Imatges de pÓgina


Edward the

descent on the coast. All Kent and London rose in his favour, and Edward was obliged to permit his return, and be reconciled to him.

Very shortly after his return, he was struck with a fit of apoplexy, while feasting with the King at Easter. He was borne from the table by his two eldest surviving sons, Harold and Tostig, and died five days after, in the year 1052. The Norman chroniclers give the following account of his death. One of the cup-bearers, while serving the King, happened to make a false step, but saved himself from falling by the foot, at which Godwin observed, "See how one brother helps another!" "Yes," said the King, "so would my brother have helped me, had he lived."

"I know you suspect me of his death," replied Godwin, "but may God, who is true and just, cause this morsel of bread to choke me if I am guilty of his murder."

Scarcely had he spoken the words before he fell back, struck by the hand of Heaven, and never uttered another word. Much doubt has been cast upon this story, since it comes to us through Normans, who were great enemies of his house. There is, however, nothing incredible in it; and other instances have been known of persons who thus defied and brought upon themselves the judgment of Heaven, in the full course of their crimes.

There is a propensity in these days to exalt the character of Godwin, as if he had been an honest supporter of the old English habits against foreign innovations. It is an entirely mistaken view, since Godwin climbed into power by the favour of the enemies and destroyers of his country, murdered the prince of the ancient line, and throughout the reign of the lawful successor disturbed his peace, and attempts at civilization, by factious opposition. Norman customs would have done far less harm to England than the Danish invaders among whom Godwin had contentedly spent the best years of his life. He seems throughout to have listened only to his own ambition, and to have scrupled at nothing that could promote his interest. Eloquence, and attention to the humours of the nation, won for him wealth and power that rendered him formidable to the King, and he built up a great name and fortune for himself, but brief and fleeting was the inheritance that he bequeathed to his sons. In fourteen years from his death only one of his brave band of sons survived, and he was a miserable captive, who spent his whole existence in the dungeons of his chief enemy. It seemed as if nothing that Godwin had acquired could be enduring, for the very lands he left behind him no longer exist, his chief estate on the coast of Kent was swallowed by the sea, and now forms the dangerous shoal called the Goodwin Sands.

"Wise men also die and perish together: as well as the ignorant and foolish, and leave their riches for other.

"And yet they think their houses shall continue for ever; and that their dwelling-places shall endure from one generation to another, and call the lands after their own names."


Edward the

Far more enduring have been the memorials left by the meek Edward the Confessor, though he had no son to carry on his name. He had vowed, during his exile, to go on pilgrimage to Rome, but the Witen-Confessor. agemot refused to consent to his leaving England, and he sent the Archbishop of York to ask the advice of the Pope, Leo IX., who recommended him to perform some work of piety at home.

This was the foundation of the Church of St. Peter's, in the open country, at the west end of London, and therefore called Westminster. It was built with all the skill of Norman architects, and occupied several years. Edward's last illness prevented him from being present at its consecration, and he was represented there by his wife, but he soon found his rest there. It was dedicated on the Holy Innocents' day, 1065, and he was buried there on the 5th of January following. His memory seemed to give an additional sacredness to the spot in the eyes of the loving English, and the pavement round his tomb was worn away by their knees.






Kings of England.

1041. Edward the Confessor.
1066. Harold.

Kings of France.
1059. Philippe I.

Emperors of Germany. 1055. Heinrich IV.

THE death of Godwin did not at first seem likely to diminish the power of his family. Harold, his eldest surviving son, was highly endowed with mental powers and personal beauty and prowess, and was much preferred by Edward the Confessor to the old Earl himself. He obtained all his father's lands, and, shortly after, distinguished himself in a war with the Welsh, showing, however, that vain-glory was his characteristic, for he set up mounds of stones along the course of his march, bearing the inscription, "Here Harold conquered."

The earls who had hitherto balanced the power of the Godwin family, were, about this time, removed by death. Leofric, of Mercia, and his son Algar, died within a few years of each other; and Algar's sons, Edwin and Morkar, were as yet young and timid. Old Earl Siward Biorn fought his last battle when he assisted Malcolm Canmore in overthrowing the murderous usurper, Macbeth, in Scotland. In the battle, Siward's eldest son, of the same name as himself, was killed. The father only asked if his death-wound was in front, and when he heard it was, "I heartily rejoice," said he; "no other death is worthy of my


He himself was obliged, much against his will, to die in peace. "I am ashamed," he said, "after so many battles, to die like a cow; case me in my armour, gird on my sword, put on my helmet, give me my shield and battle-axe, lift me to my feet, that I may die like a man!"

The fierce old Earl's younger son, Waltheof, was a mere child, and the earldom of Northumbria was therefore given to Tostig, the son of Godwin, but he so misgoverned it that he was, by command of the King, sent into exile by his brother Harold, whom he thenceforth regarded with the utmost hatred.

Harold stood so high in favour, both with King and people, that his views began to take a still loftier flight, especially after the death of Edward the Stranger, the only grown-up person excepting the King who inherited the blood of Alfred. The Stranger had indeed left an infant son, but his rights were entirely overlooked. The King wished


to leave his crown to his cousin William, Duke of Normandy; and Harold, trusting to the general hatred of the Norman race, hoped to Harold. secure it for himself, much in the same way as Hugh Capet had lately dethroned the line of Charles le Magne in France.

Edward the Confessor, desirous of affording William some means of curbing Harold's ambition, sent to him as hostages Ulfnoth and Hako, a son and grandson of Godwin. Harold, however, contrived to extort permission to go to Rouen, and request their liberation, and set out from Bosham, in Sussex. A storm wrecked him in Ponthieu; he was taken captive by the count of that district, who gave him up to William in exchange for a considerable manor, and thus, though he entered Rouen in state, he found himself, instead of the ambassador of the King of England, in effect the prisoner of the Duke of Normandy.

He was treated with great courtesy, accompanied William on an expedition against the Duke of Brittany, and gave great help to the Normans by his personal strength, when some of them were in danger in crossing a river, and, apparently, was in high honour; but William was determined not to miss the advantage chance had thrown in his way, and when Harold, after spending some months at Rouen, proposed to return, he, in the first place, insisted on drawing up a treaty of alliance and friendship with his good friend the Earl of Wessex, to be sworn to on both sides. Very distasteful must this promise of friendship have been to Harold, since the first article required him to assist the Duke with all his power in obtaining the crown of England upon Edward's death; but he found it impossible to resist, and declared himself perfectly willing to engage himself as required.

An oath taken on the relics of the Saints was, at that time, considered as more binding than one taken on the Holy Scriptures; and William commanded that the most honoured of these remains should be collected from various churches and placed in a chest, covered with cloth of gold on which a copy of the Gospels was laid. Harold, laying his hand on the book, swore to observe the treaty faithfully; and when he had so done, William removed the cloth and showed him the relics, at the sight of which he turned pale and trembled,- —a sure sign, as was thought by the Normans who stood round, that his conscience would not allow him to break an oath which was believed to have thus acquired double force and sanctity. Yet Harold soon proved that no oaths can bind a man who will not be bound by his simple word.

A few months after his return from Normandy, he was standing by the bedside of the dying Edward the Confessor, importuning his last moments with entreaties to him to declare his successor.

"Ye know, full well," said the poor old King, "that I have bequeathed my kingdom to the Duke of Normandy; nay, some be here who have sworn oaths to him."

Harold pressed him for some other answer, and he replied, "Take it,
Harold, if such be thy will, but the gift will be thy ruin.
Duke and his barons no might of thine will avail thee."

Against the

Oath of



Death of Edward, 1066.



'Fear not for me,” replied Harold, joyfully; " I fear neither Norman nor aught else."

"May it fall to the most worthy!" was the faint answer of Edward. His thoughts began to wander, and he uttered many passages of Scripture, speaking of desolation and destruction, which were afterwards regarded by his subjects as the last prophecies of their saintly king. He died two days afterwards, and, on the feast of Epiphany, 1066, Harold assumed the crown. The coronation was solemnized by Alfred, Archbishop of York; but whether the absence of the Primate Stigand was occasioned by his dislike to the usurpation, or by the sentence of excommunication under which he had been laid by the Pope, is not known. Be that as it may, there was little joy to welcome the accession of Harold; the people were full of melancholy forebodings, excited by the predictions of King Edward, as well as by the appearance of a comet, then supposed to denote the approach of misfortune; the great earls, Edwin and Morkar, were his enemies, the nobles envied him, and stood aloof, significantly relating a story of his boyhood, when he is said to have met with a severe fall in a foolish attempt to fly from the top of a tower with wings of his own contrivance. There is a Spanish proverb which, in truth, suited Harold well: "The ant found wings for her destruction."

The bitterest of all his enemies was his own brother, Tostig, who, having been banished partly by his means, on account of his misgovernment of Northumbria, was living in Flanders, whence, the instant he heard of Harold's coronation, he hastened with the tidings to Normandy ; and not thinking William's preparations speedy enough to satisfy the impatience of his hatred, he went to Norway, where he found a willing ally in Harald Hardrada, the last sea-king.

A curious story is told of the childhood of this Harald Hardrada, who was the half-brother of the kingly saint Olaf, being the son of the haughty Aasta and the peaceful Sigurd Syr. When Harald was about three years old, St. Olaf was on a visit to his mother, and calling to his little brothers, took the two eldest, Guttorm and Halfdan, one on each knee, and looked at them with a fierce countenance, at which both the little boys were frightened, and ran away to hide themselves. He then took Harald on his knee, and put on the same fierce look at him, but the child looked boldly up in his face in return. As a further trial of his courage, the king pulled his hair, upon which, the little fellow undauntedly pulled the king's whiskers, and Olaf said, "Thou wilt be revengeful, some day, my friend."

The next day Olaf found his little brothers at play; the two eldest building little barns and enclosing corn-fields, and Harald lying by the side of a pool of water, in which he was floating small chips of wood. "What are these?" asked the King.

"My ships of war," said little Harald.

"Ha! my friend,” said the King, “the time may come when thou wilt command ships."

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