Page images

CHAP. VII. men. Such scruples were driven away by the arguments Speech of and eloquence of the great Earl. The actual speech put into his mouth may be the composition of the historian, but it contains the arguments which cannot fail to have been used in such a case. It was better to live gloriously as a King than to die ingloriously in exile. Eadward was the son of Æthelred, the grandson of Eadgar; the Crown was therefore his natural inheritance. His personal position and character would form a favourable contrast to those of the two worthless youths who had misgoverned England since the death of Cnut.' His years and experience fitted him to rule; he was of an age to act vigorously when severity was needed; he had known the ups and downs of life; he had been purified by poverty and exile, and would therefore know how to show mercy where mercy was called for. If he had any doubts, he, Godwine, was ready to maintain his cause; his power was great enough both to procure the election of a candidate Eadward and to secure his throne when elected.3 Eadward was accepts the Crown. persuaded; he consented to accept the Crown; he plighted his friendship to the Earl, and it may be that he promised to confer honours on his sons and to take his daughter in marriage. But stories of private stipulations of this kind are always doubtful. It is enough that Godwine had, as all accounts agree, the chief hand in raising Eadward to the throne.

He returns to England.

Eadward now seems to have returned to England, probably in company with Godwine and the other ambassadors.

This contrast is not directly stated, but it seems implied in the reference to the age and experience of Eadward.

2 Will. Malms. ii. 196. "Jure ei competere regnum, ævi maturo, laboribus defæcato, scienti administrare principatum per ætatem severe, miserias provincialium [Harthacnut's Danegeld?] pro pristinâ egestate temperare."

3 Ib. "Quo se pronior inclinaverit, eo fortunam vergere; si auxilietur, neminem ausurum obstrepere, et e converso."


gemót of



to Ead


Some expressions of our authorities might lead to the belief CHAP. VII. that the King-elect was, immediately on his landing in Kent, consecrated in the metropolitan church. But if this were so, it is certain that both the civil election and the ecclesiastical consecration had to be repeated. The Witan Witenapresently met at Gillingham in Dorsetshire; and it would Gillingseem that the acceptance of Eadward's claims was now somewhat less unanimous than it had been during the first burst of enthusiasm which followed the death of Harthacnut. Godwine brought forward Eadward as a candidate, he urged his claims with all his powers of speech, and himself set the example of becoming his man on the spot. Still Opposition an opposition arose in the Assembly, which it needed all ward's the eloquence of Godwine and Lyfing to overcome. They had even, as it would seem, to stoop to a judicious employment of the less noble arts of statesmanship. The majority indeed were won over by the authority of the man whom all England looked on as a father.2 But the votes of some had to be gained by presents, or, in plain words, by bribes.3 Others, it would seem, stood out against Eadward's election to the last. This opposition, we cannot doubt, came apparently from a Danish party which supported the claims of Swegen interest of Estrithson. That prince, on return from his first unsuccessful war with Magnus, had found his cousin Harthacnut dead, and Eadward already King as far as his first election could make him so. But the absence of the King-elect, the uncertainty of his acceptance of the Crown, might well make the hopes of Swegen and his partizans revive. We can hardly believe the tale, though it seems Alleged negotiations to rest on the assertion of Swegen himself, that he between demanded the Crown, and that Eadward made peace with

in the



Eadward and


1 See Appendix A.

2 Vita Eadw. 394. "Quoniam pro patre ab omnibus habebatur, in paterno consultu libenter audiebatur." Will. Malms. ii. 197. “Quidam auctoritatem ejus secuti." 4 See vol. i. p. 525.

3 Will. Malms. u. s. "Quidam muneribus flexi."


CHAP. VII. him, making the usual compromise that Swegen should succeed him on his death, even though he should leave sons. Such an agreement would of course be of no strength without the consent of the Witan. That consent may have been given in the Assembly at Gillingham; but such an arrangement seems hardly credible. The English nation no doubt fully intended that the Crown should remain in the House of Cerdic, and Godwine probably already hoped that in the next generation the blood of Cerdic would be united with the blood of Wulfnoth. But it is certain that Swegen was in some way or other reconciled to Eadward and Godwine, for we shall presently find Swegen acting as the friend of England and Godwine acting as the special champion of the interests of Swegen.2 The son of Ulf was, it will be remembered, the nephew of Gytha, and this family connexion no doubt pleaded for him as far as was consistent with Godwine's higher and nearer objects. One of Swegen's brothers, Beorn, remained in England, where he was soon raised to a great Earldom, and seems to have been counted in all respects as a member of the house of Godwine. But the friends of Swegen in general were set down for future punishment.3 In the end confiscation or banishment fell on the most eminent of them. Among them was Osbeorn, another brother of the Danish King, whom we shall hear of in later times as betraying the claims of his brother, and therewith the hopes of England, into the hand of the Norman Conqueror.

Eadward was thus raised to the throne mainly through the exertions of the two patriotic leaders, Godwine and Lyfing. It is vain to argue whether Godwine did wisely in pressing his election. There was in truth no other

Eadward the only possible


1 Adam Brem. ii. 74. See Appendix A.

2 See below under the years 1045 and 1047.

3 Will. Malms. ii. 197. "Et hinc censorie notati et postmodum ab Angliâ expulsi."

[ocr errors]



choice. The only other possible candidates were Swegen, CHAP. VII. and Magnus of Norway, of whose claims we shall hear again presently. But English feeling called for an English King, and there was no English King but Eadward to be had. That Godwine could have procured his own election to the Crown, that the thought of such an election could have occurred to himself or to any one else, is an utterly wild surmise.1 If Godwine met with some opposition when pressing the claims of Eadward, that opposition would have increased tenfold had he ventured to dream of the Crown for himself. The nomination of the West-Saxon Earl would have been withstood to the death, not only by an handful of Danes, but by Leofric and Siward, and that, in Siward's case at least, at the head of the whole force of their Earldoms. The time was not yet come for the election of a King not of the royal house. There was no manifest objection to the election of Eadward, and, though Godwine was undoubtedly the most powerful man in England, he had not reached that marked and undisputed preeminence which was enjoyed by his son twenty-four years later. No English candidate but Eadward was possible. And men had not yet learned, Godwine himself probably had not fully learned, how little worthy Eadward was to be called an English candidate.2 In raising Eadward to the throne, Godwine acted simply as the mouth-piece of the English people. The opposition, as far as we can see, came wholly from the Danes of what we may call the second importation, those who had come into England with Cnut and Harthacnut.

1 Thierry, i. 180; St. John, ii. 132.

2 Henry of Huntingdon indeed (M. H. B. 759 A) hints at a suspicion of Eadward's Normannizing tendencies, when he makes the English embassy stipulate that he shall bring the smallest possible number of Normans with him ("quod paucissimos Normannorum secum adduceret"). But Henry's narrative just here is so very wild that it is not safe to rely on his authority.

CHAP. VII. There is nothing to show that the old-settled Danish population of Northumberland acted apart from the rest of the country.

Claims of Eadward to the

Eadward then was King. He reigned, as every English King before him had reigned, by that union of popu



of his right according

to the


views of the writers.

lar election and royal descent which formed the essence of statements all ancient Teutonic kingship.1 But it would seem that, even in those days, the two elements in his title, the two principles to whose union he and all other Kings owed their kingly rank, spoke with different degrees of force to different minds. Already, in the eleventh century, we may say that there were Whigs and Tories in England. At any rate there were men in whose eyes the choice of the people was the primary and legitimate source of kingship. There were also men who were inclined to rest the King's claim to his Crown mainly on his descent from those who had been Kings before him. This difference of feeling is plainly shown in the different versions of the Chronicles. One contemporary writer, a devoted partizan of Godwine, grounds the King's right solely on the popular choice"All folk chose Eadward to King." That the entry was made at the time is plain from the prayer which follows, "May he hold it while God grants it to him." Another version, the only one in any degree hostile to the great Earl, seems purposely to avoid the use of any word which might recognize a distinct right of choice in the people. "All folk received Eadward to King, as was his right by birth." A third writer, distinctly, though less strongly,

1 See vol. i. p. 106.

2 Chron. Petrib. 1041. "Eall folc geceas Eadward to cynge on Lundene ; healde pa hwile be him God unne." (Cf. Hen. Hunt. M. H. B. 759 A. "Electus est in Regem ab omni populo.”) This prayer is the opposite to that of Antinoos, Od. i. 385:

μή σέ γ' ἐν ἀμφιάλῳ Ιθάκῃ βασιλῆα Κρονίων
ποιήσειεν, ὅ τοι γενεῇ πατρώϊόν ἐστι.

See Gladstone, Homer, iii. 51.

3 Chron. Ab. 1042, "Eall folc underfeng da Eadward to cinge, swa

« PreviousContinue »