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TREATY BETWEEN EDMUND AND CANUTE.
by the Ætheling Edmund Ironside, a lawless and violent,1 but brave man, and a patriot. By his father's death, 1016 A.D., Edmund became king; bursting out of London, where he was besieged, he rallied the Saxon forces, and defeated the Danes at Pen in Dorsetshire, and at Sheerstone in Wiltshire. Eadric Streona, who had joined Canute, now deserted to the conquering side; but the Danes, whose army was half English, were still in force to besiege London and ravage Mercia. An indecisive battle at Brentford, was followed by a Saxon victory at Otford, in Kent; and the Danes were forced to make a last stand at Assington, in Essex. The defection of Eadric Streona with the Mercian forces at the critical moment, saved Canute from a ruinous overthrow; while the chief nobles of the Saxon side fell in fight. Edmund was willing to try the chances of war again, but Eadric and other princes interposed to effect a lasting peace on honourable terms. It was agreed that Edmund should be king over Wessex, Essex, and East Anglia. Northumbria and Mercia were to be assigned to Canute. Mercia and East Anglia had changed sides in this division, from the old order under Alfred and Edward the Elder; the reason is probably to be sought in Eadric's influence, and in the political troubles under Dunstan, whose partizans had been chiefly Anglian, and his enemies Mercian. The partition did not last long. In November of this year, Edmund died at London. His death, by later historians, was ascribed to the treachery of Eadric, but they differ as to its manner, and the fact is far from certain.?
Canute was not slow to profit by the new opportunity. He
1 He had carried off and married the widow of Sigferth, whom Eadric Streona had murdered.-Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 170.
2 The Saxon Chronicle and Florence of Worcester simply say that king Edmund died. The later histories are less reliable: some of them ascribe it to poison; Huntingdon to the dagger; Malmesbury to a spike put in his seat. Eadric was quite capable of the crime, but it was not his interest to see England in the hands of one man, unless he really expected to supplant Canute. In the Norman life of Edward the Confessor, lately published, the murder is ascribed to Earl Godwin, (ll. 778-780,) who was perhaps confounded with Godwin Porthund, one of Eadric's emissaries.-Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 158
declared that it had been part of the treaty, that whoever survived the other, should succeed him as sole king for life, and should be guardian of the young princes. The witan, left without a leader, were unwilling to renew the bloody struggle, and accepted Canute's pretensions,' pledging faith to him and hist captains by shaking hands with them. There were still some difficulties, but an energetic and unscrupulous man disposed of them easily. The young princes, whom Canute neither dared to keep in the country nor to kill there, were sent to the court of St. Olaf, of Sweden, to be educated, with a hint that they had better die young; Olaf declined the dangerous charge and unprofitable crime; and sent the children to the court of king Stephen, of Hungary, apparently that they might be kept at a distance. Eadwig, Edward's brother, who was called contemptuously the churl-king, because only the people were for him, was banished and finally murdered by Canute's orders. Several of the chief nobles of the English party were got rid of by similar means in the first two years, but the nation almost forgave Canute his other crimes, in their delight at the death of Eadric. The Danish king was resolved to rid himself of a man whose treachery was inveterate, and whom he perhaps at the moment suspected of some plot. But Canute discriminated in his acts of violence: he had no intention of governing by the sword. By marrying Emma, the queendowager, he connected himself with the old history of the country. Englishmen who could be trusted, were advanced to honour. Godwin, Eadric's great nephew, but a man more reliable than his uncle, was married to Gytha, the sister of
1 Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 180. Dr. Lappenberg, whose high merits are sometimes blemished by inaccuracy, gives Florence as his authority for a statement that the witan deprived Edmund's sons for ever of the succession. It is a sin gular expansion of "omnino despexerunt," "altogether disregarded" the claims of.
2 If any account of the transaction is trustworthy, I should prefer that of Malmesbury, that Eadric quarrelled with the king, reproached him with ingratitude, and was strangled on the spot by Canute's orders, "that there might be no disturbance," and thrown into the Thames.-Lib. ii., pp. 304, 305.
REVIEW OF ETHELRED'S REIGN.
Canute's brother-in-law, and obtained the dignity of an carl at least as early as 1018 a.d.1
It is difficult to understand the political history of Ethelred and Edward's reigns. The nobles appear causelessly treacherous, the kings stupidly trustful to a degree that our present knowledge of events does not suffer us to understand. That Northumbrian chiefs with Danish blood in their veins should betray the forces entrusted to them, is intelligible; but what had an ealdorman of Mercia or Southampton to gain by allowing his province to be ravaged and his country made tributary? Again, why was Eadric Streona so often trusted by two kings, one of whom was his personal enemy, and so unreservedly followed by the Mercians? Dr. Lappenberg conjectures, that even the variations of his policy may have represented shifting provincial interests; that he may have been most Mercian when he was least English. It is difficult to believe that any intelligible principle, except individual interest, prevailed during those times. Southampton was the first city stormed by the Danes in 980 A.D., when most of its burghers were either slain or enslaved; in 994 A.D. it was the Danish head-quarters; in 1013 A.D. the people of the district went out gallantly against the Danes; yet in 1016 A.D., they fought on Canute's side against the Saxon king at Sheerstone. Similarly, we find the Anglians in 1004 A.D. inflicting severe losses upon Sweyn, in 1012 A.D. storming Canterbury, and in 1016 A.D. assigned to Edmund as part of the Saxon kingdom. The Northumbrians in the spring of 1016 A.D. supported Edmund, when his own people of Wessex had made submission to the Danes and horsed their army, but in the autumn of that same year, Northumbria was handed over to Canute. These facts can only be explained on the supposition that the
1 Freeman's Life and Death of Earl Godwin.-Archæol. Journal, 1854.-Cod. Dip., 728, subscribed by Godwine Dux. He can hardly have been a shepherd boy at the battle of Sheerstone, in 1016 A.D., as Mr. Sharon Turner and Thierry suppose.-Conquête des Normands, tom. i., p. 159. The story probably originated in his connection with the low-born Eadric Streona.
Modis omnibus insidias clitoni dux tetendit.-Flor. Wig., vol. ii., p. 171.
CAUSES OF ENGLISH WEAKNESS.
power of the great nobles was almost absolute; a supposition which is confirmed by all we know of the times, and not least by the contemptuous epithet applied to Eadwig, "king of the ceorls," as if ceorl or freeman were no longer a name of honour. In fact, the nation groaned under feudalism, unrelieved by chivalry; war had become a trade; and the man who from property or position could bring most soldiers into the field, made market of his advantages, without regard to his country. There were other causes at work: the different races were always at feud; and city and country were still almost as distinct as in the old Roman times. But the chief cause lay in the fact that power now centred in the hands of a few men, and that those men were for the most part irredeemably bad and base. A single Alfred or Athelstane might have reclaimed the national honour. But the well-meaning men of this century were the churchman Elfeg, and the weak-minded king Edward the Confessor. England lay in the hands of the family of Eadric Streona.
THE ANGLO-DANISH EPOCH.
CHARACTER OF CANUTE.-FAVOUR SHOWN TO THE CHURCH.-FEUDALISM AND GAME LAWS.-HAROLD HAREFOOT.-MURDER OF ALFRED, AND QUESTION OF GODWIN'S COMPLICITY.-HARDICANUTE'S REIGN.-ACCESSION OF EDWARD THE CONFESSOR.-GODWIN'S ASCENDANCY THREATENED BY NORMAN INFLUENCES.-BANISHMENT AND RETURN TO POWER OF GODWIN.-RIVALRY OF HAROLD AND TOSTIG.-EDWARD'S DEATH AND CHARACTER,
CANUTE'S is not one of the great names in English history. He triumphed rather by the weakness of his opponents than by the strength of his following, or by his own ability. Accordingly, during the first years of his reign, the petty prince of Scotland was able to annex the Lothians, with which Canute had invested an earl of his own, and to refuse homage for Cumberland; Olaf of Sweden threatened the English coasts with a new conquest; and a little before the king's death, Robert the Devil of Normandy insultingly repudiated his sister, and was only prevented by a storm from invading England. Wielding the forces of England and Denmark, Canute was still unable to subdue the Wends, who, backed by the militant paganism of their countrymen, made the Baltic a Slavonian lake, and infested the Elbe provinces. Where war could be mixed with politics, the Anglo-Danish king was more formidable. As the champion of oppressed paganism, he succeeded, 1028 A.D., in expelling St. Olaf from Norway, and established a son in his place. He was even able, 1032 A.D., to compel Duncan the
1 Palgrave's English Commonwealth, cccxxi.; Fordun's Scoti-Chronicon, lib. iv., cap. 41.
2 Geijer's History of the Swedes, p. 39; Menzel's History of Germany, cap. 122.