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CHAP. VII. for the fame of Harold was yet to be won. Those parts of The other Mercia which were not otherwise occupied remained, as before, in the hands of Leofric the son of Leofwine, under whom Worcestershire seems, at all events some years later, to have been held by the King's nephew Ralph as a subordinate Earldom.1 Leofric and his famous wife Godgifu, the Lady Godiva of legend,2 were chiefly celebrated for their boundless liberality to ecclesiastical foundations.3 Worcester, Leominster, Evesham, Chester, Wenlock, Stow in Lindesey, and, above all, Coventry, were special objects of their bounty. They seem not to have been satisfied with mere grants of lands and privileges, but to have taken a special interest in the buildings and ornaments of the houses which they favoured. The minster of Coventry, rebuilt and raised to cathedral rank after their time, has utterly vanished from the earth, and recent changes have abolished even the titular position of the city as a see of a Bishop. But at Stow, the ancient Sidnacester, a place even then of infinitely less consideration than Coventry, portions of the church enriched by Leofric still remain."
1 See Appendix G.
2 Godgifu was the sister of Thorold the Sheriff, founder of the Priory of Spalding. See John of Peterborough, a. 1052. p. 49 Giles. The legend of her riding naked through Coventry is found in Roger of Wendover (i. 497), Bromton (949), and Knighton (2334). They do not mention peeping Tom, who, it is some comfort to think, must at any rate have been one of King Eadward's Frenchmen.
3 See Will. Malms. ii. 196. Cf. Æthel. Riev. 389; Chron. Evesham. 84. This last writer extends Leofric's authority to the borders of Scotland. Did Cumberland reach to the Ribble in those days?
"Stow sub promontorio Lincolnia." Bromton, 949. See the charters of Bishop Wulfwig, Cod. Dipl. iv. 290. The church was not built by Leofric, but by Eadnoth the Second, Bishop of Dorchester (1034-1050); Leofric's benefaction took the form of ornaments. See Flor. Wig. 1057, where he calls Stow "locus famosus qui Sanctæ Mariæ Stou Anglice, Latine vero Sanctæ Mariæ Locus appellatur." The antiquity of part of the church is indisputable, but a more wretched village can hardly be found.
A document, professing to be a petition from Godgifu to Pope Victor,
EARLDOMS OF LEOFRIC AND SIWARD.
Leofric, his son Elfgar, his grandsons and his grand- CHAP. VII.
North of the Humber, the great Dane, Siward the NorthumStrong, still ruled over the Earldom which he had won under by the murder of his wife's uncle. The manners of the Siward. Northumbrians were so savage, murders and hereditary deadly feuds were so rife among them, that it is quite possible that the slaughter of Eadwulf may have been looked on, by a party at least, as a praiseworthy act of vigour. Perhaps however, as we go on, we may discern signs that Siward and his house were not specially popular in Northumberland, and that men looked back with regret to the more regular line of their native Earls. However this may be, Siward remained for the rest of his days in undisturbed possession of both the Northumbrian governments, and along with these he seems to have held the Earldoms
praying for the confirmation of her gifts to Stow, is marked as doubtful by Mr. Kemble (Cod. Dipl. iv. 168), doubtless on good grounds. But I do not understand his date, 1060-1066, as the Popedom of Victor the Second was from 1055 to 1057. Siward, who died early in 1055, could hardly have signed an address to Pope Victor.
2 See vol. i. p. 522.
1 See vol. i. p. 482. VOL. II.
CHAP. VII. of Northampton and Huntingdon within the proper limits of Mercia.1 He ruled, we are told, with great firmness and severity, labouring hard to bring his troublesome province into something like order.2 Neither was he lacking in that bounty to the Church, which might seem specially needful as an atonement for the crime by which he rose to power.3
The mention of these great Earls suggests several considerations as to the constitutional and administrative systems of the time. It is quite a mistake to think, as often has been thought, that the position of these powerful viceroys at all proves that England was at this time tending to separation. It was in truth tending to closer union, and the position of the great Earls is really one of the Compari- signs of that tendency. A mistaken parallel has sometimes
Frankish been drawn between the condition of England under Eadward and the condition of Gaul under the later Karlings. The transfer of the English sceptre to the house of Godwine is of course likened to the transfer of the French sceptre to the house of Hugh of Paris. But if we are to look for a parallel in Gaulish history, we shall find one, by no means exact but certainly the closer of the two, in the state of things under the later Merwings, and in the transfer of the Frankish sceptre to the Carolingian dynasty. The position of Godwine and Harold is, of the two, more akin to the position of Charles Martel and Pippin than it is to that of Hugh the Great and Hugh Nature of Capet. The Earls of Eadward's reign were, as I have already explained, not territorial princes, gradually withaffected by drawing themselves from the authority of their nominal Conquest. over-lord, but great magistrates, wielding indeed a power
well nigh royal within their several governments, but
1 See Appendix G.
3 See Chronn. 1055.
2 Vita Eadw. 421, 422.
POSITION OF THE GREAT EARLS.
wielding it only by delegation from the common sovereign, CHAP. VII. The Danish Conquest, and the fearful slaughter of the ancient nobility in the wars of Swegen and Cnut, had done much to break up the force of ancient local associations and the influence of the ancient local families. Many of these families, that of the East-Anglian Earls for instance, doubtless became extinct. From the accession of Cnut we find a new state of things. The rule of the old half-kingly families, holding an almost hereditary sway over whole kingdoms, and seemingly with subordinate Ealdormen in each shire, gradually dies out. Cnut divided the Kingdom as he pleased, appointing Danes or Englishmen, and Englishmen of old or of new families, as he thought good. England was now portioned out among a few Earls, who were distinctly representatives of the King. In Northumberland and Mercia the claims of ancient princely families were to some extent regarded; in Wessex and East-Anglia not at all. The rank of Earl is now held by a very few persons, con. nected either with the royal family or with the men whose personal influence was great at the time. The Earls appointed down to the last year of Eadward are always either the King's own kinsmen or else kinsmen of Godwine or Leofric. Siward keeps his Earldom for life; but, Position of while he lives, his influence hardly extends beyond his own berland, province, and, after his death, Northumberland falls under the same law as the rest of the Kingdom. It is only in the last moment of Eadward's reign, after the great Northumbrian revolt, that Siward's son receives, not the Northumbrian but the Mercian possessions of his father, and that the heir of the old Northumbrian Earls receives a subordinate establishment within the ancestral province.1 No doubt Northumberland still retained more of the character of a distinct state than any other part of England; still the forces of Northumberland march at the command of the
1 See Appendix G.
CHAP. VII. King,1 and the Northumbrian Earldom is at the disposal of the King and his Witan.2 We do not however find the same signs of the constant immediate exercise of the royal power in Northumberland which we find in Wessex, Mercia, and East-Anglia. We find throughout this reign a series of writs addressed to the Bishops and Earls of those districts, which show that an Earl of one of those great Earldoms commonly acted as the local Earl of each shire in his province, with no subordinate Earl or Ealdorman under him. While such writs are exceedingly common in Wessex and East-Anglia, only one such writ exists addressed to a Northumbrian Earl, and that is in the days of Tostig.3 Those addressed to the Earls of the house of Leofric are also rare. It is clear that the King's power was more fully established under the Earls of Godwine's family than elsewhere. No doubt the royal authority was formally acknowledged in every part of the Kingdom alike, but the memories and traces of ancient independence in Northumberland and Northern Mercia made its practical exercise more difficult in those districts.
The class of writs of which I have just spoken throw some light on constitutional questions in another way. They come in under Cnut, and they become very common under Eadward, being found alongside of documents of the more ancient form. They are announcements which the King
Evidence of the
tion of the Folkland.
2 Chron. 1055.
1 Chron. 1051.
3 Cod. Dipl. vi. 203. There is also another writ which, though neither Northumberland nor any Northumbrian Earl is mentioned in it, is clearly meant to run in Northumberland more than anywhere else. This also comes during the government of Tostig. It is the writ in Cod. Dipl. iv. 230, addressed, according to a form found elsewhere, to the Bishops, Earls, and Thegns of all those shires where Archbishop Ealdred held any lands ("Eadward cynge grét mine biscopas and mine eorlas and ealle mýne þegenas on dam scyran dær Ealdred arcebisceop heefed land inne fréondlice"). Among these shires Gloucestershire is doubtless reckoned, but Yorkshire must have stood foremost.
For the earliest example, one of 1020, see Kemble, Archæological Journal, xiv. 61, 62.