Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The History of England, Volume I by David Hume

Part 3 out of 12

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury, whom he advanced to the highest
offices, and who covered, under the appearance of sanctity, the most
violent and most insolent ambition. Taking advantage of the implicit
confidence reposed in him by the king, this churchman imported into
England a new order of monks, who much changed the state of
ecclesiastical affairs, and excited, on their first establishment, the
most violent commotions.

From the introduction of Christianity among the Saxons, there had been
monasteries in England; and these establishments had extremely
multiplied, by the donations of the princes and nobles; whose
superstition, derived from their ignorance and precarious life, and
increased by remorse for the crimes into which they were so frequently
betrayed, knew no other expedient for appeasing the Deity than a
profuse liberality towards the ecclesiastics. But the monks had
hitherto been a species of secular priests, who lived after the manner
of the present canons or prebendaries, and were both intermingled, in
some degree, with the world, and endeavoured to render themselves
useful to it. They were employed in the education of youth [e]: they
had the disposal of their own time and industry: they were not
subjected to the rigid rules of an order: they had made no vows of
implicit obedience to their superiors [f]: and they still retained the
choice, without quitting the convent, either of a married or a single
life [g]. But a mistaken piety had produced in Italy a new species of
monks called Benedictines; who, carrying farther the plausible
principles of mortification, secluded themselves entirely from the
world, renounced all claim to liberty, and made a merit of the most
inviolable chastity. These practices and principles, which
superstition at first engendered, were greedily embraced and promoted
by the policy of the court of Rome. The Roman pontiff, who was making
every day great advances towards an absolute sovereignty over the
ecclesiastics, perceived that the celibacy of the clergy alone could
break off entirely their connexion with the civil power, and depriving
them of every other object of ambition, engage them to promote, with
unceasing industry, the grandeur of their own order. He was sensible,
that so long as the monks were indulged in marriage, and were
permitted to rear families, they never could be subjected to strict
discipline, or reduced to that slavery under their superiors, which
was requisite to procure to the mandates issued from Rome, a ready and
zealous obedience. Celibacy, therefore, began to be extolled, as the
indispensable duty of priests; and the pope undertook to make all the
clergy throughout the western world renounce at once the privilege of
marriage: a fortunate policy; but at the same time an undertaking the
most difficult of any, since he had the strongest propensities of
human nature to encounter, and found, that the same connexions with
the female sex, which generally encourage devotion, were here
unfavourable to the success of his project. It is no wonder
therefore, that this master-stroke of art should have met with violent
contradiction, and that the interests of the hierarchy, and the
inclinations of the priests, being now placed in this singular
opposition, should, notwithstanding the continued efforts of Rome,
have retarded the execution of that bold scheme, during the course of
near three centuries.
[FN [e] Osberne in Anglia Sacra, tom. 2. p. 92. [f] Osberne, p. 91.
[g] See Wharton's notes to Anglia Sacra, tom. 2. p. 91. Gervase, p.
1645. Chron Wint. MS. apud Spell. Conc. p. 434.]

As the bishops and parochial clergy lived apart with their families,
and were more connected with the world, the hopes of success with them
were fainter; and the pretence for making them renounce marriage was
much less plausible. But the pope, having cast his eye on the monks
as the basis of his authority, was determined to reduce them under
strict rules of obedience, to procure them the credit of sanctity by
an appearance of the most rigid mortification, and to break off all
their other ties which might interfere with his spiritual policy.
Under pretence, therefore, of reforming abuses, which were, in some
degree, unavoidable in the ancient establishments, he had already
spread over the southern countries of Europe the severe laws of the
monastic life, and began to form attempts towards a like innovation in
England. The favourable opportunity offered itself, (and it was
greedily seized,) arising from the weak, superstition of Edred, and
the violent impetuous character of Dunstan.

Dunstan was born of noble parents in the west of England; and being
educated under his uncle Aldhelm, then Archbishop of Canterbury, had
betaken himself to the ecclesiastical life, and had acquired some
character in the court of Edmund. He was, however, represented to
that prince as a man of licentious manners [h]: and finding his
fortune blasted by these suspicions, his ardent ambition prompted him
to repair his indiscretions by running into an opposite extreme. He
secluded himself entirely from the world; he framed a cell so small,
that he could neither stand erect in it nor stretch out his limbs
during his repose; and he here employed himself perpetually either in
devotion or in manual labour [i]. It is probable, that his brain
became gradually crazed by these solitary occupations, and that his
head was filled with chimeras, which, being believed by himself and
his stupid votaries, procured him the general character of sanctity
among the people. He fancied that the devil, among the frequent
visits which he paid him, was one day more earnest than usual in his
temptations; till Dunstan, provoked at his importunity, seized him by
the nose with a pair of red-hot pincers, as he put his head into the
cell; and he held him there till that malignant spirit made the whole
neighbourhood resound with his bellowings. This notable exploit was
seriously credited and extolled by the public: it is transmitted to
posterity by one who, considering the age in which he lived, may pass
for a writer of some eloquence [k]; and it ensured to Dunstan a
reputation which no real piety, much less virtue, could, even in the
most enlightened period, have ever procured him with the people.
[FN [h] Osberne, p. 95 Matth West, p. 187. [i] Osberne, p. 96. [k]
Osberne, p. 97.]

Supported by the character obtained in his retreat, Dunstan appeared
again in the world; and gained such an ascendant over Edred, who had
succeeded to the crown, as made him not only the director of that
prince's conscience, but his counsellor in the most momentous affairs
of government. He was placed at the head of the treasury [l], and
being thus possessed both of power at court, and of credit with the
populace, he was enabled to attempt with success the most arduous
enterprises. Finding that his advancement had been owing to the
opinion of his austerity, he professed himself a partisan of the rigid
monastic rules; and after introducing that reformation into the
convents of Glastonbury and Abingdon, he endeavoured to render it
universal in the kingdom.
[FN [1] Ibid. p. 102. Wallingford, p. 541.]

The minds of men were already well prepared for this innovation. The
praises of an inviolable chastity had been carried to the highest
extravagance by some of the first preachers of Christianity among the
Saxons: the pleasures of love had been represented as incompatible
with Christian perfection; and a total abstinence from all commerce
with the sex was deemed such a meritorious penance, as was sufficient
to atone for the greatest enormities. The consequence seemed natural,
that those, at least, who officiated at the altar should be clear of
this pollution; and when the doctrine of transubstantiation, which was
now creeping in [m], was once fully established, the reverence to the
real body of Christ in the eucharist bestowed on this argument an
additional force and influence. The monks knew how to avail
themselves of all these popular topics, and to set off their own
character to the best advantage. They affected the greatest austerity
of life and manners: they indulged themselves in the highest strains
of devotion: they inveighed bitterly against the vices and pretended
luxury of the age: they were particularly vehement against the
dissolute lives of the secular clergy, their rivals: every instance of
libertinism in any individual of that order was represented as a
general corruption: and where other topics of defamation were wanting,
their marriage became a sure subject of invective, and their wives
received the name of CONCUBINE, or other more opprobrious appellation.
The secular clergy, on the other hand, who were numerous and rich, and
possessed of the ecclesiastical dignities, defended themselves with
vigour, and endeavoured to retaliate upon their adversaries. The
people were thrown into agitation; and few instances occur of more
violent dissensions, excited by the most material differences in
religion, or rather by the most frivolous: since it is a just remark,
that the more affinity there is between theological parties, the
greater commonly is their animosity.
[FN [m] Spell. Conc. v. i. p. 452.]

The progress of the monks, which was become considerable, was somewhat
retarded by the death of Edred, their partisan, who expired after a
reign of nine years [n]. He left children; but as they were infants,
his nephew, Edwy, son of Edmund, was placed on the throne.
[FN [n] Chron. Sax. p. 115.]

[MN Edwy. 955.]
Edwy, at the time of his accession, was not above sixteen or seventeen
years of age, was possessed of the most amiable figure, and was even
endowed, according to authentic accounts, with the most promising
virtues [o]. He would have been the favourite of his people, had he
not unhappily, at the commencement of his reign, been engaged in a
controversy with the monks, whose rage, neither the graces of the body
nor virtues of the mind could mitigate, and who have pursued his
memory with the same unrelenting vengeance which they exercised
against his person and dignity during his short and unfortunate reign.
There was a beautiful princess of the royal blood, called Elgiva, who
had made impression on the tender heart of Edwy; and as he was of an
age when the force of the passions first begins to be felt, he had
ventured, contrary to the advice of his gravest counsellors, and the
remonstrances of the more dignified ecclesiastics [p], to espouse her;
though she was within the degrees of affinity prohibited by the canon
law [q]. As the austerity affected by the monks made them
particularly violent on this occasion, Edwy entertained a strong
prepossession against them; and seemed, on that account, determined
not to second their project of expelling the seculars from all the
convents, and of possessing themselves of those rich establishments.
War was therefore declared between the king and the monks; and the
former soon found reason to repent his provoking such dangerous
enemies. On the day of his coronation, his nobility were assembled in
a great hall, and were indulging themselves in that riot and disorder,
which, from the example of their German ancestors, had become habitual
to the English [r]; when Edwy, attracted by softer pleasures, retired
into the queen's apartment, and in that privacy gave reins to his
fondness towards his wife, which was only moderately checked by the
presence of her mother. Dunstan conjectured the reason of the king's
retreat; and carrying along with him Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury,
over whom he had gained an absolute ascendant, he burst into the
apartment, upbraided Edwy with his lasciviousness, probably bestowed
on the queen the most opprobrious epithet that can be applied to her
sex, and tearing him from her arms, pushed him back, in a disgraceful
manner, into the banquet of the nobles [s]. Edwy, though young, and
opposed by the prejudices of the people, found an opportunity of
taking revenge for this public insult. He questioned Dunstan
concerning the administration of the treasury during the reign of his
predecessor [t]; and when that minister refused to give any account of
money expended, as he affirmed, by orders of the late king, he accused
him of malversation in his office and banished him the kingdom. But
Dunstan's cabal was not inactive during his absence; they filled the
public with high panegyrics on his sanctity; they exclaimed against
the impiety of the king and queen; and having poisoned the minds of
the people by these declamations, they proceeded to still more
outrageous acts of violence against the royal authority. Archbishop
Odo sent into the palace a party of soldiers, who seized the queen,
and, having burned her face with a red-hot iron, in order to destroy
that fatal beauty which had seduced Edwy, they carried her by force
into Ireland, there to remain in perpetual exile [u]. Edwy, finding
it in vain to resist, was obliged to consent to his divorce, which was
pronounced by Odo [w]; and catastrophe, still more dismal, awaited the
unhappy Elgiva. That amiable princess, being cured of her wounds, and
having even obliterated the scars with which Odo had hoped to deface
her beauty, returned into England, and was flying to the embraces of
the king, whom she still regarded as her husband; when she fell into
the hands of a party, whom the primate had sent to intercept her.
Nothing but her death could now give security to Odo and the monks;
and the most cruel death was requisite to satiate their vengeance.
She was hamstringed; and expired a few days after at Gloucester, in
the most acute torments [x].
[FN [o] H. Hunting. lib. 5. p. 356. [p] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 7.
[q] Ibid. [r] Wallingford, p. 542. [s] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 7.
Osberne, p. 83, 105. M. West. p. 195, 196. [t] Wallingford, p. 542.
Alur. Beverl. p. 112. [u] Osberne, p. 84. Gervase, p. 1644. [w]
Hoveden, p. 425. [x] Osberne, p. 84. Gervase, p. 1645, 1646.]

The English, blinded with superstition, instead of being shocked with
this inhumanity, exclaimed that the misfortunes of Edwy and his
consort were a just judgment for their dissolute contempt of the
ecclesiastical statutes. They even proceeded to rebellion against
their sovereign; and having placed Edgar at their head, the younger
brother of Edwy, a boy of thirteen years of age, they soon put him in
possession of Mercia, Northumberland, East Anglia; and chased Edwy
into the southern counties. That it might not be doubtful at whose
instigation this revolt was undertaken, Dunstan returned into England,
and took upon him the government of Edgar and his party. He was first
installed in the see of Worcester, then in that of London [y], and on
Odo's death, and the violent expulsion of Brithelm, his successor, in
that of Canterbury [z]; of all which he long kept possession. Odo is
transmitted to us by the monks under the character of a man of piety;
Dunstan was even canonized: and is one of those numerous saints of the
same stamp who disgrace the Romish calendar. Meanwhile the unhappy
Edwy was excommunicated [a], and pursued with unrelenting vengeance;
but his death, which happened soon after, freed his enemies from all
further inquietude, and gave Edgar peaceable possession of the
government [b].
[FN [y] Chron. Sax. p. 117. Flor Wigorn. p. 605. Wallingford, p. 544
[z] Hoveden p. 425. Osberne, p. 109. [a] Brompton, p. 863. [b] See
note [B] at the end of the volume.]

[MN Edgar.]
This prince, who mounted the throne in such early youth, soon
discovered an excellent capacity in the administration of affairs; and
his reign is one of the most fortunate that we meet with in the
ancient English history. He showed no aversion to war, he made the
wisest preparations against invaders; and by his vigour and foresight
he was enabled, without any danger of suffering insults, to indulge
his inclination towards peace, and to employ himself in supporting and
improving the internal government of his kingdom. He maintained a
body of disciplined troops; which he quartered in the north, in order
to keep the mutinous Northumbrians in subjection, and to repel the
inroads of the Scots. He built and supported a powerful navy [c]; and
that he might retain the seamen in the practice of their duty, and
always present a formidable armament to his enemies, he stationed
three squadrons off the coast, and ordered them to make, from time to
time, the circuit of his dominions [d]. The foreign Danes dared not
to approach a country which appeared in such a posture of defence: the
domestic Danes saw inevitable destruction to be the consequence of
their tumults and insurrections: the neighbouring sovereigns, the King
of Scotland, the Princes of Wales, of the Isle of Man, of the Orkneys,
and even of Ireland [e], were reduced to pay submission to so
formidable a monarch. He carried his superiority to a great height,
and might have excited an universal combination against him, had not
his power been so well established as to deprive his enemies of all
hope of shaking it. It is said, that residing once at Chester, and
having purposed to go by water to the abbey of St. John the Baptist,
he obliged eight of his tributary princes to row him in a barge upon
the Dee [f]. The English historians are fond of mentioning the name
of Kenneth III, King of Scots, among the number: the Scottish
historians either deny the fact, or assert that their king, if ever he
acknowledged himself a vassal to Edgar, did him homage not for his
crown, but for the dominions which he held in England.
[FN [c] Higden, p. 265. [d] See note [C] at the end of the volume.
[e] Spell. Conc. p. 32. [f] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8. Hoveden, p.
406. H. Hunting. lib. 5. p. 356.]

But the chief means by which Edgar maintained his authority, and
preserved public peace, was the paying of court to Dunstan and the
monks, who had at first placed him on the throne, and who, by their
pretensions to superior sanctity and purity of manners, had acquired
an ascendant over the people. He favoured their scheme for
dispossessing the secular canons of all the monasteries [g]; he
bestowed preferment on none but their partisans; he allowed Dunstan to
resign the see of Worcester into the hands of Oswald, one of his
creatures [h]; and to place Ethelwold, another of them, in that of
Winchester [i]; he consulted these prelates in the administration of
all ecclesiastical, and even in that of many civil affairs; and though
the vigour of his own genius prevented him from being implicitly
guided by them, the king and the bishops found such advantages in
their mutual agreement, that they always acted in concert, and united
their influence in preserving the peace and tranquillity of the
[FN [g] Chron. Sax. p. 117, 118. W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8. Hoveden,
p. 425, 426 Osberne, p. 112. [h] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8.
Hoveden, p. 425.]

In order to complete the great work of placing the new order of monks
in all the convents, Edgar summoned a general council of the prelates
and the heads of the religious orders. He here inveighed against the
dissolute lives of the secular clergy; the smallness of their tonsure,
which, it is probable, maintained no longer any resemblance to the
crown of thorns; their negligence in attending the exercise of their
function; their mixing with the laity in the pleasures of gaming,
hunting, dancing, and singing; and their openly living with
concubines, by which it is commonly supposed he meant their wives. He
then turned himself to Dunstan, the primate; and in the name of King
Edred, whom he supposed to look down from heaven with indignation
against all those enormities, he thus addressed him: "It is you,
Dunstan, by whose advice I founded monasteries, built churches, and
expended my treasure in the support of religion and religious houses.
You were my counsellor and assistant in all my schemes: you were the
director of my conscience: to you I was obedient in all things. When
did you call for supplies which I refused you? Was my assistance ever
wanting to the poor? Did I deny support and establishments to the
clergy and the convents? Did I not hearken to your instructions, who
told me that these charities were, of all others, the most grateful to
my Maker, and fixed a perpetual fund for the support of religion? And
are all our pious endeavours now frustrated by the dissolute lives of
the priests? Not that I throw any blame on you; you have reasoned,
besought, inculcated, inveighed; but it now behoves you to use sharper
and more vigorous remedies; and conjoining your spiritual authority
with the civil power, to purge effectually the temple of God from
thieves and intruders [k]." It is easy to imagine that this harangue
had the desired effect; and that, when the king and prelates thus
concurred with the popular prejudices, it was not long before the
monks prevailed, and established their new discipline in almost all
the convents.
[FN [i] Gervase, p. 1646. Brompton, p. 864. Flor. Wigorn. p. 606.
Chron. Abb. St. Petri de Burgo, p 27, 28. [k] Abbas Rieval. p. 360,
361. Spell. Conc. p. 476, 477, 478]

We may remark, that the declamations against the secular clergy are,
both here and in all the historians, conveyed in general terms; and as
that order of men are commonly restrained by the decency of their
character, it is difficult to believe that the complaints against
their dissolute manners could be so universally just as is pretended.
It is more probable that the monks paid court to the populace by an
affected austerity of life; and representing the most innocent
liberties, taken by the other clergy, as great and unpardonable
enormities, thereby prepared the way for the increase of their own
power and influence. Edgar, however, like a true politician,
concurred with the prevailing party; and he even indulged them in
pretensions, which, though they might, when complied with, engage the
monks to support royal authority during his own reign, proved
afterwards dangerous to his successors, and gave disturbance to the
whole civil power. He seconded the policy of the court of Rome, in
granting to some monasteries an exemption from episcopal jurisdiction;
he allowed the convents, even those of royal foundation, to usurp the
election of their own abbot: and he admitted their forgeries of
ancient charters, by which, from the pretended grant of former kings,
they assumed many privileges and immunities [l]
[FN [l] Chron. Sax. p. 118. W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8. Seldeni
Spicileg. ad Eadm. p. 149, 157.]

These merits of Edgar have procured him the highest panegyrics from
the monks, and he is transmitted to us, not only under the character
of a consummate statesman and an active prince, praises to which he
seems to have been justly entitled, but under that of a of a great
saint and a man of virtue. But nothing could more betray both his
hypocrisy in inveighing against the licentiousness of the secular
clergy, and the interested spirit of his partisans, in bestowing such
eulogies on his piety, than the usual tenour of his conduct, which was
licentious to the highest degree, and violated every law, human and
divine. Yet those very monks who, as we are told by Ingulf, a very
ancient historian, had no idea of any moral or religious merit, except
chastity and obedience, not only connived at his enormities, but
loaded him with the greatest praises. History, however, has preserved
some instances of his amours, from which, as from a specimen, we may
form a conjecture of the rest.

Edgar broke into a convent, carried off Editha, a nun, by force, and
even committed violence on her person [m]. For this act of sacrilege
he was reprimanded by Dunstan; and that he might reconcile himself to
the church, he was obliged not to separate from his mistress, but to
abstain from wearing his crown during seven years, and to deprive
himself so long of that vain ornament [n]; punishment very unequal to
that which had been inflicted on the unfortunate Edwy, who, for a
marriage which, in the strictest sense, could only deserve the name
of irregular, was expelled his kingdom, saw his queen treated with
singular barbarity, was loaded with calumnies, and has been
represented to us under the most odious colours. Such is the
ascendant which may be attained, by hypocrisy and cabal, over mankind.
[FN [m] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8. Osberne, p. 3. Diceto p. 457.
Higden, p. 265, 267, 266. Spell. Conc. p. 481. [n] Osberne, p. 111.]

There was another mistress of Edgar, with whom he first formed a
connexion by a kind of accident. Passing one day by Andover, he
lodged in the house of a nobleman, whose daughter, being endowed with
all the graces of person and behaviour, inflamed him at first sight
with the highest desire; and he resolved by any expedient to gratify
it. As he had not leisure to employ courtship or address for
attaining his purpose, he went directly to her mother, declared the
violence of his passion, and desired that the young lady might be
allowed to pass that very night with him. The mother was a woman of
virtue, and determined not to dishonour her daughter and her family by
compliance; but being well acquainted with the impetuosity of the
king's temper, she thought it would be easier, as well as safer, to
deceive than refuse him. She feigned therefore a submission to his
will; but secretly ordered a waiting maid, of no disagreeable figure,
to steal into the king's bed, after all the company should be retired
to rest. In the morning before daybreak, the damsel, agreeably to the
injunctions of her mistress, offered to retire; but Edgar, who had no
reserve in his pleasures, and whose love to his bedfellow was rather
inflamed by enjoyment, refused his consent, and employed force and
entreaties to detain her. Elfleda, (for that was the name of the
maid,) trusting to her own charms, and to the love with which, she
hoped, she had now inspired the king, made probably but a faint
resistance; and the return of light discovered the deceit to Edgar.
He had passed a night so much to his satisfaction, that he expressed
no displeasure with the old lady on account of her fraud; his love was
transferred to Elfleda; she became his favourite mistress; and
maintained her ascendant over him till his marriage with Elfrida [o].
[FN [o] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8. Higden, p. 268.]

The circumstances of his marriage with this lady were more singular
and more criminal. Elfrida was daughter and heir of Olgar, Earl of
Devonshire; and though she had been educated in the country, and had
never appeared at court, she had filled all England with the
reputation of her beauty. Edgar himself, who was indifferent to no
accounts of this nature, found his curiosity excited by the frequent
panegyrics which he heard of Elfrida; and reflecting on her noble
birth, he resolved, if he found her charms answerable to their fame,
to obtain possession of her on honourable terms. He communicated his
intention to Earl Athelwold, his favourite; but used the precaution,
before he made any advances to her parents, to order that nobleman, on
some pretence, to pay them a visit, and to bring him a certain account
of the beauty of their daughter. Athelwold, when introduced to the
young lady, found general report to have fallen short of the truth;
and being actuated by the most vehement love, he determined to
sacrifice to this new passion his fidelity to his master, and to the
trust reposed in him. He returned to Edgar and told him, that the
riches alone, and high quality of Elfrida, had been the ground of the
admiration paid her; and that her charms, far from being anywise
extraordinary, would have been overlooked in a woman of inferior
station. When he had, by this deceit, diverted the king from his
purpose, he took an opportunity, after some interval, of turning again
the conversation on Elfrida; he remarked, that though the parentage
and fortune of the lady had not produced on him, as on others, any
illusion with regard to her beauty, he could not forbear reflecting,
that she would, on the whole, be an advantageous match for him, and
might, by her birth and riches, make him sufficient compensation for
the homeliness of her person. If the king, therefore, gave his
approbation, he was determined to make proposals in his own behalf to
the Earl of Devonshire, and doubted not to obtain his, as well as the
young lady's consent to the marriage. Edgar, pleased with an
expedient for establishing his favourite's fortune, not only exhorted
him to execute his purpose, but forwarded his success by his
recommendations to the parents of Elfrida; and Athelwold was soon made
happy in the possession of his mistress. Dreading, however, the
detection of the artifice, he employed every pretence for detaining
Elfrida in the country, and for keeping her at a distance from Edgar.

The violent passion of Athelwold had rendered him blind to the
necessary consequences which must attend his conduct, and the
advantages which the numerous enemies that always pursue a royal
favourite would, by its means, be able to make against him. Edgar was
soon informed of the truth; but before he would execute vengeance on
Athelwold's treachery, he resolved to satisfy himself with his own
eyes of the certainty and full extent of his guilt. He told him that
he intended to pay him a visit in his castle, and be introduced to the
acquaintance of his new married wife; and Athelwold, as he could not
refuse the honour, only craved leave to go before him a few hours,
that he might the better prepare every thing for his reception. He
then discovered the whole matter to Elfrida; and begged her, if she
had any regard either to her own honour or his life, to conceal from
Edgar, by every circumstance of dress and behaviour, that fatal
beauty, which had seduced him from fidelity to his friend, and had
betrayed him into so many falsehoods. Elfrida promised compliance,
though nothing was farther from her intentions. She deemed herself
little beholden to Athelwold for a passion which had deprived her of a
crown; and knowing the force of her own charms, she did not despair
even yet of reaching that dignity, of which her husband's artifice had
bereaved her. She appeared before the king with all the advantages
which the richest attire and the most engaging airs could bestow upon
her, and she excited at once in his bosom the highest love towards
herself, and the most furious desire of revenge against her husband.
He knew, however, how to dissemble these passions; and seducing
Athelwold into a wood, on pretence of hunting, he stabbed him with his
own hand, and soon after publicly espoused Elfrida [p].
[FN [p] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8. Hoveden, p. 426. Brompton, p.
865, 866. Flor. Wigorn. p. 606. Higd. p. 268.]

Before we conclude our account of this reign, we must mention two
circumstances which are remarked by historians. The reputation of
Edgar allured a great number of foreigners to visit his court; and he
gave them encouragement to settle in England [q]. We are told that
they imported all the vices of their respective countries, and
contributed to corrupt the simple manners of the natives [r]. But as
this simplicity of manners, so highly and often so injudiciously
extolled, did not preserve them from barbarity and treachery, the
greatest of all vices, and the most incident to a rude uncultivated
people, we ought perhaps to deem their acquaintance with foreigners
rather an advantage; as it tended to enlarge their views, and to cure
them of those illiberal prejudices and rustic manners to which
islanders are often subject.
[FN [q] Chron. Sax. p. 116. H. Hunting. lib 5. p. 356. Brompton, p.
865. [r] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 8.]

Another remarkable incident of this reign was the extirpation of
wolves from England. This advantage was attained by the industrious
policy of Edgar. He took great pains in hunting and pursuing those
ravenous animals; and when he found that all that escaped him had
taken shelter in the mountains and forests of Wales, he changed the
tribute of money imposed on the Welsh princes by Athelstan, his
predecessor [s], into an annual tribute of three hundred heads of
wolves; which produced such diligence in hunting them, that the animal
has been no more seen in this island.
[FN [s] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 6. Brompton, p. 838.]

Edgar died after a reign of sixteen years, and in the thirty-third of
his age. He was succeeded by Edward, whom he had by his first
marriage with the daughter of Earl Ordmer.

[MN Edward the Martyr. 957.]
The succession of this prince, who was only fifteen years of age at
his father's death, did not take place without much difficulty and
opposition. Elfrida, his stepmother, had a son, Ethelred, seven years
old, whom she attempted to raise to the throne: she affirmed that
Edgar's marriage with the mother of Edward was exposed to insuperable
objections; and as she had possessed great credit with her husband,
she had found means to acquire partisans, who seconded all her
pretensions. But the title of Edward was supported by many
advantages. He was appointed successor by the will of his father [t]:
he was approaching to man's estate, and might soon be able to take
into his own hands the reins of government: the principal nobility,
dreading the imperious temper of Elfrida, were averse to her son's
government, which must enlarge her authority, and probably put her in
possession of the regency: above all, Dunstan, whose character of
sanctity had given him the highest credit with the people, had
espoused the cause of Edward, over whom he had already acquired a
great ascendant [u]; and he was determined to execute the will of
Edgar in his favour. To cut off all opposite pretensions, Dunstan
resolutely anointed and crowned the young prince at Kingston; and the
whole kingdom, without farther dispute, submitted to him [w].
[FN [t] Hoveden, p. 427. Eadmer, p. 3. [u] Eadmer, ex. edit.
Seldeni, p. 3. [w] W. Malm. lib. 2. cap. 9. Hoveden, p. 427.
Osberne, p. 113.]

It was of great importance to Dunstan and the monks, to place on the
throne a king favourable to their cause: the secular clergy had still
partisans in England, who wished to support them in the possession of
the convents, and of the ecclesiastical authority. On the first
intelligence of Edgar's death, Alfere, Duke of Mercia, expelled the
new orders of monks from all the monasteries which lay within his
jurisdiction [x]; but Elfwin, Duke of East Anglia, and Brithnot, Duke
of the East Saxons, protected them within their territories, and
insisted upon the execution of the late laws enacted in their favour.
In order to settle this controversy, there were summoned several
synods, which, according to the practice of those times, consisted
partly of ecclesiastical members, partly of the lay nobility. The
monks were able to prevail in these assemblies; though, as it appears,
contrary to the secret wishes, if not the declared inclination, of the
leading men in the nation [y]: they had more invention in forging
miracles to support their cause; or having been so fortunate as to
obtain, by their pretended austerities, the character of piety, their
miracles were more credited by the populace.
[FN [x] Chron. Sax. p. 123. W. Malmes. lib. 2, cap. 9. Hoveden, p.
427. Brompton, p. 870. Flor. Wigorn. p. 607. [y] W. Malmes. lib. 2.
cap. 9.]

In one synod, Dunstan, finding the majority of votes against him, rose
up and informed the audience, that he had that instant received an
immediate revelation in behalf of the monks: the assembly was so
astonished at this intelligence, or probably so overawed by the
populace, that they proceeded no farther in their deliberations. In
another synod, a voice issued from the crucifix, and informed the
members that the establishment of the monks was founded on the will of
Heaven, and could not be opposed without impiety [z]. But the miracle
performed in the third synod was still more alarming: the floor of the
hall in which the assembly met sunk of a sudden and a great number of
the members were either bruised or killed by the fall. It was
remarked, that Dunstan had that day prevented the king from attending
the synod, and that the beam, on which his own chair stood, was the
only one that did not sink under the weight of the assembly [a]. But
these circumstances, instead of begetting any suspicion of
contrivance, were regarded as the surest proof of the immediate
interposition of Providence in behalf of those favourites of Heaven.
[FN [z] W. Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 9. Osberne, p. 112. Gervase, p.
1647. Brompton, p. 870. Higden, p. 269. [a] Chron. Sax. p. 124. W.
Malmes. lib. 2. cap. 9. Hoveden, p. 427. H. Hunting. lib. 5. p. 357.
Gervase, p. 1647. Brompton, p. 870. Flor. Wigorn. p. 607. Higden,
p. 269. Chron. Abb. St. Petri de Burgo, p. 29.]

Edward lived four years after his accession, and there passed nothing
memorable during his reign. His death alone was memorable and
tragical [b]: this young prince was endowed with the most amiable
innocence of manners; and as his own intentions were always pure, he
was incapable of entertaining any suspicion against others. Though
his step-mother had opposed his succession, and had raised a party in
favour of her own son, he always showed her marks of regard, and even
expressed, on all occasions, the most tender affection towards his
brother. He was hunting one day in Dorsetshire; and being led by the
chase near Corfe-castle, where Elfrida resided, he took the
opportunity of paying her a visit, unattended by any of his retinue,
and he thereby presented her with the opportunity which she had long
wished for. After he had mounted his horse, he desired some liquor to
be brought him: while he was holding the cup to his head, a servant of
Elfrida approached him, and gave him a stab behind. The prince,
finding himself wounded, put spurs to his horse; but becoming faint by
loss of blood, he fell from the saddle, his foot stuck in the stirrup,
and he was dragged along by his unruly horse till he expired. Being
tracked by the blood, his body was found, and was privately interred
at Wareham by his servants.
[FN [b] Chron. Sax. p. 124.]

The youth and innocence of this prince, with his tragical death, begat
such compassion among the people, that they believed miracles to be
wrought at his tomb; and they give him the appellation of Martyr,
though his murder had no connexion with any religious principle or
opinion. Elfrida built monasteries, and performed many penances, in
order to atone for her guilt; but could never, by all her hypocrisy or
remorses, recover the good opinion of the public, though so easily
deluded in those ignorant ages.



[MN Ethelred. 978.]
The freedom which England had so long enjoyed from the depredations of
the Danes seems to have proceeded, partly from the establishments
which that piratical nation had obtained in the north of France, and
which employed all their superfluous hands to people and maintain
them; partly from the vigour and warlike spirit of a long race of
English princes, who preserved the kingdom in a posture of defence by
sea and land, and either prevented or repelled every attempt of the
invaders. But a new generation of men being now sprung up in the
northern regions who could no longer disburthen themselves on
Normandy; the English had reason to dread that the Danes would again
visit an island to which they were invited, both by the memory of
their past successes, and by the expectation of assistance from their
countrymen, who, though long established in the kingdom, were not yet
thoroughly incorporated with the natives, nor had entirely forgotten
their inveterate habits of war and depredation. And as the reigning
prince was a minor, and even when he attained to man's estate never
discovered either courage or capacity sufficient to govern his own
subjects, much less to repel a formidable enemy, the people might
justly apprehend the worst calamities from so dangerous a crisis.

The Danes, before they durst attempt any important enterprise against
England, made an inconsiderable descent by way of trial; and having
landed from seven vessels near Southampton, they ravaged the country,
enriched themselves by spoil, and departed with impunity. Six years
after, they made a like attempt in the west, and met with like
success. The invaders having now found affairs in a very different
situation from that in which they formerly appeared, encouraged their
countrymen to assemble a greater force, and to hope for more
considerable advantages. [MN 991.] They landed in Essex, under the
command of two leaders; and having defeated and slain at Maldon,
Brithnot, duke of that county, who ventured, with a small body, to
attack them, they spread their devastations over all the neighbouring
provinces. In this extremity, Ethelred, to whom historians give the
epithet of the UNREADY, instead of rousing his people to defend with
courage their honour and their property, hearkened to the advice of
Siricius, Archbishop of Canterbury, which was seconded by many of the
degenerate nobility; and paying the enemy the sum of ten thousand
pounds, he bribed them to depart the kingdom. This shameful expedient
was attended with the success which might be expected. The Danes next
year appeared off the eastern coast, in hopes of subduing a people who
defended themselves by their money, which invited assailants, instead
of their arms, which repelled them. But the English, sensible of
their folly, had, in the interval, assembled in a great council, and
had determined to collect at London a fleet able to give battle to the
enemy [a]; though that judicious measure failed of success, from the
treachery of Alfric, Duke of Mercia, whose name is infamous in the
annals of that age, by the calamities which his repeated perfidy
brought upon his country. This nobleman had, in 983, succeeded to his
father Alfere in that extensive command; but being deprived of it two
years after, and banished the kingdom, he was obliged to employ all
his intrigue, and all his power, which was too great for a subject, to
be restored to his country, and reinstated in his authority. Having
had experience of the credit and malevolence of his enemies, he
thenceforth trusted for security, not to his services, or to the
affections of his fellow-citizens, but to the influence which he had
obtained over his vassals, and to the public calamities, which he
thought must, in every revolution, render his assistance necessary.
Having fixed this resolution, he determined to prevent all such
successes as might establish the royal authority, or render his own
situation dependent or precarious. As the English had formed the plan
of surrounding and destroying the Danish fleet in harbour, he
privately informed the enemy of their danger; and when they put to
sea, in consequence of this intelligence, he deserted to them, with
the squadron under his command, the night before the engagement, and
thereby disappointed all the efforts of his countrymen [b]. Ethelred,
enraged at his perfidy, seized his son Alfgar, and ordered his eyes to
be put out [c]. But such was the power of Alfric, that he again
forced himself into authority; and though he had given this specimen
of his character, and received this grievous provocation, it was found
necessary to intrust him anew with the government of Mercia. This
conduct of the court, which in all its circumstances is so barbarous,
weak, and imprudent, both merited and prognosticated the most grievous
[FN [a] Chron. Sax. p. 126. [b] Chron.. Sax. p. 127. W. Malm. p. 62.
Higden, p. 270. [c] Chron. Sax. p.128. W. Malm. p. 62.]

[MN 993.] The northern invaders, now well acquainted with the
defenceless condition of England, made a powerful descent under the
command of Sweyn, King of Denmark, and Olave, King of Norway; and
sailing up the Humber, spread on all sides their destructive ravages.
Lindesey was laid waste; Banbury was destroyed; and all the
Northumbrians, though mostly of Danish descent, were constrained
either to join the invaders, or to suffer under their depredations. A
powerful army was assembled to oppose the Danes, and a general action
ensued; but the English were deserted in the battle, from the
cowardice or treachery of their three leaders, all of them men of
Danish race, Frena, Frithegist, and Godwin, who gave the example of a
shameful flight to the troops under their command.

Encouraged by this success, and still more by the contempt which it
inspired for their enemy, the pirates ventured to attack the centre of
the kingdom; and entering the Thames in ninety-four vessels, laid
siege to London, and threatened it with total destruction. But the
citizens, alarmed at the danger, and firmly united among themselves,
made a bolder defence than the cowardice of the nobility and gentry
gave the invaders reason to apprehend; and the besiegers, after
suffering the greatest hardships, were finally frustrated in their
attempt. In order to revenge themselves, they laid waste Essex,
Sussex, and Hampshire; and having there procured horses, they were
thereby enabled to spread through the more inland counties the fury of
their depredations. In this extremity, Ethelred and his nobles had
recourse to the former expedient; and sending ambassadors to the two
northern kings, they promised them subsistence and tribute, on
condition they would, for the present, put an end to their ravages,
and soon after depart the kingdom. Sweyn and Olave agreed to the
terms, and peaceably took up their quarters at Southampton, where the
sum of sixteen thousand pounds was paid to them. Olave even made a
journey to Andover, where Ethelred resided, and he received the rite
of confirmation from the English bishops, as well as many rich
presents from the king. He here promised that he would never more
infest the English territories; and he faithfully fulfilled the
engagement. This prince receives the appellation of St. Olave from
the church of Rome; and notwithstanding the general presumption which
lies either against the understanding or morals of every one who in
those ignorant ages was dignified with that title, he seems to have
been a man of merit and of virtue. Sweyn, though less scrupulous than
Olave, was constrained, upon the departure of the Norwegian prince, to
evacuate also the kingdom with all his followers.

[MN 996.] This composition brought only a short interval to the
miseries of the English. The Danish pirates appeared soon after in
the Severn; and having committed spoil in Wales, as well as in
Cornwall and Devonshire, they sailed round to the south coast, and
entering the Tamar, completed the devastation of these two counties.
They then returned to the Bristol Channel; and penetrating into the
country by the Avon, spread themselves over all that neighbourhood,
and carried fire and sword even into Dorsetshire. [MN 998.] They
next changed the seat of war; and after ravaging the Isle of Wight,
they entered the Thames and Medway, and laid siege to Rochester, where
they defeated the Kentish men in a pitched battle. After this
victory, the whole province of Kent was made a scene of slaughter,
fire, and devastation. The extremity of these miseries forced the
English into councils for common defence both by sea and land; but the
weakness of the king, the divisions among the nobility, the treachery
of some, the cowardice of others, the want of concert in all,
frustrated every endeavour; their fleets and armies either came too
late to attack the enemy, or were repulsed with dishonour; and the
people were thus equally ruined by resistance or by submission. The
English, therefore, destitute both of prudence and unanimity in
council, of courage and conduct in the field, had recourse to the same
weak expedient which by experience they had already found so
ineffectual: they offered the Danes to buy peace, by paying them a
large sum of money. These ravagers rose continually in their demands;
and now required the payment of twenty-four thousand pounds, to which
the English were so mean and imprudent as to submit [d]. The
departure of the Danes procured them another short interval of repose,
which they enjoyed as if it were to be perpetual, without making any
effectual preparations for a more vigorous resistance upon the next
return of the enemy.
[FN [d] Hoveden, p. 429. Chron. Mailr. p. 150.]

Besides receiving this sum, the Danes were engaged by another motive
to depart a kingdom which appeared so little in a situation to resist
their efforts: they were invited over by their countrymen in Normandy,
who at this time were hard pressed by the arms of Robert, King of
France, and who found it difficult to defend the settlement, which,
with so much advantage to themselves and glory to their nation, they
had made in that country. It is probable, also, that Ethelred,
observing the close connexions thus maintained among all the Danes,
however divided in government or situation, was desirous of forming an
alliance with that formidable people: for this purpose, being now a
widower, he made his addresses to Emma, sister to Richard II., Duke of
Normandy, and he soon succeeded in his negotiation. [MN 1001.] The
princess came over this year to England, and was married to Ethelred
[FN [e] H. Hunt. p. 359. Higden, p. 271.]

[MN Settlement of the Normans.]
In the end of the ninth and beginning of the tenth century, when the
north, not yet exhausted by that multitude of people, or rather
nations, which she had successively emitted, sent forth a new race,
not of conquerors, as before, but of pirates and ravagers, who
infested the countries possessed by her once warlike sons, lived
Rollo, a petty prince or chieftain of Denmark, whose valour and
abilities soon engaged the attention of his countrymen. He was
exposed in his youth to the jealousy of the King of Denmark, who
attacked his small but independent principality; and who, being foiled
in every assault, had recourse at last to perfidy for effecting his
purpose, which he had often attempted in vain by force of arms [f]: he
lulled Rollo into security by an insidious peace; and falling suddenly
upon him, murdered his brother and his bravest officers, and forced
him to fly for safety into Scandinavia. Here many of his ancient
subjects, induced partly by affection to their prince, partly by the
oppressions of the Danish monarch, ranged themselves under his
standard, and offered to follow him in every enterprise. Rollo,
instead of attempting to recover his paternal dominions, where he must
expect a vigorous resistance from the Danes, determined to pursue an
easier, but more important undertaking, and to make his fortune, in
imitation of his countrymen, by pillaging the richer and more southern
coasts of Europe. He collected a body of troops, which, like that of
all those ravagers, was composed of Norwegians, Swedes, Frisians,
Danes, and adventurers of all nations, who, being accustomed to a
roving unsettled life, took delight in nothing but war and plunder.
His reputation brought him associates from all quarters; and a vision,
which he pretended to have appeared to him in his sleep, and which,
according to his interpretation of it, prognosticated the greatest
successes, proved also a powerful incentive with those ignorant and
superstitious people [g].
[FN [f] Dudo, ex edit. Duchesne, p. 70, 71. Gul. Gemeticencis, lib.
2. cap. 2, 3. [g] Dudo, p.71. Gul. Gem. in Epist. ad Gul. Conq.]

The first attempt made by Rollo was on England, near the end of
Alfred's reign; when that great monarch, having settled Gothrum and
his followers in East Anglia, and others of those freebooters in
Northumberland, and having restored peace to his harassed country, had
established the most excellent military as well as civil institutions
among the English. The prudent Dane, finding that no advantages could
be gained over such a people, governed by such a prince, soon turned
his enterprises against France, which he found more exposed to his
inroads [h]; and during the reigns of Eudes, an usurper, and of
Charles the Simple, a weak prince, he committed the most destructive
ravages both on the inland and maritime provinces of that kingdom.
The French, having no means of defence against a leader who united all
the valour of his countrymen with the policy of more civilized
nations, were obliged to submit to the expedient practised by Alfred,
and to offer the invaders a settlement in some of those provinces
which they had depopulated by their
arms [i].
[FN [h] Gul. Gemet. lib. 2. cap. 6. [i] Dudo, p. 82.]

The reason why the Danes for many years pursued measures so different
from those which had been embraced by the Goths, Vandals, Franks,
Burgundians, Lombards, and other northern conquerors, was the great
difference in the method of attack which was practised by these
several nations, and to which the nature of their respective
situations necessarily confined them. The latter tribes, living in an
inland country, made incursions by land upon the Roman empire; and
when they entered far into the frontiers, they were obliged to carry
along with them their wives and families, whom they had no hopes of
soon revisiting, and who could not otherwise participate of their
plunder. This circumstance quickly made them think of forcing a
settlement in the provinces which they had overrun; and these
barbarians, spreading themselves over the country, found an interest
in protecting the property and industry of the people whom they had
subdued. But the Danes and Norwegians, invited by their maritime
situation, and obliged to maintain themselves in their uncultivated
country by fishing, had acquired some experience of navigation, and in
their military excursions pursued the method practised against the
Roman empire by the more early Saxons: they made descents in small
bodies from their ships, or rather boats, and ravaging the coasts,
returned with their booty to their families, whom they could not
conveniently carry along with them in those hazardous enterprises.
But when they increased their armaments, made incursions into the
inland countries, and found it safe to remain longer in the midst of
the enfeebled enemy, they had been accustomed to crowd their vessels
with their wives and children; and having no longer any temptation to
return to their own country, they willingly embraced an opportunity of
settling in the warm climates and cultivated fields of the south.

Affairs were in this situation with Rollo and his followers, when
Charles proposed to relinquish to them part of the province formerly
called Neustria, and to purchase peace on these hard conditions.
After all the terms were fully settled, there appeared only one
circumstance shocking to the haughty Dane: he was required to do
homage to Charles for this province, and to put himself in that
humiliating posture imposed on vassals by the rites of the feudal law.
He long refused to submit to this indignity; but being unwilling to
lose such important advantages for a mere ceremony, he made a
sacrifice of his pride to his interest, and acknowledged himself, in
form, the vassal of the French monarch [k]. Charles gave him his
daughter, Gisla, in marriage; and that he might bind him faster to his
interests, made him a donation of a considerable territory, besides
that which he was obliged to surrender to him by his stipulations.
When some of the French nobles informed him, that in return for so
generous a present it was expected that he should throw himself at the
king's feet and make suitable acknowledgments for his bounty, Rollo
replied, that he would rather decline the present; and it was with
some difficulty they could persuade him to make that compliment by one
of his captains. The Dane commissioned for this purpose, full of
indignation at the order, and despising so unwarlike a prince, caught
Charles by the foot, and pretending to carry it to his mouth, that he
might kiss it, overthrew him before all his courtiers. The French,
sensible of their present weakness, found it prudent to overlook this
insult [l].
[FN [k] Ypod. Neust. p. 417. [1] Gul Gemet. lib. 2. cap. 17.]

Rollo, who was now in the decline of life, and was tired of wars and
depredations, applied himself, with mature counsels, to the settlement
of his newly-acquired territory, which was thenceforth called
Normandy; and he parcelled it out among his captains and followers.
He followed, in this partition, the customs of the feudal law, which
was then universally established in the southern countries of Europe,
and which suited the peculiar circumstances of that age. He treated
the French subjects, who submitted to him, with mildness and justice;
he reclaimed his ancient followers from their ferocious violence; he
established law and order throughout his state; and after a life spent
in tumult and ravages, he died peaceably in a good old age, and left
his dominions to his posterity [m].
[FN [m] Ibid. cap. 19, 20, 21.]

William I. who succeeded him, governed the duchy twenty-five years;
and, during that time, the Normans were thoroughly intermingled with
the French, had acquired their language, had imitated their manners,
and had made such progress towards cultivation, that on the death of
William, his son Richard, though a minor [n], inherited his dominions:
a sure proof that the Normans were already somewhat advanced in
civility, and that their government could now rest secure on its laws
and civil institutions, and was not wholly sustained by the abilities
of the sovereign. Richard, after a long reign of fifty-four years,
was succeeded by his son of the same name in the year 996 [o]; which
was eighty-five years after the first establishment of the Normans in
France. This was the duke who gave his sister Emma in marriage to
Ethelred, King of England, and who thereby formed connexions with a
country which his posterity was so soon after destined to subdue.
[FN [n] Order. Vitalis, p. 459. Gul. Gemet. lib. 4. cap. 1. [o]
Order. Vitalis, p. 459.]

The Danes had been established during a longer period in England than
in France; and though the similarity of their original language to
that of the Saxons invited them to a more early coalition with the
natives, they had hitherto found so little example of civilized
manners among the English, that they retained all their ancient
ferocity, and valued themselves only on their national character of
military bravery. The recent as well as more ancient achievements of
their countrymen tended to support this idea; and the English princes,
particularly Athelstan and Edgar, sensible of that superiority, had
been accustomed to keep in pay bodies of Danish troops, who were
quartered about the country, and committed many violences upon the
inhabitants. These mercenaries had attained to such a height of
luxury, according to the old English writers [p], that they combed
their hair once a day, bathed themselves once a week, changed their
clothes frequently; and by all these arts of effeminacy, as well as by
their military character, had rendered themselves so agreeable to the
fair sex, that they debauched the wives and daughters of the English,
and dishonoured many families. But what most provoked the
inhabitants, was, that instead of defending them against invaders,
they were ever ready to betray them to the foreign Danes, and to
associate themselves with all straggling parties of that nation. The
animosity between the inhabitants of English and Danish race had from
these repeated injuries risen to a great height; when Ethelred, from a
policy incident to weak princes, embraced the cruel resolution of
massacring the latter throughout all his dominions [q]. [MN 1002.]
Secret orders were despatched to commence the execution everywhere on
the same day; and the festival of St. Brice [MN Nov. 13.], which fell
on a Sunday, the day on which the Danes usually bathed themselves, was
chosen for that purpose. It is needless to repeat the accounts
transmitted concerning the barbarity of this massacre: the rage of the
populace, excited by so many injuries, sanctioned by authority, and
stimulated by example, distinguished not between innocence and guilt,
spared neither sex nor age, and was not satiated without the tortures
as well as death of the unhappy victims. Even Gunilda, sister to the
King of Denmark, who had married Earl Paling, and had embraced
Christianity, was, by the advice of Edric, Earl of Wilts, seized and
condemned to death by Ethelred, after seeing her husband and children
butchered before her face. This unhappy princess foretold, in the
agonies of despair, that her murder would soon be avenged by the total
ruin of the English nation.
[FN [p] Wallingford, p. 547. [q] See note [D] at the end of the

[MN 1003.]
Never was prophecy better fulfilled; and never did barbarous policy
prove more fatal to the authors. Sweyn and his Danes, who wanted but
a pretence for invading the English, appeared off the western coast,
and threatened to take full revenge for the slaughter of their
countrymen. Exeter fell first into their hands, from the negligence
or treachery of Earl Hugh, a Norman, who had been made governor by the
interest of Queen Emma. They began to spread their devastations over
the country; when the English, sensible what outrages they must now
expect from their barbarous and offended enemy, assembled more early,
and in greater numbers than usual, and made an appearance of vigorous
resistance. But all these preparations were frustrated by the
treachery of Duke Alfric, who was intrusted with the command, and who,
feigning sickness, refused to lead the army against the Danes, till it
was dispirited, and at last dissipated, by his fatal misconduct.
Alfric soon after died; and Edric, a greater traitor than he, who had
married the king's daughter, and had acquired a total ascendant over
him, succeeded Alfric in the government of Mercia, and in the command
of the English armies. A great famine, proceeding partly from the bad
seasons, partly from the decay of agriculture, added to all the other
miseries of the inhabitants. The country, wasted by the Danes,
harassed by the fruitless expeditions of its own forces, was reduced
to the utmost desolation; and at last [MN 1007.] submitted to the
infamy of purchasing a precarious peace from the enemy, by the payment
of thirty thousand pounds.

The English endeavoured to employ this interval in making preparations
against the return of the Danes, which they had reason soon to expect.
A law was made, ordering the proprietors of eight hides of land to
provide each a horseman and a complete suit of armour; and those of
three hundred and ten hides to equip a ship for the defence of the
coast. When this navy was assembled, which must have consisted of
near eight hundred vessels [r], all hopes of its success were
disappointed by the factions, animosities, and dissensions of the
nobility Edric had impelled his brother Brightric to prefer an
accusation of treason against Wolfnoth, Governor of Sussex, the father
of the famous Earl Godwin; and that nobleman, well acquainted with the
malevolence, as well as power of his enemy, found no means of safety
but in deserting with twenty ships to the Danes. Brightric pursued
him with a fleet of eighty sail; but his ships being shattered in a
tempest, and stranded on the coast, he was suddenly attacked by
Wolfnoth, and all his vessels were burnt or destroyed. The imbecility
of the king was little capable of repairing this misfortune: the
treachery of Edric frustrated every plan for future defence; and the
English navy, disconcerted, discouraged, and divided, was at last
scattered into its several harbours.
[FN [r] There were 243,600 hides in England. Consequently the ships
equipped must be 785. The cavalry was 30,450 men.]

It is almost impossible, or would be tedious, to relate particularly
all the miseries to which the English were thenceforth exposed. We
hear of nothing but the sacking and burning of towns; the devastation
of the open country; the appearance of the enemy in every quarter of
the kingdom; their cruel diligence in discovering any corner which had
not been ransacked by their former violence. The broken and
disjointed narration of the ancient historians is here well adapted to
the nature of the war, which was conducted by such sudden inroads as
would have been dangerous even to an united and well-governed kingdom,
but proved fatal, where nothing but a general consternation and mutual
diffidence and dissension prevailed. The governors of one province
refused to march to the assistance of another, and were at last
terrified from assembling their forces for the defence of their own
province. General councils were summoned; but either no resolution
was taken, or none was carried into execution. And the only expedient
in which the English agreed, was the base and imprudent one of buying
a new peace from the Danes, by the payment of forty-eight thousand

[MN 1011.] This measure did not bring them even that short interval
of repose which they had expected from it. The Danes, disregarding
all engagements, continued their devastations and hostilities; levied
a new contribution of eight thousand pounds upon the county of Kent
alone; murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had refused to
countenance this exaction; and the English nobility found no other
resource than that of submitting every where to the Danish monarch,
swearing allegiance to him [MN 1013.], and delivering him hostages for
their fidelity. Ethelred, equally afraid of the violence of the enemy
and the treachery of his own subjects, fled into Normandy, whither he
had sent before him Queen Emma and her two sons, Alfred and Edward.
Richard received his unhappy guests with a generosity that does honour
to his memory.

[MN 1014.] The king had not been above six weeks in Normandy when he
heard of the death of Sweyn, who expired at Gainsborough, before he
had time to establish himself in his newly acquired dominions. The
English prelates and nobility, taking advantage of this event, sent
over a deputation to Normandy, inviting Ethelred to return to them,
expressing a desire of being again governed by their native prince,
and intimating their hopes, that being now tutored by experience, he
would avoid all those errors which had been attended with such
misfortunes to himself and to his people. But the misconduct of
Ethelred was incurable; and on his resuming the government, he
discovered the same incapacity, indolence, cowardice, and credulity,
which had so often exposed him to the insults of his enemies. His
son-in-law, Edric, notwithstanding his repeated treasons, retained
such influence at court as to instil into the king jealousies of
Sigefert and Morcar, two of the chief nobles of Mercia: Edric allured
them into his house, where he murdered them; while Ethelred
participated in the infamy of the action, by confiscating their
estates and thrusting into a convent the widow of Sigefert. She was a
woman of singular beauty and merit; and in a visit which was paid her,
during her confinement, by Prince Edmond, the king's eldest son, she
inspired him with so violent an affection, that he released her from
the convent, and soon after married her, without the consent of his

Meanwhile the English found in Canute, the son and successor of Sweyn,
an enemy no less terrible than the prince from whom death had so
lately delivered them. He ravaged the eastern coast with merciless
fury, and put ashore all the English hostages at Sandwich, after
having cut off their hands and noses. He was obliged, by the
necessity of his affairs, to make a voyage to Denmark; but returning
soon after, he continued his depredations along the southern coast: he
even broke into the counties of Dorset, Wilts, and Somerset; where an
army was assembled against him, under the command of Prince Edmond and
Duke Edric. The latter still continued his perfidious machinations;
and after endeavouring in vain to get the prince into his power, he
found means to disperse the army; and he then openly deserted to
Canute with forty vessels. [MN 1015.]

Notwithstanding this misfortune, Edmond was not disconcerted; but,
assembling all the force of England, was in a condition to give battle
to the enemy. The king had had such frequent experience of perfidy
among his subjects, that he had lost all confidence in them: he
remained at London, pretending sickness, but really from apprehensions
that they intended to buy their peace, by delivering him into the
hands of his enemies. The army called aloud for their sovereign to
march at their head against the Danes; and, on his refusal to take the
field, they were so discouraged, that those vast preparations became
ineffectual for the defence of the kingdom. Edmond, deprived of all
regular supplies to maintain his soldiers, was obliged to commit equal
ravages with those which were practised by the Danes; and after making
some fruitless expeditions into the north, which had submitted
entirely to Canute's power, he retired to London, determined there to
maintain, to the last extremity, the small remains of English liberty.
[MN 1016.] He here found every thing in confusion by the death of the
king, who expired after an unhappy and inglorious reign of thirty-five
years. He left two sons by his first marriage, Edmond, who succeeded
him, and Edwy, whom Canute afterwards murdered. His two sons by the
second marriage, Alfred and Edward, were immediately, upon Ethelred's
death, conveyed into Normandy by Queen Emma.

[MN Edmond Ironside.]
This prince, who received the name of Ironside from his hardy valour,
possessed courage and abilities sufficient to have prevented his
country from sinking into those calamities, but not to raise it from
that abyss of misery into which it had already fallen. Among the
other misfortunes of the English, treachery and disaffection had crept
in among the nobility and prelates; and Edmond found no better
expedient for stopping the farther progress of these fatal evils, than
to lead his army instantly into the field, and to employ them against
the common enemy. After meeting with some success at Gillingham, he
prepared himself to decide, in one general engagement, the fate of his
crown; and at Scoerston, in the county of Gloucester, he offered
battle to the enemy, who were commanded by Canute and Edric. Fortune,
in the beginning of the day, declared for him; but Edric, having cut
off the head of one Osmer, whose countenance resembled that of Edmond,
fixed it on a spear, carried it through the ranks in triumph, and
called aloud to the English, that it was time to fly; for, behold! the
head of their sovereign. And though Edmond, observing the
consternation of the troops, took off his helmet and showed himself to
them, the utmost he could gain by his activity and valour was to leave
the victory undecided. Edric now took a surer method to ruin him, by
pretending to desert to him, and as Edmond was well acquainted with
his power, and probably knew no other of the chief nobility in whom he
could repose more confidence, he was obliged, notwithstanding the
repeated perfidy of the man, to give him a considerable command in the
army. A battle soon after ensued at Assington in Essex, where Edric,
flying in the beginning of the day, occasioned the total defeat of the
English, followed by a great slaughter of the nobility. The
indefatigable Edmond, however, had still resources; assembling a new
army at Gloucester, he was again in a condition to dispute the field;
when the Danish and English nobility, equally harassed with those
convulsions, obliged their kings to come to a compromise, and to
divide the kingdom between them by treaty. Canute reserved to himself
the northern division, consisting of Mercia, East Anglia, and
Northumberland, which he had entirely subdued; the southern parts were
left to Edmond. This prince survived the treaty about a month. He
was murdered at Oxford by two of his chamberlains, accomplices of
Edric, who thereby made way for the succession of Canute the Dane to
the crown of England.

[MN Canute 1017.]
The English, who had been unable to defend their country, and maintain
their independency, under so active and brave a prince as Edmond,
could, after his death, expect nothing but total subjection from
Canute, who, active and brave himself, and at the head of a great
force, was ready to take advantage of the minority of Edwin and
Edward, the two sons of Edmond. Yet this conqueror, who was commonly
so little scrupulous, showed himself anxious to cover his injustice
under plausible pretences; before he seized the dominions of the
English princes, he summoned a general assembly of the states, in
order to fix the succession of the kingdom. He here suborned some
nobles to depose that, in the treaty of Gloucester, it had been
verbally agreed either to name Canute, in case of Edmond's death,
successor to his dominions, or tutor to his children (for historians
vary in this particular); and that evidence, supported by the great
power of Canute, determined the states immediately to put the Danish
monarch in possession of the government. Canute, jealous of the two
princes, but sensible that he should render himself extremely odious
if he ordered them to be despatched in England, sent them abroad to
his ally, the King of Sweden, whom he desired, as soon as they arrived
at his court, to free him by their death from all farther anxiety.
The Swedish monarch was too generous to comply with the request, but
being afraid of drawing on himself a quarrel with Canute, by
protecting the young princes, he sent them to Solomon, King of
Hungary, to be educated in his court. The elder, Edwin, was
afterwards married to the sister of the King of Hungary, but the
English prince dying without issue, Solomon gave his sister-in-law,
Agatha, daughter of the Emperor Henry II., in marriage to Edward, the
younger brother; and she bore him Edgar Atheling, Margaret, afterwards
queen of Scotland, and Christiana, who retired into a convent.

Canute, though he had reached the great point of his ambition, in
obtaining possession of the English crown, was obliged at first to
make great sacrifices to it; and to gratify the chief of the nobility,
by bestowing on them the most extensive governments and jurisdictions.
He created Thurkill Earl or Duke of East Anglia, (for these titles
were then nearly of the same import,) Yric of Northumberland, and
Edric of Mercia, reserving only to himself the administration of
Wessex. But seizing afterwards a favourable opportunity, he expelled
Thurkill and Yric from their governments, and banished them the
kingdom; he put to death many of the English nobility, on whose
fidelity he could not rely, and whom he hated on account of their
disloyalty to their native prince. And even the traitor Edric, having
had the assurance to reproach him with his services, was condemned to
be executed, and his body to be thrown into the Thames; a suitable
reward for his multiplied acts of perfidy and rebellion.

Canute also found himself obliged, in the beginning of his reign, to
load the people with heavy taxes, in order to reward his Danish
followers: he exacted from them at one time the sum of seventy-two
thousand pounds; besides eleven thousand pounds, which he levied on
London alone. He was probably willing, from political motives, to
mulct severely that city, on account of the affection which it had
borne to Edmond, and the resistance which it had made to the Danish
power in two obstinate sieges [s]. But these rigours were imputed to
necessity; and Canute, like a wise prince, was determined that the
English, now deprived of all their dangerous leaders, should be
reconciled to the Danish yoke by the justice and impartiality of his
administration. He sent back to Denmark as many of his followers as
he could safely spare; he restored the Saxon customs in a general
assembly of the states; he made no distinction between Danes and
English in the distribution of justice; and he took care, by a strict
execution of law, to protect the lives and properties of all his
people. The Danes were gradually incorporated with his new subjects;
and both were glad to obtain a little respite from those multiplied
calamities from which the one, no less than the other, had, in their
fierce contest for power, experienced such fatal consequences.
[FN [s] W. Malm. p. 72. In one of these sieges, Canute diverted the
course of the Thames, and by that means brought his ships above London

The removal of Edmond's children into so distant a country as Hungary,
was, next to their death, regarded by Canute as the greatest security
to his government: he had no farther anxiety, except with regard to
Alfred and Edward, who were protected and supported by their uncle,
Richard Duke of Normandy. Richard even fitted out a great armament,
in order to restore the English princes to the throne of their
ancestors; and, though the navy was dispersed by a storm, Canute saw
the danger to which he was exposed from the enmity of so warlike a
people as the Normans. In order to acquire the friendship of the
duke, he paid his addresses to Queen Emma, sister of that prince; and
promised that he would leave the children whom he should have by that
marriage in possession of the crown of England. Richard complied with
his demand, and sent over Emma to England, where she was soon after
married to Canute [t]. The English, though they disapproved of her
espousing the mortal enemy of her former husband and his family, were
pleased to find at court a sovereign to whom they were accustomed, and
who had already formed connexions with them; and thus Canute, besides
securing by this marriage the alliance of Normandy, gradually
acquired, by the same means, the confidence of his own subjects [u].
The Norman prince did not long survive the marriage of Emma; and he
left the inheritance of the duchy to his eldest son of the same name;
who dying a year after him without children, was succeeded by his
brother Robert, a man of valour and abilities.
[FN [t] Chron Sax. p. 151. W. Malmes. p. 73. [u] W. Malmes. p. 73.
Higden, p. 275.]

Canute, having settled his power in England beyond all danger of a
revolution, made a voyage to Denmark, in order to resist the attacks
of the King of Sweden; and he carried along with him a great body of
the English, under the command of Earl Godwin. This nobleman had here
an opportunity of performing a service by which he both reconciled the
king's mind to the English nation, and, gaining to himself the
friendship of his sovereign, laid the foundation of that immense
fortune which he acquired to his family. He was stationed next the
Swedish camp, and observing a favourable opportunity which he was
obliged suddenly to seize, he attacked the enemy in the night, drove
them from their trenches, threw them into disorder, pursued his
advantage, and obtained a decisive victory over them. Next morning,
Canute seeing the English camp entirely abandoned, imagined that those
disaffected troops had deserted to the enemy: he was agreeably
surprised to find that they were at that time engaged in pursuit of
the discomfited Swedes. He was so pleased with this success, and with
the manner of obtaining it, that he bestowed his daughter in marriage
upon Godwin, and treated him ever after with entire confidence and

[MN 1028.] In another voyage, which he made afterwards to Denmark,
Canute attacked Norway, and expelling the just but unwarlike Olaus,
kept possession of his kingdom till the death of that prince. He had
now, by his conquests and valour, attained the utmost height of
grandeur; having leisure from wars and intrigues, he felt the
unsatisfactory nature of all human enjoyments; and, equally weary of
the glories and turmoils of this life, he began to cast his view
towards that future existence, which it is so natural for the human
mind, whether satiated by prosperity, or disgusted with adversity, to
make the object of its attention. Unfortunately, the spirit which
prevailed in that age gave a wrong direction to his devotion; instead
of making compensation to those whom he had injured by his former acts
of violence, he employed himself entirely in those exercises of piety
which the monks represented as the most meritorious. He built
churches, he endowed monasteries, he enriched the ecclesiastics, and
he bestowed revenues for the support of chantries at Assington and
other places, where he appointed prayers to be said for the souls of
those who had there fallen in battle against him. He even undertook a
pilgrimage to Rome, where he resided a considerable time; besides
obtaining from the pope some privileges for the English school erected
there, he engaged all the princes through whose dominions he was
obliged to pass to desist from those heavy impositions and tolls which
they were accustomed to exact from the English pilgrims. By this
spirit of devotion, no less than by his equitable and politic
administration, he gained, in a good measure, the affections of his

Canute, the greatest and most powerful monarch of his time, sovereign
of Denmark and Norway, as well as of England, could not fail of
meeting with adulation from his courtiers; a tribute which is
liberally paid even to the meanest and weakest princes. Some of his
flatterers, breaking out one day in admiration of his grandeur,
exclaimed, that every thing was possible for him; upon which the
monarch, it is said, ordered his chair to be set on the sea-shore,
while the tide was rising; and as the waters approached he commanded
them to retire, and to obey the voice of him who was lord of the
ocean. He feigned to sit some time in expectation of their
submission; but when the sea still advanced towards him, and began to
wash him with its billows, he turned to his courtiers, and remarked to
them, that every creature in the universe was feeble and impotent, and
that power resided with one Being alone, in whose hands were all the
elements of nature, who could say to the ocean, THUS FAR SHALT THOU
GO, AND NO FARTHER; and who could level with his nod the most towering
piles of human pride and ambition.

[MN 1031.] The only memorable action which Canute performed after his
return from Rome was an expedition against Malcolm, King of Scotland.
During the reign of Ethelred, a tax of a shilling a hide had been
imposed on all the lands of England. It was commonly called DANEGELT;
because the revenue had been employed either in buying peace with the
Danes, or in making preparations against the inroads of that hostile
nation. That monarch had required that the same tax should be paid by
Cumberland, which was held by the Scots; but Malcolm, a warlike
prince, told him, that, as he was always able to repulse the Danes by
his own power, he would neither submit to buy peace of his enemies,
nor pay others for resisting them. Ethelred, offended at this reply,
which contained a secret reproach on his own conduct, undertook an
expedition against Cumberland; but though he committed ravages upon
the country, he could never bring Malcolm to a temper more humble or
submissive. Canute, after his accession, summoned the Scottish king
to acknowledge himself a vassal for Cumberland to the crown of
England; but Malcolm refused compliance, on pretence that he owed
homage to those princes only who inherited that kingdom by right of
blood. Canute was not of a temper to bear this insult; and the King
of Scotland soon found that the sceptre was in very different hands
from those of the feeble and irresolute Ethelred. Upon Canute's
appearing on the frontiers with a formidable army, Malcolm agreed that
his grandson and heir, Duncan, whom he put in possession of
Cumberland, should make the submissions required, and that the heirs
of Scotland should always acknowledge themselves vassals to England
for that province [w].
[FN [w] W. Malmes p. 74.]

Canute passed four years in peace after this enterprise, and he died
at Shaftesbury [x]; leaving three sons, Sweyn, Harold, and
Hardicanute. Sweyn, whom he had by his first marriage with Alfwen,
daughter of the Earl of Hampshire, was crowned in Norway: Hardicanute,
whom Emma had borne him, was in possession of Denmark: Harold, who was
of the same marriage with Sweyn, was at that time in England.
[FN [x] Chron. Sax. p. 154. W. Malmes. p. 76.]

[MN Harold Harefoot. 1035.]
Though Canute, in his treaty with Richard, Duke of Normandy, had
stipulated that his children by Emma should succeed to the crown of
England, he had either considered himself as released from that
engagement by the death of Richard, or esteemed it dangerous to leave
an unsettled and newly-conquered kingdom in the hands of so young a
prince as Hardicanute; he therefore appointed by his will Harold
successor to the crown. This prince was, besides, present to maintain
his claim; he was favoured by all the Danes, and he got immediately
possession of his father's treasures, which might be equally useful,
whether he found it necessary to proceed by force or intrigue in
insuring his succession. On the other hand, Hardicanute had the
suffrages of the English, who, on account of his being born among them
of Queen Emma, regarded him as their countryman; he was favoured by
the articles of treaty with the Duke of Normandy; and, above all, his
party was espoused by Earl Godwin, the most powerful nobleman in the
kingdom, especially in the province of Wessex, the chief seat of the
ancient English. Affairs were likely to terminate in a civil war;
when, by the interposition of the nobility of both parties, a
compromise was made, and it was agreed that Harold should enjoy,
together with London, all the provinces north of the Thames, while the
possession of the south should remain to Hardicanute; and till that
prince should appear and take possession of his dominions, Emma fixed
her residence at Winchester, and established her authority over her
son's share of the partition.

Meanwhile, Robert, Duke of Normandy, died in a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land, and being succeeded by a son, yet a minor, the two English
princes, Alfred and Edward, who found no longer any countenance or
protection in that country, gladly embraced the opportunity of paying
a visit, with a numerous retinue, to their mother Emma, who seemed to
be placed in a state of so much power and splendour at Winchester.
But the face of affairs soon wore a melancholy aspect. Earl Godwin
had been gained by the arts of Harold, who promised to espouse the
daughter of that nobleman, and while the treaty was yet a secret,
these two tyrants laid a plan for the destruction of the English
princes. Alfred was invited to London by Harold with many professions
of friendship; but when he had reached Guilford, he was set upon by
Godwin's vassals, about six hundred of his train were murdered in the
most cruel manner, he himself was taken prisoner, his eyes were put
out, and he was conducted to the monastery of Ely, where he died soon
after [y]. Edward and Emma, apprized of the fate which was awaiting
them, fled beyond sea, the former into Normandy, the latter into
Flanders. While Harold, triumphing in his bloody policy, took
possession, without resistance, of all the dominions assigned to his
[FN [y] H. Hunt. p. 365. Ypod. Neustr. p. 434. Hoveden, p. 438.
Chron. Mailr. p. 156. Higden, p. 277. Chron. St. Petri de Burgo, p.
39. Sim. Dun. p. 179. Abbas Rieval. p. 366, 374. Brompton, p. 935.
Gul. Gem. lib. 7, cap. 11. Matth. West. p. 209. Flor. Wigorn. p.
622. Alur. Beverl. p. 118.]

This is the only memorable action performed during a reign of four
years, by this prince, who gave so bad a specimen of his character,
and whose bodily accomplishments alone are known to us by his
appellation of HAREFOOT, which he acquired from his agility in running
and walking. He died on the 14th of April, 1039; little regretted or
esteemed by his subjects, and left the succession open to his brother,

[MN Hardicanute. 1039.]
Hardicanute, or Canute the Hardy, that is, the robust, (for he too is
chiefly known by his bodily accomplishments,) though, by remaining so
long in Denmark, he had been deprived of his share in the partition of
the kingdom, had not abandoned his pretensions; and he had determined,
before Harold's death, to recover by arms what he had lost, either by
his own negligence, or by the necessity of his affairs. On pretence
of paying a visit to the queen-dowager in Flanders, he had assembled a
fleet of sixty sail, and was preparing to make a descent on England,
when intelligence of his brother's death induced him to sail
immediately to London, where he was received in triumph, and
acknowledged king without opposition.

The first act of Hardicanute's government afforded his subjects a bad
prognostic of his future conduct. He was so enraged at Harold for
depriving him of his share of the kingdom, and for the cruel treatment
of his brother Alfred, that, in an impotent desire of revenge against
the dead, he ordered his body to be dug up, and to be thrown into the
Thames; and, when it was found by some fishermen, and buried in
London, he ordered it again to be dug up, and to be thrown again into
the river; but it was fished up a second time, and then interred with
great secrecy. Godwin, equally servile and insolent, submitted to be
his instrument in this unnatural and brutal action.

That nobleman knew that he was universally believed to have been an
accomplice in the barbarity exercised on Alfred, and that he was on
that account obnoxious to Hardicanute; and perhaps he hoped, by
displaying this rage against Harold's memory, to justify himself from
having had any participation in his counsels. But Prince Edward,
being invited over by the king, immediately on his appearance
preferred an accusation against Godwin for the murder of Alfred, and
demanded justice for that crime. Godwin, in order to appease the
king, made him a magnificent present of a galley with a gilt stern,
rowed by fourscore men, who bore each of them a gold bracelet on his
arm, weighing sixteen ounces, and were armed and clothed in the most
sumptuous manner. Hardicanute, pleased with the splendour of this
spectacle, quickly forgot his brother's murder; and on Godwin's
swearing that he was innocent of the crime, he allowed him to be

Though Hardicanute, before his accession, had been called over by the
vows of the English, he soon lost the affections of the nation by his
misconduct; but nothing appeared more grievous to them, than his
renewing the imposition of Danegelt, and obliging the nation to pay a
great sum of money to the fleet which brought him from Denmark. The
discontents ran high in many places; in Worcester the populace rose,
and put to death two of the collectors. The king, enraged at this
opposition, swore vengeance against the city, and ordered three
noblemen, Godwin, Duke of Wessex, Siward, Duke of Northumberland, and
Leofric, Duke of Mercia, to execute his menaces with the utmost
rigour. They were obliged to set fire to the city, and deliver it up
to be plundered by their soldiers; but they saved the lives of the
inhabitants, whom they confined in a small island of the Severn,
called Bevery, till, by their intercession, they were able to appease
the king, and obtain the pardon of the supplicants.

This violent government was of short duration. Hardicanute died in
two years after his accession, at the nuptials of a Danish lord, which
he had honoured with his presence. His usual habits of intemperance
were so well known, that, notwithstanding his robust constitution, his
sudden death gave as little surprise as it did sorrow to his subjects.

[MN Edward the Confessor. 1041.]
The English, on the death of Hardicanute, saw a favourable opportunity
for recovering their liberty, and for shaking off the Danish yoke,
under which they had so long laboured. Sweyn, King of Norway, the
eldest son of Canute, was absent; and as the two last kings had died
without issue, none of that race presented himself, nor any whom the
Danes could support as successor to the throne. Prince Edward was
fortunately at court on his brother's demise; and though the
descendants of Edmund Ironside were the true heirs of the Saxon
family, yet their absence in so remote a country as Hungary, appeared
a sufficient reason for their exclusion, to a people like the English,
so little accustomed to observe a regular order in the succession of
their monarchs. All delays might be dangerous; and the present
occasion must hastily be embraced; while the Danes, without concert,
without a leader, astonished at the present incident, and anxious only
for their personal safety, durst not oppose the united voice of the

But this concurrence of circumstances in favour of Edward might have
failed of its effect, had his succession been opposed by Godwin, whose
power, alliances, and abilities gave him a great influence at all
times, especially amidst those sudden opportunities which always
attend a revolution of government, and which, either seized or
neglected, commonly prove decisive. There were opposite reasons which
divided men's hopes and fears with regard to Godwin's conduct. On the
one hand, the credit of that nobleman lay chiefly in Wessex, which was
almost entirely inhabited by English: it was therefore presumed that
he would second the wishes of that people, in restoring the Saxon line
and in humbling the Danes, from whom he, as well as they, had reason
to dread, as they had already felt the most grievous oppressions. On
the other hand, there subsisted a declared animosity between Edward
and Godwin, on account of Alfred's murder, of which the latter had
publicly been accused by the prince, and which he might believe so
deep an offence, as could never, on account of any subsequent merits,
be sincerely pardoned. But their common friends here interposed; and,
representing the necessity of their good correspondence, obliged them
to lay aside all jealousy and rancour, and concur in restoring liberty
to their native country. Godwin only stipulated, that Edward, as a
pledge of his sincere reconciliation, should promise to marry his
daughter Editha; and having fortified himself by this alliance, he
summoned a general council at Gillingham, and prepared every measure
for securing the succession to Edward. The English were unanimous and
zealous in their resolutions; the Danes were divided and dispirited:
any small opposition which appeared in the assembly was browbeaten and
suppressed; and Edward was crowned king, with every demonstration of
duty and affection.

The triumph of the English, upon this signal and decisive advantage,
was at first attended with some assault and violence against the
Danes; but the king, by the mildness of his character, soon reconciled
the latter to his administration, and the distinction between the two
nations gradually disappeared. The Danes were interspersed with the
English in most of the provinces; they spoke nearly the same language;
they differed little in their manners and laws; domestic dissensions
in Denmark prevented, for some years, any powerful invasion from
thence, which might awaken past animosities; and as the Norman
Conquest, which ensued soon after, reduced both nations to equal
subjection, there is no further mention in history of any difference
between them. The joy, however, of their present deliverance made
such impression on the minds of the English, that they instituted an
annual festival for celebrating that great event; and it was observed
in some counties even to the time of Spellman [z].
[FN [z] Spellm. Glossary, in verbo HOCDAY.]

The popularity which Edward enjoyed on his accession was not destroyed
by the first act of his administration, his resuming all the grants of
his immediate predecessors; an attempt which is commonly attended with
the most dangerous consequences. The poverty of the crown convinced
the nation that this act of violence was become absolutely necessary;
and as the loss fell chiefly on the Danes, who had obtained large
grants from the late kings, their countrymen, on account of their
services in subduing the kingdom, the English were rather pleased to
see them reduced to their primitive poverty. The king's severity also
towards his mother, the queen-dowager, though exposed to some more
censure, met not with very general disapprobation. He had hitherto
lived on indifferent terms with the princess; he accused her of
neglecting him and his brother during their adverse fortune [a]; he
remarked that as the superior qualities of Canute, and his better
treatment of her, had made her entirely indifferent to the memory of
Ethelred, she also gave the preference to her children of the second
bed, and always regarded Hardicanute as her favourite. The same
reasons had probably made her unpopular in England; and though her
benefactions to the monks obtained her the favour of that order, the
nation was not, in general, displeased to see her stripped by Edward
of immense treasure which she had amassed. He confined her, during
the remainder of her life, in a monastery at Winchester, but carried
his rigour against her no farther. The stories of his accusing her of
a participation in her son Alfred's murder, and of a criminal
correspondence with the Bishop of Winchester, and also of her
justifying herself by treading barefoot, without receiving any hurt,
over nine burning ploughshares, were the inventions of the monkish
historians, and were propagated and believed from the silly wonder of
posterity [b].
[FN [a] Anglia Sacra, vol. i. p. 237. [b] Higden, p. 277.]

The English flattered themselves that, by the accession of Edward,
they were delivered for ever from the dominion of foreigners; but they
soon found that this evil was not yet entirely removed. The king had
been educated in Normandy; and had contracted many intimacies with the
natives of that country, as well as an affection for their manners
[c]. The court of England was soon filled with Normans, who, being
distinguished both by the favour of Edward, and by a degree of
cultivation superior to that which was attained by the English in
those ages, soon rendered their language, customs, and laws,
fashionable in the kingdom. The study of the French tongue became
general among the people. The courtiers affected to imitate that
nation in their dress, equipage, and entertainments: even the lawyers
employed a foreign language in their deeds and papers [d]. But, above
all, the church felt the influence and dominion of those strangers:
Ulf and William, two Normans, who had formerly been the king's
chaplains, were created Bishops of Dorchester and London. Robert, a
Norman also, was promoted to the see of Canterbury [e], and always
enjoyed the highest favour of his master, of which his abilities
rendered him not unworthy. And though the king's prudence, or his
want of authority, made him confer almost all the civil and military
employments on the natives, the ecclesiastical preferments fell often
to the share of the Normans; and as the latter possessed Edward's
confidence, they had secretly a great influence on public affairs, and
excited the jealousy of the English, particularly of Earl Godwin [f].
[FN [c] Ingulph. p. 62. [d] Ingulph. p. 62. [e] Chron. Sax. p. 161.
[f] W. Malm. p. 80.]

This powerful nobleman, besides being Duke or Earl of Wessex, had the
counties of Kent and Sussex annexed to his government. His eldest
son, Sweyn, possessed the same authority in the counties of Oxford,
Berks, Gloucester, and Hereford; and Harold, his second son, was Duke
of East Anglia, and at the same time governor of Essex. The great
authority of this family was supported by immense possessions and
powerful alliances; and the abilities, as well as ambition of Godwin
himself, contributed to render it still more dangerous. A prince of
greater capacity and vigour than Edward would have found it difficult
to support the dignity of the crown under such circumstances; and as
the haughty temper of Godwin made him often forget the respect due to
his prince, Edward's animosity against him was grounded on personal as
well as political considerations, on recent as well as more ancient
injuries. The king, in pursuance of his engagements, had indeed
married Editha, the daughter of Godwin [g]; but this alliance became a
fresh source of enmity between them. Edward's hatred of the father
was transferred to that princess; and Editha, though possessed of many
amiable accomplishments, could never acquire the confidence and
affection of her husband. It is even pretended that, during the whole
course of her life, he abstained from all commerce of love with her;
and such was the absurd admiration paid to an inviolable chastity
during those ages, that his conduct in this particular is highly
celebrated by the monkish historians, and greatly contributed to his
acquiring the title of Saint and Confessor [h]. [MN 1048]
[FN [g] Chron. Sax. p. 157. [h] Wm. Malm. p. 80 Higden, p. 277.
Abbas Rieval. p. 366, 377. Matth. West. p. 221. Chron. Thom. Wykes,
p. 21. Anglia Sacra, vol. i. p. 241.]

The most popular pretence on which Godwin could ground his
disaffection to the king and his administration was to complain of the
influence of the Normans in the government; and a declared opposition
had thence arisen between him and these favourites. It was not long
before this animosity broke into action. Eustace, Count of Boulogne,
having paid a visit to the king, passed by Dover in his return; one of
his train, being refused entrance to a lodging which had been assigned
him, attempted to make his way by force, and in the contest he wounded
the master of the house. The inhabitants revenged this insult by the
death of the stranger; the count and his train took arms, and murdered
the wounded townsman; a tumult ensued; near twenty persons were killed
on each side; and Eustace, being overpowered by numbers, was obliged
to save his life by flight from the fury of the populace. He hurried
immediately to court and complained of the usage he had met with: the
king entered zealously into the quarrel, and was highly displeased
that a stranger of such distinction, whom he had invited over to his
court, should, without any just cause, as he believed, have felt so
sensibly the insolence and animosity of his people. He gave orders to
Godwin, in whose government Dover lay, to repair immediately to the
place, and to punish the inhabitants for the crime: but Godwin, who
desired rather to encourage than repress the popular discontents
against foreigners, refused obedience, and endeavoured to throw the
whole blame of the riot on the Count of Boulogne and his retinue [i].
Edward, touched in so sensible a point, saw the necessity of exerting
the royal authority; and he threatened Godwin, if he persisted in his
disobedience, to make him feel the utmost effects of his resentment.
[FN [i] Chron. Sax. p. 163. W. Malm. p. 81. Higden, p. 279.]

The earl, perceiving a rupture to be unavoidable, and pleased to
embark in a cause where it was likely he should be supported by his
countrymen, made preparations for his own defence, or rather for an
attack on Edward. Under pretence of repressing some disorders on the
Welsh frontier, he secretly assembled a great army, and was
approaching the king, who resided, without any military force, and
without suspicion, at Gloucester [k]. Edward applied for protection
to Siward, Duke of Northumberland, and Leofric, Duke of Mercia, two
powerful noblemen, whose jealousy of Godwin's greatness, as well as
their duty to the crown, engaged them to defend the king in this
extremity. They hastened to him with such of their followers as they
could assemble on a sudden; and finding the danger much greater than
they had at first apprehended, they issued orders for mustering all
the forces within their respective governments, and for marching them
without delay to the defence of the king's person and authority.
Edward, meanwhile, endeavoured to gain time by negotiation; while
Godwin, who thought the king entirely in his power, and who was
willing to save appearances, fell into the snare; and, not sensible
that he ought to have no farther reserve after he had proceeded so
far, he lost the favourable opportunity of rendering himself master of
the government.
[FN [k] Chron. Sax. p. 163. W. Malm. p. 81.]

The English, though they had no high idea of Edward's vigour and
capacity, bore him great affection, on account of his humanity,
justice, and piety, as well as the long race of their native kings
from whom he was descended; and they hastened from all quarters to
defend him from the present danger. His army was now so considerable,
that he ventured to take the field, and marching to London, he
summoned a great council to judge of the rebellion of Godwin and his
sons. These noblemen pretended at first that they were willing to
stand their trial; but having in vain endeavoured to make their
adherents persist in rebellion, they offered to come to London,
provided they might receive hostages for their safety: this proposal
being rejected, they were obliged to disband the remains of their
forces, and have recourse to flight. Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, gave
protection to Godwin and his three sons, Gurth, Sweyn, and Tosti; the
latter of whom had married the daughter of that prince. Harold and
Leofwin, two other of his sons, took shelter in Ireland. The estates
of the father and sons were confiscated: their governments were given
to others: Queen Editha was confined in a monastery at Warewel: and
the greatness of this family, once so formidable, seemed now to be
totally supplanted and overthrown.

But Godwin had fixed his authority on too firm a basis, and he was too
strongly supported by alliances, both foreign and domestic, not to
occasion farther disturbances and make new efforts for his
re-establishment. [MN 1052.] The Earl of Flanders permitted him to
purchase and hire ships within his harbours; and Godwin, having manned
them with his followers, and with freebooters of all nations, put to
sea, and attempted to make a descent at Sandwich. The king, informed
of his preparations, had equipped a considerable fleet, much superior
to that of the enemy; and the earl, hastily, before their appearance,
made his retreat into the Flemish harbours [l]. The English court,
allured by the present security, and destitute of all vigorous
counsels, allowed the seamen to disband, and the fleet to go to decay
[m], while Godwin, expecting the event, kept his men in readiness for
action. He put to sea immediately, and sailed to the Isle of Wight,
where he was joined by Harold, with a squadron which the nobleman had
collected in Ireland. He was now master of the sea; and entering
every harbour in the southern coast, he seized all the ships [n], and
summoned his followers in those counties, which had so long been
subject to his government, to assist him in procuring justice to
himself, his family, and his country, against the tyranny of
foreigners. Reinforced by great numbers from all quarters, he entered
the Thames; and appearing before London, threw every thing into
confusion. The king alone seemed resolute to defend himself to the
last extremity; but the interposition of the English nobility, many of
whom favoured Godwin's pretensions, made Edward hearken to terms of
accommodation; and the feigned humility of the earl, who disclaimed
all intentions of offering violence to his sovereign, and desired only
to justify himself by a fair and open trial, paved the way for his
more easy admission. It was stipulated that he should give hostages
for his good behaviour, and that the primate and all the foreigners
should be banished: by this treaty, the present danger of a civil war
was obviated, but the authority of the crown was considerably
impaired, or rather entirely annihilated. Edward, sensible that he
had not power sufficient to secure Godwin's hostages in England, sent
them over to his kinsman, the young Duke of Normandy.
[FN [1] Sim. Dun. p. 186. [m] Chron. Sax. p. 166. [n] Ibid.]

Godwin's death, which happened soon after, while he was sitting at
table with the king, prevented him from farther establishing the
authority which he had acquired, and from reducing Edward to still
greater subjection [o]. He was succeeded in the government of Wessex,
Sussex, Kent, and Essex, and in the office of steward of the
household, a place of great power, by his son Harold, who was actuated
by an ambition equal to that of his father, and was superior to him in
address, in insinuation, and in virtue. By a modest and gentle
demeanour, he acquired the good-will of Edward; at least softened that
hatred which the prince had so long borne his family [p]; and gaining
every day new partisans by his bounty and affability, he proceeded in
a more silent and therefore a more dangerous manner, to the increase
of his authority. The king, who had not sufficient vigour directly to
oppose his progress, knew of no other expedient than that hazardous
one, of raising him a rival in the family of Leofric, Duke of Mercia,
whose son Algar was invested with the government of East Anglia,
which, before the banishment of Harold, had belonged to the latter
nobleman. But this policy, of balancing opposite parties, required a
more steady hand to manage it than that of Edward, and naturally
produced faction, and even civil broils, among nobles of such mighty
and independent authority. Algar was soon after expelled his
government by the intrigues and power of Harold; but being protected
by Griffith, Prince of Wales, who had married his daughter, as well as
by the power of his father, Leofric, he obliged Harold to submit to an
accommodation, and was reinstated in the government of East Anglia.
This peace was not of long duration: Harold, taking advantage of
Leofric's death, which happened soon after, expelled Algar anew, and
banished him the kingdom; and though that nobleman made a fresh
irruption into East Anglia with an army of Norwegians, and overran the
country, his death soon freed Harold from the pretensions of so
dangerous a rival. Edward, the eldest son of Algar, was indeed
advanced to the government of Mercia; but the balance which the king
desired to establish between those potent families was wholly lost,
and the influence of Harold greatly preponderated.
[FN [o] See note [D] at the end of the volume. [p] Brompton, p. 948.]

[MN 1055.] The death of Siward, Duke of Northumberland, made the way
still more open to the ambition of that nobleman. Siward, besides his
other merits, had acquired honour to England by his successful conduct
in the only foreign enterprise undertaken during the reign of Edward.
Duncan, King of Scotland, was a prince of a gentle disposition, but
possessed not the genius requisite for governing a country so
turbulent, and so much infested by the intrigues and animosities of
the great Macbeth, a powerful nobleman, and nearly allied to the
crown, not content with curbing the king's authority, carried still
farther his pestilent ambition; he put his sovereign to death; chased
Malcolm Kenmore, his son and heir, into England; and usurped the
crown. Siward, whose daughter was married to Duncan, embraced, by
Edward's orders, the protection of this distressed family: he marched
an army into Scotland; and having defeated and killed Macbeth in
battle, he restored Malcolm to the throne of his ancestors [q]. This
service, added to his former connexions with the royal family of
Scotland, brought a great accession to the authority of Siward in the
north; but as he had lost his eldest son, Osberne, in the action with
Macbeth, it proved in the issue fatal to his family. His second son,
Walthoef, appeared, on his father's death, too young to be intrusted
with the government of Northumberland; and Harold's influence obtained
that dukedom for his own brother Tosti.
[FN [q] W. Malm. p. 79. Hoveden, p. 443. Chron. Mailr. p. 158.
Buchanan, p. 115. edit. 1715.]

There are two circumstances related of Siward, which discover his high
sense of honour, and his martial disposition. When intelligence was
brought him of his son Osberne's death, he was inconsolable till he
heard that the wound was received in the breast, and that he had
behaved with great gallantry in the action. When he found his own
death approaching, he ordered his servants to clothe him in a complete
suit of armour; and sitting erect on the couch, with a spear in his
hand, declared that in that posture, the only one worthy of a warrior,
he would patiently await the fatal moment.

The king, now worn out with cares and infirmities, felt himself far
advanced in the decline of life; and having no issue himself, began to
think of appointing a successor to the kingdom. He sent a deputation
to Hungary, to invite over his nephew, Edward, son of his elder
brother, and the only remaining heir of the Saxon line. That prince,
whose succession to the crown would have been easy and undisputed,
came to England with his children, Edgar, surnamed Atheling, Margaret,
and Christina; but his death, which happened a few days after his
arrival, threw the king into new difficulties. He saw, that the great
power and ambition of Harold had tempted him to think of obtaining
possession of the throne on the first vacancy, and that Edgar, on
account of his youth and inexperience, was very unfit to oppose the
pretensions of so popular and enterprising a rival. The animosity
which he had long borne to Earl Godwin, made him averse to the
succession of his son, and he could not, without extreme reluctance,
think of an increase of grandeur to a family which had risen on the
ruins of royal authority, and which, by the murder of Alfred his
brother, had contributed so much to the weakening of the Saxon line.
In this uncertainty, he secretly cast his eye towards his kinsman,
William, Duke of Normandy, as the only person whose power, and
reputation, and capacity, could support any destination which he might
make in his favour, to the exclusion of Harold and his family [r].
[FN [r] Ingulph. p. 68.]

This famous prince was natural son of Robert, Duke of Normandy, by
Harlotta, daughter of a tanner in Falaise [s], and was very early
established in that grandeur from which his birth seemed to have set
him at so great a distance. While he was but nine years of age, his
father had resolved to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; a
fashionable act of devotion, which had taken the place of pilgrimages
to Rome, and which, as it was attended with more difficulty and
danger, and carried those religious adventurers to the first sources
of Christianity, appeared to them more meritorious. Before his
departure, he assembled the states of the duchy; and informing them of
his design, he engaged them to swear allegiance to his natural son,
William, whom, as he had no legitimate issue, he intended, in case he
should die in the pilgrimage, to leave successor to his dominions [t].
As he was a prudent prince, he could not but foresee the great
inconveniences which must attend this journey, and this settlement of
his succession, arising from the turbulency of the great, the claims
of other branches of the ducal family, and the power of the French
monarch; but all these considerations were surmounted by the
prevailing zeal for pilgrimages [u]; and probably the more important
they were, the more would Robert exult in sacrificing them to what he
imagined to be his religious duty.
[FN [s] Brompton, p. 910. [t] W. Malm. p. 95. [u] Ypod. Neust. p.

This prince, as he had apprehended, died in his pilgrimage; and the
minority of his son was attended with all those disorders which were
almost unavoidable in that situation. The licentious nobles, freed
from the awe of sovereign authority, broke out into personal
animosities against each other, and made the whole country a scene of
war and devastation [w]. Roger, Count of Toni, and Alain, Count of
Britany, advanced claims to the dominion of the state; and Henry I.,
King of France, thought the opportunity favourable for reducing the
power of a vassal, who had originally acquired his settlement in so
violent and invidious a manner, and who had long appeared formidable
to his sovereign [x]. The regency established by Robert encountered
great difficulties in supporting the government under this
complication of dangers; and the young prince, when he came to
maturity, found himself reduced to a very low condition. But the
great qualities which he soon displayed in the field and in the
cabinet gave encouragement to his friends, and struck a terror into
his enemies. He opposed himself on all sides against his rebellious
subjects, and against foreign invaders; and by his valour and conduct
prevailed in every action. He obliged the French king to grant him
peace on reasonable terms; he expelled all pretenders to the
sovereignty; and he reduced his turbulent barons to pay submission to
his authority, and to suspend their mutual animosities. The natural
severity of his temper appeared in a rigorous administration of
justice; and having found the happy effects of this plan of
government, without which the laws in those ages became totally
impotent, he regarded it as a fixed maxim, that an inflexible conduct
was the first duty of a sovereign.
[FN [w] W. Malm. p. 95. Gul. Gemet. lib. 7. cap. 1. [x] W. Malm. p.

The tranquillity which he had established in his dominions had given
William leisure to pay a visit to the King of England during the time
of Godwin's banishment; and he was received in a manner suitable to
the great reputation which he had acquired, to the relation by which
he was connected with Edward, and to the obligations which that prince
owed to his family [y]. On the return of Godwin, and the expulsion of
the Norman favourites, Robert, Archbishop of Canterbury, had, before
his departure, persuaded Edward to think of adopting William as his
successor; a counsel which was favoured by the king's aversion to
Godwin, his prepossessions for the Normans, and his esteem of the
duke. That prelate, therefore, received a commission to inform
William of the king's intentions in his favour; and he was the first
person that opened the mind of the prince to entertain those ambitious
hopes [z]. But Edward, irresolute and feeble in his purpose, finding
that the English would more easily acquiesce in the restoration of the
Saxon line, had, in the mean time, invited his brother's descendants
from Hungary, with a view of having them recognised heirs to the
crown. The death of his nephew, and the inexperience and unpromising
qualities of young Edgar, made him resume his former intentions in
favour of the Duke of Normandy; though his aversion to hazardous
enterprises engaged him to postpone the execution, and even to keep
his purpose secret from all his ministers.
[FN [y] Hoveden, p. 442. Ingulph. p. 65. Chron. Mailr. p. 157.
Higden, p. 279. [z] Ingulph. p. 68. Gul. Gemet lib. 7. cap. 31.
Order. Vitalis, p. 492.]

Harold, meanwhile, proceeded after a more open manner in increasing
his popularity, in establishing his power, and in preparing the way
for his advancement on the first vacancy; an event which, from the age
and infirmities of the king, appeared not very distant. But there was
still an obstacle, which it was requisite for him previously to
overcome. Earl Godwin, when restored to his power and fortune, had
given hostages for his good behaviour, and, among the rest, one son
and one grandson, whom Edward, for greater security, as has been
related, had consigned to the custody of the Duke of Normandy.
Harold, though not aware of the duke's being his competitor, was
uneasy that such near relations should be detained prisoners in a
foreign country; and he was afraid lest William should, in favour of
Edgar, retain those pledges as a check on the ambition of any other
pretender. He represented, therefore, to the king, his unfeigned
submission to royal authority, his steady duty to his prince, and the
little necessity there was, after such a uniform trial of his
obedience, to detain any longer those hostages who had been required
on the first composing of civil discords. By these topics, enforced
by his great power, he extorted the king's consent to release them;
and in order to effect his purpose, he immediately proceeded, with a
numerous retinue, on his journey to Normandy. A tempest drove him on
the territory of Guy, Count of Ponthieu, who, being informed of his
quality, immediately detained him prisoner, and demanded an exorbitant
sum for his ransom. Harold found means to convey intelligence of his
situation to the Duke of Normandy; and represented, that while he was
proceeding to HIS court, in execution of a commission from the King of
England, he had met with this harsh treatment from the mercenary
disposition of the Count of Ponthieu.

William was immediately sensible of the importance of the incident.
He foresaw, that if he could once gain Harold, either by favours or
menaces, his way to the throne of England would be open, and Edward
would meet with no farther obstacle in executing the favourable
intentions which he had entertained in his behalf. He sent,
therefore, a messenger to Guy, in order to demand the liberty of his
prisoner; and that nobleman, not daring to refuse so great a prince,
put Harold into the hands of the Norman, who conducted him to Rouen.
William received him with every demonstration of respect and
friendship; and after showing himself disposed to comply with his
desire, in delivering up the hostages, he took an opportunity of
disclosing to him the great secret of his pretensions to the crown of
England, and of the will which Edward intended to make in his favour.
He desired the assistance of Harold in perfecting that design; he made
professions of the utmost gratitude in return for so great an
obligation; he promised that the present grandeur of Harold's family,
which supported itself with difficulty under the jealousy and hatred
of Edward, should receive new increase from a successor, who would be
so greatly beholden to him for his advancement. Harold was surprised
at this declaration of the duke; but being sensible that he should
never recover his own liberty, much less that of his brother and
nephew, if he refused the demand, he feigned a compliance with
William, renounced all hopes of the crown for himself, and professed
his sincere intention of supporting the will of Edward, and seconding
the pretensions of the Duke of Normandy. William, to bind him faster
to his interests, besides offering him one of his daughters in
marriage, required him to take an oath that he would fulfil his
promises; and in order to render the oath more obligatory, he employed
an artifice well suited to the ignorance and superstition of the age.
He secretly conveyed under the altar, on which Harold agreed to swear,
the relics of some of the most revered martyrs; and when Harold had
taken the oath, he showed him the relics, and admonished him to
observe religiously an engagement which had been ratified by so
tremendous a sanction [a]. The English nobleman was astonished; but
dissembling his concern, he renewed the same professions, and was
dismissed with all the marks of mutual confidence by the Duke of
[FN [a] Wace, p. 459, 460. MS. penes Carte, p. 354. W. Malm. p. 93.
H. Hunt p. 366. Hoveden, p. 449. Brompton, p. 947.]

When Harold found himself at liberty, his ambition suggested casuistry
sufficient to justify to him the violation of an oath, which had been
extorted from him by fear, and which, if fulfilled, might be attended
with the subjection of his native country to a foreign power. He
continued still to practise every art of popularity; to increase the
number of his partisans; to reconcile the minds of the English to the
idea of his succession; to revive their hatred of the Normans; and by
an ostentation of his power and influence, to deter the timorous
Edward from executing his intended destination in favour of William.
Fortune, about this time, threw two incidents in his way, by which he
was enabled to acquire general favour, and to increase the character,
which he had already attained, of virtue and abilities.

The Welsh, though a less formidable enemy than the Danes, had long
been accustomed to infest the western borders; and after committing

Book of the day: