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CHARACTER OF HAROLD'S REIGN.
from some Kentish port to Oxford: the former is the story of the Saxon party, the latter of Norman historians; and it makes the difference whether we suppose that the Earl of Kent had no share in promoting the enterprize, or that he received the prince with flattering promises and lured him on to his destruction. The shield has its white and its black side; it depends on which side we stand, whether Godwin is a traitor or only a partizan, who, like many not over-scrupulous men, meditated a small villany, and was entangled in the consequences of a great crime.
Alfred's death put England at Harold's feet. He proceeded to banish Emma, who fled to Bruges, where Baldwin of Flanders, her great-nephew, supported her; that she did not in her poverty take refuge with her son in Denmark, is perhaps some proof that she had conspired against him; the Ætheling Edward returned to Normandy. The queen, however, entered into fresh plans for expelling Harold, and Hardicanute had come with his fleet to Bruges, which was then almost a seaport, when the news of Harold's sudden death, 1040 A.D., relieved them from further difficulty. In the weakness of his uncertain rule, the country had been without law, the fen lands filled with fugitives, and the marches ravaged by the Welsh, but personally the king had not been oppressive, and had freely lavished the treasures which he had
1 Florence of Worcester takes the prince from Winchester to London, but strangely enough both he and the Saxon Chronicle lay the blame on Godwin; William of Jumiéges and William of Poitou make Dover the port; and the author of the Encomium Emma probably had a Kentish port in his mind, as he makes Godwin lead the prince aside from London to Guildford; he, however, brings no charge of treason against the earl.-Gul. Gemit., lib. vi., c. 9; Gul. Pict., p. 78; Enc. Emm., Duchesne, p. 175. To complete the confusion, Malmesbury, generally on the Norman side, regards the charges against Godwin as unproved, and calls him "justitiæ propugnator."-Lib. ii., p. 321. The charter in which Edward the Confessor is made to ascribe his brother's death to Harold and Hardicanute, need no longer perplex the question, as Mr. Kemble considers it spurious.-Cod. Dip., 824. Even if it be genuine, I believe the charge is, by an ungrammatical construction, really brought against the Danes as in charter 825, not against the two kings.
2 Ingulfi Hist. Gale, vol. i., p. 61.
REIGN OF HARDICANUTE.
acquired by murder. Only the one unpardonable crime blackened his memory with a stain, which the interested praises of monkish chroniclers could never efface in the estimation of the people.
Hardicanute was welcomed joyfully in England, but he soon estranged the people's affections by imposing a heavy tax for the benefit of his Danish fleet. The other acts of his short reign show him to have been a weak and unprincipled man. He ordered the body of Harold to be disinterred from its grave in St. Clement Danes, and thrown into the Thames; he brought Godwin and Lyfing to trial for the death of Alfred, condoned Godwin's offence for the present of a splendid ship, and deprived Lyfing of his bishopric, but restored him again after a year; lastly, by his extortionate taxation, the king excited a rebellion in Worcester, which he punished with fire and sword, as if he were in an enemy's country. Fortunately for the kingdom which he misgoverned, Hardicanute died of his excesses at a marriage banquet given by one of his nobles, A.D. 1042.1
Among the better points of the late king's character, had been his conduct to his mother Emma and his half-brother Edward, who were both resident at the English court at the time of his death. Edward, fortunately for his own interests, had yielded to the ascendancy of Earl Godwin; Emma seems not to have been reconciled to a man whom she esteemed the murderer of her favourite son, and she had never been on good terms with Edward. She was evidently a. daring, resolute woman; her first husband had treated her badly, and she can have had little sympathy with his well-meaning but feeble second son. After a short interregnum, the interest of Godwin and Lyfing prevailed in raising Edward to the throne, to the exclusion of the Danish candidate, Svend, Canute's nephew, and of Edward, son of Edmund Ironsides, the legitimate heir, but absent in Hungary. The first act of the new king was to
1 The story of a war between Danes and Saxons in Hardicanute's time, (Lives of Edw. Conf., pp. 40, 41) must probably be referred back to the days of Sweyn.
ASCENDANCY OF GODWIN.
take away all his mother's property; a decent maintenance. was allowed her, and Winchester assigned her as a residence; a similar act of confiscation despoiled her adherent, Stigant, bishop of Norwich. The excuse of the Saxon Chronicle, that Emma had dealt ungenerously with her son, is clearly insufficient, although weak impulses and petty malice make up much of Edward's character; the act was one of a party headed by Godwin, and was meant to place an impassable gulf between the king and the earl's most implacable enemy. Other events indicate the accession of Godwin to power. He becomes about this time earl of Wessex, the one important province of England which the crown had always kept hitherto in its own hands. Above all, his daughter Edith was married to the king. It is probable Edward did not desire the union; he had all the feelings of a monk, and lived to the last day of his life separate from his queen. But it is impossible to believe that at this time he regarded Godwin as the murderer of his brother; or if, as his Norman biographers state, he was only yielding in all he did to official necessities, he deserves a deeper infamy than the foulest suspicions ascribe to Godwin's conduct.
In spite of Edward's weak character, the country was in some respects well governed. The claims of Magnus of Norway to the English crown, which Hardicanute was said to have promised him, were rejected with dignity by the witan; a powerful navy secured the shores of the island from outrage, and only twice did roving fleets achieve a temporary success; the incursions of the Welsh were repressed; comparative order was maintained generally, and commerce flourished again. The nobility were now half Danish, and although two or three Danes of eminence were outlawed, Danish blood was no impediment to holding the highest offices at court; in fact, the Northumbrians were as well aware as the Southrons that their interests were English; and when Godwin, influenced by his marriage connections, proposed interference in the civil wars of Denmark,
1 Worsaae's Danes and Northmen, pp. 145, 146.
GODWIN'S DECLINE IN POWER.
the witan unanimously refused. All, therefore, would have been well, but for the ambition of Godwin's family, and for Edward's partiality to foreign favourites. Not contented with Kent and Wessex for himself, Godwin had obtained an earldom on the Welsh marches for his eldest son Swegen, and the same dignity in East Anglia for his second son Harold. Swegen first fell, through his own violence: he seduced the abbess of Leominster, and was deprived of his earldom, 1046 A.D.; his brother Harold, and a cousin, Beorn, opposed his restoration at court; and Swegen enticed Beorn on board a ship, and foully murdered him. The rebel was now proclaimed a "nithing," the worst aggravation of judicial outlawry, and most of his men, horror-struck at the crime, deserted him, 1049 A.D. The odium of this act must in some degree have attached. to Godwin, at whose house Swegen and Beorn had met for the last time. The earl had reason to feel that his influence was on the wane. The Norman Robert had been appointed archbishop of Canterbury instead of Ailric, whom the monks of Christchurch elected, and whom Godwin supported as a kinsman of his own. Godwin was soon involved in a quarrel with the primate about some estates in Kent; and Robert revived the old charge of the earl's treason to Alfred, and persuaded Edward of its truth. The king evidently aimed at surrounding himself with creatures of his own. His nephew, Raoul, son of the earl of Mantes, by Goda, afterwards married to Eustace of Boulogne, was made a staller or lord chamberlain of the court, was invested with large estates in Norfolk, and seems to have succeeded Swegen as earl in the Welsh marches, where he built a castle in Norman fashion, and garrisoned it with foreign mercenaries. A host of hungry dependants had crossed into
1 Lives of Edw. Conf., L., pp. 399, 400. Eadmer accuses Godwin of fraudulently obtaining the town of Folkestone by Archbishop Eadsy's connivance. -Hist. Nov., lib. i., p. 350.
2 On Raoul de Gael, J. R. Planché, pp. 34, 35. The staller was superintendent of the court, or a sort of high steward; there were several at the time in England.-Worsaae's Danes, p. 400. Lappenberg, with great probability, refers the castle built by "Welisce menn," foreigners in Herefordshire, to Raoul's followers.-Gesch. Eng., band i., pp. 505-507.
QUARREL OF EDWARD AND GODWIN.
England as into a land of promise, and found or expected preferment. It is even said that, under the king's influence, the courtiers affected the use of the French language, and imitated Norman manners.1
While matters were in this critical state, Eustace, count of Boulogne, happened to return by way of Dover from a visit to the English court. The count's retinue dispersed themselves in a disorderly manner to seek quarters in the houses of the citzens: a quarrel broke out in one house, whose owner resisted the obnoxious claim; the Saxon was cut down, and Eustace and his followers rode through the narrow streets of the town, slaying men and women, and trampling children under foot. But they had to deal with men who had arms in their hands, and the burghers drove the foreigners with shame and loss into the castle, which was held by a French garrison. Eustace went back to his brother-in-law, and demanded vengeance for the insult. The king called upon Godwin, as ealdorman of the district, to inflict severe punishment upon Dover; but Godwin was not inclined to alienate his own people in an unjust cause and in the interest of strangers. He collected an army, indeed, but he led it against Gloucester, where the court was staying, and demanded that the foreign garrison should be expelled from Dover, the scene of the late outrage, and from Hereford, where Swegen's adherents had been persecuted. Edward, however, was not unprepared for a contest; he had summoned the great northern earls, Siward and Leofric, to his assistance; and a numerous well-appointed Anglian army was now in the field and burning to give battle. But the counsels of all wise men were against a civil war, and it was determined to refer the questions at issue to a meeting of the witan at Southwark. The change of place or the delay in time was fatal to Godwin, whose army melted from him. Edward pressed his advantage, revived the old charge of his brother's murder, and demanded
1 Hist. Ingulf. Gale, vol. i., p. 62.
2 Florence of Worcester distinguishes the companions of Eustace from the Normans and men of Boulogne, who held the castle on the hill of Dover.-Vol. i., pp. 205, 206.