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CHAP. VII. the evidence of his recorded actions. Harold then, the second son of Godwine, is set before us as a man uniting every gift of mind and body which could attract to him the admiration and affection of the age in which he lived.1 Tall in stature, beautiful in countenance, of a bodily strength whose memory still lives in the rude pictorial art of his time, he was foremost alike in the active courage and in the passive endurance of the warrior. In hunger and watchfulness, in the wearing labours of a campaign no less than in the passing excitement of the day of battle, he stood forth as the leader and the model of the English people.3 Alike ready and vigorous in action, he knew when to strike and how to strike; he knew how to measure himself against enemies of every kind, and to adapt his tactics to every position in which the accidents of warfare might place him. He knew how to chase the light-armed Briton from fastness to fastness, how to charge, axe in hand, on the bristling lines of his Norwegian namesake, and how to bear up, hour after hour, against the repeated onslaughts of the Norman horsemen and the more terrible thundershower of the Norman arrows. It is plain that in him, no less than in his more successful, and therefore more famous, rival, we have to admire, not only the mere animal courage of the soldier, but that true skill of the leader of armies which would have placed both Harold and William high among the captains of any age.

His military genius.

1 Vita Eadw. 408. "Virtute corporis et animi in populo præstabat ut alter Judas Machabæus."

2 In the Bayeux Tapestry Harold is represented as lifting the Norman soldiers from the quicksands with the greatest ease.

3 Vita Eadw. 409. "Uterque [the writer is comparing Harold and Tostig] satis pulcro et venusto corpore et, ut conjicimus, non inæquali robore, non disparis audaciæ. Sed major natu Haroldus procerior staturâ, patris satis [these words are clearly corrupt] infinitis laboribus, vigiliis et inediâ, multâ animi lenitate et promptiori sapientiâ."




lar forbear

But the son of Godwine, the heir of his greatness, was CHAP. VII. more than a soldier, more than a general. If he inherited civil from his father those military qualities which first drew virtues. on Godwine the notice alike of the English Ætheling' and of the Danish King, he inherited also that eloquence of speech, that wisdom in council, that knowledge of the laws of the land, which made him the true leader and father of the English people. Great as Harold was in war, his character as a civil ruler is still more remarkable, still more worthy of admiration. One or two actions of his earlier life show indeed that the spirit of those days of violence had laid its hand even on him. But, from the His singutime when he appears in his full maturity as the acknow-ance. ledged chief of the English nation, the most prominent feature in his character is his singular gentleness and mercy. Never, either in warfare or in civil strife, do we find Harold bearing hardly upon an enemy. From the time of his advancement to the practical government of the Kingdom, there is not a single harsh or cruel action with which he can be charged. His policy was ever a policy of conciliation. His panegyrist indeed confines his readiness to forgive, his unwillingness to avenge, to his dealings with his own countrymen only. But the same magnanimous spirit is shown in cases where his conduct. was less capable of being guided by mere policy than in his dealings with Mercian rivals and with Northumbrian revolters. We see the same generous temper in his treat

1 See vol. i. p. 711.

2 De Inv. c. 14. "Tum... astutiâ et legum terræ peritiâ, tum quia se talem gerebat quod non solum Angli, verum etiam Normanni et Gallici imprimis invidebant pulcritudini et prudentiæ, militiæ et sagacitati."

* Vita Eadw. 409. "Multum obloquia perferre, nam non facile prodere, non facile quoque, et in civem sive compatriotum, ut reor, nusquam, ulcisci." Compare the character of Edward the First;

"Totus Christo traditur Rex noster Edwardus ; Velox est ad veniam, ad vindictam tardus." Political Songs (Camd. Soc.), p. 163.

CHAP. VII. ment of the conquered Princes of Wales and of the defeated invaders of Stamfordbridge. As a ruler, he is described as walking in the steps of his father, as the terror of evilHis cham- doers and the rewarder of those who did well. Devoted, pionship of England heart and soul, to the service of his country, he was no against less loyal in personal attention and service to her wayward strangers. and half-foreign King.1 Throughout his career he was the champion of the independence of England against the dominion of strangers. To keep the court of England free from the shoals of foreigners who came to fatten on English estates and honours, and to meet the same enemies in open arms upon the heights of Senlac, were only two different ways of discharging the great duty to which his whole energies were devoted. And yet no man was ever more free from narrow insular prejudices, from any unHis foreign worthy jealousy of foreigners as such. His own mind was enlarged and enriched by foreign travel, by the study of the politics and institutions of other nations on their own soil. He not only made the pilgrimage to Rome, a practice which the example of Cnut seems to have made fashionable among English nobles and prelates, but he went on a journey through various parts of Gaul, carefully examining into the condition of the country and the policy of its rulers, among whom we may be sure that the renowned Duke of Rouen was not forgotten.2 And Harold was ever ready to welcome and to reward real merit in men of foreign birth. He did not scruple to confer high offices on strangers, and to call men of worth from foreign lands to help him in his most cherished undertakings.


1 See the poem in the Chronicles. So Snorro (Ant. Celt. Scand. 189; Laing, iii. 75), while strangely making Harold the youngest of the family and hardly realizing his position in the Kingdom, bears ample testimony to the kindly relations existing between him and the King. He is there called Eadward's "foster son." The Biographer (p. 433) calls him " tricius suus frater."


2 Vita Eadw. 410; a passage which I shall have to refer to again.


But, while the bounty of Eadward was squandered on CHAP. VII. Normans and Frenchmen, men utterly alien in language Harold's patronage and feeling, it was the policy of Harold to strengthen the of Germans as opposed connexion of England with the continental nations nearest to Frenchto us in blood and speech.1 All the foreigners promoted men. by Harold, or in the days of his influence, were natives of those kindred Teutonic lands whose sons might still almost be looked upon as fellow-countrymen.

nal charac


Such was Harold as a leader of Englishmen in war and His persoin peace. As for his personal character, we can discern that in the received piety of the age he surpassed his father. The charge of invasion of the rights of ecclesias- His alleged tical bodies is brought against him no less than against of monasspoliation Godwine; but the instance which has brought most dis- teries. credit upon his name can be easily shown to be a mere tissue of misconceptions and exaggerations. And it is far His friendmore certain that Harold was the intimate friend of the ship with Saint Wulfbest and holiest man of his time. Wulfstan, the sainted stan. Prior and Bishop of Worcester, was the object of his deepest affection and reverence; he would at any time go far out of his way for the benefit of his exhortations and prayers; and the Saint repaid his devotion by loyal and vigorous service in the day of need. Of his liberality his great Hisfoundafoundation at Waltham is an everlasting monument, and College at it is a monument not more of his liberality than of his [1060-2.]

tion of the


wisdom. To the monastic orders Harold seems not to have been specially liberal; his bounty took another and a

1 I refer both to Harold's own proceedings at Waltham and to the general promotion of Germans during this reign. See Stubbs, De Inv. ix.

2 See Appendix E and QQ.

* See William of Malmesbury's Life of Wulfstan, Angl. Sacr. ii. 248, 253.

He was however a benefactor to the Abbey of Peterborough. The local historian Hugo Candidus says (p. 44. ap. Sparke), "Comes Haroldus dedit Cliftune et terram in Londone juxta monasterium Sancti Pauli, juxta portum qui vocatur Etheredishythe." Harold's connexion with London should be noticed. It was also at his advice that King Eadward made


CHAP. VII. better chosen direction. The foundation of a great secular College, in days when all the world seemed mad after monks, when King Eadward and Earl Leofric vied with each other in lavish gifts to religious houses at home and abroad, was in itself an act displaying no small vigour and independence of mind. The details too of the foundation were such as showed that the creation of Waltham was not the act of a moment of superstitious dread or of reckless bounty, but the deliberate deed of a man who felt the responsibilities of lofty rank and boundless wealth, and who earnestly sought the welfare of his Church and nation in all things. As to his personal demeanour, he was frank and open in his general bearing, to a degree which was sometimes thought to be hurtful to his interests.1 Yet he could on occasion dissemble and conceal his purpose, a gift which seems sometimes to have been misconstrued,2 and which apparently led him to the one great error of his life. He appears not to have been wholly free from Charges of the common fault of noble and generous dispositions. The charge of occasional rashness was brought against him by others, and it is denied by his panegyrist in terms which seem to imply that the charge was not wholly groundless.3


His personal demeanour frank and


a grant to Abingdon (Hist. Mon. Ab. i. 469), and that a Thegn named Thurkill, of whom we shall hear again, commended himself to the same church (Ib. i. 484).

1 Vita Eadw. 409. "Cum quovis, quem fidelem putaret, interdum communicare consilium operis sui, et hoc interdum adeo differre, si debet duci, ut minus conducibile a quibusdam videretur fore sum commoditati."

2 Ib. 410. "Uterque [Harold and Tostig] interdum quædam simulare adeo egregie ut qui eos non noverit incertius nil æstimare poterit." In connexion with this curious passage I may quote a singular exaggeration from an unknown author; it is found in a marginal note on one of the manuscripts of the Winchester Annals (Luard, 27); "Haroldus Rex, si sapienter ageret quidquid agebat furore, nullus hominum illum [sic] resisteret. Sed adeo erat animi inconstantis, quod nullus suorum se credidit illi." Yet "sapienter" is the adverb which the Biographer specially applies to Harold, in distinction to the "fortiter" of Tostig.

3 The charge of rashness brought against Harold during the last scene

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