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Canute died 1035,1 and was succeeded by Harold, his son by a first marriage. Of Harold's reign, nothing is transmitted, except the cruel death, inflicted by his supporters, on Alfred, son of Ethelred and Emma, who had come from Normandy to assert his claim to the throne.
Hardicanute, son of Canute and Emma, succeeded in 1040. this reign Earl Godwin, accused of being concerned in the death of the king's half-brother Alfred, was tried, and, although acquitted, many persisted in believing in his connivance at the crime. Hardicanute's death was sudden. As he left no son, the Danes were unprepared for the emergency. The legitimate heir of the Saxon line was Edward, son of Edmund Ironside; but, he being on the Continent, the English, with the powerful Earl Godwin at their head, recognised the claims of Edward the Confessor, son of Ethelred and the Norman princess Emma.
Cotemporary Events.-Macbeth murders Duncan and usurps the Scottish throne (1039). Questions.-1. Name the kings from Edward the Martyr to Edward the Confessor. 2 State how the Danish dynasty was established; and give some account of the greatest king of that dynasty.
6. Edward the Confessor-Harold II.
NORMAN COURTIERS-WILLIAM'S AMBITION-BATTLE OF HASTINGS, AND END
OF THE SAXON DYNASTY.
Edward the Confessor had passed twenty-seven years of his life amongst the Normans of France, and had contracted a partiality for
1 Tradition has handed down the story of Canute's rebuke to his court-flatterers. They styled him lord and master of the world; having ordered them to convey his chair to the seashore when the tide was flowing, he commanded the waves to stand still, and forbear to wet his royal feet. The waves were deaf, and rolled on, and Canute seized the occasion to rebuke the flattery of his courtiers.
that people, whose civilisation was then superior to that which he found amongst his new subjects. He surrounded himself with Normans, and appointed them to all the high posts in the Churchconduct which naturally excited the jealousy of his Saxon subjects. Their opposition to this favouritism had for its leader the able and ambitious Earl Godwin, whose power and influence rendered it prudent to yield to his demands. The foreigners were dismissed, but Godwin was required to give one of his sons and a nephew as hostages for his own good behaviour. These were sent to Normandy; and it is supposed that a visit paid some time after by Harold, another of Godwin's sons, with the view of obtaining the deliverance of his brother and cousin, was the occasion seized by William, duke of Normandy, to secure, from the man most likely to frustrate them, a promise on oath that he would support his pretensions to the throne of England. Edward the Confessor married Edith, the beautiful daughter of Earl Godwin. As they had no children, Edward deemed it wise to invite to England the lawful heir, Edward, son of Edmund Ironside, with his son Edgar Atheling; but hardly had he landed when he died, leaving his son Edgar Atheling too young and too weak to be opposed to the growing ambition and popularity of Harold. In this state of perplexity, Edward the Confessor died (5th January 1066), after a reign of twenty-five years. His title to the affection which his subjects bore him, may be found in his tender consideration for them. He abolished the obnoxious Danegelt, which pressed heavily on the people. He compiled a code of laws from those of Ethelbert and Alfred, and paid constant attention to the administration of justice. The only war that occurred in this reign was against Macbeth, who, after murdering Duncan, king of Scotland, had usurped his throne. Siward, the powerful Earl of Northumberland, marched against the usurper, and defeated him at Lanfannan (Aberdeen), and restored Malcolm, the lawful heir, to the throne.
The Cerdic dynasty, which had for five centuries reigned either as Kings of Wessex, or Kings of England, expired with Edward the Confessor. The two men, who, on his death, claimed the
WILLIAM OF NORMANDY.
succession, had no hereditary title to it. Harold, who at first made good his claim, was son of the great Earl Godwin, and his title rested on the pre-eminence of his family, and the suffrages of the English nation. William, the other claimant, was the illegitimate son of Robert, duke of Normandy, to which duchy he had succeeded in 1035; and he justified his pretensions to the English throne, by alleging the existence of a will made in his favour by Edward the Confessor. He also pleaded the Pope's sanction. At the English Court, as we have seen, the Norman influence had been rapidly growing during Edward's reign, and William of Normandy, when yet a young man, had visited the country to "look on the rich lands, and to understand something of the rough people, over whom his feeble relative was the nominal ruler. In the fields through which he travelled, he saw an industrious race, churls and slaves, cultivating diligently, and not without skill, after the modes of their ancestors. In the towns he saw busy artisans, who were associated for mutual protection, and had their peculiar laws handed down in code after code, but with little essential change in their principles. He saw powerful earls, bold bearded men, who were great landed possessors, not holding their arables and pastures (as in feudal Europe) as fief of the Crown, but as independent lords; and tyrannizing wherever they dared in a most kingly fashion. He saw a land that arms might win. He might be the powerful successor of Edward, or he might fight for the Crown against some pretender, when the childless king should be no more."1 And, while travelling through the country, and sojourning at the Court, he found ample encouragement for his ambition, and ready instruments of his will when the hour for action should come.
Harold was crowned on the day that Edward was buried, and all ranks acknowledged allegiance. The indirect cause of his losing so soon both his throne and his life was the vindictiveness of his brother Tostig, whose cruelty and oppressive government, as Duke of Northumberland, during the preceding reign, caused an insurrec
1 Knight's Popular History.
Harold had advanced with an
tion of the people under his rule. army to his brother's aid, but a statement of the causes that produced the outbreak obliged him in justice to withhold his support. Tostig retired to Norway, and on hearing of Harold's accession, he prepared, in concert with Hardrada, king of Norway, a fleet of three hundred sail to infest the coast of England. They landed in Northumberland, and after a desperate struggle got possession of York. Harold, whose attention had been fixed on the southern coast, in anticipation of the threatened Norman invasion, hastened at once to the north of England. A battle was fought near the Derwent, between the brothers, which the old chroniclers describe as the bloodiest in the annals of England. The result was the defeat and death of Tostig and Hardrada. But there was no time for triumph : William, at the head of his Norman chivalry, reinforced by adventurous spirits from all parts of Europe, in quest of renown and fortune under the Norman banner, had already landed at Pevensey, on the Sussex coast. Harold meanwhile had lost his bravest veterans; and on this account he was advised to prolong the struggle, in order that he might harass and tire or starve out the Normans; but to this advice he refused to listen. He marched to meet the invader, and chose his position on a line of hills north-west of Hastings, fortifying it with a rampart of stakes. The English standard was planted in the ground, and round it gathered the Anglo-Saxons in solid compact mass. They received their Norman assailants with heavy blows of their battle-axes. Assault after assault was successfully repulsed, and a panic was beginning amongst the Normans, when William thought of a stratagem to draw the AngloSaxons into the plain. He ordered his men to feign flight. The English unwarily pursued, and vast numbers of them were in this way surrounded and slaughtered. Still the battle raged. The English stood, a living rock of valour, driving back each successive attack, till at last Harold fell, and by his side two brave brothers. At sunset the English fled, and were pursued and slaughtered. On the ground occupied by the English, William afterwards built a monastery, called Battle Abbey, where the
DEFEAT OF THE ENGLISH.
monks prayed for the repose of the souls of those who perished on that fatal day.
"In Waltham Abbey, on St. Agnes' Eve,
A stately corpse lay stretch'd upon a bier,
Showed dimly the pale majesty severe
Of him whom death and not the Norman Duke
Cotemporary Events.-The Turks conquer Persia (1043). Saracens driven out of Italy (1058). Philip 1. king of France (1060)
Questions.-1. With whom did the Cerdic or pure Saxon dynasty expire? 2. Who were then claimants for the throne? 3. On what did William of Normandy rest his titie? 4. Write an account of the battle of Hastings.