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Much as the north of England had suffered by
the Danish invasions, this did not diminish their
seeking towards the Northmen. Plunderers
they were, but the English would willingly pay
that price for deliverance from the galling yoke
by which they were now oppressed.

Great elements of mutation were at this time
germinating in the north. Canute, the son of Canute.
Sweno, was governing with much vigour and
apparent power. Until the accession of Canute
the Great, the Scandinavian realms could
scarcely be considered as forming a portion

o o 2


1080-1085 O f the Latin Commonwealth. Morally, even
more than physically, they were almost beyond
the verge of Christendom. From the period
when the dominions of Britain, and the Baltic,
and North Sea realms had been conjoined in
the person of one monarch, some approximation
to the general tone of European policy had
been gradually advancing, but the progress was
very slow. From the Moot-hill, the Lawmen
still thundered the dooms of Odin. The kings
ruled by wielding the battle-axe of the Yikinga.
No saga was told, no lay was sung, except in
the antient speech of the Asi ; and, above all,
Christianity was only very imperfectly intro-
duced : established it scarcely was : the pa-
rochial organization was incomplete : the hie-
rarchy hardly settled or endowed, and secretly
the belief of large portions of the population
still adhered to the foul and bloody deities
whom their ancestors had worshipped.

4. But the younger Canute, emulating the
renown of his namesake and ancestor, qualified

common- w intellect, instigated by ambition, and ac- n v ' *' v

tuated by policy, and in some degree by con-
science, was endeavouring with the greatest
earnestness, to bring himself into fellowship
with the sovereigns who had divided amongst
them the dominions of the empire. Of his own
authority, he invested himself with an imperial
power, governing, as far as he could, according
to the state doctrines which had descended from


the Caesars. His great seal exhibits him with
crown and sceptre, and seated on the throne,
copying the imagery and paraphrasing the le-
gend employed by his rival the Anglo-Norman
king. The seal was entrusted to a chancellor,
an archbishop ; a board of chaplains assisted
in the administration of the law ; and an entirely
new course of business and vein of thought
pervaded the court and the general management
of public affairs. Every encouragement was
given to the literature, hitherto unknown, of
Christendom, and many are of opinion that
now for the first time ink and parchment were
substituted for the inscribed rock or the Runic
stone. But, above all, Canute sought to unite
himself to the most cultivated and noblest of
the European families, disdaining the barbarian
beauties of the princesses of his own nation :
he had therefore courted and obtained the
Atheliza, the daughter of Robert the Frizon.
Her lineage ascended to Charlemagne, and the
name of Charles, given to their eldest son,
testified Canute's pride in the ancestry which
the child, the heir, could claim.

Denmark at this period was rich and very
populous. The Cimbric Chersonesus, and the
islands which constituted the Danish kingdom,
possessed so large a population as to muster
more than a million of fighting men, soldiers
as well as mariners, who worked the ship
upon the waves, and fought the battle upon the


land. Canute upon his accession deplored the
waning of the Danish power. He possessed in
his disposition the great element of a conqueror,
not to be discouraged by reverse of fortune.
He kad, * n ^ s ear lier age, been foiled by the
ferocity of the savage tribes of the East ; but
undismayed, he attacked them again, and the
Esthonians, and the Letts, and the Samogitians
were compelled once more to become the tribu-
taries of the Danish king. But these victories
over the Easterlings afforded no compensation for
the loss of Britain, the pride and honour of the
Danish name. Three expeditions had been sent
against the island by Sweno and by Canute :
three times had they retreated, not without
profit, but without permanent conquest or
abiding honour.

5 - He now prepared himself for one mighty
effort. Ailnoth of Canterbury was still resi-
dent at the Danish court. More and more
frequent and urgent were the requests which
proceeded from the English, inviting his aid.
Canute was surrounded by a large and trouble-
some family of brothers : the cadets of Den-
mark had no apanages, and lived as a burthen
upon the people. One of these, Olave, he se-
lected as his friend and counsellor, honoured him
in station, and remunerated his services by the
government of Sleswick and a large stipend.
With him Canute consulted, and Olave stren-
uously encouraged his brother to prosecute his


glorious enterprize. The token of gathering,
like the fiery cross of the Gael, was sent round
through Denmark from herred to herred, and
from island to island ; each jarl and each chieftain
obeyed, and a thousand "snakes of the sea," fully n

J collected.

manned and equipped for war, were assembled
in the firths and bays of the Baltic and the
North Sea. Six hundred ships were promised
by Robert the Frizoii, whose rancour against
William had neither been diminished by time
nor softened by sympathy for his brother-in-
law's troubles and afflictions. Norway, ruled
by Olave, who had married the sister of Canute,
contributed sixty vessels of very large size, and
filled with chosen warriors ; and very early in
the spring, the fleets, of which the larger
squadrons were assembled in the waters of
Limfiord and Harboe, all ready for the voyage,
awaited only the signal for departure.

William was preparing most energetically ^> n
for defence, equally against his foreign and his ft
domestic enemies. Larger than the army by
which he had accomplished the conquest of
England, were the forces which he now raised
for its protection against the commander who
threatened to despoil him of his prize, and
to retaliate upon him the injuries he had in-
flicted upon others. Stipendiary forces were
hired from every country which spake the Ro-
niaue tongue, from every province north of the
Alps ; and Hugo, Count of Yennandois, the




of the pre-

The fleet

brother of the French king, shared in the ser-
vice which William's lavish bounty and. expen-
diture commanded. To provide for the sus-
tenance of these soldiers, they were quartered
upon and amongst all the landholders of Eng-
land : none were exempted. The bishop, the
earl, and the baron had to receive the strangers
as guests ; and the sheriffs to apportion them
upon the knights, and vavassours, and churls,
and all of lower degree. Grievous was the
burthen and great the distress of England, and
encreased by the cruel and yet perhaps neces-
sary precautions adopted by William, who
wasted the seabord country far and wide, for
the purpose of starving out the Danes, should
they land, and by which he also prevented the
English from offering them, were they so in-
clined, aid and the means of subsistence.

6. Months however passed away without any
appearance of the dreaded enemy ; no hostile
sails were seen rising above the distant verge
of the horizon : no alarm was sounded, no
beacons fired : the year declined, and a portion
of William's garrison army was disbanded.
Men might speculate upon the causes which had
delayed the enemy. Openly, William had only
prepared for defence, yet it could be judged
from his acts that he was gaining in courage
and in confidence. A winter elapsed : still,
though with diminished hope or diminished
fear, did England await the formidable invaders.


Another season began. William continued to fc 1086

i V

watch the land sedulously : earnest delibera-
tions were taking place in the council : forti-
fications continued to be erected : garrisons
were not withdrawn, but yet the lingering
enemy kept off, and, at the end of the second
year, it was universally known that the expe-
dition so talked off, so formidable, was wholly
abandoned. A contrary wind, sweeping with-
out intermission across the main, as it was said,
never varying from the adverse quarter, never
slackening, had kept the vessels locked into the
shores. Canute at first doubted whether this
apparently preternatural obstacle, might not be
a token which he was bound implicitly to obey ;
but soon he suspected, or was taught to suspect,
that the vessels had in truth been spell-bound,
and that the Eunic lay murmured by the wise
w r omen had raised the adverse gales. The
sorceresses were the consorts or kinswomen
of his proudest chieftains ; punish them he
dared not, but he had nevertheless avenged
himself by inflicting heavy penalties upon their
husbands. Great discontents had arisen, and
thus did it become impossible for him to pursue
his scheme of conquest.

It matters little whether these tales were
the inventions of the north or the gratuitous
fancies of the English. They contained a small
portion of truth, and very small. This armada,
like those which had preceded it, had been in




10S6 part frustrated by William's policy : but the
frustration of the plans of conquest formed by
Canute was the consequence as well as the
cause of a great revolution in the state of
Denmark. High discontents were prevailing
amongst the subjects of the Danish crown.
Canute, possessing much talent, was attempting
to accelerate the progress, as we should now
term it, of civilization. His people were es-
tranged from the rest of Europe, by manners
and customs and policy ; and he attempted to
bring them into the pale far more by severity
than by conciliation. He was anxious, perhaps
conscientiously, to suppress the turbulence and
disorders of the Danes ; but many of these
disorders originated out of immemorial custom
and law. That he should shew no favour or
affection to the rank or station or consan-
guinity of the offender, was right ; but in the
administration of justice he set at nought every
opinion, every prejudice, every law. His fiscal
officers oppressed the people by their exactions,
and most unwisely of all, he was anxious to
enforce the payment of tythes hitherto entirely
unknown. In other parts of Europe, although
ecclesiastical and even civil law had in some cases
begun to render this payment compulsory, yet
it had arisen in great measure from the spon-
taneous feeling of the people, desirous of ren-
dering to the service of God a portion of the
gifts which they received, and believing that


able-going was thereby earned. Nothing has 1086
been more injurious to the interests of Chris-

of tythes in

tianity, than the destruction of the grace ac- J
companyiug the free-will offering, by rendering
it the object of compulsion. Here it was as
unwise as it was ill-timed : the Danes entirely
rebelled against the payment. It was as odious
to those who professed Christianity as to the
greater number, who were still pagans in their
heart ; and though Canute and the other Nor-
man sovereigns succeeded at last in placing the
payment of tythes upon a legal foundation,
there was always a grudge against it, which
prevented the hierarchy from acquiring its due
influence and hold upon the people's mind.

7. In Olave,his brother, Canute had a secret,
a crafty, and an inveterate enemy. Olave had,
in the first instance, encouraged Canute to un-
dertake the English invasion for the purpose of
embroiling him with his subjects, and involving
him in contests with them. Olave wished to
accumulate unpopularity and hatred upon his
brother's head, and having selected his asso-
ciates, he planned his successful conspiracy.
William, Avell aware of the state of feeling
prevailing in Denmark, was dispersing his
bribes amongst Canute's counsellors and com-
manders : Olave, the king's own brother, Os-
bern, his foster-brother, Jarl Haco, Eyvind,
and many others of renown, all or most of
whom had been corrupted before.


1086 Canute at first believed that he was assisted

brother, returning love for love. He now

dealings /

vered ' discovered that his brother was a rival seeking
his ruin. At first he repelled his suspicions,
till Olave, who was stationed in Sleswick, broke
out into open rebellion. This was a portion of
the scheme which had been contemplated for
Canute's destruction. When the fleets were
first assembled, the weather had been very ad-
verse : this delay had enabled the discontented
party to mature their plans, and as it should seem,
to [dis]obey sailing commands when the sea-
son became more favourable. Canute advanced
to Sleswick with a great force, and ordered his
men to seize the traitor brother ; but no one
would dare to lay hands on him, so great was
the veneration rendered by the Danes to the

aid. descendants of Odin. But another brother,
Eric, had no such scruple : he seized the offender,
and by Canute's command he was chained and
fettered, and sent to Flanders, where he was
kept in hard prison by Eobert the Frizon.

tion bro p kel~ When Canute returned to the port of Haitheby,
he found that the vessels contumaciously and
rebelliously had left their moorings, and crews
and commanders had returned to their homes.
He inflicted, as by his prerogative he might be
entitled to do, a heavy fine upon all the muti-
neers, high and low, but which he remitted in
consideration of their agreeing to the odious
impost which he established for the dubious



benefit of the clergy. It is a remarkable proof
of the absolute power possessed by the Scan-
dinavian monarchs, that he succeeded in his
decree, but, as might be expected, the act ex-
cited bitter indignation.

8. Further insurrections arose. Jarl Osbern
and Eyvind appeared amongst the leaders of the
insurgents : more English money promoted
their hostility. Canute's adherents diminished.
He became distressed and appalled, and took
refuge in Odensee. Jarl Osbern approached
the town at the head of the rebels. Canute,
yielding to cowardly and perhaps treacherous
advice, took refuge in the church of St. Alban,
an edifice in whose dedication to the proto-
martyr of Britain, we can discern the influence
of some English missionary. Osbern and the
assailants surrounded the building : they now
neither venerated the dignity of Odin's race
nor respected the Christian sanctuary's immu-
nity, and Canute was slain before the altar ; ^[' n ute u
another triumph, as was usually supposed, of
the Conqueror's policy and state-craft. But
the new theory of government introduced by
Canute, timing in with the general state of
Christendom, worked surely though slowly ;
and brought the institutions of Scandinavia
into entire conformity with the other states of
the West. From this period, the Northmen
lost their empire of the seas : their settlements
in Ireland and in the Highlands and islands

[ ad-


merged in the English and Scottish kingdoms.
We hear occasionally of some predatory attempt
made with a lingering recollection of their
strength, like an old man buckling on his ar-
mour, but unable to sustain the heat of the
fight : the battle of Largs was the last defeat
which they received in the isle of Britain ; and
the Scandinavian kingdoms scarcely ever again
become of any importance in the general tenor
of mediaeval history.

$ 9. It was the constant policy of William to
base his arbitrary power upon his legal pre-
rogative : to establish his constitutional rights
as firmly as possible upon the law, and then to
take the utmost extent of margin, according to
his arbitrary will. Despotic monarchs usually
endeavour to confound the boundaries between
such lawful restraints as the institutions and
customs of the people may afford, with their
absolute authority ; but William was so con-
fident in his own strength that he never seems
to have cared to profit by such an ambiguity.
Either way his principles became most effective
in modelling the elements of our constitution,
and none of his measures had a more permanent
effect in guiding the future course of the
government administration than those which
he adopted pending the Danish invasion.
Whilst the Danish fleet was wintering in
Haitheby, during the Christmas festival, King
William began his regal circuit, and wore his



crown at Gloucester, and held his court for 1085 .
three days. Xext followed a Synod : lastly, a c uneil held

J J J ' by the King.

new and unusual meeting : a Micklegethought
most numerously attended, in which the King
held deep consultation concerning the state of
his land. Doubt did not long prevail as to the
measures which William had adopted ; and we
have strong reasons for supposing that in the
execution of them, Lanfranc was a useful ad-

10. Soon afterwards you might see in every fommu.

f sioners

city and good town in England, save and ex- appoi
cept the Bishopric, the three northern lands,
and London, a worshipful company, such, for
example, as proceeded to the West ; Remigius,
Bishop of Lincoln, the founder of the cathedral,
Walter Gifford, Earl of Buckingham, Henry de
Ferrers, and Adam the brother of Eudo Dapifer.
These commissioners began their proceedings
by holding a court, at which, with the excep-
tion of the diocesan, all the members of the
Hundred-moot were required to attend. Come
forward, G-erefa, sheriff, you the lieutenant of
the earl, you the thanes of the shires, YOU the

/ V ' */

priests of each and every parish church, you
the reeves and villains of each and every town-
ship ; come forward and declare upon the hali-
dome the truth of the matters into which our
lord the King commands us to enquire, and
give your answer to each and every question
as we ask. What is the name of your township,


1085 be it City, Borough, Thorp, Haim, or Bye?
Who was the lord thereof, archbishop, bishop,

abbot, earl or thane, in the days of good King
Edward, for of Harold the law knows nothing ?
How many thanes, how many commendated, how
many freemen, how many sokemen, how many
burgesses, how many churls, how many cotta-
gers, how many thralls ? how many hydes of land
be there therein ? how many plough lands in
demesne ? how many acres of wood, how many
of meadow, how many of pasture, how many
mills, how many fisheries ? how much hath
been added, how much taken away ? how much
worth in good King Edward's time, how much
when King William gave it, and how much
now ? What hath each freeman, what each
sokeman ; how many oxen, how many cows,
how many sheep, how many swine ?

With some slight variations as to the points
of enquiry, this valuation of land and capital
was taken throughout the whole length and
breadth of England, save and except the me-
tropolis and the four northern shires. The
llls ' commissioners made their several circuits, and
the information which they collected was re-
duced into writing and duly transmitted to the
King. It was afterwards methodized and ab-
stracted, and fairly transcribed in the great
volumes of Domesday, and deposited in the
royal treasury at Winchester, amongst the
other muniments of the realm. It still exists,


fresh and perfect as when the scribe put pen to ,
parchment, the oldest cadastre, or survey of a
kingdom, now existing in the world. The co-
lophon, "anno millesimo, octogesimo sexto ab
incarnatione Domini, vigesimo vero regni Wil-
lielmi facta est ista descriptio," attests the date
of this great record, and the diligence as well
as the skill of those by whom it was completed.

In the entries of the names of places, the in- f h x e e ^ n of
accuracies and corruptions shew that the
writers were not well acquainted with the
Anglo-Saxon terminology, though in the more
familiar designations of persons, fewer errors
are observed. The caligraphy betrays an
Italian hand, and leads to the supposition
that it was under the inspection and direc-
tion of the lettered Lanfranc that the work
was compiled. Great force is given to this
supposition from the circumstance, that in
Domesday we first find those abbreviations, af-
terwards so common in our legal documents.

O 7

but which, in fact, are derived from the Ty-
ronian notes of the Romans, until then un-
known in England.

11. The formation of this survey occa- u "p pula J ity

/ of Domesday.

sioned universal discontent : such an enquiry
had never been made before. The English con-
sidered it as an invasion almost of their natural
rights. It was a shame, they said, that a King
should direct such a prying into each man's
means : a shame even to tell of such a tyranny.
VOL. m. p i>


. 10 v 86 . Yet there was more of temper than of sound
reason in this discontent. With whatever acts
of oppression William may be charged, in this
case there was none. The Danegelt, the tax of
six shillings upon every plough-land, was both
a lawful and a needful impost, and the first and
main intent of the survey was to make a full

tm s - con ~ and fair assessment of the charge. The un-
settled state of affairs during the latter years of
the Confessor's reign, the misfortunes attend-
ing the Conquest, and the transfer of the land
to the new proprietors, might all be sufficient
causes for such investigations ; but even if the
kingdom had continued in entire tranquillity, it
would have been equally required. So long as
the land remained untilled, no Danegelt was
payable, but when the plough had been driven
over it, then it became liable to the charge, and
it is most probable that in many cases the as-
sessment had been neglected or evaded. This,
on the other hand, was counterbalanced by the
lands which had become wasted by the misfor-
tunes of the Conquest ; and whilst the Domes-
day survey secured the rights of the crown, it
also ensured a fair apportionment of the bur-
then amongst those by whom it was to be con-
tributed. The enquiry was made by the royal
officers and ministers, but the repartition was
made by the people : the English taxed them-

1 12. After the court at Gloucester, William


continued his progress through his realms.
Easter, celebrated at Winchester, was followed
by a splendid court held in the palace of West-
minster during the Pentecostal festival, when
Henry Beauclerc, the youngest of the royal
family, received, perhaps precociously, the de-
gree of knighthood from his father's hand. This
was followed by an extraordinary assembly. It
seemed as if William were, so to speak, im-
pressed with the presentiment that he must
terminate his business in this world, obtaining
at least some prospect of tranquillity. He
issued his summons, his writs, in the more
familiar term of our law, commanding all his
councillors, both his archbishops and all his
bishops, his abbots, his earls, his barons, his
sheriffs, all his knighthood, and all the land-
holders of the realm, to appear before him at
Sarum on the first of August, Lammas-day.
Such was the multitude, that they never could
have been assembled within the now silent ram-
parts of the antient British city, but spread
themselves without doubt over the plain. Here
William imposed the oath of fealty upon every
landholder without distinction of tenure. His
m'en, the King's men, they all became, whosoever
else might be their lord.

A heavy impost succeeded this transaction ;
but if William had sought to secure somewhat
of rest and quietness, his expectations were
vain. Troubles and sorrows encreased. Eng-

p p 2








_, land still continued heavily afflicted by those
visitations of Providence which no prudence
of government could avert, but which rendered
the task of government the more difficult and
grievous. Continual storms and tempests, crops
blasted and blighted, murrain amongst the cattle,
foul and direful sickness amongst men ; famine,
as usual, was the accompaniment of these visi-
tations, and filled up the measure of punish-
ment ; and the chronicler records the calamities,
as the chastisement which the sins of the nation
deserved. Robert continued to harass his
father to the utmost of his power. Alan Fer-

Online LibraryFrancis PalgraveThe history of Normandy and of England (Volume 3) → online text (page 36 of 41)