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HAROLD'S DEATH AND BURIAL.
the combatants; and a series of feints drew the soldiers from their position ; they had learned to fight, but had never been drilled to maneuvre, and unable to recover their ground, were cut to pieces in detail. Last of all, Harold and his peers were slain around their standard, and the papal banner floated in victory over English soil. Yet so obstinate had the struggle been, that it had lasted from early morning till sunset; fifteen thousand Normans paid the price of the victory with their blood; and the English, while retreating through the wood at their rear, beat back their pursuers so fiercely that the fortune of the day was again in jeopardy, till William brought up reinforcements. But the fate of the kingdom had been decided by the death of Harold and all the nobles of the south. It is said that William had forbidden quarter to be given ; probably in so fierce a battle there was little thought of mercy on either side. But the conqueror in his worst moments was always swayed more by policy than by passion; he punished the Norman soldier who had mutilated Harold's body, and allowed his mother to remove it from its first place of sepulture on the beach, to a tomb better fitting a king. A touching legend of a later age, told that only Edith of the swan-neck, whom Harold had loved and left, was able to point out the corpse of her royal lover, on which battle and outrage had done their worst. The people long refused to believe in his death. They said he had escaped from the field, and was expiating his sins as a monk at Chester.
'I have ventured to combine the Norman story that Harold's body was buried, or perhaps only ordered to be buried, on the beach, (Orderic, vol. i., p. 151 ; Gul. Pict., p. 138) with the Saxon account that his body was given up to his mother, and buried at Waltham abbey.-Malmesbury, lib. iii., p. 420. Knighton says that his tomb was to be seen there.—Twysden, 2342, 2343. He had once been cured of a stroke of palsy there, and had endowed the abbey with seventeen manors.—Monasticon, vol. vi., p. 56. I see no insult in William's first orders : Harold had been warden of the coast, and it was natural to bury him near the field of battle. Some days would probably elapse before his mother could hear of her son's death, and apply for his body.
2 This tradition, which originated with the monks of Waltham abbey, has some confirmation from the words of Orderic: “Heraldus quibusdam signis est non facie recognitus."
CHARACTER OF HAROLD.
Harold's character has been praised or attacked according as his historians have been Saxon or Norman in their prejudices. It is not without greatness, but it is not great. His presence, by the admission of the Normans themselves, was kingly; his body well-shaped and powerful; he was bold in action, eloquent in council, free of jest and pleasant in court. But he fell below the average morality of a country whose public policy was already branded as treacherous, and of times in which every man fought for his own hand. His reckless courage, and the story of the love which Edith bore to him, have invested him with a false halo of romance; the men of his own time esteemed him rather a crafty statesman than an honourable knight; he enlarged his estates by the plunder of the church, and exposed England to a war single-handed with Europe, rather than give up the diadem for which he had plotted and sinned. It is a slight circumstance, but it marks the character of the man—self-confident and disdainful of public opinion—that he treated the envoys who came to his camp with brutal insolence. The modern theory that excuses his acts by a lofty public spirit, is refuted by the inconsistencies of his conduct : he offered Tostig, when Tostig was powerful, the earldom taken from him when he was weak; and he wavered the day before he died, whether he should not dismember England by treaty with the invader. By a singular retribu
? tion, his crimes were punished by the very men against whom he offended : Tostig whom he tried to supplant, and William to whom he had perjured himself, were the instruments of his ruin. It is the most terrible condemnation of the Saxon people, that the name of such a man as Harold should be indissolubly connected with the last days of their national life; it is Harold's best title with posterity, that the Saxon monarchy was buried on the field where he fell.
1 For instance, in the Domesday of Hertfordshire we find “Wimondley: This manor was in the demesne of the church of St. Mary of Chatteris, but earl Harold took it from ence. Hexton: A vassal of the abbot of St. Alban's held it. Earl Harold laid this land to Hitchin by force and wrongfully."
2 Thierry's Conquête des Normands, tom. i., pp. 254, 255.
THE NORMAN CONQUEST.
SUBMISSION OF KENT AND LONDON.—THE CORONATION.-WILLIAM'S FIRST
MEASURES, --EXETER REVOLTS AND OBTAINS TERMS.WAR IN THE MID
LAND AND NORTHERN COUNTIES. STORM OF YORK AND DEVASTATION OF
EMEUTE AT DURHAM.
The importance of William's success was not seen at first. Afterwards, it appeared that the only man capable of uniting England had fallen, and that the only national army was broken. But William, for the moment, was more concerned to secure a safe retreat than to follow
Part of the Norman troops seem to have been sent westward, through Sussex and Hampshire, with orders to ravage the country, and occupy its militia at home; they were then to converge northward towards the Thames, William himself marched along the coast, burning Romney (where the men of the country had lately routed a fresh contingent from Normandy) and Dover, which was given up to be sacked. The garrison of Dover surrendered without standing a siege. The duke then marched through Kent, laying waste the country as he went; Canterbury made prompt submission; but the warlike men of Kent, headed by Stigand, took up arms to defend their homes. William did not desire to gain every province by a battle; and he concluded a separate treaty with the enemy, purchasing their submission by the promise to confirm their laws and liberties. Thus a province was withdrawn
1 Comes Willelmus Suth-Saxoniam . Suthamtunensem provinciam • * devastabat, donec ad villam quæ Burcham nominatur veniret.-Flor. Wig., voliin,
SUBMISSION OF LONDON.
from the national cause; the old tradition of a separate nationality, little differences of dialect and customs, were still stronger in the very neighbourhood of the capital, than the remembrance of ancient union under Alfred and Athelstane.
Meanwhile, London was distracted with wretched intrigues for the crown that had fallen from Harold's brows. Eldred, archbishop of York, and the corporation of London, favoured the claims of the Saxon Edgar Ætheling; while Edwin and Morcar came forward as the Anglian candidates. Saxon interests prevailed, after much irretrievable time had been lost ; and the earls withdrew into the north, leaving London to its fate, and vainly hoping that William would content himself with governing the southern provinces of the kingdom from Normandy. The duke cherished very different aims. He had now crossed the Thames at Wallingford, and was gradually concentrating his troops in a cordon round the capital, so that neither provisions nor men could be taken into it. The Norman cavalry even skirmished near the walls, and burned the northern suburbs. The position was very much that of Paris in the times of the League, when Henry IV. invested it; and the French capital baffled its king by enduring the worst extremities of famine sooner than surrender. But no enthusiasm animated the Saxons, who were fighting for liberty; the citizens murmured at the prospect of famine; the nobles calculated the chances of war, and prepared for a great treachery. Ansgar, the ealdorman of the city, was honourably anxious to discharge his trust; but the gouty and wounded veteran could do nothing against the general resolution to treat.
William readily promised to hold by the ancient laws and confirm the old liberties. In return for this, the chief bishops and nobles, even Edgar Ætheling himself, did homage to the conqueror as their king. It was the last act of a Saxon witan, and was fraught with unspeakable consequences to England. Henceforth, all opposition to William was treason. But the act of homage was soon interpreted retrospectively, as an admission that the conqueror's claim had been good from the first. This was in conformity to all continental notions of law; the recognition of a title by
chief vassals, could not be held to make it valid in feudal countries; it was only evidence of the right feeling of the peers. But it led in England to the assumption that all who had fought at Hastings against their liege-lord, perhaps all who had not actually assisted him, were guilty of felony. The lives and estates of men throughout the country were therefore at William's mercy, however their laws and liberties might be guaranteed. Neither Norman nor Saxon clearly foresaw these results. William himself cannot have anticipated them; the question for the time was not how to use power, but how to gain it.
The Norman nobles dared not oppose the act that made their duke a king, but they did not heartily approve it. The distinction between a lord who should govern in his own right, and one from whom they could appeal to the king of France, was obviously not in the subjects' favour. That Normandy would soon become a mere appanage of England, was a danger too remote to trouble any man.
Christmas-day was chosen for the coronation. William walked through a guard of armed men to the abbey at Westminster, where Edward of York had been appointed to officiate, as Stigand's doubtful title would have cast a taint of illegality over the proceedings. The day of rejoicing was darkened by a tragedy. The shouts with which the Saxon spectators declared their assent to their new king's nomination, were mistaken by the Norman soldiers for the war-cry of an insurrection. A massacre of the unarmed bystanders avenged the supposed treachery; the neighbouring houses were set on fire; and the troops took advantage of the confusion to plunder the city. The conqueror himself was unnerved by the panic: he stood trembling in the almost deserted church; while the priests who remained hurried over the coronation service. It seemed a judgement of heaven that every step to the throne should be stained with blood.
i The story of Stigand's refusal is highly improbable. He was factious and a time-server; he had already done homage to William; and he soon afterwards went as a guest to the Norman court. William of Newbury, whom Thierry has followed, is no sufficient evidence for these times.