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It was probably in concert with Godwin and his sons that Griffith again invaded the English territory, and laid waste the greater part of Herefordshire. In the neighbourhood of Leominster he was encountered by the people of the country, aided by the Normans from the castle, whom, after a considerable loss on both sides he overcame, and returned with much booty to his own country. Harold and Leofwine now sailed with a considerable fleet from Ireland and entered the mouth of the Severn, where they landed, and plundered many towns and villages in the counties of Somerset and Devon. In an engagement between their forces and the people of the country, the latter were defeated with great loss, including above thirty thanes. Harold then sailed round the Land's End into the British Channel. Edward and his witan now deemed it time to adopt measures for the security of his people, and caused a fleet of forty ships to be fitted out under the command of the earls Odda and Radulf, which was, during many weeks, stationed at Sandwich, for the purpose of watching the movements of Godwin. A day or two before midsummer Godwin proceeded from Bruges to his ships, which were lying in the Yser, below Nienport, whence he sailed to the coast of England, and arrived at the point a little to the south of Romney. Here he found all the people devoted to him : the sailors (butsecarlas) of Hastings, the men of Sussex, Surrey and Essex, declared themselves ready to live or die for him. The royal fleet had in the meanwhile sailed in quest of him, but, after a fruitless cruise, returned to its station at Sandwich, and thence sailed to London. It was now resolved to place the royal fleet under abler commanders, but, during the delay which attended the execution of this resolution, the seamen returned to their homes. The state of embarrassment into which his opponents were naturally plunged by these untoward occurrences could not be unknown to Godwin, whose next visit was to the fertile Isle of Wight, where having supplied his fleet with provisions, he sailed to Portland. Here he was joined by his sons Harold and Leofwine. With their united fleets they now proceeded along the coast eastwards, limiting their demands, wherever they met with no hostile opposition, to the supplies necessary for their forces, enticing the people, both landsmen and sailors, into their service, and seizing on all the ships which lay at Romney, Hythe, and Folkestone. At Dover also and Sandwich they seized on the ships and received hostages and supplies, and thence directed their course up the Thames towards London, till they arrived at Southwark, where, while waiting for the flood-tide, Godwin treated with the townspeople, who were all favourably disposed towards him. Then passing through the bridge, he arrayed both his land and sea forces along the southern bank of the river, inclining his ships towards the opposite shore, as if he would hem in the royal fleet, which consisted of fifty ships under Edward and his earls, who had, moreover, a considerable land army, but all of whom were ill-disposed to fight against their own countrymen, for the sake of the foreign favourites. Godwin and his party now demanded the restoration of their possessions and honours, which Edward at first sternly refused; but at length, finding that his people were excited against him, and through the interposition of Stigand, Bishop of Winchester, with other prudent counsellors, it was settled that hostages should be mutually given. On receiving this intelligence the Frenchmen immediately mounted their horses and fled, some to Osbern Pentecost's castle, others northwards to Earl Robert's ; while Robert the archbishop, William Bishop of London, and Ulf Bishop of Dorchester, with many followers, escaped out at the east gate, and injuring many in their flight proceeded to the coast, where at Eadulfs-ness, they threw themselves into a crazy boat and reached the shores of Normandy, leaving behind the archiepiscopal pall and other valuables. Bishop William was, on account of his excellent character, afterwards recalled and reinstated in his diocese. Pentecost and Hugo, having surrendered their castles, received prermission from Leofric to pass through his earldom on their way to Scotand, where they entered into the service of Macbeth. But archbishop Robert proved a dangerous foe to the Anglo-Saxons : he hurried to Rome for the purpose of preferring bitter complaints, on account of his deposition, but more particularly against his successor Stigand ; and an appearance of right on his side was not without a prejudicial influence on subsequent transactions, though it operated most ununfavourably for the Anglo-Saxons, in having cherished, if it did not inspire, the thought in William of Normandy of securing the succession to the throne of England. At a great witena-gemot, holden without the gate of London, Godwin, as à matter of course, fully succeeded in establishing his own and his sons' innocence of all that had been charged against them, whereupon they were received again into the king's full friendship, and restored to their possessions and honours. Queen Edith was also reinstated in her former station. Of Sweyn we are informed that he died on his return from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which he had undertaken as an atonement for the murder of his cousin Biörn. The Frenchmen, including Archbishop Robert, both ecclesiastics and laymen, because they had introduced odious measures and widened the breach between the king and the family of Godwin, were outlawed, with a few exceptions in favour of some relations of the king. Thus was a complete reconciliation effected, and the universal joy of the people must have convinced the king that his weak partiality for Norman courtiers, and Norman customs and manners might inflict irreparable injury on his kingdom.
It may be regarded as a great misfortune for England that soon after the restoration of tranquillity Godwin died. He had laboured long and zealously, and felt that the close of his day was at hand. His indisposition had been remarked in the preceding year, and he had retired to his earldom. On the second day of the Easter festival, while sitting at table with the king at Winchester, he was seized with a fit of apoplexy, and fell speechless to the ground. By his sons, Harold and Tostig, he was borne from the apartment, and on the fifth day in great agony expired. By the Norman writers, those deadly enemies of the house of Godwin, the tale was propagated, that one of the royal cupbearers, while in the act of presenting wine, happening to make a false step, saved himseif from falling with the aid of the other foot, whereupon Godwin exclaimed, “Thus brother helps brother." * Yes," said the king looking on him sternly," and had Alfred lived he might so have helped me.” Feeling himself called upon to assert his innocence of the murder of Alfred, Godwin answered, “I know that you suspect me of your brother's murder, but may God, who is true and just, not permit this morsel of bread to enter my throat without choking me, if your brother suffered death or injury from me or by my counsel.” Having said this the king blessed the bread, which, on Godwin putting it into his mouth, instantly choked him. Thus did Providence expose and punish the traitor and murderer. This story seems to be the last attempt of the Norman party to avenge themselves on the lion's skin of their deadliest enemy. Trustwerthy and circumstantial accounts of Godwin's personal character are wholly wanting ; the authors who wrote a few years after his death being all in the interest of the Normans, or inoculated with their views. So intense was their hate of him that they could not acknowledge one of his merits : while, on the other hand, the Anglo Saxons would have borne and forgotten his failings, could they have had him again to lead them to victory over their Norman oppressors. His parsimony towards churches that had been pampered by other nobles, has undoubtedly contributed to bereave him of his due meed of praise. Eloquence in the national assemblies, activity and skill in public affairs, were the qualities acknowledged in Godwin, and which mainly contributed to his advancement, though it was the iron arms of the warrier which, under Canute, first carved out the fame of the son of the “child of Sussex.” His greatest glory is, that his interests were in general closely combined with those of his countrymen.
28- HAROLD IN NORMANDY.
Rev. J. WHITE. INTRODUCTION. Earl Godwin had delivered his son and grandson to Edward the Confessor as hostages for his fidelity. These, the king had sent over for safe keeping to his kinsman William of Normandy. Harold was anxious, after the death of his father, to release his brother and nephew from the custody-almost amounting to imprisonment-in which they were detained, and for this purpose determined to visit William, with whom he had formed a friendship during his residence in England a short time before. Accompanied by a gay and numerous retinue, he took his way to the ships, and was driven by stress of weather on the coast of France not far from the present Boulogne. There, with the inhospitable cruelty and meanness of the feudal character, he was seized as prisoner by the Earl of Ponthieu and set to ransom.
William however heard of the misfortune of his intending visitor, and by threats and promises procured his release. On the arrival of Harold at Rouen no effort was spared to win his assistance to the designs upon England, which William already entertained. Among other devices to gain this end William offered him the hand of his daughter Adela, and prevailed on him to promise that in the event of Edward's death he would offer no opposition to his accession to the English throne. Harold held out his hand to make this promise, but care had been taken by the Norman priests to place, upon a table in the apartment, a basket filled with the bones and other relics of saints and martyrs. Harold, who probably had merely intended his acquiescence as a means of delivering himself from danger, was struck with horror when he perceived the sanctions under which his oath was given. It was the remembrance of this oath that weakened his resistance when the conqueror made his descent ; for the superstition of the time led even the supporters of Harold's cause to consider him under the curse denounced on perjury.
WILLIAM ... Duke of Normandy
An apartment in the Palace at Rouen.
I tell you, if I chained
Lanfranc. You are a Sovran, Sir, and may be King.
William. The old lesson still,—and still the selfsame bribe !
Lanfranc. Till the game springs.
How often must it spring
And 'scape me ? England with slow, aimless flight,
Lanfranc (smiles). He hears the lure,-
What use of words
Lanfranc. Count Guido of Ponthieu gives fitter thanks To Heaven that sent him, than to scorn its bounty.
William. A base, unknightly churl !
He guards his prize
William. He shall yield up the prize,—or, by my sword, -Fit oath-fit instrument,--he'll mourn the hour That sent Earl Harold to his donjon tower.
Lanfranc. You'll fight to rescue Harold !
Fight ? Aye, die
Lanfranc opens a door. Enter Envoys.
Widiam. No greeting, till I hear what you reply !
Envoy. No, Sir. Our master has some ancient feud
Beside the Aune
Lies a rich strath, once in the Ponthieu bounds;
William. 'Tis his. What more?
Certain arrears of rents
William. Take them,—and multiply by ten what else
Lanfranc. Pause, I beseech, Sir
William. No—I'll not pause. I tell you, Policy
If you look
Exeunt Envoys. William. Why, priest-knave—or whatever name you own
Lanfranc. Both either. By this humble garb I'm warned To endure contempt. William.
And yet your eye-balls glow
Lanfranc. Give them no counties--no arrears of rent-
Lanfranc. There's a bolt that makes no noise, yet slays
Harold. Double all thanks I ever paid before,
What! you 've not pined