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Northern Europe and France; the Norman Conquest. page 2

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The Danes or Northmen who had, by conquest and agreement, settled in England, soon became incorporated with the English element by community of interest and intermarriage, and by adoption of the Christian faith. Abundant local marks of Danish presence and prevalence are found. Even so late as the 12th century we have a statute declaring the division of England "into three parts-Wessex, Mercia, and the province of the Danes." In the north and north-east the terminations of place-names in -by, meaning first a farm, and then a town or village; -Thorpe, a village; -thwaite, a cleared spot; -ey, an island; with beck, a brook, fell, a bare hill, tarn, a mountain lake, foss (or force), a waterfall, are all Danish, and about 700 such names occur in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire alone. The strength of the Danes in East Anglia is proved by the number of such names in Norfolk. Derby, Rugby show the Dane in the Midlands (Mercia), Denbigh in North Wales, and Tenby in South Wales. In the Lake District, and in the Scottish Lowlands, the word dale, the Scandinavian daal or dal, shows Danish settlement in great force. The same element is found, as a main constituent, in the Orkneys and Shetlands, in the southern Hebrides, and in the islands of the Firth of Clyde. In order of importance, when we seek the chief constituents of the composite English nation, there can be little doubt that "English (Angle), Saxon, Dane, and Celt are we." If we attempt to decide the moral influence of our Danish ancestors upon the nation, we may probably - while we ascribe to the Angle and the Saxon our quiet energy, stubborn resistance to injustice, love of freedom under a monarchy, and respect for law - owe to the Northmen, the sea-roving vikings, the fierce courage in assault seen in British soldiers, and the maritime enterprise and daring which have taken the sons of Britain, as colonisers or as conquerors, to every part of the world.

An evil time for the country came with Ethelred II., son of Edgar. He reigned from 978 to 1016, and was surnamed "the Unready" in modern phrase, by a mistake in translating redeless, meaning "devoid of counsel, despiser of advice." In 991 this foolish coward adopted the plan of buying off new Danish invaders by large amounts of silver raised in a tax called the Danegeld, or Dane-money. Driven to desperation by the constant demands which were the inevitable result, he resorted, in 1002, to the device of a massacre of new Danish settlers. The victims included Gunhild, wife of an English noble, and sister of Sweyn or Svend, king of Denmark. He at once resolved on the conquest of England, arid became master, before his death in 1014, of the former "Danelagh" and of Mercia and Wessex. His son and successor, Cnut (Canute), was opposed for seven months by Edmund "Ironside," son of Ethelred, a man whose surname, adopted for certain brave fighters of a later date under a man named Cromwell, was bestowed for the courage displayed in the many conflicts of his brief career as the chosen representative of the English party. For nearly 30 years the country was under Danish kings. Cnut (1016-1035) was a powerful monarch, as ruler of Denmark, Norway, and England, and a man of ability and vigour. His first political act was the division of the country into four provinces or governments called earldoms - the Danish word jarl representing the English "ealdorman." He showed wisdom like that of Alfred in not pressing too far a victor's rights. Wessex was placed under Earl Godwin, an Englishman, Mercia under Earl Leofwine, also an Englishman. Northumbria and East Anglia were assigned to the Danish earls Eric and Thurkill. Cnut, already a Christian by profession, favoured the clergy and the monks, and was careful to enforce payment of "Peter's pence" and other dues to the Pope. He ruled the country with firmness and justice, maintaining a peace that was highly beneficial after past troubles. His two sons and successors, Harold I. and Harthacnut, who were half-brothers, are not worthy of more than mention. The latter, a drunken ruffian, died in 1042 after an orgie at a marriage-feast in Lambeth, where the bride was daughter of one of his chief thanes, Osgod Clapa, a landowner whose name probably survives in the suburb of London called Clapham, known now so widely from its railway-junction.

On his death the old line of English kings was restored in the person of Edward the Confessor, so surnamed from his devotion to the Church and the faith. He was the second son of Ethelred and Emma, daughter of a duke of Normandy. His education at the Norman court made Norman influence, for the first time, strong in England, after his accession. High posts in ecclesiastical and civil affairs were held by Normans, and strong stone castles began to arise. The English party, led by Earl Godwin of Wessex, whose daughter Edith was queen, and at first supported by the earls of Northumbria and Mercia, strongly opposed the Normans, whose speech had now become the official language at court. The wealth and power of Godwin, whose sway extended also over Sussex and Kent, and of his sons Sweyn and Harold, governing part of Mercia, and East Anglia and Essex, were together far greater than King Edward's, and the great earl was, to a large extent, master of the realm. A quarrel, causing Godwin's exile in 1051, ended with his triumphant return, with a powerful force of ships and men, in the following year. A strong popular feeling in his favour was shown.

The flotilla reached London, and found the forces of the earl's party drawn up in battle-array on the ground where the "Strand," now roaring with the ceaseless traffic of men and wheels, was then a pebbly shore on which the wavelets of the tidal river gently broke, with field and forest stretching far inland. The king was in a helpless position, and the restoration, by the Witan, of Godwin's and Harold's dignities and estates, was followed by the hasty flight of the Norman bishops and laymen of high office. The death of Godwin in 1053 left the English cause safe in the hands of Harold, now earl of Wessex. His ambition was equal to that of his father, and he was far superior in ability and tact. During the rest of the reign he was the real ruler of England, and he gained military fame in 1063 by his services against a powerful chief in North Wales, whose palace at Rhuddlan was stormed, an event followed by his deposition and death at the hands of his own people. Edward the Confessor died in January, 1066, and was buried in a new church called the West Minster, built by himself on the site of the present abbey, which embodies small portions of the original work.

The popularity of Harold, a noble specimen of an Englishman - a brave and skilful captain in war, a prudent statesman, a skilful politician, a man beloved for his generous spirit - brought to him an honour unique in our history. Chosen king by the Witan', he was the sole man not of royal blood that ever ruled in England. The lawful or customary heir was Edgar the AEtheling ("Prince of the blood royal"), a grandson of Edmund Ironside. We must now cross the Channel to Normandy, and look at one of the great men of history, Duke William, a cousin of Edward the Confessor. He was a natural son of Duke Robert the Magnificent (otherwise styled Robert the Devil, the hero of a famous modern operatic work), and of a woman named Herletta or Arlotta. Born at Falaise in 1027, he passed his boyhood in danger from turbulent nobles. When he was not 20 years of age, he had to fight for his ducal power against rebel barons, at Val-es-dunes, near Caen, and so bore himself in a desperate charge of horse which routed the foe as to show that a warrior of the first rank was ruler of Normandy. In a year or two he was absolute master of his duchy. In bodily size and strength he was a prodigy; in fierceness of courage he surpassed all men of that age of warriors. With iron mace in hand, he smote down foes as if they were reeds, and, in a battle that seemed lost, he could rally his followers with a valour that ensured final victory. As a ruler and a man he could be fearful in wrath and pitiless in revenge. As a strategist and tactician he was of a high class, and the ability of his statesmanship in very difficult positions is beyond dispute. This born ruler of men had to fight against his French neighbours in 1054, and again showed what was in him. One division of the powerful army was destroyed by surprise at the town of Mortemer; the other was glad to be allowed to withdraw. In 1058 he triumphed over another French host at Varaville. Two years later, Maine and Brittany came, almost without a struggle, into his possession. His indomitable will in conquering difficulties had now made him one of the foremost men in Europe, ruling a loyal, prosperous, well-ordered state, the envy of its neighbours. Tillage and trade were protected and encouraged. The best men were appointed to high positions in the Church, and under Lanfranc of Pavia the school at the Abbey of Bee became the most famous in Christendom. This extraordinary man, William of Normandy, was in private life a good husband, brother, and father, in a cruel and profligate age.

The duke had visited Edward the Confessor in 1051, during the exile of Godwin, and, seeing a country well worth the winning, he had conceived the idea of conquest at a future day. We shall not here go into the vexed question of his claims, based upon an alleged promise of Edward, an alleged oath of Harold, and a supposed right through his wife, the good Matilda of Flanders. The rightful heir, as has been shown, was Edgar the AEtheling, a direct descendant, in the male line, of Alfred and Egbert. Nor need we linger over the battle, important as were its long-lasting consequences, fought out on both sides with the utmost valour at Senlac, eight miles inland, north-east from Pevensey Bay, on October 14th, 1066. This "Battle of Hastings," as it is usually called, gave William of Normandy in the end the possession of England, through the defeat and death of the gallant Harold, who had only just returned from defeating, at Stamford Bridge, in Yorkshire, a formidable invasion under his own banished brother Tostig and Harold Hardrada, king of Norway. The old name of Senlac was changed, through the foundation of an abbey by William on the ground where Harold and the standards had been posted on the great decisive day, the religious house being called L'Abbaye de la Bataille, whence Battle Abbey and the modern little town Battle. We may here point out that the title "Conqueror" given to the successful duke of Normandy, does not necessarily imply the forcible subjection of a people. It mean simply "one who acquires," by bequest or by purchase, or in any way which was not regular inheritance. It is true that subsequent revolts overcome by William with much effort and skill, made him "Conqueror" in the popular sense, but as he maintained his right to the crown of England by Edward's gift, and on other grounds, he was its "conqueror" in a strictly legal sense, according to his view. We here leave him and turn to other parts of the British Isles.

As regards Scotland, we have seen that the kingdom began, in a sense, under Kenneth MacAlpin, who died in 860. The east and west coasts were ravaged by the ruthless Danes at this period, and king after king was slain in conflict with them. The realm was extended, in the 10th century, by the addition of Edinburgh, and civil warfare ended in Malcolm II.'s becoming king in 1005. This monarch invaded Northumberland in 1018, and a victory at Carham on the Tweed brought the cession of Lothian, followed by the incorporation of Strathclyde, and the establishment of a permanent frontier on the south. After warfare between various claimants, Malcolm III., surnamed "Canmore" (Greathead), became king in 1057, and the old Celtic monarchy ended. He was an Anglo-Dane on his mother's side, and passed his youth at the court of Edward the Confessor. English influence became great in Scotland after the Norman Conquest, as Malcolm married, in 1069, Margaret, sister of Edgar AEtheling. Many English nobles took refuge at his court, and the queen, an excellent woman, was very serviceable, in the way of moral and mental improvement, to the king, court, and people.

We have seen something of the ravages of the Northmen or Danes in Ireland. In their presence, after they made permanent settlements, and amid the constant tribal wars, all political development was prevented, learning vanished, and the Church became powerless for good. In the 10th century some deliverance from Danish oppression came with Malachy, the head of the O'Neills, the leader celebrated by Moore as "wearing the collar of gold which he won from the proud invader," and in the person of the -famous Brian Boroimhe, or Brian Boru. This chieftain, aiming at supreme power, against the Danes on the one hand and the O'Neills on the other, cleared Munster of the Northmen in 968, capturing Limerick and putting the armed men to death, with the flight or enslavement of all others. Brian then overran Leinster and Connaught, and had the better of Malachy of Meath, who had won fame by his defeat of the Danes at Tara, in Meath, where his stronghold was, the place familiar to us from Moore's lines on

"The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed."

In a sense, "Brian of the Tribute" was now king of Ireland, as a suzerain over vassal chiefs, without interference in local government. He won many victories over the Danes, and forced them to remain quiet; and on one occasion he entered Dublin, and carried off hostages and treasure. For 12 years from 1002 Ireland enjoyed peace. The Danes of the coast-towns were becoming traders instead of robbers; the monasteries were being rebuilt, and the tribal warfare was, in many quarters, exchanged for the making of roads, bridges, and other works of use in civilised life. In 1014 more trouble came on the hapless country, and chaos ensued for a century and a half. Brian was growing old, and the work which he had effected was suddenly undone. The Danes of Leinster rebelled, and obtained help in great forces sent by their kinsmen from Northumbria, the Orkneys, the Isle of Man, and other quarters, headed by Sigurd, ean of Orkney, and a viking named Brodar. Brian took the field with the men of Munster, Meath, and Connaught, with his five sons and old Malachy fighting under his banner, and on Good Friday the enemy were met on the shore at Clontarf, between Dublin and Howth Head. A long day's battle between the armies ended in the utter defeat of the Danes, with the death of Sigurd and other leaders. Old king Brian, unequal to the fatigue of fighting, had left the command to his eldest son, and remained during the conflict at prayer in his tent, pitched near the edge of the woods which then covered all the rising ground north of Dublin. As the Northmen fled at evening-tide, some to their ships, some to the town, and others to the open country west of Dublin, a party of Brodar's men, with their leader, came near the tent, and one of them pointed to the kneeling man, with long white beard, as the king. "'Tis but a monk, a shaveling," cried Brodar. "It is Brian himself," was the answer, and with that the man rushed in, to receive a blow across his legs from the sword of the half-risen Brian. A battle-axe then clove the king's head to the chin, and his body, thus found by his victorious subjects, was conveyed to Armagh for burial. This grievous misfortune for Ireland rendered the country a prey to utter anarchy, in which we must leave it until the days of Anglo-Norman invasion.

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Pictures for Northern Europe and France; the Norman Conquest. page 2

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