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Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1

Harold Harefoot - His brief Reign and Death.
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Although the late king, in the treaty he had entered into with Richard, Duke of Normandy, at the time of his marriage with Emma, had agreed that his children by her should succeed to the crown of England, he held himself released from the engagement by that prince's death, or considered Hardicanute too young to mount the throne of England: his new subjects requiring a cool head and strong hand to govern them. He therefore nominated Harold, his son by Alfwen, to the crown, after his decease.

This prince had the advantage, not only of his presence on the spot, but of his father's treasures, which he had taken care to secure; and, though last, not least, the warm adherence of his countrymen. On the other hand, Hardicanute was more popular with the English, who regarded him with a certain amount of affection, on account of his being the son of Emma, and having been born in England. His party was espoused also by Earl Godwin, the most influential noble in the kingdom, especially in the province of Wessex, the chief seat of the ancient English.

Affairs were likely to terminate in a civil war; when, by the interposition of the nobility of both parties, a compromise was made; and it was agreed that Harold should enjoy, together with London, all the provinces north of the Thames, while the possession of the south should remain to Hardicanute; and till that prince should appear and take possession of his dominions, Emma fixed her residence at Winchester, and established her authority over her son's share of the partition.

Meanwhile Robert, Duke of Normandy, died in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and being succeeded by his son William, the two English princes, Alfred and Edward, who found no longer any countenance or protection in that country, gladly embraced the opportunity of paying a visit, with a numerous retinue, to their mother Emma, who seemed to be placed in a state of so much power and splendour at Winchester. But the face of affairs soon wore a melancholy aspect: Earl Godwin had been gained by the arts of Harold, who promised to espouse the daughter of that nobleman; and while the treaty was yet a secret, these two tyrants laid a plan for the destruction of the English princes. Alfred was invited to London by Harold, with many professions of friendship; but when he had reached Guild ford, he was set on by Godwin's vassals, nearly six hundred of his train were murdered in the most cruel manner, and himself was taken prisoner; his eyes were put out, and he was conducted to the monastery of Ely, where he died soon after. Edward and Emma, apprised of the fate which was awaiting them, fled beyond sea, the former into Normandy, the latter into Flanders; at Bruges she was received by Baldwin, Count of Flanders, and Adela, his wife; while Harold, triumphing in his bloody policy, took possession, without resistance, of all the dominions assigned to his brother.

This is the only memorable action performed, during a reign of three years, by this prince, who gave so bad a specimen of his character, and whose bodily accomplishments alone are known to us by his appellation of Harefoot, which he acquired from his agility in running and walking. He died on the 14th of April, 1038, little regretted or esteemed by his subjects, leaving the crown to his half-brother, Hardicanute.

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Pictures for Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 1

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