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as Canute. They expressly state that Edric was corrupted by Canute to assassinate Edmund (1).
A remarkable character began his progress to greatness in this reign this was the famous carl Godwin, who possessed a power little less than sovereign for three reigns, and whose son Harold was the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings. His origin has never yet been mentioned in English history; but as the rise of poverty to grandeur is always an interesting contemplation, we will state the short history of Godwin's elevations.
Rise of Earl
That Godwin was the son of an herdsman, is a fact An herdsman's recorded in the MS. Chronicle of Radulphus Niger. This author says explicitly what no other has mentioned, "Earl Godwin was the son of an herdsman." It adds, that he was brought up by Canute (2). How the son of a Saxon herdsman came to be brought up by Canute, the note will explain (3).
this event, says, "Nocte siquidem sequentis diei festivitatis Sancti Andreæ Lundoniæ perimitur insidiis Edrici Streane perfidissimi ducis." Cotton Lib MS. Tib. B. 2. The encomiast of Emma says, he was long and greatly lamented by his people, p. 171.
(1) Erat tunc temporis inter Anglos vir potens, Heidricus Striona nomine. Is a rege Canuto pecunia corruptus est ut Jatmundum clam interficeret. Hoc modo Jatmundus rex periit." Knytl. Saga, p. 139. To the same purpose Saxo, "Memorant alii Edvardum clandestino Canuti imperio occisum," lib. x. p. 193. Snorre says, Eodem mense Heinrikus Striona occidit Edmundum regem." Olafi Helga, p. 24. Adam of Bremen says he was poisoned, p. 31.
(2) It is a MS. in the Cotton Library, Vespasian, D. 10. In the second side of page 27., it says, "Godwinus comes filius bubulci fuit." It adds, "Hic Godwinus a rege Cnutone nutritus processu temporis in Daciam cum breve regis transmissus callide duxit sororem Cnutonis."
(3) The Knytlinga Saga gives us that explanation which no other document affords.
One of the Danish chieftains, who accompanied Canute to England, has been noticed to have been Ulfr, the son of Sprakalegs, who had married Canute's sister Astrida. In the battle of Skorstein, between Canute and Edmund, he fought in Canute's first line, and pursued part of the English fugitives into a wood so eagerly, that, when he turned to rejoin his friends, he saw no path; he wandered about it only to bewilder himself, and night involved him before he had got out of it. In the morning he beheld near him a full-grown youth driving cattle to their pasture. He saluted the lad, and enquired his name he was answered, "Gudin," or Godwin.
Ulfr requested the youth to show him the tract which would lead him to Canute's ships. Godwin informed him that he was at a great distance from the Danish navy ; that the way was across a long and inhospitable wood; that the soldiers of Canute were greatly hated by the country people; that the destruction of the yesterday's battle at Skorstein was known around; that neither he nor any soldier of Canute's would be safe if the peasants saw him; nor would the person be more secure who should attempt to assist an enemy.
Ulfr, conscious of his danger, drew a gold ring from his finger, and proffered it to the youth, if he would conduct him to his friends. Godwin contemplated it awhile; but that greatness of mind which sometimes accompanies talents even in a lowly state, glowed within him, and, in an emanation of a noble spirit he exclaimed,
Canute the Great.
Canute, from his warlike ability, surnamed the Brave; from his renown and empire, the Great; from his liberality, the Rich; and from his devotion, the Pious (1); obtained, on Edmund's death, the sovereignty of all England at the age of twenty (2).
The Northerns have transmitted to us the portrait of Canute : he was large in stature, and very powerful; he was fair, and distinguished for his beauty; his nose was thin, eminent, and aquiline; his fair was profuse; his eyes bright and fierce (3).
He was chosen king by general assent; his partisans were numerous in the country, and who could resist his power? His measures to secure his crown were sanguinary and tyrannical; but the whole of Canute's character breathes an air of barbaric grandeur. He was formed by nature to tower amidst his contemporaries; but his country and his education intermixed his greatness with a fe-' rocity that compels us to shudder while we admire. In one
"I will not accept your ring, but I will try to lead you to your friends. If I succeed, reward me as you please."
He led Ulfr first to his father's humble mansion, and the earl received an hospitable refreshment.
When the shades of night promised secrecy, two horses were saddled, and Ulfnadr, the father, bade the earl farewell. "We commit you to our only son, and hope, that if you reach the king, and your influence can avail, you will get him admitted into the royal household. Here he cannot stay; for should our party know that he preserved you, his safety would be doubtful." Perhaps Ulfnadr remembered the high fortunes of his uncle Edric, who was now duke of Mercia; and hoped that, if his son could get a station in the royal palace, he might, like Edric, ascend from poverty to greatness.
Godwin was handsome, and fluent in his elocution. His qualitics and services interested Ulfr, and a promise to provide for him was freely pledged.
They travelled all night, and in the next day they reached the station of Canute, where Ulfr, who was much beloved, was very joyfully received. The grateful Jarl placed Godwin on a lofty seat, and had him treated with the respect which his own child might have claimed. He continued his attachment so far, as afterwards to marry him to Gyda, his sister. To oblige Ulfr, Canute, in time, raised Godwin to the dignity of Jarl. Knytlinga Saga, 105. and 131–133.
(1) Dr. Hickes's dedication to his Thesaurus. His baptismal name was Lambert. Frag. Isl. 2 Lang. 426.
(2) The Knytlinga Saga, and Qlave Tryggvason Saga, state Canute to have been but ten years old at his father's death. If so, he could be only twelve at his accession. This is not probable. One document speaks more truly. Snorre, in his Saga af Magnusi Goda, states Canute to have been forty when he died. This was in 1035; and therefore in 1016, he must have been twenty-one. Snorre's words are, “ Eodem autumno vita funclus est rex Knutus potens Anglia idibus Novembris natus tunc annos quadraginta," c. iv. p. 7.
(3) Knyllinga Saga, p. 148.
respect he was fortunate; his mind and manners refined as his age matured. The first part of his reign was cruel and despotic. His latter days shone with a glory more unclouded.
His first policy was against the children of Ethelred and Edmund. One of his scallds, Sighvatr, sings, that all the sons of Ethelred he slew or banished (1). The Saxon annalist assures us, that he determined at first to exile Edwig, the half-brother of Edmund; but finding the English nobles both submissive and adulating, he proceeded to gratify his ambition by taking the prince's life. The infamous Edric suggested to him a man, Ethelwold, a nobleman of high descent, who would undertake to accomplish his criminal desires. The king incited Ethelwold to the measure. "Acquiesce with my wishes, and you shall enjoy securely all the honour and dignity of your ancestors. Bring me his head, and you shall be dearer to me than a brother." This was the language of a northern vikingr, to whom human life was of no value. Ethelwold affected a compliance; but his seeming readiness was but an artifice to get the child into his power, and to preserve his life. Edwig did not ultimately escape. The next year he was deceived by those whom he most esteemed; and, by Canute's request and command, he was put to death (2).
With the same guilty purpose, he seized Edward and Edmund, the children of the last king; but he was counselled that the country would not endure their destruction. Alarmed from immediate crime, he sent them to the king of Sweden, to be killed. This prince was too noble to be a murderer, and had them conveyed to Salomon, the king of Hungary, to be preserved and educated (3). One died; the other, Edward, married Agatha, the daughter of Henry, the German emperor; and their issue was Edgar Athcling, who will be remembered in a future reign.
Canute, reserving to himself the immediate government of Wessex, committed East Anglia to Turketul, whose valour had greatly contributed to the subjection of England. He gave Mercia to Edric, and Northumbria to his friend Eric, the Norwegian prince. He made a public treaty of amity with the English chiefs and people, and by mutual agreement all enmities were laid aside. In the same year, the solemn compact was violated; for he slew three English noblemen without a fault (4). He banished Edwig,
Deinceps filiorum Adelradi
Vel interfecit Cnutus
Sigvatr Knutzdrapu, quoted in Knytl. Saga, p. 140. (2) Flor. Wig. 390, 391. (3) Ibid. 391. (4) Sine culpâ. Flor. 391. Mailros, 155. The Encomium Emma says, he killed many princes: "Multos principum quadam die occidere pro hujusmodi dolo juberet." The dolus here alleged was, that they had deceived Edmund. Their rea! crime may have been that they were powerful, and that their submission was dubious. Ingulf, 58., and the Annals of Burton, 247., mention some of Edric's friends as killed.
the king of the peasants (1), and divided the estates of the nobles among his Danish friends.
The punishment of Edric would have been a homage to virtue from any other person than Canute. The crime he prompted he should not have punished. But it is an observation almost as old as human nature, that traitors are abhorred by their employers. In the first days of Canute's unsettled throne, he confirmed Edric in his Mercian dukedom; but having used the profligate Saxon to establish his dignity, on the next claim of reward, he expressed his latent feelings. Edric imprudently boasted of his services: "I first deserted Edmund, to benefit you; for you I killed him." Canute coloured; for the anger of conscious guilt and irrepressible shame came upon him. ""Tis fit then you should die, for your treason to God and me. You killed your own lord! him who by treaty and friendship was my brother! your blood be upon your own head, for murdering the Lord's anointed; your own lips bear witness against you." The villain who perpetrated the fact was confounded by the hypocrite who had countenanced it. Eric, the ruler of Norway, was called in, that the royal intention might be secretly executed. He struck down the wretch with his battleaxe, and the body was thrown from the window into the Thames, before any tumult could be raised among his partisans (2). The two sons of Ethelred, by Emma, were sheltered in Normandy. Canute married Emma, called also Elfgiva, the widow of Ethelred. He distinguished his next year by a most oppressive exaction from London he compelled 10,500 pounds, and from the rest of the kingdom 72,000.
To soothe the country, he sent home the largest portion of his Danish troops, keeping only forty vessels in England. In this he displayed the confidence of a noble mind. He maintained an exact equality between the two nations, in ranks, council, and war. In 1019, England was so tranquil, that he went to Denmark, and passed the winter in his native country.
Canute maintained his dignity with a severe hand. In 1020, after his return from the Baltic, he held a great council in the Easter festivity at Cirencester. At this he banished the duke Ethelwerd. In 1021, he also exiled the celebrated Turketul. In this year the Anglo-Saxons obscurely intimate, that Canute went to Denmark, where he was attacked by Ulfr and Eglaf, with a fleet and army from Sweden. In one
(1) Ceorla cyng. Sax. Chron. 151. qui rex appellabatur rusticorum. Flor. Wig. 398. Bromton says he was the brother of Edmund, 907.; but I doubt that this is
(2) This narration is taken from Malmsb. 73. compared with Encom. Emmæ. The circumstances of his death are told differently, as usual. Florence admits that he was killed in the king's palace; but one says, that he was hanged; another, that he was strangled; another, that he was beheaded. Human testimony is characterised by these petty variations.
struggle Canute was unsuccessful; but afterwards the young earl Godwin attacked the enemies of Canute by surprise, with the English troops, and obtained a complete victory. This event raised Godwin and the English very greatly in the king's estimation (1).
The Eglaf was St. Olave, who had possessed himself of the kingdom of Norway. Canute, occupied by his English crown, made at first no pretensions to the Norwegian sceptre (2). The submission of England gave him leisure to turn the eye of ambition to the mountains of Norway (3). Claims, those slight veils with which states desirous of war always cover their unjust projects, to conceal their deformity from the giddy populace; claims adapted to interest the passions of vulgar prejudice, existed to befriend Canute. His father had conquered Norway; his relation, Haco, had been driven from it. Many of the people who had most loudly welcomed St. Olave, had become dissatisfied at his innovations, and invited Canute to interfere (4).
The detail of the struggle between Canute and St. Olave need not be narrated here. Ulfr at first was among the enemies of Canute. He was afterwards pardoned and reconciled (5); and in the king's conflict with the Swedes, was the means of saving Canute's life (6).
At a feast in Roschild, Canute, according to Snorre, quarrelled with Ulfr at gaming. The indignant Jarl prudently retired. Canute taunted him on his cowardice for withdrawing. "Was I a coward when I rescued you from the fangs of the Swedish dogs?" was the answer of the irritated Ulfr. Canute went to his couch, and slept upon his resentment; but his fierce and haughty soul waked in the morning to demand blood. He sent his mandate, and Ulfr was stabbed in a church which he had entered (7). Canute descended so far beneath the courage of a hero, as to corrupt the subjects of Olave from their fidelity by money (8). Canute supported his insidious negotiations by a powerful fleet. Fifty ships of English thanes were with him; and every district in Norway which he approached accepted him as its lord (9). He exacted for hostages the sons and dearest relations of the chiefs of Norway, and appointed Haco, the son of his friend Eric, to be the governor of his conquests (10).
St. Olave retired before the storm, which he was unable to confront, and took shelter in Russia. Haco sailed to England for his wife; but he was doomed to visit Norway
(1) Sax. Chron. 154. Matt. West. 405.
(2) Snorre, vol. ii. p. 144.
(4) Snorre, 212, 213.
(3) Snorre, p. 212.
(5) See Snorre, 26-69.; and compare Saxo's account, 195, 196.
(10) Snorre, 296.