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the Dane had brought the English kingdom to the verge
of destruction, when a heroic deliverer arose in the person
871 of Alfred, the model man of the English race. Round
the head of Alfred a halo has gathered ; his history is
panegyric ; yet there can be no doubt of his greatness as
a saviour of his nation in war, as a reorganizer of its
institutions, of which pious fable has made him the
founder, as a restorer of its learning and civilization.
Parts might be combined in those early times which could
not be combined now. With Alfred the monarchy rises
in power and majesty ; to plot against the king's life is
now made treason. Alfred was followed by a line of
901 able kings : Edward the Elder ; Athelstan, who smote
925 the Dane with his Scotch and Irish allies at the battle
937 of Brunanburg ; Edmund, who followed up Athelstan's
940 victory over the Dane ; Edgar the Pacific, who, tradi-
958 tion said, was rowed by six kings in his barge upon the
Dee. In Edgar the English kingdom rose to its highest
pitch of gl-eatness, its power extending over Wales and
Scotland. The Dane, though vanquished, was not ex-
pelled. He divided the land. His portion was the
northeast, thenceforward called the Danelagh, where he
has left his memorials in local names and in the character
of a bold, sea-faring race.

It is at this point in the history that a political figure,
afterwards prominent, appears upon the scene. Dun-
stan, styled Saint, was a reformer of the church in
the monastic sense. But the struggle between the mo-
nastic party and its opponents appears to have become
political. Dunstan is credited with the good government


of Edgar. That he struggled for power and gained it is
a fact better known than his policy. The cell of thq
anchorite is not a good school of statesmanship. It sends
forth its denizen pure, perhaps, and disinterested, but
hard, uncompromising, and relentless. So far, however,
as can be seen through the dense mist Dunstan's power
was used in a monkish way for good.

After Edgar the royal line decays, as royal lines in a
low stage of civilization are apt to decay, corrupted by
coarse luxury, unless their energies are kept up by war.
The Dane renews his attacks and there is no Alfred,
Athelstan, or Edmund to confront him. The feeble 979
Ethelred, instead of iron, tries gold, with the usual
result ; tries massacre, with the result which it deserves.
His successor, Edmund Ironside, is a hero, and during ioi6
a few months of incessant battle holds up the head of
the nation. On his death the kingdom passes by treaty ioi6
to the Dane, who adds the English crown to those of
Denmark and Norway, now formed by the growing
power of the kings into regular states. But the Dane
has become a Christian and not less civilized than the
Englishman. Canute, though he waded to his throne 1017
through blood, when seated on it showed himself a Chris- .
tian ruler, a ruler even ostentatiously Christian. The
legend which makes him rebuke the flattery of his
courtiers and refuse afterwards to wear his crown was
not ill-invented. He displayed his piety by making a
pilgrimage to Rome, where he obtained privileges for his
people, and on his return he published an address to the
nation instinct with Christian principles of government.
He yielded to provincial spirit and the difficulty of ruling
personally his disjointed empire so far as to divide the


realm into four great earldoms, a measure the conse-
quences of which were disastrous to unity, and in the
end to the life of the nation. Otherwise he seems not
to have changed the polity. But he kept a standing
army of house-carls or guards, on the footing of com-
panionship-in-arms, and he evidently wielded despotic
power. His two sons were weak ; the second of them

1042 was a toper, who died as he stood at his drink. The
English kingdom could not be permanently united with
the Danish and Scandinavian kingdoms. The Danish
dynasty came to an end.

1043 The native line of Cerdic was now restored in the
person of Edward the Confessor. He was a bad speci-
men of ecclesiastical Christianity, a monk upon a throne
which called for a strong man. His delight was in
church-building and ceremonial. He begot no heir to
his crown. Brought up as an exile in Normandy, he
had a fatal fondness for Normans, who were better
courtiers, subtler intriguers, and, if not more pious, more
ecclesiastical than his English. The politics of his reign
were a wavering struggle between the foreigners whom
his weakness had allowed to thrust themselves into high

. preferment, and the native party headed by the great
Earl Godwin and his heroic son Harold. At first the
foreigners prevailed, by the help of the northern earls, who
were jealous of Godwin and his son, the earls of the south.

1051 Godwin and his son were driven into exile, but they came
back, they were welcomed by the people, and the for-

1052 eigners in their turn were expelled. The Norman Rob-
ert of Jumieges fled from the archbishopric of Canterbury

1052 and his pall, which were taken by the English Stigand,
an act of presumption not unmarked by Rome.


Edward the Confessor having left no son, the witan
exercised its right of election. Passing over Edgar Athel-
ing, of Cerdic's line, a boy and in exile, it raised Harold
the son of Godwin to a throne of which he had shown 1006
himself worthy both in politics and in war.

There seems to have been weakness in the state of
England. Danish ravages and conquest could hardly
fail to make havoc of the institutions as well as of the
land. Many of the leaders of the people must have
fallen in battle. The north was but imperfectly welded
to the south. Provincial feeling was strong, patriotism
was not. The great earldoms had overtopped the
crown and divided the nation. The house of Leofric
dominated in the north, while that of Godwin dominated
in the south, and the two were drawing the kingdom
apart. Political history through the reign of Edward
the Confessor was a tissue of • personal ambitions and
intrigues. Perhaps as a consequence of the general inse-
curity and lawlessness produced by the Danish wars, the
practice of commendation, which is one part of feudalism,
had prevailed, and the people had been throwing them-
selves for protection at the feet of lords, becoming, in-
stead of freeholders and freemen, vassals and prsedial
serfs. So it appears from a survey of the realm taken in
the next reign. The slave trade, of which Bristol was
the seat, and which was fed by kidnapping, is also a
sign of social disorder.

The weakness tempted a mighty robber.


William I. Born 1027 ; Crowned at Westminster 10(36 ; Died 1087

TN France the Northman, turning, as he did in Eng-
land, from pirate to conqueror and settler, had carved
out from the kingdom of France a duchy, nominally
granted by the king at Paris, and owing him a formal
allegiance after the fashion of feudalism, which made
the vassal's obedience due not to the king, but to his
immediate Ibrd, and bade him follow the lord to the
field against the king. The Normans had adopted the
French language and henceforth rank as Frenchmen.
The last duke, Robert the Devil, to atone for the life
by which he had earned his nickname, had deserted his
duties as ruler and gone upon a crusade. He left as
his successor an infant son, a bastard ; but the bar sin-
ister, though disparaging, was not fatal in wild times.
The boy, as he grew up, proved a great soldier and poli-
tician. No man could bend his bow, and the force of
his frame bespoke that of his will. His strong hands
strangled the serpents of feudal anarchy almost in his
cradle. His life had been a struggle with rebellious
vassals, hostile neighbours, and his suzerain of Paris,
from which at once by generalship and statecraft he had
come out victorious, enlarging his hereditary dominions
at the expense of his neighbours. He had now set his



heart upon a greater prize. He had visited England in
the lifetime of Edward the Confessor and had seen the
kingdom without an heir, the oligarchy of earls divided,
national spirit at a low ebb, Normans already in places
of power. Upon the death of Edward, he laid claim to
the crown of England. His claim was baseless- It was
founded partly on an alleged but unattested promise of
Edward, who in his last moments had named not Will-
iam but Harold as his successor, and who, though his
word might have weight with the witan, had no power
of devising the crown ; partly on an alleged engagement
of Harold himself, who, having been shipwrecked on the
French coast, had fallen into the hands of William, and
by him, it seems, had been forced to swear that he would
deliver England into the Norman's hands. To make
the oath more binding, relics had been concealed beneath
the table on which it was sworn, and the saints had been
made parties to the fraud. Such was the sanctimony of
the Norman. That the English king Ethelred had
married a Norman princess could add nothing to the
force of the claim. The election of Harold by the witan
was decisive. But when the news was brought to Will-
iam he broke forth into a paroxysm of wrath, denounced
Harold as a perjured usurper, left the chase, hurried to
his hall, assembled his vassals, and by his address pre-
vailed upon them, unwilling as they were, to follow him
in the invasion of England. He sent out invitations
also to the roving soldiers of other countries, promising
them lands and spoil. It is vain to split hairs on the
question whether he was or was not a conqueror.

The enterprise had a double character ; it was a cru-
sade as well as a conquest. With the ambition of Will-

VOL. I — 2


iam conspired an ambition not less grasping, not less
ruthless, not less sanctimonious than his. Hildebrand,
afterwards Gregory VII., though not yet pope, swayed
the papal councils. He had formed a design, not only
of setting the church free from secular influence, but of
putting the profane powers of the world under the feet
of the papacy, which to him presented itself as the
one power of right divine. He sought, among other
things, to enforce the celibacy of the clergy, as the seal
of their spiritual purity, and to the end that, severed from
all domestic and earthly ties, they might everywhere be
the soldiery of the church. The church of England,
in communion with Rome, and, venerating Rome as its
mother, still retained its national character and a meas-
ure of national independence. Much in it was irregular
to a high churchman's eye. No sharp line was drawn
between church and state. The witan dealt with eccle-
siastical affairs. There was no demarcation of the eccle-
siastical from the temporal courts and law. The celibacy
of the clergy was little enforced among a domestic and
somewhat sensual people. Altogether the church fell
below the Hildebrandic mark. There were besides spe-
cial causes of complaint ; the papal tribute, called Peter's
pence, was irregularly paid ; Archbishop Stigand had
uncanonically intruded himself into the see of the fugi-
tive Robert of Jumieges ; had taken the mystic pallium
with his own hands instead of suing for it at the hands
of the pope, and, by afterwards receiving it at the hands
of an anti-pope, had aggravated the offence. The Nor-
man was a favourite of the papacy. Though a marauder
he was ecclesiastical and everywhere pious and papal
in his rapine. To bring Germany into subjection to the


Vicar of Christ, Hildebrand filled her with civil war.
To bring England into the same subjugation he laid his
curse upon her rightful king, blessed the unrighteous in-
vader, and sent a consecrated banner and ring as pledges
that the favour of God would be with the army of in-
iquity. The power which thus sought its ends is styled
moral, in contrast to the powers of force. Superstition is
no more moral than force, and to effect its object it has
to suborn force, as it did in halloAving the Norman inva-
sion of England.

All know the story. How William gathered an arm a- 1066
ment, the greatest that had been seen in Europe since
the fall of the Empire ; how Harold stood ready to de-
fend his land ; how fortune helped the invader ; how
the English fleet which guarded the channel was forced
to put into port ; how at the supreme moment Harold
was drawn away to the north to cope with another in-
vader, the famous corsair, Harold Hardrada, instigated
by Tostig, Harold's disloyal and exiled brother ; how
Harold triumphed gloriously over the Dane at Stamford
Bridge ; how again rushing southwards he found the
Norman disembarked in Sussex ; how, besought by his
brave brothers, as he was under the papal curse, to
stand aside and let them light for him, he replied in the
spirit of Hector, who said that the best of omens was to
be fighting for one's country ; how he took post on the
woody hill of Senlac covering the road to London, his
house-carls or guards in the centre, the raw country
levies on his flanks ; how, with the consecrated banner
of the pope borne before him, the Norman stormed the
hill ; how, after a long day's fight, the Norman's disci-
pline prevailed over undisciplined valour, the Norman's


mailed cavalry and bowmen prevailed over the English
axe, and the last English king, his eye pierced by an
arrow, lay dead with his brothers and his bravest round
him on the fatal height. Harold slain, national resist-
ance collapsed for lack of a leader ; the young Edgar
Atheling, grandson of Edmund Ironside, elected king
in the hour of despair, proved a mere puppet and was
never crowned ; the great northern earls, Edwin and
Morcar, were found weak, selfish, false to the national
cause. William sagely presented himself, not as a con-
queror, but as lawful king, promising to respect right
and do justice ; all bowed before his power and his
policy ; he was crowned with due elective forms at West-
minster, a Saxon prelate taking part ; though in the
midst of the ceremony, to mark its real character, his
fierce soldiery fired the city, and the rite ended in con-
fusion and terror. His coronation made him lawful king
and stamped resistance to him as treason, entailing for-
feiture of land.

There ensued, as the invader's oppression, or rather
that of his lieutenants was felt, local risings against him

1068 in Kent, at Exeter, at Durham, at York, and through
the north. The rising in the north was the most for-
midable, as it was aided by the Dane, coming to reclaim
the monarchy of Canute. To put it down forever the
Conqueror laid the whole district waste, so that the peo-
ple died by thousands of famine, and the country was
thrown back for many a day. The most heroic stand
was made in the Isle of Ely, a fortress of nature among
the marshes, by Hereward, a popular hero, who gathered

1071 there a patriot band and held out long enough to bring
the Conqueror himself into the field. Danish aid, once


more hovering on the coast, William bought off. The
closing scene of the struggle is indicated by the Con-
queror's law of presentment of Englishry, requiring the
neighbourhood in which a man was found murdered to
prove that the man was not a Norman, but an English-
man. A few, who preferred exile to submission, carried
their English battle-axes to Constantinople and enlisted
in the Imperial guard.

Forfeiture and confiscation followed the suppression
of rebellion from district to district over the realm, till
at last the bulk of the land, including nearly all the
great estates, had passed out of English into Norman
hands. There was left a body of small English free-
holders, into which those who had before been great
landowners sank down. Of the mass of the people the
lot was prsedial servitude, under several names and forms;
of some of them actual bondage. Prsedial servitude had
probably been the lot of most of them before ; but now
they were under foreign masters, and the best authority
holds that the succeeding age was probably one of in-
creasing misery to the serf. The English language
shared the degradation of the people, Norman-French
taking its place as that of the ruling class.

Philosophic historians call the Norman conquest a bless-
ing in disguise. Disguised the blessing certainly was to
those whose blood dyed the hill of Senlac, or whose lands
were taken from them and given to a stranger. Dis-
guised it was to the perishing thousands of the ravaged
north. Disguised it was to the whole of the people, en-
slaved to foreign masters, and for the time down -trodden
and despised. But was it in any sense a blessing ? Why
was England in need of the Norman ? Could not Harold,


her own elected and heroic king, have ruled her as well
as the stranger ? Could he not have united her, if it was
union that she lacked, as well as William, and without
laying waste the north ? On the other hand there was
formed the connection with France which led to the Hun-
dred Years' War. The Norman conquest severed from
England the Saxon lowlands of Scotland, and thus
put off the union of Britain. In what was the Norman
so superior? England had a polity, however rude or
dilapidated. Normandy had no polity ; it had only a
feudal anarchy held down by an arbitrary duke. The
attempt of some of its people to create a commune had
been suppressed in blood. Private war was there the
rule. England had laws, while Normandy had none.
England had writers, such as Bede, Csedmon, Alcuin, and
such a patron of letters as Alfred. Normandy had no
literature of her own. In church art the Norman was
more advanced, though his art was imported, and the
Norman masonry in England is pronounced bad. Eng-
land had arts of its own, such as embroidery and illumi-
nation ; church art might have come in time. In time
and with peace might have come magnificence, of which
the Norman had certainly a larger share. In castle-build-
ing the Norman was pre-eminent. To England that curse
had been unknown. The Saxon, no doubt, was heavy
and home-loving. The Norman, nearer to the pirate
stock, was active, venturous, and intriguing. Here again
time was wanted. The independent self -development of
a nation purely Teutonic, not in blood only, but in char-
acter and institutions, was lost to humanity. A pure
Teutonic language was wrecked, and replaced by a med-
ley, rich perhaps for eloquence or poetry, but ill-suited


for exact thought or science, so that it is compelled to
borrow its scientific and philosophic nomenclature from
the Greek. Civilization generally must have been thrown
back by the havoc. These are questions for the historical
optimist, although so completely did the Norman element
at last blend with the English, that to doubt the benefi-
cence of the Norman conquest seems like a disparagement
of ourselves. The Norman is credited with a genius for
political organization so superior as to compensate the evils
of the conquest, with how much justice will presently be

In rough times wager of battle may in some measure
be a true test ; might may be a real sign of right. But
the victory of the Norman, hardly won, would not have
been decisive had not the arrow pierced Harold's brain.
Not by lack of worth was England lost, though it may
have been lost partly by lack of national unity and mili-
tary discipline. What was fatal was the lack of a leader
in the hour of need.

Did feudalism come into England with the Norman
conquest? That part of feudalism which consisted in
commendation or attachment to a lord had been there
before. Under the feudal system proper, as it was in
France, the allegiance of the vassal was due to his local
lord, and the great fiefs were principalities into which the
kingdom was divided, leaving but a nominal supremacy
to the king. Of this system the Norman William had
experience, and against its introduction into his English
kingdom he guarded by compelling all who held their
lands by military service to do homage and vow alle-
giance directly to himself. Against the growth of prin-
cipalities too strong for his control he guarded, or the


accidents of confiscation guarded him, by scattering the
manors of the great lords all over the kingdom so that
nowhere could any one lord command a great military
force. He made exceptions only in border districts, such
as Durham and Chester, where he sanctioned the exist-
ence of counties palatine or principalities as necessary
bulwarks against the Scotch or Welsh. He gave no
earldom to his sons.

To the constitutional- antiquary must be left the ques-
tion as to the origin of the feudal system. Grants of
land to be held by military service seem the natural
resort of a conquering power which wishes to hold and
defend its conquests, be it Roman, Frank, Norman, or
Turkish. Delegation of government to local chiefs seems
the natural resort of every power without a central ad-
ministration. Submission to a protector, or commenda-
tion, seems the natural resort of the weak in lawless
times. Out of these elements the feudal system, in its
various phases, may have sprung spontaneously and with-
out imitation.

When complete the system was a polity of landowners
holding their land with the jurisdiction, power, and rank
attached, by military tenure, the grantee of the fief pay-
ing homage and owing fealty to the grantor throughout
the scale, while the grantor owed the grantee, as his vas-
sal, protection ; the king, as arch-landowner and supreme
lord, being the apex of the feudal edifice. The system
was such that two feudatories might be each other's lords
and vassals in respect of different fiefs, and a king holding
a fief in another kingdom might be the vassal of its king.

The Norman monarchy was an autocracy with an advi-
sory council of feudal magnates, and practically limited


by the force of the military baronage which, however,
could ill afford to weaken the hands of its chief while
English hatred of the Norman conqueror still throbbed.
Legal limits to the king's power there were none ; but
he had no standing army to enforce his will unless he
hired mercenaries. His army was the levy of his mili-
tary tenants, bound with their under-tenants to serve him
for forty days. When the system was complete a quota
of knights, that is, mailed horsemen, was furnished in
proportion to the extent of the land. The king could
also, when the Normans were restive, call out the fyrd,
or national levy of the English people, though the mailed
cavalry of the Normans was still the dominant force.
He was at once captain, ruler, lawgiver, if mere edicts
could be called law, and supreme judge, the distinction
between those functions not having been yet made.
Royal justice moved about with him over the kingdom.
By him order was maintained, and his peace was the curb
upon private war. Without his license no castle could
be built. Of him, since the conquest, all land was sup-
posed to be held. He was supreme ruler and landlord
paramount in one. He was the head of the feudal hie-
rarchy, receiving the homage of his tenants-in-chief, as
they received the homage of their under-tenants. His
revenues were the produce of his fourteen hundred
manors, his feudal aids, dues, and fines, his justice-fees,
and his fees and fines of other descriptions ; the whole
collected for him in each county by the sheriff, acting as
farmer-general. He had a resource at need in Danegelt,
an old impost imposed in the times of the Danish wars.
He could tallage or tax at will the people of his own
domain, his towns included. He had the right of pur-


veyance, or taking provisions and wains, practically at
his own price, for himself and for his train. He had
thus ordinarily no need to come to the nation for sup-
plies, and was free from that limit to his power. He was
the fountain of honour. He appointed to all the offices
of state, and, under the forms of ecclesiastical election, to
the great offices of the church. His title was still, not
King of England, but King of the English, dominion
being not yet regarded as territorial. He had no capital,
but moved from one royal villa to another, consuming the
produce of his manors on the spot. The monarchy was
hereditary, yet with the form and even right of elec-

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