« PreviousContinue »
FROM THE ELECTION OF EADWARD TO THE BANISHMENT OF GODWINE.1
E have thus far gone through the course of those events which acted as the more distant causes of the Norman Conquest; with the accession of Eadward we
1 Among our authorities for this period the English Chronicles of course still retain their preeminent place, and the differences, especially the marked differences in political feeling, between the various versions become of constantly increasing importance. Florence also, always valuable, now increases in value. His narrative is still grounded on that of the Chronicles, but he gradually ceases to be a mere copyist. It is always of moment to see which of the several versions he follows; and, as he draws nearer his own time, he gradually acquires the character of a distinct authority. He can however hardly be looked on as such during the period embraced in this Chapter. The contemporary Biographer of Eadward now becomes of the greatest value in his own special department. For all matters which are strictly personal to the King, the Lady, and the whole family of Godwine, his authority is primary. He is however very distinctly not an historian, but a biographer, sometimes a laureate. In his narrative there are many omissions and some inaccuracies; his value lies mainly in his vivid personal portraits of the great men of the time, with all of whom he seems to have been personally acquainted. It must be borne in mind that his book, dedicated to the Lady Eadgyth, is to a great extent a panegyric on her family. Still it is highly important to have this description of them from the English side to set against the dominant Norman calumnies. It is to the Chronicles as harmonized by Florence that we must go for our main facts; the Biographer gives us their personal aspect, their personal colouring, and many personal details. Just as the Encomiast of Eadgyth becomes of so much value, we lose the Encomiast of Emma, who ends his narrative with the accession of Harthacnut. The purely Norman writers now gain in importance. But, as regards purely English affairs, their importance is of this peculiar kind, that, after reading the English account of any fact, it is needful to turn
CHAP. VII. stand on the threshold of the Conquest itself. The actual The strug- subjugation of England by force of arms is still twentytween four years distant; but the struggle between Norman and Eng- and Englishman for dominion in England has already lishmen begun. That such would be the result of Eadward's begins with the acces- accession was certainly not looked for by those who Eadward. raised him to the throne. Never was any prince called to assume a crown by a more distinct expression of the national will, "All folk chose Eadward to King." The
Import of choice expressed the full purpose of the English nation election; to endure no King but one who was their bone and their resolve of flesh. No attachment to the memory of the Great Cnut the English
people to could survive the utter misgovernment of his sons. The thought of another Danish King had become hateful. Yet the royal house of Denmark contained at least one prince who was in every way worthy to reign. Could the
have none but an English King.
and see what is the Norman perversion of it. At the head of the class stands William of Poitiers, Archdeacon of Lisieux, the chaplain and biographer of William the Conqueror. His work, unluckily imperfect, is our primary authority for all that concerns his hero; but allowance must be made throughout for his constant flattery of his own master and his frantic hatred towards Godwine and Harold. The later Norman writers, William of Jumièges and his continuator, and the poetical chroniclers, Robert Wace and Benoît de Sainte More, are of use as witnessing to Norman tradition, but they do not yet assume that special value which belongs to William of Jumièges and Wace at a somewhat later time. The subsidiary English writers, and the occasional notices to be found in the works of foreign historians, retain the same secondary value as before. Indeed, as Scandinavian affairs are of great importance during several years of this period, the Sagas of Magnus and of Harold Hardrada may be looked upon as of something more than secondary value. Among the secondary English writers, Henry of Huntingdon diminishes in inportance, as he gets more out of the reach of those ancient ballads and traditions which it is his great merit to have preserved. On the other hand, the value of William of Malmesbury increases as he draws nearer to his own time. He often sets before us two versions of a story, and makes an attempt at a critical comparison of them. But his prejudices are distinctly Norman, and his utter lack of arrangement, his habit of dragging in the most irrelevant tales at the most important points of his narrative, makes him one of the most perplexing of writers to consult.
POPULAR ELECTION OF EADWARD.
the son of
national feeling have endured another Danish ruler, Swegen CHAP. VII. Estrithson might have governed England as prudently and Other possible as prosperously as he afterwards governed Denmark. But candidates; the great qualities of Swegen had as yet hardly shown Swegen themselves. He could have been known at this time only as a young adventurer, who had signally failed in the only great exploit which he had attempted.1 And, above all things, the feeling of the moment called for an Englishman, for an Etheling of the blood of Cerdic. One such Ætheling only was at hand. One son of Eadmund Eadward Ironside was now grown up to manhood, but he had been Eadmund. from his infancy an exile in a distant land. Most likely no one thought of him as a possible candidate for the Crown; it may well be that his very existence was generally forgotten. In the eyes of Englishmen there Position of was now only one representative of the ancient royal house. Eadward, the son of Ethelred and Emma, the brother of the murdered and half-canonized Ælfred, had long been familiar to English imaginations, and, since the accession of his half-brother Harthacnut, the English Court had been his usual dwelling-place. Eadward, and Eadward alone, stood forth as the heir of English royalty, the representative of English nationality. In his behalf the popular voice spoke out at once and unmistakeably. "Before the King buried were, all folk chose Eadward to King at London.”
§ 1. The Election and Coronation of Eadward.
The general course of events at this time is perfectly Popular plain, but there is a good deal of difficulty as to some Eadward. of the details.2 The popular election of Eadward took June, 1042. place in June, immediately on the death of Harthacnut,
1 See vol. i. p. 523.
2 On the different statements, see Appendix A.
CHAP. VII. and even before his burial; but it is very remarkable that the Chronicles do not record the coronation of the new delayed till King till Easter in the next year. This delay is singular, and needs explanation. The consecration of a King was then no mere pageant, but a rite of the utmost moment, Import- partaking in some sort of a sacramental character. Withcoronation out it the King was not King at all, or King only in rite. a very imperfect sense. We have seen how impossible
ance of the
it was for the uncrowned Harthacnut to retain his hold upon Wessex. The election of the Witan gave to the person chosen the sole right to the Crown, but he was put into actual possession of the royal office only by the ecclesiastical consecration. Eadward then, if he remained uncrowned for nearly ten months after his first election, could not be looked on as "full King," but at most as King-elect. What could be the cause of such a delay? The notion of a general war with the Danes in England, which might otherwise account for it, I have elsewhere shown to be without foundation. The circumstances of the time would seem to have been singularly unsuited for any delay. We should have expected that the same burst of popular feeling which carried Eadward's immediate and unanimous election would also have demanded the exclusion of any possible competitor by an immediate coronation. But the fact was otherwise. The explanation
causes of the delay;
of so singular a state of things is most likely to be found Probable in certain hints which imply that it was caused, partly by Eadward's absence from England, partly by an unwillingEadward ness on his part to accept the Crown. There is strong most likely
absent reason to believe that Eadward was not in England at from England, and the moment of his half-brother's death. Harthacnut had unwilling indeed recalled him to England, and the English court had to accept the Crown. become the Etheling's ordinary dwelling-place. But this
1 Chronn. and Flor. Wig. 1043.
2 Vol. i. p. 498.
Vol. i. p. 770.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH EADWARD.
fact in no way shuts out the possibility that Eadward CHAP. VII. may have been absent on the Continent at any particular moment, on a visit to some of his French or Norman friends, or on a pilgrimage to some French or Norman sanctuary. Meanwhile the sudden death of Harthacnut left the throne vacant. As in other cases before and after, the citizens of London, whose importance grows at every step, together with such of the other Witan as were at hand, met at once and chose Eadward King. As he was absent, as his consent was doubtful, an embassy Embassy had to be sent to him, as embassies had been sent to his ward. father Ethelred2 and to his brother Harthacnut,3 inviting him to return and receive the Crown. That embassy, we are told, consisted of Bishops and Earls; we can hardly doubt that at the head of their several orders stood two men whom all accounts set before us as the leaders in the promotion of Eadward. These were Lyfing, Bishop of Worcester, Devonshire, and Cornwall, and Godwine, Earl of the West-Saxons.* A remarkable negotiation now Negotiatook place between the Earl and the King-elect. Details tween of private conversations are always suspicious, but the Edward dialogue attributed to the Earl and the Ætheling contains wine. nothing but what is thoroughly suited to the circumstances of the case. We can fully understand that Eadward, either from timidity or from his monastic turn, might shrink from the labour and responsibility of reigning at all, and that, with his Norman tastes, he might look forward with very little satisfaction to the prospect of reigning over English
1 As at the election of Eadmund Ironside, vol. i. p. 379. So, after the fall of Harold the son of Godwine, the citizens of London were foremost in choosing the young Eadgar King. Fl. Wig. 1066. The expression of "all folk," and the extreme haste at a time when the Witan seem not to have been sitting, point to an election of this kind, forestalling the next ordinary Gemót. 2 Vol. i. p. 365. 3 Vol. i. p. 505. 4 Lyfing's share in the business comes from Florence; "Eadwardus, annitentibus maxime Comite Godwino et Wigernensi Præsule Livingo, Lundoniæ levatur in Regem."