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CHARACTER OF GODWINE.
Such a peculiarity is most remarkable. How CHAP. VII. far it may have arisen from enlightenment beyond his age, how far it was the result of mere illiberality or want of religious feeling, it is utterly impossible to say. But it is clear that Godwine is in this respect distinguished in a marked way from his son, whose liberality, guided as it was by a wise discretion, was conspicuous among his other great qualities. Again, it is hardly possible to acquit Godwine of being, like most fathers who have the chance, too anxious for the advancement of his own Godwine's family. He promoted his sons, both worthy and un- for his own worthy, to the greatest offices in the Kingdom, at an age when they could have had but little personal claim to such high distinctions. In so doing, he seems to have overstepped the bounds of policy as well as those of fairness and good feeling. Such an accumulation of power in one family could not but raise envy, and higher feelings than envy, in the breasts of rivals, some of whom may have had as good or better claims to promotion. That Godwine sacrificed his daughter to a political object is a charge common to him with princes and statesmen in all ages. Few men in any time or place would have thrown away the opportunity of having a King for a sonin-law, and, as Godwine doubtless hoped, of becoming, at least in the female line, the ancestor of a line of princes.
The faults of the great Earl then are manifest. But Godwine's his virtues are equally manifest. In the eyes of con- ment of temporary Englishmen such faults as I have mentioned his Earlmust have seemed little more than a few specks on a burnished mirror. His good government of his Earldom is witnessed, not only by the rhetoric of his panegyrist, which however may at least be set against the rhetoric of
A Godwine appears (W. Thorn. X Scriptt. 2224) as a benefactor of Christ Church, Canterbury. This may be the great Earl, or it may be the Godwine whose marriage settlement we have in Cod. Dipl. iv. 10.
administration of justice.
CHAP. VII. his accusers, but by the plain facts of the welcome which greeted him on his return from banishment, and the zeal His strict on his behalf displayed by all classes.1 As a ruler, Godwine is specially praised for what in those days was looked on as the first virtue of a ruler, merciless severity towards all disturbers of the public peace. In our settled times we hardly understand how rigour, often barbarous rigour, against thieves and murderers should have been looked on as the first merit of a governor, one which was always enough to cover a multitude of sins. Public feeling went along with the prince or magistrate who thus preserved the peace of his dominions, however great might be his own offences in other ways, and however cruel in our eyes might be the means by which he compassed this first end of government. To have discharged this great duty stands foremost in the panegyrics of Godwine and of Harold. It was accepted at the hands of the Norman Conqueror as almost an equivalent for the horrors of the Conquest. It won for his son Henry a splendid burst of admiration at the hands of a native writer who certainly was not blind to the oppression of which that prince himself was guilty. A certain amount of tyranny was willingly endured at the hands of men who so effectually rid the world of smaller tyrants. And, in opposition to the praise thus bestowed on Godwine, Harold, William, and Henry, we find the neglect of this paramount duty standing foremost in the dark indictments against the ruffian Rufus and the heedless Robert.6 Godwine is set forth to us, in set phrases, it may be, but in phrases which do not the less express the conviction of the country, as a ruler mild and
1 This comes out nowhere more emphatically than in the comparatively hostile Abingdon Chronicle, 1052.
2 Vita Eadw. 408. Cf. Fl. Wig. 1066.
* See the Peterborough Chronicler's character of William, under the year 1087.
• Ib. 1135.
• Ord. Vit. 672 B.
5 Will. Malms. iv. 314.
HIS STRICT GOVERNMENT AND HIS ELOQUENCE.
power as afterwards.
affable to the good, but stern and merciless to the evil CHAP. VII. and unruly. But with all his vigour, all his eloquence, Godwine it is clear that Godwine never reached to the same com- reached plete dominion over King and Kingdom which, in later the same years, fell to the lot of his nobler son. He always remained Harold an object of jealousy, not only to the French favourites of Eadward, but to the Earls of the other parts of England. We shall find that his eloquent tongue could not always command a majority in the Meeting of the Wise.2 But the importance attributed to his oratory, the fluctua- Importtions of success and defeat which he underwent in the eloquence. great deliberative Assembly, show clearly how advanced our constitution already was in an age when free debate was so well understood, and when free speech was so powerful. In this respect the Norman Conquest undoubtedly threw things back. We shall have to pass over several centuries before we come to another chief whose influence clearly rested to so great a degree on his power of swaying great assemblies of men, on the personal affection or personal awe with which he had learned to inspire the Legislature of his country.
The marriage of Godwine with his Danish wife Gytha Godwine's family. had given him a numerous and flourishing offspring. Six sons and three daughters surrounded the table of the Earl of the West-Saxons. In the names which several of them bore we may discern the influence of their Danish mother.+ The sons of Godwine were Swegen, Harold, Tostig, Gyrth, Leofwine, and Wulfnoth. His daughters were Eadgyth,
1 Vit. Eadw. 408.
"When the chronicler praises the gift of proves the existence of constitutional freedom."
2 Fl. Wig. 1048, 1049.
I attribute the Danish names in Godwine's family to the influence of Gytha rather than to any Danish tastes prevalent at the Court of Cnut, because the Danes settled in England seem to have so often adopted English names for their children. See vol. i. pp. 515, 524.
CHAP VII. Gunhild, and Elfgifu. As twenty-three years had now passed since Godwine's marriage, we may assume that all of them were already born, though some of the younger ones may still have been children. The eldest sons had reached manhood, and we shall find two at least of them filling the rank of Earl during the period with which we
are now dealing. Swegen, the eldest son, seems to have Earl, 1043. been invested with an Earldom from the very beginning
of Eadward's reign, as he signs a charter with that title Beorn Earl, in the King's second year.2 Gytha's nephew, Beorn, also remained in England while his brother Osbeorn was banished, and while his other brother Swegen was putting forth his claims to the Crown of Denmark. He had doubtless firmly attached himself to the interests of his uncle. He also was, probably at a somewhat later time, raised to an Earldom, seemingly the Earldom of the MiddleAngles, lately held by Thored.3 The Earldom held by Swegen was geographically most anomalous. It took in the Mercian shires of Hereford, Gloucester, and Oxford, and the West-Saxon shires of Berkshire and Somerset.1
But, along with the comparatively obscure names of HAROLD Swegen and Beorn, a greater actor now steps upon the the son of field. We have now reached the first appearance of the [Earl of the illustrious man round whom the main interest of this East
history will henceforth centre. The second son of God
1 On the sons and daughters of Godwine, see Appendix F.
2 Cod. Dipl. iv. 74. This charter must be early in the year 1043, earlier at least than the Gemót which we shall presently see was held in November. Swegen was therefore probably appointed in the Gemót at which Eadward was finally established as King. Another charter, of 1044 (Cod. Dipl. iv. 80), signed by Harold, Leofwine, Swegen, Tostig, and Gyrth, all with the rank of "Dux," is deservedly marked as doubtful by Mr. Kemble.
* See vol. i. p. 515, and Appendix G, on the Great Earldoms. His first signature is in 1045. Cod. Dipl. iv. 97.
Fl. Wig. 1051.
CHARACTER OF HAROLD.
wine lived to be the last of our native Kings, the hero CHAP. VII. and the martyr of our native freedom. We have indeed as yet to deal with him only in a subordinate capacity, and in some sort in a less honourable character. The few recorded actions of Harold, Earl of the East-Angles, could hardly have enabled men to look forward to the glorious career of Harold, Earl of the West-Saxons, and of Harold, King of the English. To his first great government, a trying elevation indeed for one in the full vigour of youth and passion, he was apparently raised about three years after the election of Eadward, when he himself could not have passed his twenty-fourth year. While still young, he saw somewhat of the fluctuations of human affairs, and he seems to have learned wisdom from experience. Still there must have been in him from the beginning the germ of those great qualities which shone forth so conspicuously in his later career. It is not hard to paint his portraiture, alike from his His charecorded actions, and from the elaborate descriptions of him which we possess from contemporary hands. The Contempraises of the great Earl sound forth in the latest speci- timonies. men of the native minstrelsy of Teutonic England. And they sound forth with a truer ring than the half conventional praises of the saintly monarch, whose greatest glory, after all, was that he had called Harold to the government of his realm.1 The Biographer of Eadward, Evidence the panegyrist of Godwine, is indeed the common laureate grapher. of Godwine's whole family; but it is not in the special interest of Harold that he writes. He sets forth the merits of Harold with no sparing hand; he approves of him as a ruler and he admires him as a man; but his own personal affection plainly clings more closely to the rival brother Tostig. His description of Harold is therefore the more trustworthy as it fully agrees with
of the Bio
1 Chronn. Ab. and Wig. 1065. See Appendix D.