Britannia, by William Camden


Big A AS in former ages, the Franks first, and afterwards the Saxons, coming out of that East-Coast of Germany as it lies from us, I mean, the more Northerly parts of it; annoy’d Gaul and Britain with their Piracies, and at last became masters, the Franks of France, and the Saxons of Britain: so in succeeding times, the Danes first, and then the Normans, follow’d the same method, came from the same Coast, and had the same success. As if providence had so order’d it, that those parts should constantly produce and send out a set of men to make havock of Gaul and Britain, and establish new kingdoms therein.

Nordmanni. The Normans had their name from the Northern parts from whence they came (for Nordmanni signifies no more than Northern men,) in which sense they are likewise term’d (a) NordleudiNordleudi., i.e. a Northern People,Helmoldus. as being the flower of the Norwegians, Suedes, and Danes. In the time of Charles the Great, they carry’d on their trade of Piracy in such a barbarous manner, both in Friseland, Holland, England, Ireland, and France; that that Prince, when he saw their vessels in the Mediterranean, cry’d out with a deep sigh, and with tears in his eyes;Liber Sangal. de Gestis Caroli. Magni. How am I troubled, that they should venture upon this coast, even while I am living. I plainly foresee, what a scourge they are like to prove to my successors. And in the publick Litanies of the Church, there was afterwards inserted, From the fury of the Danes, Good Lord deliver us. They reduc’d the Franks to such extremities, that Carolus Calvus was forc’d to buy a truce of Hasting, the commander of the Norman Pirates, with the Earldom of Chartres: and Carolus Crassus gave Godfrid the Norman, part of Neustria with his daughter. After that, by force of Neustria. arms they fix’d near the mouth of the Seine, in those parts which formerly had been call’d by corruption Neustria, as being part of Westrasia (for so the middle-age writers term it:) the Germans stil’d it Westenriich, i.e. the Western Kingdom: it contains all between the Loyre and the Seine to the sea-ward. They afterwards call’d it Normannia, i.e. the Country of the Northern men, when Carolus Simplex had made a grant of it in Fee to their Prince Rollo (whose Godfather he was) and had given him his daughter to wife. When Rollo (as we are inform’d by an old Manuscript belonging to the Monastery of Angiers) had Normandy made over to him by Carolus Stultus, with his daughter Gisla; he would not submit to kiss Charles’s foot. And when his friends urg’d him by all means to kiss the King’s foot, in gratitude for so great a favour, he made answer in the English tongue, NE SE BY GOD, that is, Not so by God. Upon which, the King and his Courtiers deriding him, and corruptly repeating his answer, call’d him Bigod;Bigod. from whence the Normans are to this day term’d Bigodi. For the same reason, it is possible, the French also at this day call hypocrites, and your superstitious sort of men, Bigods.

(a) From the Saxon Leod, a people or nation.

This Rollo, who at his Baptism was nam’d Robert, is by some thought to have turn’d Christian out of design only: by others, with deliberation and seriousness. These latter add, that he was mov’d to it by God in a Dream; which (tho’ Dreams are a thing I do not give much heed to) I hope I may relate without the imputation of folly, as I find it attested by the writers of that age. The story goes, that as he was asleep in the ship, he saw himself deeply infected with the leprosie; but that washing in a clear spring at the bottom of a high hill, he recover’d, and afterwards went up to the top of it. This he told a Christian captive in the same ship, who gave him the following interpretation of it: That the Leprosie was the abominable worship of Idols, with which he was defil’d; the Spring was the holy laver of regeneration, where-with being once cleans’d, he might climb the mountain, that is, attain to great honour, and heaven itself.

Dukes of Normandy. This Rollo had a son call’d William, but sirnam’d Longa Spata, from a long sword which he us’d to wear. William had a son call’d Richard, the first of that name, who was succeeded by his son and grandson, both Richards. But Richard, the third of that name, dying without issue, his brother Robert came to the Dukedom, and had a son by his concubine, nam’d William; the same is commonly called the Conqueror, and Bastard. All these were Princes very eminent for their atchievements, both at home and abroad. Whilst William, now come to man’s estate, was Duke of Normandy; Edward the Holy, sirnam’d Confessor, King of England and last of the Saxon Line, to the great grief of his subjects departed this life. He was son of Emma, a † Cognata.Cousin, of William’s (as daughter to Richard the first of that name, who was Duke of Normandy,) and while he liv’d under banishment in Normandy, he had made William a promise of the reversion of the Crown of England. But Harold, the son of Godwin, and Steward of the Houshold under Edward, got possession of the Crown: whereupon, his brother Tosto on one hand,Normans. and the Normans on the other, us’d their utmost endeavours to dethrone him. After he had slain his brother Tosto and Harold King of Norway (whom Tosto had drawn over to his assistance,) in a set-battle1066. near Stamford-bridge in Yorkshire, and, tho’ with loss, had gain’d the victory; within less than nine days, William sirnam’d Bastard, Duke of Normandy (building upon the promise of King Edward, lately deceas’d, as also upon his adoption, and relation to Edward) rais’d a powerful army, and landed in England, in Sussex. Harold presently advanc’d towards him; tho’ his soldiers were harrass’d, and his army very much weaken’d by the late fight. Not far from Hastings, they engag’d; where Harold advanced in person into the heat of the battle, and behaving himself with great valour, lost his life. Abundance of the English were slain; though it is almost impossible to find out the exact number. William, after he had won the day, march’d through Walingford with his army, towards London, where he was receiv’d and inaugurated; Charter of William the Conqueror.The kingdom (as himself expresses it) being allotted him by divine Providence, and granted by the favour of his Lord and Cousin the glorious King Edward. And a few lines after, he adds, That the bounteous King Edward had by adoption made him heir to the Crown of England. Tho’, if the history of S. Stephen of Caen may be credited, these were the last words that he spoke, upon his death-bed. History of St. Stephen’s Monastery at Caen in Normandy. The Regal Diadem, which none of my Predecessors wore, I gain’d, not by any hereditary title, but by the favour of Almighty God. And a little after; I name no heir to the crown of England, but commend it wholly to the eternal Creator, whose I am, and in whose hands are all things. It was not an hereditary right that put me in possession of this honour; but, by a desperate engagement and much blood-shed, I wrested it from the perjur’d King Harold, and, having slain or put to flight all his abettors, made myself Master of it.

But why am I thus short, upon so considerable a revolution of the British State? If you can have the patience to read it, take what I drew up (it is possible, with too little accuracy and thought, but however, with the Integrity of an Historian) when raw and young, and very unfit for such an undertaking, I had a design to write the history of our Nation, in Latin.

The Norman Conquest. EDward the Confessor dying without issue, the Nobility and Commonalty were put into great distraction about naming the new King. Edgar, commonly called ÆthelingAEtheling bigot, Edmund Ironside’s * * Abnepos ex filio.great great grandchild by a son, was the only person left of the Saxon Line; and as such had an hereditary title to the Crown. But his tender years were thought altogether uncapable of Government; and besides, his temper had in it a foreign mixture; as being born in Hungary, the son of Agatha daughter to the Emperor Henry the third, who was at too great a distance to bear out the youth, either by assistance or advice. Upon these accounts, he was not much respected by the English, who valu’d themselves upon nothing more, than to have a King out of their own body. Harold’s Character. The general inclination, was towards Harold Godwin’s son, much fam’d for his admirable conduct both in Peace and War. For tho’ the nobleness of his Birth lay but on one side, and his father had by treason and plunder render’d himself eternally infamous; yet, what by his courteous language, and good humour, his liberal temper, and warlike courage; he had strangely insinuated himself into the affections of the people. As none undertook dangerous attempts with greater chearfulness; so in the utmost extremities no man was so ready with advice. His courage and success were so eminent in the Welsh wars (which he had some time before happily brought to an end) that he was look’d upon as a most accomplish’d General, and seem’d to be born on purpose to settle the English Government. Moreover, it was hop’d that the Danes (who were at that time the only dread of this nation) would be more favourable to him, as being the son of Githa, Sister to Sueno King of Denmark. From what other parts soever, attempts, whether foreign or domestick, might be made; he seem’d sufficiently secur’d against them by the affections of the Commonalty, and his relation to the Nobility. He had married the sister of Morcar and Edwin, who at that time bore the greatest sway: and Edric (sirnam’d the Wild) a man of a high spirit, and great authority, was his near kinsman. It fell out too very fortunately, that at the same time Sueno the Dane was engag’d in the Suedish wars; and there was an ill understanding between William the Norman and Philip King of France. For Edward the Confessor, while he liv’d under banishment in Normandy, had made this William an express promise of the Crown, in case himself died without issue. And Harold (who was then kept Prisoner in Normandy) was bound under a strict Oath, as Guarantee, to see it perform’d, and made it one part of the Conditions, that he should marry the Duke’s Daughter. For these reasons, many thought it most advisable, to make a Present of the Crown to the Duke of Normandy, that, by discharging the promise, they might prevent both the war that threaten’d them, and destruction, the certain punishment of perjury; and that by the accession of Normandy to England, the government might be establish’d in the hands of so great a Prince, and the strength and figure of the Nation considerably increas’d. Harold made King. But Harold quickly cut off all debates that looked this way; for, finding that delays would be dangerous, the very day that Edward was bury’d, contrary to the general expectation he possess’d himself of the government; and with the applause of those about him, who proclaim’d him King, without any ceremony of Inauguration he put on the Crown with his own hands. This action of his very much disgusted the Clergy, who look’d upon it as a breach of Faith. But, as he was sensible, how difficult it was for a young Prince to establish his government without the reputation of piety and virtue; to cancel that crime and to settle himself on the throne, he bent all his thoughts towards promoting the interest of the Church and the dignity of Monasteries. He show’d Edgar ÆthelingAEtheling Earl of Oxford, and the rest of the Nobility, all the respect imaginable; he eas’d the people of a great part of their taxes; he bestow’d vast sums of money upon the poor; and in short, what by the affibility of his discourse, and patience in hearing others, and equity in all causes, he gain’d himself wonderful love as well as authority.

William’s Message to Harold. As soon as William, Duke of Normandy, had certain intelligence of these matters, he pretended to be infinitely afflicted for the death of Edward; when, all the while, the thing that lay upon his heart, was his being disappointed of England, which he had made himself sure of. Without more ado, by advice of his Council, he sent over Embassadors to remind Harold of his promise and engagement; and to demand the Crown. Harold, after mature deliberation, return’d him this answer, That as to Edward’s promise, the Crown of England could not be disposed of by promise; nor was he obliged to take notice of it, since he govern’d by right of Election and not of Inheritance. And, for what concerned his own Engagement, that that was plainly extorted by force, treachery, and the fear of perpetual imprisonment; and did likewise tend to the manifest damage of the Nation, and the prejudice of the Nobility; and therefore he look’d upon it as null in it self: That if he could make good his promise he ought not; or if he would, it was not in his power; since it was made without the knowledge of the King, or concurrence of the People: That the demand seem’d highly unreasonable, for him to surrender the government to a Norman Prince, who was altogether a stranger; when he had been invested with it by the unanimous consent of all Orders.

The Norman Duke did not at all relish this answer, but plainly perceived that Harold was laying out for Salvo’s to avoid the charge of perjury. Upon which, he sent over another Embassy on the same errand, to put him in mind of the strictness of his Oath; and, that damnation from God, and disgrace among men, are the certain rewards of perjury. But because William’s Daughter (who, as betroth’d to Harold, was a tye upon him for the discharge of his Promise) was now dead; they were entertained with greater coldness, and return’d with the same answer as at the first. Now, nothing was like to ensue, but open war. Harold prepares a fleet, levies soldiers, places garrisons in the most convenient parts of the sea-coast; in short, omits nothing which may contribute towards repelling the Normans.

Tosto invades Harold. In the mean time, what was never so much as thought of, the first storm comes from Tosto, Harold’s own Brother. He was a man of a high spirit and cruel temper; and had for some time Presided over the Kingdom of Northumberland with great insolence; till at last, for his barbarous treatment of his inferiors, his insolent carriage towards his Prince, and a mortal hatred to his own brethren, he was cashiered by Edward the Confessor, and went over into France. And at this juncture, encourag’d in all probability by Baldwin Earl of Flanders, and drawn-in by William Duke of Normandy (for Tosto and William had married two of Earl Baldwin’s daughters) he declar’d open war against his brother, whom he had for a long time mortally hated. He set out from Flanders with 60 sail of Pirate-ships, and wasted the Isle of Wight, and very much annoy’d the Kentish coast: but being frighted at the approach of the Royal Navy, he set sail, and, steering towards the remote parts of England, landed in Lincolnshire, and plundered that County. There he was engag’d by Edgar and Morcar, and defeated: then he made for Scotland, with a design to renew the war.

Now, were all thoughts in suspense, upon the expectation of a double Invasion, one from Scotland, and another from Normandy; and their fears were heighten’d by the dreadful appearance of a CometA Comet. at Easter, for about seven days together. This (as it usually does, in troublesom times) set the distracted brains of the people a-work, to presage what miseries were to follow. But Harold, having a strict eye to every part of the Kingdom, fortify’d the South-coast with garrisons. He was not apprehensive of much danger from Scotland and Tosto, because * * Malcolmus.Mil-Columbus King of Scots was diverted by a civil war.

William prepares for an Invasion. In the mean time, William was continually thinking of a descent into England. He occasionally advis’d with his Officers, and found them chearful and full of hopes; but all the difficulty was, how to procure money to carry on so important a war. For upon a proposal made at a Publick meeting of the States of Normandy about raising a subsidy, it was urg’d, That the Nation was so exhausted by their former wars with France, that if they engag’d in a new war, they should have much ado even to act defensively: that they were concern’d rather to secure their own, than to invade others; that how just soever the war might be, there was no necessity for it, and that in all probability it would prove of dangerous consequence: And lastly, that the Normans were not bound by their allegiance to serve in foreign wars. No considerations could bring them to raise a supply, though William * * Filius Osberti.Fitzosbert, a Man generally belov’d both by Duke and people, promoted it with the utmost Zeal; and to encourage others, engag’d to build 40 ships at his own charge for the service of the war.

The Duke, finding himself disappointed in this publick way, tries other methods; and sending for the wealthiest of them, one by one, speaks them fair, and desires that each would contribute something towards the war. This drove them to a sort of Emulation, who should be most zealous in the assistance of his Prince, and made them promise largely; and an account being taken of the contributions, a sum beyond expectation was rais’d in an instant. Matters being carried thus far, he sollicits his neighbouring Princes for aid, the Earls of Anjou, Poictou, Mayne, and Bulloigne; upon this encouragement, that they should have a share of the lands in England. Next, he applies himself to Philip King of France, and promises, that in case he contribute his assistance, he will take an Oath of fealty, and hold England under him. But considering it was not by any means the interest of France, that the neighbouring Norman, who already did not seem much to value them, should be strengthen’d by the addition of England (as Princes are always jealous of the growing Power of their neighbours;) Philip was so far from encouraging the design, that he us’d all means to divert him from it. But nothing could draw him from his resolution; wherein he was now confirm’d and justified by the authority of Pope Alexander. (The Pope, about that time, began to usurp a jurisdiction over Princes: and he approv’d the cause, and sent him a consecrated banner as a token of victory and empire, and excommunicated all who should oppose him.) Hereupon, he rais’d a great Army, and got together a vast fleet to S. Valeric’s (a town at the mouth of the river Some) where he lay wind-bound for some time; and, that he might have a fair wind, he spar’d neither prayers nor offerings to S. Valeric, the Saint of the place.

Harold, after he had a long time expected him in vain, resolved to disband his army, lay up his ships, and leave the sea-coast; partly because provisions began to fail, and partly because the Earl of Flanders had assur’d him that William had no design upon England this year. Which he easily believ’d, because putting to sea would be very dangerous at that time, when the ÆquinoxAEquinox Equinox was just at hand. While he was settling these matters, all on a sudden an unexpected invasion puts him under a necessity of getting his army together. Invasion of the King of Norway. For Harold sirnam’d Durus and Harfager, King of Norway, (who had for a long time pirated upon the northern parts of Britain, and possess’d himself of the Isles of Orkney) was drawn over by Tosto upon a prospect of the Kingdom of England, and entered the river Tine with about 500 rovers, where he was joined by Tosto. After they had plunder’d those parts, they weighed anchor, and sailing along the coast of Yorkshire, came into Humber; where they began to break out into all kinds of military Execution. But to stop their progress, Edwin and Morcar, two Earls, attack’d them with a confus’d undisciplined army; which being overpowered by the Norwegians, ran away. The greater part, among whom were the two Earls, made a shift to get off, but many were drown’d in their passage over the river Ouse. The Norwegians, without more ado, resolv’d to lay siege to York; but upon hostages given on both sides, the place was surrender’d. A few days after, Harold having got his whole army together, marched towards York, and from thence towards the Norwegians; who had encamp’d in a very advantageous place. Behind, they were secur’d by the sea; on the left, by the bay of Humber, where their fleet rode at anchor; and on the right and front, by the river Derwent. Notwithstanding all this, Harold attack’d them very vigorously, and the first skirmish was at a * * Stanford-bridge near York.bridge over the river Derwent, where, it is said, one single Norwegian bore up for some time against the whole English army, till at last he was shot dead. Next, the battle was removed to the camp, where the advantages on both sides were equal for a while. At last, on the side of the Norwegians the ranks were broken; and Harold King of Norwey, with Tosto, and the greatest part of their army, were slain. The booty which Harold got by this victory, was very considerable; gold and silver in great plenty, and every ship of that large fleet, except twenty small vessels, which he gave to Paul Earl of Orkney, and Olavus (son of Harold who was slain,) to carry off their wounded; first taking an Oath of them, that they would never again disturb England. Harold was exceedingly hearten’d with this victory, and hop’d that it would as much dishearten the Normans; though his own subjects began to hate him, for not distributing the spoil among the soldiers. All his thoughts were spent in the settlement of the Nation, which, especially in those parts, was in a miserable condition.

William lands. In the mean time, William the Norman had a favourable wind: he set sail about the end of September, and, by the benefit of a gentle gale, pass’d with his whole fleet to Pemsey in Sussex. He found the coast clear; and to cut of all hopes of escaping by flight, he fir’d the ships. After he had built a castle there, for a retreat, he went forward to Hastings, where he built another, and put a garrison in it. Next, he publish’d the reasons of this invasion; To revenge the death of his kinsman Alfred, whom among many other Normans, Godwin, Harold’s father, had slain; and, to take satisfaction for the injuries which Harold had done, in banishing Robert Archbishop of Canterbury, and accepting the Crown of England, contrary to his own express Oath. And he also publish’d a strict order among his Soldiers, that none should plunder the English.

News of these things was quickly brought to Harold; who judging it most advisable to engage the Norman as soon as possible, dispatches messengers to all parts, beseeches his subjects to be true to him, gets his whole army together, and marches with all speed to London. William sent an Embassador to him there, who, with great importunity demanding the Crown, did so provoke and incense him, that he very hardly restrain’d himself from violence. His late victory had wrought him up to so much insolence and assurance, that it was a difficult thing to bring him down. Forth-with, he sent Embassadors to William, with very severe threatnings of what he was to expect, unless he return’d immediately to Normandy. William dismiss’d them with a gentile answer, and with great civility. Harold, in the mean time, makes a general muster at London, and finds his forces considerably lessen’d by the late battle with the Norwegians; but, however makes up a strong body, out of the Nobility and others, whose concern for the publick safety had invited them to take arms. Presently, he marches into Sussex, though altogether contrary to the advice of his mother; and with undaunted resolution encamps in a plain scarce seven miles from the Normans.

Preparations for a Battel. William with his army advanc’d towards him. Spies were sent out by both sides. Those of the English, either out of ignorance or design, gave a prodigious account of the number, preparations, and disciplin of the Normans. Upon this, Gythus, Harold’s younger brother, and a very famous soldier, did not think it advisable to run the hazard of a decisive battle. He told the King, that the issue of War was at best dubious; that victories depended oftner upon fortune than courage; and that mature deliberation was the greatest part of military Conduct. He advised him, in case he had made a promise to William of the reversion of the Kingdom, at least not to fight in person; because no forces could guard him against his own conscience, and God would certainly punish every breach of promise: adding, that nothing could cast a greater damp upon the Normans, than if he should raise a new army, to engage them afresh. He farther promised, that if he would trust him with the management of the Battel, he would discharge the duty of a faithful brother, and a resolute General: adding, that as he had the support of a good conscience, he might defeat the enemy more easily, or at least die more happily in the service of his country.

The King did not like such language, as thinking that all this plainly tended to the dishonour of his person. For as he could be very well content to run the hazard of a battle, so the imputation of cowardise was a thing he could not bear. As for the terrible account they gave of the Normans, he made light of it; and could not think it consisted with his dignity or former behaviour, now he was come to the last hazard, like a coward to run away, and so to bring upon himself eternal Reproach. Thus, whom God has mark’d for destruction, he always infatuates.

While these things were going forward, William, out of a pious care for the interest of Christendom, and to prevent the effusion of Christian blood, sent out a Monk, as Mediator between both: Who propos’d these terms to Harold; either to resign the government; or to own it a Tenure in fee from the Norman; or to decide the matter in single combat with William; or, at least, to stand to the Pope’s determination. But he, like one who had lost the government over himself, rejected all propositions, and referr’d his cause entirely to the tribunal of God. Next day (which was the 14th of October) he promis’d to give them battle; foolishly flattering himself with success, because it was his birth-day. That night, the English spent in revels, feasting, and shouting; but the Normans, in prayers for the safety of their army, and for victory. Next morning by break of day both armies drew up. In Harold’s, the Kentish men with their halberts were in the van (for by an old custom they claim the front of the battle;) andAltero the rear, was Harold and his brother, the Midland English, and the Londoners. The van of the Norman army was led up by Roger of Montgomery and William Fitzosberne; and consisted of the horse of Anjou, Perch, Maine, and Little Britain; most of which had serv’d under Fergentas the Briton. The main battle, made up of Poictovins and Germans, was commanded by Geffrey Martel, and a German Stipendiary. In the rear, was the Duke himself with a strong body of Normans, and the flower of the Nobility. The Archers were mix’d through the whole army.

The Battle. Cantus Rolandi. The Normans, after a regular shout, sounded to Battle, and advanc’d. They charged first with a volley of arrows, from all parts; and that being a sort of Attack to which the English were strangers, prov’d exceeding terrible: for they fell so thick, that they thought the enemy was got into the midst of their army. Next, they charg’d the front of the English; who, resolving rather to die upon the spot, than retreat, kept their ranks, and repulsed them with great loss. The Normans attack’d them a second time, and they bore up stoutly one against the other. Thus, hand to hand, and man to man, they were for some time very warmly engaged; but the English kept close in one body, and maintain’d their ground with so much bravery, that the Normans being most miserably harrass’d, were upon the point of retreating, had not William acted the part as well of a common soldier as a General, and by his authority prevented their Retreat. By this means, the battle was continu’d, and the Norman horse were sent with all speed to reinforce them, while the English were overwhelmed with showers of arrows: and yet, for all that, they kept their ranks. For Harold, behaving himself in all respects like a brave General, was every where ready with succours; and William, on the other side, was nothing inferior. He had two horses killed under him; and after he saw that nothing could be done by force, he began to act by stratagem. He ordered his men to sound a retreat, and to give ground; but still to keep their ranks. The English, taking this for flight, thought the day was certainly their own: whereupon, they broke their ranks, and, not doubting of victory, pursued the enemy in great disorder. But the Normans, rallying their troops on a sudden, renew’d the battle, and enclosing the English in that disorder, kill’d great numbers, while they stood doubtful whether they should run or fight. But a considerable number, posting themselves on the higher grounds, got into a body, and encourag’d one another, and opposed the Enemy with great resolution; as if they had made choice of that place for an honourable death. The Victory. At last, Harold was shot through the head with an arrow, and, there, with his two brothers, Gythus and Leofwine, lost his life. Upon this, Edwin and Morcar, with some few who had sav’d their lives, escap’d by flight (giving way to the hand of providence, and the present necessity,) after they had fought without intermission from seven a-clock in the morning to the dusk of the evening. The Normans lost in this battle about 6000 men, and the English a far greater number. William, overjoy’d with his victory, order’d a solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God, and pitch’d his tent in the middle of the slain; where he stay’d that night. Next day, after he had buried his dead, and granted leave to the English to do the like; he return’d to Hastings to consider of proper methods how to pursue his victory and to refresh his soldiers.

As soon as the news of this victory reach’d London and other cities of England, the whole Nation was in a surprise, and in a manner confounded. Githa, the King’s mother, was so overcome with grief, that no way was found to comfort her. She humbly desir’d of the Conqueror the bodies of her sons; which she bury’d in Waltham-Abby. Edwin sent away Queen Algitha his sister, into the remote parts of the Kingdom. The Nobility desir’d the people not to despair, and began to consider of methods how to settle the Nation. The Arch-bishop of York, with the City of London, and theClassiarii.
Sea-men (commonly called Botescarles) were for making Eadgar King, and for renewing the war with William. Edwin and Morcar were secretly contriving to get the Government into their own hands. But the Bishops, Prelats, and others upon whom the Pope’s Anathema made a deeper impression, thought it most advisable to surrender, and not to incense the Conqueror with a second battel, the issue whereof was but at best doubtful; nor resist God, who for the crying sins of the nation had deliver’d England into the hands of the Normans.

William marches to London. William, leaving a garrison in Hastings, resolv’d to march in a hostile manner directly to London; but, to diffuse a greater terror through the nation, and to make all sure behind him, he divided his forces, and march’d through part of Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hamshire, and Berkshire. As he went, he burnt the villages and houses, and plunder’d them, pass’d the Thames at Walingford, and fill’d all places with the utmost consternation. The Nobility all this while were at a stand what to do, nor could they be persuaded to lay aside private animosities, and consult the publick interest of the nation. The Clergy, to gain absolution from the curses and censures of the Pope (by which he did at that time tyrannize over men and kingdoms) and considering that affairs were now desperate, stood so firm to their resolution of surrendering, that many, to save themselves, withdrew out of the City. But Alfred Archbishop of York, Wolstan Bishop of Worcester, with some other Bishops, and Edgar Etheling, Edwin, and Morcar, met the Norman Conqueror at Berkhamsted. He made them most glorious promises; upon which, hostages were given, and they submitted themselves to his protection. Forth-with, he went to London, where he was receiv’d and saluted King, with great joy and acclamation. Next, he prepar’d all necessaries for the Inauguration, which he had appointed to be on Christmas-day; and in the mean time employed all his care and thoughts for the settlement of the Nation.

This was the period of the Saxon Government in Britain, that lasted six hundred and seven years. Which signal Revolution in the Kingdom, some imputed to the avarice of the Magistrates; others to the superstitious laziness of the Clergy; a third sort, to the Comet which then appear’d and the influence of the Stars; a fourth attributed it to God, who for hidden, but always just reasons, disposes of Kingdoms. But others, who look’d into the more immediate causes, charg’d it upon the imprudence of King Edward, who under the specious show of religious chastity, neglected to secure a succession, and thereby made the Kingdom a prey to Ambition.

WHat an insolent and bloody Victory this was, the Monks, who wrote about it, do fully inform us: Nor can we question, but in this, as in all others, Disorder and Wickedness had the upper hand. William, in token of his conquest, laid aside the greatest part of the English Laws, and introduc’d the Norman customs, and order’d that all Causes should be pleaded in French. The English were dispossess’d of their hereditary estates, and the lands divided among his Soldiers; but with this reserve, that he should remain the † Directum Dominum. direct Proprietor, and oblige them to do homage to him and his successors: that is, that they should hold them in Fee immediately of the King, and themselves be * * Fiduciarii.Feudatory Lords and in actual possession. The Seal of William the Conqueror. He made a Seal also, on the one side of which was engraven,

Hoc Normannorum Gulielmum nosce patronum.

By this the Norman owns great William, Duke.

On the other side,

Hoc Anglis signo Regem fatearis eundem.

By this too, England owns the same, their King.

Further (as William of Malmsbury tells us) in imitation of Cæsar’sCaesar policy, who would not have those Germans, that skulk’d in the forest of Ardenna, and by their frequent excursions very much annoy’d his army, suppress’d by the Romans, but by his allies the Gauls; that while foreigners destroyed one another, himself might triumph without bloodshed: In Imitation of this, William took the same methods with the English. For there were some, who after the first battle of the unfortunate Harold, had fled into Denmark and Ireland; where they got together a strong body of men, and returned three years after: To oppose them, he dispatch’d away an English army and General, and let the Normans live at their ease. For, which side soever got the best, he found his interest would go forward. And so it proved: for after the English had skirmish’d for some time one with another, the victory was presented to the King without trouble. And in another place : The English thrown out of their Honours. After the power of the Laity was destroy’d, he made a positive declaration, that no Monk or Clergy-man of the English nation, should pretend to any place of dignity; condemning the easiness of King Canutus, who maintain’d the conquered party in full possession of their honours. By which means, after his death, the natives found so little difficulty, in driving out the foreigners and recovering their ancient freedom.

After he had settled these matters, his principal care was, to avoid the storm of the Danish war (which he saw hanging over his head,) and even to purchase a Peace. On this occasion, he made Adalbert Archbishop of Hamburgh, his Agent. For Adam Bremensis says, There was a perpetual quarrel between Sueno, and the Bastard; but our Archbishop being brib’d by William, made it his business to strike up a peace between the two Kings. And it is very probable, that there was a Peace concluded; for, from that time, England was never apprehensive of the Danes. William made it his whole business to maintain the dignity of his government, and to settle and establish the Kingdom by wholsom Laws. For so Gervasius Tilburiensis tells us, After the famous Conqueror of England (King William) had subdu’d the furthest parts of the Island, and terrify’d the Rebels by dreadful examples; that they might not be in a condition to break loose for the future, he resolv’d to bring his Subjects under the obedience of written laws. Whereupon, the Laws of England, according to their threefold division, that is Merchenlage, Denelage, and West-Sexenlage, being laid before him; some of them he abrogated, and others he approved, and added to them such of the foreign Norman Laws, as he found most conducive to the peace of the Kingdom. Next (as we are assur’d by Ingulphus, who lived at that time) he obliged all the inhabitants of England to do homage, and to swear fealty to him against all others. He took a survey of the whole nation; so that there was not a single Hide of land in England, of which he did not know both the value, and the owner. Not a lake, nor any other place, but was register’d in the King’s Rolls, with its revenue, rent, tenure, and owner; according to the relation of certain Taxers, who were chosen in each Tract, to describe the places belonging to it. This Roll was called the Roll of Winchester, and by the English Domesday,Domesday book, call’d by Gervasius Tilburiensis, Liber Judiciarius. as being an universal and exact account of every tenement in the whole nation. And I the rather make mention of this Book, because I shall have frequent occasion to quote it hereafter, under the name of William’s Taxbook, the Notitia of England, The Cess-book of England, The publick Acts, and The Survey of England.

But as to Polydore Virgil’s assertion, that William the Conqueror first brought in the Jury of TwelveJury of Twelve., nothing can be more false. For it is plain from Ethelred’s Laws, that it was in use many years before the Conquest. Nor can I see any reason, why he should call it a terrible Jury. Twelve men, who are Freeholders, and qualified according to Law, are duly summon’d out of the Neighbourhood; these are bound by oath to give their real opinion as to matter of fact; they hear the Counsel on both sides, and the evidence; then they take along with them the † Instrumentis.depositions of both parties, and are close confined, and deny’d meat, drink, and fire, till they agree upon their Verdict (unless the want of these may endanger some of their lives.) As soon as they have delivered it, the Judge gives sentence according to Law. And this method was look’d upon by our wise ancestors to be the best, for discovering of truth, hindering of bribes, and preventing partiality.

The Warlike courage of the Normans. How great the Norman Courage was, may be learnt from other Writers: I shall only observe, that being seated in the midst of warlike Nations, they never made submission their refuge, but always arms. By these, they possess’d themselves of the noble Kingdoms of England and Sicily. For Tancred, * * Nepos. Nephew to Richard the Second, Duke of Normandy, and his Successors, perform’d many glorious Exploits in Italy, drove the Saracens out of Sicily, and set up a Kingdom of their own. So that a Sicilian HistorianTh. Fazellus, lib.6. Decadis Posterioris. ingenuously confesses, that it is entirely owing to the Normans, that the Sicilians enjoy their native Soil, their Freedom, and their Christianity. Their valiant behaviour in the wars of the Holy land, exceedingly encreas’d their honour. Which gave Roger Hoveden occasion to say, That bold France, after she had experienced the Norman valour, drew back; fierce England submitted; rich Apulia wasSortita refloruit.restor’d to her flourishing condition; famous Jerusalem and renown’d Antioch were both subdu’d. Since that time, England has been equal, for warlike Exploits and liberal Education, to the most flourishing nations of the Christian world. The English, Guards to the Emperors of Constantinople. So that the English were peculiarly made choice of for Guards to the Emperors of Constantinople. For (as our Country-man Malmsbury has told us) John son of Alexius Comenus very much admiring their fidelity, shew’d them greater respect than he did any others, and recommended them to his son, as men deserving his esteem; and they were, for many years together, the Emperor’s Guards. Nicetas Choniata calls them, Inglini Bipenniferi; and Curopalata,Barangi. Barangi. These attended the Emperor where-ever he went (with halberts upon their shoulders) as oft as he stir’d abroad out of his closet; and pray’d in English for his long life, clashing their halberts one against another to make a noise. As to the blemish which ChalcondilasChalcondilas. has cast upon our nation, of having wives in common, Truth it self wipes it off, and confronts the extravagant folly of the trifling Greek. For (as my most learned and excellent Friend Ortelius speaks upon this very subject,) What one person relates to another, is not always Gospel.

These are the People which have inhabited Britain; of whom there remain to this day, the Britains, the Saxons or Angles, with a mixture of Normans, and, towards the North, the Scots. Hereupon, there are two Kingdoms in the Island, England and Scotland, which were long divided; but † † Are now, C.were happily united under one Imperial Diadem in the most potent Prince, King James ⌈the first ** See Hist. of Union under Q. Anne, before Scotland..⌉

It is not material to take notice of the Flemings, who about † † Four C.five hundred years ago, came over hither, and had leave of the King to settle in Wales;In the County of Pembroke. since we shall mention them in another place. Let us then conclude this part with that of Seneca;De Consolatione, to Albina. From hence it is manifest that nothing has continu’d in its primitive state. There is a continual floating in the affairs of mankind. In this vast orb there are daily revolutions: new foundations of cities laid, and new names given to nations, by the extinction of the former name, or the addition of it to that of a more powerful party. And, considering that all these nations which invaded Britain, were Northern; as were also others, who about that time over-ran Europe and after it, Asia;Nicephorus. Nicephorus’s observation, founded upon the authority of Scripture, is very true. As God very often sends terrors upon men, from heaven, such are thunder, fire, and storms; and from earth, as the opening of the ground, and earthquakes; and out of the air, as whirlwinds, and immoderate rains: So those Northern terrors are as it were reserv’d by God, to be sent out for Punishments, when, and upon whom, the Divine Providence shall think fit.


Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06