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GODWIN'S EXILE AND RETURN.
that Godwin should stand his trial, while he refused to grant him hostages for his safety; the earl was glad to compound for five days' truce, during which he might leave the land. It is a proof of the absence of anything like international policy in those days, that Godwin and Swegen took refuge with Edward's kinsman, the count of Flanders. Harold and Leofwin preferred exile in Ireland. The family were outlawed; and Edward, the unresisting victim of his counsellors, was induced to part from his wife, who retired with royal state to Wilton convent."
It is probable that the victory of the Norman party was pushed too far, for many Englishmen left the country to share Godwin's exile. The earl himself had no thought but of return; his sons Harold and Leofwin were the first to try the western coasts, but the ealdormen of the country were staunch to Edward, and Harold only gained a battle, and carried off plunder as if in an enemy's country. Godwin was more fortunate. The sympathies of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey were with him; and when his sons joined him, their united ships were able to force the royal fleet, under Raoul the Staller, to retire, and sailed victoriously up the Thames, while their army marched along the
, banks by favour of the citizens of London, who left their bridge unguarded. Edward's army was small, for his cause was now unpopular, and the natives were all anxious to avoid bloodshed: negotiations were therefore begun, and the more unpopular of the Norman courtiers at once took flight for the continent, foreseeing what the issue would be. In fact, Godwin fell at the king's feet, and adjured him in Christ's name to allow a man wrongfully accused to establish his innocence; the king, at once touched and unable to resist, declared himself satisfied with the submission offered; the earl and his sons were restored to their honours and possessions, with the one exception of Swegen, who' had before this set out from Flanders on a pilgrimage to expiate his crimes, from which he never returned. Godwin did not long live to enjoy his recovered power. In the Easter
"Lives of Edw. Conf., L., p. 403. Florence of Worcester, however, says that she was sent with only one maid to Wherwell convent, where a sister of Edward was abbess.
CHARACTER OF GODWIN.
of the next year he fell back in his seat at the royal table, and died within three days. The calumnies of Norman chroniclers declared that the judgement of God overtook him, as he swore to his innocence of Alfred's death. Later history, in rejecting this fable, has inclined to surround the character of the great earl and his son, with the last sunshine of the Saxon monarchy. Yet Godwin, if he was no worse than other and smaller men of his time,was assuredly no better. Crafty, silent, and resolute, shrinking from unnecessary scandals, but careless of any means that might serve his end, he fought and schemed only for his own hand: he was mayor of the palace to a Merovingian king; and although he would never have copied Pepin in snatching at the externals of royalty, he undoubtedly meant to found a dynasty. The Danes were his stepping-stones to power; the Normans his rivals; he used the one and opposed the other accordingly; and if he was indeed a patriot, it was his singular fortune that his sympathies favoured his ambition.
Godwin's death and Swegen's absence from the country promoted the fortunes of the family. Harold succeeded to his father's carlship, and appears about 1056 A.D., in command of the western district, once held by Swegen. He probably replaced Raoul the Staller, who had sustained a disastrous defeat from the Welsh a year before, by horsing his untrained Saxon infantry in the fashion of Norman cavaliers. Edith's favourite brother, Tostig, in 1055 A.D., succeeded to the government of the north, left vacant by Siward's death without a son.
The fortunate death of the Ætheling Edward, 1057 A.D., removed a dangerous rival to the ambition of the
1 Raoul had commanded the fleet which Godwin drove before him. On his second failure, the earl, already unpopular as a foreign favourite, was accused of cowardice (Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 213); and as we hear no more of him till his death, December, 1057 A.D., (Planché on Raoul de Gael, p. 35,) it seems likely that he was replaced in his government by Harold, whom we find commanding there.
2 On his arrival in England, he was kept from seeing the king (A. S. Chron., A., 1057), who had meant to declare him his heir.-Flor. Wig., vol. i., p. 215. Godwin's sons must have had some share in preventing an interview; and it is difficult to believe that the death was natural,
QUARREL OF HAROLD AND TOSTIG.
brothers; and a series of victories over the Welsh, whose warlike king, Griffin, was at last slain by his own people, 1063 A.D., raised the reputation of the two earls among their countrymen. They now became rivals for power. Tostig, however, at once secret in his designs, violent in his acts, and rapacious in his administration, had excited the hatred of the Northumbrians; he murdered two of his opponents, and his sister Edith caused another, Gospatric, to be assassinated at court. The people rose up in arms, murdered his officers, and drove him out of the north, advancing themselves in battle array southwards, where they plundered the country and mado slaves. Harold headed a royal commission to arrange terms with the rebels, but secretly he supported their complaints against his brother;' and in spite of the favour of the old king, Tostig was forced to leave England, and take refuge at Baldwin's court, 1065 A.D. The shock of these family quarrels proved fatal to the king, who sickened and presently died, January, 1066 A.D. Public rumour said that on his death-bed he was rapt with the spirit of prophecy, and declared that on account of the crimes of the dukes and higher clergy of the country, the judgement of God would visit England within a year and a day, and devils lay waste the land with fire and sword. The courtiers and Harold himself were dumb with horror; but the primate Stigand, who had dared the thunders of Rome, holding Canterbury without a pall while its Norman archbishop was alive, whispered in the earl's ear that the sick old man did not know what words he uttered.
It is difficult to do justice to Edward's character. He was the last of the golden-haired, blue-eyed race of Cerdic and Alfred, in whom Saxon sovereignty was symbolized ; and the people, who groaned under strong rulers, idealized their mild and saintly king. For Edward loved mercy and justice as a part of religion ; when he saw the gold of the Dane geld in his treasury, it seemed to him that the devil was dancing gleefully
1 So at least thought Tostig.–Lives of Edw. Conf., L., pp. 422, 423. The Saxon Chronicle, however, says that he tried to work a reconciliation.
CHARACTER OF EDWARD.
heart : a poor
on the money wrung from a toil-stricken people, and he caused it to be restored, and abolished the tax for ever. The first miracle he performed, from which was derived the custom of touching for the king's evil, is proof of his goodness of
scrofulous woman believed that the king could restore her to health by his prayers and touch; and Edward took the suppliant into his palace, and kept her there until good food had produced its natural results in her cure. We can understand the love such a man would attract, the more as he joined a royal presence to easy, courteous manners, and disguised his weakness of will by his sensibility to passionate impulse, while his temper was kept within bounds by the gentleman's habit of self-control. But in all that makes up intellect and character, Edward was little better than halfwitted. He knew that dishonesty to the state was a crying sin of the times, and yet he dismissed the thief whom he found plundering the treasury, with a warning that he had better not be found out. He knew that the great nobles and prelates misused their powers over the people, and yet he consented to a law which transferred the jurisdiction, in criminal matters, from the local courts to the feudal lords, in all cases where their dependants were concerned.3 Himself a warm-hearted man, clinging to old ties, and with a strong sense of duty, he plundered and disgraced his mother in obedience to one court faction, and separated from his queen to please another. He is a striking example how small an interval divides weakness from vice in the character of a king. That his reign was comparatively prosperous, is due to the accident of his foreign connections, and to the ability of Godwin and his sons; the Normans had more to hope from peace than from war; the Englishmen who aspired to succeed their king were eager to win their spurs. Hence it came that Edward was on the whole well served: the Welsh were bloodily beaten back; Macbeth of Scotland, who had thrown off the English
1 Lives of Edw. Conf., L., p. 428.
ANARCHY OF ENGLAND.
allegiance, was defeated, and replaced on the throne by Malcolm, the English nominee, and son of the murdered Duncan, (1055 A.D.) But the soldier whom Edward trusted and promoted, Raoul the Staller, sustained disgraceful reverses by sea and land, and was accused by the public voice of incapacity. When Ælfgar, the earl of Anglia, was outlawed by the witan, he replaced himself in his government by the aid of Danish mercenaries; they were days when every man did what was right in his own eyes; the central authority was only respected when the sympathies or the interests of some powerful earl supported it. For England, for Europe, it was insufferable that this anarchy of a great country should endure. That a strong ruler would ultimately restore order, was probable; the kingdom was too small to admit of division, like Germany; but who that ruler should be—whether native, to confirm England in its insularity, or foreign, to bind it with Europe-was a question that Edward left undecided, or that he only settled on his death-bed; he had wishes, but no will; and his wishes were probably for his Norman cousin, his sense of duty for a Saxon. He had once tried to secure the succession to his cousin, the Etheling Edward; the judgement of God had interposed; and Edward died, having established nothing, presaging the worst, and leaving the event to Heaven.
1 The positive statements of one of the Saxon Chronicles, of Florence, and of the writer of Edward's Life, can hardly be said to settle the question, whether Edward made a nuncupative will. It was Harold's interest to spread the story; and stronger evidence was produced in 1135 A.D., to show that Henry I. disinherited his daughter. Norman writers are equally positive that the Confessor had given the crown to his cousin.