; the inhabitants of the domain trembled in his presence, and approached with terror his manor or hall, as the Saxons called it; an abode once hospitable, whose door was ever open, whose fire ever lit; but now fortified, walled, embattled, garrisoned with men-at-arms and soldiers, at once a citadel for the master and a prison for the neighbourhood.

“Thus,” says a contemporary, “all the inhabitants of the lowlands were careful always to appear with great humility before Ivo Taille-Bois, and never to address him but on one knee; but although they rendered him every possible honour, and paid him all they owed him and more in rents and services, on his part he had for them neither affability nor kindness. On the contrary, he vexed them, tormented them, tortured them, imprisoned them, overwhelmed them with compulsory labour, and by his daily cruelties obliged most of them to sell the little they still possessed, and to seek other countries.3 By a diabolical instinct, he delighted to do evil for evil’s sake; he often set his dogs upon the cattle of the poor people, drove the domestic animals into the marshes, drowned them in the lakes, or mutilated them in various ways, and rendered them incapable of service, by breaking their limbs or their backs.”4

Some of the English monks of the abbey of Croyland lived Edition: current; Page: [262] near Spalding, in a chapel of ease which the monastery possessed just at the gates of this formidable Angevin. He made them, even more than the rest of the neighbourhood, feel the effects of his destructive mania against all that was Saxon, or that belonged to Saxons.1 He lamed their horses and cattle, killed their sheep and poultry, overwhelmed their farmers with exactions, and assailed their servants on the roads with sticks or swords. The monks tried the effect of supplications and offers; they made presents to his attendants; “they tried all and suffered all,” says the contemporary history; “then, seeing that their efforts were thrown away, and that the malice of the tyrant and his people only increased, they took with them the sacred vessels, their beds and their books, leaving their house in the hands of the all-powerful God, and shaking the dust from their feet against the sons of eternal fire, they returned to Croyland.”2 Ivo Taille-Bois, rejoicing at their departure, promptly sent a messenger to Angers, his native town, requesting to have monks sent him, to whom he offered a good house, large enough for a prior and five monks, amply furnished, and well provided with lands and farms.

The French monks passed the Channel and took possession of the succursal of Croyland. The abbot, who happened to be an Englishman, was bold enough to address a complaint to the king’s council against the Angevin chief; but Ivo Taille-Bois was fully acquitted, and even congratulated upon all he had done in the way of pillage, outrage, and murders. “These foreigners mutually supported each other,” says the ancient historian; “they formed a close league, one backing the other, as, upon the dragon’s back, scale is joined to scale.”3

There was at this time in Flanders a Saxon named Hereward, long settled in that country, to whom some English emigrants, flying their native land, after having lost all they had possessed there, announced that his father was dead, that his paternal heritage was the property of a Norman, and that his aged mother had suffered and was still suffering infinite indignities and vexations. On hearing this, Hereward departed Edition: current; Page: [263] for England, and arrived without suspicion at the place formerly inhabited by his family; he made himself known to such of his relations and friends as had survived the invasion, induced them to assemble in arms, and at their head attacked the Norman who had insulted his mother and taken possession of his inheritance. Hereward expelled him and took his place; but compelled, for his own safety, not to limit himself to this one exploit, he maintained a partisan warfare in the vicinity of his dwelling, and encountered the governors of the neighbouring fortresses and towns in numerous engagements, wherein he signalized himself by his extraordinary bravery, skill, and personal strength. The report of his great deeds spread over England, and the eyes of the conquered turned towards him with a sentiment of hope; upon his adventures and in his praise, popular songs, now lost, were composed and sung in the streets, in the very ears of the conquerors, with impunity, thanks to their ignorance of the English idiom.1

The inheritance regained from the Normans by the Saxon Hereward was situated at Brunn, now Bourn, in the south of Lincolnshire, near the abbey of Croyland, and not far from that of Peterborough and from the isles of Ely and Thorney: the insurgents of these districts did not delay to open a correspondence with the bands commanded by the brave partisan chief. Struck with his renown and his talents, they invited him to join them and to be their captain; and Hereward, yielding to their intreaties, passed over to the camp of refuge with all his companions.2 Before assuming the command of men, several of whom were members of the high Saxon militia, a sort of brotherhood or corporation in arms, authorized by the ancient laws of the country, he was desirous of joining that body, so as to become, to use the expression of the contemporary authors, a right war-man.3

The institution of a superior class among those who devoted themselves to arms, and of ceremonies without which none could be admitted into this military order, had been propagated Edition: current; Page: [264] throughout the rest of Europe by the Germanic tribes who dismembered the Roman empire. This custom existed in Gaul, and in the Romane language of that country a member of this high militia was called cavalier or chevalier, because mounted warriors were then, throughout Gaul, and generally upon the continent, the principal strength of armies. It was not so in England; the perfection of equestrian skill went as nothing in the idea there entertained of a perfect war-man; the two only elements of this idea were youth and strength, and in the Saxon tongue, they called knit, that is to say, young man, him whom the French, the Normans, the southern Gauls, and even the Germans, called horseman.1

Notwithstanding this difference, the ceremonies by which a warrior was admitted into the high national militia in England and upon the Continent, were exactly the same; the aspirant had to confess in the evening, watch in a church during the whole night, and in the morning, at the hour of mass, lay his sword upon the altar, receive it again from the hands of the officiating priest, and communicate after receiving it. Every combatant who had gone through these formalities was thenceforward reputed a right war-man, and capable of assuming any grade of command.2 It was in this manner that a warrior was made a knight in France and throughout Gaul, except in Normandy, where, by a vestige of the Danish customs, the investiture of knighthood took place under forms more military and less religious. The Normans, indeed, had a saying, that he who had had his sword girded on by a priest was not a true knight, but a degenerate burgess.3 This sneer was applied to the Saxon Hereward, when the knights with whom he had often crossed swords learned that he had gone to the monastery of Peterborough to receive the military baldric from the hands of a Saxon abbot. There was, however, in this, on the part of the Normans, something more than their habitual aversion for the rites which connected the priesthood with chivalry; they were indignant that an English rebel should obtain, in any way whatever, the right to style himself a knight equally Edition: current; Page: [265] with themselves. Their pride of conquerors seems, on this occasion, to have been more deeply wounded than their point of honour, as warriors, was with the religious ceremony; for they themselves afterwards submitted to this ceremony, and accorded to the bishops the right of conferring knighthood.1

The monastery of Peterborough was at this time governed by the same Brand who, after his election by the monks of the abbey, had sought from Edgar the confirmation of his title of abbot. A man of a lofty and indomitable spirit, he had not attempted, in any way, to conciliate the favour of king William. In performing for a rebel chief the ceremonial of blessing of arms, he gave a second example of patriotic courage and of contempt for the foreign power. His fate was inevitable, but death removed him from this world ere the Norman soldiers came in the king’s name to seize him; it was upon his decease there was sent, as his successor, the Norman Turauld, the fighting monk, who has been already spoken of. Turauld, bringing with him an hundred and sixty well armed soldiers, stopped at Stamford, some leagues from Peterborough, and thence sent scouts to observe the position of the English refugees, and to ascertain the exact obstacles that he should have to encounter in taking possession of the abbey.2 On their part, the refugees, informed of the approach of the Norman, made a descent upon the monastery, and finding the monks not at all resolved to defend themselves against the abbot and his soldiers, carried away with them all the valuables they could find, crosses, chalices, stuffs, and transported them by water to their quarters, that they might, as they said, have hostages for the fidelity of the convent.3 The convent was not faithful, and admitted the foreigners without any resistance.

Turauld installed himself as abbot, and appropriated sixty-two hides of the land of his church for the payment or fee of his soldiers.4 The Angevin Ivo Taille-Bois, viscount of Spalding, soon proposed to his neighbour, the abbot, an expedition against Hereward and the camp of the Saxons. Turauld appeared to receive the proposition with delight, but as his courage was less decided against armed men than Edition: current; Page: [266] against monks, he allowed the Angevin viscount to advance alone to reconnoitre among the forests of willows which served as the Saxon intrenchment, and himself remained at a distance behind, with some Normans of high rank.1 As Ivo entered the wood on one side, Hereward quitted it on the other, attacked the abbot and his Normans unexpectedly, seized them and kept them in his marshes until they paid a ransom of thirty thousand marks of silver.2

Meantime, the Danish fleet, which, after having passed the winter of 1069 in the mouth of the Humber, had returned in the spring without fighting a single battle, and thus occasioned the second capture of York, had arrived in Denmark. Its chiefs, on their return, were ill received by king Swen, whose orders they had disobeyed in allowing themselves to be gained over by William. The indignant king banished his brother Osbiorn, and, himself assuming the command of the fleet, sailed for Britain;3 he entered the Humber, and on the first rumour of his approach the inhabitants of the surrounding country again rose, came to meet the Danes, and formed an alliance with them. But in this country, so devastated, so intimidated by military executions, there were not sufficient means to undertake an efficacious resistance. The Danish king returned home, while his captains and warriors, continuing their route towards the south, entered Boston Wash, and, by the mouth of the Ouse and the Glen, reached the isle of Ely. The refugees received them as liberators and friends.4

As soon as king William was informed of the appearance of the Danish fleet, he sent, in all haste, messages and presents to king Swen in Denmark; and this king, who but just before had punished his brother for having betrayed the Saxons, himself gained over, it is not known how—for many things are obscure in the history of these times—betrayed them in his turn.5 The Danes at Ely received orders to return home; they were not content with simply obeying the order, but carried off with them part of the treasure of the insurgents, and, among other things, the sacred vessels, crosses, and other ornaments of the abbey of Peterborough. Then, as in 1069, Edition: current; Page: [267] the Norman king assembled all his forces against the deserted Saxons. The camp of refuge was invested by land and by water, and the assailants constructed on every side dykes and causeways over the marshes. Hereward and the other chiefs, among whom were distinguished Siward Beorn, the companion of the flight of king Edgar, resisted bravely for some time. William commenced on the western side, across the waters covered with willows and rushes, a road which was to be three thousand paces long;1 but his workmen were constantly harassed and disturbed in their labours.

Hereward made attacks so sudden, he employed stratagems so wholly unforeseen, that the Normans, struck with superstitious fear, attributed his success to the aid of the evil one. Thinking to fight him with his own weapons, they had recourse to magic; Ivo Taille-Bois, appointed by the king to superintend the works, sent for a witch, who was to disconcert by her enchantments all the warlike devices of the Saxons.2 The magician was placed in a wooden tower at the head of the works in progress; but at the moment when the soldiers and pioneers were confidently advancing, Hereward sallied out from the side, and, firing the forest of osiers which covered the marsh, destroyed in the flames the sorceress and most of the soldiers and Norman workmen3 who were with her.

This was not the only success of the insurgents; despite the superiority in numbers of the enemy, they stayed them by dint of address and activity. For several months, the isle of Ely was entirely blockaded, like a town in a state of siege, and received no provisions from without. There was in the isle a monastery, whose inmates, unable to endure the hunger and misery of the siege, sent to the king’s camp and offered to show him a passage, if he would promise to leave them in possession of their property. The offer was accepted, and two Norman lords, Gilbert de Clare and Edition: current; Page: [268] Guillaume de Garenne, plighted their faith for the execution of this treaty.1 Thanks to the treachery of the monks of Ely, the royal troops penetrated suddenly into the island, killed a thousand English, and closely surrounding the camp of refuge, forced the remainder to lay down their arms.2 All surrendered with the exception of Hereward, who, with a few followers, daring to the last, retreated by paths into which the Normans did not venture to follow him.3

Passing from marsh to marsh, he gained the lowlands of Lincolnshire, where some Saxon fishermen, who carried fish every day to the adjacent Norman station, received him and his companions in their boats, and concealed them under heaps of straw. The boats approached the station as usual; the chief and his soldiers, knowing the fishermen by sight, conceived no alarm or suspicion; they prepared their dinner, and began tranquilly to eat it under their tents. Hereward and his friends rushed, axe in hand, upon the foreigners, who were taken wholly by surprise, and killed a great number of them. The rest fled, quitting their post, and leaving their horses ready saddled, which the English seized.4

This daring action was not the last exploit of the great partisan captain. He appeared at various points with his band newly recruited, and lay in ambush for the Normans, to whom he never gave quarter, resolved, says a contemporary author, that his old companions should not die unavenged.5 He had with him an hundred men, well armed and of inflexible fidelity, among whom were distinguished as the bravest and most devoted, Winter, his brother-in-arms; Gheri, his cousin; Alfrik, Godwin, Leofwin, Torkill, Siward, and another Siward, surnamed the Red.6 If one of these, says an old poet, met three Normans, he refused not the combat; and as for the chief, he often fought with seven Normans at a time.7 It appears that the glory of Hereward, so dear to Edition: current; Page: [269] every Saxon heart, gained for him the love of a lady named Alswithe, who had retained her large property, probably because her family had early declared for the new king. She offered her hand to the insurgent chief, in admiration of his courage; he accepted it, and then, dreading his continued exposure to dangerous adventures, she employed all her influence to induce him to live tranquilly, and to make his peace with the Conqueror.1

Hereward, who loved her, yielded to her intreaties, and, as the phrase ran, accepted the king’s peace. But this peace could only be a truce; despite William’s oath, and perhaps by his orders, the Normans soon sought to rid themselves of the formidable Saxon chief. His house was several times attacked; and one day that he was sleeping in the open air after dinner, a troop of armed men, among whom were several Bretons, surprised and surrounded him. He was without his coat of mail, and his only weapons were a sword and a short pike, with which the Saxons were always armed. Suddenly awakened by the noise, he arose, and, unintimidated by their number, exclaimed: “Felon traitors, the king has given me his peace; if you seek my goods or my life, by God, you shall pay for them dearly!”2

And at these words, Hereward thrust his lance with such force against a knight who stood facing him, that it pierced his heart through his hauberk. Notwithstanding numerous wounds, he continued to thrust with his pike while it lasted; he then drew his sword; and this weapon breaking on the helmet of one of his enemies, he still fought with the pommel. Fifteen Normans, says the tradition, had already fallen around him, when he received at once four lancethrusts.3 He had still sufficient strength to remain on his knees, and in this position seizing a buckler which lay beside Edition: current; Page: [270] him, he struck Raoul de Dol, a Breton knight, so fiercely in the face, that he fell back dead; but at the same moment Hereward himself expired. The chief of the troop, named Asselin, cut off his head, swearing by the virtue of God that in his life he had never seen so valiant a man. It was afterwards a popular saying among the Saxons, and even among the Normans, that if there had been four such as he in England, the French would never have entered it, and that had he not died in this manner, one day or another he would have driven them all out.1

Thus was destroyed, in the year 1072, the camp of Ely, which had shed a moment’s gleaming hope of liberty over five counties. Long after the dispersion of the brave men who had sought refuge in it, there were found in this nook of marshy land traces of their entrenchments and the remains of a wooden fortress, which the local population called Hereward’s castle.2 Many of those who submitted had their hands cut off or their eyes put out, and in this condition, with cruel mockery, the Conqueror set them free;3 others were imprisoned in fortresses in every part of England. Archbishop Stigand was condemned to perpetual seclusion; Eghelwin, bishop of Durham, accused by the Normans of having stolen the treasures of his church, because he had employed them in maintaining the patriotic cause, was imprisoned at Abingdon, where, a few months after, he died of hunger.4 Another bishop, Eghelrik, was shut up in Westminster abbey, for having, as the sentence pronounced against him by the foreign judges set forth, broken the public peace and exercised Edition: current; Page: [271] piracy. But the judgment of the English, the popular opinion of his case, were far different; he was praised so long as he lived, and after his death was honoured as a saint. Fathers taught their children to implore his intercession; and a century afterwards, pilgrims still visited his tomb.1

The treachery of the monks of Ely soon received its recompence; forty soldiers occupied their convent as a military post, and lived at free quarters. Every morning the butler had to distribute to them provisions and pay in the great hall of the cloister.2 The monks complained bitterly of the violation of the treaty they had concluded with the king, and were answered that it was necessary to guard the isle of Ely.3 They then offered seven hundred marks to be exempted from the charge of maintaining the foreign soldiers; and this sum, which they obtained by despoiling their church, was carried to the Norman Picot, the royal viscount at Cambridge. The viscount had the money weighed, and finding that by chance the weight was an ounce short, he formally accused the monks of seeking to defraud the king, and condemned them, by his court, to pay three hundred marks more, as a penalty for the offence.4 After the payment of the thousand marks, came the royal commissioners, who carried off from the abbey of Ely everything of value, and drew up a survey of the lands of the abbey, for the purpose of dividing it into fiefs.5 The monks poured forth complaints to which no one listened; they invoked pity for their church, once the most beautiful, they said, among the daughters of Jerusalem, and now suffering and oppressed.6 But not a tear flowed, not a hand was armed in their cause.

After the entire defeat and dispersion of the refugees of the Isle of Ely, the Norman army and fleet proceeded towards the northern counties, to make a sort of battue there, and prevent the formation of new assemblies. Passing the Tweed, for the first time, they entered the territory of Scotland, to arrest all the English emigrants there, and terrify Edition: current; Page: [272] king Malcolm, who had just before made a hostile incursion into Northumberland.1 The emigrants escaped their search, and the king of Scotland would not deliver them up to the Normans; but, intimidated by the presence of troops better disciplined and better armed than his own, he came to meet king William in a peaceful attitude, touched his hand in sign of friendship, promised that William’s enemies should be his also, and freely acknowledged himself his vassal and liege-man.2

William returned, content with having thus deprived the Saxon cause of its last support; on his way back he was received at Durham by bishop Vaulcher, a man of Lorraine, whom the Normans had instituted in the place of Eghelwin, degraded by them, and condemned, as we have seen, to perpetual imprisonment. It appears that the mournful fate of the Saxon prelate had excited throughout the country a violent animosity to the successor elected by the foreigners. Although the city of Durham, standing upon an eminence, was strong by its position, Vaulcher did not consider himself safe there from the enmity of the Northumbrians. At his request, say the chronicles, the king built a citadel upon the topmost height of the place, where the bishop could dwell with his people secure from any attack.3

This bishop, after his consecration at Winchester, had been accompanied to York by a numerous escort of Norman knights, and, in this city, the Saxon Gospatrick, who had purchased for a large sum the government of the country beyond the Tyne, came to meet the bishop and conduct him to Durham. This service rendered to the cause of the conquest did not efface from the Conqueror’s mind the fact that Gospatrick was an Englishman, and had been a patriot: no obsequiousness could remove that original stain. In the same year, king William deprived the Saxon of the dignity he had purchased, without making him any restitution, and the reason he alleged was, that Gospatrick had fought at the siege of York, and taken part in the insurrection in which Robert de Comine had fallen.4 Filled with the same grief and the same remorse that had formerly attacked archbishop Edition: current; Page: [273] Eldred, Gospatrick quitted England for ever, and settled in Scotland, where his family long endured, honoured and opulent.1 The government, or to use the Norman phrase the earldom, of Northumberland was then given to Waltheof, son of Siward, who, like his predecessor, had fought in the Saxon ranks at the siege of York, but whose fatal hour had not yet arrived.

After this series of successful expeditions, king William, finding in England prostrate depression—happy peace the conquerors styled it—ventured upon a new journey to Gaul, whither he was called by intestine disorders and resistance to his authority. The count of Maine, shut up, so to speak, between two much more powerful states, Normandy and Anjou, seemed destined alternately to fall under the suzerainty of the one or the other. But notwithstanding the disadvantage of position and inferiority of forces, the Manceaux often struggled vigorously for the re-establishment of their national independence; so that it was said of them in the eleventh century, that they were of a rugged, haughty, and disobedient temperament.2 Some years before his invasion of England, William was acknowledged suzerain of Maine by Herbert, count of that country, the great enemy of the Angevin power, and whose nocturnal incursions against the towns and villages of Anjou had procured for him the singular and striking surname of Eveille-Chiens (Wake-dog). As vassals of the duke of Normandy, the Manceaux readily furnished their contingent of horse and archers; but when they found him occupied with the cares and embarrassments of the conquest, they conceived the idea of emancipating themselves from the Norman domination. Nobles, war-men, burgesses, every class of the population, concurred in the patriotic work; the castles guarded by Norman troops were attacked and taken one after another; Turgis de Tracy and Guillaume de la Ferté, who commanded the citadel of Mans, surrendered it, and left the country, with all such of their countrymen as had escaped the popular vengeance.3

The impulse given to the people by this insurrection did not cease when Maine had been restored to its national lords; a revolution of a new kind now broke out in the capital town. Edition: current; Page: [274] After having fought for the independence of the country, the citizens of Mans, on their return home, began to find the government of their count harassing and vexatious, and grew angry at many things which they had hitherto tolerated. At the first heavy tax that was imposed upon them, they rose, and binding themselves together by the oath of mutual support, formed what in the language of the time was called a commune.1

The bishop of Mans, the nobles of the town, and Geofroi de Mayenne, guardian of the reigning count, were compelled to take the oath of the commune, and to confirm by this oath the new laws published against their own power; but several of the nobles around refused their adhesion, and the citizens, to compel them to it, proceeded to attack their castles and manorhouses. They marched upon these expeditions in parishes, the men of each parish being preceded by its own cross and banner; but despite this religious display, they fought furiously, passionately, cruelly, as ever happens in political troubles. They were reproached with carrying on war during Lent and in Passion week; with too severely and too summarily executing justice on their enemies, hanging some and mutilating others, without any regard to the rank of persons.2 Hated by nearly all the seigneurs of the country, the commune of Mans, at a period when these institutions were yet rare, obstinately defended its liberty. An act of treachery, which placed Count Geofroi de Mayenne in possession of the citadel, compelled the citizens to fight in the streets, and to set fire to their own houses, to advance the operations of the siege. They did this with that valorous self-devotion which, half a century later, was displayed so strikingly in the great communes of France.3

It was during this struggle between feudal power and civic liberty, that the king of England prepared to invade Maine, and impose his suzerainty upon both of the rival parties. Skilful in profiting by occasion, he ordered the enrolment of all the English who chose to serve him for pay; he calculated that, in the misery to which most of them were reduced, they Edition: current; Page: [275] would be tempted by the booty which the war seemed to promise. Men who had not house or home, the remnant of the partisan bands, and even chieftains who had distinguished themselves in the camp of refuge, assembled under the Norman banner, without ceasing to hate the Normans. They rejoiced at the idea of going to combat men who, though the enemies of king William, seemed to them, by the similarity of language, of the same race with him. Without asking whether it had been willingly or on compulsion that the Manceaux had, seven years before, taken part in the conquest, they marched against them in the train of the Conqueror, as to an act of national vengeance. From their first entry into the country, they gave themselves up, with a sort of frenzy, to every species of devastation and rapine, tearing up the vines, cutting down the trees, burning the villages; in a word, doing to Maine all the evil they would fain have done to Normandy.1

The terror caused by their excesses contributed more than the bravery of the Norman knights, or even the presence of king William, to the submission of the country. The fortresses and castles surrendered, for the most part, before the first assault, and the principal citizens of Mans brought the keys of their town to the king in his camp on the banks of the Sarthe. They took the oath of allegiance to him as to their legitimate lord, and in return, William promised them the preservation of their ancient franchises, but it would appear, without consenting to the maintenance of the commune. The army then returned to England, where the Saxon soldiers landed, laden with booty; but these ill acquired riches were fatal to many of them in exciting the envy and cupidity of the Normans.2

While these events were taking place, king Edgar went from Scotland to Flanders, to negotiate with the earl of that country, the political rival, although the relation of William, some aid for the Saxon cause, now more hopeless than ever; his efforts meeting with little success, he returned to Scotland, where he was surprised to receive a friendly message from Edition: current; Page: [276] the king of France, Philip, the first of that name.1 Philip, alarmed at the successes of the Norman king in Maine, had resolved, by assisting the Saxons, to raise up obstacles in his way, which should render him less active on the other side of the Channel; he invited Edgar to come to him, and aid him in his counsels; he promised him a fortress at Montreuil, at once near England, upon which he might thence make a descent, and near Normandy, which he might ravage. Edgar accepted his proposal, and arranged everything for his journey to France. King Malcolm, his brother-in-law, become the liegeman and vassal of William, could not, without breaking his faith, supply the Saxon with soldiers for this enterprise; he contented himself with secretly giving him money, and, as was the custom of the period, distributing arms and clothes among his companions.2

Edgar set sail, but had hardly got out of sight of land when his vessels were dispersed and driven on shore by a violent tempest. Some were dashed to pieces on the northern coasts of England, and their crews became prisoners to the Normans; the others sunk. The king and the principal personages who were with him escaped these two dangers, and returned to Scotland, having lost all, some on foot and the rest poorly mounted, says the contemporary chronicle. After this misfortune, Malcolm advised his brother to struggle no longer against fate, and for a third time to seek peace of the Conqueror. Edgar, allowing himself to be persuaded, sent a message across the Channel to king William, who invited him to join him in Normandy; on his way he traversed all England, escorted by the chiefs and Norman governors of the counties, and entertained in their castles. At the court of Rouen, where he remained eleven years, he lived in the king’s palace, wore his uniform, and occupied himself more with dogs and horses than with political interests;3 but, at the end of these eleven years, he experienced a sentiment of regret, and returned to England to dwell among his countrymen;4 he afterwards returned once more to Normandy, and passed the remainder as he had passed the former part of his life, in utter Edition: current; Page: [277] irresolution, taking no determinate course, the sport of events, a man without energy and without pride.1

The sad destiny of the English seemed to be irretrievably fixed. In the absence of all opposition, the calm of entire hopelessness reigned throughout the land. The foreign merchants fearlessly displayed in the towns and villages, stuffs and weapons fabricated on the continent, which they exchanged for the booty of the conquest.2 A man might then travel, says the contemporary history, having with him his weight in gold, and get none but good words addressed to him.3 The Norman soldier, more at ease in the possession of his share of land or money, less disturbed by midnight alarms, less frequently obliged to sleep in his hauberk, became less violent and less malevolent. The conquered themselves had some moments of repose;4 the English women no longer feared for their chastity: many of them, who had sought refuge in the nunneries, and had taken the veil as a protection against the brutality of the conquerors,5 becoming weary of this enforced retirement, wished to return to their friends and families. But it was not so easy for the Saxon women to quit the cloister as it had been to enter it. The Norman prelates held the keys of the monasteries, as the Norman barons held those of the towns; and it was deemed necessary for these sovereign masters of the souls and bodies of the English to deliberate, in solemn assembly, upon the question of setting free the Saxon women who had become nuns against their inclination, and solely from necessity. Archbishop Lanfranc presided at this council, at which were present all the bishops nominated by king William, several abbots from Normandy, and other personages of high rank. The opinion of the primate was, that the English women who, to preserve their chastity, had bought the convent as an asylum, ought not to be punished for having obeyed the holy precepts, and that the doors of the cloisters ought to be thrown open for all who so desired.6 This opinion prevailed in the Norman council, less, perhaps, because it was the most humane, than because it proceeded from the confident and intimate friend of king William; the Edition: current; Page: [278] women who had still a family or a protector regained their liberty.

About the same time, William Fitz-Osbern died a violent death in Flanders, where a love affair had involved him in political intrigues.1 The eldest of his sons, who bore the same name with himself, inherited his lands in Normandy, and Roger, the youngest, had the domains conquered in England, with the earldom of Hereford. He took upon himself the charge of providing for and portioning his young sister, named Emma, and negotiated a marriage for her with Rault de Gael, a Breton seigneur, who had become earl of Norfolk.2 For some reason or other, this alliance was displeasing to the king, who sent from Normandy an express order not to conclude it; but the parties paid no heed to this prohibition, and on the day fixed for the ceremony the bride was conducted to Norwich, where was celebrated, says the Saxon chronicler, a marriage that proved fatal to all who were present at it.3 Bishops and Norman barons were there, Saxons, friends of the Normans, and even several Welshmen, invited by the earl of Hereford; Waltheof, son of Siward, husband of one of the king’s nieces, and earl of Huntingdon, Northampton, and Northumberland, prominently figured throughout the affair.4

After a sumptuous repast, whereat the wine flowed in abundance, the tongues of the guests became loosened. Roger de Hereford loudly censured the refusal of king William to sanction this union between his sister and the earl of Norfolk; he complained of this as an insult to the memory of his father, the man to whom the Bastard, he said, undoubtedly owed his conquest and his kingdom.5 The Saxons, who had received from William other and far more cruel outrages, vehemently applauded the invectives of the Norman earl; and all present becoming gradually excited, there arose a tumult of execration against the conqueror of England.6

“He is a bastard, a man of low birth,” said the Normans; “he may call himself king, but ’tis clearly seen that he is not made for one, and that he is not agreeable in the sight of Edition: current; Page: [279] God.”1 “He poisoned,” cried the Bretons, “he poisoned Cona, the brave earl of Brittany, for whom our country still mourns.”—“He invaded the noble land of England,” exclaimed the Saxons in their turn; “he massacred the legitimate heirs, or obliged them to expatriate themselves.” “And those who came in his train or to his assistance,” cried the foreigners; “those who raised him higher than any of his predecessors have not been honoured by him as they ought to have been; he is ungrateful to the brave men who have shed their blood in his service. What has he given to us, the conquerors who are covered with wounds? Sterile and devastated tracts of land; and when he sees our fiefs improving, he deprives us of them.”—“’Tis true, ’tis true!” tumultuously exclaimed all the guests: “he is odious to all, and his death would gladden the hearts of all.”

One of the two Norman earls then arose, and addressing Waltheof: “Brave man,” he said, “this is the moment; this is for thee the hour of vengeance and fortune. Join us, and we will re-establish the kingdom of England, in every respect as it was in the time of king Edward. One of us three shall be king, the other two shall command under him, and all the lordships of the kingdom shall be held of us. William is occupied beyond sea with interminable affairs; we are satisfied that he will not again cross the Channel. Now, brave warrior, adopt this plan; ’tis the best for thee, thy family, and thy crushed and fallen nation.”2 New acclamations arose at these words; earls Roger and Raulf, several bishops and abbots, and a great number of Norman barons and Saxon warriors, bound themselves by oath against king William.3 Waltheof, after a resistance which proved his distaste for this strange association, allowed himself to be persuaded, and joined the conspiracy. Roger de Hereford hastened to his province to collect his friends, and engaged in his cause many of the Welsh of the borders, who joined him, either for pay, or out of hatred to the Conqueror, who menaced their independence.4 As soon as earl Roger had assembled his forces, he marched towards the east, where the other conspirators awaited him.

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But when about to pass the Severn at the bridge of Worcester, he found that formidable preparations had been made to stop him; and ere he could find another passage, the Norman Ours, viscount of Worcester, and bishop Wulfstan, still faithful to king William, directed troops upon various points of the east bank of the river. Eghelwig, the courtier-abbot, who had become the servant of the foreigners against his countrymen, induced the population of Gloucestershire to obey the call of the royal chiefs, rather than the proclamations and promises of the Norman conspirators.1 They accordingly assembled under the banner of count Gualtier de Lacy against Roger de Here ford and his Welshmen, whose cause did not seem to them so clearly identical with the national cause. Of two parties, both almost equally indifferent to them, they adopted that which appeared to involve the least danger, and served king William, whom they hated more than death. In his absence, the primate Lanfranc, under the title of royal lieutenant, administered affairs;2 he hastily despatched troops from London and Westminster to the county in which Roger was held in check, and at the same time hurled a sentence of excommunication against him, couched in the following terms:

“Since thou hast departed from the rules of conduct observed by thy father, hast renounced the faith that he all his life preserved towards his lord, and which gained him such great riches, in virtue of my canonical authority I curse thee, excommunicate thee, and exclude thee from the threshold of the church and the society of the faithful.”3

Lanfranc also wrote to the king in Normandy, to inform him of the revolt, and his hope of soon putting an end to it. “It were with great pleasure,” said he, “and as a messenger from God himself, that we should see you again among us. Do not, however, hasten to cross the sea; for it were shame to us were you obliged to come and assist us in destroying a handful of traitors and robbers.”4 The former epithet would seem to have been directed at the Normans who followed earl Roger, and the second at the numerous Saxons in the Edition: current; Page: [281] army of Raulf de Gaël, encamped near Cambridge, or who, encouraged by the presence of this army, began to rise in the maritime towns of the east, and to renew their old negotiations with the Danes.1

The king of Denmark once more promised to send troops against king William; but, before the arrival of these succours, the army of the earl of Norfolk was attacked by Eudes, bishop of Bayeux, Geoffroy, bishop of Coutances, and earl William de Warenne, with superior forces. The battle was fought in a place which is called by the ancient historians Fagadon.2 The Norman and Saxon conspirators were completely defeated, and it is related that the conquerors cut off the right foot of every prisoner, of whatever rank or nation.3 Raulf de Gaël escaped, and hastened to shut himself up in his citadel of Norwich, whence he soon afterwards sailed to seek assistance from his friends in Brittany, leaving his castle in the charge of his bride and his vassals.4 The daughter of William Fitz-Osbern made protracted resistance to the attacks of the royal officers, and only capitulated under the pressure of famine.5 The men-at-arms who defended the fortress submitted, upon condition of having their lives granted them, if they quitted England within forty days. “Glory to God in the highest,” wrote the primate Lanfrance to William; “your kingdom is freed from the filthy Bretons.” Many of the men of this nation, who had come as auxiliaries or adventurers to the conquest, now involved in the disgrace of Raulf de Gaël, lost the lands they had taken from the English.6 While the friends of Raulf were thus conquered and dispersed, those of Roger de Hereford were defeated in the west, and their chief made prisoner.

Before returning to England to enjoy this new triumph, king William made a hostile incursion into the territory of his neighbours the Bretons, in pursuit of earl Raulf de Gaël, and under this pretext to attempt the conquest of a portion of the country, the constant aim of the ambition and policy of his ancestors. But after vainly besieging the town of Dol, he retreated before the army of the duke of Brittany, who Edition: current; Page: [282] marched against him, supported by the king of France.1 Then crossing the Channel, he came to London at Christmas, to preside over the great council of Norman barons, and to judge the authors and accomplices of the late conspiracy. Raulf de Gaël, absent and contumacious, was deprived of all his estates; Roger de Hereford appeared, and was condemned to lose his lands and to pass his life in a fortress.2 In the depths of his prison, his proud and indomitable spirit often made him brave with insults the king whom he had not been able to dethrone. One day, during Easter, William, according to the custom of the court of Normandy, sent to him, as though he were free, a complete suit of precious stuff, a coat and mantle of silk, and a jacket trimmed with foreign furs.3 Roger examined these rich vestments with an air of satisfaction; he then had a great fire lighted, and cast them all into it. The king, who did not expect to have his gifts received in this manner, was fiercely angered, and swore, by the splendour of God (his favourite oath), that the man who thus insulted him should never quit his prison.4

After having narrated the deplorable story of this son of the most powerful man next to the king, and who had most urgently persuaded William to undertake the conquest, the historian, born in England though of foreign race, touched by the misery of his native land, exclaims with a kind of patriotic enthusiasm: “Where is now this William Fitz-Osbern, viceroy, earl of Hereford, seneschal of Normandy and England? He who was the first and greatest oppressor of the English, who, through ambition and avarice, encouraged the fatal enterprise in which so many thousands of men perished; he fell in his turn, and received his just reward. He who killed so many men with the sword, died by the sword, and after his death, the spirit of discord made his son and his son-in-law revolt against their lord and kinsman. The race of William Fitz-Osbern has been uprooted from England, so that now there is not a corner in which it can set foot.”5

The royal vengeance extended to all who had been present at the wedding feast at Norwich; and the city itself was Edition: current; Page: [283] assailed with indiscriminating revenge.1 Infinite oppressions ruined the Saxon inhabitants, and compelled numbers of them to emigrate into Suffolk, around Beccles and Halesworth. Here three Normans, Roger Bigot, Richard de Saint Clair and William de Noyers, seized them, and made serfs of them, although they were too poor to be a beneficial acquisition.2 Other Saxons, and the Welsh, taken prisoners with arms in their hands, on the banks of the Severn, had their eyes put out and their limbs mutilated, or were hung upon gibbets, by order of the Norman earls, prelates, barons and knights, assembled at the court of the king.3

Meanwhile, a fleet of two hundred ships left Denmark, commanded by one of the sons of king Swen, who had again become the friend of the English, and approached the eastern coast; but when the Danes learned what had passed, they dared not fight the Normans, and turned their helms towards Flanders.4 Waltheof was accused of having invited them over; he denied the charge, but the Norman woman whom he had received in marriage from king William became his denouncer, and bore witness against him.5 The votes of the assembly or of the court (as it was then called) were divided as to the sentence which should be passed upon the Saxon chief. Some were for death, as for a revolted Englishman, others for perpetual imprisonment, as for a disloyal officer of the king.6 The discussion lasted for nearly a year, during which time Waltheof was confined in the royal fortress of Winchester. At last his enemies prevailed, and in one of the courts which was held three times a year, sentence of death was pronounced.7 Contemporary English writers accuse Judith, the niece of the king, married to Waltheof against her will, of having desired and urged the sentence which Edition: current; Page: [284] was to widow her and to set her at liberty.1 Moreover, many Normans aspired to the three earldoms possessed by the Saxon chief; and Ivo Taille-Bois, whose lands joined his, and who desired to annex them, was one of the most eager for his destruction.2 Lastly, the king, to whom Waltheof was no longer useful, rejoiced at a pretext for getting rid of him; if we may believe the old chroniclers, he had long entertained this desire.3

Early in the morning, while the people of Winchester still slept, the Normans conducted the Saxon chief beyond the walls of the city. Waltheof walked to execution, attired in his costume as earl, the outer portions of which he distributed among the priests and poor people who followed him, and whom the Normans allowed to approach, on account of their limited number and wholly peaceful aspect. Coming to an eminence at a short distance from the walls, the soldiers stopped, and the Saxon, prostrating himself, with his face to the ground, prayed in under tones for some minutes; the Normans, fearing lest delay should spread the news of the execution through the city, and a rising take place to save Waltheof, said to him impatiently: “Rise, that we may fulfil our orders.” As a last request, he asked them to await until he had said the Lord’s Prayer, for himself and for them. They consented, and Waltheof, rising from his prostrate attitude, but remaining on his knees, began to say, in a loud voice: “Our Father, which art in heaven,” but at the first words of the verse: “and lead us not into temptation,” the executioner, whoperhaps saw the early rays of the coming day, would wait no longer, and, suddenly drawing his large sword, decapitated the condemned man with a single blow.4 His body was thrown into a hole dug between two roads, and hastily covered with earth.5

Having been unable to save the life of Waltheof, the Saxons went into mourning for his death, and honoured him with the name of “martyr,” which they had just awarded on the same grounds to bishop Eghelwin, who had died of hunger in a Norman dungeon.6 “They sought,” says Edition: current; Page: [285] a contemporary, “to efface his memory from this world, but they did not succeed, for we firmly believe that he is in heaven with the blessed.”1 It was reported among the serfs and towns-people of England, that after fifteen days interment, the body of the last chief of the English race, when removed by the monks of Croyland, had appeared intact and sprinkled with fresh blood.2 Other miracles, propagated in like manner by patriotic superstition, were operated, it was said, at the tomb of Waltheof, erected, with the king’s permission in the chapel of the abbey of which he had been patron.3 The news of these prodigies affrighted the Norman widow of the decapitated chief. To appease the soul of him she had betrayed, and whose death she had occasioned, she repaired to Croyland to the tomb of Waltheof, and offered a silken cloth, which she placed on the sepulchre. The chronicles of the time relate that an invisible arm repelled her offering, and that men saw the piece of stuff raised and cast to a distance, as if by a violent gust of wind.4

Wulfketel, the abbot of Croyland, an Englishman, hastened to make known these miraculous events, by narrating them in the Saxon language from the pulpit of his church. But the Normans did not long permit him to continue his preaching in peace, and he was accused of idolatry before a council held in London. The assembled bishops and earls degraded him from his ecclesiastical dignity, and sent him, as a simple monk, far from his friends, to the abbey of Glastonbury, ruled by a Norman named Toustain, conspicuous among all the abbots of the conquest for his hard and ferocious disposition.5 This example, however, did not cast down the popular superstition: founded upon national regrets, it disappeared only with those regrets, when the sons of the Saxons had forgotten the old cause for which their ancestors had suffered. But this period did not arrive so speedily as the conquerors desired; and forty years after the death of Waltheof, when the government of the monastery of Croyland had passed through a succession of foreign Edition: current; Page: [286] abbots, under the authority of one Geoffroy, a native of Orleans, miracles again began to be worked at the tomb of the last Saxon chief. People of English race came in crowds to visit his sepulchre, the monks of Norman origin, who occupied the abbey, ridiculing their fervour and abusing them and the object of their worship, calling the latter a felon traitor, justly punished with death.1

The widow of Waltheof inherited all his possessions, and even the lands which he had given in full and entire possession to the abbey of Croyland were resumed and given to her.2 Judith hoped to share this vast inheritance with a husband of her own choice; but she was mistaken; the same power that had disposed of her hand to gain over a Saxon, now proposed to employ it in repaying the services of a Frenchman. Without consulting his niece any more than on the former occasion, king William offered the possessions of Waltheof to one Simon, from the town of Senlis, a brave knight, but lame and ill-formed. Judith expressed an utter contempt for the man and refused the match: the Conqueror, little accustomed to make his policy yield to the fancies of a woman, gave to Simon de Senlis the earldom of Northampton, and the whole inheritance of Waltheof, without his widow, who thus lost the fruit of her treachery. Left alone with two children, she led an obscure and mournful life in a remote corner of England. The Normans despised her because she had become poor; the Saxons abhorred her as an infamous traitor; and the old historians of English race exhibit a degree of joy in relating her years of desolation and sorrow.3

The execution of Waltheof completed the prostration of the conquered nation. It would seem that the people had not lost all hope, so long as they saw one of their countrymen invested with great power, even though under foreign authority. After the death of the son of Siward, there was not in England, of all those invested with honours and political functions, one single man born in the country who did not look upon the natives as enemies or brute-beasts. All Edition: current; Page: [287] religious authority had also passed into the hands of men of foreign race, and of the old Saxon prelates there remained only Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester.1 He was a simple, weak-minded man, incapable of even a daring thought, and who, as we have seen above, after a momentary impulse of patriotic enthusiasm, became heartily reconciled with the conquerors. He had since rendered them important services; he had made pastoral visitations and proclaimed the amnisties of the king in the provinces still in commotion; he had marched in person against Roger de Hereford, on the banks of the Severn: but he was of English race: his day came, as that of others had come.

In the year 1076, Wulfstan was cited before a council of Norman bishops and lords, assembled in the church of Westminster, and presided over by king William and archbishop Lanfranc. The assembly unanimously declared that the Saxon prelate was incapable of exercising the episcopal functions in England, by reason of his not being able to speak French.2 In virtue of this singular judgment, the king and archbishop ordered the condemned prelate to resign the staff and ring,3 the ensigns of his dignity. Astonishment and indignation at being so ill rewarded inspired Wulfstan with an energy entirely new to him; he rose, and holding his pastoral staff in his hand, walked straight to the tomb of king Edward, who was buried in this church; there, stopping and addressing the dead man, in the English tongue, he said: “Thou, Edward, gavest me this staff; to thee I return it and confide it.”4 Then turning towards the Normans: “I received this from a better man than any of you; I return it to him, take it from him if you can.”5 As he pronounced these last words, the Saxon energetically struck the tombstone with the end of the pastoral staff. His air and this unexpected action produced on the assembly an impression of utter astonishment, mingled with superstitious fear: the king and the primate did not repeat Edition: current; Page: [288] their demand, and permitted the last English bishop to retain his staff and his office.1

The popular imagination converted this affair into a prodigy, and the report spread that the pastoral staff of Wulfstan, when he struck the stone with it, had penetrated deep into it, as into soft earth, and that no one had been able to withdraw it but the Saxon himself, when the foreigners had revoked their sentence.2 After the death of Wulfstan, who was succeeded in his see by a canon of Bayeux, named Samson, the English honoured him, as they had done Waltheof and Eghelwin, with the title of saint.3 It was so with almost all those who, eminent for dignity and character, suffered death or persecution for the cause of Anglo-Saxon nationality.

All this seems somewhat strange to us of the present day; for oppressed nations have lost the custom of making saints of their defenders and friends; they have strength of mind enough to preserve the remembrance of those whom they have loved, without surrounding their names with a superstitious glory. But whatever the difference between our patriotic manners and those of the men who have preceded us on the earth, let this difference inspire us neither with anger nor with contempt towards them. The grand thought of human independence was revealed to them as to us; they environed it with their favourite symbols; they assembled around it all that they deemed noblest, and made it religious as we make it poetical. It is the same conviction and the same enthusiasm expressed in a different manner; the same inclination to immortalize those who have devoted their life to the good of their fellow-creatures.

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Discords among the victors—Quarrel between William and his son Robert—Robert demands Normandy—He joins his father’s enemies—William curses his son—Conspiracy against and murder of Vaulcher—Devastation of Northumberland—Miserable condition of the northern provinces—Anglo-Saxon outlaws—Popular poems in their honour—Ambition of Eudes—His arrest—Results of the Norman conquest—Toustain, abbot of Glastonbury—Saxon monks killed or wounded by his order—Death of Matilda—Severance of interests between the king and the Normans—Domesday book—Levies upon the Normans and English—Equalization of property in the hands of the Normans—Laws of William against hunting—Political reasons for the severity of these laws—Expropriation of the English subsequent to the conquest—Emigration of Normans to Scotland—Descent of the Danes—Preparations for defence—Singular order issued to the English—Motives for the armament of king Knut—Termination of alliance between the English and the Danes—General assembly and review of the Normans—Ordinances of king William—State of the Anglo-Saxon population—Anxiety and mental torments of king William—Establishment of episcopal jurisdiction—Separation of the civil and ecclesiastical tribunals—Conduct of William with reference to the pope—Aspect of the conquered country.

One of the necessary phases of all conquests, great or small, is, that the conquerors quarrel among themselves for the possession and partition of the property of the conquered. The Normans did not escape this necessity. When there were no more rebels to subdue, England became a cause of intestine war to her masters; and it was in the bosom of her new royal family, between the father and his eldest son, that discord first broke out. His son Robert, whom the Normans surnamed in their language, Gamberon or Courte-Heuse, on account of the shortness of his legs,1 had, before the battle of Hastings, been named by duke William heir to his lands and title. This Edition: current; Page: [290] nomination had taken place, according to custom, with the formal consent of the barons of Normandy, who had all taken the oath to young Robert, as to their future lord. When William had become king, the young man, whose ambition was aroused by his father’s successes, required him at least to abdicate in his favour the government of Normandy; but the king refused, willing to keep both his old duchy and his new kingdom. A violent quarrel ensued, in which the two younger brothers, William Rufus and Henry, took part against Robert, under colour of filial affection, but in reality to supplant him, if they could, in the succession which their father had assigned to him.1

One day that the king was at Laigle with his sons, William and Henry came to Robert’s apartments, in the house of one Roger Chaussiègue, and ascending to the upper rooms began to play at dice, after the manner of the soldiers of that time; then they made a great noise, and threw water upon Robert and his friends, who were in the court-yard below. Irritated by this insult, Robert hastened, sword in hand, to chastise his brothers: there was a great tumult, which the king had some difficulty in appeasing. On the following night, the young man, followed by all his companions, left the town, and proceeded to Rouen, where he attempted to surprise the citadel, but failed in his object. Many of his friends were arrested; he himself escaped, with some others, and, passing the frontier of Normandy, took refuge in La Perche, where Hugh, nephew of Aubert-le-Ribaud, received him in his castles of Sorel and Reymalard.2

A reconciliation afterwards took place between the father and son, but it did not last long; for the young men who surrounded the latter began again to stimulate his ambition by every device. “Noble son of a king,” said they, “thy father’s people must take good care of his treasure, since thou hast not a penny to bestow on thy followers. Why endurest thou to remain so poor, when thy father is so rich? Ask him for a portion of his England, or at least for the duchy of Normandy, which he promised thee before all his barons.” Robert, excited by this and similar suggestions, renewed his former request, but the king again refused, and Edition: current; Page: [291] exhorted him. in a paternal tone, to return to his duty, and especially to make choice of better counsellors, wise and grave persons, of mature age, such as archbishop Lanfranc. “Sir king,” sharply replied Robert, “I came here to claim my right, and not to listen to sermons; I heard enough of them, and wearisome enough they were, when I was at my grammar. Answer me therefore distinctly, so that I may know what I have to do; for I am firmly resolved not to live on the bread of others, and not to receive the wages of any man.”

The king answered angrily, that he would not divest himself of Normandy, where he was born, or share England, which he had acquired by so much labour. “Well,” said Robert, “I will go—I will go and serve strangers, and perhaps obtain from them what is refused me in my own country.” He departed, and went through Flanders, Lorraine, Germany, then to France and Aquitaine, visiting, says an old historian, dukes, counts, and rich lords of castles, telling them his grievances and demanding their aid; but all he received for the support of his cause he spent upon mountebanks, parasites, debauched women, and soon found himself compelled to beg afresh, or to borrow at enormous usury. Matilda, his mother, sometimes sent him money unknown to the king. William heard of this, and forbad her to send any more; she disobeyed, and the irritated king reproached her, in bitter terms, “with supporting his enemies by the treasure he had placed in her keeping;” he ordered Matilda’s messenger, who conveyed the money, to be arrested and to have his eyes put out; but the latter, a Breton, named Samson, escaped, and turned monk, to save at once, says an old chronicle, his soul and his body.1

After much journeying, young Robert repaired, under the auspices of Philip, king of France, to the castle of Gerberoy, in Beauvoisis, on the confines of Normandy. He was well received here by Elie, viscount of the castle, and by his colleague; for, says the old narrator, it was the custom at Gerberoy to have two seigneurs equal in power, and to receive fugitives from all countries.2 There the son of the Conqueror assembled a body of mercenaries; some came to him from France and Normandy; even men-at-arms of king William, Edition: current; Page: [292] and several of those who had been flattering him daily, and living at his table, quitted their posts, and repaired to Gerberoy;1 and at length he himself, crossing the sea, came in person to besiege the castle where his son had shut himself up.

In a sally made by Robert, he engaged, hand to hand, a knight enveloped in armour, wounded him in the arm, and threw him from his horse; the voice of the wounded man told him that it was his father he had overthrown; he instantly dismounted, aided him to rise and to regain his saddle, and left him free to depart.2 The Norman chiefs and bishops endeavoured once more to reconcile father and son; but William at first resisted their intreaties. “Why,” said he, “do you solicit me in favour of a traitor who has seduced from me my soldiers, those whom I have fed with my bread, and whom I have supplied with the arms they bear?” He, however, ultimately gave in; but the good understanding between father and son was not of long duration; for the third time, Robert withdrew, went into a foreign country, and returned no more during his father’s life.3 The king cursed him on his departure, and the historians of the age attribute to this malediction the misfortunes which filled the life of the eldest son of William the Bastard—misfortunes of which, as we have seen, the conquest of England was the first cause.4

From these dissensions, which troubled the repose of the chief of the conquerors, the conquered derived no advantage; and if, in the absence of William, the royal hand itself weighed not upon that people, other hands, those of earls, viscounts, judges, prelates, and abbots, all of foreign race, made it feel their heaviness. Among the most pitiless of these ministers of the conquest, figured the Lorrainese, Vaulcher, bishop of Durham, who, since the execution of Waltheof, had added to his ecclesiastical office the government of the whole country between the Tweed and the Tyne.5 The friends of the earlbishop loudly vaunted his administration, and praised him for equal skill in repressing the rebellions of the English by the edge of the sword, and in reforming their morals by the Edition: current; Page: [293] power of his discourses.1 The simple fact was, that Vaulcher harassed his province by insupportable exactions, that he allowed his officers, after him, to levy tributes on their own account, and that he permitted his soldiers also to rob and murder with impunity.2 Among those whom he put to death without trial was one Liulf, a man beloved by the whole country, who had retired to Durham after having been despoiled by the Normans3 of all the property he possessed in the south of England. This murder, executed with most atrocious circumstances, put the crowning point to the hatred of the people to the Lorrainese bishop and his agents. The old spirit of Northumberland was aroused, and the inhabitants of that district, so fatal to foreigners, assembled as in the time of Robert Comine.4

They held nocturnal conferences, and unanimously agreed to proceed with concealed weapons to the assembly of justice, held from time to time by the bishop, at the county court.5 This court was held on the banks of the Tyne, near the New Castle, built by the conquerors on the high road to Scotland, at a place called in Saxon Gotes-Heaved, or Goats-Head.6 The Northumbrians repaired hither in great numbers, as if to address humble and pacific solicitations to their lord. They demanded reparation for the wrongs that had been done them. “I will not redress any of these,” said the bishop, “unless you first give me four hundred pounds, good money.” The Saxon who, knowing French, spoke in the name of the rest, asked permission to confer with them, and all went apart for a moment, as if to consult together about paying the sum demanded; but suddenly the speaker, who was the chief also of the plot, cried out in the English tongue, “Short reed, good reed, slay ye the bishop!”7 At this signal, they drew their weapons, threw themselves upon the Lorrainese, killed him, and with him an hundred men of Norman or Flemish race.8 Two servants only, Englishmen by birth, were spared by the Edition: current; Page: [294] conspirators.1 The popular rising extended to Durham; the fortress built there by the Normans was attacked; but the garrison, numerous and well provided, resisted the Northumbrians, who, after a siege of four days, became discouraged, and dispersed.2

At this new indication of life given by the population of the north, Eudes, bishop of Bayeux, the king’s brother, and one of his lieutenants in his absence, promptly marched to Durham, with a numerous army. Without taking the time or the trouble to investigate the circumstances of the insurrection, he promiscuously seized the natives, who, confiding in their innocence, remained in their homes, and beheaded or mutilated them.3 Others only purchased their life by surrendering all they possessed. Bishop Eudes pillaged the church of Durham, and carried away all that remained of the sacred ornaments that Eghelwin had saved by removing them to Lindisfarn.4 He renewed throughout Northumberland the ravages made there by his brother in 1070; and it was this second devastation which, added to the first, impressed upon the northern counties of England that aspect of desolation and gloom which they presented for more than a century afterwards.5 “Thus,” says an historian, who lived seventy years later, “thus were cut the nerves of this county, once so flourishing. Those towns, formerly so renowned, now so abased, those lofty towers, which threatened heaven, now in ruins, those pasture fields, once smiling and watered by sparkling rills, now wholly waste, the stranger who sees them, beholds with a sigh, the old inhabitant no longer recognises.”6

In this county, ruined as it was, the population, half Saxon, half Danish, long preserved its ancient spirit of independence, and of somewhat savage pride. The Norman successors of the Bastard dwelt in full safety in the southern provinces; but it was scarcely without apprehension that they journeyed beyond the Humber; and an historian of the twelfth century tells us that they never visited that part of their kingdom Edition: current; Page: [295] without the escort of an army of veteran soldiers.1 It was in the north that the tendency to rebel against the social order established by the conquest longest endured; it was the north which, for more than two centuries, furnished those bands of outlaws who were the political successors of the refugees of the camp of Ely, and of the companions of Hereward. History has not understood them; it has passed them over in silence, or else, adopting the legal acts of the time, it has branded them with names which divest them of all interest, with the names of rebels, robbers, and bandits. But let us not be misled by these apparently odious titles; in all countries subjugated by foreigners, they have been given by the victors to the brave men who in small numbers took refuge in the mountains or in the forests, abandoning the towns and cities to those who chose to support slavery.2 If the Anglo-Saxon nation had not the courage to follow their example, it at least loved those who gave it, and accompanied them with its blessing. While ordinances, drawn up in the French language, required all the inhabitants of the cities and boroughs of England to hunt the outlaw, the man of the forest, as a wolf,3 to pursue him from hundred to hundred, with hue and cry, the English sang ballads in honour of this enemy to foreign rule, who, as they expressed it, had the earl’s purse for his treasure, and the king’s deer for his herd. The popular poets celebrated his victories, his combats, his stratagems against the agents of authority. They sang how he had outstripped the men and horses of the viscount, how he had taken the bishop, had put him to a thousand marks ransom, and made him dance a measure in his pontifical robes.4

The Norman bishop, Eudes de Bayeux, after his expedition into Northumberland, became famous among his people, as one of the greatest quellers of the English;5 he was chief Edition: current; Page: [296] of the judges, or grand justiciary of all England, earl of Kent and of Hereford, since the imprisonment of Roger Fitz-Osbern. The reputation he enjoyed inflated him with pride, and the power he exercised in England and in Normandy excited in him the ambition of the greatest power then extant, the papal power. Some Italian soothsayers had predicted that a pope named Eudes should succeed Gregory VII. The bishop of Bayeux, relying upon this prediction, commenced intrigues at Rome, bought a palace there, sent rich presents to those whom the people beyond the Alps still called senators, and loaded the pilgrims of Normandy and England with letters and despatches;1 he engaged Norman barons and knights, among others Hugh le Loup, earl of Chester, to follow him into Italy, in order to constitute a brilliant escort for him. King William, while still in Normandy, heard of these preparations, which, for some reason or other, displeased him. Not desiring that his brother should become pope, he sailed, and surprised him at sea, off the Isle of Wight. The king immediately assembled the Norman chiefs in that island, and accused before them the bishop of having abused his power of judge and earl; of having, beyond all measure, illtreated the Saxons, to the great danger of the common cause; of having despoiled the churches; and lastly, of having attempted to seduce and take with him, beyond the Alps, the warriors upon whose fidelity rested the safety of the country.

“Consider these grievances,” said the king to the assembly, “and tell me how I ought to act towards such a brother.” No one dared reply. “Let him then be arrested,” continued the king, “and put into safe custody.” None present dared lay his hand upon the bishop. Hereupon the king advanced and seized him by his robe. “I am a priest,” cried Eudes; “I am the minister of the Lord: the pope alone can judge me.” But William, without quitting his hold, answered: “It is not a priest nor prelate I judge; it is my earl, my vassal and false viceroy whom I arrest.” The brother of the conqueror of England was taken to Normandy and imprisoned in a fortress,2 perhaps in the same where still languished Ulfnoth, the brother of king Harold, whose fate was now like his own, after fifteen years of a fortune so different.

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The reproaches of the king to the bishop as to his conduct in the north of England, if they are not an invention of the old historian, seem to betray some fears of a fresh rising on the part of those who had killed Robert Comine, retaken York, massacred bishop Vaulcher, and who joyfully hastened to embrace every and any enemy of the Normans that landed on their coasts. Such an apprehension was not entirely futile, for more than one revolt broke out in the neighbourhood of Durham, under the administration of William, successor to the Lorrainese.1 In the rest of England the conquered showed less energy, or more resignation to their sufferings. Few positive facts as to the nature of their sufferings have come down to us, and those few relate, for the most part, to the miseries of the clergy, the only class of the oppressed men of old England that has found historians. However, what was done to this privileged class may enable us to conjecture to what the other classes, whom religious scruples did not protect, would be subjected; and an incident in the internal rule of an English monastery, under a Norman abbot, in the sixteenth year of the conquest, will aid us in forming an idea of the rule of the conquerors in the cities and provinces under the authority of the earls, viscounts and bailiffs of the foreign king.2

The convent of Glastonbury, Somersetshire, after the deposition of Eghelnoth, its Saxon abbot, had been given to Toustain, a monk of Caen. Toustain, according to the custom of other Normans, who had become abbots in England, had begun with lessening the rations given to his monks, in order to render them more manageable; but hunger only irritated them against the power of him whom they loudly termed intruder.3 The abbot, from national predilections, or out of pure despotism, ordered his Saxon monks to learn to chant the service after the method of a famous musician Edition: current; Page: [298] of Fécamp, and the Saxons, as much through hatred of the Norman music, as from habit, adhered to the Gregorian chant.1 They received repeated injunctions to renounce it, as well as many other ancient usages; but they resisted, and at length declared, in full chapter, their firm resolution not to change it. The Norman arose in a fury, went out, and immediately returned at the head of a body of soldiers, fully armed.

At this sight the monks fled towards the church, and took refuge in the choir, the door of which they had time to shut.2 The soldiers attempted to force it, and meanwhile some of them climbed the pillars, and, placing themselves on the rafters at the top of the choir, assailed the monks below with discharges of arrows. The latter, retreating to the high altar, glided behind the shrines or reliquaries, which, serving them as ramparts, received the arrows discharged against them. The great crucifix of the altar soon bristled with these missiles.3 By and bye the door of the choir yielded to the efforts of the soldiers, and the Saxons, forced in their retreat, were attacked with swords and lances; they defended themselves as best they could with the wooden benches and the metal candlesticks; they even wounded some of the soldiers,4 but the arms were too unequal; eighteen monks were killed or mortally wounded, and their blood, says the contemporary chronicle, poured down the steps of the altar.5 Another historian says, that he could recite many facts similar to this, but that he prefers to pass them over in silence, as equally painful to write and to read.6

In the year 1083 died Matilda, wife of king William. An old narrative says that the counsels of this lady more than once softened the soul of the conqueror; that she often disposed him to clemency towards the English, but that after her death. William abandoned himself without reserve to his Edition: current; Page: [299] tyrannical humour.1 Facts are wanting to substantiate this aggravation of oppression and misery for the conquered people, and the imagination can scarcely supply the deficiency, for it is difficult to add a single shade to the dark picture of the unhappiness of the preceding years. The only difference observable between the epoch of the conquest which followed the death of Matilda, and those which have been already narrated is, that William, having nothing further to gain in power over the natives, began to create for himself a personal domination over his companions in victory.

Necessity had probably as large a share in this enterprise as ambition; nothing remaining to take from the English, the king found himself obliged to levy contributions on the Normans themselves for the maintenance of the common property. In the year 1083 he exacted sixpence in silver for every hide of land throughout the kingdom, without distinction of possessor.2 The Norman warrior, worn out by twenty years of combats, found himself obliged to pay, out of the revenues of the domain he had conquered in the days of his youth and strength, the hire of a new army.

From this epoch dates a spirit of mutual distrust and secret hostility between the king and his old friends; they accused each other of avarice and selfishness. William reproached the Norman chiefs with caring more for their private interest than for the common safety; with thinking more of building farms, raising flocks, or forming studs, than of holding themselves in readiness against the native or foreign enemy.3 In their turn, the chiefs reproached the king with being beyond all measure greedy of gain, and with desiring to appropriate to himself, under false pretexts of general utility, the wealth acquired by the labour of all. In order to rest his demand of contributions, or money services, on a fixed basis, William ordered a general territorial inquest to be made, and a register prepared of all the mutations of property brought about in England by the conquest; he desired to know into what hands throughout the country the Saxon domains Edition: current; Page: [300] had passed, and how many of these still retained their possessions in virtue of special agreements with himself or his barons,1 how many acres of land there were in each domain, how many were sufficient for the maintenance of a man-at-arms, and how many men-at-arms there were in each province or county of England; what was the gross amount derived in various ways from the cities, towns, boroughs and hamlets, what was the exact property of each earl, baron, knight, or sergeant-at-arms; what land, how many men holding fiefs on that land, how many Saxons, how much cattle, and how many ploughs each possessed.2

This undertaking, in which modern historians have thought they discerned the stamp of administrative genius, was simply the result of the peculiar position of the Norman king, as chief of a conquering army, and of the necesity of establishing some kind of order in the chaos of the conquest. This is so entirely the case, that in other conquests, the details of which have been transmitted to us, for example, in that of Greece by the Latin crusaders in the thirteenth century, we find the same kind of inquest instituted by the chiefs of the invasion, on a wholly similar plan.3

In virtue of the orders of king William, Henry de Ferrieres, Walter Giffard, Adam, brother of Eudes the seneschal, and Remi, bishop of Lincoln, with other personages selected from among the officers of justice and of the Exchequer, made a progress through the counties of England, establishing a court of inquiry in each place of any importance.4 They summoned before them the Norman viscount of each province, or of each Saxon shire, a personage whom the Saxons, in their language, still called by the ancient title of shire-reve or sheriff. They then summoned, or caused the viscount to summon, all the Norman barons of the neighbourhood, and called upon them to state the precise limits of their possessions and of their territorial jurisdictions; then some of the inspectors, or commissioners delegated by them, Edition: current; Page: [301] proceeded to each large domain and to each district, or hundred, as the Saxons called it. There they made the French men-at-arms of each seigneur, and every English inhabitant of the hundred, declare upon oath how many free-holders or lease-holders there were on the domain,1 what portion each occupied in full and modified property, the names of the actual holders, the names of those who had possessed them before the conquest, and the various mutations of property that had taken place since. So that they required, say the narratives of the time, three declarations concerning each estate; what it had been in the time of king Edward; what it was when William gave it, and what it was at the time being.2 Under each particular return was inscribed this form: “This is what has been sworn by all the Frenchmen and all the Englishmen of the hundred.”3

In each town they inquired what taxes the inhabitants had paid to the ancient kings, and what the town produced to the officers of the Conqueror; how many houses the war of the conquest or the construction of fortresses had done away with; how many houses the conquerors had taken; how many Saxon families, reduced to utter poverty, were not in a condition to pay anything.4 In cities, they took the oath from the high Norman authorities, who convoked the Saxon citizens in their old Guildhall, now become the property of the king or of some foreign baron; lastly, in places of less importance, they took the oath of the royal provost, of the priest, and of six Saxons or villeins, as the Normans called them, of each town.5 This survey occupied six years, during which the commissioners of king William went over all England, with the exception of the mountainous districts, north and west of Yorkshire, that is to say, the five modern counties of Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire.6 Perhaps the lands in this district, cruelly devastated on two separate occasions, were not deemed valuable enough or fixedly appropriated enough to make their survey Edition: current; Page: [302] useful or even practicable; perhaps, too, the Norman commissioners feared, lest, if they extended their inquiries into the towns of Northumbria, the Saxon words which had been the signal for the massacre of bishop Vaulcher and his hundred men, might sound in their ears also.

However this may be, the register, or, to use the old term, the terrier of the Norman conquest, makes no mention of the domains conquered beyond the province of York. The compilation of this roll for each county mentioned in it, was formed on an uniform plan. The king’s name was placed at the head, with the list of his lands and revenues in the county; then followed the names of the chiefs and lesser proprietors, in the order of their military rank and territorial wealth.1 The Saxons who had been spared by special grace in the great spoliation, figured only in the last ranks; for the few men of that race who remained free proprietors, or tenants, en chef du roi, as the conquerors expressed it, possessed only very small estates. They were inserted at the end of each chapter under the name of thanes of the king,2 or with various qualifications derived from offices in the royal household.3 The other names of Anglo-Saxon aspect which occur here and there in the roll, belonged to men who farmed portions, of greater or less extent, of the domains of the Norman earls, barons, knights, sergeants-at-arms or cross-bow-men.4

Such is the form of the authentic and still existing book, whence have been derived most of the facts as to expropriations given in the present work. This precious volume, in which the conquest was registered in its entirety, so that its memory might never be effaced, was called by the Normans, le grand rôle, le rôle royale, or le rôle de Winchester, because it was preserved in the treasury of the cathedral of that city.5 The Saxons called it by a more solemn name, Dom-boc, or Doomsday Book, because it contained their sentence Edition: current; Page: [303] of irrevocable expropriation.1 But if this book was a sentence of dispossession for the English nation, it was so equally for some of the foreign usurpers. Their chief skilfully availed himself of it to effect numerous changes of property in his own favour, and to legitimate his personal pretensions to many lands usurped and occupied by others. He asserted himself proprietor, by inheritance, of all that Edward, the last king but one of the Anglo-Saxons, Harold, the last king, and the whole family of Harold had possessed; by the same title, he claimed all public property and the lordship of all cities, except where he had expressly divested himself of it, either wholly or in part, by a formal deed, par lettre et saisine, as the old jurisconsults call it.2

In the moment of victory, no one had thought of the formalities of lettre or saisine, and each of those to whom William, before the battle of Hastings, said: “What I take, you shall take,” had carved out his own portion: but after the conquest, the soldiers felt transferred to their own shoulders some of the weight of that power which they had brought upon the shoulders of the English. It was thus that the right of William de Warenne to the estates of two free Englishmen in Norfolk was contested, because these lands had once formed part of one of Edward’s royal manors.3 It was the same with the domain of one Eustache, in Huntingdonshire, and with fifteen acres of land held by one Miles, in Berkshire.4 An estate that Engelry occupied in Essex was, in the language of the great roll, seized into the hands of the king, because Engelry sent no one to justify his titles.5 The king, in like Edition: current; Page: [304] manner, seized all estates over which he had any pretension, and of which the occupier, although a Norman, could not or would not render an account.1

Another claim on his part was, that every domain which had paid any rent or service to king Edward, should pay the same rent or service to him, although held by a Norman. This claim, founded on a regular succession to the rights of the English king, which could not be admitted by those who had forcibly dispossessed the English race, was at first ill received by the conquerors. Exemption from taxes or any money service beyond a voluntary contribution now and then, appeared to them the inviolable prerogative of their victory, and they regarded the condition of customary tax-payers as peculiar to the subjugated nation.2 Many resisted the demands of the king, scorning to have personal servitude imposed upon them for the land which they had conquered. But others submitted; and their compliance, whether voluntary or purchased by William, weakened the opposition of the rest. Raoul de Courbespine long refused to pay any rent for the houses he had taken in the city of Canterbury; and Hugh de Montfort for the lands he occupied in Essex.3 These two chiefs might act thus cavalierly with impunity; but the haughtiness of less powerful and less considerable men was sometimes severely punished. One Osbern le Pecheur (Fisher), having refused to pay the dues which his land formerly paid to king Edward, as depending on his domain, was appropriated by the royal agents, and his land offered to any one who would pay the dues demanded. Raoul Taille-Bois paid, says the great roll, and took possession of the domain forfeited by Osbern le Pecheur.4

The king thus endeavoured to levy from his own countrymen, in the cities and lands of his demesne, the tax established by the Saxon law. As to the English in these cities and demesne lands, besides the tax rigorously exacted, as being the custom of the place, and which was often doubled or tripled, they were further subject to a casual, arbitrary, variable impost, capriciously and harshly levied, which the Edition: current; Page: [305] Normans called taille or taillage (tallagium). The great roll enumerates the tallagable burgesses of the king, in cities, towns, and hamlets. “The following are the burgesses of the king at Colchester:1 Keolman, who holds a house and five acres of land; Leofwin, who holds two houses and twentyfive acres; Ulfrik, Edwin, Wulfstan, Manwn, &c.” The Norman soldiers and chiefs also levied tallage on the Saxons who had fallen to their lot in town or country.2 This is what, in the language of the conquerors, was called having a free burgess or Saxon; and in this way the free men were reckoned by the head, were sold, given, exchanged, lent, or even divided among the Normans.3 The great roll mentions that a certain viscount had in the town of Ipswich two Saxon burghers, the one on loan, the other in pledge;4 and that king William, by authentic deed, had lent the Saxon Edwig to Raoul Taille-Bois, to keep him so long as he should live.5

Many intestine disputes among the conquerors for the spoil of the conquered, many invasions of Normans upon Normans, as the roll expresses it, were also recorded in every part of England;6 for example, William de Warenne, in Bedfordshire, had disseised Walter Espec of a half-hide or half-acre of land, and had taken from him two horses.7 Elsewhere, Hugh de Corbon had usurped from Roger Bigot the half of a free Englishman—that is to say, five acres of land. In Hampshire, William de la Chesnaye claimed from Picot a certain portion of land, under pretext that it belonged to the Saxon whose property he had taken.8 The last fact, and many others of the same kind, prove that the Normans regarded as their legitimate property all that the ancient proprietor could Edition: current; Page: [306] have legally claimed, and that the foreign invader, considering himself a natural successor, made the same claims, prosecuted the same civil suits, that the natural heir of the Saxon would have done.1 He summoned the English inhabitants of the district as witnesses to establish the extent of the rights which his substitution in place of the man he had killed or expelled had communicated to him.2 Frequently, the memory of the inhabitants, disturbed by the suffering and confusion of the conquest, was not equal to these appeals; frequently, also, the Norman who sought to dispute the right of his countrymen, refused to abide by the deposition of the vile populace of the conquered.3 In this case, the only means of terminating the dispute was by judicial combat between the parties, or a trial in the king’s court.4

The Norman terrier speaks in many places of unjust invasions, disseizins, and wrongful pretensions.5 It seems curious to find the word justice in the register of the expropriation of an entire people; a book which cannot be properly understood, unless we bear in mind throughout every page that the word inheritance means the spoliation of an Englishman; that every Englishman despoiled by a Norman takes thenceforth the name of predecessor of the Norman; that the being just, with a Norman, meant the abstaining from invasion of lands or houses of an Englishman killed or expelled by another Norman, and that the contrary is called injustice, as is proved by the following passage: “In the county of Bedford, Raoul Taille-Bois has unjustly disseized Nigel of five hides of land, notoriously forming part of the inheritance of his predecessor, and part of which is still occupied by the concubine of the said Nigel.”

6Some of the dispossessed Saxons ventured to present themselves before the commissioners of inquiry to set forth their Edition: current; Page: [307] claims; many of these are registered, couched in terms of humble supplication that no Norman employed. These men declared themselves poor and miserable; they appealed to the clemency and compassion of the king.1 Those who, by the most abject servility, succeeded in preserving some slight portion of their paternal inheritance, were obliged to pay for this favour with degrading or fantastic services, or received it under the no less humiliating title of alms. Sons are inscribed in the roll as holding the property of their fathers by alms.2 Free women retain their field as alms.3 One woman preserves her husband’s land on condition of feeding the king’s dogs.4 A mother and her son receive their own property in gift, on condition of each day saying prayers for the soul of Richard, the king’s son.5

This Richard, son of William the Conqueror, died in 1081, crushed by his horse against a tree in the New Forest.6 This was a space of thirty miles, newly planted with trees, between Salisbury and the sea. This district, before being converted into wood land, contained more than sixty parishes, which the conqueror broke up, and whose inhabitants he expelled.7 It is not known whether the reason for this singular proceeding was purely politic, and whether William’s special object was to provide a secure place of debarkation for his succours from Normandy, a place where they would encounter no Saxon enemy; or whether, as most of the ancient historians say, he merely designed to satisfy his passion and that of his sons for the chase. It is to this inordinate passion that are also attributed the strange and cruel regulations he made respecting the carrying arms in the forests of England; but there is reason to suppose that these regulations had a graver motive, and that they were directed against the English, who, under the pretext of hunting, might meet in arms for political purposes. “He ordered,” says a contemporary chronicle, “that whoever should kill a stag or Edition: current; Page: [308] a hind should have his eyes picked out; the protection given to stags extended also to wild boars; and he even made statutes to secure hares from all danger. This king loved wild beasts as though he had been their father.”1 These laws, rigorously enforced against the Saxons, greatly increased their misery; for many of them had no means of subsistence but the chase. “The poor murmured,” adds the chronicle just cited, “but he made no account of their ill will, and they were fain to obey under pain of death.”2

William comprised within his royal demesne all the great forests of England, formidable places to the conquerors, the asylum of their last adversaries. These laws, which the Saxon historians ridicule as laws to protect the life of hares,3 were a powerful protection to the life of the Normans; and, in order that their execution might be the better assured, hunting in the royal forests became a privilege, the concession of which appertained to the king alone, who could at will grant and interdict it. Many high personages of Norman race, more alive to their own convenience than to the interests of the conquest, were indignant at this exclusive law.4 But so long as the spirit of nationality remained among the conquered, this objection of the Normans did not prevail against the will of their kings. Sustained by the instinct of political necessity, the sons of William preserved, as exclusively as he had done, the privilege of the chase; and it was only when this privilege ceased to be necessary, that their successors found themselves constrained, however unwillingly, to surrender it.5

Then, that is to say, in the thirteenth century, the parks of the Norman proprietors were no longer included within the royal forests, and the lord of each domain obtained the free enjoyment of his woods; his dogs were no longer subjected to mutilation of limbs,6 and the royal foresters, verderers, or viewers, no longer prowled incessantly round his house to surprise him in some offence against the forest laws, and to Edition: current; Page: [309] make him pay a heavy fine. On the contrary, the royal law for the preservation of game, great and small, was extended in favour of the descendants of the rich Normans, enabling them to have game-keepers of their own to kill with impunity the poor Englishman who might be detected laying wait for deer or hares.1 At a later period, the poor man himself, the descendant of the Saxons, having ceased to be formidable to the rich heirs of the other race, was only punished, when he dared to hunt, with a year’s imprisonment, and the providing responsible bail to answer for his not committing any such crime for the future, “in parks, or forests, or warrens, or fish-ponds, or anywhere, against the peace of our lord the king.”2

The last peculiarity that we shall cite, as exhibited by the great register of the Norman conquest, is that we find there the proof that king William established as a general law, that every title to property anterior to his invasion, and every act of transfer or transmission of property made by a man of English race posterior to the invasion, was null and void, unless he himself had formally ratified it. In the first terror caused by the conquest, some Englishmen had made over part of their lands to churches, either in actual gift, for the good of their souls and bodies, or in feigned gift, to secure that portion to their sons, should the domains of the saints of England be respected by the Normans. This precaution was futile, and when the churches could not produce written proof that the king had confirmed the gift, or, in other words, that he himself had made it, the land was seized to his account.3 Such was the case with the domain of Ailrik, who, before departing for the war against the Saxons, had assigned his manor to the convent of St. Peter, in Essex; and it was so with the estate of one Edrik, made over before the conquest to the monastery of Abingdon.4

This law was more than once put in force, and all title to Edition: current; Page: [310] property whatsoever utterly effaced and annihilated for the sons of the Anglo-Saxons. This fact is attested by the Norman Richard Lenoir, bishop of Ely about the middle of the twelfth century. He relates that the English, daily dispossessed by their lords, addressed great complaints to the king, saying that the ill treatment they had to undergo from the other race, and the hatred exhibited towards them by it, left them no resource but to abandon the country.1 After long deliberation, the kings and their council decided that in future all that a man of English race obtained from the lords, as payment for personal services, or as the result of a legal agreement, should be irrevocably secured to him, but on condition that he should renounce all right founded upon anterior possession.2 “This decision,” adds the bishop of Ely, “was sage and beneficial; and it obliged the sons of the conquered to seek the good graces of their lords by submission, obedience, and devotion. So that now no Englishman possessing lands or houses or other property, is proprietor thereof by title of inheritance or paternal succession, but only in virtue of a donation made to him in recompence for his loyal services.”3

It was in the year 1086 that the compilation of the Great Roll of the Normans—the Book of Judgment of the Saxons—was finished; and in the same year there was a great convocation of all the conquering chiefs, laymen and priests. In this council were discussed the various claims registered in the roll of inquest, and the discussion did not terminate without quarrels between the king and his barons; there were grave conferences between them, says a contemporary chronicle, upon the important distinction as to what ought to be definitively regarded as legitimate in the occupations under the conquest.4 Most of the individual invasions were ratified; but as some exceptions were made, there was a discontented minority among the conquerors. Several barons and knights renounced their homage, quitted William and England, and, Edition: current; Page: [311] crossing the Tweed, went to offer to Malcolm, king of Scotland, the service of their horses and their arms.1 Malcolm received them favourably, as, before them, he had received the emigrant Saxons; and distributed among them portions of land, for which they became his liege-men, his soldiers towards and against all. Thus Scotland received an accession of population entirely different from those which had hitherto mingled together there. The Normans, united by a common exile and a common hospitality with the English who had but lately fled before them, became, under a new banner, their companions and brothers-in-arms. Equality reigned beyond the Tweed between two races of men who, on the other side of the same river, were of so different a condition; a fusion rapidly took place of manners and even of language, and the recollection of diversity of origin did not sever their sons, because there was mingled with it no recollection of foreign insult or oppression.

While the conquerors were thus occupied in regulating their internal affairs, they were suddenly disturbed by an alarm from without. The report spread that a thousand Danish vessels, sixty Norwegian vessels, and an hundred vessels from Flanders, furnished by Robert de Frison, the new duke of that country and an enemy of the Normans, were assembling in the gulf of Lymfiord, for the purpose of making a descent upon England and delivering the Anglo-Saxon people.2 The kings of Denmark, who, for twenty years past, had successively encouraged and betrayed the hopes of this people, could not, it would seem, resolve entirely to abandon them. The insurrection which, in 1080, caused the death of the bishop of Durham, appears to have been encouraged by the expectation of a descent of the northmen; for we find these words in the official despatches addressed, at the time, to that bishop: “The Danes are coming: carefully provide your castles with provisions and arms.”3 The Edition: current; Page: [312] Danes did not come, and perhaps the extraordinary precautions recommended to bishop Vaulcher on their account occasioned the failure of the outbreak in which he perished.

But this false alarm was nothing compared with that which spread through England in the year 1085. The great body of the Norman forces was at once marched into the eastern provinces; poets were established on the coasts; cruisers put to sea; the recently erected fortresses were surrounded with additional works, and the walls of the old cities, dismantled by the conquerors, were rebuilt.1 King William published through Gaul the ban he had proclaimed twenty years before, when first about to cross the Channel. He promised pay and reward to every horse or foot soldier, who would enrol in his service. An immense number arrived from all parts. Every country that had furnished invaders to effect the conquest, furnished garrisons to defend it.2 Fresh soldiers were quartered in the towns and villages; and the Norman earls, viscounts, bishops, and abbots were ordered to lodge and support them in proportion to the extent of their respective jurisdictions or domains.3 To meet the expense of this great armament, the king revived the old impost called Dane-gheld, which, prior to its being levied by the Scandinavian conquerors, had been raised for the defence of the country against their invasions. It was re-established at the rate of twelve pence in silver for each acre of land. The Normans upon whom this tax immediately fell, reimbursed themselves out of the pockets of their Anglo-Saxon farmers or serfs, who thus paid to repel the Danes coming to their aid, that which their ancestors had paid to repel them as enemies.4

Bodies of troops overran the north-eastern counties of England, in all directions, to devastate them and render them uninhabitable either by the Danes, if they landed, or by the English, whom they suspected of favouring their landing.5 There remained on the sea coast, within reach of the vessels, neither man, nor beast, nor fruit tree. The Saxon population was necessarily driven inland, and, by way of additional Edition: current; Page: [313] precaution against any communication between that population and the Danes, a royal ban, published by sound of trumpet in all places lying near the sea, ordered the English to assume Norman attire, Norman weapons, and to shave their beards in the Norman fashion.1 This singular order was designed to deprive the Danes of the means of distinguishing the friends whom they came to succour, from the enemies whom they came to fight.2

The fear which inspired these precautions was not without foundation; there was really a numerous fleet, destined for England, at anchor on the coast of Denmark.

Olaf Kyr, king of Norway, son and successor of that Harold who, seeking to conquer England, had obtained but seven feet of land there, now came to aid the nation which had vanquished and killed his father, without, perhaps, heeding the change in the destiny of that people, and thinking that he was going to avenge Harold.3 As to the king of Denmark, Knut the son of Swen, promoter of the war and chief commander of the armament, he understood the revolution effected in England by the Norman conquest, and it was with a full knowledge of the subject that he went to succour the conquered against the conquerors. “He had yielded,” say the Danish historians, “to the supplications of the exiled English, to the messages received from England, and to the pity inspired in his bosom by the miseries of a race of men allied to his own, a race whose chiefs, whose rich men, whose notable personages had been killed or banished, and which found itself reduced to servitude under the foreign race of French, who are also called Romans.4

These were, in fact, the only two names by which the Norman nation was known in the north of Europe, since the last remains of the Danish language had perished at Rouen and at Bayeux. Though the seigneurs of Normandy might still readily prove their Scandinavian descent, in forgetting the idiom which was the visible sign of that descent, they Edition: current; Page: [314] had lost their title to the family compact which, despite frequent hostilities, the result of transient passions, united the Teutonic populations one with another. But the Anglo-Saxons were still entitled to the benefit of this fraternity of origin; and this, say the chroniclers of his nation, the king of Denmark acknowledged; so that if his enterprise was not wholly free from infusion of views of personal ambition, it was at least ennobled by the sentiment of a duty of humanity and relationship. His fleet was detained in port longer than he had expected, and, meanwhile, emissaries from the Norman king, able and cunning as their master, corrupted with English gold many of the counsellors and captains of the Danes.1

The delay, at first involuntary, was protracted by these intrigues. The men secretly sold to William, and especially the Danish bishops, most of whom allowed themselves to be gained over, repeatedly succeeded in preventing king Knut from putting to sea, by creating all sorts of embarrassments and obstacles. Meantime, the soldiers, tired of a futile encampment, complained and murmured in their tents.2 They demanded not to be thus mocked, and that they should be either sent upon their expedition, or be allowed to return to their homes, their labours, and their commerce. They held meetings, and signified to the king by deputies their resolution to disband, if the order for departure was not given forthwith.3 King Knut attempted to use rigour in order to re-establish discipline. He imprisoned the leaders of the revolt, and sentenced the whole army to pay a fine of so much each man. The general exasperation far from being calmed by these measures, increased to such a degree, that in July, 1086, there was a general mutiny, in which the king was killed by the soldiers:4 this was the signal for a civil war, which spread over all Denmark; and from that time the Danish people, occupied with its own quarrels, forgot the Anglo-Saxons, their servitude, and their wrongs.

This was the last occasion on which the sympathy of the Northern Teutons was exercised in favour of the Teutonic race which inhabited England. By degrees, the English, Edition: current; Page: [315] despairing of their own cause, ceased to recommend themselves and their cause to the remembrance and support of the northern nations. The exiles of the conquest died in foreign lands, and left there children, who, forgetting the country of their ancestors, knew no other than the land which had given them birth.1 Finally, the Danish ambassadors and travellers who visited England, hearing in the houses of the great and wealthy none but the Romane tongue of Normandy, and paying little heed to the language spoken by the traders in their shops, or the neatherds in their yards, imagined that the whole population of the country was Norman, or that the language had changed since the invasion of the Normans.2 Seeing French trouveres in every castle and city constituting the pastime of the higher classes in England, who, in fact, could have supposed that, sixty years before, the scalds of the north had been held in the same favour there?3 England accordingly, from the twelfth century, was regarded by the Scandinavian nations as a country of an absolutely foreign tongue. This opinion became so decided, that, in the Danish and Norwegian law of escheat, the English were classed in the rank of the least favoured nations. In the code bearing the name of king Magnus, under the article of successions, we find the following words: “If men of English race, or others even still greater strangers to us—If Englishmen or other men speaking an idiom bearing no resemblance to our own. . . .”4 This want of resemblance could not mean mere diversity of dialects; for, even in the present day, the brogue of the northern provinces of England is to a certain extent intelligible to a Dane or Norwegian.5

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About the close of the year 1086, there was a general meeting of all the conquerors and sons of the conquerors, at Salisbury, or, according to some writers, at Winchester. Each person of dignity, layman or priest, came at the head of his men-at-arms and the feudatories of his domains. There were present sixty thousand men, all possessors of at least a portion of land sufficient to maintain a horse, or provide a complete suit of armour.1 They renewed in succession their oath of faith and homage to king William, touching his hands and pronouncing this form: “I become your man from this day forth for life, for limb, and for worldly honour, and unto you shall be true and faithful, and bear you forth for the land that I hold of you, so help me God.”

The armed colony then separated, and it was probably then that the royal herald published, in his name, the following ordinances:2

“We will and order that the earls, barons, knights, sergeants, and all the free men of this kingdom, be and hold themselves fitly provided with horses and arms, that they may be ready at all times to do us the lawful service they owe us for their domains and holdings.3

“We will that all the free men of this kingdom be leagued and united as sworn brothers-in-arms, to defend, maintain, and guard it to the best of their power.

“We will that all the cities, towns, castles, and hundreds of this kingdom be guarded every night, and that the inhabitants in turn keep watch and ward against all enemies and evil doers.

“We will that all the men brought by us from beyond sea, or who have followed us, shall be, throughout the kingdom, under our peace and special protection; that if one of them be killed, his lord, within the space of five days, shall seize the murderer; if he fail in so doing, he shall pay us a fine, conjointly with the English of the hundred in which the murder has been committed.

“We will that the free men of this kingdom hold their lands and possessions well and in peace, free from all unjust exaction and all tallage, so that nothing be taken or demanded Edition: current; Page: [317] from them for the free service they owe us and are bound to do us in all perpetuity.

“We will that all shall observe and maintain the law of king Edward with those which we have established, for the benefit of the English and the common weal of the kingdom.”1

This vain word, the law of king Edward, was all that remained for the future to the Anglo-Saxon nation of its ancient existence; for the condition of each individual had been wholly changed by the conquest. From the greatest to the smallest, each conquered man had been brought lower than his former position: the chief had lost his power, the rich man his wealth, the free man his independence; and he, whom the hard custom of the period had made to be born a slave in the house of another, became the serf of a stranger, no longer enjoying the greater or less consideration which the habit of living together and the community of language had procured for him on the part of his former master.2

The English towns and villages were unceremoniously farmed out by the Norman earls and viscounts, to men who then worked them for their own profit, and as though they were their own property.3 “He let out to the highest bidder,” say the chronicles, “his towns and his manors; if there came a bidder who offered more, he let the farm to him; if a third arrived, who offered a still higher price, it was to the third that he adjudged it.4 He gave it to the highest bidder, quite regardless of the enormous crimes which the farmers committed in levying taxes upon the poor people. He and his barons were avaricious to excess, and capable of doing anything by which they could gain money.”5

William, for his share of the conquest, had nearly fifteen hundred manors: he was king of England, supreme and irremovable chief of the conquerors of the country; and yet he was not happy. In the sumptuous courts he held thrice a Edition: current; Page: [318] year, the crown on his head, at London, Winchester, or Gloucester, when his companions in victory, and the prelates whom he had instituted, were ranged around him, his countenance was sad and stern; he appeared uneasy and full of care, and the possibility of a change of fortune haunted his mind.1 He doubted the fidelity of his Normans, and the submission of the English. He tormented himself as to his future career, and the fate of his children; and consulted, respecting his forebodings, certain men renowned as sages, in this period when divination was a part of wisdom. An Anglo-Norman poet of the twelfth century represents him seated in the midst of his bishops of England and Normandy, and soliciting them, with childish earnestness, to throw some light upon the fate of his posterity.2

After having subjected the variable and turbulent results of the conquest to something like regular if not legitimate order, William quitted England for the third time, and crossed the Channel, loaded, say the old historians, with innumerable maledictions.3 He crossed it, never again to return: for death, as we shall soon see, kept him on the opposite shore. Among the laws and ordinances that he left behind him, two only are worthy of being mentioned as relating specially to the preservation of the rule established by the conquest.4 The first of these two laws, which is merely the accomplishment of a proclamation already cited (if the proclamation itself be not another version of it), had for its object to repress the assassinations committed on the members of the victorious nation; it was couched in these terms: “When a Frenchman is killed, or found dead in any hundred, the men of the hundred shall apprehend the murderer and bring him to justice within eight days; or, in default of this, shall pay a fine of forty-seven silver marks5 as murdrum.”

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An Anglo-Norman writer of the twelfth century explains the grounds of this law in the following terms: “In the first years of the new order of things, those of the English who were allowed to live, spread a thousand snares for the Normans,1 assassinating all those whom they met alone in desert or bye places. To suppress these assassinations, king William and his barons for some years employed punishment and exquisite tortures against the subjected people;2 but these chastisements producing little effect, it was decreed that every district or hundred, as the English call it, in which a Norman should be found dead, without any one there being suspected of the assassination, should nevertheless pay a large sum of money to the royal treasury. The salutary fear of this punishment, inflicted on all the inhabitants in a body, would, it was thought, procure safety for travellers, by inducing the men of each district to denounee and deliver up the culprit, whose single fault would otherwise cause an enormous loss to the whole place.”3

To avoid this loss, the men of an hundred in which a Frenchman—that is to say, a Norman by birth, or an auxiliary of the Norman army—was found dead, hastened carefully to destroy every external indication capable of proving that the body was that of a Frenchman, for then the hundred was not responsible, and the judge did not pursue an inquiry. But these judges soon detected the trick, and frustrated it by a regulation equally singular. Every man found assassinated was deemed a Frenchman unless the hundred could judicially prove that he was a Saxon by birth, which had to be proved before the royal judge by the oaths of two men, near relations of the deceased on the father’s side, and two women on the mother’s.4 Without these four witnesses, the quality of Englishman, Englisherie, as the Normans called it, was not sufficiently proved, and the hundred had to pay the fine.5 Nearly three centuries after the invasion, if we may believe the antiquaries, this inquest was still held in England on the Edition: current; Page: [320] body of every assassinated man; and, in the legal language of the time, it was called presentment of Englisherie.1

The other law of the Conqueror to which we have referred was designed to increase in an exorbitant manner the authority of the bishops of England. These bishops were all Normans: it was deemed just and necessary that their power should be wholly exercised for the advantage of the conquest; and as the warriors who had effected this conquest maintained it with sword and lance, so the churchmen were called upon to maintain it by political address and religious influence. With these motives of public utility was combined another, more personal with regard to king William; it was, that the bishops of England, although installed by the common counsel of all the Norman barons and knights, had been selected from among the chaplains, the creatures, or the intimate friends of the king.2 No intrigue, during the life of William, ever disturbed this arrangement; never did he create a bishop who had any other will than his. The position of things changed, it is true, under the kings his successors; but the Conqueror could not foresee the future, and the experience of his whole reign justified him when he made the following law:—

“William, by the grace of God, king of England, to the earls, viscounts, and all the men of England, French and English, greeting. Know, you and all my other faithful subjects, that by the common counsel of the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and lords of my kingdom, I have thought fit to reform the episcopal laws, which unfitly and contrary to all the canons have been, up to the time of my conquest, in force in this country.3 I order that, for henceforth, no bishop or archdeacon shall attend the courts of justice, to hold pleads of episcopal causes, or shall submit to the judgment of secular men causes which relate to the government of the soul. I will that whosoever is summoned for any cause whatever to appear before the episcopal justice seat, shall go to the house of the bishop, or to some place which the bishop shall himself have chosen and named; let him there plead his cause, and do right before God and the bishop; not according Edition: current; Page: [321] to the law of the country, but according to the canons and episcopal decrees.1 If any one, through excess of pride, refuse to appear before the tribunal of the bishop, he shall be summoned once, twice, thrice; and if, after these three consecutive summonings, he does not appear, he shall be excommunicated, and, if necessary, the power and justice of the king and the viscount shall be employed against him.”2

It was in virtue of this law that was effected in England the separation of the civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, which established for the latter an absolute independence of all political power, an independence which they had never possessed in the time of Anglo-Saxon nationality. At that period, the bishops were obliged to attend the court of justice, which was held twice a year in each province and three times a year in each district; they added their accusations to those of the ordinary magistrates, and judged conjointly with them and the free men of the district the cases in which the custom of the age permitted them to interfere, those of widows, orphans, and churchmen, of divorce and marriage. For these cases, as for all others, there was but one law, one justice, and one tribunal. The only difference was that, when they were tried, the bishop seated himself beside the sheriff and the alderman, or elder of the province; and then, according to usage, sworn witnesses testified as to the facts, and the judges determined the law.3 The change in these national customs dates only from the Norman conquest. It was the Conqueror who, bursting through the ancient rules of civil equality, gave power to the high clergy of England to hold courts in their own palaces, and to employ the public power in enforcing the attendance of the contumacious; he thus subjected the royal power to the obligation of executing the decrees rendered by the ecclesiastical power, in virtue of a legislation which was not that of the country. William imposed this obligation on his successors, knowingly and purposely, from policy and not from devotion or from fear of his Edition: current; Page: [322] bishops, who were all devoted to him.1 Nor had the fear of pope Gregory VII. any influence upon this determination. For, notwithstanding the services which the court of Rome had formerly rendered him, the king was ever prepared with a stern denial when the pontiff’s demands were not agreeable to him. The tone of one of his letters to Gregory shows with what freedom of thought he considered the pontifical pretensions and his own engagements towards the Roman church. The pope had to complain of some delay in the payment of the Peter’s pence stipulated in the treaty of alliance concluded at Rome in the year 1066; he wrote to remind William of this stipulation, and the money was immediately sent. But this was not all; in raising the banner of the holy see against the English, the Conqueror seemed to have acknowledged himself vassal of the church, and Gregory, availing himself of this circumstance, did not hesitate to summon him to do homage for his conquest, and to swear the oath of fealty and vassalage between the hands of a cardinal. William answered in these terms: “Thy legate has required me, on thy part, to send money to the Roman church, and to swear fealty to thee and thy successors; I have admitted the first of these demands; as to the second, I neither have nor will admit it. I will not swear fealty to thee, because I have not promised it, and because none of my predecessors have sworn fealty to thine.”2

In concluding the narrative of the events just related, the chroniclers of English race give way to touching regrets as to the miseries of their nation. “There is no doubt,” exclaim some of them, “that God will no longer permit us to be a nation, or to possess honour and security.”3 Others complain that the name of Englishman has become an opprobrium;4 and it is not only from the pens of contemporaries that such complaints proceed; the remembrance of a great misfortune and of a great national shame is reproduced, century after century, in the writings of the sons of the Saxons, Edition: current; Page: [323] although more faintly as time advances.1 In the fifteenth century, the distinction of ranks in England was still attached to the conquest; and a monastic historian, not to be suspected of revolutionary theories, wrote these remarkable words: “If there be amongst us such a distance between the various conditions, one must not be astonished at it; it is because there is diversity of race; and if there be so little mutual confidence and affection among us, it is because we are not of the same blood.”2 Lastly, an author who lived in the beginning of the seventeenth century, recals the Norman Conquest in these words: the “memorie of sorrowe,” and uses touching expressions in speaking of the families then disinherited, and since fallen into the class of the poor, of labourers and peasants;3 it is the last glance of regret thrown back on the past, upon the event which had brought into England kings, nobles, and chieftains of foreign race.

If, retracing in his own mind the facts he has read, the reader would form to himself a just idea of what was the England conquered by William of Normandy, he must represent to himself, not a mere change of government, nor the triumph of one competitor over another, but the intrusion of a whole people into the bosom of another people, broken up by the former, and the scattered fragments of which were only admitted into the new social order as personal property, as clothing of the earth, to speak the language of the ancient acts.4 We must not place on one side, William, king and despot, and on the other, subjects high or low, rich or poor, all inhabitants of England, and consequently all English; we must imagine two nations, the English by origin and the English by invasion, divided on the surface of the same country; or rather imagine two countries in a far different condition: Edition: current; Page: [324] the land of the Normans, rich and free from taxes, that of the Saxons, poor, dependent, and oppressed with burdens; the first adorned with vast mansions, with walled and embattled castles; the second, sprinkled with thatched cabins or half ruined huts; that peopled with happy, idle people, warriors and courtiers, nobles and knights; this inhabited by men of toil and sorrow, farm labourers and mechanics; on the one side, luxury and insolence; upon the other, misery and envy, not the envy of the poor at sight of the riches of others, but the envy of the despoiled in the presence of their spoilers.

Lastly, to complete the picture, these two countries in a manner are entwined one in the other; they touch each other at every point, and yet they are more distinct than if the sea rolled between them. Each has its separate idiom, an idiom foreign to the other; the French is the language of the court, of the castles, of the rich abbeys, of all the places where power and luxury reign: the ancient language of the land is confined to the hearth of the poor, of the serf. Long, from generation to generation, did these two idioms continue to subsist without mixing with each other, remaining the one the token of nobility, the other the token of base estate. This is expressed with a sort of bitterness, in some verses of an old poet, who complains that England in his time offers the strange spectacle of a country abnegating its own language.

  • Thus come lo! Engelond into Normannes honde.
  • And the Normannes ne couthe speke tho bote her owe speche
  • And speke French as dude atom, and her chyldren dude also teche;
  • So that beymen of this lond that of her blod come
  • Holdeth alle thulke speche that hii of hem nome,
  • Ac lowe men holdeth to englyss and to her kunde speche gut.1
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Quarrel between king William and Philip I., king of France—King William burns the town of Mantes—Last moments of king William—His death—His funeral—Election of William Rufus—The goldsmith Otho. banker of the invasion—Verses in praise of the Conqueror—Civil war among the Normans—Termination of the civil war—Treaty between William Rufus, king of England, and his brother Robert, duke of Normandy—Revolt of the English monks of the convent of St. Augustin—Conspiracy of the monks of this convent against their Norman abbot—Alliance between the monks and the citizens of Canterbury—Tyranny of the Norman bishops and counts—Fresh vexations inflicted upon the monks of Croyland—New quarrels among the Normans—Moderation of Eudes Fitz-Hubert—Heavy burdens imposed upon the English—Terror of the English on the approach of the king—Severity of the forest laws—Last chase of William Rufus—His death—Henry elected king of England—He addresses himself to the English—Utter insincerity of his promises—He wishes to marry an Englishwoman—Opposition of the Norman nobles to the contemplated match—Marriage of the king to Editha, Edgar’s niece—More civil war—Revolt of earl Robert de Belesme—His banishment—State of the English population—Renewed quarrel between the king and his brother Robert—Levy of money in England—Duke Robert becomes his brother’s prisoner—The son of duke Robert takes refuge in France—Foreign abbots installed into English monaster’s—Sufferings and complaints of the English monks—Popular superstitions—Embarkation of the children of king Henry—Their shipwreck—Indifference of the English to the calamity thus endured by the king and the Norman families—Invectives of the English historians on this occasion—Mabile, daughter of Robert Fitz-Aymon—Norman anecdote—English anecdote—Trial and sentence of the Saxon Brihtstan—Anglo-Norman tribunals—Oath taken to Matilda, surnamed the Empress—Marriage of Matilda with the earl of Aujou—Festivities at Rouen on the occasion—Election of Stephen of Blois—His popularity with the Norman barons—His rupture with them—Conspiracy of the English—Flight of the conspirators—Subsequent insurrections—Difficulties experienced by the historian.

During his stay in Normandy, in the first months of the year 1087, king William occupied himself in terminating an old dispute with Philip I., king of France. Favoured by the Edition: current; Page: [326] troubles which followed the death of duke Robert, the county of Vexin, situated between the Epte and the Oise, had been dismembered from Normandy, and re-united to France. William flattered himself that he should be able to recover this portion of his inheritance without a war; and, pending the result of the negotiations, he reposed from his fatigues at Rouen; he even kept his bed, by the advice of his physicians, who were seeking to reduce his excessive corpulence by a rigorous diet. Thinking he had little to fear from a man absorbed in such cares, Philip gave evasive replies to the demands of the Norman; and, on his part, the latter seemed to take the delay patiently.1 But the king of France having one day said jestingly to his friends: “By my faith, the king of England is very long about his lying-in; there will be great rejoicing at his churching,” this sarcasm, reported to William, offended him to such a degree that he forgot everything but vengeance. He swore by his greatest oath, by the splendour and birth of God, that he would be churched at Nôtre Dame-de-Paris, with ten thousand lances for his candles.2

Suddenly resuming his activity, he assembled his troops, and in the month of July entered France through the territory of which he claimed possession. The wheat was still in the fields, and the trees laden with fruit. He ordered everything to be laid waste on his way; the harvests were trodden under foot by the cavalry, the vines torn up, and the fruit trees cut down.3 The first town he came to was Mantes-sur-Seine; it was fired by his order, and he himself, in a sort of destructive phrenzy, rode in the midst of the flames, to enjoy the spectacle and encourage his soldiers.

As he was galloping over the ruins, his horse placed his feet upon some burning embers, started, fell, and wounded his rider in the stomach. The agitation into which he had thrown himself by riding about and shouting, the heat of the fire and of the weather, rendered his wound dangerous;4 he was conveyed very ill to Rouen, and thence, unable to support Edition: current; Page: [327] the noise of the streets, to a monastery outside the city.1 He languished for six weeks, surrounded by physicians and priests, and his illness growing worse and worse, he sent money to Mantes, to rebuild the churches he had burnt; he also sent sums to the convents and poor of England, to obtain, says an old English poet, pardon for the robberies he had committed there.2 He ordered the Saxons and Normans whom he had imprisoned to be set at liberty. Among the former were Morkar, Siward Beorn, and Ulfnoth, brother of king Harold, (one of the two hostages for whose deliverance Harold made his fatal journey.)3 The Normans were Roger, formerly earl of Hereford, and Eudes bishop of Bayeux, William’s half-brother by the mother’s side.

William, surnamed Rufus, and Henry, the king’s two youngest sons, did not quit his bedside, waiting with impatience for him to dictate his last will. Robert, the eldest of the three, had been absent since his last quarrel with his father. It was to him that William, with the consent of the barons of Normandy, had formerly left his title of duke; and, notwithstanding the malediction he had since pronounced upon Robert, he did not seek to divest him of this title, which the wishes of the Normans had destined for him. “As to the kingdom of England,” he said, “I leave it to no one, because I did not inherit it, but acquired it by force, and at the price of blood; I replace it in the hands of God, contenting myself with expressing the wish that my son William, who has ever been submissive to me in all things, may obtain it, if it please God, and prosper in it.” “And what will you give me then, my father?” energetically demanded Henry, the youngest son. “I give thee,” said the king, “five thousand pounds in silver, from my treasury.” “But what can I do with this money, if I have neither land nor house?” “Content ye, my son, and have confidence in God; allow thy elder brothers to precede thee; thy time will come after theirs.” Henry immediately withdrew to receive the five thousand pounds; he had them carefully weighed, and deposited in a coffer, strongly banded with iron and supplied with good locks. Edition: current; Page: [328] William Rufus departed at the same time for England, in order to get crowned.1

On the 10th of September, at sunrise, king William was awakened by the sound of bells, and asked what it meant; he was answered that they were ringing prime at the church of Saint Mary. He raised his hands, saying: “I commend my soul to Mary, the holy mother of God,” and almost immediately expired. His physicians and the other attendants who had passed the night with him, seeing him dead, hastily mounted their horses, and went to look after their property. The servants and vassals of lower rank, after the flight of their superiors, carried off the arms, plate, clothes, linen, and everything portable, and also fled, leaving the body almost naked upon the floor. It remained, thus abandoned, several hours;2 for throughout Rouen the people had become as it were intoxicated, not with grief, but with fear for the future; they were, says an old historian, as much troubled as though they had seen an hostile army before the gates of their city. The men ran wildly to and fro, asking advice from their wives, their friends, from the first person they met; they removed and concealed their goods, or endeavoured to sell them at a loss.

At last the churchmen, priests, and monks, having recovered their senses and their strength, arranged a procession. Dressed in the habits of their order, with the cross, candles, and censors, they came to the corpse, and prayed for the soul of the deceased. The archbishop of Rouen, William, ordered that the body of the king should be transported to Caen, and buried in the cathedral of Saint Stephen the proto-martyr, which the king had built. But his sons, his brothers, all his relations had deserted him; none of his officers was present; not one appeared to take charge of his obsequies; and it was a private country gentleman, named Herluin, who, out of good nature and for the love of God, say the historians of the time, undertook the trouble and the expense of the ceremonial. He hired men and a hearse at his own expense, removed the body to the banks of the Seine, and thence upon a boat, by river and by sea, to Caen. Gilbert, abbot of Saint Edition: current; Page: [329] Stephens, came, with all his monks, to meet the body; many priests and laymen joined them; but a fire which suddenly broke out dissolved the procession, and priests and laymen all hastened to extinguish it. The monks of Saint Stephen alone remained, and carried the body of the king to their house.1

The inhumation of the great chief, the famous baron, as the historians of the period style him, was not completed without fresh incidents. All the bishops and abbots of Normandy were assembled for the ceremony; they had prepared the grave in the church, between the choir and the altar; the mass was finished; they were about to lower the body, when a man, advancing from the crowd, said aloud: “Priests and bishops, this land is mine; it was the site of my father’s house; the man for whom you are now praying took it from me by force, to build his church upon it.2 I have not sold my land; I have not pawned it; I have not forfeited it; I have not given it: it is mine by right, and I demand it.3 In the name of God, I forbid the body of the spoiler to be placed here, or to be covered with my glebe.” The man who thus spoke was Asselin Fitz-Arthur, and all present confirmed the truth of what he had said. The bishops made him approach, and agreed to pay him sixty pence for the immediate place of sepulture, and to give him equitable recompence for the rest of the land. The king’s body was without a coffin, clothed in its royal habit; when they proceeded to place it in the grave, which had been constructed in masonry, the aperture was found to be too narrow; in forcing the body in, it burst.4 They burnt abundance of incense and perfumes, but in vain; the people dispersed in disgust, and the priests themselves, hastening the ceremony, soon quitted the church.5

William Rufus, on his way to England, learned the death of his father at the port of Wissant, near Calais. He hastened to Winchester, the city where the royal treasure was deposited, and gaining over William de Pont-de-l’Arche, the keeper of the treasure, obtained the keys.6 He had an inventory taken of it, and weighed it carefully; he found it Edition: current; Page: [330] to consist of 60,000 pounds of fine silver, with much gold, and a quantity of jewels.1 He next assembled all the high Norman barons then in England, announced the death of the Conqueror, was chosen king by them, and crowned by archbishop Lanfranc in the cathedral of Winchester, while the lords who had remained in Normandy were holding a council as to the succession.2 Many of the latter were desirous that the two countries should have but one and the same government; they wished to give the crown to duke Robert, who had returned from exile; but the activity of William anticipated them.

His first act of royal authority was again to imprison the Saxons Ulfnoth, Morkar, and Siward Beorn, whom his father had restored to liberty;3 he then drew from the treasury a great quantity of gold and silver, which he gave to the goldsmith Otho to be converted into ornaments for the tomb of him whom he had abandoned on his death bed.4 The name of the goldsmith Otho merits a place in this history, because the territorial register of the conquest mentions him as one of the great proprietors newly created.5 Perhaps he had been the banker of the invasion, and had advanced part of the funds upon mortgage of English lands; we may easily believe this, for the goldsmiths of the middle ages were also bankers; perhaps, also, he had merely made commercial speculations in the domains acquired by the lance and the sword, giving to the adventurers, those men-at-arms errant, a class of men so common at that period, gold in exchange for their lands.

A sort of literary competition was now entered into between the Latin versifiers of England and of Normandy, for the epitaph which was to be cut on the tomb of the deceased king; it was Thomas, archbishop of York, who carried off the honours.6 Several pieces of verse and prose in praise of the Conqueror have been preserved to our days, and amongst the eulogies bestowed on him by the priests and literary men of the period, there are some very singular: Edition: current; Page: [331] “English nation!” exclaims one of them, “why hast thou troubled the repose of this prince, so much the friend of virtue?”1 “O! England,” cries another, “thou wouldst have cherished him, thou wouldst have esteemed him in the highest degree, had it not been for thy folly and thy wickedness.”2 “His reign was pacific and fruitful,” says a third; “and his soul was benevolent.”3 None of the epitaphs remain which the conquered nation pronounced upon him, unless we regard as an instance of the popular exclamations occasioned by his death, these verses of an English poet of the thirteenth century: “The days of king William were days of vexation and sorrow, so that much people of England thought his life too long.”4

Meantime, the Anglo-Norman barons who had not concurred in the election of William Rufus returned to England, furious at his having become king without their consent; they resolved to depose him, and to substitute for him his eldest brother, Robert, duke of Normandy.5 At the head of this party was Eudes de Bayeux, brother to the Conqueror, who had just come out of prison, and many rich Normans or English-Frenchmen, as the Saxon chronicle calls them.6 The Red king (for so the historians of the time designate him),7 seeing that his countrymen conspired against him, called to his aid the men of English race, conciliating their support by the hope of some mitigation of their sufferings.8 He summoned around him several of those whom the recollection of Edition: current; Page: [332] their past power still caused to be regarded by the English nation as their natural chiefs; he promised them the best laws they should themselves require, the best which had ever been in the country;1 he restored to them the right to carry arms, and the right of the chase; he stayed the levy of imposts and of all odious tributes; but this did not last long, say the contemporary annals.2

For these concessions of a few days, and perhaps also from a secret desire to come to blows with the Normans,3 the Saxon chiefs consented to defend the king’s cause, and published in his name and their own this ancient proclamation of war, that which once aroused every Englishman capable of bearing arms: “Let each man that is not a nothing, whether in the town or country, leave his house and come.”4 Thirty thousand Saxons assembled at the appointed place, received arms, and were enrolled under the king’s banner.5 They were nearly all foot-soldiers; William led them by a rapid march, with his cavalry, composed of Normans, to the city of Rochester, where bishop Eudes and the other recusant chiefs had fortified themselves, awaiting the arrival of duke Robert, to march upon Canterbury and London.6

It appears that the Saxons of the royal army displayed great ardour at the siege of Rochester. The besieged closely pressed, soon demanded to capitulate, on condition of acknowledging William for their king, and of retaining under him their lands and honours.7 William at first refused; but the Normans of his army, not having the same zeal as the Saxons in this war, which was for them a civil war, and not desiring to reduce their countrymen and relations to extremity, considered the king too inveterate against the defenders of Rochester.8

They sought to appease him: “We who have aided thee in danger,” said they, “pray thee to spare our countrymen, our relatives, who are also thine, and who aided thy father to conquer England.” The king gave way, and at last granted the besieged liberty to quit the city with their arms and horses. Edition: current; Page: [333] Bishop Eudes endeavoured further to obtain that the king’s military music should not play in token of victory at the departure of the garrison, but William angrily refused, and said, that he would not make this concession for a thousand gold marks; the Normans of Robert’s party quitted the city which they had not been able to defend, with colours lowered, to the sound of the royal trumpets. At this moment loud clamours arose from the English in the royal army: “Bring us cords,” they cried; “we will hang this traitor bishop, with all his accomplices. O king! why dost thou let him go free? He is not worthy to live, the traitor, the perjured murderer of so many thousand men.”1

It was amidst these imprecations that the prelate who had blessed the Norman army at the battle of Hastings quitted England, never more to return. The war amongst the Normans lasted some time longer; but this family quarrel gradually subsided, and terminated in a treaty between the two parties and the two brothers. The domains that the friends of Robert had lost in England, for having embraced his cause, were restored to them, and Robert himself resigned his pretensions to the crown in consideration of large territorial possessions.2 It was agreed between the two parties, that the king, if he survived the duke, should have the duchy of Normandy, and that in the contrary case, the duke should have the kingdom of England; twelve men on the part of the king, and twelve on the part of the duke, confirmed this treaty by oath.3 Thus ended both the Norman civil war and the alliance which this war had occasioned between the English and the king. The popular concessions that the latter had made, were all revoked, his promises belied, and the Saxons returned to their position of oppressed subjects.4

Near the city of Canterbury was an ancient monastery, founded in honour of the missionary Augustin, who converted the Saxons and Angles. Here were preserved, in a higher degree than in the religious houses of less importance, the national spirit, and the remembrance of ancient liberty. The Normans perceived this, and early endeavoured to destroy this spirit by reiterated humiliations. The primate Edition: current; Page: [334] Lanfranc commenced by abolishing the ancient privilege of the monks of Saint Augustin, of being exempt from all ecclesiastical discipline but that of their own abbot.1 Although the abbot, at this time, was a Norman, and as such little liable to any suspicion of indulgence towards the men of another race, Lanfranc deprived him of the charge of his monks, which he himself assumed; he then forbad the bells of the monastery to be rung before the office had rung from the cathedral, paying no respect, says the historian, to this maxim of the Holy Scriptures: Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The Saxon monks murmured at being subjected to this restriction, and, to manifest their discontent, they celebrated the offices late, negligently, and with all sorts of irregularities, such as reversing the crosses, and walking in procession barefooted against the course of the sun.2 “They do violence to us,” said they, “in contempt of the canons of the church; well, we will violate the canons in the service of the church.”3 They requested the Norman, their abbot, to transmit a protest from them to the pope; but the only reply of the abbot was to punish them as rebels, and to shut up the building, so that they could not go out.4 This man, who sacrificed his personal independence out of hatred to the Saxons, died in the year 1088, and then archbishop Lanfranc himself proceeded to the monastery, taking with him a Norman monk, called Guy, a man much beloved by the king.5 He called upon the monks of St. Augustin, in the name of the royal authority, to receive and instal the new abbot forthwith; but all emphatically answered that they would do nothing of the sort.6 Lanfranc, furious at this resistance, ordered that those who refused to obey should immediately quit the monastery. They almost all departed, and the Norman was installed in their absence with the usual ceremonies. The prior of the monastery, named Elfwin, and several other monks, all of Saxon birth, were then seized and imprisoned. Those who had departed at the command of the archbishop Edition: current; Page: [335] went and seated themselves on the ground under the walls of the castle of Canterbury. They were informed that a certain number of hours was granted them within which to return to the monastery, but that after that time they would be regarded and treated as vagabonds; they remained for awhile undecided, but the hour for refection came; they suffered from hunger, and many, repenting, sent to archbishop Lanfranc and promised obedience. He made them swear on the relics of St. Augustin to remain faithful to this promise. They who refused to take the oath were imprisoned, until weariness of captivity should render them more docile. One of them, named Alfred, who fled and was afterwards found wandering by the road-side, was put in irons in the archiepiscopal palace at Canterbury. The spirit of resistance was appeased for some months, and then again became still more violent than before; a conspiracy was formed against the life of the new abbot of foreign race. One of the conspirators, named Colomban, was taken, brought before the archbishop, and questioned as to his design of killing the Norman. “I had that intention,” answered the monk boldly, “and assuredly would have executed it.” Lanfranc ordered him to be tied naked to the doors of the monastery, and to be publicly whipped.

In the year 1089, the primate Lanfranc died; and the monks, delivered from the terror with which he had inspired them, commenced a third revolt, of a more serious character than the two others. They called to their aid the Saxon inhabitants of Canterbury, who, embracing this quarrel as a national quarrel, came armed to the house of the abbot of Saint Augustin, and attacked it. The abbot’s people resisted, and on both sides there were several men wounded and killed. Guy, with great difficulty, escaped from his adversaries, and hastened to shut himself up in the cathedral. On hearing of the affair, the Normans, Gaucelme, bishop of Winchester, and Gondulph, bishop of Rochester, hastened to Canterbury, whither numerous detachments of troops were sent by the king’s order. The monastery of Saint Augustin was occupied militarily; the trial of the monks was commenced, and they were condemned in a body to receive corporal punishment, which two foreign monks, Guy and Le Normand, inflicted on them at the discretion of the bishops; they were then distributed Edition: current; Page: [336] in various parts of England, and in their place twenty-four monks and a prior came from the continent. All those inhabitants of Canterbury who were taken by the Norman troops in arms were condemned to lose their eyes.

These struggles, fruits of the hatred and despair of the conquered, were reproduced at the same time in many churches of England; and generally, wherever Saxons, united in a body, and not reduced to the last degree of slavery, encountered the chiefs or governors of foreign race. These chiefs, whether priests or laymen, differed only in their dress; under the coat of mail, or under the cope, it was the same insolent, cruel, avaricious conqueror, treating the conquered as beings of an inferior race to his own. Jean de la Villette, bishop of Wells, formerly a physician at Tours, pulled down the houses of the canons of his church to build himself a palace with their materials.1 Renouf Flambard, bishop of Lincoln, formerly a valet to the duke of Normandy, committed such depredations in his diocese, that the inhabitants wished to die, said an ancient historian, rather than live under his authority.2 The Norman bishops went to the altar, as the earls to their military reviews, between two rows of lances; they passed the day in playing at dice, hunting, hawking, and drinking.3 One of them, in a fit of gaiety, had prepared for his Saxon monks, in the great hall of the monastery, a repast at which he made them eat meats forbidden by their order, and served up by women with dishevelled hair and half naked.4 Those of the monks who at this sight desired to withdraw, or who even turned away their eyes, were maltreated and called hypocrites by the Norman prelate and his friends.5

Against such adversaries the remnant of the Anglo-Saxon clergy could not maintain any very protracted combat; every day, age and persecution removed some of the old monks or priests; the resistance, at first energetic, was gradually extinguished.6 The fact of being peopled by a majority of men of English race was with any monastery ground for the hatred Edition: current; Page: [337] and oppression of the great. This was experienced under William Rufus, by the monastery of Croyland, already so ill treated at the time of the conquest. After a conflagration which had consumed part of their houses, the Norman count of the district in which it stood, presuming that the charters of the abbey had perished in the flames, summoned the monks to appear in his court at Spalding, to produce their title. On the appointed day they sent one of their number, Trig, who took with him their ancient charters in the Saxon language, confirmed by the Conqueror, whose seal was appended. The monk displayed his parchments before the count and his officers, who laughed at and insulted him, saying that these barbarian and unintelligible scrawls were of no authority. The sight of the royal seal, however, produced some effect; the Norman viscount, who dared not break it or publicly seize the charters to which it was attached, allowed the monk to depart; but he sent servants after him, armed with sticks, to seize him on the road, and take the charters from him. Trig only avoided them by following a bye road.1

The peace which reigned among the conquerors of England was once more disturbed in the year 1094, by the revolt of several chiefs against the king. One of the causes of this revolt was the exclusive right to hunt in the forests of England, established by William the Bastard and vigorously maintained by his son.2 At the head of the malcontents was Robert, son of Roger de Molbray, earl of Northumberland, who possessed two hundred and eighty manors in England.3 Robert did not appear at the court of the king on one of the days fixed for the political conferences of the barons and Anglo-Norman knights. His absence excited suspicion, and the king issued a proclamation that every great landholder who did not appear at his court at the approaching feast of Whitsuntide, should be excluded the public peace. Robert de Molbray did not attend, from fear of being seized and imprisoned; whereupon William despatched the royal troops to Northumberland. He besieged and took several castles; he blockaded that of Bamborough, to which earl Robert had Edition: current; Page: [338] withdrawn, but he could not make himself master of it. After many useless efforts, the king constructed opposite Bamborough a wooden fortress, which he called, in his Norman language Malveisin, or bad neighbour, left a garrison in it, and returned southwards. The garrison of the new fortress surprised Robert in a sortie, wounded and made him prisoner. He was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and his accomplices were exiled from England.1

The estates of these banished men, in town and country, remained for some time without a master and without cultivation. It appears that the king’s favourites allowed them to remain untilled, after having taken from them everything of any value, indifferent as to property, the origin of which and the uncertainty of political events, rendered it too precarious. On their part, the royal officers, in order that the exchequer might lose none of its revenues, continued to levy from the town or hundred to which the vacant property appertained the entire amount of the territorial tax, a charge that fell upon the men of English race.2 The people of Colchester, according to an old narrative, returned great thanks to Eudes Fitzhubert, viscount or governor of the town, for assuming in his own name the lands of the disinherited Normans, and consenting to pay the taxes demanded in respect of them.3 If we may credit the same account, this Eudes gained the love of the people of Colchester by his equitable and mild administration. He is the only chief imposed upon the English by the foreign power to whom history bears such a testimony.

This exception to the law of the conquest did not extend beyond one single town; everywhere else things followed their course, and the royal officers, say the chronicles, were worse than robbers; they pillaged without mercy the cornloft of the peasant, and the shop of the trader.4 Oxford was governed by Robert d’Ouilly, who spared neither poor nor rich; in the north, Odineau d’Omfreville seized the goods of the English in his vicinity, in order to compel them to hew Edition: current; Page: [339] and carry stones for the construction of his castle.1 Around London, the king also levied by force troops of men to construct a new wall for the Conqueror’s tower, a bridge over the Thames, and in Westminster a palace or hall of audience, for the assemblies of his barons.

“The counties to whose share these works fell,” says the Saxon chronicle, “were cruelly afflicted; every year that passed was heavy and full of sorrow, on account of the vexations without number and the multiplied taxes.”2

Historians less laconic have transmitted to us some details of the sorrows and torments that the conquered nation suffered. Wherever the king passed in his journeys through England, the country was ravaged by his people.3 When they could not themselves use all the provisions or goods that they found in the houses of the English, they made the owner himself carry them to the neighbouring market, and sell them for their profit; at other times they burned them for amusement, or if it were wine or other beverage, washed the feet of their horses with it. “The ill treatment to which they subjected the heads of families, their outrages