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must be referred to his intentions rather than to his actions. It is, however, essential to an usurper to be popular; and human ingenuity cannot invent a spell more potent to excite the favour of its contemporaries than the practice of virtue. All rulers, whose right to power is ambiguous, and whose possession of it depends on the public support, will affect to govern a while with equity and popularity. The true character of Harold cannot therefore be judged from his actions in the emergency of competition; and he perished before the virtues of his disposition could be distinguished from those of his convenience.
It is amusing to remark how industrious the chroniclers of this period have been to record, that a comet appeared this year in the heavens, and that it foreboded the revolutions of greatness, and the bloodshed which ensued (1). The popular impression produced by this comet is shown by its having been worked in the tapestry of Bayeux. This relic of ancient times contains, immediately after Harold's coronation, a rude figure of the comet, with several persons gazing at it with eager eyes and pointing hands (2).
The enjoyment of a favourite object is seldom the consequence of its violent acquisition. Harold found his crown full of the thorns which poets and moralists have been fond of describing. Three competitors prepared at the same time to wrestle with him for it; each was formidable enough to have endangered his prosperity, but the combination of their hostilities could have hardly failed to overpower him.
The rivals of Harold were, his brother Tostig, William duke of Normandy, and Haralld Hardrada, the king of Norway. The two last were sovereigns of long-established authority, and great military experience; and came with peculiar advantage into a conflict with Harold, whose ancestry was obscure, whose power was young, whose title was questionable, and whose friends were but a party in the nation which he governed.
Tostig was a man of talents and activity, but his fraternal relation gave to his hostilities a peculiar venom. He had been expelled from Northumbria in a preceding reign, and he had not been recalled by Harold. His discontent and envy were fostered by William who embraced the policy of multiplying the enemies and of dividing the strength of Harold.
Eager to oppress his more fortunate brother, Tostig attempted,
(1) Will. Gem. p. 285.; Matt. West. 439.; and many annalists. I believe that above ninety comets have been remarked in the heavens.
(2) The inscription over the men is:-Isti mirant stella. The MS. Chronicles, Tib. B. 1. and B. 4. thus mention the comet :-Tha wearthgeond eall Engla land swylc tacen on heofenum gesewen swylce nan man er ne geseah. Sume men cwedon that hit tometa se streorra wære thone sume men hatath thone Fixedon steorran and he ateowde æreft on thone æfen Letania major 8 K mai and swa sean ealle tha seofon niht."
but in vain, to excite the king of Denmark to attack him. On the mind of Haralld Hardrada, king of Norway, he operated with more success. The Norwegian consented to invade England in the summer (1).
Tostig went to Flanders, to prepare the means of an aggression of his own. He visited William of Normandy, of whose ambition he was made a convenient instrument (2). He collected all the English who were willing to join him; he raised many supplies from Flanders (3), and with sixty ships proceeded to the English coast.
He levied contributions from the Isle of Wight, and plundered along the shore till he reached Sandwich. Harold was then at London. He collected a very numerous fleet and army, because he perceived that his brother's force was but the advanced guard of William. When Harold reached Sandwich, Tostig, whose friends were chiefly in the north, sailed hastily for Lincolnshire, and committed many ravages on Lindesey. The earls of Mercia and Northumbria allowed him no time to collect support, but commenced an immediate opposition (4). Tostig, defeated by their energy, fled to Scotland with twelve ships (5), to wait the arrival of his allies, and Malcolm gave him an asylum.
The first shaft of danger was thus happily averted from Harold; but the feeblest arm of the confederacy had thrown it, and the triumph did not much augment the security of the king. The two sovereigns, whose power singly was sufficient to endanger him, were now preparing a combined attack.
William accedes William, the rival of Harold, was the son of Robert, the fifth duke of Normandy. He was not a legitimate child (6); but in these days this circumstance, though always a reproach (7), did not prevent deserving talents from attaining the royal succession. William, like our Athelstan and Edmund Ironside, was admitted to assume the dignity of his father.
When Robert, obeying a fashion of his day, went to Jerusalem with a noble retinue, he appointed his boy William, though but a
(1) Snorre, v. iii. p. 146-149. W. Gemmet, 285..
(2) Order. Vital. 492.
(3) Snorre, 150.
(4) Malmsb. 94.; Hunt. 367. Matt. West. p. 433. says 40. The MS. Chronicle, Tib. B. 4. mentions that Tostig came to Wight, mid swa miclum lithe swa he begitan mihte. But in stating his entrance into the Humber, it adds, mid sixtigum scirum.
(5) MS. Chron. Tib. Bib. 4. mid 12 dnaccum.
(6) His mother was Herleva, or Harlotta, the daughter of Fullbert, an officer of the duke's household. After Robert's death she was married by Herluin, a probus miles, and left him two sons, of whom one, Odo, became an archbishop; the other also obtained reputation. W. Gemmet, lib. vii. c. 3.
(7) Therefore one of his nobles declared, quod nothus non deberet sibi aliisque Normannis imperare. Gem. lib. vii. c. 3. Glaber Rodulphus says of the NorFuit enim usui a primo adventu ipsius gentis in Gallias, ex hujusmodi concubinarum commixtione illorum principes extitisse, p. 47.
child, to govern Normandy in his stead, under the superintendance of a wise and faithful administration; and he engaged his nobles and the king of France to guard his arrangement (1). Robert died at Nice, on his return from Palestine, in 1035, the same year in which Canute the Great departed from this scene of his existence (2).
William, at the age of eight, became the duke of Normandy (3). His minority tempted many nobles to rebel against him, and to be turbulent towards each other. The king of France also coveted his dominions. Normandy was for many years harassed by wars, murders, and civil feuds; and William, like Philip of Macedon, experienced adversity enough to excite his energies, and to discipline his judgment. The abilities of his friends at first, and afterwards his own good conduct, surmounted every difficulty (4). 'He not only secured his own power, but having so often measured it against others with success, he was taught to know its strength, to nurture ambition upon that knowledge, and to look around him for new theatres on which his active mind could be employed with profit, and where increased celebrity would reward its exertions (5).
The friendship of Edward, the visit of Harold, and the state of the English court, excited and determined him to aim at the sceptre of our island.
The sudden coronation of Harold prevented the ef- William's message fect of any private intrigues, and left to William no hope but from his sword. William, however, knew that the combat was half gained if the moral impressions of society were in his favour; and he therefore sent an embassy to Harold gently expostulating upon the seizure of the crown, reminding him of the sworn compact, and announcing hostilities if he persisted in the violation. After Harold's coronation, such messages could be only a theatrical trick, played off by the Norman, to call the attention of the people to the moral circumstances of the case, to introduce the claims of William publicly to their notice, to encourage his partisans, and to assume the merit of peaceful discussion. William could never have supposed that upon a mere message Harold would have walked down humbly from the throne which he had been so hasty to ascend.
Harold acted his part in the diplomatic farce, and Harold's answer. gave a popular answer. His topics were as well selected
as the case afforded. An oath extorted by violence could not be binding on the conscience. Human laws admitted a maiden's vow
(1) Glaber, p. 47.
(2) Gemmet, lib. vi. c. 12, 13. Ord. Vit. lib. iii. p. 459.
(3) Ord. Vit. 459.
(4) On William's struggles to regain his dignity, see Guil. Pictav.; W. Gemmet, and Orderic. Vitalis. They may be also read in Daniel's Histoire de France, vol. i. p. 362-368.
(5) He married Mathilda, the daughter of Baldwin, count of Flanders. Gemmet, p. 277. She was descended from Alfred's daughter.
to be annulled, which was made without her parents' consent: as void must be the promise of an envoy, pledged without his master's knowledge. Besides, how could any individual alienate the right of royal succession without the national consent? And how could he abandon voluntarily a dignity with which the favour of the most potent nobles of England had honoured him (1)?
By wedding Alditha, the daughter of earl Algar (2), instead of Adeliza, the daughter of William (3), Harold strengthened himself at home, because Mercia and Northumbria were governed by the brothers of the lady.
William held council with his chiefs on his project William prepares. of invasion. Some thought the chance unfavourable to Normandy, and dissuaded it (4). The influence of the duke surmounted opposition, and preparations were vigorously made. A great number of ships were immediately constructed (5). The tapestry, after the representation of a ship arriving from England, shows William on his throne, with the inscription, "Here Duke William gave orders to build ships." Men cutting down trees with axes, and planing them into planks; others arranging and hammering these into vessels, are the next figures. Afterwards five men appear pulling ships after them by ropes. Above are these words : Here they drew the ships to the sea.”
Men carrying coats of mail, spears, swords, and wine, and two others dragging a car, laden with weapons, and a barrel, are then exhibited. The inscription is: "These carry arms to the ships, and here they draw a car with wine and arms." Such was the expedition of the workmen, that they were ready by the end of August (6).
While the means of conveyance were providing, William was active in assembling soldiers sufficient for his attempt. His purpose was diffused through every land, and the courageous adventurer was invited from every coast to share in the honour, the danger, and the booty of the conflict. Crowds of fighters came
(1) Matt. Paris, p. 2. Matt. West. 434. Eadmer, (2) Gemmet, 285.
(3) She died at this crisis. Mat. Par. 2.
(4) Guil. Pictav. 197. and Ord. Vital. p. 493.
(5) Guil. Pictav. 197. W. Gemmet, 286., says, he had 3000 ships built; which seem too many either to be wanted by him or to be believed by us. Ord. Vital. says, that many ships were diligently made in Normandy with their utensils; and that both clergy and laity, by their money and liquors, assisted in the business, 496. (6) The Roman de Rou thus describes these things:
from all parts adjacent (1). He collected powerful supplies from Bretagne, France, Flanders, and their vicinity (2), which, joined with the soldiers whom he raised in his own Normandy, presented a mass of force not less formidable from their spirit of enterprise and their enthusiasm, than from their numbers and the military skill of William, who had been accustomed to warfare from his infancy. The emperor so far favoured the expedition as to promise to protect Normandy against any enemies who might invade it in the duke's absence (3). William was here also peculiarly fortunate. The king of France, though so much interested in preventing the duke of Normandy from acquiring the additional power of the English crown, yet did not interfere to prevent the collection and departure of the expedition. Perhaps he judged it to be a desperate effort, and waited to profit by its failure. William availed himself of the oaths which Harold had broken, to give to his cause the appearance of religious sanctity; he therefore consulted with the pope, who sent him a consecrated banner (4).
While William was putting in action every means of King of Norway offensive aggression, which talents like his, so exercised in warfare, could devise, the king of Norway was also summoning all the resources of his country to give prosperity to his ambitious hopes. It is a pleasing instance of the growing importance of England, that his notice to his subjects, of his intended expedition, did not meet with the unanimous concurrence of the Norwegian mountaineers. Though some, exulting in the recollection of their Haralld's achievements, thought disaster impossible; yet others intimated that England abounded with valiant chiefs and soldiers (5). Like a part of the Norman nobility, they did not hesitate to foretell that the invasion would be a work of perilous difficulty, and doubtful issue.
The time had been, when to mention an expedition against England was to collect speedily a numerous fleet of cager adventurers. But now that experience had made known the bravery of the natives, as the hour of attack drew near, ominous dreams began to flit through Norway: Snorre has detailed three of these, and mentions that many other portents occurred of dire and ill-boding import (6). The dark minds of the North discovered their feelings by their superstitions. They began to dread the English power, and they found deterring omens, because they were disposed to look for them.
(1) Convenit etiam externus miles in auxilium copiosus. Guil. Pict. 197. Rumoribus quoque viri pugnaces de vicinis regionibus exciti convenerunt. Ord. Vit. 494.
(2) Ingentum quoque exercitum ex Normannis et Flandrensibus ac Francis et Britonibus aggregavit. W. Gem. 286. Galli namque et Britones, Pictavini et Burgundiones aliique populi Cisalpini ad bellum transmarinum convolarunt. Ord. Vit. 494. (3) Guil. Pict. 197. (4) Guil. Pict. 197. Ord. Vit. 493. (5) Snorre, Saga of Haralldi Hardrada, c. 82. p. 149. (6) Snorre, 150-152.