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CANUTE-EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.
with their wings spread, were placed on the top of the masts. Some foolish men, seeing that Canute was surrounded by great pomp and wealth, thought to please him by praising his power and calling him the ruler of earth and sea. He bade them come with him to the water-side, and seated himself in state on the sea-shore when the tide was coming in. Then he spoke to the sea, and said, "I command thee to come no farther, and not to wet the feet of thy sovereign!" But the waves rolled on, and rose higher and higher on the beach till they washed over the king's feet, and surrounded the chair on which he was sitting. "See," said he, turning to his foolish flatterers," and remember that there is only One Ruler of the earth and sea- -He who can say to the ocean, 'Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther,' and it will obey Him." Canute wore his crown no more after that day, to show that he was only a servant of the King of kings.
After the death of Canute, two of his sons reigned over England, but they were very bad and foolish princes, and the last of the two killed himself with excessive drinking. The English now chose Edward, a son of Ethelred the Unready, to be their king. He was afterwards called Edward the Confessor. Edward was mild and gentle, but he was not a wise king; instead of looking well to the safety of his kingdom, and seeing that all his people were well governed, he allowed first one great man and then another to take all the power into their own hands.
The walls and fortifications of the towns went to ruin, and there was no money to repair them, or to provide for the fleets which should have guarded the
country, because the king spent it all in making gifts to his favourites, or in building and enriching monasteries. He had lived so long in Normandy that he was more like a foreigner than an Englishman, and he loved the Norman language and customs far better than those of England. And he made his subjects very jealous by giving all the riches and honours he could to his Norman friends. He made them bishops, and earls, and governors of towns; but the people hated them, for the Normans were proud and covetous, and showed great scorn for the English laws.
The richest and most powerful man amongst the English was Earl Godwin; it was chiefly through him that Edward had been made king, and Edward had married Godwin's daughter, Edith, a very good and beautiful woman. The Normans detested Godwin, because he shielded his countrymen from their oppression, and they persuaded Edward that he was a traitor, and ought to be banished with all his family. Only the queen, Edith, remained in England; but the foolish king took away all her property and shut her up in a convent.
HAROLD, AND WILLIAM OF NORMANDY.
(From 1051 to 1066 a.D.)
GODWIN did not stay away long, and as soon as he showed himself in England again, the people, and even the king's soldiers, flocked to him. The Nor
mans, when they heard that he was come back, ran away and escaped out of the country as fast as they could. Soon after this, Godwin died. He left several sons, the eldest of whom was named Harold. Harold was a great favourite with the people, for he was very brave and clever and generous. The king also was fond of him, and left all the cares of government in his hands.
Harold deserved to be trusted by the king, for he loved his country dearly, and strove with all his power to defend it from foreign enemies, and to make the people prosperous and happy. He had a brother, called Tosti, who was very unlike himself. Tosti was governor of Northumbria, but he was so unjust and cruel that the people rose up in rebellion, and turned him out. He hoped that Harold would force them to take him back again, but he had behaved so wickedly that Harold could not help him. He was obliged to leave England, and went away with a heart full of revenge. And in the end, this bad man became a most dangerous enemy to his country.
In the beginning of January, 1066, King Edward the Confessor died. And now times of terrible trouble came upon England. During many years, a neighbouring prince had been looking on the land with a covetous eye, and planning to seize it for his own as soon as King Edward should die. This prince was William, Duke of Normandy; he was a great warrior, and he possessed in a wonderful degree the wisdom of this world. He generally contrived to obtain what he wished for, either by fair words or by force, or, if neither would do, by falsehood and cunning.
William knew that the man who would be most
likely to prevent him from seizing upon England was Harold, but he thought he had found out the way to make Harold help him. About a year before King Edward died, Harold had visited Normandy, not suspecting any evil. William received him with a great show of courtesy and friendship; but he would not let him go back to his own country till he had made him take an oath, that when Edward died, he would persuade the English to choose William for their king.
When Harold told his countrymen what he had done, they declared that he would be guilty of a greater sin if he kept such an oath, than if he broke it, for he had no right to try to make a foreign prince king of England. And after Edward's death, they chose Harold to be king. There was still a prince of the royal family living; he was called Edgar Atheling, and was the son of a nephew of Edward the Confessor. But the English did not choose Edgar for their king, because he was only a boy, and not at all a wise boy, and they thought they must have a very clever and brave man to help them to resist the Duke of Normandy.
BATTLE OF HASTINGS.
WILLIAM was exceedingly angry when he heard that Harold was the new king. He sent to the pope to ask him to curse Harold for having broken his oath. The pope did so, and declared that all who helped Harold were accursed also. And he said, too,
WILLIAM OF NORMANDY.
that England belonged to him now, and that he would give it to William of Normandy. Of course, the pope had not the smallest right to give away England, for England belonged to its own people; but there were many men in those days who believed that it must be right for William to take the country, because the pope gave it to him.
Great numbers of fighting men went from Italy and other countries to join the army of Normandy. Some of these were brave knights and warriors, but others were mere robbers and murderers, ready to commit any kind of cruelty and wickedness for the sake of gain. And William promised to all who came that they should be rewarded with the lands and goods of the English.
All this while Harold was not idle; he was hard at work getting an army together, and providing a fleet to watch the coasts, that William might not be able to land any troops in England. But the country was threatened by two enemies at once. There were the Normans, waiting impatiently for a fair wind which would enable them to set sail for the south coast; and there was the wicked Tosti, who had persuaded the King of Norway to help him with a great fleet of three hundred ships and thousands of fighting men, and who now came and landed in the north.
Harold was watching the south coast when he heard that Tosti and the King of Norway were in Yorkshire. He marched, northwards instantly, took them by surprise, and overthrew them in a terrible battle, in which both his brother and the Norwegian king were slain. Harold had twice offered Tosti peace, for he did not wish to fight with his own