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Title: History of the English People, Volume I (of 8) - Early England, 449-1071; Foreign Kings, 1071-1204; The Charter, 1204-1216
Author: Green, John Richard, 1837-1883
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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VOLUME I (OF 8)***

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Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford

FOREIGN KINGS, 1071-1204
THE CHARTER, 1204-1216

_First Edition, Demy 8vo, November_ 1877;
_Reprinted December_ 1877, 1881, 1885, 1890.
_Eversley Edition,_ 1895.
London MacMillan and Co. and New York 1895

I Dedicate this Book




    Volume I

        Book I--Early England--449-1071

            Authorities for Book I

            Chapter I--The English Conquest of Britain--449-577

            Chapter II--The English Kingdoms--577-796

            Chapter III--Wessex and the Northmen--796-947

            Chapter IV--Feudalism and the Monarchy--954-1071

        Book II--England under Foreign Kings--1071-1204

            Authorities for Book II

            Chapter I--The Conqueror--1071-1085

            Chapter II--The Norman Kings--1085-1154

            Chapter III--Henry the Second--1154-1189

            Chapter IV--The Angevin Kings--1189-1204

        Book III--The Charter--1204-1307

            Authorities for Book III

            Chapter I--John--1204-1216


    Britain and the English Conquest (v1-map-1.png)

    The English Kingdoms in A.D. 600 (v1-map-2.jpg)

    England and the Danelaw (v1-map-3.jpg)

    The Dominions of the Angevins (v1-map-4.jpg)

    Ireland just before the English Invasion (v1-map-5.jpg)




For the conquest of Britain by the English our authorities are scant and
imperfect. The only extant British account is the "Epistola" of Gildas, a
work written probably about A.D. 560. The style of Gildas is diffuse and
inflated, but his book is of great value in the light it throws on the
state of the island at that time, and above all as the one record of the
conquest which we have from the side of the conquered. The English
conquerors, on the other hand, have left jottings of their conquest of
Kent, Sussex, and Wessex in the curious annals which form the opening of
the compilation now known as the "English" or "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,"
annals which are undoubtedly historic, though with a slight mythical
intermixture. For the history of the English conquest of mid-Britain or
the Eastern Coast we possess no written materials from either side; and a
fragment of the Annals of Northumbria embodied in the later compilation
("Historia Britonum") which bears the name of Nennius alone throws light
on the conquest of the North.

From these inadequate materials however Dr. Guest has succeeded by a
wonderful combination of historical and archæological knowledge in
constructing a narrative of the conquest of Southern and South-Western
Britain which must serve as the starting-point for all future enquirers.

This narrative, so far as it goes, has served as the basis of the account
given in my text; and I can only trust that it may soon be embodied in
some more accessible form than that of a series of papers in the
Transactions of the Archæological Institute. In a like way, though
Kemble's "Saxons in England" and Sir F. Palgrave's "History of the
English Commonwealth" (if read with caution) contain much that is worth
notice, our knowledge of the primitive constitution of the English people
and the changes introduced into it since their settlement in Britain must
be mainly drawn from the "Constitutional History" of Professor Stubbs.

Bæda's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum," a work of which I have
spoken in my text, is the primary authority for the history of the
Northumbrian overlordship which followed the Conquest. It is by copious
insertions from Bæda that the meagre regnal and episcopal annals of the
West Saxons have been brought to the shape in which they at present
appear in the part of the English Chronicle which concerns this period.
The life of Wilfrid by Eddi, with those of Cuthbert by an anonymous
contemporary and by Bæda himself, throws great light on the religious and
intellectual condition of the North at the time of its supremacy. But
with the fall of Northumbria we pass into a period of historical dearth.
A few incidents of Mercian history are preserved among the meagre annals
of Wessex in the English Chronicle: but for the most part we are thrown
upon later writers, especially Henry of Huntingdon and William of
Malmesbury, who, though authors of the twelfth century, had access to
older materials which are now lost. A little may be gleaned from
biographies such as that of Guthlac of Crowland; but the letters of
Boniface and Alcwine, which have been edited by Jaffé in his series of
"Monumenta Germanica," form the most valuable contemporary materials for
this period.

From the rise of Wessex our history rests mainly on the English
Chronicle. The earlier part of this work, as we have said, is a
compilation, and consists of (1) Annals of the Conquest of South Britain,
and (2) Short Notices of the Kings and Bishops of Wessex expanded by
copious insertions from Bæda, and after the end of his work by brief
additions from some northern sources. These materials may have been
thrown together into their present form in Ælfred's time as a preface to
the far fuller annals which begin with the reign of Æthelwulf, and which
widen into a great contemporary history when they reach that of Ælfred
himself. After Ælfred's day the Chronicle varies much in value. Through
the reign of Eadward the Elder it is copious, and a Mercian Chronicle is
imbedded in it: it then dies down into a series of scant and jejune
entries, broken however with grand battle-songs, till the reign of
Æthelred when its fulness returns.

Outside the Chronicle we encounter a great and valuable mass of
historical material for the age of Ælfred and his successors. The life of
Ælfred which bears the name of Asser, puzzling as it is in some ways, is
probably really Asser's work, and certainly of contemporary authority.
The Latin rendering of the English Chronicle which bears the name of
Æthelweard adds a little to our acquaintance with this time. The Laws,
which form the base of our constitutional knowledge of this period, fall,
as has been well pointed out by Mr. Freeman, into two classes. Those of
Eadward, Æthelstan, Eadmund, and Eadgar, are like the earlier laws of
Æthelberht and Ine, "mainly of the nature of amendments of custom." Those
of Ælfred, Æthelred, Cnut, with those which bear the name of Eadward the
Confessor, "aspire to the character of Codes." They are printed in Mr.
Thorpe's "Ancient Laws and Institutes of England," but the extracts given
by Professor Stubbs in his "Select Charters" contain all that directly
bears on our constitutional growth. A vast mass of Charters and other
documents belonging to this period has been collected by Kemble in his
"Codex Diplomaticus Ævi Saxonici," and some are added by Mr. Thorpe in
his "Diplomatarium Anglo-Saxonicum." Dunstan's biographies have been
collected and edited by Professor Stubbs in the series published by the
Master of the Rolls.

In the period which follows the accession of Æthelred we are still aided
by these collections of royal Laws and Charters, and the English
Chronicle becomes of great importance. Its various copies indeed differ
so much in tone and information from one another that they may to some
extent be looked upon as distinct works, and "Florence of Worcester" is
probably the translation of a valuable copy of the "Chronicle" which has
disappeared. The translation however was made in the twelfth century, and
it is coloured by the revival of national feeling which was
characteristic of the time. Of Eadward the Confessor himself we have a
contemporary biography (edited by Mr. Luard for the Master of the Rolls)
which throws great light on the personal history of the King and on his
relations to the house of Godwine.

The earlier Norman traditions are preserved by Dudo of St. Quentin, a
verbose and confused writer, whose work was abridged and continued by
William of Jumièges, a contemporary of the Conqueror. William's work in
turn served as the basis of the "Roman de Rou" composed by Wace in the
time of Henry the Second. The primary authority for the Conqueror himself
is the "Gesta Willelmi" of his chaplain and violent partizan, William of
Poitiers. For the period of the invasion, in which the English
authorities are meagre, we have besides these the contemporary "Carmen de
Bello Hastingensi," by Guy, Bishop of Amiens, and the pictures in the
Bayeux Tapestry. Orderic, a writer of the twelfth century, gossipy and
confused but honest and well-informed, tells us much of the religious
movement in Normandy, and is particularly valuable and detailed in his
account of the period after the battle of Senlac. Among secondary
authorities for the Norman Conquest, Simeon of Durham is useful for
northern matters, and William of Malmesbury worthy of note for his
remarkable combination of Norman and English feeling. Domesday Book is of
course invaluable for the Norman settlement. The chief documents for the
early history of Anjou have been collected in the "Chroniques d'Anjou"
published by the Historical Society of France. Those which are authentic
are little more than a few scant annals of religious houses; but light is
thrown on them by the contemporary French chronicles. The "Gesta
Consulum" is nothing but a compilation of the twelfth century, in which a
mass of Angevin romance as to the early story of the Counts is dressed
into historical shape by copious quotations from these French historians.

It is possible that fresh light may be thrown on our earlier history when
historical criticism has done more than has yet been done for the
materials given us by Ireland and Wales. For Welsh history the "Brut y
Tywysogion" and the "Annales Cambriæ" are now accessible in the series
published by the Master of the Rolls; the "Chronicle of Caradoc of
Lancarvan" is translated by Powel; the Mabinogion, or Romantic Tales,
have been published by Lady Charlotte Guest; and the Welsh Laws collected
by the Record Commission. The importance of these, as embodying a
customary code of very early date, will probably be better appreciated
when we possess the whole of the Brehon Laws, the customary laws of
Ireland, which are now being issued by the Irish Laws Commission, and to
which attention has justly been drawn by Sir Henry Maine ("Early History
of Institutions") as preserving Aryan usages of the remotest antiquity.

The enormous mass of materials which exists for the early history of
Ireland, various as they are in critical value, may be seen in Mr.
O'Curry's "Lectures on the Materials of Ancient Irish History"; and they
may be conveniently studied by the general reader in the "Annals of the
Four Masters," edited by Dr. O'Donovan. But this is a mere compilation
(though generally a faithful one) made about the middle of the
seventeenth century from earlier sources, two of which have been
published in the Rolls series. One, the "Wars of the Gaedhil with the
Gaill," is an account of the Danish wars which may have been written in
the eleventh century; the other, the "Annals of Loch Cé," is a chronicle
of Irish affairs from the end of the Danish wars to 1590. The "Chronicon
Scotorum" (in the same series) extends to the year 1150, and though
composed in the seventeenth century is valuable from the learning of its
author, Duald Mac-Firbis. The works of Colgan are to Irish church affairs
what the "Annals of the Four Masters" are to Irish civil history. They
contain a vast collection of translations and transcriptions of early
saints' lives, from those of Patrick downwards. Adamnan's "Life of
Columba" (admirably edited by Dr. Beeves) supplies some details to the
story of the Northumbrian kingdom. Among more miscellaneous works we find
the "Book of Rights," a summary of the dues and rights of the several
over-kings and under-kings, of much earlier date probably than the Norman
invasion; and Cormac's "Glossary," attributed to the tenth century and
certainly an early work, from which much may be gleaned of legal and
social details, and something of the pagan religion of Ireland.


[Sidenote: Old England]

For the fatherland of the English race we must look far away from England
itself. In the fifth century after the birth of Christ the one country
which we know to have borne the name of Angeln or the Engleland lay
within the district which is now called Sleswick, a district in the heart
of the peninsula that parts the Baltic from the northern seas. Its
pleasant pastures, its black-timbered homesteads, its prim little
townships looking down on inlets of purple water, were then but a wild
waste of heather and sand, girt along the coast with a sunless woodland
broken here and there by meadows that crept down to the marshes and the
sea. The dwellers in this district, however, seem to have been merely an
outlying fragment of what was called the Engle or English folk, the bulk
of whom lay probably in what is now Lower Hanover and Oldenburg. On one
side of them the Saxons of Westphalia held the land from the Weser to the
Rhine; on the other the Eastphalian Saxons stretched away to the Elbe.
North again of the fragment of the English folk in Sleswick lay another
kindred tribe, the Jutes, whose name is still preserved in their district
of Jutland. Engle, Saxon, and Jute all belonged to the same Low-German
branch of the Teutonic family; and at the moment when history discovers
them they were being drawn together by the ties of a common blood, common
speech, common social and political institutions. There is little ground
indeed for believing that the three tribes looked on themselves as one
people, or that we can as yet apply to them, save by anticipation, the
common name of Englishmen. But each of them was destined to share in the
conquest of the land in which we live; and it is from the union of all of
them when its conquest was complete that the English people has sprung.

[Sidenote: The English Village]

Of the temper and life of the folk in this older England we know little.
But from the glimpses that we catch of it when conquest had brought them
to the shores of Britain their political and social organization must
have been that of the German race to which they belonged. In their
villages lay ready formed the social and political life which is round us
in the England of to-day. A belt of forest or waste parted each from its
fellow villages, and within this boundary or mark the "township," as the
village was then called from the "tun" or rough fence and trench that
served as its simple fortification, formed a complete and independent
body, though linked by ties which were strengthening every day to the
townships about it and the tribe of which it formed a part. Its social
centre was the homestead where the ætheling or eorl, a descendant of the
first English settlers in the waste, still handed down the blood and
traditions of his fathers. Around this homestead or æthel, each in its
little croft, stood the lowlier dwellings of freelings or ceorls, men
sprung, it may be, from descendants of the earliest settler who had in
various ways forfeited their claim to a share in the original homestead,
or more probably from incomers into the village who had since settled
round it and been admitted to a share in the land and freedom of the
community. The eorl was distinguished from his fellow villagers by his
wealth and his nobler blood; he was held by them in an hereditary
reverence; and it was from him and his fellow æthelings that
host-leaders, whether of the village or the tribe, were chosen in times of
war. But this claim to precedence rested simply on the free recognition
of his fellow villagers. Within the township every freeman or ceorl was
equal. It was the freeman who was the base of village society. He was the
"free-necked man" whose long hair floated over a neck which had never
bowed to a lord. He was the "weaponed man" who alone bore spear and
sword, and who alone preserved that right of self-redress or private war
which in such a state of society formed the main check upon lawless

[Sidenote: Justice]

Among the English, as among all the races of mankind, justice had
originally sprung from each man's personal action. There had been a time
when every freeman was his own avenger. But even in the earliest forms of
English society of which we find traces this right of self-defence was
being modified and restricted by a growing sense of public justice. The
"blood-wite" or compensation in money for personal wrong was the first
effort of the tribe as a whole to regulate private revenge. The freeman's
life and the freeman's limb had each on this system its legal price. "Eye
for eye," ran the rough code, and "life for life," or for each fair
damages. We see a further step towards the modern recognition of a wrong
as done not to the individual man but to the people at large in another
custom of early date. The price of life or limb was paid, not by the
wrong-doer to the man he wronged, but by the family or house of the
wrong-doer to the family or house of the wronged. Order and law were thus
made to rest in each little group of people upon the blood-bond which
knit its families together; every outrage was held to have been done by
all who were linked in blood to the doer of it, every crime to have been
done against all who were linked in blood to the sufferer from it. From
this sense of the value of the family bond as a means of restraining the
wrong-doer by forces which the tribe as a whole did not as yet possess
sprang the first rude forms of English justice. Each kinsman was his
kinsman's keeper, bound to protect him from wrong, to hinder him from
wrong-doing, and to suffer with him and pay for him if wrong were done.
So fully was this principle recognized that even if any man was charged
before his fellow-tribesmen with crime his kinsfolk still remained in
fact his sole judges; for it was by their solemn oath of his innocence or
his guilt that he had to stand or fall.

[Sidenote: The Land]

As the blood-bond gave its first form to English justice, so it gave
their first forms to English society and English warfare. Kinsmen fought
side by side in the hour of battle, and the feelings of honour and
discipline which held the host together were drawn from the common duty
of every man in each little group of warriors to his house. And as they
fought side by side on the field, so they dwelled side by side on the
soil. Harling abode by Harling, and Billing by Billing; and each "wick"
or "ham" or "stead" or "tun" took its name from the kinsmen who dwelled
together in it. In this way the home or "ham" of the Billings was
Billingham, and the "tun" or township of the Harlings was Harlington. But
in such settlements the tie of blood was widened into the larger tie of
land. Land with the German race seems at a very early time to have become
everywhere the accompaniment of full freedom. The freeman was strictly
the free-holder, and the exercise of his full rights as a free member of
the community to which he belonged became inseparable from the possession
of his "holding" in it. But property had not as yet reached that stage of
absolutely personal possession which the social philosophy of a later
time falsely regarded as its earliest state. The woodland and
pasture-land of an English village were still undivided, and every free
villager had the right of turning into it his cattle or swine. The
meadow-land lay in like manner open and undivided from hay-harvest to
spring. It was only when grass began to grow afresh that the common
meadow was fenced off into grass-fields, one for each household in the
village; and when hay-harvest was over fence and division were at an end
again. The plough-land alone was permanently allotted in equal shares
both of corn-land and fallow-land to the families of the freemen, though
even the plough-land was; subject to fresh division as the number of
claimants grew greater or less.

[Sidenote: Læt and Slave]

It was this sharing in the common land which marked off the freeman or
ceorl from the unfree man or læt, the tiller of land which another owned.
As the ceorl was the descendant of settlers who, whether from their
earlier arrival or from kinship with the original settlers of the
village, had been admitted to a share in its land and its corporate life,
so the læt was a descendant of later comers to whom such a share was
denied, or in some cases perhaps of earlier dwellers from whom the land
had been wrested by force of arms. In the modern sense of freedom the læt
was free enough. He had house and home of his own, his life and limb were
as secure as the ceorl's--save as against his lord; it is probable from
what we see in later laws that as time went on he was recognized as a
member of the nation, summoned to the folk-moot, allowed equal right at
law, and called like the full free man to the hosting. But he was unfree
as regards lord and land. He had neither part nor lot in the common land
of the village. The ground which he tilled he held of some freeman of the
tribe to whom he paid rent in labour or in kind. And this man was his
lord. Whatever rights the unfree villager might gain in the general
social life of his fellow villagers, he had no rights as against his
lord. He could leave neither land nor lord at his will. He was bound to
render due service to his lord in tillage or in fight. So long however as
these services were done the land was his own. His lord could not take it
from him; and he was bound to give him aid and protection in exchange for
his services.

Far different from the position of the læt was that of the slave, though
there is no ground for believing that the slave class was other than a
small one. It was a class which sprang mainly from debt or crime. Famine
drove men to "bend their heads in the evil days for meat"; the debtor,
unable to discharge his debt, flung on the ground his freeman's sword and
spear, took up the labourer's mattock, and placed his head as a slave
within a master's hands. The criminal whose kinsfolk would not make up
his fine became a crime-serf of the plaintiff or the king. Sometimes a
father pressed by need sold children and wife into bondage. In any case
the slave became part of the live stock of his master's estate, to be
willed away at death with horse or ox, whose pedigree was kept as
carefully as his own. His children were bondsmen like himself; even a
freeman's children by a slave mother inherited the mother's taint. "Mine
is the calf that is born of my cow," ran an English proverb. Slave cabins
clustered round the homestead of every rich landowner; ploughman,
shepherd, goatherd, swineherd, oxherd and cowherd, dairymaid, barnman,
sower, hayward and woodward, were often slaves. It was not indeed slavery
such as we have known in modern times, for stripes and bonds were rare:
if the slave was slain it was by an angry blow, not by the lash. But his
master could slay him if he would; it was but a chattel the less. The
slave had no place in the justice court, no kinsmen to claim vengeance or
guilt-fine for his wrong. If a stranger slew him, his lord claimed the
damages; if guilty of wrong-doing, "his skin paid for him" under his
master's lash. If he fled he might be chased like a strayed beast, and
when caught he might be flogged to death. If the wrong-doer were a
woman-slave she might be burned.

[Sidenote: The Moot]

With the public life of the village however the slave had nothing, the
last in early days little, to do. In its Moot, the common meeting of its
villagers for justice and government, a slave had no place or voice,
while the last was originally represented by the lord whose land he
tilled. The life, the sovereignty of the settlement resided solely in the
body of the freemen whose holdings lay round the moot-hill or the sacred
tree where the community met from time to time to deal out its own
justice and to make its own laws. Here new settlers were admitted to the
freedom of the township, and bye-laws framed and headman and tithing-man
chosen for its governance. Here plough-land and meadow-land were shared
in due lot among the villagers, and field and homestead passed from man
to man by the delivery of a turf cut from its soil. Here strife of farmer
with farmer was settled according to the "customs" of the township as its
elder men stated them, and four men were chosen to follow headman or
ealdorman to hundred-court or war. It is with a reverence such as is
stirred by the sight of the head-waters of some mighty river that one
looks back to these village-moots of Friesland or Sleswick. It was here
that England learned to be a "mother of Parliaments." It was in these
tiny knots of farmers that the men from whom Englishmen were to spring
learned the worth of public opinion, of public discussion, the worth of
the agreement, the "common sense," the general conviction to which
discussion leads, as of the laws which derive their force from being
expressions of that general conviction. A humourist of our own day has
laughed at Parliaments as "talking shops," and the laugh has been echoed
by some who have taken humour for argument. But talk is persuasion, and
persuasion is force, the one force which can sway freemen to deeds such
as those which have made England what she is. The "talk" of the village
moot, the strife and judgement of men giving freely their own rede and
setting it as freely aside for what they learn to be the wiser rede of
other men, is the groundwork of English history.

[Sidenote: The Folk]

Small therefore as it might be, the township or village was thus the
primary and perfect type of English life, domestic, social, and
political. All that England has been since lay there. But changes of
which we know nothing had long before the time at which our history opens
grouped these little commonwealths together in larger communities,
whether we name them Tribe, People, or Folk. The ties of race and kindred
were no doubt drawn tighter by the needs of war. The organization of each
Folk, as such, sprang in all likelihood mainly from war, from a common
greed of conquest, a common need of defence. Its form at any rate was
wholly military. The Folk-moot was in fact the war-host, the gathering of
every freeman of the tribe in arms. The head of the Folk, a head who
existed only so long as war went on, was the leader whom the host chose
to command it. Its Witenagemot or meeting of wise men was the host's
council of war, the gathering of those ealdormen who had brought the men
of their villages to the field. The host was formed by levies from the
various districts of the tribe; the larger of which probably owed their
name of "hundreds" to the hundred warriors which each originally sent to
it. In historic times however the regularity of such a military
organization, if it ever existed, had passed away, and the quotas varied
with the varying customs of each district. But men, whether many or few,
were still due from each district to the host, and a cry of war at once
called town-reeve and hundred-reeve with their followers to the field.

The military organization of the tribe thus gave from the first its form
to the civil organization. But the peculiar shape which its civil
organization assumed was determined by a principle familiar to the
Germanic races and destined to exercise a vast influence on the future of
mankind. This was the principle of representation. The four or ten
villagers who followed the reeve of each township to the general muster
of the hundred were held to represent the whole body of the township from
whence they came. Their voice was its voice, their doing its doing, their
pledge its pledge. The hundred-moot, a moot which was made by this
gathering of the representatives of the townships that lay within its
bounds, thus became at once a court of appeal from the moots of each
separate village as well as of arbitration in dispute between township
and township. The judgement of graver crimes and of life or death fell to
its share; while it necessarily possessed the same right of law-making
for the hundred that the village-moot possessed for each separate
village. And as hundred-moot stood above town-moot, so above the
hundred-moot stood the Folk-moot, the general muster of the people in
arms, at once war-host and highest law-court and general Parliament of
the tribe. But whether in Folk-moot or hundred-moot, the principle of
representation was preserved. In both the constitutional forms, the forms
of deliberation and decision, were the same. In each the priests
proclaimed silence, the ealdormen of higher blood spoke, groups of
freemen from each township stood round, shaking their spears in assent,
clashing shields in applause, settling matters in the end by loud shouts
of "Aye" or "Nay."

[Sidenote: Social Life]

Of the social or the industrial life of our fathers in this older England
we know less than of their political life. But there is no ground for
believing them to have been very different in these respects from the
other German peoples who were soon to overwhelm the Roman world. Though
their border nowhere touched the border of the Empire they were far from
being utterly strange to its civilization. Roman commerce indeed reached
the shores of the Baltic, and we have abundant evidence that the arts and
refinement of Rome were brought into contact with these earlier
Englishmen. Brooches, sword-belts, and shield-bosses which have been
found in Sleswick, and which can be dated not later than the close of the
third century, are clearly either of Roman make or closely modelled on
Roman metal-work. Discoveries of Roman coins in Sleswick peat-mosses
afford a yet more conclusive proof of direct intercourse with the Empire.
But apart from these outer influences the men of the three tribes were
far from being mere savages. They were fierce warriors, but they were
also busy fishers and tillers of the soil, as proud of their skill in
handling plough and mattock or steering the rude boat with which they
hunted walrus and whale as of their skill in handling sword and spear.
They were hard drinkers, no doubt, as they were hard toilers, and the
"ale-feast" was the centre of their social life. But coarse as the revel
might seem to modern eyes, the scene within the timbered hall which rose
in the midst of their villages was often Homeric in its simplicity and
dignity. Queen or Eorl's wife with a train of maidens bore ale-bowl or
mead-bowl round the hall from the high settle of King or Ealdorman in the
midst to the mead benches ranged around its walls, while the gleeman sang
the hero-songs of his race. Dress and arms showed traces of a love of art
and beauty, none the less real that it was rude and incomplete. Rings,
amulets, ear-rings, neck-pendants, proved in their workmanship the
deftness of the goldsmith's art. Cloaks were often fastened with golden
buckles of curious and exquisite form, set sometimes with rough jewels
and inlaid with enamel. The bronze boar-crest on the warrior's helmet,
the intricate adornment of the warrior's shield, tell like the honour in
which the smith was held their tale of industrial art. The curiously
twisted glass goblets, so common in the early graves of Kent, are shewn
by their form to be of English workmanship. It is only in the English
pottery, hand-made, and marked with coarse zigzag patterns, that we find
traces of utter rudeness.

[Sidenote: Religion]

The religion of these men was the same as that of the rest of the German
peoples. Christianity had by this time brought about the conversion of
the Roman Empire, but it had not penetrated as yet among the forests of
the north. The common God of the English people was Woden, the war-god,
the guardian of ways and boundaries, to whom his worshippers attributed
the invention of letters, and whom every tribe held to be the first
ancestor of its kings. Our own names for the days of the week still
recall to us the gods whom our fathers worshipped in their German
homeland. Wednesday is Woden's-day, as Thursday is the day of Thunder,
the god of air and storm and rain. Friday is Frea's-day, the deity of
peace and joy and fruitfulness, whose emblems, borne aloft by dancing
maidens, brought increase to every field and stall they visited. Saturday
may commemorate an obscure god Sætere; Tuesday the dark god, Tiw, to meet
whom was death. Eostre, the goddess of the dawn or of the spring, lends
her name to the Christian festival of the Resurrection. Behind these
floated the dim shapes of an older mythology; "Wyrd," the death-goddess,
whose memory lingered long in the "Weird" of northern superstition; or
the Shield-maidens, the "mighty women" who, an old rime tells us,
"wrought on the battle-field their toil and hurled the thrilling
javelins." Nearer to the popular fancy lay deities of wood and fell, or
hero-gods of legend and song; Nicor, the water-sprite who survives in our
nixies and "Old Nick"; Weland, the forger of weighty shields and
sharp-biting swords, who found a later home in the "Weyland's smithy" of
Berkshire; Ægil, the hero-archer, whose legend is one with that of
Cloudesly or Tell. A nature-worship of this sort lent itself ill to the
purposes of a priesthood; and though a priestly class existed it seems at
no time to have had much weight among Englishmen. As each freeman was his
own judge and his own lawmaker, so he was his own house-priest; and
English worship lay commonly in the sacrifice which the house-father
offered to the gods of his hearth.

[Sidenote: The English Temper]

It is not indeed in Woden-worship or in the worship of the older gods of
flood and fell that we must look for the real religion of our fathers.
The song of Beowulf, though the earliest of English poems, is as we have
it now a poem of the eighth century, the work it may be of some English
missionary of the days of Bæda and Boniface who gathered in the very
homeland of his race the legends of its earlier prime. But the thin veil
of Christianity which he has flung over it fades away as we follow the
hero-legend of our fathers; and the secret of their moral temper, of
their conception of life breathes through every line. Life was built with
them not on the hope of a hereafter, but on the proud self-consciousness
of noble souls. "I have this folk ruled these fifty winters," sings the
hero-king as he sits death-smitten beside the dragon's mound. "Lives
there no folk-king of kings about me--not any one of them--dare in the
war-strife welcome my onset! Time's change and chances I have abided,
held my own fairly, sought not to snare men; oath never sware I falsely
against right. So for all this may I glad be at heart now, sick though I
sit here, wounded with death-wounds!" In men of such a temper, strong
with the strength of manhood and full of the vigour and the love of life,
the sense of its shortness and of the mystery of it all woke chords of a
pathetic poetry. "Soon will it be," ran the warning rime, "that sickness
or sword-blade shear thy strength from thee, or the fire ring thee, or
the flood whelm thee, or the sword grip thee, or arrow hit thee, or age
o'ertake thee, and thine eye's brightness sink down in darkness." Strong
as he might be, man struggled in vain with the doom that encompassed him,
that girded his life with a thousand perils and broke it at so short a
span. "To us," cries Beowulf in his last fight, "to us it shall be as our
Weird betides, that Weird that is every man's lord!" But the sadness with
which these Englishmen fronted the mysteries of life and death had
nothing in it of the unmanly despair which bids men eat and drink for
to-morrow they die. Death leaves man man and master of his fate. The
thought of good fame, of manhood, is stronger than the thought of doom.
"Well shall a man do when in the strife he minds but of winning longsome
renown, nor for his life cares!" "Death is better than life of shame!"
cries Beowulf's sword-fellow. Beowulf himself takes up his strife with
the fiend, "go the weird as it will." If life is short, the more cause to
work bravely till it is over. "Each man of us shall abide the end of his
life-work; let him that may work, work his doomed deeds ere death come!"

[Sidenote: English Piracy]

The energy of these peoples found vent in a restlessness which drove them
to take part in the general attack of the German race on the Empire of
Rome. For busy tillers and busy fishers as Englishmen were, they were at
heart fighters; and their world was a world of war. Tribe warred with
tribe, and village with village; even within the village itself feuds
parted household from household, and passions of hatred and vengeance
were handed on from father to son. Their mood was above all a mood of
fighting men, venturesome, self-reliant, proud, with a dash of hardness
and cruelty in it, but ennobled by the virtues which spring from war, by
personal courage and loyalty to plighted word, by a high and stern sense
of manhood and the worth of man. A grim joy in hard fighting was already
a characteristic of the race. War was the Englishman's "shield-play" and
"sword-game"; the gleeman's verse took fresh fire as he sang of the rush
of the host and the crash of its shield-line. Their arms and weapons,
helmet and mailshirt, tall spear and javelin, sword and seax, the short
broad dagger that hung at each warrior's girdle, gathered to them much of
the legend and the art which gave colour and poetry to the life of
Englishmen. Each sword had its name like a living thing. And next to
their love of war came their love of the sea. Everywhere throughout
Beowulf's song, as everywhere throughout the life that it pictures, we
catch the salt whiff of the sea. The Englishman was as proud of his
sea-craft as of his war-craft; sword in hand he plunged into the sea to
meet walrus and sea-lion; he told of his whale-chase amidst the icy
waters of the north. Hardly less than his love for the sea was the love
he bore to the ship that traversed it. In the fond playfulness of English
verse the ship was "the wave-floater," "the foam-necked," "like a bird"
as it skimmed the wave-crest, "like a swan" as its curved prow breasted
the "swan-road" of the sea.

Their passion for the sea marked out for them their part in the general
movement of the German nations. While Goth and Lombard were slowly
advancing over mountain and plain the boats of the Englishmen pushed
faster over the sea. Bands of English rovers, outdriven by stress of
fight, had long found a home there, and lived as they could by sack of
vessel or coast. Chance has preserved for us in a Sleswick peat-bog one
of the war-keels of these early pirates. The boat is flat-bottomed,
seventy feet long and eight or nine feet wide, its sides of oak boards
fastened with bark ropes and iron bolts. Fifty oars drove it over the
waves with a freight of warriors whose arms, axes, swords, lances, and
knives, were found heaped together in its hold. Like the galleys of the
Middle Ages such boats could only creep cautiously along from harbour to
harbour in rough weather; but in smooth water their swiftness fitted them
admirably for the piracy by which the men of these tribes were already
making themselves dreaded. Its flat bottom enabled them to beach the
vessel on any fitting coast; and a step on shore at once transformed the
boatmen into a war-band. From the first the daring of the English race
broke out in the secrecy and suddenness of the pirates' swoop, in the
fierceness of their onset, in the careless glee with which they seized
either sword or oar. "Foes are they," sang a Roman poet of the time,
"fierce beyond other foes and cunning as they are fierce; the sea is
their school of war and the storm their friend; they are sea-wolves that
live on the pillage of the world!"

[Sidenote: Britain]

Of the three English tribes the Saxons lay nearest to the Empire, and
they were naturally the first to touch the Roman world; at the close of
the third century indeed their boats appeared in such force in the
English Channel as to call for a special fleet to resist them. The piracy
of our fathers had thus brought them to the shores of a land which, dear
as it is now to Englishmen, had not as yet been trodden by English feet.
This land was Britain. When the Saxon boats touched its coast the island
was the westernmost province of the Roman Empire. In the fifty-fifth year
before Christ a descent of Julius Cæsar revealed it to the Roman world;
and a century after Cæsar's landing the Emperor Claudius undertook its
conquest. The work was swiftly carried out. Before thirty years were over
the bulk of the island had passed beneath the Roman sway and the Roman
frontier had been carried to the Firths of Forth and of Clyde. The work
of civilization followed fast on the work of the sword. To the last
indeed the distance of the island from the seat of empire left her less
Romanized than any other province of the west. The bulk of the population
scattered over the country seem in spite of imperial edicts to have clung
to their old law as to their old language, and to have retained some
traditional allegiance to their native chiefs. But Roman civilization
rested mainly on city life, and in Britain as elsewhere the city was
thoroughly Roman. In towns such as Lincoln or York, governed by their own
municipal officers, guarded by massive walls, and linked together by a
network of magnificent roads which reached from one end of the island to
the other, manners, language, political life, all were of Rome.

For three hundred years the Roman sword secured order and peace without
Britain and within, and with peace and order came a wide and rapid
prosperity. Commerce sprang up in ports amongst which London held the
first rank; agriculture flourished till Britain became one of the
corn-exporting countries of the world; the mineral resources of the
province were explored in the tin mines of Cornwall, the lead mines of
Somerset or Northumberland, and the iron mines of the Forest of Dean. But
evils which sapped the strength of the whole Empire told at last on the
province of Britain. Wealth and population alike declined under a
crushing system of taxation, under restrictions which fettered industry,
under a despotism which crushed out all local independence. And with
decay within came danger from without. For centuries past the Roman
frontier had held back the barbaric world beyond it, the Parthian of the
Euphrates, the Numidian of the African desert, the German of the Danube
or the Rhine. In Britain a wall drawn from Newcastle to Carlisle bridled
the British tribes, the Picts as they were called, who had been sheltered
from Roman conquest by the fastnesses of the Highlands. It was this mass
of savage barbarism which broke upon the Empire as it sank into decay. In
its western dominions the triumph of these assailants was complete. The
Franks conquered and colonized Gaul. The West-Goths conquered and
colonized Spain. The Vandals founded a kingdom in Africa. The Burgundians
encamped in the border-land between Italy and the Rhone. The East-Goths
ruled at last in Italy itself.

[Sidenote: Conquests of Jute and Saxon]

It was to defend Italy against the Goths that Rome in the opening of the
fifth century withdrew her legions from Britain, and from that moment the
province was left to struggle unaided against the Picts. Nor were these
its only enemies. While marauders from Ireland, whose inhabitants then
bore the name of Scots, harried the west, the boats of Saxon pirates, as
we have seen, were swarming off its eastern and southern coasts. For some
thirty years Britain held bravely out against these assailants; but civil
strife broke its powers of resistance, and its rulers fell back at last
on the fatal policy by which the Empire invited its doom while striving
to avert it, the policy of matching barbarian against barbarian. By the
usual promises of land and pay a band of warriors was drawn for this
purpose from Jutland in 449 with two ealdormen, Hengest and Horsa, at
their head. If by English history we mean the history of Englishmen in
the land which from that time they made their own, it is with this
landing of Hengest's war-band that English history begins. They landed on
the shores of the Isle of Thanet at a spot known since as Ebbsfleet. No
spot can be so sacred to Englishmen as the spot which first felt the
tread of English feet. There is little to catch the eye in Ebbsfleet
itself, a mere lift of ground with a few grey cottages dotted over it,
cut off nowadays from the sea by a reclaimed meadow and a sea-wall. But
taken as a whole the scene has a wild beauty of its own. To the right the
white curve of Ramsgate cliffs looks down on the crescent of Pegwell Bay;
far away to the left across grey marsh-levels where smoke-wreaths mark
the sites of Richborough and Sandwich the coast-line trends dimly towards
Deal. Everything in the character of the spot confirms the national
tradition which fixed here the landing-place of our fathers; for the
physical changes of the country since the fifth century have told little
on its main features. At the time of Hengest's landing a broad inlet of
sea parted Thanet from the mainland of Britain; and through this inlet
the pirate boats would naturally come sailing with a fair wind to what
was then the gravel-spit of Ebbsfleet.

[Illustration: Britain and the English Conquest (v1-map-1t.png)]

The work for which the mercenaries had been hired was quickly done; and
the Picts are said to have been scattered to the winds in a battle fought
on the eastern coast of Britain. But danger from the Pict was hardly over
when danger came from the Jutes themselves. Their fellow-pirates must
have flocked from the Channel to their settlement in Thanet; the inlet
between Thanet and the mainland was crossed, and the Englishmen won their
first victory over the Britons in forcing their passage of the Medway at
the village of Aylesford. A second defeat at the passage of the Cray
drove the British forces in terror upon London; but the ground was soon
won back again, and it was not till 465 that a series of petty conflicts
which had gone on along the shores of Thanet made way for a decisive
struggle at Wippedsfleet. Here however the overthrow was so terrible that
from this moment all hope of saving Northern Kent seems to have been
abandoned, and it was only along its southern shore that the Britons held
their ground. Eight years later, in 473, the long contest was over, and
with the fall of Lymne, whose broken walls look from the slope to which
they cling over the great flat of Romney Marsh, the work of the first
English conqueror was done.

The warriors of Hengest had been drawn from the Jutes, the smallest of
the three tribes who were to blend in the English people. But the greed
of plunder now told on the great tribe which stretched from the Elbe to
the Rhine, and in 477 Saxon invaders were seen pushing slowly along the
strip of land which lay westward of Kent between the weald and the sea.
Nowhere has the physical aspect of the country more utterly changed. A
vast sheet of scrub, woodland, and waste which then bore the name of the
Andredsweald stretched for more than a hundred miles from the borders of
Kent to the Hampshire Downs, extending northward almost to the Thames and
leaving only a thin strip of coast which now bears the name of Sussex
between its southern edge and the sea. This coast was guarded by a
fortress which occupied the spot now called Pevensey, the future
landing-place of the Norman Conqueror; and the fall of this fortress of
Anderida in 491 established the kingdom of the South-Saxons. "Ælle and
Cissa beset Anderida," so ran the pitiless record of the conquerors, "and
slew all that were therein, nor was there henceforth one Briton left."
But Hengest and Ælle's men had touched hardly more than the coast, and
the true conquest of Southern Britain was reserved for a fresh band of
Saxons, a tribe known as the Gewissas, who in 495 landed under Cerdic and
Cynric on the shores of the Southampton Water, and pushed to the great
downs or Gwent where Winchester offered so rich a prize. Nowhere was the
strife fiercer than here; and it was not till 519 that a decisive victory
at Charford ended the struggle for the "Gwent" and set the crown of the
West-Saxons on the head of Cerdic. But the forest-belt around it checked
any further advance; and only a year after Charford the Britons rallied
under a new leader, Arthur, and threw back the invaders as they pressed
westward through the Dorsetshire woodlands in a great overthrow at
Badbury or Mount Badon. The defeat was followed by a long pause in the
Saxon advance from the southern coast, but while the Gewissas rested a
series of victories whose history is lost was giving to men of the same
Saxon tribe the coast district north of the mouth of the Thames. It is
probable however that the strength of Camulodunum, the predecessor of our
modern Colchester, made the progress of these assailants a slow and
doubtful one; and even when its reduction enabled the East-Saxons to
occupy the territory to which they have given their name of Essex a line
of woodland which has left its traces in Epping and Hainault Forests
checked their further advance into the island.

[Sidenote: Conquests of the Eagle]

Though seventy years had passed since the victory of Aylesford only the
outskirts of Britain were won. The invaders were masters as yet but of
Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, and Essex. From London to St. David's Head, from
the Andredsweald to the Firth of Forth the country still remained
unconquered: and there was little in the years which followed Arthur's
triumph to herald that onset of the invaders which was soon to make
Britain England. Till now its assailants had been drawn from two only of
the three tribes whom we saw dwelling by the northern sea, from the
Saxons and the Jutes. But the main work of conquest was to be done by the
third, by the tribe which bore that name of Engle or Englishmen which was
to absorb that of Saxon and Jute, and to stamp itself on the people which
sprang from the union of the conquerors as on the land that they won. The
Engle had probably been settling for years along the coast of Northumbria
and in the great district which was cut off from the rest of Britain by
the Wash and the Fens, the later East-Anglia. But it was not till the
moment we have reached that the line of defences which had hitherto held
the invaders at bay was turned by their appearance in the Humber and the
Trent. This great river-line led like a highway into the heart of
Britain; and civil strife seems to have broken the strength of British
resistance. But of the incidents of this final struggle we know nothing.
One part of the English force marched from the Humber over the Yorkshire
wolds to found what was called the kingdom of the Deirans. Under the
Empire political power had centred in the district between the Humber and
the Roman wall; York was the capital of Roman Britain; villas of rich
landowners studded the valley of the Ouse; and the bulk of the garrison
maintained in the island lay camped along its northern border. But no
record tells us how Yorkshire was won, or how the Engle made themselves
masters of the uplands about Lincoln. It is only by their later
settlements that we follow their march into the heart of Britain. Seizing
the valley of the Don and whatever breaks there were in the woodland that
then filled the space between the Humber and the Trent, the Engle
followed the curve of the latter river, and struck along the line of its
tributary the Soar. Here round the Roman Ratæ, the predecessor of our
Leicester, settled a tribe known as the Middle-English, while a small
body pushed further southwards, and under the name of "South-Engle"
occupied the oolitic upland that forms our present Northamptonshire. But
the mass of the invaders seem to have held to the line of the Trent and
to have pushed westward to its head-waters. Repton, Lichfield, and
Tamworth mark the country of these western Englishmen, whose older name
was soon lost in that of Mercians, or Men of the March. Their settlement
was in fact a new march or borderland between conqueror and conquered;
for here the impenetrable fastness of the Peak, the mass of Cannock
Chase, and the broken country of Staffordshire enabled the Briton to make
a fresh and desperate stand.

[Sidenote: Conquests of West-Saxons]

It was probably this conquest of Mid-Britain by the Engle that roused the
West-Saxons to a new advance. For thirty years they had rested inactive
within the limits of the Gwent, but in 552 their capture of the hill-fort
of Old Sarum threw open the reaches of the Wiltshire downs, and a march
of King Cuthwulf on the Thames in 571 made them masters of the districts
which now form Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Pushing along the upper
valley of Avon to a new battle at Barbury Hill they swooped at last from
their uplands on the rich prey that lay along the Severn. Gloucester,
Cirencester, and Bath, cities which had leagued under their British kings
to resist this onset, became in 577 the spoil of an English victory at
Deorham, and the line of the great western river lay open to the arms of
the conquerors. Once the West-Saxons penetrated to the borders of
Chester, and Uriconium, a town beside the Wrekin which has been recently
brought again to light, went up in flames. The raid ended in a crushing
defeat which broke the West-Saxon strength, but a British poet in verses
still left to us sings piteously the death-song of Uriconium, "the white
town in the valley," the town of white stone gleaming among the green
woodlands. The torch of the foe had left it a heap of blackened ruins
where the singer wandered through halls he had known in happier days, the
halls of its chief Kyndylan, "without fire, without light, without song,"
their stillness broken only by the eagle's scream, the eagle who "has
swallowed fresh drink, heart's blood of Kyndylan the fair."


[Sidenote: Britain becomes England]

With the victory of Deorham the conquest of the bulk of Britain was
complete. Eastward of a line which may be roughly drawn along the
moorlands of Northumberland and Yorkshire through Derbyshire and the
Forest of Arden to the Lower Severn, and thence by Mendip to the sea, the
island had passed into English hands. Britain had in the main become
England. And within this new England a Teutonic society was settled on
the wreck of Rome. So far as the conquest had yet gone it had been
complete. Not a Briton remained as subject or slave on English ground.
Sullenly, inch by inch, the beaten men drew back from the land which
their conquerors had won; and eastward of the border line which the
English sword had drawn all was now purely English.

It is this which distinguishes the conquest of Britain from that of other
provinces of Rome. The conquest of Gaul by the Franks or that of Italy by
the Lombards proved little more than a forcible settlement of the one or
the other among tributary subjects who were destined in a long course of
ages to absorb their conquerors. French is the tongue, not of the Frank,
but of the Gaul whom he overcame; and the fair hair of the Lombard is all
but unknown in Lombardy. But the English conquest of Britain up to the
point which we have reached was a sheer dispossession of the people whom
the English conquered. It was not that Englishmen, fierce and cruel as at
times they seem to have been, were more fierce or more cruel than other
Germans who attacked the Empire; nor have we any ground for saying that
they, unlike the Burgundian or the Frank, were utterly strange to the
Roman civilization. Saxon mercenaries are found as well as Frank
mercenaries in the pay of Rome; and the presence of Saxon vessels in the
Channel for a century before the descent on Britain must have
familiarized its invaders with what civilization was to be found in the
Imperial provinces of the West. What really made the difference between
the fate of Britain and that of the rest of the Roman world was the
stubborn courage of the British themselves. In all the world-wide
struggle between Rome and the German peoples no land was so stubbornly
fought for or so hardly won. In Gaul no native resistance met Frank or
Visigoth save from the brave peasants of Britanny and Auvergne. No
popular revolt broke out against the rule of Odoacer or Theodoric in
Italy. But in Britain the invader was met by a courage almost equal to
his own. Instead of quartering themselves quietly, like their fellows
abroad, on subjects who were glad to buy peace by obedience and tribute,
the English had to make every inch of Britain their own by hard fighting.

This stubborn resistance was backed too by natural obstacles of the
gravest kind. Elsewhere in the Roman world the work of the conquerors was
aided by the very civilization of Rome. Vandal and Frank marched along
Roman highways over ground cleared by the Roman axe and crossed river or
ravine on the Roman bridge. It was so doubtless with the English
conquerors of Britain. But though Britain had long been Roman, her
distance from the seat of Empire left her less Romanized than any other
province of the West. Socially the Roman civilization had made little
impression on any but the townsfolk, and the material civilization of the
island was yet more backward than its social. Its natural defences threw
obstacles in its invaders' way. In the forest belts which stretched over
vast spaces of country they found barriers which in all cases checked
their advance and in some cases finally stopped it. The Kentishmen and
the South-Saxons were brought utterly to a standstill by the
Andredsweald. The East-Saxons could never pierce the woods of their
western border. The Fens proved impassable to the Northfolk and the
Southfolk of East-Anglia. It was only after a long and terrible struggle
that the West-Saxons could hew their way through the forests which
sheltered the "Gwent" of the southern coast. Their attempt to break out
of the circle of woodland which girt in the downs was in fact fruitless
for thirty years; and in the height of their later power they were thrown
back from the forests of Cheshire.

[Sidenote: Withdrawal of the Britons]

It is only by realizing in this way the physical as well as the moral
circumstances of Britain that we can understand the character of its
earlier conquest. Field by field, town by town, forest by forest, the
land was won. And as each bit of ground was torn away by the stranger,
the Briton sullenly withdrew from it only to turn doggedly and fight for
the next. There is no need to believe that the clearing of the land meant
so impossible a thing as the general slaughter of the men who held it.
Slaughter there was, no doubt, on the battle-field or in towns like
Anderida whose long resistance woke wrath in their besiegers. But for the
most part the Britons were not slaughtered; they were defeated and drew
back. Such a withdrawal was only made possible by the slowness of the
conquest. For it is not only the stoutness of its defence which
distinguishes the conquest of Britain from that of the other provinces of
the Empire, but the weakness of attack. As the resistance of the Britons
was greater than that of the other provincials of Rome so the forces of
their assailants were less. Attack by sea was less easy than attack by
land, and the numbers who were brought across by the boats of Hengest or
Cerdic cannot have rivalled those which followed Theodoric or Chlodewig
across the Alps or the Rhine. Landing in small parties, and but gradually
reinforced by after-comers, the English invaders could only slowly and
fitfully push the Britons back. The absence of any joint action among the
assailants told in the same way. Though all spoke the same language and
used the same laws, they had no such bond of political union as the
Franks; and though all were bent on winning the same land, each band and
each leader preferred their own separate course of action to any
collective enterprise.

[Sidenote: The English settlement]

Under such conditions the overrunning of Britain could not fail to be a
very different matter from the rapid and easy overrunning of such
countries as Gaul. How slow the work of English conquest was may be seen
from the fact that it took nearly thirty years to win Kent alone, and
sixty to complete the conquest of Southern Britain, and that the conquest
of the bulk of the island was only wrought out after two centuries of
bitter warfare. But it was just through the length of the struggle that
of all the German conquests this proved the most thorough and complete.
So far as the English sword in these earlier days had reached, Britain
had become England, a land, that is, not of Britons but of Englishmen.
Even if a few of the vanquished people lingered as slaves round the
homesteads of their English conquerors, or a few of their household words
mingled with the English tongue, doubtful exceptions such as these leave
the main facts untouched. The keynote of the conquest was firmly struck.
When the English invasion was stayed for a while by the civil wars of the
invaders, the Briton had disappeared from the greater part of the land
which had been his own; and the tongue, the religion, the laws of his
English conquerors reigned without a break from Essex to Staffordshire
and from the British Channel to the Firth of Forth.

[Illustration: The English Kingdoms in A.D. 600 (v1-map-2t.jpg)]

For the driving out of the Briton was, as we have seen, but a prelude to
the settlement of his conqueror. What strikes us at once in the new
England is this, that it was the one purely German nation that rose upon
the wreck of Rome. In other lands, in Spain or Gaul or Italy, though they
were equally conquered by German peoples, religion, social life,
administrative order, still remained Roman. Britain was almost the only
province of the Empire where Rome died into a vague tradition of the
past. The whole organization of government and society disappeared with
the people who used it. Roman roads indeed still led to desolate cities.
Roman camps still crowned hill and down. The old divisions of the land
remained to furnish bounds of field and farm for the new settlers. The
Roman church, the Roman country-house, was left standing, though reft of
priest and lord. But Rome was gone. The mosaics, the coins which we dig
up in our fields are no relics of our English fathers, but of a world
which our fathers' sword swept utterly away. Its law, its literature, its
manners, its faith, went with it. Nothing was a stronger proof of the
completeness of this destruction of all Roman life than the religious
change which passed over the land. Alone among the German assailants of
Rome the English stood aloof from the faith of the Empire they helped to
overthrow. The new England was a heathen country. Homestead and boundary,
the very days of the week, bore the names of new gods who displaced

As we stand amidst the ruins of town or country-house which recall to us
the wealth and culture of Roman Britain, it is hard to believe that a
conquest which left them heaps of crumbling stones was other than a curse
to the land over which it passed. But if the new England which sprang
from the wreck of Britain seemed for the moment a waste from which the
arts, the letters, the refinement of the world had fled hopelessly away,
it contained within itself germs of a nobler life than that which had
been destroyed. The base of Roman society here as everywhere throughout
the Roman world was the slave, the peasant who had been crushed by
tyranny, political and social, into serfdom. The base of the new English
society was the freeman whom we have seen tilling, judging, or fighting
for himself by the Northern Sea. However roughly he dealt with the
material civilization of Britain while the struggle went on, it was
impossible that such a man could be a mere destroyer. War in fact was no
sooner over than the warrior settled down into the farmer, and the home
of the ceorl rose beside the heap of goblin-haunted stones that marked
the site of the villa he had burned. The settlement of the English in the
conquered land was nothing less than an absolute transfer of English
society in its completest form to the soil of Britain. The slowness of
their advance, the small numbers of each separate band in its descent
upon the coast, made it possible for the invaders to bring with them, or
to call to them when their work was done, the wives and children, the læt
and slave, even the cattle they had left behind them. The first wave of
conquest was but the prelude to the gradual migration of a whole people.
It was England which settled down on British soil, England with its own
language, its own laws, its complete social fabric, its system of village
life and village culture, its township and its hundred, its principle of
kinship, its principle of representation. It was not as mere pirates or
stray war-bands, but as peoples already made, and fitted by a common
temper and common customs to draw together into our English nation in the
days to come, that our fathers left their German home-land for the land
in which we live. Their social and political organization remained
radically unchanged. In each of the little kingdoms which rose on the
wreck of Britain, the host camped on the land it had won, and the
divisions of the host supplied here as in its older home the rough
groundwork of local distribution. The land occupied by the hundred
warriors who formed the unit of military organization became perhaps the
local hundred; but it is needless to attach any notion of precise
uniformity, either in the number of settlers or in the area of their
settlement, to such a process as this, any more than to the army
organization which the process of distribution reflected. From the large
amount of public land which we find existing afterwards it has been
conjectured with some probability that the number of settlers was far too
small to occupy the whole of the country at their disposal, and this
unoccupied ground became "folk-land," the common property of the tribe as
at a later time of the nation. What ground was actually occupied may have
been assigned to each group and each family in the group by lot, and Eorl
and Ceorl gathered round them their læt and slave as in their homeland by
the Rhine or the Elbe. And with the English people passed to the shores
of Britain all that was to make Englishmen what they are. For distant and
dim as their life in that older England may have seemed to us, the whole
after-life of Englishmen was there. In its village-moots lay our
Parliament; in the gleeman of its village-feasts our Chaucer and our
Shakspere; in the pirate-bark stealing from creek to creek our Drakes and
our Nelsons. Even the national temper was fully formed. Civilization,
letters, science, religion itself, have done little to change the inner
mood of Englishmen. That love of venture and of toil, of the sea and the
fight, that trust in manhood and the might of man, that silent awe of the
mysteries of life and death which lay deep in English souls then as now,
passed with Englishmen to the land which Englishmen had won.

[Sidenote: The King]

But though English society passed thus in its completeness to the soil of
Britain, its primitive organization was affected in more ways than one by
the transfer. In the first place conquest begat the King. It seems
probable that the English had hitherto known nothing of kings in their
own fatherland, where each tribe was satisfied in peace time with the
customary government of village-reeve and hundred-reeve and ealdonnan,
while it gathered at fighting times under war leaders whom it chose for
each campaign. But in the long and obstinate warfare which they waged
against the Britons it was needful to find a common leader whom the
various tribes engaged in conquests such as those of Wessex or Mercia
might follow; and the ceaseless character of a struggle which left few
intervals of rest or peace raised these leaders into a higher position
than that of temporary chieftains. It was no doubt from this cause that
we find Hengest and his son Æsc raised to the kingdom in Kent, or Ælle in
Sussex, or Cerdic and Cynric among the West Saxons. The association of
son with father in this new kingship marked the hereditary character
which distinguished it from the temporary office of an ealdorman. The
change was undoubtedly a great one, but it was less than the modern
conception of kingship would lead us to imagine. Hereditary as the
succession was within a single house, each successive king was still the
free choice of his people, and for centuries to come it was held within a
people's right to pass over a claimant too weak or too wicked for the
throne. In war indeed the king was supreme. But in peace his power was
narrowly bounded by the customs of his people and the rede of his wise
men. Justice was not as yet the king's justice, it was the justice of
village and hundred and folk in town-moot and hundred-moot and folk-moot.
It was only with the assent of the wise men that the king could make laws
and declare war and assign public lands and name public officers. Above
all, should his will be to break through the free customs of his people,
he was without the means of putting his will into action, for the one
force he could call on was the host, and the host was the people itself
in arms.

[Sidenote: The Thegn]

With the new English king rose a new order of English nobles. The social
distinction of the eorl was founded on the peculiar purity of his blood,
on his long descent from the original settler around whom township and
thorpe grew up. A new distinction was now to be found in service done to
the king. From the earliest times of German society it had been the wont
of young men greedy of honour or seeking training in arms to bind
themselves as "comrades" to king or chief. The leader whom they chose
gave them horses, arms, a seat in his mead hall, and gifts from his
hoard. The "comrade" on the other hand--the gesith or thegn, as he was
called--bound himself to follow and fight for his lord. The principle of
personal dependence as distinguished from the warrior's general duty to
the folk at large was embodied in the thegn. "Chieftains fight for
victory," says Tacitus; "comrades for their chieftain." When one of
Beowulf's "comrades" saw his lord hard bested "he minded him of the
homestead he had given him, of the folk right he gave him as his father
had it; nor might he hold back then." Snatching up sword and shield he
called on his fellow-thegns to follow him to the fight. "I mind me of the
day," he cried, "when we drank the mead, the day we gave pledge to our
lord in the beer hall as he gave us these rings, our pledge that we would
pay him back our war-gear, our helms and our hard swords, if need befel
him. Unmeet is it, methinks, that we should bear back our shields to our
home unless we guard our lord's life." The larger the band of such
"comrades," the more power and repute it gave their lord. It was from
among the chiefs whose war-band was strongest that the leaders of the
host were commonly chosen; and as these leaders grew into kings, the
number of their thegns naturally increased. The rank of the "comrades"
too rose with the rise of their lord. The king's thegns were his
body-guard, the one force ever ready to carry out his will. They were his
nearest and most constant counsellors. As the gathering of petty tribes
into larger kingdoms swelled the number of eorls in each realm, and in a
corresponding degree diminished their social importance, it raised in
equal measure the rank of the king's thegns. A post among them was soon
coveted and won by the greatest and noblest in the land. Their service
was rewarded by exemption from the general jurisdiction of hundred-court
or shire-court, for it was part of a thegn's meed for his service that he
should be judged only by the lord he served. Other meed was found in
grants of public land which made them a local nobility, no longer bound
to actual service in the king's household or the king's war-band, but
still bound to him by personal ties of allegiance far closer than those
which bound an eorl to the chosen war-leader of his tribe. In a word,
thegnhood contained within itself the germ of that later feudalism which
was to battle so fiercely with the Teutonic freedom out of which it grew.

[Sidenote: The Bernicians]

But the strife between the conquering tribes which at once followed on
their conquest of Britain was to bring about changes even more momentous
in the development of the English people. While Jute and Saxon and Engle
were making themselves masters of central and southern Britain, the
English who had landed on its northernmost shores had been slowly winning
for themselves the coast district between the Forth and the Tyne which
bore the name of Bernicia. Their progress seems to have been small till
they were gathered into a kingdom in 547 by Ida the "Flame-bearer," who
found a site for his King's town on the impregnable rock of Bamborough;
nor was it till the reign of his fourth son Æthelric that they gained
full mastery over the Britons along their western border. But once
masters of the Britons the Bernician Englishmen turned to conquer their
English neighbours to the south, the men of Deira, whose first King Ælla
was now sinking to the grave. The struggle filled the foreign markets
with English slaves, and one of the most memorable stories in our history
shows us a group of such captives as they stood in the market-place at
Rome, it may be in the great Forum of Trajan, which still in its decay
recalled the glories of the Imperial City. Their white bodies, their fair
faces, their golden hair was noted by a deacon who passed by. "From what
country do these slaves come?" Gregory asked the trader who brought them.
The slave-dealer answered "They are English," or as the word ran in the
Latin form it would bear at Rome, "they are Angles." The deacon's pity
veiled itself in poetic humour. "Not Angles but Angels," he said, "with
faces so angel-like! From what country come they?" "They come," said the
merchant, "from Deira." "_De irâ!_" was the untranslatable wordplay of
the vivacious Roman--"aye, plucked from God's ire and called to Christ's
mercy! And what is the name of their king?" They told him "Ælla," and
Gregory seized on the word as of good omen. "Alleluia shall be sung in
Ælla's land," he said, and passed on, musing how the angel-faces should
be brought to sing it.

While Gregory was thus playing with Ælla's name the old king passed away,
and with his death in 588 the resistance of his kingdom seems to have
ceased. His children fled over the western border to find refuge among
the Welsh, and Æthelric of Bernicia entered Deira in triumph. A new age
of our history opens in this submission of one English people to another.
When the two kingdoms were united under a common lord the period of
national formation began. If a new England sprang out of the mass of
English states which covered Britain after its conquest, we owe it to the
gradual submission of the smaller peoples to the supremacy of a common
political head. The difference in power between state and state which
inevitably led to this process of union was due to the character which
the conquest of Britain was now assuming. Up to this time all the
kingdoms which had been established by the invaders had stood in the main
on a footing of equality. All had taken an independent share in the work
of conquest. Though the oneness of a common blood and a common speech was
recognized by all we find no traces of any common action or common rule.
Even in the two groups of kingdoms, the five English and the five Saxon
kingdoms, which occupied Britain south of the Humber, the relations of
each member of the group to its fellows seem to have been merely local.
It was only locally that East and West and South and North English were
grouped round the Middle English of Leicester, or East and West and South
and North Saxons round the Middle Saxons about London. In neither
instance do we find any real trace of a confederacy, or of the rule of
one member of the group over the others; while north of the Humber the
feeling between the Englishmen of Yorkshire and the Englishmen who had
settled towards the Firth of Forth was one of hostility rather than of
friendship. But this age of isolation, of equality, of independence, had
now come to an end. The progress of the conquest had drawn a sharp line
between the kingdoms of the conquerors. The work of half of them was
done. In the south of the island not only Kent but Sussex, Essex, and
Middlesex were surrounded by English territory, and hindered by that
single fact from all further growth. The same fate had befallen the East
Engle, the South Engle, the Middle and the North Engle. The West Saxons,
on the other hand, and the West Engle, or Mercians, still remained free
to conquer and expand on the south of the Humber, as the Englishmen of
Deira and Bernicia remained free to the north of that river. It was
plain, therefore, that from this moment the growth of these powers would
throw their fellow kingdoms into the background, and that with an
ever-growing inequality of strength must come a new arrangement of
political forces. The greater kingdoms would in the end be drawn to
subject and absorb the lesser ones, and to the war between Englishman and
Briton would be added a struggle between Englishman and Englishman.

[Sidenote: Kent]

It was through this struggle and the establishment of a lordship on the
part of the stronger and growing states over their weaker and stationary
fellows that the English kingdoms were to make their first step towards
union in a single England. Such an overlordship seemed destined but a few
years before to fall to the lot of Wessex. The victories of Ceawlin and
Cuthwulf left it the most powerful of the English kingdoms. None of its
fellow states seemed able to hold their own against a power which
stretched from the Chilterns to the Severn and from the Channel to the
Ouse. But after its defeat in the march upon Chester Wessex suddenly
broke down into a chaos of warring tribes; and her place was taken by two
powers whose rise to greatness was as sudden as her fall. The first of
these was Kent. The Kentish king Æthelberht found himself hemmed in on
every side by English territory; and since conquest over Britons was
denied him he sought a new sphere of action in setting his kingdom at the
head of the conquerors of the south. The break up of Wessex no doubt
aided his attempt; but we know little of the causes or events which
brought about his success. We know only that the supremacy of the Kentish
king was owned at last by the English peoples of the east and centre of
Britain. But it was not by her political action that Kent was in the end
to further the creation of a single England; for the lordship which
Æthelberht built up was doomed to fall for ever with his death, and yet
his death left Kent the centre of a national union far wider as it was
far more enduring than the petty lordship which stretched over Eastern
Britain. Only three or four years after Gregory had pitied the English
slaves in the market-place of Rome, he found himself as Bishop of the
Imperial City in a position to carry out his dream of winning Britain to
the faith; and an opening was given him by Æthelberht's marriage with
Bertha, a daughter of the Frankish king Charibert of Paris. Bertha like
her Frankish kindred was a Christian; a Christian bishop accompanied her
from Gaul; and a ruined Christian church, the church of St. Martin beside
the royal city of Canterbury, was given them for their worship. The king
himself remained true to the gods of his fathers; but his marriage no
doubt encouraged Gregory to send a Roman abbot, Augustine, at the head of
a band of monks to preach the Gospel to the English people. The
missionaries landed in 597 in the Isle of Thanet, at the spot where
Hengest had landed more than a century before; and Æthelberht received
them sitting in the open air on the chalk-down above Minster, where the
eye nowadays catches miles away over the marshes the dim tower of
Canterbury. The king listened patiently to the long sermon of Augustine
as the interpreters the abbot had brought with him from Gaul rendered it
in the English tongue. "Your words are fair," Æthelberht replied at last
with English good sense, "but they are new and of doubtful meaning." For
himself, he said, he refused to forsake the gods of his fathers, but with
the usual religious tolerance of the German race he promised shelter and
protection to the strangers. The band of monks entered Canterbury bearing
before them a silver cross with a picture of Christ, and singing in
concert the strains of the litany of their Church. "Turn from this city,
O Lord," they sang, "Thine anger and wrath, and turn it from Thy holy
house, for we have sinned." And then in strange contrast came the
jubilant cry of the older Hebrew worship, the cry which Gregory had
wrested in prophetic earnestness from the name of the Yorkshire king in
the Roman market-place, "Alleluia!"

[Sidenote: Christian England]

It was thus that the spot which witnessed the landing of Hengest became
yet better known as the landing-place of Augustine. But the second
landing at Ebbsfleet was in no small measure a reversal and undoing of
the first. "Strangers from Rome" was the title with which the
missionaries first fronted the English king. The march of the monks as
they chaunted their solemn litany was in one sense a return of the Roman
legions who withdrew at the trumpet-call of Alaric. It was to the tongue
and the thought not of Gregory only but of the men whom his Jutish
fathers had slaughtered or driven out that Æthelberht listened in the
preaching of Augustine. Canterbury, the earliest royal city of German
England, became a centre of Latin influence. The Roman tongue became
again one of the tongues of Britain, the language of its worship, its
correspondence, its literature. But more than the tongue of Rome returned
with Augustine. Practically his landing renewed that union with the
Western world which the landing of Hengest had destroyed. The new England
was admitted into the older commonwealth of nations. The civilization,
art, letters, which had fled before the sword of the English conquerors
returned with the Christian faith. The fabric of the Roman law indeed
never took root in England, but it is impossible not to recognize the
result of the influence of the Roman missionaries in the fact that codes
of the customary English law began to be put in writing soon after their

[Sidenote: Æthelfrith]

A year passed before Æthelberht yielded to the preaching of Augustine.
But from the moment of his conversion the new faith advanced rapidly and
the Kentish men crowded to baptism in the train of their king. The new
religion was carried beyond the bounds of Kent by the supremacy which
Æthelberht wielded over the neighbouring kingdoms. Sæberht, King of the
East-Saxons, received a bishop sent in 604 from Kent, and suffered him to
build up again a Christian church in what was now his subject city of
London, while soon after the East-Anglian king Rædwald resolved to serve
Christ and the older gods together. But while Æthelberht was thus
furnishing a future centre of spiritual unity in Canterbury, the see to
which Augustine was consecrated, the growth of Northumbria was pointing
it out as the coming political centre of the new England. In 593, four
years before the landing of the missionaries in Kent, Æthelric was
succeeded by his son Æthelfrith, and the new king took up the work of
conquest with a vigour greater than had yet been shown by any English
leader. For ten years he waged war with the Britons of Strathclyde, a
tract which stretched along his western border from Dumbarton to
Carlisle. The contest ended in a great battle at Dægsastan, perhaps
Dawston in Liddesdale; and Æthelfrith turned to deliver a yet more
crushing blow on his southern border. British kingdoms still stretched
from Clyde-mouth to the mouth of Severn; and had their line remained
unbroken the British resistance might yet have withstood the English
advance. It was with a sound political instinct therefore that Æthelfrith
marched in 613 upon Chester, the point where the kingdom of Cumbria, a
kingdom which stretched from the Lune to the Dee, linked itself to the
British states of what we now call Wales. Hard by the city two thousand
monks were gathered in one of those vast religious settlements which were
characteristic of Celtic Christianity, and after a three days' fast a
crowd of these ascetics followed the British army to the field.
Æthelfrith watched the wild gestures of the monks as they stood apart
from the host with arms outstretched in prayer, and bade his men slay
them in the coming fight. "Bear they arms or no," said the King, "they
war against us when they cry against us to their God," and in the
surprise and rout which followed the monks were the first to fall.

With the battle of Chester Britain as a country ceased to exist. By their
victory at Deorham the West-Saxons had cut off the Britons of Dyvnaint,
of our Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and Cornwall, from the general body of
their race. By Æthelfrith's victory at Chester and the reduction of
southern Lancashire which followed it what remained of Britain was broken
into two several parts. From this time therefore the character of the
English conquest of Britain changes. The warfare of Briton and Englishman
died down into a warfare of separate English kingdoms against separate
British kingdoms, of Northumbria against the Cumbrians and Strathclyde,
of Mercia against the Welsh between Anglesea and the British Channel, of
Wessex against the tract of country from Mendip to the Land's End. But
great as was the importance of the battle of Chester to the fortunes of
Britain, it was of still greater importance to the fortunes of England
itself. The drift towards national unity had already begun, but from the
moment of Æthelfrith's victory this drift became the main current of our
history. Masters of the larger and richer part of the land, its
conquerors were no longer drawn greedily westward by the hope of plunder;
while the severance of the British kingdoms took from their enemies the
pressure of a common danger. The conquests of Æthelfrith left him without
a rival in military power, and he turned from victories over the Welsh,
as their English foes called the Britons, to the building up of a
lordship over his own countrymen.

[Sidenote: Eadwine]

The power of Æthelberht seems to have declined with old age, and though
the Essex men still owned his supremacy, the English tribes of
Mid-Britain shook it off. So strong however had the instinct of union now
become, that we hear nothing of any return to their old isolation.
Mercians and Southumbrians, Middle-English and South-English now owned
the lordship of the East-English King Rædwald. The shelter given by
Rædwald to Ælla's son Eadwine served as a pretext for a Northumbrian
attack. Fortune however deserted Æthelfrith, and a snatch of northern
song still tells of the day when the river Idle by Retford saw his defeat
and fall. But the greatness of Northumbria survived its king. In 617
Eadwine was welcomed back by his own men of Deira; and his conquest of
Bernicia maintained that union of the two realms which the Bernician
conquest of Deira had first brought about. The greatness of Northumbria
now reached its height. Within his own dominions, Eadwine displayed a
genius for civil government which shows how utterly the mere age of
conquest had passed away. With him began the English proverb so often
applied to after kings: "A woman with her babe might walk scatheless from
sea to sea in Eadwine's day." Peaceful communication revived along the
deserted highways; the springs by the roadside were marked with stakes,
and a cup of brass set beside each for the traveller's refreshment. Some
faint traditions of the Roman past may have flung their glory round this
new "Empire of the English"; a royal standard of purple and gold floated
before Eadwine as he rode through the villages; a feather tuft attached
to a spear, the Roman tufa, preceded him as he walked through the
streets. The Northumbrian king became in fact supreme over Britain as no
king of English blood had been before. Northward his frontier reached to
the Firth of Forth, and here, if we trust tradition, Eadwine founded a
city which bore his name, Edinburgh, Eadwine's burgh. To the west his
arms crushed the long resistance of Elmet, the district about Leeds; he
was master of Chester, and the fleet he equipped there subdued the isles
of Anglesea and Man. South of the Humber he was owned as overlord by the
five English states of Mid-Britain. The West-Saxons remained awhile
independent. But revolt and slaughter had fatally broken their power when
Eadwine attacked them. A story preserved by Bæda tells something of the
fierceness of the struggle which ended in the subjection of the south to
the overlordship of Northumbria. In an Easter-court which he held in his
royal city by the river Derwent, Eadwine gave audience to Eumer, an envoy
of Wessex, who brought a message from its king. In the midst of the
conference Eumer started to his feet, drew a dagger from his robe, and
rushed on the Northumbrian sovereign. Lilla, one of the king's war-band,
threw himself between Eadwine and his assassin; but so furious was the
stroke that even through Lilla's body the dagger still reached its aim.
The king however recovered from his wound to march on the West-Saxons; he
slew or subdued all who had conspired against him, and returned
victorious to his own country.

[Sidenote: Conversion of Northumbria]

Kent had bound itself to him by giving him its King's daughter as a wife,
a step which probably marked political subordination; and with the
Kentish queen had come Paulinus, one of Augustine's followers, whose tall
stooping form, slender aquiline nose, and black hair falling round a thin
worn face, were long remembered in the North. Moved by his queen's
prayers Eadwine promised to become Christian if he returned successful
from Wessex; and the wise men of Northumbria gathered to deliberate on
the new faith to which he bowed. To finer minds its charm lay then as now
in the light it threw on the darkness which encompassed men's lives, the
darkness of the future as of the past. "So seems the life of man, O
king," burst forth an aged ealdorman, "as a sparrow's flight through the
hall when one is sitting at meat in winter-tide with the warm fire
lighted on the hearth but the icy rain-storm without. The sparrow flies
in at one door and tarries for a moment in the light and heat of the
hearth-fire, and then flying forth from the other vanishes into the
darkness whence it came. So tarries for a moment the life of man in our
sight, but what is before it, what after it, we know not. If this new
teaching tell us aught certainly of these, let us follow it." Coarser
argument told on the crowd. "None of your people, Eadwine, have
worshipped the gods more busily than I," said Coifi the priest, "yet
there are many more favoured and more fortunate. Were these gods good for
anything they would help their worshippers." Then leaping on horseback,
he hurled his spear into the sacred temple at Godmanham, and with the
rest of the Witan embraced the religion of the king.

[Sidenote: Penda]

But the faith of Woden and Thunder was not to fall without a struggle.
Even in Kent a reaction against the new creed began with the death of
Æthelberht. The young kings of the East-Saxons burst into the church
where the Bishop of London was administering the Eucharist to the people,
crying, "Give us that white bread you gave to our father Saba," and on
the bishop's refusal drove him from their realm. This earlier tide of
reaction was checked by Eadwine's conversion; but Mercia, which had as
yet owned the supremacy of Northumbria, sprang into a sudden greatness as
the champion of the heathen gods. Its king, Penda, saw in the rally of
the old religion a chance of winning back his people's freedom and giving
it the lead among the tribes about it. Originally mere settlers along the
Upper Trent, the position of the Mercians on the Welsh border invited
them to widen their possessions by conquest while the rest of their
Anglian neighbours were shut off from any chance of expansion. Their
fights along the frontier too kept their warlike energy at its height.
Penda must have already asserted his superiority over the four other
English tribes of Mid-Britain before he could have ventured to attack
Wessex and tear from it in 628 the country of the Hwiccas and Magesætas
on the Severn. Even with this accession of strength however he was still
no match for Northumbria. But the war of the English people with the
Britons seems at this moment to have died down for a season, and the
Mercian ruler boldly broke through the barrier which had parted the two
races till now by allying himself with a Welsh King, Cadwallon, for a
joint attack on Eadwine. The armies met in 633 at a place called the
Heathfield, and in the fight which followed Eadwine was defeated and

[Sidenote: Oswald]

Bernicia seized on the fall of Eadwine to recall the line of Æthelfrith
to its throne; and after a year of anarchy his second son, Oswald, became
its king. The Welsh had remained encamped in the heart of the north, and
Oswald's first fight was with Cadwallon. A small Northumbrian force
gathered in 635 near the Roman Wall, and pledged itself at the new King's
bidding to become Christian if it conquered in the fight. Cadwallon fell
fighting on the "Heaven's Field," as after times called the field of
battle; the submission of Deira to the conqueror restored the kingdom of
Northumbria; and for seven years the power of Oswald equalled that of
Eadwine. It was not the Church of Paulinus which nerved Oswald to this
struggle for the Cross, or which carried out in Bernicia the work of
conversion which his victory began. Paulinus fled from Northumbria at
Eadwine's fall; and the Roman Church, though established in Kent, did
little in contending elsewhere against the heathen reaction. Its place in
the conversion of northern England was taken by missionaries from
Ireland. To understand the true meaning of this change we must remember
how greatly the Christian Church in the west had been affected by the
German invasion. Before the landing of the English in Britain the
Christian Church stretched in an unbroken line across Western Europe to
the furthest coasts of Ireland. The conquest of Britain by the pagan
English thrust a wedge of heathendom into the heart of this great
communion and broke it into two unequal parts. On one side lay Italy,
Spain, and Gaul, whose churches owned obedience to and remained in direct
contact with the See of Rome, on the other, practically cut off from the
general body of Christendom, lay the Church of Ireland. But the condition
of the two portions of Western Christendom was very different. While the
vigour of Christianity in Italy and Gaul and Spain was exhausted in a
bare struggle for life, Ireland, which remained unscourged by invaders,
drew from its conversion an energy such as it has never known since.
Christianity was received there with a burst of popular enthusiasm, and
letters and arts sprang up rapidly in its train. The science and Biblical
knowledge which fled from the Continent took refuge in its schools. The
new Christian life soon beat too strongly to brook confinement within the
bounds of Ireland itself. Patrick, the first missionary of the island,
had not been half a century dead when Irish Christianity flung itself
with a fiery zeal into battle with the mass of heathenism which was
rolling in upon the Christian world. Irish missionaries laboured among
the Picts of the Highlands and among the Frisians of the northern seas.
An Irish missionary, Columban, founded monasteries in Burgundy and the
Apennines. The canton of St. Gall still commemorates in its name another
Irish missionary before whom the spirits of flood and fell fled wailing
over the waters of the Lake of Constance. For a time it seemed as if the
course of the world's history was to be changed, as if the older Celtic
race that Roman and German had swept before them had turned to the moral
conquest of their conquerors, as if Celtic and not Latin Christianity was
to mould the destinies of the Churches of the West.

[Sidenote: Aidan]

On a low island of barren gneiss-rock off the west coast of Scotland an
Irish refugee, Columba, had raised the famous mission-station of Iona. It
was within its walls that Oswald in youth found refuge, and on his
accession to the throne of Northumbria he called for missionaries from
among its monks. The first preacher sent in answer to his call obtained
little success. He declared on his return that among a people so stubborn
and barbarous as the Northumbrian folk success was impossible. "Was it
their stubbornness or your severity?" asked Aidan, a brother sitting by;
"did you forget God's word to give them the milk first and then the
meat?" All eyes turned on the speaker as fittest to undertake the
abandoned mission, and Aidan sailing at their bidding fixed his bishop's
see in the island-peninsula of Lindisfarne. Thence, from a monastery
which gave to the spot its after name of Holy Island, preachers poured
forth over the heathen realms. Aidan himself wandered on foot, preaching
among the peasants of Yorkshire and Northumbria. In his own court the
King acted as interpreter to the Irish missionaries in their efforts to
convert his thegns. A new conception of kingship indeed began to blend
itself with that of the warlike glory of Æthelfrith or the wise
administration of Eadwine, and the moral power which was to reach its
height in Ælfred first dawns in the story of Oswald. For after times the
memory of Oswald's greatness was lost in the memory of his piety. "By
reason of his constant habit of praying or giving thanks to the Lord he
was wont wherever he sat to hold his hands upturned on his knees." As he
feasted with Bishop Aidan by his side, the thegn, or noble of his
war-band, whom he had set to give alms to the poor at his gate told him
of a multitude that still waited fasting without. The king at once bade
the untasted meat before him be carried to the poor, and his silver dish
be parted piecemeal among them. Aidan seized the royal hand and blessed
it. "May this hand," he cried, "never grow old."

Oswald's lordship stretched as widely over Britain as that of his
predecessor Eadwine. In him even more than in Eadwine men saw some faint
likeness of the older Emperors; once indeed a writer from the land of the
Picts calls Oswald "Emperor of the whole of Britain." His power was bent
to carry forward the conversion of all England, but prisoned as it was to
the central districts of the country heathendom fought desperately for
life. Penda was still its rallying-point. His long reign was one
continuous battle with the new religion; but it was a battle rather with
the supremacy of Christian Northumbria than with the supremacy of the
Cross. East-Anglia became at last the field of contest between the two
powers; and in 642 Oswald marched to deliver it from the Mercian rule.
But his doom was the doom of Eadwine, and in a battle called the battle
of the Maserfeld he was overthrown and slain. For a few years after his
victory at the Maserfeld, Penda stood supreme in Britain. Heathenism
triumphed with him. If Wessex did not own his overlordship as it had
owned that of Oswald, its king threw off the Christian faith which he had
embraced but a few years back at the preaching of Birinus. Even Deira
seems to have owned Penda's sway. Bernicia alone, though distracted by
civil war between rival claimants for its throne, refused to yield. Year
by year the Mercian king carried his ravages over the north; once he
reached even the royal city, the impregnable rock-fortress of Bamborough.
Despairing of success in an assault, he pulled down the cottages around,
and piling their wood against its walls fired the mass in a fair wind
that drove the flames on the town. "See, Lord, what ill Penda is doing,"
cried Aidan from his hermit cell in the islet of Farne, as he saw the
smoke drifting over the city, and a change of wind--so ran the legend of
Northumbria's agony--drove back the flames on those who kindled them. But
burned and harried as it was, Bernicia still clung to the Cross. Oswiu, a
third son of Æthelfrith, held his ground stoutly against Penda's inroads
till their cessation enabled him to build up again the old Northumbrian
kingdom by a march upon Deira. The union of the two realms was never
henceforth to be dissolved; and its influence was at once seen in the
renewal of Christianity throughout Britain. East-Anglia, conquered as it
was, had clung to its faith. Wessex quietly became Christian again.
Penda's own son, whom he had set over the Middle-English, received
baptism and teachers from Lindisfarne. At last the missionaries of the
new belief appeared fearlessly among the Mercians themselves. Penda gave
them no hindrance. In words that mark the temper of a man of whom we
would willingly know more, Bæda tells us that the old king only "hated
and scorned those whom he saw not doing the works of the faith they had
received." His attitude shows that Penda looked with the tolerance of his
race on all questions of creed, and that he was fighting less for
heathenism than for political independence. And now the growing power of
Oswiu called him to the old struggle with Northumbria. In 655 he met
Oswiu in the field of Winwæd by Leeds. It was in vain that the
Northumbrian sought to avert Penda's attack by offers of ornaments and
costly gifts. "If the pagans will not accept them," Oswiu cried at last,
"let us offer them to One that will"; and he vowed that if successful he
would dedicate his daughter to God, and endow twelve monasteries in his
realm. Victory at last declared for the faith of Christ. Penda himself
fell on the field. The river over which the Mercians fled was swollen
with a great rain; it swept away the fragments of the heathen host, and
the cause of the older gods was lost for ever.

[Sidenote: Oswiu]

The terrible struggle between heathendom and Christianity was followed by
a long and profound peace. For three years after the battle of Winwæd
Mercia was governed by Northumbrian thegns in Oswiu's name. The winning
of central England was a victory for Irish Christianity as well as for
Oswiu. Even in Mercia itself heathendom was dead with Penda. "Being thus
freed," Bæda tells us, "the Mercians with their King rejoiced to serve
the true King, Christ." Its three provinces, the earlier Mercia, the
Middle-English, and the Lindiswaras, were united in the bishopric of the
missionary Ceadda, the St. Chad to whom Lichfield is still dedicated.
Ceadda was a monk of Lindisfarne, so simple and lowly in temper that he
travelled on foot on his long mission journeys till Archbishop Theodore
with his own hands lifted him on horseback. The old Celtic poetry breaks
out in his death-legend, as it tells us how voices of singers singing
sweetly descended from heaven to the little cell beside St. Mary's Church
where the bishop lay dying. Then "the same song ascended from the roof
again, and returned heavenward by the way that it came." It was the soul
of his brother, the missionary Cedd, come with a choir of angels to
solace the last hours of Ceadda.

[Sidenote: Cuthbert]

In Northumbria the work of his fellow missionaries has almost been lost
in the glory of Cuthbert. No story better lights up for us the new
religious life of the time than the story of this Apostle of the
Lowlands. Born on the southern edge of the Lammermoor, Cuthbert found
shelter at eight years old in a widow's house in the little village of
Wrangholm. Already in youth his robust frame hid a poetic sensibility
which caught even in the chance word of a game a call to higher things,
and a passing attack of lameness deepened the religious impression. A
traveller coming in his white mantle over the hillside and stopping his
horse to tend Cuthbert's injured knee seemed to him an angel. The boy's
shepherd life carried him to the bleak upland, still famous as a
sheepwalk, though a scant herbage scarce veils the whinstone rock. There
meteors plunging into the night became to him a company of angelic
spirits carrying the soul of Bishop Aidan heavenward, and his longings
slowly settled into a resolute will towards a religious life. In 651 he
made his way to a group of straw-thatched log-huts, in the midst of an
untilled solitude, where a few Irish monks from Lindisfarne had settled
in the mission-station of Melrose. To-day the land is a land of poetry
and romance. Cheviot and Lammermoor, Ettrick and Teviotdale, Yarrow and
Annan-water, are musical with old ballads and border minstrelsy.
Agriculture has chosen its valleys for her favourite seat, and drainage
and steam-power have turned sedgy marshes into farm and meadow. But to
see the Lowlands as they were in Cuthbert's day we must sweep meadow and
farm away again, and replace them by vast solitudes, dotted here and
there with clusters of wooden hovels and crossed by boggy tracks, over
which travellers rode spear in hand and eye kept cautiously about them.
The Northumbrian peasantry among whom he journeyed were for the most part
Christians only in name. With Teutonic indifference they yielded to their
thegns in nominally accepting the new Christianity as these had yielded
to the king. But they retained their old superstitions side by side with
the new worship; plague or mishap drove them back to a reliance on their
heathen charms and amulets; and if trouble befell the Christian preachers
who came settling among them, they took it as proof of the wrath of the
older gods. When some log-rafts which were floating down the Tyne for the
construction of an abbey at its mouth drifted with the monks who were at
work on them out to sea, the rustic bystanders shouted, "Let nobody pray
for them; let nobody pity these men; for they have taken away from us our
old worship, and how their new-fangled customs are to be kept nobody
knows." On foot, on horseback, Cuthbert wandered among listeners such as
these, choosing above all the remoter mountain villages from whose
roughness and poverty other teachers turned aside. Unlike his Irish
comrades, he needed no interpreter as he passed from village to village;
the frugal, long-headed Northumbrians listened willingly to one who was
himself a peasant of the Lowlands, and who had caught the rough
Northumbrian burr along the banks of the Tweed. His patience, his
humorous good sense, the sweetness of his look, told for him, and not
less the stout vigorous frame which fitted the peasant-preacher for the
hard life he had chosen. "Never did man die of hunger who served God
faithfully," he would say, when nightfall found them supperless in the
waste. "Look at the eagle overhead! God can feed us through him if He
will"--and once at least he owed his meal to a fish that the scared bird
let fall. A snowstorm drove his boat on the coast of Fife. "The snow
closes the road along the shore," mourned his comrades; "the storm bars
our way over sea." "There is still the way of heaven that lies open,"
said Cuthbert.

[Sidenote: Cædmon]

While missionaries were thus labouring among its peasantry, Northumbria
saw the rise of a number of monasteries, not bound indeed by the strict
ties of the Benedictine rule, but gathered on the loose Celtic model of
the family or the clan round some noble and wealthy person who sought
devotional retirement. The most notable and wealthy of these houses was
that of Streoneshealh, where Hild, a woman of royal race, reared her
abbey on the cliffs of Whitby, looking out over the Northern Sea. Hild
was a Northumbrian Deborah whose counsel was sought even by kings; and
the double monastery over which she ruled became a seminary of bishops
and priests. The sainted John of Beverley was among her scholars. But the
name which really throws glory over Whitby is the name of a cowherd from
whose lips during the reign of Oswiu flowed the first great English song.
Though well advanced in years, Cædmon had learned nothing of the art of
verse, the alliterative jingle so common among his fellows, "wherefore
being sometimes at feasts, when all agreed for glee's sake to sing in
turn, he no sooner saw the harp come towards him than he rose from the
board and went homewards. Once when he had done thus, and gone from the
feast to the stable where he had that night charge of the cattle, there
appeared to him in his sleep One who said, greeting him by name, 'Sing,
Cædmon, some song to Me.' 'I cannot sing,' he answered; 'for this cause
left I the feast and came hither.' He who talked with him answered,
'However that be, you shall sing to Me.' 'What shall I sing?' rejoined
Cædmon. 'The beginning of created things,' replied He. In the morning the
cowherd stood before Hild and told his dream. Abbess and brethren alike
concluded 'that heavenly grace had been conferred on him by the Lord.'
They translated for Cædmon a passage in Holy Writ, 'bidding him, if he
could, put the same into verse.' The next morning he gave it them
composed in excellent verse, whereon the abbess, understanding the divine
grace in the man, bade him quit the secular habit and take on him the
monastic life." Piece by piece the sacred story was thus thrown into
Cædmon's poem. "He sang of the creation of the world, of the origin of
man, and of all the history of Israel; of their departure from Egypt and
entering into the Promised Land; of the incarnation, passion, and
resurrection of Christ, and of His ascension; of the terror of future
judgement, the horror of hell-pangs, and the joys of heaven."

[Sidenote: Synod of Whitby]

But even while Cædmon was singing the glories of Northumbria and of the
Irish Church were passing away. The revival of Mercia was as rapid as its
fall. Only a few years after Penda's defeat the Mercians threw off
Oswin's yoke and set Wulfhere, a son of Penda, on their throne. They were
aided in their revolt, no doubt, by a religious strife which was now
rending the Northumbrian realm. The labour of Aidan, the victories of
Oswald and Oswin, seemed to have annexed the north to the Irish Church.
The monks of Lindisfarne, or of the new religious houses whose foundation
followed that of Lindisfarne, looked for their ecclesiastical tradition,
not to Rome but to Ireland; and quoted for their guidance the
instructions, not of Gregory, but of Columba. Whatever claims of
supremacy over the whole English Church might be pressed by the see of
Canterbury, the real metropolitan of the Church as it existed in the
North of England was the Abbot of Iona. But Oswiu's queen brought with
her from Kent the loyalty of the Kentish Church to the Roman See; and the
visit of two young thegns to the Imperial City raised their love of Rome
into a passionate fanaticism. The elder of these, Benedict Biscop,
returned to denounce the usages in which the Irish Church differed from
the Roman as schismatic; and the vigour of his comrade Wilfrid stirred so
hot a strife that Oswiu was prevailed upon to summon in 664 a great
council at Whitby, where the future ecclesiastical allegiance of his
realm should be decided. The points actually contested were trivial
enough. Colman, Aidan's successor at Holy Island, pleaded for the Irish
fashion of the tonsure, and for the Irish time of keeping Easter: Wilfrid
pleaded for the Roman. The one disputant appealed to the authority of
Columba, the other to that of St. Peter. "You own," cried the king at
last to Colman, "that Christ gave to Peter the keys of the kingdom of
heaven--has He given such power to Columba?" The bishop could but answer
"No." "Then will I rather obey the porter of heaven," said Oswiu, "lest
when I reach its gates he who has the keys in his keeping turn his back
on me, and there be none to open." The humorous tone of Oswiu's decision
could not hide its importance, and the synod had no sooner broken up than
Colman, followed by the whole of the Irish-born brethren and thirty of
their English fellows, forsook the see of St. Aidan and sailed away to
Iona. Trivial in fact as were the actual points of difference which
severed the Roman Church from the Irish, the question to which communion
Northumbria should belong was of immense moment to the after fortunes of
England. Had the Church of Aidan finally won, the later ecclesiastical
history of England would probably have resembled that of Ireland. Devoid
of that power of organization which was the strength of the Roman Church,
the Celtic Church in its own Irish home took the clan system of the
country as the basis of its government. Tribal quarrels and
ecclesiastical controversies became inextricably confounded; and the
clergy, robbed of all really spiritual influence, contributed no element
save that of disorder to the state. Hundreds of wandering bishops, a vast
religious authority wielded by hereditary chieftains, the dissociation of
piety from morality, the absence of those larger and more humanizing
influences which contact with a wider world alone can give, this is a
picture which the Irish Church of later times presents to us. It was from
such a chaos as this that England was saved by the victory of Rome in the
Synod of Whitby. But the success of Wilfrid dispelled a yet greater
danger. Had England clung to the Irish Church it must have remained
spiritually isolated from the bulk of the Western world. Fallen as Rome
might be from its older greatness, it preserved the traditions of
civilization, of letters and art and law. Its faith still served as a
bond which held together the nations that sprang from the wreck of the
Empire. To fight against Rome was, as Wilfrid said, "to fight against the
world." To repulse Rome was to condemn England to isolation. Dimly as
such thoughts may have presented themselves to Oswiu's mind, it was the
instinct of a statesman that led him to set aside the love and gratitude
of his youth and to link England to Rome in the Synod of Whitby.

[Sidenote: Theodore]

Oswiu's assent to the vigorous measures of organization undertaken by a
Greek monk, Theodore of Tarsus, whom Rome despatched in 668 to secure
England to her sway as Archbishop of Canterbury, marked a yet more
decisive step in the new policy. The work of Theodore lay mainly in the
organization of the episcopate, and thus the Church of England, as we
know it to-day, is the work, so far as its outer form is concerned, of
Theodore. His work was determined in its main outlines by the previous
history of the English people. The conquest of the Continent had been
wrought either by races which were already Christian, or by heathens who
bowed to the Christian faith of the nations they conquered. To this
oneness of religion between the German invaders of the Empire and their
Roman subjects was owing the preservation of all that survived of the
Roman world. The Church everywhere remained untouched. The Christian
bishop became the defender of the conquered Italian or Gaul against his
Gothic and Lombard conqueror, the mediator between the German and his
subjects, the one bulwark against barbaric violence and oppression. To
the barbarian, on the other hand, he was the representative of all that
was venerable in the past, the living record of law, of letters, and of
art. But in Britain the priesthood and the people had been driven out
together. When Theodore came to organize the Church of England, the very
memory of the older Christian Church which existed in Roman Britain had
passed away. The first missionaries to the Englishmen, strangers in a
heathen land, attached themselves necessarily to the courts of the kings,
who were their earliest converts, and whose conversion was generally
followed by that of their people. The English bishops were thus at first
royal chaplains, and their diocese was naturally nothing but the kingdom.
In this way realms which are all but forgotten are commemorated in the
limits of existing sees. That of Rochester represented till of late an
obscure kingdom of West Kent, and the frontier of the original kingdom of
Mercia may be recovered by following the map of the ancient bishopric of
Lichfield. In adding many sees to those he found Theodore was careful to
make their dioceses co-extensive with existing tribal demarcations. But
he soon passed from this extension of the episcopate to its organization.
In his arrangement of dioceses, and the way in which he grouped them
round the see of Canterbury, in his national synods and ecclesiastical
canons, Theodore did unconsciously a political work. The old divisions of
kingdoms and tribes about him, divisions which had sprung for the most
part from mere accidents of the conquest, were now fast breaking down.
The smaller states were by this time practically absorbed by the three
larger ones, and of these three Mercia and Wessex were compelled to bow
to the superiority of Northumbria. The tendency to national unity which
was to characterize the new England had thus already declared itself; but
the policy of Theodore clothed with a sacred form and surrounded with
divine sanctions a unity which as yet rested on no basis but the sword.
The single throne of the one Primate at Canterbury accustomed men's minds
to the thought of a single throne for their one temporal overlord. The
regular subordination of priest to bishop, of bishop to primate, in the
administration of the Church, supplied a mould on which the civil
organization of the state quietly shaped itself. Above all, the councils
gathered by Theodore were the first of our national gatherings for
general legislation. It was at a much later time that the Wise Men of
Wessex, or Northumbria, or Mercia learned to come together in the
Witenagemot of all England. The synods which Theodore convened as
religiously representative of the whole English nation led the way by
their example to our national parliaments. The canons which these synods
enacted led the way to a national system of law.

[Sidenote: Wulfhere]

The organization of the episcopate was followed by the organization of
the parish system. The mission-station or monastery from which priest or
bishop went forth on journey after journey to preach and baptize
naturally disappeared as the land became Christian. The missionaries
turned into settled clergy. As the king's chaplain became a bishop and
the kingdom his diocese, so the chaplain of an English noble became the
priest and the manor his parish. But this parish system is probably later
than Theodore, and the system of tithes which has been sometimes coupled
with his name dates only from the close of the eighth century. What was
really due to him was the organization of the episcopate, and the impulse
which this gave to national unity. But the movement towards unity found a
sudden check in the revived strength of Mercia. Wulfhere proved a
vigorous and active ruler, and the peaceful reign of Oswiu left him free
to build up again during fifteen years of rule (659-675) that Mercian
overlordship over the tribes of Mid-England which had been lost at
Penda's death. He had more than his father's success. Not only did Essex
again own his supremacy, but even London fell into Mercian hands. The
West-Saxons were driven across the Thames, and nearly all their
settlements to the north of that river were annexed to the Mercian realm.
Wulfhere's supremacy soon reached even south of the Thames, for Sussex in
its dread of West-Saxons found protection in accepting his overlordship,
and its king was rewarded by a gift of the two outlying settlements of
the Jutes--the Isle of Wight and the lands of the Meonwaras along the
Southampton water--which we must suppose had been reduced by Mercian
arms. The industrial progress of the Mercian kingdom went hand in hand
with its military advance. The forests of its western border, the marshes
of its eastern coast, were being cleared and drained by monastic
colonies, whose success shows the hold which Christianity had now gained
over its people. Heathenism indeed still held its own in the wild western
woodlands and in the yet wilder fen-country on the eastern border of the
kingdom which stretched from the "Holland," the sunk, hollow land of
Lincolnshire, to the channel of the Ouse, a wilderness of shallow waters
and reedy islets wrapped in its own dark mist-veil and tenanted only by
flocks of screaming wild-fowl. But in either quarter the new faith made
its way. In the western woods Bishop Ecgwine found a site for an abbey
round which gathered the town of Evesham, and the eastern fen-land was
soon filled with religious houses. Here through the liberality of King
Wulfhere rose the Abbey of Peterborough. Here too, Guthlac, a youth of
the royal race of Mercia, sought a refuge from the world in the solitudes
of Crowland, and so great was the reverence he won, that only two years
had passed since his death when the stately Abbey of Crowland rose over
his tomb. Earth was brought in boats to form a site; the buildings rested
on oaken piles driven into the marsh; a great stone church replaced the
hermit's cell; and the toil of the new brotherhood changed the pools
around them into fertile meadow-land.

[Sidenote: Ecgfrith]

In spite however of this rapid recovery of its strength by Mercia,
Northumbria remained the dominant state in Britain: and Ecgfrith, who
succeeded Oswiu in 670, so utterly defeated Wulfhere when war broke out
between them that he was glad to purchase peace by the surrender of
Lincolnshire. Peace would have been purchased more hardly had not
Ecgfrith's ambition turned rather to conquests over the Briton than to
victories over his fellow Englishmen. The war between Briton and
Englishman which had languished since the battle of Chester had been
revived some twelve years before by an advance of the West-Saxons to the
south-west. Unable to save the possessions of Wessex north of the Thames
from the grasp of Wulfhere, their king, Cenwealh, sought for compensation
in an attack on his Welsh neighbours. A victory at Bradford on the Avon
enabled him to overrun the country near Mendip which had till then been
held by the Britons; and a second campaign in 658, which ended in a
victory on the skirts of the great forest that covered Somerset to the
east, settled the West-Saxons as conquerors round the sources of the
Parret. It may have been the example of the West-Saxons which spurred
Ecgfrith to a series of attacks upon his British neighbours in the west
which widened the bounds of his kingdom. His reign marks the highest
pitch of Northumbrian power. His armies chased the Britons from the
kingdom of Cumbria, and made the district of Carlisle English ground. A
large part of the conquered country was bestowed upon the see of
Lindisfarne, which was at this time filled by one whom we have seen
before labouring as the Apostle of the Lowlands. Cuthbert had found a new
mission-station in Holy Island, and preached among the moors of
Northumberland as he had preached beside the banks of Tweed. He remained
there through the great secession which followed on the Synod of Whitby,
and became prior of the dwindled company of brethren, now torn with
endless disputes against which his patience and good humour struggled in
vain. Worn out at last, he fled to a little island of basaltic rock, one
of the Farne group not far from Ida's fortress of Bamborough, strewn for
the most part with kelp and sea-weed, the home of the gull and the seal.
In the midst of it rose his hut of rough stones and turf, dug down within
deep into the rock, and roofed with logs and straw. But the reverence for
his sanctity dragged Cuthbert back to fill the vacant see of Lindisfarne.
He entered Carlisle, which the king had bestowed upon the bishopric, at a
moment when all Northumbria was waiting for news of a fresh campaign of
Ecgfrith's against the Britons in the north. The Firth of Forth had long
been the limit of Northumbria, but the Picts to the north of it owned
Ecgfrith's supremacy. In 685 however the king resolved on their actual
subjection and marched across the Forth. A sense of coming ill weighed on
Northumbria, and its dread was quickened by a memory of the curses which
had been pronounced by the bishops of Ireland on its king, when his navy,
setting out a year before from the newly-conquered western coast, swept
the Irish shores in a raid which seemed like sacrilege to those who loved
the home of Aidan and Columba. As Cuthbert bent over a Roman fountain
which still stood unharmed amongst the ruins of Carlisle, the anxious
bystanders thought they caught words of ill-omen falling from the old
man's lips. "Perhaps," he seemed to murmur, "at this very hour the peril
of the fight is over and done." "Watch and pray," he said, when they
questioned him on the morrow; "watch and pray." In a few days more a
solitary fugitive escaped from the slaughter told that the Picts had
turned desperately to bay as the English army entered Fife; and that
Ecgfrith and the flower of his nobles lay, a ghastly ring of corpses, on
the far-off moorland of Nectansmere.

[Sidenote: Mercian greatness]

The blow was a fatal one for Northumbrian greatness, for while the Picts
pressed on the kingdom from the north Æthelred, Wulfhere's successor,
attacked it on the Mercian border, and the war was only ended by a peace
which left him master of Middle-England and free to attempt the direct
conquest of the south. For the moment this attempt proved a fruitless
one. Mercia was still too weak to grasp the lordship which was slipping
from Northumbria's hands, while Wessex which seemed her destined prey
rose at this moment into fresh power under the greatest of its early
kings. Ine, the West-Saxon king whose reign covered the long period from
688 to 726, carried on during the whole of it the war which Cenwealh and
Centwine had begun. He pushed his way southward round the marshes of the
Parret to a more fertile territory, and guarded the frontier of his new
conquests by a fort on the banks of the Tone which has grown into the
present Taunton. The West-Saxons thus became masters of the whole
district which now bears the name of Somerset. The conquest of Sussex and
of Kent on his eastern border made Ine master of all Britain south of the
Thames, and his repulse of a new Mercian king Ceolred in a bloody
encounter at Wanborough in 715 seemed to establish the threefold division
of the English race between three realms of almost equal power. But able
as Ine was to hold Mercia at bay, he was unable to hush the civil strife
that was the curse of Wessex, and a wild legend tells the story of the
disgust which drove him from the world. He had feasted royally at one of
his country houses, and on the morrow, as he rode from it, his queen bade
him turn back thither. The king returned to find his house stripped of
curtains and vessels, and foul with refuse and the dung of cattle, while
in the royal bed where he had slept with Æthelburh rested a sow with her
farrow of pigs. The scene had no need of the queen's comment: "See, my
lord, how the fashion of this world passeth away!" In 726 he sought peace
in a pilgrimage to Rome. The anarchy which had driven Ine from the throne
broke out in civil strife which left Wessex an easy prey to Æthelbald,
the successor of Ceolred in the Mercian realm. Æthelbald took up with
better fortune the struggle of his people for supremacy over the south.
He penetrated to the very heart of the West-Saxon kingdom, and his siege
and capture of the royal town of Somerton in 733 ended the war. For
twenty years the overlordship of Mercia was recognized by all Britain
south of the Humber. It was at the head of the forces not of Mercia only
but of East-Anglia and Kent, as well as of the West-Saxons, that
Æthelbald marched against the Welsh on his western border.

[Sidenote: Bæda]

In so complete a mastery of the south the Mercian King found grounds for
a hope that Northern Britain would also yield to his sway. But the dream
of a single England was again destined to be foiled. Fallen as
Northumbria was from its old glory, it still remained a great power.
Under the peaceful reigns of Ecgfrith's successors, Aldfrith and
Ceolwulf, their kingdom became the literary centre of Western Europe. No
schools were more famous than those of Jarrow and York. The whole
learning of the age seemed to be summed up in a Northumbrian scholar.
Bæda--the Venerable Bede as later times styled him--was born nine years
after the Synod of Whitby on ground which passed a year later to Benedict
Biscop as the site of the great abbey which he reared by the mouth of the
Wear. His youth was trained and his long tranquil life was wholly spent
in an offshoot of Benedict's house which was founded by his friend
Ceolfrid. Bæda never stirred from Jarrow. "I spent my whole life in the
same monastery," he says, "and while attentive to the rule of my order
and the service of the Church, my constant pleasure lay in learning, or
teaching, or writing." The words sketch for us a scholar's life, the more
touching in its simplicity that it is the life of the first great English
scholar. The quiet grandeur of a life consecrated to knowledge, the
tranquil pleasure that lies in learning and teaching and writing, dawned
for Englishmen in the story of Bæda. While still young he became a
teacher, and six hundred monks besides strangers that flocked thither for
instruction formed his school of Jarrow. It is hard to imagine how among
the toils of the schoolmaster and the duties of the monk, Bæda could have
found time for the composition of the numerous works that made his name
famous in the West. But materials for study had accumulated in
Northumbria through the journeys of Wilfrid and Benedict Biscop and the
libraries which were forming at Wearmouth and York. The tradition of the
older Irish teachers still lingered to direct the young scholar into that
path of Scriptural interpretation to which he chiefly owed his fame.
Greek, a rare accomplishment in the West, came to him from the school
which the Greek Archbishop Theodore founded beneath the walls of
Canterbury. His skill in the ecclesiastical chant was derived from a
Roman cantor whom Pope Vitalian sent in the train of Benedict Biscop.
Little by little the young scholar thus made himself master of the whole
range of the science of his time; he became, as Burke rightly styled him,
"the father of English learning." The tradition of the older classic
culture was first revived for England in his quotations of Plato and
Aristotle, of Seneca and Cicero, of Lucretius and Ovid. Virgil cast over
him the same spell that he cast over Dante; verses from the Æneid break
his narratives of martyrdoms, and the disciple ventures on the track of
the great master in a little eclogue descriptive of the approach of
spring. His work was done with small aid from others. "I am my own
secretary," he writes; "I make my own notes. I am my own librarian." But
forty-five works remained after his death to attest his prodigious
industry. In his own eyes and those of his contemporaries the most
important among these were the commentaries and homilies upon various
books of the Bible which he had drawn from the writings of the Fathers.
But he was far from confining himself to theology. In treatises compiled
as textbooks for his scholars, Bæda threw together all that the world had
then accumulated in astronomy and meteorology, in physics and music, in
philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, medicine. But the encyclopædic
character of his researches left him in heart a simple Englishman. He
loved his own English tongue, he was skilled in English song, his last
work was a translation into English of the Gospel of St. John, and almost
the last words that broke from his lips were some English rimes upon

But the noblest proof of his love of England lies in the work which
immortalizes his name. In his "Ecclesiastical History of the English
Nation," Bæda was at once the founder of mediæval history and the first
English historian. All that we really know of the century and a half that
follows the landing of Augustine we know from him. Wherever his own
personal observation extended, the story is told with admirable detail
and force. He is hardly less full or accurate in the portions which he
owed to his Kentish friends, Albinus and Nothelm. What he owed to no
informant was his exquisite faculty of story-telling, and yet no story of
his own telling is so touching as the story of his death. Two weeks
before the Easter of 735 the old man was seized with an extreme weakness
and loss of breath. He still preserved however his usual pleasantness and
gay good-humour, and in spite of prolonged sleeplessness continued his
lectures to the pupils about him. Verses of his own English tongue broke
from time to time from the master's lip--rude rimes that told how before
the "need-fare," Death's stern "must go," none can enough bethink him
what is to be his doom for good or ill. The tears of Bæda's scholars
mingled with his song. "We never read without weeping," writes one of
them. So the days rolled on to Ascension-tide, and still master and
pupils toiled at their work, for Based longed to bring to an end his
version of St. John's Gospel into the English tongue and his extracts
from Bishop Isidore. "I don't want my boys to read a lie," he answered
those who would have had him rest, "or to work to no purpose after I am
gone." A few days before Ascension-tide his sickness grew upon him, but
he spent the whole day in teaching, only saying cheerfully to his
scholars, "Learn with what speed you may; I know not how long I may
last." The dawn broke on another sleepless night, and again the old man
called his scholars round him and bade them write. "There is still a
chapter wanting," said the scribe, as the morning drew on, "and it is
hard for thee to question thyself any longer." "It is easily done," said
Bæda; "take thy pen and write quickly." Amid tears and farewells the day
wore on till eventide. "There is yet one sentence unwritten, dear
master," said the boy. "Write it quickly," bade the dying man. "It is
finished now," said the little scribe at last. "You speak truth," said
the master; "all is finished now." Placed upon the pavement, his head
supported in his scholar's arms, his face turned to the spot where he was
wont to pray, Bæda chanted the solemn "Glory to God." As his voice
reached the close of his song he passed quietly away.

[Sidenote: Fall of Æthelbald]

First among English scholars, first among English theologians, first
among English historians, it is in the monk of Jarrow that English
literature strikes its roots. In the six hundred scholars who gathered
round him for instruction he is the father of our national education. In
his physical treatises he is the first figure to which our science looks
back. But the quiet tenor of his scholar's life was broken by the growing
anarchy of Northumbria, and by threats of war from its Mercian rival. At
last Æthelbald marched on a state which seemed exhausted by civil discord
and ready for submission to his arms. But its king Eadberht showed
himself worthy of the kings that had gone before him, and in 740 he threw
back Æthelbald's attack in a repulse which not only ruined the Mercian
ruler's hopes of northern conquest but loosened his hold on the south.
Already goaded to revolt by exactions, the West-Saxons were roused to a
fresh struggle for independence, and after twelve years of continued
outbreaks the whole people mustered at Burford under the golden dragon of
their race. The fight was a desperate one, but a sudden panic seized the
Mercian King. He fled from the field, and a decisive victory freed Wessex
from the Mercian yoke. Æthelbald's own throne seems to have been shaken;
for three years later, in 757, the Mercian king was surprised and slain
in a night attack by his ealdormen, and a year of confusion passed ere
his kinsman Offa could avenge him on his murderers and succeed to the

But though Eadberht might beat back the inroads of the Mercians and even
conquer Strathclyde, before the anarchy of his own kingdom he could only
fling down his sceptre and seek a refuge in the cloister of Lindisfarne.
From the death of Bæda the history of Northumbria became in fact little
more than a wild story of lawlessness and bloodshed. King after king was
swept away by treason and revolt, the country fell into the hands of its
turbulent nobles, its very fields lay waste, and the land was scourged by
famine and plague. An anarchy almost as complete fell on Wessex after the
recovery of its freedom. Only in Mid-England was there any sign of order
and settled rule. The crushing defeat at Burford, though it had brought
about revolts which stripped Mercia of all the conquests it had made, was
far from having broken the Mercian power. Under the long reign of Offa,
which went on from 758 to 796, it rose again to all but its old dominion.
Since the dissolution of the temporary alliance which Penda formed with
the Welsh King Cadwallon the war with the Britons in the west had been
the one great hindrance to the progress of Mercia. But under Offa Mercia
braced herself to the completion of her British conquests. Pushing after
779 over the Severn, and carrying his ravages into the heart of Wales,
Offa drove the King of Powys from his capital, which changed its old name
of Pengwern for the significant English title of the Town in the Scrub or
Bush, Scrobbesbyryg, Shrewsbury. Experience however had taught the
Mercians the worthlessness of raids like these and Offa resolved to
create a military border by planting a settlement of Englishmen between
the Severn, which had till then served as the western boundary of the
English race, and the huge "Offa's Dyke" which he drew from the mouth of
Wye to that of Dee. Here, as in the later conquests of the West-Saxons,
the old plan of extermination was definitely abandoned and the Welsh who
chose to remain dwelled undisturbed among their English conquerors. From
these conquests over the Britons Offa turned to build up again the realm
which had been shattered at Burford. But his progress was slow. A
reconquest of Kent in 775 woke anew the jealousy of the West-Saxons; and
though Offa defeated their army at Bensington in 779 the victory was
followed by several years of inaction. It was not till Wessex was again
weakened by fresh anarchy that he was able in 794 to seize East-Anglia
and restore his realm to its old bounds under Wulfhere. Further he could
not go. A Kentish revolt occupied him till his death in 796, and his
successor Cenwulf did little but preserve the realm he bequeathed him. At
the close of the eighth century the drift of the English peoples towards
a national unity was in fact utterly arrested. The work of Northumbria
had been foiled by the resistance of Mercia; the effort of Mercia had
broken down before the resistance of Wessex. A threefold division seemed
to have stamped itself upon the land; and so complete was the balance of
power between the three realms which parted it that no subjection of one
to the other seemed likely to fuse the English tribes into an English


[Sidenote: The Northmen]

The union which each English kingdom in turn had failed to bring about
was brought about by the pressure of the Northmen. The dwellers in the
isles of the Baltic or on either side of the Scandinavian peninsula had
lain hidden till now from Western Christendom, waging their battle for
existence with a stern climate, a barren soil, and stormy seas. It was
this hard fight for life that left its stamp on the temper of Dane,
Swede, or Norwegian alike, that gave them their defiant energy, their
ruthless daring, their passion for freedom and hatred of settled rule.
Forays and plunder raids over sea eked out their scanty livelihood, and
at the close of the eighth century these raids found a wider sphere than
the waters of the northern seas. Tidings of the wealth garnered in the
abbeys and towns of the new Christendom which had risen from the wreck of
Rome drew the pirates slowly southwards to the coasts of Northern Gaul;
and just before Offa's death their boats touched the shores of Britain.
To men of that day it must have seemed as though the world had gone back
three hundred years. The same northern fiords poured forth their
pirate-fleets as in the days of Hengest or Cerdic. There was the same
wild panic as the black boats of the invaders struck inland along the
river-reaches or moored round the river isles, the same sights of horror,
firing of homesteads, slaughter of men, women driven off to slavery or
shame, children tossed on pikes or sold in the market-place, as when the
English themselves had attacked Britain. Christian priests were again
slain at the altar by worshippers of Woden; letters, arts, religion,
government disappeared before these northmen as before the northmen of
three centuries before.

[Sidenote: Ecgberht]

In 794 a pirate band plundered the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow,
and the presence of the freebooters soon told on the political balance of
the English realms. A great revolution was going on in the south, where
Mercia was torn by civil wars which followed on Cenwulf's death, while
the civil strife of the West-Saxons was hushed by a new king, Ecgberht.
In Offa's days Ecgberht had failed in his claim of the crown of Wessex
and had been driven to fly for refuge to the court of the Franks. He
remained there through the memorable year during which Charles the Great
restored the Empire of the West, and returned in 802 to be quietly
welcomed as King by the West-Saxon people. A march into the heart of
Cornwall and the conquest of this last fragment of the British kingdom in
the south-west freed his hands for a strife with Mercia, which broke out
in 825 when the Mercian King Beornwulf marched into the heart of
Wiltshire. A victory of Ecgberht at Ellandun gave all England south of
Thames to the West-Saxons, and the defeat of Beornwulf spurred the men of
East-Anglia to rise in a desperate revolt against Mercia. Two great
overthrows at their hands had already spent its strength when Ecgberht
crossed the Thames in 828, and the realm of Penda and Offa bowed without
a struggle to its conqueror. But Ecgberht had wider aims than those of
supremacy over Mercia alone. The dream of a union of all England drew him
to the north. Northumbria was still strong; in learning and arts it stood
at the head of the English race; and under a king like Eadberht it would
have withstood Ecgberht as resolutely as it had withstood Æthelbald. But
the ruin of Jarrow and Wearmouth had cast on it a spell of terror. Torn
by civil strife, and desperate of finding in itself the union needed to
meet the northmen, Northumbria sought union and deliverance in subjection
to a foreign master. Its thegns met Ecgberht in Derbyshire, and owned the
supremacy of Wessex.

[Sidenote: Conquests of the Northmen]

With the submission of Northumbria the work which Oswiu and Æthelbald had
failed to do was done, and the whole English race was for the first time
knit together under a single rule. The union came not a moment too soon.
Had the old severance of people from people, the old civil strife within
each separate realm, gone on it is hard to see how the attacks of the
northmen could have been withstood. They were already settled in Ireland;
and from Ireland a northern host landed in 836 at Charmouth in
Dorsetshire strong enough to drive Ecgberht, when he hastened to meet
them, from the field. His victory the year after at Hengestdun won a
little rest for the land; but Æthelwulf who mounted the throne on
Ecgberht's death in 839 had to face an attack which was only beaten off
by years of hard fighting. Æthelwulf fought bravely in defence of his
realm; in his defeat at Charmouth as in a final victory at Aclea in 851
he led his troops in person against the sea-robbers; and his success won
peace for the land through the short and uneventful reigns of his sons
Æthelbald and Æthelberht. But the northern storm burst in full force upon
England when a third son, Æthelred, followed his brothers on the throne.
The northmen were now settled on the coast of Ireland and the coast of
Gaul; they were masters of the sea; and from west and east alike they
closed upon Britain. While one host from Ireland fell on the Scot kingdom
north of the Firth of Forth, another from Scandinavia landed in 866 on
the coast of East-Anglia under Ivar the Boneless and marched the next
year upon York. A victory over two claimants of its crown gave the
pirates Northumbrian and seizing the passage of the Trent they threatened
an attack on the Mercian realm. Mercia was saved by a march of King
Æthelred to Nottingham, but the peace he made there with the northmen
left them leisure to prepare for an invasion of East-Anglia, whose
under-king, Eadmund, brought prisoner before their leaders, was bound to
a tree and shot to death with arrows. His martyrdom by the heathen made
Eadmund the St. Sebastian of English legend; in later days his figure
gleamed from the pictured windows of church after church along the
eastern coast, and the stately Abbey of St. Edmundsbury rose over his
relics. With him ended the line of East-Anglian under-kings, for his
kingdom was not only conquered, but divided among the soldiers of the
pirate host when in 880 Guthrum assumed its crown. Already the northmen
had turned to the richer spoil of the great abbeys of the Fen.
Peterborough, Crowland, Ely went up in flames, and their monks fled or
lay slain among the ruins. Mercia, though still free from actual attack,
cowered panic-stricken before the Danes, and by payment of tribute owned
them as its overlords.

[Illustration: England and the Danelaw (v1-map-3t.jpg)]

[Sidenote: Wessex and the Northmen]

In five years the work of Ecgberht had been undone, and England north of
the Thames had been torn from the overlordship of Wessex. So rapid a
change could only have been made possible by the temper of the conquered
kingdoms. To them the conquest was simply their transfer from one
overlord to another, and it may be that in all there were men who
preferred the overlordship of the Northman to the overlordship of the
West-Saxon. But the loss of the subject kingdoms left Wessex face to face
with the invaders. The time had now come for it to fight, not for
supremacy, but for life. As yet the land seemed paralyzed by terror. With
the exception of his one march on Nottingham, King Æthelred had done
nothing to save his under-kingdoms from the wreck. But the pirates no
sooner pushed up Thames to Reading in 871 than the West-Saxons, attacked
on their own soil, turned fiercely at bay. A desperate attack drove the
northmen from Ashdown on the heights that overlook the Vale of White
Horse, but their camp in the tongue of land between the Kennet and Thames
proved impregnable. Æthelred died in the midst of the struggle, and his
brother Ælfred, who now became king, bought the withdrawal of the pirates
and a few years' breathing-space for his realm. It was easy for the quick
eye of Ælfred to see that the northmen had withdrawn simply with the view
of gaining firmer footing for a new attack; three years indeed had hardly
passed before Mercia was invaded and its under-king driven over sea to
make place for a tributary of the invaders. From Repton half their host
marched northwards to the Tyne, while Guthrum led the rest to Cambridge
to prepare for their next year's attack on Wessex. In 876 his fleet
appeared before Wareham, and in spite of a treaty bought by Ælfred, the
northmen threw themselves into Exeter. Their presence there was likely to
stir a rising of the Welsh, and through the winter Ælfred girded himself
for this new peril. At break of spring his army closed round the town, a
hired fleet cruised off the coast to guard against rescue, and the defeat
of their fellows at Wareham in an attempt to relieve them drove the
pirates to surrender. They swore to leave Wessex and withdrew to
Gloucester. But Ælfred had hardly disbanded his troops when his enemies,
roused by the arrival of fresh hordes eager for plunder, reappeared at
Chippenham, and in the opening of 878 marched ravaging over the land. The
surprise of Wessex was complete, and for a month or two the general panic
left no hope of resistance. Ælfred, with his small band of followers,
could only throw himself into a fort raised hastily in the isle of
Athelney among the marshes of the Parret, a position from which he could
watch closely the movements of his foes. But with the first burst of
spring he called the thegns of Somerset to his standard, and still
gathering troops as he moved marched through Wiltshire on the northmen.
He found their host at Edington, defeated it in a great battle, and after
a siege of fourteen days forced them to surrender and to bind themselves
by a solemn peace or "frith" at Wedmore in Somerset. In form the Peace of
Wedmore seemed a surrender of the bulk of Britain to its invaders. All
Northumbria, all East-Anglia, all Central England east of a line which
stretched from Thames' mouth along the Lea to Bedford, thence along the
Ouse to Watling Street, and by Watling Street to Chester, was left
subject to the northmen. Throughout this "Danelaw"--as it was called--the
conquerors settled down among the conquered population as lords of the
soil, thickly in northern Britain, more thinly in its central districts,
but everywhere guarding jealously their old isolation and gathering in
separate "heres" or armies round towns which were only linked in loose
confederacies. The peace had in fact saved little more than Wessex
itself. But in saving Wessex it saved England. The spell of terror was
broken. The tide of invasion turned. From an attitude of attack the
northmen were thrown back on an attitude of defence. The whole reign of
Ælfred was a preparation for a fresh struggle that was to wrest back from
the pirates the land they had won.

[Sidenote: Ælfred]

What really gave England heart for such a struggle was the courage and
energy of the King himself. Alfred was the noblest as he was the most
complete embodiment of all that is great, all that is loveable, in the
English temper. He combined as no other man has ever combined its
practical energy, its patient and enduring force, its profound sense of
duty, the reserve and self-control that steadies in it a wide outlook and
a restless daring, its temperance and fairness, its frank geniality, its
sensitiveness to affection, its poetic tenderness, its deep and
passionate religion. Religion indeed was the groundwork of Ælfred's
character. His temper was instinct with piety. Everywhere throughout his
writings that remain to us the name of God, the thought of God, stir him
to outbursts of ecstatic adoration. But he was no mere saint. He felt
none of that scorn of the world about him which drove the nobler souls of
his day to monastery or hermitage. Vexed as he was by sickness and
constant pain, his temper took no touch of asceticism. His rare
geniality, a peculiar elasticity and mobility of nature, gave colour and
charm to his life. A sunny frankness and openness of spirit breathes in
the pleasant chat of his books, and what he was in his books he showed
himself in his daily converse. Ælfred was in truth an artist, and both
the lights and shadows of his life were those of the artistic
temperament. His love of books, his love of strangers, his questionings
of travellers and scholars, betray an imaginative restlessness that longs
to break out of the narrow world of experience which hemmed him in. At
one time he jots down news of a voyage to the unknown seas of the north.
At another he listens to tidings which his envoys bring back from the
churches of Malabar. And side by side with this restless outlook of the
artistic nature he showed its tenderness and susceptibility, its vivid
apprehension of unseen danger, its craving for affection, its
sensitiveness to wrong. It was with himself rather than with his reader
that he communed as thoughts of the foe without, of ingratitude and
opposition within, broke the calm pages of Gregory or Boethius. "Oh, what
a happy man was he," he cries once, "that man that had a naked sword
hanging over his head from a single thread; so as to me it always did!"
"Desirest thou power?" he asks at another time. "But thou shalt never
obtain it without sorrows--sorrows from strange folk, and yet keener
sorrows from thine own kindred." "Hardship and sorrow!" he breaks out
again, "not a king but would wish to be without these if he could. But I
know that he cannot!" The loneliness which breathes in words like these
has often begotten in great rulers a cynical contempt of men and the
judgements of men. But cynicism found no echo in the large and
sympathetic temper of Ælfred. He not only longed for the love of his
subjects, but for the remembrance of "generations" to come. Nor did his
inner gloom or anxiety check for an instant his vivid and versatile
activity. To the scholars he gathered round him he seemed the very type
of a scholar, snatching every hour he could find to read or listen to
books read to him. The singers of his court found in him a brother
singer, gathering the old songs of his people to teach them to his
children, breaking his renderings from the Latin with simple verse,
solacing himself in hours of depression with the music of the Psalms. He
passed from court and study to plan buildings and instruct craftsmen in
gold-work, to teach even falconers and dog-keepers their business. But
all this versatility and ingenuity was controlled by a cool good sense.
Ælfred was a thorough man of business. He was careful of detail,
laborious, methodical. He carried in his bosom a little handbook in which
he noted things as they struck him--now a bit of family genealogy, now a
prayer, now such a story as that of Ealdhelm playing minstrel on the
bridge. Each hour of the day had its appointed task, there was the same
order in the division of his revenue and in the arrangement of his court.

Wide however and various as was the King's temper, its range was less
wonderful than its harmony. Of the narrowness, of the want of proportion,
of the predominance of one quality over another which goes commonly with
an intensity of moral purpose Ælfred showed not a trace. Scholar and
soldier, artist and man of business, poet and saint, his character kept
that perfect balance which charms us in no other Englishman save
Shakspere. But full and harmonious as his temper was, it was the temper
of a king. Every power was bent to the work of rule. His practical energy
found scope for itself in the material and administrative restoration of
the wasted land. His intellectual activity breathed fresh life into
education and literature. His capacity for inspiring trust and affection
drew the hearts of Englishmen to a common centre, and began the
upbuilding of a new England. And all was guided, controlled, ennobled by
a single aim. "So long as I have lived," said the King as life closed
about him, "I have striven to live worthily." Little by little men came
to know what such a life of worthiness meant. Little by little they came
to recognize in Ælfred a ruler of higher and nobler stamp than the world
had seen. Never had it seen a King who lived solely for the good of his
people. Never had it seen a ruler who set aside every personal aim to
devote himself solely to the welfare of those whom he ruled. It was this
grand self-mastery that gave him his power over the men about him.
Warrior and conqueror as he was, they saw him set aside at thirty the
warrior's dream of conquest; and the self-renouncement of Wedmore struck
the key-note of his reign. But still more is it this height and
singleness of purpose, this absolute concentration of the noblest
faculties to the noblest aim, that lifts Ælfred out of the narrow bounds
of Wessex. If the sphere of his action seems too small to justify the
comparison of him with the few whom the world owns as its greatest men,
he rises to their level in the moral grandeur of his life. And it is this
which has hallowed his memory among his own English people. "I desire,"
said the King in some of his latest words, "I desire to leave to the men
that come after me a remembrance of me in good works." His aim has been
more than fulfilled. His memory has come down to us with a living
distinctness through the mists of exaggeration and legend which time
gathered round it. The instinct of the people has clung to him with a
singular affection. The love which he won a thousand years ago has
lingered round his name from that day to this. While every other name of
those earlier times has all but faded from the recollection of
Englishmen, that of Ælfred remains familiar to every English child.

[Sidenote: English Literature]

The secret of Ælfred's government lay in his own vivid energy. He could
hardly have chosen braver or more active helpers than those whom he
employed both in his political and in his educational efforts. The
children whom he trained to rule proved the ablest rulers of their time.
But at the outset of his reign he stood alone, and what work was to be
done was done by the King himself. His first efforts were directed to the
material restoration of his realm. The burnt and wasted country saw its
towns built again, forts erected in positions of danger, new abbeys
founded, the machinery of justice and government restored, the laws
codified and amended. Still more strenuous were Ælfred's efforts for its
moral and intellectual restoration. Even in Mercia and Northumbria the
pirates' sword had left few survivors of the schools of Ecgberht or Bæda,
and matters were even worse in Wessex which had been as yet the most
ignorant of the English kingdoms. "When I began to reign," said Ælfred,
"I cannot remember one priest south of the Thames who could render his
service-book into English." For instructors indeed he could find only a
few Mercian prelates and priests with one Welsh bishop, Asser. "In old
times," the King writes sadly, "men came hither from foreign lands to
seek for instruction, and now if we are to have it we can only get it
from abroad." But his mind was far from being prisoned within his own
island. He sent a Norwegian ship-master to explore the White Sea, and
Wulfstan to trace the coast of Esthonia; envoys bore his presents to the
churches of India and Jerusalem, and an annual mission carried
Peter's-pence to Rome. But it was with the Franks that his intercourse
was closest, and it was from them that he drew the scholars to aid him in
his work of education. Grimbald came from St. Omer to preside over his
new abbey at Winchester; and John, the Old Saxon, was fetched it may be
from the Westphalian abbey of Corbey to rule the monastery that Ælfred's
gratitude for his deliverance from the Danes raised in the marshes of
Athelney. The real work however to be done was done, not by these
teachers but by the King himself. Ælfred established a school for the
young nobles at his own court, and it was to the need of books for these
scholars in their own tongue that we owe his most remarkable literary
effort. He took his books as he found them--they were the popular manuals
of his age--the Consolation of Boethius, the Pastoral Book of Pope
Gregory, the compilation of "Orosius," then the one accessible handbook
of universal history, and the history of his own people by Bæda. He
translated these works into English, but he was far more than a
translator, he was an editor for his people. Here he omitted, there he
expanded. He enriched "Orosius" by a sketch of the new geographical
discoveries in the North. He gave a West-Saxon form to his selections
from Bæda. In one place he stops to explain his theory of government, his
wish for a thicker population, his conception of national welfare as
consisting in a due balance of the priest, the thegn, and the churl. The
mention of Nero spurs him to an outbreak on the abuses of power. The cold
Providence of Boethius gives way to an enthusiastic acknowledgement of
the goodness of God. As he writes, his large-hearted nature flings off
its royal mantle, and he talks as a man to men. "Do not blame me," he
prays with a charming simplicity, "if any know Latin better than I, for
every man must say what he says and do what he does according to his
ability." But simple as was his aim, Ælfred changed the whole front of
our literature. Before him, England possessed in her own tongue one great
poem and a train of ballads and battle-songs. Prose she had none. The
mighty roll of the prose books that fill her libraries begins with the
translations of Ælfred, and above all with the chronicle of his reign. It
seems likely that the King's rendering of Bæda's history gave the first
impulse towards the compilation of what is known as the English or
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was certainly thrown into its present form
during his reign. The meagre lists of the kings of Wessex and the bishops
of Winchester, which had been preserved from older times, were roughly
expanded into a national history by insertions from Bæda: but it is when
it reaches the reign of Ælfred that the chronicle suddenly widens into
the vigorous narrative, full of life and originality, that marks the gift
of a new power to the English tongue. Varying as it does from age to age
in historic value, it remains the first vernacular history of any
Teutonic people, and save for the work of Ulfilas who found no successors
among his Gothic people, the earliest and most venerable monument of
Teutonic prose.

But all this literary activity was only a part of that general upbuilding
of Wessex by which Ælfred was preparing for a fresh contest with the
stranger. He knew that the actual winning back of the Danelaw must be a
work of the sword, and through these long years of peace he was busy with
the creation of such a force as might match that of the northmen. A fleet
grew out of the little squadron which Ælfred had been forced to man with
Frisian seamen. The national fyrd or levy of all freemen at the King's
call was reorganized. It was now divided into two halves, one of which
served in the field while the other guarded its own burhs and townships
and served to relieve its fellow when the men's forty days of service
were ended. A more disciplined military force was provided by subjecting
all owners of five hides of land to thegn-service, a step which
recognized the change that had now substituted the thegn for the eorl and
in which we see the beginning of a feudal system. How effective these
measures were was seen when the new resistance they met on the Continent
drove the northmen to a fresh attack on Britain. In 893 a large fleet
steered for the Andredsweald, while the sea-king Hasting entered the
Thames. Ælfred held both at bay through the year till the men of the
Danelaw rose at their comrades' call. Wessex stood again front to front
with the northmen. But the King's measures had made the realm strong
enough to set aside its old policy of defence for one of vigorous attack.
His son Eadward and his son-in-law Æthelred, whom he had set as Ealdorman
over what remained of Mercia, showed themselves as skilful and active as
the King. The aim of the northmen was to rouse again the hostility of the
Welsh, but while Ælfred held Exeter against their fleet, Eadward and
Æthelred caught their army near the Severn and overthrew it with a vast
slaughter at Buttington. The destruction of their camp on the Lea by the
united English forces ended the war; in 897 Hasting again withdrew across
the Channel, and the Danelaw made peace. It was with the peace he had won
still about him that Ælfred died in 901, and warrior as his son Eadward
had shown himself, he clung to his father's policy of rest. It was not
till 910 that a fresh rising of the northmen forced Ælfred's children to
gird themselves to the conquest of the Danelaw.

[Sidenote: Eadward the Elder]

While Eadward bridled East-Anglia his sister Æthelflæd, in whose hands
Æthelred's death left English Mercia, attacked the "Five Boroughs," a
rude confederacy which had taken the place of the older Mercian kingdom.
Derby represented the original Mercia on the upper Trent, Lincoln the
Lindiswaras, Leicester the Middle-English, Stamford the province of the
Gyrwas, Nottingham probably that of the Southumbrians. Each of these
"Five Boroughs" seems to have been ruled by its earl with his separate
"host"; within each twelve "lawmen" administered Danish law, while a
common "Thing" may have existed for the whole district. In her attack on
this powerful league Æthelflæd abandoned the older strategy of battle and
raid for that of siege and fortress-building. Advancing along the line of
Trent, she fortified Tamworth and Stafford on its head-waters; when a
rising in Gwent called her back to the Welsh border, her army stormed
Brecknock; and its king no sooner fled for shelter to the northmen in
whose aid he had risen than Æthelflæd at once closed on Derby. Raids from
Middle-England failed to draw the Lady of Mercia from her prey; and Derby
was hardly her own when, turning southward, she forced the surrender of
Leicester. Nor had the brilliancy of his sister's exploits eclipsed those
of the King, for the son of Ælfred was a vigorous and active ruler; he
had repulsed a dangerous inroad of the northmen from France, summoned no
doubt by the cry of distress from their brethren in England, and had
bridled East-Anglia to the south by the erection of forts at Hertford and
Witham. On the death of Æthelflæd in 918 he came boldly to the front.
Annexing Mercia to Wessex, and thus gathering the whole strength of the
kingdom into his single hand, he undertook the systematic reduction of
the Danelaw. South of the Middle-English and the Fens lay a tract watered
by the Ouse and the Nen--originally the district of a tribe known as the
South-English, and now, like the Five Boroughs of the north, grouped
round the towns of Bedford, Huntingdon, and Northampton. The reduction of
these was followed by that of East-Anglia; the northmen of the Fens
submitted with Stamford, the Southumbrians with Nottingham. Eadward's
Mercian troops had already seized Manchester; he himself was preparing to
complete his conquests, when in 924 the whole of the North suddenly laid
itself at his feet. Not merely Northumbria but the Scots and the Britons
of Strathclyde "chose him to father and lord."

[Sidenote: Æthelstan]

The triumph was his last. Eadward died in 925, but the reign of his son
Æthelstan, Ælfred's golden-haired grandson whom the King had girded as a
child with a sword set in a golden scabbard and a gem-studded belt,
proved even more glorious than his own. In spite of its submission the
North had still to be won. Dread of the northmen had drawn Scot and
Cumbrian to their acknowledgement of Eadward's overlordship, but
Æthelstan no sooner incorporated Northumbria with his dominions than
dread of Wessex took the place of dread of the Danelaw. The Scot King
Constantine organized a league of Scot, Cumbrian, and Welshman with the
northmen. The league was broken by Æthelstan's rapid action in 926; the
North-Welsh were forced to pay annual tribute, to march in his armies,
and to attend his councils; the West-Welsh of Cornwall were reduced to a
like vassalage, and finally driven from Exeter, which they had shared
till then with its English inhabitants, But eight years later the same
league called Æthelstan again to the North; and though Constantine was
punished by an army which wasted his kingdom while a fleet ravaged its
coasts to Caithness the English army had no sooner withdrawn than
Northumbria rose in 937 at the appearance of a fleet of pirates from
Ireland under the sea-king Anlaf in the Humber. Scot and Cumbrian fought
beside the northmen against the West-Saxon King; but his victory at
Brunanburh crushed the confederacy and won peace till his death. His
brother Eadmund was but eighteen at his accession in 940, and the North
again rose in revolt. The men of the Five Boroughs joined their kinsmen
in Northumbria; once Eadmund was driven to a peace which left him king
but south of the Watling Street; and only years of hard fighting again
laid the Danelaw at his feet.

[Sidenote: Dunstan]

But policy was now to supplement the work of the sword. The completion of
the West-Saxon realm was in fact reserved for the hands, not of a king or
warrior, but of a priest. Dunstan stands first in the line of
ecclesiastical statesmen who counted among them Lanfranc and Wolsey and
ended in Laud. He is still more remarkable in himself, in his own vivid
personality after eight centuries of revolution and change. He was born
in the little hamlet of Glastonbury, the home of his father, Heorstan, a
man of wealth and brother of the bishops of Wells and of Winchester. It
must have been in his father's hall that the fair, diminutive boy, with
scant but beautiful hair, caught his love for "the vain songs of
heathendom, the trifling legends, the funeral chaunts," which afterwards
roused against him the charge of sorcery. Thence too he might have
derived his passionate love of music, and his custom of carrying his harp
in hand on journey or visit. Wandering scholars of Ireland had left their
books in the monastery of Glastonbury, as they left them along the Rhine
and the Danube; and Dunstan plunged into the study of sacred and profane
letters till his brain broke down in delirium. So famous became his
knowledge in the neighbourhood that news of it reached the court of
Æthelstan, but his appearance there was the signal for a burst of
ill-will among the courtiers. Again they drove him from Eadmund's train,
threw him from his horse as he passed through the marshes, and with the
wild passion of their age trampled him under foot in the mire. The
outrage ended in fever, and Dunstan rose from his sick-bed a monk. But
the monastic profession was then little more than a vow of celibacy and
his devotion took no ascetic turn. His nature in fact was sunny,
versatile, artistic; full of strong affections, and capable of inspiring
others with affections as strong. Quick-witted, of tenacious memory, a
ready and fluent speaker, gay and genial in address, an artist, a
musician, he was at the same time an indefatigable worker alike at books
or handicraft. As his sphere began to widen we see him followed by a
train of pupils, busy with literature, writing, harping, painting,
designing. One morning a lady summons him to her house to design a robe
which she is embroidering, and as he bends with her maidens over their
toil his harp hung upon the wall sounds without mortal touch tones which
the excited ears around frame into a joyous antiphon.

[Sidenote: Conquest of the Danelaw]

From this scholar-life Dunstan was called to a wider sphere of activity
towards the close of Eadmund's reign. But the old jealousies revived at
his reappearance at court, and counting the game lost Dunstan prepared
again to withdraw. The king had spent the day in the chase; the red deer
which he was pursuing dashed over Cheddar cliffs, and his horse only
checked itself on the brink of the ravine at the moment when Eadmund in
the bitterness of death was repenting of his injustice to Dunstan. He was
at once summoned on the king's return. "Saddle your horse," said Eadmund,
"and ride with me." The royal train swept over the marshes to his home;
and the king, bestowing on him the kiss of peace, seated him in the
abbot's chair as Abbot of Glastonbury. Dunstan became one of Eadmund's
councillors, and his hand was seen in the settlement of the north. It was
the hostility of the states around it to the West-Saxon rule which had
roused so often revolt in the Danelaw; but from the time of Brunanburh we
hear nothing more of the hostility of Bernicia, while Cumbria was
conquered by Eadmund and turned adroitly to account in winning over the
Scots to his cause. The greater part of it was granted to their king
Malcolm on terms that he should be Eadmund's "fellow-worker by sea and
land." The league of Scot and Briton was thus finally broken up, and the
fidelity of the Scots secured by their need of help in holding down their
former ally. The settlement was soon troubled by the young king's death.
As he feasted at Pucklechurch in the May of 946, Leofa, a robber whom
Eadmund had banished from the land, entered the hall, seated himself at
the royal board, and drew sword on the cup-bearer when he bade him
retire. The king sprang in wrath to his thegn's aid, and seizing Leofa by
the hair, flung him to the ground; but in the struggle the robber drove
his dagger to Eadmund's heart. His death at once stirred fresh troubles
in the north; the Danelaw rose against his brother and successor, Eadred,
and some years of hard fighting were needed before it was again driven to
own the English supremacy. But with its submission in 954 the work of
conquest was done. Dogged as his fight had been, the Dane at last owned
himself beaten. From the moment of Eadred's final triumph all resistance
came to an end. The Danelaw ceased to be a force in English politics.
North might part anew from South; men of Yorkshire might again cross
swords with men of Hampshire; but their strife was henceforth a local
strife between men of the same people; it was a strife of Englishmen with
Englishmen, and not of Englishmen with Northmen.


[Sidenote: Absorption of the Northmen]

The fierceness of the northman's onset had hidden the real character of
his attack. To the men who first fronted the pirates it seemed as though
the story of the world had gone back to the days when the German
barbarians first broke in upon the civilized world. It was so above all
in Britain. All that tradition told of the Englishmen's own attack on the
island was seen in the northmen's attack on it. Boats of marauders from
the northern seas again swarmed off the British coast; church and town
were again the special object of attack; the invaders again settled on
the conquered soil; heathendom again proved stronger than the faith of
Christ. But the issues of the two attacks showed the mighty difference
between them. When the English ceased from their onset upon Roman
Britain, Roman Britain had disappeared, and a new people of conquerors
stood alone on the conquered land. The Northern storm on the other hand
left land, people, government unchanged. England remained a country of
Englishmen. The conquerors sank into the mass of the conquered, and Woden
yielded without a struggle to Christ. The strife between Briton and
Englishman was in fact a strife between men of different races, while the
strife between northman and Englishman was a strife between men whose
race was the same. The followers of Hengest or of Ida were men utterly
alien from the life of Britain, strange to its arts, its culture, its
wealth, as they were strange to the social degradation which Rome had
brought on its province. But the northman was little more than an
Englishman bringing back to an England which had drifted far from its
origin the barbaric life of its earliest forefathers. Nowhere throughout
Europe was the fight so fierce, because nowhere else were the fighters
men of one blood and one speech. But just for this reason the union of
the combatants was nowhere so peaceful or so complete. The victory of the
house of Ælfred only hastened a process of fusion which was already going
on. From the first moment of his settlement in the Danelaw the northman
had been passing into an Englishman. The settlers were few; they were
scattered among a large population; in tongue, in manner, in institutions
there was little to distinguish them from the men among whom they dwelt.
Moreover their national temper helped on the process of assimilation.
Even in France, where difference of language and difference of custom
seemed to interpose an impassable barrier between the northman settled in
Normandy and his neighbours, he was fast becoming a Frenchman. In
England, where no such barriers existed, the assimilation was even
quicker. The two peoples soon became confounded. In a few years a
northman in blood was Archbishop of Canterbury and another northman in
blood was Archbishop of York.

[Sidenote: The three Northern Kingdoms]

The fusion might have been delayed if not wholly averted by continued
descents from the Scandinavian homeland. But with Eadred's reign the long
attack which the northman had directed against western Christendom came,
for a while at least, to an end. On the world which it assailed its
results had been immense. It had utterly changed the face of the west.
The empire of Ecgberht, the empire of Charles the Great, had been alike
dashed to pieces. But break and change as it might, Christendom had held
the northmen at bay. The Scandinavian power which had grown up on the
western seas had disappeared like a dream. In Ireland the northman's rule
had dwindled to the holding of a few coast towns. In France his
settlements had shrunk to the one settlement of Normandy. In England
every northman was a subject of the English King. Even the empire of the
seas had passed from the sea-kings' hands. It was an English and not a
Scandinavian fleet that for fifty years to come held mastery in the
English and the Irish Channels. With Eadred's victory in fact the
struggle seemed to have reached its close. Stray pirate boats still hung
off headland and coast; stray wikings still shoved out in springtide to
gather booty. But for nearly half-a-century to come no great pirate fleet
made its way to the west, or landed on the shores of Britain. The
energies of the northmen were in fact absorbed through these years in the
political changes of Scandinavia itself. The old isolation of fiord from
fiord and dale from dale was breaking down. The little commonwealths
which had held so jealously aloof from each other were being drawn
together whether they would or no. In each of the three regions of the
north great kingdoms were growing up. In Sweden King Eric made himself
lord of the petty states about him. In Denmark King Gorm built up in the
same way a monarchy of the Danes. Norway itself was the first to become a
single monarchy. Legend told how one of its many rulers, Harald of
Westfold, sent his men to bring him Gytha of Hordaland, a girl he had
chosen for wife, and how Gytha sent his men back again with taunts at his
petty realm. The taunts went home, and Harald vowed never to clip or comb
his hair till he had made all Norway his own. So every springtide came
war and hosting, harrying and burning, till a great fight at Hafursfiord
settled the matter, and Harald "Ugly-Head," as men called him while the
strife lasted, was free to shear his locks again and became Harald
"Fair-Hair." The Northmen loved no master, and a great multitude fled out
of the country, some pushing as far as Iceland and colonizing it, some
swarming to the Orkneys and Hebrides till Harald harried them out again
and the sea-kings sailed southward to join Guthrum's host in the Rhine
country or follow Hrolf to his fights on the Seine. But little by little
the land settled down into order, and the three Scandinavian realms
gathered strength for new efforts which were to leave their mark on our
after history.

[Sidenote: England and its King]

But of the new danger which threatened it in this union of the north
England knew little. The storm seemed to have drifted utterly away; and
the land passed from a hundred years of ceaseless conflict into a time of
peace. Here as elsewhere the northman had failed in his purpose of
conquest; but here as elsewhere he had done a mighty work. In shattering
the empire of Charles the Great he had given birth to the nations of
modern Europe. In his long strife with Englishmen he had created an
English people. The national union which had been brought about for a
moment by the sword of Ecgberht was a union of sheer force which broke
down at the first blow of the sea-robbers. The black boats of the
northmen were so many wedges that split up the fabric of the
roughly-built realm. But the very agency which destroyed the new England
was destined to bring it back again, and to breathe into it a life that
made its union real. The peoples who had so long looked on each other as
enemies found themselves fronted by a common foe. They were thrown
together by a common danger and the need of a common defence. Their
common faith grew into a national bond as religion struggled hand in hand
with England itself against the heathen of the north. They recognized a
common king as a common struggle changed Ælfred and his sons from mere
leaders of West-Saxons into leaders of all Englishmen in their fight with
the stranger. And when the work which Ælfred set his house to do was
done, when the yoke of the northman was lifted from the last of his
conquests, Engle and Saxon, Northumbrian and Mercian, spent with the
battle for a common freedom and a common country, knew themselves in the
hour of their deliverance as an English people.

The new people found its centre in the King. The heightening of the royal
power was a direct outcome of the war. The dying out of other royal
stocks left the house of Cerdic the one line of hereditary kingship. But
it was the war with the northmen that raised Ælfred and his sons from
tribal leaders into national kings. The long series of triumphs which
wrested the land from the stranger begot a new and universal loyalty;
while the wider dominion which their success bequeathed removed the kings
further and further from their people, lifted them higher and higher
above the nobles, and clothed them more and more with a mysterious
dignity. Above all the religious character of the war against the
northmen gave a religious character to the sovereigns who waged it. The
king, if he was no longer sacred as the son of Woden, became yet more
sacred as "the Lord's Anointed." By the very fact of his consecration he
was pledged to a religious rule, to justice, mercy, and good government;
but his "hallowing" invested him also with a power drawn not from the
will of man or the assent of his subjects but from the will of God, and
treason against him became the worst of crimes. Every reign lifted the
sovereign higher in the social scale. The bishop, once ranked equal with
him in value of life, sank to the level of the ealdorman. The ealdorman
himself, once the hereditary ruler of a smaller state, became a mere
delegate of the national king, with an authority curtailed in every shire
by that of the royal shire-reeves, officers charged with levying the
royal revenues and destined ultimately to absorb judicial authority.
Among the later nobility of the thegns personal service with such a lord
was held not to degrade but to ennoble. "Horse-thegn," and "cup-thegn,"
and "border," the constable, butler, and treasurer, found themselves
officers of state; and the developement of politics, the wider extension
of home and foreign affairs were already transforming these royal
officers into a standing council or ministry for the transaction of the
ordinary administrative business and the reception of judicial appeals.
Such a ministry, composed of thegns or prelates nominated by the king,
and constituting in itself a large part of the Witenagemot when that
assembly was gathered for legislative purposes, drew the actual control
of affairs more and more into the hands of the sovereign himself.

[Sidenote: Growth of Feudalism]

But the king's power was still a personal power. He had to be everywhere
and to see for himself that everything he willed was done. The royal
claims lay still far ahead of the real strength of the Crown. There was a
want of administrative machinery in actual connexion with the government,
responsible to it, drawing its force directly from it, and working
automatically in its name even in moments when the royal power was itself
weak or wavering. The Crown was strong under a king who was strong, whose
personal action was felt everywhere throughout the realm, whose dread lay
on every reeve and ealdorman. But with a weak king the Crown was weak.
Ealdor-men, provincial witenagemots, local jurisdictions, ceased to move
at the royal bidding the moment the direct royal pressure was loosened or
removed. Enfeebled as they were, the old provincial jealousies, the old
tendency to severance and isolation lingered on and woke afresh when the
crown fell to a nerveless ruler or to a child. And at the moment we have
reached the royal power and the national union it embodied had to battle
with fresh tendencies towards national disintegration which sprang like
itself from the struggle with the northman. The tendency towards personal
dependence and towards a social organization based on personal dependence
received an overpowering impulse from the strife. The long insecurity of
a century of warfare drove the ceorl, the free tiller of the soil, to
seek protection more and more from the thegn beside him. The freeman
"commended" himself to a lord who promised aid, and as the price of this
shelter he surrendered his freehold to receive it back as a fief laden
with conditions of military service. The principle of personal allegiance
which was embodied in the very notion of thegnhood, itself tended to
widen into a theory of general dependence. From Ælfred's day it was
assumed that no man could exist without a lord. The "lordless man" became
a sort of outlaw in the realm. The free man, the very base of the older
English constitution, died down more and more into the "villein," the man
who did suit and service to a master, who followed him to the field, who
looked to his court for justice, who rendered days of service in his
demesne. The same tendencies drew the lesser thegns around the greater
nobles, and these around the provincial ealdormen. The ealdormen had
hardly been dwarfed into lieutenants of the national sovereign before
they again began to rise into petty kings, and in the century which
follows we see Mercian or Northumbrian thegns following a Mercian or
Northumbrian ealdorman to the field though it were against the lord of
the land. Even the constitutional forms which sprang from the old English
freedom tended to invest the higher nobles with a commanding power. In
the "great meeting" of the Witenagemot or Assembly of the Wise lay the
rule of the realm. It represented the whole English people, as the
wise-moots of each kingdom represented the separate peoples of each; and
its powers were as supreme in the wider field as theirs in the narrower.
It could elect or depose the King. To it belonged the higher justice, the
imposition of taxes, the making of laws, the conclusion of treaties, the
control of wars, the disposal of public lands, the appointment of great
officers of state. But such a meeting necessarily differed greatly in
constitution from the Witan of the lesser kingdoms. The individual
freeman, save when the host was gathered together, could hardly take part
in its deliberations. The only relic of its popular character lay at last
in the ring of citizens who gathered round the Wise Men at London or
Winchester, and shouted their "aye" or "nay" at the election of a king.
Distance and the hardships of travel made the presence of the lesser
thegns as rare as that of the freemen; and the national council
practically shrank into a gathering of the ealdormen, the bishops, and
the officers of the crown.

[Sidenote: Feudalism and the Monarchy]

The old English democracy had thus all but passed into an oligarchy of
the narrowest kind. The feudal movement which in other lands was breaking
up every nation into a mass of loosely-knit states with nobles at their
head who owned little save a nominal allegiance to their king threatened
to break up England itself. What hindered its triumph was the power of
the Crown, and it is the story of this struggle between the monarchy and
these tendencies to feudal isolation which fills the period between the
death of Eadred and the conquest of the Norman. It was a struggle which
England shared with the rest of the western world, but its issue here was
a peculiar one. In other countries feudalism won an easy victory over the
central government. In England alone the monarchy was strong enough to
hold feudalism at bay. Powerful as he might be, the English ealdorman
never succeeded in becoming really hereditary or independent of the
Crown. Kings as weak as Æthelred could drive ealdormen into exile and
could replace them by fresh nominees. If the Witenagemot enabled the
great nobles to bring their power to bear directly on the Crown, it
preserved at any rate a feeling of national unity and was forced to back
the Crown against individual revolt. The Church too never became
feudalized. The bishop clung to the Crown, and the bishop remained a
great social and political power. As local in area as the ealdorman, for
the province was his diocese and he sat by his side in the local
Witenagemot, he furnished a standing check on the independence of the
great nobles. But if feudalism proved too weak to conquer the monarchy,
it was strong enough to paralyze its action. Neither of the two forces
could master the other, but each could weaken the other, and throughout
the whole period of their conflict England lay a prey to disorder within
and to insult from without.

The first sign of these troubles was seen when the death of Eadred in 955
handed over the realm to a child king, his nephew Eadwig. Eadwig was
swayed by a woman of high lineage, Æthelgifu; and the quarrel between her
and the older counsellors of Eadred broke into open strife at the
coronation feast. On the young king's insolent withdrawal to her chamber
Dunstan, at the bidding of the Witan, drew him roughly back to his seat.
But the feast was no sooner ended than a sentence of outlawry drove the
abbot over sea, while the triumph of Æthelgifu was crowned in 957 by the
marriage of her daughter to the king and the spoliation of the
monasteries which Dunstan had befriended. As the new queen was Eadwig's
kinswoman the religious opinion of the day regarded his marriage as
incestuous, and it was followed by a revolution. At the opening of 958
Archbishop Odo parted the King from his wife by solemn sentence; while
the Mercians and Northumbrians rose in revolt, proclaimed Eadwig's
brother Eadgar their king, and recalled Dunstan. The death of Eadwig a
few months later restored the unity of the realm; but his successor
Eadgar was only a boy of sixteen and at the outset of his reign the
direction of affairs must have lain in the hands of Dunstan, whose
elevation to the see of Canterbury set him at the head of the Church as
of the State. The noblest tribute to his rule lies in the silence of our
chroniclers. His work indeed was a work of settlement, and such a work
was best done by the simple enforcement of peace. During the years of
rest in which King and Primate enforced justice and order northman and
Englishman drew together into a single people. Their union was the result
of no direct policy of fusion; on the contrary Dunstan's policy preserved
to the conquered Danelaw its local rights and local usages. But he
recognized the men of the Danelaw as Englishmen, he employed northmen in
the royal service, and promoted them to high posts in Church and State.
For the rest he trusted to time, and time justified his trust. The fusion
was marked by a memorable change in the name of the land. Slowly as the
conquering tribes had learned to know themselves, by the one national
name of Englishmen, they learned yet more slowly to stamp their name on
the land they had won. It was not till Eadgar's day that the name of
Britain passed into the name of Engla-land, the land of Englishmen,
England. The same vigorous rule which secured rest for the country during
these years of national union told on the growth of material prosperity.
Commerce sprang into a wider life. Its extension is seen in the complaint
that men learned fierceness from the Saxon of Germany, effeminacy from
the Fleming, and drunkenness from the Dane. The laws of Æthelred which
provide for the protection and regulation of foreign trade only recognize
a state of things which grew up under Eadgar. "Men of the Empire,"
traders of Lower Lorraine and the Rhine-land, "Men of Rouen," traders
from the new Norman duchy of the Seine, were seen in the streets of
London. It was in Eadgar's day indeed that London rose to the commercial
greatness it has held ever since.

[Sidenote: Eadward the Martyr]

Though Eadgar reigned for sixteen years, he was still in the prime of
manhood when he died in 975. His death gave a fresh opening to the great
nobles. He had bequeathed the crown to his elder son Eadward; but the
ealdorman of East-Anglia, Æthelwine, rose at once to set a younger child,
Æthelred, on the throne. But the two primates of Canterbury and York who
had joined in setting the crown on the head of Eadgar now joined in
setting it on the head of Eadward, and Dunstan remained as before master
of the realm. The boy's reign however was troubled by strife between the
monastic party and their opponents till in 979 the quarrel was cut short
by his murder at Corfe, and with the accession of Æthelred, the power of
Dunstan made way for that of ealdorman Æthelwine and the queen-mother.
Some years of tranquillity followed this victory; but though Æthelwine
preserved order at home he showed little sense of the danger which
threatened from abroad. The North was girding itself for a fresh, onset
on England. The Scandinavian peoples had drawn together into their
kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway; and it was no longer in isolated
bands but in national hosts that they were about to seek conquests in the
South. As Æthelred drew to manhood some chance descents on the coast told
of this fresh stir in the North, and the usual result of the northman's
presence was seen in new risings among the Welsh.

[Sidenote: Æthelred]

In 991 ealdorman Brihtnoth of East-Anglia fell in battle with a Norwegian
force at Maldon, and the withdrawal of the pirates had to be bought by
money. Æthelwine too died at this moment, and the death of the two
ealdormen left Æthelred free to act as King. But his aim was rather to
save the Crown from his nobles than England from the northmen. Handsome
and pleasant of address, the young King's pride showed itself in a string
of imperial titles, and his restless and self-confident temper drove him
to push the pretensions of the Crown to their furthest extent. His aim
throughout his reign was to free himself from the dictation of the great
nobles, and it was his indifference to their "rede" or counsel that won
him the name of "Æthelred the Redeless." From the first he struck boldly
at his foes, and Ælfric, the ealdorman of Central Wessex, whom the death
of his rival Æthelwine left supreme in the realm, was driven possibly by
fear to desert to a Danish force which he was sent in 992 to drive from
the coast. Æthelred turned from his triumph at home to meet the forces of
the Danish and Norwegian kings, Swein and Olaf, which anchored off London
in 994. His policy through-out was a policy of diplomacy rather than of
arms, and a treaty of subsidy gave time for intrigues which parted the
invaders till troubles at home drew both again to the North. Æthelrod
took quick advantage of his success at home and abroad; the place of the
great ealdormen in the royal councils was taken by court-thegns, in whom
we see the rudiments of a ministry, while the king's fleet attacked the
pirates' haunts in Cumberland and the Cotentin. But in spite of all this
activity the news of a fresh invasion found England more weak and broken
than ever. The rise of the "new men" only widened the breach between the
court and the great nobles, and their resentment showed itself in delays
which foiled every attempt of Æthelred to meet the pirate-bands who still
clung to the coast.

[Sidenote: Swein]

They came probably from the other side of the Channel, and it was to
clear them away as well as secure himself against Swein's threatened
descent that Æthelred took a step which brought England in contact with a
land over-sea. Normandy, where the northmen had settled a hundred years
before, was now growing into a great power, and it was to win the
friendship of Normandy and to close its harbours against Swein that
Æthelred in 1002 took the Norman Duke's daughter, Emma, to wife. The same
dread of invasion gave birth to a panic of treason from the northern
mercenaries whom the king had drawn to settle in the land as a fighting
force against their brethren; and an order of Æthelred brought about a
general massacre of them on St. Brice's day. Wedding and murder however
proved feeble defences against Swein. His fleet reached the coast in
1003, and for four years he marched through the length and breadth of
southern and eastern England, "lighting his war-beacons as he went" in
blazing homestead and town. Then for a heavy bribe he withdrew, to
prepare for a later and more terrible onset. But there was no rest for
the realm. The fiercest of the Norwegian jarls took his place, and from
Wessex the war extended over Mercia and East-Anglia. In 1012 Canterbury
was taken and sacked, Æltheah the Archbishop dragged to Greenwich, and
there in default of ransom brutally slain. The Danes set him in the midst
of their husting, pelting him with bones and skulls of oxen, till one
more pitiful than the rest clove his head with an axe. Meanwhile the
court was torn with intrigue and strife, with quarrels between the
court-thegns in their greed of power and yet fiercer quarrels between
these favourites and the nobles whom they superseded in the royal
councils. The King's policy of finding aid among his new ministers broke
down when these became themselves ealdormen. With their local position
they took up the feudal claims of independence; and Eadric, whom Æthelred
raised to be ealdorman of Mercia, became a power that overawed the Crown.
In this paralysis of the central authority all organization and union was
lost. "Shire would not help other" when Swein returned in 1013. The war
was terrible but short. Everywhere the country was pitilessly harried,
churches plundered, men slaughtered. But, with the one exception of
London, there was no attempt at resistance. Oxford and Winchester flung
open their gates. The thegns of Wessex submitted to the northmen at Bath.
Even London was forced at last to give way, and Æthelred fled over-sea to
a refuge in Normandy.

[Sidenote: Cnut]

He was soon called back again. In the opening of 1014 Swein died suddenly
at Gainsborough; and the spell of terror was broken. The Witan recalled
"their own born lord," and Æthelred returned to see the Danish fleet
under Swein's son, Cnut, sail away to the North. It was but to plan a
more terrible return. Youth of nineteen as he was, Cnut showed from the
first the vigour of his temper. Setting aside his brother he made himself
king of Denmark; and at once gathered a splendid fleet for a fresh attack
on England, whose king and nobles were again at strife, and where a
bitter quarrel between ealdorman Eadric of Mercia and Æthelred's son
Eadmund Ironside broke the strength of the realm. The desertion of Eadric
to Cnut as soon as he appeared off the coast threw open England to his
arms; Wessex and Mercia submitted to him; and though the loyalty of
London enabled Eadmund, when his father's death raised him in 1016 to the
throne, to struggle bravely for a few months against the Danes, a
decisive overthrow at Assandun and a treaty of partition which this
wrested from him at Olney were soon followed by the young king's death.
Cnut was left master of the realm. His first acts of government showed
little but the temper of the mere northman, passionate, revengeful,
uniting the guile of the savage with his thirst for blood. Eadric of
Mercia, whose aid had given him the Crown, was felled by an axe-blow at
the king's signal; a murder removed Eadwig, the brother of Eadmund
Ironside, while the children of Eadmund were hunted even into Hungary by
his ruthless hate. But from a savage such as this the young conqueror
rose abruptly into a wise and temperate king. His aim during twenty years
seems to have been to obliterate from men's minds the foreign character
of his rule and the bloodshed in which it had begun.

Conqueror indeed as he was, the Dane was no foreigner in the sense that
the Norman was a foreigner after him. His language differed little from
the English tongue. He brought in no new system of tenure or government.
Cnut ruled in fact not as a foreign conqueror but as a native king. He
dismissed his Danish host, and retaining only a trained band of household
troops or "hus-carls" to serve as a body-guard relied boldly for support
within his realm on the justice and good government he secured it. He
fell back on "Eadgar's Law," on the old constitution of the realm, for
his rule of government; and owned no difference between Dane and
Englishman among his subjects. He identified himself even with the
patriotism which had withstood the stranger. The Church had been the
centre of the national resistance; Archbishop Ælfheah had been slain by
Danish hands. But Cnut sought the friendship of the Church; he translated
Ælfheah's body with great pomp to Canterbury; he atoned for his father's
ravages by gifts to the religious houses; he protected English pilgrims
even against the robber-lords of the Alps. His love for monks broke out
in a song which he composed as he listened to their chaunt at Ely.
"Merrily sang the monks of Ely when Cnut King rowed by" across the vast
fen-waters that surrounded their abbey. "Row, boatmen, near the land, and
hear we these monks sing." A letter which Cnut wrote after twelve years
of rule to his English subjects marks the grandeur of his character and
the noble conception he had formed of kingship. "I have vowed to God to
lead a right life in all things," wrote the king, "to rule justly and
piously my realms and subjects, and to administer just judgement to all.
If heretofore I have done aught beyond what was just, through headiness
or negligence of youth, I am ready, with God's help, to amend it
utterly." No royal officer, either for fear of the king or for favour of
any, is to consent to injustice, none is to do wrong to rich or poor "as
they would value my friendship and their own well-being." He especially
denounces unfair exactions: "I have no need that money be heaped together
for me by unjust demands." "I have sent this letter before me," Cnut
ends, "that all the people of my realm may rejoice in my well-doing; for
as you yourselves know, never have I spared, nor will I spare, to spend
myself and my toil in what is needful and good for my people."

[Sidenote: Cnut and Scotland]

Cnut's greatest gift to his people was that of peace. With him began the
long internal tranquillity which was from this time to be the keynote of
the national history. Without, the Dane was no longer a terror; on the
contrary it was English ships and English soldiers who now appeared in
the North and followed Cnut in his campaigns against Wend or Norwegian.
Within, the exhaustion which follows a long anarchy gave fresh strength
to the Crown, and Cnut's own ruling temper was backed by the force of
hus-carls at his disposal. The four Earls of Northumberland, Mercia,
Wessex, and East-Anglia, whom he set in the place of the older caldormen,
knew themselves to be the creatures of his will; the ablest indeed of
their number, Godwine, earl of Wessex, was the minister or close
counsellor of the King. The troubles along the Northern border were ended
by a memorable act of policy. From Eadgar's day the Scots had pressed
further and further across the Firth of Forth till a victory of their
king Malcolm over Earl Eadwulf at Carham in 1018 made him master of
Northern Northumbria. In 1031 Cnut advanced to the North, but the quarrel
ended in a formal cession of the district between the Forth and the
Tweed, Lothian as it was called, to the Scot-king on his doing homage to
Cnut. The gain told at once on the character of the Northern kingdom. The
kings of the Scots had till now been rulers simply of Gaelic and Celtic
peoples; but from the moment that Lothian with its English farmers and
English seamen became a part of their dominions it became the most
important part. The kings fixed their seat at Edinburgh, and in the midst
of an English population passed from Gaelic chieftains into the Saxon
rulers of a mingled people.

[Sidenote: Cnut's Sons]

But the greatness of Cnut's rule hung solely on the greatness of his
temper, and the Danish power was shaken by his death in 1035. The empire
he had built up at once fell to pieces. He had bequeathed both England
and Denmark to his son Harthacnut; but the boy's absence enabled his
brother, Harald Harefoot, to acquire all England save Godwine's earldom
of Wessex, and in the end even Godwine was forced to submit to him.
Harald's death in 1040 averted a conflict between the brothers, and
placed Harthacnut quietly on the throne. But the love which Cnut's
justice had won turned to hatred before the lawlessness of his
successors. The long peace sickened men of their bloodshed and violence.
"Never was a bloodier deed done in the land since the Danes came," ran a
popular song, when Harald's men seized Ælfred, a brother of Eadmund
Ironside, who returned to England from Normandy where he had found a
refuge since his father's flight to its shores. Every tenth man among his
followers was killed, the rest sold for slaves, and Ælfred's eyes torn
out at Ely. Harthacnut, more savage than his predecessor, dug up his
brother's body and flung it into a marsh; while a rising at Worcester
against his hus-carls was punished by the burning of the town and the
pillage of the shire. The young king's death was no less brutal than his
life; in 1042 "he died as he stood at his drink in the house of Osgod
Clapa at Lambeth." England wearied of rulers such as these: but their
crimes helped her to free herself from the impossible dream of Cnut. The
North, still more barbarous than herself, could give her no new element
of progress or civilization. It was the consciousness of this and a
hatred of rulers such as Harald and Harthacnut which co-operated with the
old feeling of reverence for the past in calling back the line of Ælfred
to the throne.

[Sidenote: Eadward the Confessor]

It is in such transitional moments of a nation's history that it needs
the cool prudence, the sensitive selfishness, the quick perception of
what is possible, which distinguished the adroit politician whom the
death of Cnut left supreme in England. Originally of obscure origin,
Godwine's ability had raised him high in the royal favour; he was allied
to Cnut by marriage, entrusted by him with the earldom of Wessex, and at
last made the Viceroy or justiciar of the King in the government of the
realm. In the wars of Scandinavia he had shown courage and skill at the
head of a body of English troops, but his true field of action lay at
home. Shrewd, eloquent, an active administrator, Godwine united
vigilance, industry, and caution with a singular dexterity in the
management of men. During the troubled years that followed the death of
Cnut he did his best to continue his master's policy in securing the
internal union of England under a Danish sovereign and in preserving her
connexion with the North. But at the death of Harthacnut Cnut's policy
had become impossible, and abandoning the Danish cause Godwine drifted
with the tide of popular feeling which called Eadward, the one living son
of Æthelred, to the throne. Eadward had lived from his youth in exile at
the court of Normandy. A halo of tenderness spread in after-time round
this last king of the old English stock; legends told of his pious
simplicity, his blitheness and gentleness of mood, the holiness that
gained him his name of "Confessor" and enshrined him as a saint in his
abbey-church at Westminster. Gleemen sang in manlier tones of the long
peace and glories of his reign, how warriors and wise counsellors stood
round his throne, and Welsh and Scot and Briton obeyed him. His was the
one figure that stood out bright against the darkness when England lay
trodden under foot by Norman conquerors; and so dear became his memory
that liberty and independence itself seemed incarnate in his name.
Instead of freedom, the subjects of William or Henry called for the "good
laws of Eadward the Confessor." But it was as a mere shadow of the past
that the exile really returned to the throne of Ælfred; there was
something shadow-like in his thin form, his delicate complexion, his
transparent womanly hands; and it is almost as a shadow that he glides
over the political stage. The work of government was done by sterner

[Sidenote: Godwine]

Throughout his earlier reign, in fact, England lay in the hands of its
three Earls, Siward of Northumbria, Leofric of Mercia, and Godwine of
Wessex, and it seemed as if the feudal tendency to provincial separation
against which Æthelred had struggled was to triumph with the death of
Cnut. What hindered this severance was the greed of Godwine. Siward was
isolated in the North: Leofric's earldom was but a fragment of Mercia.
But the Earl of Wessex, already master of the wealthiest part of England,
seized district after district for his house. His son Swein secured an
earldom in the south-west; his son Harold became earl of East-Anglia; his
nephew Beorn was established in Central England: while the marriage of
his daughter Eadgyth to the king himself gave Godwine a hold upon the
throne. Policy led the earl, as it led his son, rather to aim at winning
England itself than at breaking up England to win a mere fief in it. But
his aim found a sudden check through the lawlessness of his son Swein.
Swein seduced the abbess of Leominster, sent her home again with a yet
more outrageous demand of her hand in marriage, and on the king's refusal
to grant it fled from the realm. Godwine's influence secured his pardon,
but on his very return to seek it Swein murdered his cousin Beorn who had
opposed the reconciliation and again fled to Flanders. A storm of
national indignation followed him over-sea. The meeting of the Wise men
branded him as "nithing," the "utterly worthless," yet in a year his
father wrested a new pardon from the King and restored him to his
earldom. The scandalous inlawing of such a criminal left Godwine alone in
a struggle which soon arose with Eadward himself. The king was a stranger
in his realm, and his sympathies lay naturally with the home and friends
of his youth and exile. He spoke the Norman tongue. He used in Norman
fashion a seal for his charters. He set Norman favourites in the highest
posts of Church and State. Foreigners such as these, though hostile to
the minister, were powerless against Godwine's influence and ability, and
when at a later time they ventured to stand alone against him they fell
without a blow. But the general ill-will at Swein's inlawing enabled them
to stir Eadward to attack the earl, and in 1051 a trivial quarrel brought
the opportunity of a decisive break with him. On his return from a visit
to the court Eustace, Count of Boulogne, the husband of the king's
sister, demanded quarters for his train in Dover. Strife arose, and many
both of the burghers and foreigners were slain. All Godwine's better
nature withstood Eadward when the king angrily bade him exact vengeance
from the town for the affront to his kinsman; and he claimed a fair trial
for the townsmen. But Eadward looked on his refusal as an outrage, and
the quarrel widened into open strife. Godwine at once gathered his forces
and marched upon Gloucester, demanding the expulsion of the foreign
favourites. But even in a just quarrel the country was cold in his
support. The earls of Mercia and Northumberland united their forces to
those of Eadward at Gloucester, and marched with the king to a gathering
of the Witenagemot at London. Godwine again appeared in arms, but Swein's
outlawry was renewed, and the Earl of Wessex, declining with his usual
prudence a useless struggle, withdrew over sea to Flanders.

[Sidenote: Harold]

But the wrath of the nation was appeased by his fall. Great as were
Godwine's faults, he was the one man who now stood between England and
the rule of the strangers who flocked to the Court; and a year had hardly
passed when he was strong enough to return. At the appearance of his
fleet in the Thames in 1052 Eadward was once more forced to yield. The
foreign prelates and bishops fled over sea, outlawed by the same meeting
of the Wise men which restored Godwine to his home. But he returned only
to die, and the direction of affairs passed quietly to his son Harold.
Harold came to power unfettered by the obstacles which beset his father,
and for twelve years he was the actual governor of the realm. The
courage, the ability, the genius for administration, the ambition and
subtlety of Godwine were found again in his son. In the internal
government of England he followed out his father's policy while avoiding
its excesses. Peace was preserved, justice administered, and the realm
increased in wealth and prosperity. Its gold work and embroidery became
famous in the markets of Flanders and France. Disturbances from without
were crushed sternly and rapidly; Harold's military talents displayed
themselves in a campaign against Wales, and in the boldness and rapidity
with which, arming his troops with weapons adapted for mountain conflict,
he penetrated to the heart of its fastnesses and reduced the country to
complete submission. With the gift of the Northumbrian earldom on
Siward's death to his brother Tostig all England save a small part of the
older Mercia lay in the hands of the house of Godwine, and as the waning
health of the king, the death of his nephew, the son of Eadmund who had
returned from Hungary as his heir, and the childhood of the Ætheling
Eadgar who stood next in blood, removed obstacle after obstacle to his
plans, Harold patiently but steadily moved forward to the throne.

[Sidenote: Normandy]

But his advance was watched by one even more able and ambitious than
himself. For the last half-century England had been drawing nearer to the
Norman land which fronted it across the Channel. As we pass nowadays
through Normandy, it is English history which is round about us. The name
of hamlet after hamlet has memories for English ears; a fragment of
castle wall marks the home of the Bruce, a tiny village preserves the
name of the Percy. The very look of the country and its people seem
familiar to us; the Norman peasant in his cap and blouse recalls the
build and features of the small English farmer; the fields about Caen,
with their dense hedgerows, their elms, their apple-orchards, are the
very picture of an English country-side. Huge cathedrals lift themselves
over the red-tiled roofs of little market towns, the models of stately
fabrics which superseded the lowlier churches of Ælfred or Dunstan, while
the windy heights that look over orchard and meadowland are crowned with
the square grey keeps which Normandy gave to the cliffs of Richmond and
the banks of Thames. It was Hrolf the Ganger, or Walker, a pirate leader
like Guthrum or Hasting, who wrested this land from the French king,
Charles the Simple, in 912, at the moment when Ælfred's children were
beginning their conquest of the English Danelaw. The treaty of
Clair-on-Epte in which France purchased peace by this cession of the
coast was a close imitation of the Peace of Wedmore. Hrolf, like Guthrum,
was baptized, received the king's daughter in marriage, and became his
vassal for the territory which now took the name of "the Northman's land"
or Normandy. But vassalage and the new faith sat lightly on the Dane. No
such ties of blood and speech tended to unite the northman with the
French among whom he settled along the Seine as united him to the
Englishmen among whom he settled along the Humber. William Longsword, the
son of Hrolf, though wavering towards France and Christianity, remained a
northman in heart; he called in a Danish colony to occupy his conquest of
the Cotentin, the peninsula which runs out from St. Michael's Mount to
the cliffs of Cherbourg, and reared his boy among the northmen of Bayeux
where the Danish tongue and fashions most stubbornly held their own. A
heathen reaction followed his death, and the bulk of the Normans, with
the child Duke Richard, fell away for the time from Christianity, while
new pirate-fleets came swarming up the Seine. To the close of the century
the whole people were still "Pirates" to the French around them, their
land the "Pirates' land," their Duke the "Pirates' Duke." Yet in the end
the same forces which merged the Dane in the Englishman told even more
powerfully on the Dane in France. No race has ever shown a greater power
of absorbing all the nobler characteristics of the peoples with whom they
came in contact, or of infusing their own energy into them. During the
long reign of Duke Richard the Fearless, the son of William Longsword, a
reign which lasted from 945 to 996, the heathen Norman pirates became
French Christians and feudal at heart. The old Norse language lived only
at Bayeux and in a few local names. As the old Northern freedom died
silently away, the descendants of the pirates became feudal nobles and
the "Pirates' land" sank into the most loyal of the fiefs of France.

[Sidenote: Duke William]

From the moment of their settlement on the Frankish coast, the Normans
had been jealously watched by the English kings; and the anxiety of
Æthelred for their friendship set a Norman woman on the English throne.
The marriage of Emma with Æthelred brought about a close political
connexion between the two countries. It was in Normandy that the King
found a refuge from Swein's invasion, and his younger boys grew up in
exile at the Norman court. Their presence there drew the eyes of every
Norman to the rich land which offered so tempting a prey across the
Channel. The energy which they had shown in winning their land from the
Franks, in absorbing the French civilization and the French religion, was
now showing itself in adventures on far-off shores, in crusades against
the Moslem of Spain or the Arabs of Sicily. It was this spirit of
adventure that roused the Norman Duke Robert to sail against England in
Cnut's day under pretext of setting Æthelred's children on its throne,
but the wreck of his fleet in a storm put an end to a project which might
have anticipated the work of his son. It was that son, William the Great,
as men of his own day styled him, William the Conqueror as he was to
stamp himself by one event on English history, who was now Duke of
Normandy. The full grandeur of his indomitable will, his large and
patient statesmanship, the loftiness of aim which lifts him out of the
petty incidents of his age, were as yet only partly disclosed. But there
never had been a moment from his boyhood when he was not among the
greatest of men. His life from the very first was one long mastering of
difficulty after difficulty. The shame of his birth remained in his name
of "the Bastard." His father Robert had seen Arlotta, a tanner's daughter
of the town, as she washed her linen in a little brook by Falaise; and
loving her he had made her the mother of his boy. The departure of Robert
on a pilgrimage from which he never returned left William a child-ruler
among the most turbulent baronage in Christendom; treason and anarchy
surrounded him as he grew to manhood; and disorder broke at last into
open revolt. But in 1047 a fierce combat of horse on the slopes of
Val-ès-dunes beside Caen left the young Duke master of his duchy and he
soon made his mastery felt. "Normans" said a Norman poet "must be trodden
down and kept under foot, for he only that bridles them may use them at
his need." In the stern order he forced on the land Normandy from this
hour felt the bridle of its Duke.

[Sidenote: William and France]

Secure at home, William seized the moment of Godwine's exile to visit
England, and received from his cousin, King Eadward, as he afterwards
asserted, a promise of succession to his throne. Such a promise however,
unconfirmed by the Witenagemot, was valueless; and the return of Godwine
must have at once cut short the young Duke's hopes. He found in fact work
enough to do in his own duchy, for the discontent of his baronage at the
stern justice of his rule found support in the jealousy which his power
raised in the states around him, and it was only after two great
victories at Mortemer and Varaville and six years of hard fighting that
outer and inner foes were alike trodden under foot. In 1060 William stood
first among the princes of France. Maine submitted to his rule. Britanny
was reduced to obedience by a single march. While some of the rebel
barons rotted in the Duke's dungeons and some were driven into exile, the
land settled down into a peace which gave room for a quick upgrowth of
wealth and culture. Learning and education found their centre in the
school of Bec, which the teaching of a Lombard scholar, Lanfranc, raised
in a few years into the most famous school of Christendom. Lanfranc's
first contact with William, if it showed the Duke's imperious temper,
showed too his marvellous insight into men. In a strife with the Papacy
which William provoked by his marriage with Matilda, a daughter of the
Count of Flanders, Lanfranc took the side of Rome. His opposition was met
by a sentence of banishment, and the Prior had hardly set out on a lame
horse, the only one his house could afford, when he was overtaken by the
Duke, impatient that he should quit Normandy. "Give me a better horse and
I shall go the quicker," replied the imperturbable Lombard, and William's
wrath passed into laughter and good will. From that hour Lanfranc became
his minister and counsellor, whether for affairs in the duchy itself or
for the more daring schemes of ambition which opened up across the

[Sidenote: William and England]

William's hopes of the English crown are said to have been revived by a
storm which threw Harold, while cruising in the Channel, on the coast of
Ponthieu. Its count sold him to the Duke; and as the price of return to
England William forced him to swear on the relics of saints to support
his claim to its throne. But, true or no, the oath told little on
Harold's course. As the childless King drew to his grave one obstacle
after another was cleared from the earl's path. His brother Tostig had
become his most dangerous rival; but a revolt of the Northumbrians drove
Tostig to Flanders, and the earl was able to win over the Mercian house
of Leofric to his cause by owning Morkere, the brother of the Mercian
Earl Eadwine, as his brother's successor. His aim was in fact attained
without a struggle. In the opening of 1066 the nobles and bishops who
gathered round the death-bed of the Confessor passed quietly from it to
the election and coronation of Harold. But at Eouen the news was welcomed
with a burst of furious passion, and the Duke of Normandy at once
prepared to enforce his claim by arms. William did not claim the Crown.
He claimed simply the right which he afterwards used when his sword had
won it of presenting himself for election by the nation, and he believed
himself entitled so to present himself by the direct commendation of the
Confessor. The actual election of Harold which stood in his way, hurried
as it was, he did not recognize as valid. But with this constitutional
claim was inextricably mingled resentment at the private wrong which
Harold had done him, and a resolve to exact vengeance on the man whom he
regarded as untrue to his oath. The difficulties in the way of his
enterprise were indeed enormous. He could reckon on no support within
England itself. At home he had to extort the consent of his own reluctant
baronage; to gather a motley host from every quarter of France and to
keep it together for months; to create a fleet, to cut down the very
trees, to build, to launch, to man the vessels; and to find time amidst
all this for the common business of government, for negotiations with
Denmark and the Empire, with France, Britanny, and Anjou, with Flanders
and with Rome which had been estranged from England by Archbishop
Stigand's acceptance of his pallium from one who was not owned as a
canonical Pope.

[Sidenote: Stamford Bridge]

But his rival's difficulties were hardly less than his own. Harold was
threatened with invasion not only by William but by his brother Tostig,
who had taken refuge in Norway and secured the aid of its king, Harald
Hardrada. The fleet and army he had gathered lay watching for months
along the coast. His one standing force was his body of hus-carls, but
their numbers only enabled them to act as the nucleus of an army. On the
other hand the Land-fyrd or general levy of fighting-men was a body easy
to raise for any single encounter but hard to keep together. To assemble
such a force was to bring labour to a standstill. The men gathered under
the King's standard were the farmers and ploughmen of their fields. The
ships were the fishing-vessels of the coast. In September the task of
holding them together became impossible, but their dispersion had hardly
taken place when the two clouds which had so long been gathering burst at
once upon the realm. A change of wind released the landlocked armament of
William; but before changing, the wind which prisoned the Duke brought
the host of Tostig and Harald Hardrada to the coast of Yorkshire. The
King hastened with his household troops to the north and repulsed the
Norwegians in a decisive overthrow at Stamford Bridge, but ere he could
hurry back to London the Norman host had crossed the sea and William, who
had anchored on the twenty-eighth of September off Pevensey, was ravaging
the coast to bring his rival to an engagement. His merciless ravages
succeeded in drawing Harold from London to the south; but the King wisely
refused to attack with the troops he had hastily summoned to his banner.
If he was forced to give battle, he resolved to give it on ground he had
himself chosen, and advancing near enough to the coast to check William's
ravages he entrenched himself on a hill known afterwards as that of
Senlac, a low spur of the Sussex downs near Hastings. His position
covered London and drove William to concentrate his forces. With a host
subsisting by pillage, to concentrate is to starve; and no alternative
was left to the Duke but a decisive victory or ruin.

[Sidenote: Battle of Hastings]

On the fourteenth of October William led his men at dawn along the higher
ground that leads from Hastings to the battle-field which Harold had
chosen. From the mound of Telham the Normans saw the host of the English
gathered thickly behind a rough trench and a stockade on the height of
Senlac. Marshy ground covered their right; on the left, the most exposed
part of the position, the hus-carls or body-guard of Harold, men in full
armour and wielding huge axes, were grouped round the Golden Dragon of
Wessex and the Standard of the King. The rest of the ground was covered
by thick masses of half-armed rustics who had flocked at Harold's summons
to the fight with the stranger. It was against the centre of this
formidable position that William arrayed his Norman knighthood, while the
mercenary forces he had gathered in France and Britanny were ordered to
attack its flanks. A general charge of the Norman foot opened the battle;
in front rode the minstrel Taillefer, tossing his sword in the air and
catching it again while he chaunted the song of Roland. He was the first
of the host who struck a blow, and he was the first to fall. The charge
broke vainly on the stout stockade behind which the English warriors
plied axe and javelin with fierce cries of "Out, out," and the repulse of
the Norman footmen was followed by a repulse of the Norman horse. Again
and again the Duke rallied and led them to the fatal stockade. All the
fury of fight that glowed in his Norseman's blood, all the headlong
valour that spurred him over the slopes of Val-ès-dunes, mingled that day
with the coolness of head, the dogged perseverance, the inexhaustible
faculty of resource which shone at Mortemer and Varaville. His Breton
troops, entangled in the marshy ground on his left, broke in disorder,
and as panic spread through the army a cry arose that the Duke was slain.
William tore off his helmet; "I live," he shouted, "and by God's help I
will conquer yet." Maddened by a fresh repulse, the Duke spurred right at
the Standard; unhorsed, his terrible mace struck down Gyrth, the King's
brother; again dismounted, a blow from his hand hurled to the ground an
unmannerly rider who would not lend him his steed. Amidst the roar and
tumult of the battle he turned the flight he had arrested into the means
of victory. Broken as the stockade was by his desperate onset, the
shield-wall of the warriors behind it still held the Normans at bay till
William by a feint of flight drew a part of the English force from their
post of vantage. Turning on his disorderly pursuers, the Duke cut them to
pieces, broke through the abandoned line, and made himself master of the
central ground. Meanwhile the French and Bretons made good their ascent
on either flank. At three the hill seemed won, at six the fight still
raged around the Standard where Harold's hus-carls stood stubbornly at
bay on a spot marked afterwards by the high altar of Battle Abbey. An
order from the Duke at last brought his archers to the front. Their
arrow-flight told heavily on the dense masses crowded around the King and
as the sun went down a shaft pierced Harold's right eye. He fell between
the royal ensigns, and the battle closed with a desperate melly over his

Night covered the flight of the English army: but William was quick to
reap the advantage of his victory. Securing Romney and Dover, he marched
by Canterbury upon London. Faction and intrigue were doing his work for
him as he advanced; for Harold's brothers had fallen with the King on the
field of Senlac, and there was none of the house of Godwine to contest
the crown. Of the old royal line there remained but a single boy, Eadgar
the Ætheling. He was chosen king; but the choice gave little strength to
the national cause. The widow of the Confessor surrendered Winchester to
the Duke. The bishops gathered at London inclined to submission. The
citizens themselves faltered as William, passing by their walls, gave
Southwark to the flames. The throne of the boy-king really rested for
support on the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria, Eadwine and Morkere; and
William, crossing the Thames at Wallingford and marching into
Hertfordshire, threatened to cut them off from their earldoms. The
masterly movement forced the Earls to hurry home, and London gave way at
once. Eadgar himself was at the head of the deputation who came to offer
the crown to the Norman Duke. "They bowed to him," says the English
annalist pathetically, "for need." They bowed to the Norman as they had
bowed to the Dane, and William accepted the crown in the spirit of Cnut.
London indeed was secured by the erection of a fortress which afterwards
grew into the Tower, but William desired to reign not as a Conqueror but
as a lawful king. At Christmas he received the crown at Westminster from
the hands of Archbishop Ealdred amid shouts of "Yea, Yea," from his new
English subjects. Fines from the greater landowners atoned for a
resistance which now counted as rebellion; but with this exception every
measure of the new sovereign showed his desire of ruling as a successor
of Eadward or Ælfred. As yet indeed the greater part of England remained
quietly aloof from him, and he can hardly be said to have been recognized
as king by Northumberland or the greater part of Mercia. But to the east
of a line which stretched from Norwich to Dorsetshire his rule was
unquestioned, and over this portion he ruled as an English king. His
soldiers were kept in strict order. No change was made in law or custom.
The privileges of London were recognized by a royal writ which still
remains, the most venerable of its muniments, among the city's archives.
Peace and order were restored. William even attempted, though in vain, to
learn the English tongue that he might personally administer justice to
the suitors in his court. The kingdom seemed so tranquil that only a few
months had passed after the battle of Senlac when leaving England in
charge of his brother, Odo Bishop of Bayeux, and his minister, William
Fitz-Osbern, the King returned in 1067 for a while to Normandy. The peace
he left was soon indeed disturbed. Bishop Odo's tyranny forced the
Kentishmen to seek aid from Count Eustace of Boulogne; while the Welsh
princes supported a similar rising against Norman oppression in the west.
But as yet the bulk of the land held fairly to the new king. Dover was
saved from Eustace; and the discontented fled over sea to seek refuge in
lands as far off as Constantinople, where Englishmen from this time
formed great part of the body-guard or Varangians of the Eastern
Emperors. William returned to take his place again as an English king. It
was with an English force that he subdued a rising in the south-west with
Exeter at its head, and it was at the head of an English army that he
completed his work by marching to the North. His march brought Eadwine
and Morkere again to submission; a fresh rising ended in the occupation
of York, and England as far as the Tees lay quietly at William's feet.

[Sidenote: The Norman Conquest]

It was in fact only the national revolt of 1068 that transformed the King
into a conqueror. The signal for this revolt came from Swein, king of
Denmark, who had for two years past been preparing to dispute England
with the Norman, but on the appearance of his fleet in the Humber all
northern, all western and south-western England rose as one man. Eadgar
the Ætheling with a band of exiles who had found refuge in Scotland took
the head of the Northumbrian revolt; in the south-west the men of Devon,
Somerset, and Dorset gathered to the sieges of Exeter and Montacute;
while a new Norman castle at Shrewsbury alone bridled a rising in the
West. So ably had the revolt been planned that even William was taken by
surprise. The outbreak was heralded by a storm of York and the slaughter
of three thousand Normans who formed its garrison. The news of this
slaughter reached William as he was hunting in the forest of Dean; and in
a wild outburst of wrath he swore "by the splendour of God" to avenge
himself on the North. But wrath went hand in hand with the coolest
statesmanship. The centre of resistance lay in the Danish fleet, and
pushing rapidly to the Humber with a handful of horsemen William bought
at a heavy price its inactivity and withdrawal. Then turning westward
with the troops that gathered round him he swept the Welsh border and
relieved Shrewsbury while William Fitz-Osbern broke the rising around
Exeter. His success set the King free to fulfil his oath of vengeance on
the North. After a long delay before the flooded waters of the Aire he
entered York and ravaged the whole country as far as the Tees. Town and
village were harried and burned, their inhabitants were slain or driven
over the Scottish border. The coast was especially wasted that no hold
might remain for future landings of the Danes. Crops, cattle, the very
implements of husbandry were so mercilessly destroyed that a famine which
followed is said to have swept off more than a hundred thousand victims.
Half a century later indeed the land still lay bare of culture and
deserted of men for sixty miles northward of York. The work of vengeance
once over, William led his army back from the Tees to York, and thence to
Chester and the West. Never had he shown the grandeur of his character so
memorably as in this terrible march. The winter was hard, the roads
choked with snowdrifts or broken by torrents, provisions failed; and his
army, storm-beaten and forced to devour its horses for food, broke out
into mutiny at the order to cross the bleak moorlands that part Yorkshire
from the West. The mercenaries from Anjou and Britanny demanded their
release from service. William granted their prayer with scorn. On foot,
at the head of the troops which still clung to him, he forced his way by
paths inaccessible to horses, often helping the men with his own hands to
clear the road, and as the army descended upon Chester the resistance of
the English died away.

For two years William was able to busy himself in castle-building and in
measures for holding down the conquered land. How effective these were
was seen when the last act of the conquest was reached. All hope of
Danish aid was now gone, but Englishmen still looked for help to Scotland
where Eadgar the Ætheling had again found refuge and where his sister
Margaret had become wife of King Malcolm. It was probably some assurance
of Malcolm's aid which roused the Mercian Earls, Eadwine and Morkere, to
a fresh rising in 1071. But the revolt was at once foiled by the
vigilance of the Conqueror. Eadwine fell in an obscure skirmish, while
Morkere found shelter for a while in the fen country where a desperate
band of patriots gathered round an outlawed leader, Hereward. Nowhere had
William found so stubborn a resistance: but a causeway two miles long was
at last driven across the marshes, and the last hopes of English freedom
died in the surrender of Ely. It was as the unquestioned master of
England that William marched to the North, crossed the Lowlands and the
Forth, and saw Malcolm appear in his camp upon the Tay to swear fealty at
his feet.



Among the Norman chroniclers Orderic becomes from this point particularly
valuable and detailed. The Chronicle and Florence of Worcester remain the
primary English authorities, while Simeon of Durham gives much special
information on northern matters. For the reign of William the Red the
chief source of information is Eadmer, a monk of Canterbury, in his
"Historia Noverum" and "Life of Anselm." William of Malmesbury and Henry
of Huntingdon are both contemporary authorities during that of Henry the
First; the latter remains a brief but accurate annalist; the former is
the leader of a new historic school, who treat English events as part of
the history of the world, and emulate classic models by a more
philosophical arrangement of their materials. To these the opening of
Stephen's reign adds the "Gesta Stephani," a record in great detail by
one of the King's clerks, and the Hexham Chroniclers.

All this wealth of historical material however suddenly leaves us in the
chaos of civil war. Even the Chronicle dies out in the midst of Stephen's
reign, and the close at the same time of the works we have noted leaves a
blank in our historical literature which extends over the early years of
Henry the Second. But this dearth is followed by a vast outburst of
historical industry. For the Beket struggle we have the mass of the
Archbishop's own correspondence with that of Foliot and John of
Salisbury. From 1169 to 1192 our primary authority is the Chronicle known
as that of Benedict of Peterborough, whose authorship Professor Stubbs
has shown to be more probably due to the royal treasurer, Bishop Richard
Fitz-Neal. This is continued to 1201 by Roger of Howden in a record of
equally official value. William of Newburgh's history, which ends in
1198, is a work of the classical school, like William of Malmesbury's. It
is distinguished by its fairness and good sense. To these may be added
the Chronicle of Ralph Niger, with the additions of Ralph of Coggeshall,
that of Gervase of Canterbury, and the interesting life of St. Hugh of

But the intellectual energy of Henry the Second's time is shown even more
remarkably in the mass of general literature which lies behind these
distinctively historical sources, in the treatises of John of Salisbury,
the voluminous works of Giraldus Cambrensis, the "Trifles" and satires of
Walter Map, Glanvill's treatise on Law, Richard Fitz-Neal's "Dialogue on
the Exchequer," to which we owe our knowledge of Henry's financial
system, the romances of Gaimar and of Wace, the poem of the San Graal.
But this intellectual fertility is far from ceasing with Henry the
Second. The thirteenth century has hardly begun when the romantic impulse
quickens even the old English tongue in the long poem of Layamon. The
Chronicle of Richard of Devizes and an "Itinerarium Regis" supplement
Roger of Howden for Richard's reign. With John we enter upon the Annals
of Barnwell and are aided by the invaluable series of the Chroniclers of
St. Albans. Among the side topics of the time, we may find much
information as to the Jews in Toovey's "Anglia Judaica"; the Chronicle of
Jocelyn of Brakelond gives us a peep into social and monastic life; the
Cistercian revival may be traced in the records of the Cistercian abbeys
in Dugdale's Monasticon; the Charter Rolls give some information as to
municipal history; and constitutional developement may be traced in the
documents collected by Professor Stubbs in his "Select Charters."


[Sidenote: The Foreign Kings]

In the five hundred years that followed the landing of Hengest Britain
had become England, and its conquest had ended in the settlement of its
conquerors, in their conversion to Christianity, in the birth of a
national literature, of an imperfect civilization, of a rough political
order. But through the whole of this earlier age every attempt to fuse
the various tribes of conquerors into a single nation had failed. The
effort of Northumbria to extend her rule over all England had been foiled
by the resistance of Mercia; that of Mercia by the resistance of Wessex.
Wessex herself, even under the guidance of great kings and statesmen, had
no sooner reduced the country to a seeming unity than local independence
rose again at the call of the Northmen. The sense of a single England
deepened with the pressure of the invaders; the monarchy of Ælfred and
his house broadened into an English kingdom; but still tribal jealousies
battled with national unity. Northumbrian lay apart from West-Saxon,
Northman from Englishman. A common national sympathy held the country
roughly together, but a real national union had yet to come. It came with
foreign rule. The rule of the Danish kings broke local jealousies as they
had never been broken before, and bequeathed a new England to Godwine and
the Confessor. But Cnut was more Englishman than Northman, and his system
of government was an English system. The true foreign yoke was only felt
when England saw its conqueror in William the Norman.

For nearly a century and a half, from the hour when William turned
triumphant from the fens of Ely to the hour when John fled defeated from
Norman shores, our story is one of foreign masters. Kings from Normandy
were followed by kings from Anjou. But whether under Norman or Angevin
Englishmen were a subject race, conquered and ruled by men of strange
blood and of strange speech. And yet it was in these years of subjection
that England first became really England. Provincial differences were
finally crushed into national unity by the pressure of the stranger. The
firm government of her foreign kings secured the land a long and almost
unbroken peace in which the new nation grew to a sense of its oneness,
and this consciousness was strengthened by the political ability which in
Henry the First gave it administrative order and in Henry the Second
built up the fabric of its law. New elements of social life were
developed alike by the suffering and the prosperity of the times. The
wrong which had been done by the degradation of the free landowner into a
feudal dependant was partially redressed by the degradation of the bulk
of the English lords themselves into a middle class as they were pushed
from their place by the foreign baronage who settled on English soil; and
this social change was accompanied by a gradual enrichment and elevation
of the class of servile and semi-servile cultivators which had lifted
them at the close of this period into almost complete freedom. The middle
class which was thus created was reinforced by the upgrowth of a
corresponding class in our towns. Commerce and trade were promoted by the
justice and policy of the foreign kings; and with their advance rose the
political importance of the trader. The boroughs of England, which at the
opening of this period were for the most part mere villages, were rich
enough at its close to buy liberty from the Crown and to stand ready for
the mightier part they were to play in the developement of our
parliament. The shame of conquest, the oppression of the conquerors,
begot a moral and religious revival which raised religion into a living
thing; while the close connexion with the Continent which foreign
conquest brought about secured for England a new communion with the
artistic and intellectual life of the world without her.

[Sidenote: William the Conqueror]

In a word, it is to the stern discipline of our foreign kings that we owe
not merely English wealth and English freedom but England herself. And of
these foreign masters the greatest was William of Normandy. In William
the wild impulses of the northman's blood mingled strangely with the cool
temper of the modern statesman. As he was the last, so he was the most
terrible outcome of the northern race. The very spirit of the sea-robbers
from whom he sprang seemed embodied in his gigantic form, his enormous
strength, his savage countenance, his desperate bravery, the fury of his
wrath, the ruthlessness of his revenge. "No knight under heaven," his
enemies owned, "was William's peer." Boy as he was at Val-ès-dunes, horse
and man went down before his lance. All the fierce gaiety of his nature
broke out in the warfare of his youth, in his rout of fifteen Angevins
with but five men at his back, in his defiant ride over the ground which
Geoffry Martel claimed from him, a ride with hawk on fist as if war and
the chase were one. No man could bend William's bow. His mace crashed its
way through a ring of English warriors to the foot of the Standard. He
rose to his greatest height at moments when other men despaired. His
voice rang out as a trumpet when his soldiers fled before the English
charge at Senlac, and his rally turned the flight into a means of
victory. In his winter march on Chester he strode afoot at the head of
his fainting troops and helped with his own hand to clear a road through
the snowdrifts. And with the northman's daring broke out the northman's
pitilessness. When the townsmen of Alençon hung raw hides along their
walls in scorn of the "tanner's" grandson, William tore out his
prisoners' eyes, hewed off their hands and feet, and flung them into the
town. Hundreds of Hampshire men were driven from their homes to make him
a hunting-ground and his harrying of Northumbria left Northern England a
desolate waste. Of men's love or hate he recked little. His grim look,
his pride, his silence, his wild outbursts of passion, left William
lonely even in his court. His subjects trembled as he passed. "So stark
and fierce was he," writes the English chronicler, "that none dared
resist his will." His very wrath was solitary. "To no man spake he and no
man dared speak to him" when the news reached him of Harold's seizure of
the throne. It was only when he passed from his palace to the loneliness
of the woods that the King's temper unbent. "He loved the wild deer as
though he had been their father."

[Sidenote: His rule]

It was the genius of William which lifted him out of this mere northman
into a great general and a great statesman. The wary strategy of his
French campaigns, the organization of his attack upon England, the
victory at Senlac, the quick resource, the steady perseverance which
achieved the Conquest showed the wide range of his generalship. His
political ability had shown itself from the first moment of his accession
to the ducal throne. William had the instinct of government. He had
hardly reached manhood when Normandy lay peaceful at his feet. Revolt was
crushed. Disorder was trampled under foot. The Duke "could never love a
robber," be he baron or knave. The sternness of his temper stamped itself
throughout upon his rule. "Stark he was to men that withstood him," says
the Chronicler of his English system of government; "so harsh and cruel
was he that none dared withstand his will. Earls that did aught against
his bidding he cast into bonds; bishops he stripped of their bishopricks,
abbots of their abbacies. He spared not his own brother: first he was in
the land, but the King cast him into bondage. If a man would live and
hold his lands, need it were he followed the King's will." Stern as such
a rule was, its sternness gave rest to the land. Even amidst the
sufferings which necessarily sprang from the circumstances of the
Conquest itself, from the erection of castles or the enclosure of forests
or the exactions which built up William's hoard at Winchester, Englishmen
were unable to forget "the good peace he made in the land, so that a man
might fare over his realm with a bosom full of gold." Strange touches too
of a humanity far in advance of his age contrasted with this general
temper of the Conqueror's government. One of the strongest traits in his
character was an aversion to shed blood by process of law; he formally
abolished the punishment of death, and only a single execution stains the
annals of his reign. An edict yet more honourable to his humanity put an
end to the slave-trade which had till then been carried on at the port of
Bristol. The contrast between the ruthlessness and pitifulness of his
public acts sprang indeed from a contrast within his temper itself. The
pitiless warrior, the stern and aweful king was a tender and faithful
husband, an affectionate father. The lonely silence of his bearing broke
into gracious converse with pure and sacred souls like Anselm. If William
was "stark" to rebel and baron, men noted that he was "mild to those that
loved God."

[Sidenote: William and feudalism]

But the greatness of the Conqueror was seen in more than the order and
peace which he imposed upon the land. Fortune had given him one of the
greatest opportunities ever offered to a king of stamping his own genius
on the destinies of a people; and it is the way in which he seized on
this opportunity which has set William among the foremost statesmen of
the world. The struggle which ended in the fens of Ely had wholly changed
his position. He no longer held the land merely as its national and
elected King. To his elective right he added the right of conquest. It is
the way in which William grasped and employed this double power that
marks the originality of his political genius, for the system of
government which he devised was in fact the result of this double origin
of his rule. It represented neither the purely feudal system of the
Continent nor the system of the older English royalty: more truly perhaps
it may be said to have represented both. As the conqueror of England
William developed the military organization of feudalism so far as was
necessary for the secure possession of his conquests. The ground was
already prepared for such an organization. We have watched the beginnings
of English feudalism in the warriors, the "companions" or "thegns" who
were personally attached to the king's war-band and received estates from
the folk-land in reward for their personal services. In later times this
feudal distribution of estates had greatly increased as the bulk of the
nobles followed the king's example and bound their tenants to themselves
by a similar process of subinfeudation. The pure freeholders on the other
hand, the class which formed the basis of the original English society,
had been gradually reduced in number, partly through imitation of the
class above them, but more through the pressure of the Danish wars and
the social disturbance consequent upon them which forced these freemen to
seek protectors among the thegns at the cost of their independence. Even
before the reign of William therefore feudalism was superseding the older
freedom in England as it had already superseded it in Germany or France.
But the tendency was quickened and intensified by the Conquest. The
desperate and universal resistance of the country forced William to hold
by the sword what the sword had won; and an army strong enough to crush
at any moment a national revolt was needful for the preservation of his
throne. Such an army could only be maintained by a vast confiscation of
the soil, and the failure of the English risings cleared the ground for
its establishment. The greater part of the higher nobility fell in battle
or fled into exile, while the lower thegnhood either forfeited the whole
of their lands or redeemed a portion by the surrender of the rest. We see
the completeness of the confiscation in the vast estates which William
was enabled to grant to his more powerful followers. Two hundred manors
in Kent with more than an equal number elsewhere rewarded the services of
his brother Odo, and grants almost as large fell to William's counsellors
Fitz-Osbern and Montgomery or to barons like the Mowbrays and the Clares.
But the poorest soldier of fortune found his part in the spoil. The
meanest Norman rose to wealth and power in this new dominion of his lord.
Great or small, each manor thus granted was granted on condition of its
holder's service at the King's call; a whole army was by this means
encamped upon the soil; and William's summons could at any hour gather an
overwhelming force around his standard.

Such a force however, effective as it was against the conquered English,
was hardly less formidable to the Crown itself. When once it was
established, William found himself fronted in his new realm by a feudal
baronage, by the men whom he had so hardly bent to his will in Normandy,
and who were as impatient of law, as jealous of the royal power, as eager
for an unbridled military and judicial independence within their own
manors, here as there. The political genius of the Conqueror was shown in
his appreciation of this danger and in the skill with which he met it.
Large as the estates he granted were, they were scattered over the
country in such a way as to render union between the great landowners or
the hereditary attachment of great areas of population to any one
separate lord equally impossible. A yet wiser measure struck at the very
root of feudalism. When the larger holdings were divided by their owners
into smaller sub-tenancies, the under-tenants were bound by the same
conditions of service to their lord as he to the Crown. "Hear, my lord,"
swore the vassal as kneeling bareheaded and without arms he placed his
hands within those of his superior, "I become liege man of yours for life
and limb and earthly regard; and I will keep faith and loyalty to you for
life and death, God help me!" Then the kiss of his lord invested him with
land as a "fief" to descend to him and his heirs for ever. In other
countries such a vassal owed fealty to his lord against all foes, be they
king or no. By the usage however which William enacted in England each
sub-tenant, in addition to his oath of fealty to his lord, swore fealty
directly to the Crown, and loyalty to the King was thus established as
the supreme and universal duty of all Englishmen.

[Sidenote: William and England]

But the Conqueror's skill was shown not so much in these inner checks
upon feudalism as in the counterbalancing forces which he provided
without it. He was not only the head of the great garrison that held
England down, he was legal and elected King of the English people. If as
Conqueror he covered the country with a new military organization, as the
successor of Eadward he maintained the judicial and administrative
organization of the old English realm. At the danger of a severance of
the land between the greater nobles he struck a final blow by the
abolition of the four great earldoms. The shire became the largest unit
of local government, and in each shire the royal nomination of sheriffs
for its administration concentrated the whole executive power in the
King's hands. The old legal constitution of the country gave him the
whole judicial power, and William was jealous to retain and heighten
this. While he preserved the local courts of the hundred and the shire he
strengthened the jurisdiction of the King's Court, which seems even in
the Confessor's day to have become more and more a court of highest
appeal with a right to call up all cases from any lower jurisdiction to
its bar. The control over the national revenue which had rested even in
the most troubled times in the hands of the King was turned into a great
financial power by the Conqueror's system. Over the whole face of the
land a large part of the manors were burthened with special dues to the
Crown: and it was for the purpose of ascertaining and recording these
that William sent into each county the commissioners whose enquiries are
recorded in his Domesday Book. A jury empannelled in each hundred
declared on oath the extent and nature of each estate, the names, number,
and condition of its inhabitants, its value before and after the
Conquest, and the sums due from it to the Crown. These, with the Danegeld
or land-tax levied since the days of Æthelred, formed as yet the main
financial resources of the Crown, and their exaction carried the royal
authority in its most direct form home to every landowner. But to these
were added a revenue drawn from the old Crown domain, now largely
increased by the confiscations of the Conquest, the ever-growing income
from the judicial "fines" imposed by the King's judges in the King's
courts, and the fees and redemptions paid to the Crown on the grant or
renewal of every privilege or charter. A new source of revenue was found
in the Jewish traders, many of whom followed William from Normandy, and
who were glad to pay freely for the royal protection which enabled them
to settle in their quarters or "Jewries" in all the principal towns of

[Sidenote: The Church]

William found a yet stronger check on his baronage in the organization of
the Church. Its old dependence on the royal power was strictly enforced.
Prelates were practically chosen by the King. Homage was exacted from
bishop as from baron. No royal tenant could be excommunicated save by the
King's leave. No synod could legislate without his previous assent and
subsequent confirmation of its decrees. No papal letters could be
received within the realm save by his permission. The King firmly
repudiated the claims which were beginning to be put forward by the court
of Rome. When Gregory VII. called on him to do fealty for his kingdom the
King sternly refused to admit the claim. "Fealty I have never willed to
do, nor will I do it now. I have never promised it, nor do I find that my
predecessors did it to yours." William's reforms only tended to tighten
this hold of the Crown on the clergy. Stigand was deposed; and the
elevation of Lanfranc to the see of Canterbury was followed by the
removal of most of the English prelates and by the appointment of Norman
ecclesiastics in their place. The new archbishop did much to restore
discipline, and William's own efforts were no doubt partly directed by a
real desire for the religious improvement of his realm. But the foreign
origin of the new prelates cut them off from the flocks they ruled and
bound them firmly to the foreign throne; while their independent position
was lessened by a change which seemed intended to preserve it.
Ecclesiastical cases had till now been decided, like civil cases, in
shire or hundred-court, where the bishop sate side by side with ealdorman
or sheriff. They were now withdrawn from it to the separate court of the
bishop. The change was pregnant with future trouble to the Crown; but for
the moment it told mainly in removing the bishop from his traditional
contact with the popular assembly and in effacing the memory of the
original equality of the religious with the civil power.

[Sidenote: William's death]

In any struggle with feudalism a national king, secure of the support of
the Church, and backed by the royal hoard at Winchester, stood in
different case from the merely feudal sovereigns of the Continent. The
difference of power was seen as soon as the Conquest was fairly over, and
the struggle which William had anticipated opened between the baronage
and the Crown. The wisdom of his policy in the destruction of the great
earldoms which had overshadowed the throne was shown in an attempt at
their restoration made in 1075 by Roger, the son of his minister William
Fitz-Osbern, and by the Breton, Ralf de Guader, whom the King had
rewarded for his services at Senlac with the earldom of Norfolk. The
rising was quickly suppressed, Roger thrown into prison, and Ralf driven
over sea. The intrigues of the baronage soon found another leader in
William's half-brother, the Bishop of Bayeux. Under pretence of aspiring
by arms to the papacy Bishop Odo collected money and men, but the
treasure was at once seized by the royal officers and the bishop arrested
in the midst of the court. Even at the King's bidding no officer would
venture to seize on a prelate of the Church; and it was with his own
hands that William was forced to effect his arrest. The Conqueror was as
successful against foes from without as against foes from within. The
fear of the Danes, which had so long hung like a thunder-cloud over
England, passed away before the host which William gathered in 1085 to
meet a great armament assembled by king Cnut. A mutiny dispersed the
Danish fleet, and the murder of its king removed all peril from the
north. Scotland, already humbled by William's invasion, was bridled by
the erection of a strong fortress at Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and after
penetrating with his army to the heart of Wales the King commenced its
systematic reduction by settling three of his great barons along its
frontier. It was not till his closing years that William's unvarying
success was troubled by a fresh outbreak of the Norman baronage under his
son Robert and by an attack which he was forced to meet in 1087 from
France. Its king mocked at the Conqueror's unwieldy bulk and at the
sickness which bound him to his bed at Rouen. "King William has as long a
lying-in," laughed Philip, "as a woman behind her curtains." "When I get
up," William swore grimly, "I will go to mass in Philip's land and bring
a rich offering for my churching. I will offer a thousand candles for my
fee. Flaming brands shall they be, and steel shall glitter over the fire
they make." At harvest-tide town and hamlet flaring into ashes along the
French border fulfilled the ruthless vow. But as the King rode down the
steep street of Mantes which he had given to the flames his horse
stumbled among the embers, and William was flung heavily against his
saddle. He was borne home to Rouen to die. The sound of the minster bell
woke him at dawn as he lay in the convent of St. Gervais, overlooking the
city--it was the hour of prime--and stretching out his hands in prayer
the King passed quietly away. Death itself took its colour from the
savage solitude of his life. Priests and nobles fled as the last breath
left him, and the Conqueror's body lay naked and lonely on the floor.


[Sidenote: William the Red]

With the death of the Conqueror passed the terror which had held the
barons in awe, while the severance of his dominions roused their hopes of
successful resistance to the stern rule beneath which they had bowed.
William bequeathed Normandy to his eldest son Robert; but William the
Red, his second son, hastened with his father's ring to England where the
influence of Lanfranc secured him the crown. The baronage seized the
opportunity to rise in arms under pretext of supporting the claims of
Robert, whose weakness of character gave full scope for the growth of
feudal independence; and Bishop Odo, now freed from prison, placed
himself at the head of the revolt. The new King was thrown almost wholly
on the loyalty of his English subjects. But the national stamp which
William had given to his kingship told at once. The English rallied to
the royal standard; Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester, the one surviving
bishop of English blood, defeated the insurgents in the west; while the
King, summoning the freemen of country and town to his host under pain of
being branded as "nithing" or worthless, advanced with a large force
against Rochester where the barons were concentrated. A plague which
broke out among the garrison forced them to capitulate, and as the
prisoners passed through the royal army cries of "gallows and cord" burst
from the English ranks. The failure of a later conspiracy whose aim was
to set on the throne a kinsman of the royal house, Stephen of Albemarle,
with the capture and imprisonment of its head, Robert Mowbray, the Earl
of Northumberland, brought home at last to the baronage their
helplessness in a strife with the King. The genius of the Conqueror had
saved England from the danger of feudalism. But he had left as weighty a
danger in the power which trod feudalism under foot. The power of the
Crown was a purely personal power, restrained under the Conqueror by his
own high sense of duty, but capable of becoming a pure despotism in the
hands of his son. The nobles were at his feet, and the policy of his
minister, Ranulf Flambard, loaded their estates with feudal obligations.
Each tenant was held as bound to appear if needful thrice a year at the
royal court, to pay a heavy fine or rent on succession to his estate, to
contribute aid in case of the king's capture in war or the knighthood of
the king's eldest son or the marriage of his eldest daughter. An heir who
was still a minor passed into the king's wardship, and all profit from
his lands went during the period of wardship to the king. If the estate
fell to an heiress, her hand was at the king's disposal, and was
generally sold by him to the highest bidder. These rights of "marriage"
and "wardship" as well as the exaction of aids at the royal will poured
wealth into the treasury while they impoverished and fettered the
baronage. A fresh source of revenue was found in the Church. The same
principles of feudal dependence were applied to its lands as to those of
the nobles; and during the vacancy of a see or abbey its profits, like
those of a minor, were swept into the royal hoard. William's profligacy
and extravagance soon tempted him to abuse this resource, and so steadily
did he refuse to appoint successors to prelates whom death removed that
at the close of his reign one archbishoprick, four bishopricks, and
eleven abbeys were found to be without pastors.

Vile as was this system of extortion and misrule but a single voice was
raised in protest against it. Lanfranc had been followed in his abbey at
Bec by the most famous of his scholars, Anselm of Aosta, an Italian like
himself. Friends as they were, no two men could be more strangely unlike.
Anselm had grown to manhood in the quiet solitude of his mountain-valley,
a tenderhearted poet-dreamer, with a soul pure as the Alpine snows above
him, and an intelligence keen and clear as the mountain-air. The whole
temper of the man was painted in a dream of his youth. It seemed to him
as though heaven lay, a stately palace, amid the gleaming hill-peaks,
while the women reaping in the corn-fields of the valley became
harvest-maidens of its king. They reaped idly, and Anselm, grieved at
their sloth, hastily climbed the mountain side to accuse them to their
lord. As he reached the palace the king's voice called him to his feet
and he poured forth his tale; then at the royal bidding bread of an
unearthly whiteness was set before him, and he ate and was refreshed. The
dream passed with the morning; but the sense of heaven's nearness to
earth, the fervid loyalty to the service of his Lord, the tender
restfulness and peace in the Divine presence which it reflected lived on
in the life of Anselm. Wandering like other Italian scholars to Normandy,
he became a monk under Lanfranc, and on his teacher's removal to higher
duties succeeded him in the direction of the Abbey of Bec. No teacher has
ever thrown a greater spirit of love into his toil. "Force your scholars
to improve!" he burst out to another teacher who relied on blows and
compulsion. "Did you ever see a craftsman fashion a fair image out of a
golden plate by blows alone? Does he not now gently press it and strike
it with his tools, now with wise art yet more gently raise and shape it?
What do your scholars turn into under this ceaseless beating?" "They turn
only brutal," was the reply. "You have bad luck," was the keen answer,
"in a training that only turns men into beasts." The worst natures
softened before this tenderness and patience. Even the Conqueror, so
harsh and terrible to others, became another man, gracious and easy of
speech, with Anselm. But amidst his absorbing cares as a teacher, the
Prior of Bec found time for philosophical speculations to which we owe
the scientific inquiries which built up the theology of the Middle Ages.
His famous works were the first attempts of any Christian thinker to
elicit the idea of God from the very nature of the human reason. His
passion for abstruse thought robbed him of food and sleep. Sometimes he
could hardly pray. Often the night was a long watch till he could seize
his conception and write it on the wax tablets which lay beside him. But
not even a fever of intense thought such as this could draw Anselm's
heart from its passionate tenderness and love. Sick monks in the
infirmary could relish no drink save the juice which his hand squeezed
for them from the grape-bunch. In the later days of his archbishoprick a
hare chased by the hounds took refuge under his horse, and his gentle
voice grew loud as he forbade a huntsman to stir in the chase while the
creature darted off again to the woods. Even the greed of lands for the
Church to which so many religious men yielded found its characteristic
rebuke as the battling lawyers in such a suit saw Anselm quietly close
his eyes in court and go peacefully to sleep.

[Sidenote: William and Anselm]

A sudden impulse of the Red King drew the abbot from these quiet studies
into the storms of the world. The see of Canterbury had long been left
without a Primate when a dangerous illness frightened the king into the
promotion of Anselm. The Abbot, who happened at the time to be in England
on the business of his house, was dragged to the royal couch and the
cross forced into his hands. But William had no sooner recovered from his
sickness than he found himself face to face with an opponent whose meek
and loving temper rose into firmness and grandeur when it fronted the
tyranny of the king. Much of the struggle between William and the
Archbishop turned on questions such as the right of investiture, which
have little bearing on our history, but the particular question at issue
was of less importance than the fact of a contest at all. The boldness of
Anselm's attitude not only broke the tradition of ecclesiastical
servitude but infused through the nation at large a new spirit of
independence. The real character of the strife appears in the Primate's
answer when his remonstrances against the lawless exactions from the
Church were met by a demand for a present on his own promotion, and his
first offer of five hundred pounds was contemptuously refused. "Treat me
as a free man," Anselm replied, "and I devote myself and all that I have
to your service, but if you treat me as a slave you shall have neither me
nor mine." A burst of the Red King's fury drove the Archbishop from
court, and he finally decided to quit the country, but his example had
not been lost, and the close of William's reign found a new spirit of
freedom in England with which the greatest of the Conqueror's sons was
glad to make terms. His exile however left William without a check.
Supreme at home, he was full of ambition abroad. As a soldier the Red
King was little inferior to his father. Normandy had been pledged to him
by his brother Robert in exchange for a sum which enabled the Duke to
march in the first Crusade for the delivery of the Holy Land, and a
rebellion at Le Mans was subdued by the fierce energy with which William
flung himself at the news of it into the first boat he found, and crossed
the Channel in face of a storm. "Kings never drown," he replied
contemptuously to the remonstrances of his followers. Homage was again
wrested from Malcolm by a march to the Firth of Forth, and the subsequent
death of that king threw Scotland into a disorder which enabled an army
under Eadgar Ætheling to establish Eadgar, the son of Margaret, as an
English feudatory on the throne. In Wales William was less triumphant,
and the terrible losses inflicted on the heavy Norman cavalry in the
fastnesses of Snowdon forced him to fall back on the slower but wiser
policy of the Conqueror. But triumph and defeat alike ended in a strange
and tragical close. In 1100 the Red King was found dead by peasants in a
glade of the New Forest, with the arrow either of a hunter or an assassin
in his breast.

[Sidenote: Henry the First]

Robert was at this moment on his return from the Holy Land, where his
bravery had redeemed much of his earlier ill-fame, and the English crown
was seized by his younger brother Henry in spite of the opposition of the
baronage, who clung to the Duke of Normandy and the union of their
estates on both sides the Channel under a single ruler. Their attitude
threw Henry, as it had thrown Rufus, on the support of the English, and
the two great measures which followed his coronation, his grant of a
charter, and his marriage with Matilda, mark the new relation which this
support brought about between the people and their king. Henry's Charter
is important, not merely as a direct precedent for the Great Charter of
John, but as the first limitation on the despotism established by the
Conqueror and carried to such a height by his son. The "evil customs" by
which the Red King had enslaved and plundered the Church were explicitly
renounced in it, the unlimited demands made by both the Conqueror and his
son on the baronage exchanged for customary fees, while the rights of the
people itself, though recognized more vaguely, were not forgotten. The
barons were held to do justice to their undertenants and to renounce
tyrannical exactions from them, the king promising to restore order and
the "law of Eadward," the old constitution of the realm, with the changes
which his father had introduced. His marriage gave a significance to
these promises which the meanest English peasant could understand. Edith,
or Matilda, was the daughter of King Malcolm of Scotland and of Margaret,
the sister of Eadgar Ætheling. She had been brought up in the nunnery of
Romsey where her aunt Christina was a nun; and the veil which she had
taken there formed an obstacle to her union with the King, which was only
removed by the wisdom of Anselm. While Flambard, the embodiment of the
Red King's despotism, was thrown into the Tower, the Archbishop's recall
had been one of Henry's first acts after his accession. Matilda appeared
before his court to tell her tale in words of passionate earnestness. She
had been veiled in her childhood, she asserted, only to save her from the
insults of the rude soldiery who infested the land, had flung the veil
from her again and again, and had yielded at last to the unwomanly
taunts, the actual blows of her aunt. "As often as I stood in her
presence," the girl pleaded, "I wore the veil, trembling as I wore it
with indignation and grief. But as soon as I could get out of her sight I
used to snatch it from my head, fling it on the ground, and trample it
under foot. That was the way, and none other, in which I was veiled."
Anselm at once declared her free from conventual bonds, and the shout of
the English multitude when he set the crown on Matilda's brow drowned the
murmur of Churchman or of baron. The mockery of the Norman nobles, who
nicknamed the king and his spouse Godric and Godgifu, was lost in the joy
of the people at large. For the first time since the Conquest an English
sovereign sat on the English throne. The blood of Cerdic and Ælfred was
to blend itself with that of Hrolf and the Conqueror. Henceforth it was
impossible that the two peoples should remain parted from each other; so
quick indeed was their union that the very name of Norman had passed away
in half a century, and at the accession of Henry's grandson it was
impossible to distinguish between the descendants of the conquerors and
those of the conquered at Senlac.

[Sidenote: Henry and the Barons]

Charter and marriage roused an enthusiasm among his subjects which
enabled Henry to defy the claims of his brother and the disaffection of
his nobles. Early in 1101 Robert landed at Portsmouth to win the crown in
arms. The great barons with hardly an exception stood aloof from the
king. But the Norman Duke found himself face to face with an English army
which gathered at Anselm's summons round Henry's standard. The temper of
the English had rallied from the panic of Senlac. The soldiers who came
to fight for their king "nowise feared the Normans." As Henry rode along
their lines showing them how to keep firm their shield-wall against the
lances of Robert's knighthood, he was met with shouts for battle. But
king and duke alike shrank from a contest in which the victory of either
side would have undone the Conqueror's work. The one saw his effort was
hopeless, the other was only anxious to remove his rival from the realm,
and by a peace which the Count of Meulan negotiated Robert recognized
Henry as King of England while Henry gave up his fief in the Cotentin to
his brother the Duke. Robert's retreat left Henry free to deal sternly
with the barons who had forsaken him. Robert de Lacy was stripped of his
manors in Yorkshire; Robert Malet was driven from his lands in Suffolk;
Ivo of Grantmesnil lost his vast estates and went to the Holy Land as a
pilgrim. But greater even than these was Robert of Belesme, the son of
Roger of Montgomery, who held in England the earldoms of Shrewsbury and
Arundel, while in Normandy he was Count of Ponthieu and Alençon. Robert
stood at the head of the baronage in wealth and power: and his summons to
the King's Court to answer for his refusal of aid to the king was
answered by a haughty defiance. But again the Norman baronage had to feel
the strength which English loyalty gave to the Crown. Sixty thousand
Englishmen followed Henry to the attack of Robert's strongholds along the
Welsh border. It was in vain that the nobles about the king, conscious
that Robert's fall left them helpless in Henry's hands, strove to bring
about a peace. The English soldiers shouted "Heed not these traitors, our
lord King Henry," and with the people at his back the king stood firm.
Only an early surrender saved Robert's life. He was suffered to retire to
his estates in Normandy, but his English lands were confiscated to the
Crown. "Rejoice, King Henry," shouted the English soldiers, "for you
began to be a free king on that day when you conquered Robert of Belesme
and drove him from the land." Master of his own realm and enriched by the
confiscated lands of the ruined barons Henry crossed into Normandy, where
the misgovernment of the Duke had alienated the clergy and tradesfolk,
and where the outrages of nobles like Robert of Belesme forced the more
peaceful classes to call the king to their aid. In 1106 his forces met
those of his brother on the field of Tenchebray, and a decisive English
victory on Norman soil avenged the shame of Hastings. The conquered duchy
became a dependency of the English crown, and Henry's energies were
frittered away through a quarter of a century in crushing its revolts,
the hostility of the French, and the efforts of his nephew William, the
son of Robert, to regain the crown which his father had lost.

[Sidenote: Henry's rule]

With the victory of Tenchebray Henry was free to enter on that work of
administration which was to make his reign memorable in our history.
Successful as his wars had been he was in heart no warrior but a
statesman, and his greatness showed itself less in the field than in the
council chamber. His outer bearing like his inner temper stood in marked
contrast to that of his father. Well read, accomplished, easy and fluent
of speech, the lord of a harem of mistresses, the centre of a gay
court where poet and jongleur found a home, Henry remained cool,
self-possessed, clear-sighted, hard, methodical, loveless himself, and
neither seeking nor desiring his people's love, but wringing from them
their gratitude and regard by sheer dint of good government. His work of
order was necessarily a costly work; and the steady pressure of his
taxation, a pressure made the harder by local famines and plagues during
his reign, has left traces of the grumbling it roused in the pages of the
English Chronicle. But even the Chronicler is forced to own amidst his
grumblings that Henry "was a good man, and great was the awe of him." He
had little of his father's creative genius, of that far-reaching
originality by which the Conqueror stamped himself and his will on the
very fabric of our history. But he had the passion for order, the love of
justice, the faculty of organization, the power of steady and unwavering
rule, which was needed to complete the Conqueror's work. His aim was
peace, and the title of the Peace-loving King which was given him at his
death showed with what a steadiness and constancy he carried out his aim.
In Normandy indeed his work was ever and anon undone by outbreaks of its
baronage, outbreaks sternly repressed only that the work might be
patiently and calmly taken up again where it had been broken off. But in
England his will was carried out with a perfect success. For more than a
quarter of a century the land had rest. Without, the Scots were held in
friendship, the Welsh were bridled by a steady and well-planned scheme of
gradual conquest. Within, the licence of the baronage was held sternly
down, and justice secured for all. "He governed with a strong hand," says
Orderic, but the strong hand was the hand of a king, not of a tyrant.
"Great was the awe of him," writes the annalist of Peterborough. "No man
durst ill-do to another in his days. Peace he made for man and beast."
Pitiless as were the blows he aimed at the nobles who withstood him, they
were blows which his English subjects felt to be struck in their cause.
"While he mastered by policy the foremost counts and lords and the
boldest tyrants, he ever cherished and protected peaceful men and men of
religion and men of the middle class." What impressed observers most was
the unswerving, changeless temper of his rule. The stern justice, the
terrible punishments he inflicted on all who broke his laws, were parts
of a fixed system which differed widely from the capricious severity of a
mere despot. Hardly less impressive was his unvarying success. Heavy as
were the blows which destiny levelled at him, Henry bore and rose
unconquered from all. To the end of his life the proudest barons lay
bound and blinded in his prison. His hoard grew greater and greater.
Normandy, toss as she might, lay helpless at his feet to the last. In
England it was only after his death that men dared mutter what evil
things they had thought of Henry the Peace-lover, or censure the
pitilessness, the greed, and the lust which had blurred the wisdom and
splendour of his rule.

[Sidenote: Henry's Administration]

His vigorous administration carried out into detail the system of
government which the Conqueror had sketched. The vast estates which had
fallen to the crown through revolt and forfeiture were granted out to new
men dependent on royal favour. On the ruins of the great feudatories whom
he had crushed Henry built up a class of lesser nobles, whom the older
barons of the Conquest looked down on in scorn, but who were strong
enough to form a counterpoise to their influence, while they furnished
the Crown with a class of useful administrators whom Henry employed as
his sheriffs and judges. A new organization of justice and finance bound
the kingdom more tightly together in Henry's grasp. The Clerks of the
Royal Chapel were formed into a body of secretaries or royal ministers,
whose head bore the title of Chancellor. Above them stood the Justiciar,
or Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, who in the frequent absence of the
king acted as Regent of the realm, and whose staff, selected from the
barons connected with the royal household, were formed into a Supreme
Court of the realm. The King's Court, as this was called, permanently
represented the whole court of royal vassals which had hitherto been
summoned thrice in the year. As the royal council, it revised and
registered laws, and its "counsel and consent," though merely formal,
preserved the principle of the older popular legislation. As a court of
justice, it formed the highest court of appeal: it could call up any suit
from a lower tribunal on the application of a suitor, while the union of
several sheriffdoms under some of its members connected it closely with
the local courts. As a financial body, its chief work lay in the
assessment and collection of the revenue. In this capacity it took the
name of the Court of Exchequer from the chequered table, much like a
chess-board, at which it sat and on which accounts were rendered. In
their financial capacity its justices became "barons of the Exchequer."
Twice every year the sheriff of each county appeared before these barons
and rendered the sum of the fixed rent from royal domains, the Danegeld
or land tax, the fines of the local courts, the feudal aids from the
baronial estates, which formed the chief part of the royal revenue. Local
disputes respecting these payments or the assessment of the town-rents
were settled by a detachment of barons from the court who made the
circuit of the shires, and whose fiscal visitations led to the judicial
visitations, the "judges' circuits," which still form so marked a feature
in our legal system.

[Sidenote: The Angevin Marriage]

Measures such as these changed the whole temper of the Norman rule. It
remained a despotism, but from this moment it was a despotism regulated
and held in check by the forms of administrative routine. Heavy as was
the taxation under Henry the First, terrible as was the suffering
throughout his reign from famine and plague, the peace and order which
his government secured through thirty years won a rest for the land in
which conqueror and conquered blended into a single people and in which
this people slowly moved forward to a new freedom. But while England thus
rested in peace a terrible blow broke the fortunes of her king. In 1120
his son, William the "Ætheling," with a crowd of nobles accompanied Henry
on his return from Normandy; but the White Ship in which he embarked
lingered behind the rest of the royal fleet till the guards of the king's
treasure pressed its departure. It had hardly cleared the harbour when
the ship's side struck on a rock, and in an instant it sank beneath the
waves. One terrible cry, ringing through the silence of the night, was
heard by the royal fleet; but it was not till the morning that the fatal
news reached the king. Stern as he was, Henry fell senseless to the
ground, and rose never to smile again. He had no other son, and the
circle of his foreign foes closed round him the more fiercely that
William, the son of his captive brother Robert, was now his natural heir.
Henry hated William while he loved his own daughter Maud, who had been
married to the Emperor Henry the Fifth, but who had been restored by his
death to her father's court. The succession of a woman was new in English
history; it was strange to a feudal baronage. But when all hope of issue
from a second wife whom he wedded was over Henry forced priests and
nobles to swear allegiance to Maud as their future mistress, and
affianced her to Geoffry the Handsome, the son of the one foe whom he
dreaded, Count Fulk of Anjou.

[Sidenote: Anjou]

The marriage of Matilda was but a step in the wonderful history by which
the descendants of a Breton woodman became masters not of Anjou only, but
of Touraine, Maine, and Poitou, of Gascony and Auvergne, of Aquitaine and
Normandy, and sovereigns at last of the great realm which Normandy had
won. The legend of the father of their race carries us back to the times
of our own Ælfred, when the Danes were ravaging along Loire as they
ravaged along Thames. In the heart of the Breton border, in the
debateable land between France and Britanny, dwelt Tortulf the Forester,
half-brigand, half-hunter as the gloomy days went, living in free
outlaw-fashion in the woods about Rennes. Tortulf had learned in his
rough forest school "how to strike the foe, to sleep on the bare ground,
to bear hunger and toil, summer's heat and winter's frost, how to fear
nothing save ill-fame." Following King Charles the Bald in his struggle
with the Danes, the woodman won broad lands along Loire, and his son
Ingelger, who had swept the northmen from Touraine and the land to the
west, which they had burned and wasted into a vast solitude, became the
first Count of Anjou. But the tale of Tortulf and Ingelger is a mere
creation of some twelfth century jongleur. The earliest Count whom
history recognizes is Fulk the Red. Fulk attached himself to the Dukes of
France who were now drawing nearer to the throne, and between 909 and 929
he received from them in guerdon the county of Anjou. The story of his
son is a story of peace, breaking like a quiet idyll the war-storms of
his house. Alone of his race Fulk the Good waged no wars: his delight was
to sit in the choir of Tours and to be called "Canon." One Martinmas eve
Fulk was singing there in clerkly guise when the French king, Lewis
d'Outremer, entered the church. "He sings like a priest," laughed the
king as his nobles pointed mockingly to the figure of the Count-Canon.
But Fulk was ready with his reply. "Know, my lord," wrote the Count of
Anjou, "that a king unlearned is a crowned ass." Fulk was in fact no
priest, but a busy ruler, governing, enforcing peace, and carrying
justice to every corner of the wasted land. To him alone of his race men
gave the title of "the Good."

[Sidenote: Fulk the Black]

Hampered by revolt, himself in character little more than a bold, dashing
soldier, Fulk's son, Geoffry Greygown, sank almost into a vassal of his
powerful neighbours, the Counts of Blois and Champagne. But this
vassalage was roughly shaken off by his successor. Fulk Nerra, Fulk the
Black, is the greatest of the Angevins, the first in whom we can trace
that marked type of character which their house was to preserve through
two hundred years. He was without natural affection. In his youth he
burnt a wife at the stake, and legend told how he led her to her doom
decked out in his gayest attire. In his old age he waged his bitterest
war against his son, and exacted from him when vanquished a humiliation
which men reserved for the deadliest of their foes. "You are conquered,
you are conquered!" shouted the old man in fierce exultation, as Geoffry,
bridled and saddled like a beast of burden, crawled for pardon to his
father's feet. In Fulk first appeared that low type of superstition which
startled even superstitious ages in the early Plantagenets. Robber as he
was of Church lands, and contemptuous of ecclesiastical censures, the
fear of the end of the world drove Fulk to the Holy Sepulchre. Barefoot
and with the strokes of the scourge falling heavily on his shoulders, the
Count had himself dragged by a halter through the streets of Jerusalem,
and courted the doom of martyrdom by his wild outcries of penitence. He
rewarded the fidelity of Herbert of Le Mans, whose aid saved him from
utter ruin, by entrapping him into captivity and robbing him of his
lands. He secured the terrified friendship of the French king by
despatching twelve assassins to cut down before his eyes the minister who
had troubled it. Familiar as the age was with treason and rapine and
blood, it recoiled from the cool cynicism of his crimes, and believed the
wrath of Heaven to have been revealed against the union of the worst
forms of evil in Fulk the Black. But neither the wrath of Heaven nor the
curses of men broke with a single mishap the fifty years of his success.

At his accession in 987 Anjou was the least important of the greater
provinces of France. At his death in 1040 it stood, if not in extent, at
least in real power, first among them all. Cool-headed, clear-sighted,
quick to resolve, quicker to strike, Fulk's career was one long series of
victories over all his rivals. He was a consummate general, and he had
the gift of personal bravery, which was denied to some of his greatest
descendants. There was a moment in the first of his battles when the day
seemed lost for Anjou; a feigned retreat of the Bretons drew the Angevin
horsemen into a line of hidden pitfalls, and the Count himself was flung
heavily to the ground. Dragged from the medley of men and horses, he
swept down almost singly on the foe "as a storm-wind" (so rang the pæan
of the Angevins) "sweeps down on the thick corn-rows," and the field was
won. But to these qualities of the warrior he added a power of political
organization, a capacity for far-reaching combinations, a faculty of
statesmanship, which became the heritage of his race, and lifted them as
high above the intellectual level of the rulers of their time as their
shameless wickedness degraded them below the level of man. His overthrow
of Britanny on the field of Conquereux was followed by the gradual
absorption of Southern Touraine; a victory at Pontlevoi crushed the rival
house of Blois; the seizure of Saumur completed his conquests in the
south, while Northern Touraine was won bit by bit till only Tours
resisted the Angevin. The treacherous seizure of its Count, Herbert
Wakedog, left Maine at his mercy.

[Sidenote: Death of Henry]

His work of conquest was completed by his son. Geoffry Martel wrested
Tours from the Count of Blois, and by the seizure of Le Mans brought his
border to the Norman frontier. Here however his advance was checked by
the genius of William the Conqueror, and with his death the greatness of
Anjou came for a while to an end. Stripped of Maine by the Normans and
broken by dissensions within, the weak and profligate rule of Fulk Rechin
left Anjou powerless. But in 1109 it woke to fresh energy with the
accession of his son, Fulk of Jerusalem. Now urging the turbulent Norman
nobles to revolt, now supporting Robert's son, William, in his strife
with his uncle, offering himself throughout as the loyal supporter of the
French kingdom which was now hemmed in on almost every side by the forces
of the English king and of his allies the Counts of Blois and Champagne,
Fulk was the one enemy whom Henry the First really feared. It was to
disarm his restless hostility that the king gave the hand of Matilda to
Geoffry the Handsome. But the hatred between Norman and Angevin had been
too bitter to make such a marriage popular, and the secrecy with which it
was brought about was held by the barons to free them from the oath they
had previously sworn. As no baron if he was sonless could give a husband
to his daughter save with his lord's consent, the nobles held by a
strained analogy that their own assent was needful to the marriage of
Maud. Henry found a more pressing danger in the greed of her husband
Geoffry, whose habit of wearing the common broom of Anjou, the planta
genista, in his helmet gave him the title of Plantagenet. His claims
ended at last in intrigues with the Norman nobles, and Henry hurried to
the border to meet an Angevin invasion; but the plot broke down at his
presence, the Angevins retired, and at the close of 1135 the old king
withdrew to the Forest of Lions to die.

[Sidenote: Stephen]

"God give him," wrote the Archbishop of Rouen from Henry's death-bed,
"the peace he loved." With him indeed closed the long peace of the Norman
rule. An outburst of anarchy followed on the news of his departure, and
in the midst of the turmoil Earl Stephen, his nephew, appeared at the
gates of London. Stephen was a son of the Conqueror's daughter, Adela,
who had married a Count of Blois; he had been brought up at the English
court, had been made Count of Mortain by Henry, had become Count of
Boulogne by his marriage, and as head of the Norman baronage had been the
first to pledge himself to support Matilda's succession. But his own
claim as nearest male heir of the Conqueror's blood (for his cousin, the
son of Robert, had fallen some years before in Flanders) was supported by
his personal popularity; mere swordsman as he was, his good-humour, his
generosity, his very prodigality made Stephen a favourite with all. No
noble however had as yet ventured to join him nor had any town opened its
gates when London poured out to meet him with uproarious welcome. Neither
baron nor prelate was present to constitute a National Council, but the
great city did not hesitate to take their place. The voice of her
citizens had long been accepted as representative of the popular assent
in the election of a king; but it marks the progress of English
independence under Henry that London now claimed of itself the right of
election. Undismayed by the absence of the hereditary counsellors of the
crown its "Aldermen and wise folk gathered together the folk-moot, and
these providing at their own will for the good of the realm unanimously
resolved to choose a king." The solemn deliberation ended in the choice
of Stephen, the citizens swore to defend the king with money and blood,
Stephen swore to apply his whole strength to the pacification and good
government of the realm. It was in fact the new union of conquered and
conquerors into a single England that did Stephen's work. The succession
of Maud meant the rule of Geoffry of Anjou, and to Norman as to
Englishman the rule of the Angevin was a foreign rule. The welcome
Stephen won at London and Winchester, his seizure of the royal treasure,
the adhesion of the Justiciar Bishop Roger to his cause, the reluctant
consent of the Archbishop, the hopelessness of aid from Anjou where
Geoffry was at this moment pressed by revolt, the need above all of some
king to meet the outbreak of anarchy which followed Henry's death,
secured Stephen the voice of the baronage. He was crowned at
Christmas-tide; and soon joined by Robert Earl of Gloucester, a bastard
son of Henry and the chief of his nobles; while the issue of a charter
from Oxford in 1136, a charter which renewed the dead king's pledge of
good government, promised another Henry to the realm. The charter
surrendered all forests made in the last reign as a sop to the nobles,
and conciliated the Church by granting freedom of election and renouncing
all right to the profits of vacant churches; while the king won the
people by a promise to abolish the tax of Danegeld.

[Sidenote: Battle of the Standard]

The king's first two years were years of success and prosperity. Two
risings of barons in the east and west were easily put down, and in 1137
Stephen passed into Normandy and secured the Duchy against an attack from
Anjou. But already the elements of trouble were gathering round him.
Stephen was a mere soldier, with few kingly qualities save that of a
soldier's bravery; and the realm soon began to slip from his grasp. He
turned against himself the jealous dread of foreigners to which he owed
his accession by surrounding himself with hired knights from Flanders; he
drained the treasury by creating new earls endowed with pensions from it,
and recruited his means by base coinage. His consciousness of the
gathering storm only drove Stephen to bind his friends to him by
suffering them to fortify castles and to renew the feudal tyranny which
Henry had struck down. But the long reign of the dead king had left the
Crown so strong that even yet Stephen could hold his own. A plot which
Robert of Gloucester had been weaving from the outset of his reign came
indeed to a head in 1138, and the Earl's revolt stripped Stephen of Caen
and half Normandy. But when his partizans in England rose in the south
and the west and the King of Scots, whose friendship Stephen had bought
in the opening of his reign by the cession of Carlisle, poured over the
northern border, the nation stood firmly by the king. Stephen himself
marched on the western rebels and soon left them few strongholds save
Bristol. His people fought for him in the north. The pillage and
cruelties of the wild tribes of Galloway and the Highlands roused the
spirit of the Yorkshiremen. Baron and freeman gathered at York round
Archbishop Thurstan and marched to the field of Northallerton to await
the foe. The sacred banners of St. Cuthbert of Durham, St. Peter of York,
St. John of Beverley, and St. Wilfrid of Ripon hung from a pole fixed in
a four-wheeled car which stood in the centre of the host. The first onset
of David's host was a terrible one. "I who wear no armour," shouted the
chief of the Galwegians, "will go as far this day as any one with
breastplate of mail"; his men charged with wild shouts of "Albin, Albin,"
and were followed by the Norman knighthood of the Lowlands. But their
repulse was complete; the fierce hordes dashed in vain against the close
English ranks around the Standard, and the whole army fled in confusion
to Carlisle.

[Sidenote: Seizure of the Bishops]

Weak indeed as Stephen was, the administrative organization of Henry
still did its work. Roger remained justiciar, his son was chancellor, his
nephew Nigel, the Bishop of Ely, was treasurer. Finance and justice were
thus concentrated in the hands of a single family which preserved amidst
the deepening misrule something of the old order and rule, and which
stood at the head of the "new men," whom Henry had raised into importance
and made the instruments of his will. These new men were still weak by
the side of the older nobles; and conscious of the jealousy and ill-will
with which they were regarded they followed in self-defence the example
which the barons were setting in building and fortifying castles on their
domains. Roger and his house, the objects from their official position of
a deeper grudge than any, were carried away by the panic. The justiciar
and his son fortified their castles, and it was only with a strong force
at their back that the prelates appeared at court. Their attitude was one
to rouse Stephen's jealousy, and the news of Matilda's purpose of
invasion lent strength to the doubts which the nobles cast on their
fidelity. All the weak violence of the king's temper suddenly broke out.
He seized Roger the Chancellor and the Bishop of Lincoln when they
appeared at Oxford in June 1139, and forced them to surrender their
strongholds. Shame broke the justiciar's heart; he died at the close of
the year, and his nephew Nigel of Ely was driven from the realm. But the
fall of this house shattered the whole system of government. The King's
Court and the Exchequer ceased to work at a moment when the landing of
Earl Robert and the Empress Matilda set Stephen face to face with a
danger greater than he had yet encountered, while the clergy, alienated
by the arrest of the Bishops and the disregard of their protests, stood
angrily aloof.

[Sidenote: Civil War]

The three bases of Henry's system of government, the subjection of the
baronage to the law, the good-will of the Church, and the organization of
justice and finance, were now utterly ruined; and for the fourteen years
which passed from this hour to the Treaty of Wallingford England was
given up to the miseries of civil war. The country was divided between
the adherents of the two rivals, the West supporting Matilda, London and
the East Stephen. A defeat at Lincoln in 1141 left the latter a captive
in the hands of his enemies, while Matilda was received throughout the
land as its "Lady." But the disdain with which she repulsed the claim of
London to the enjoyment of its older privileges called its burghers to
arms; her resolve to hold Stephen a prisoner roused his party again to
life, and she was driven to Oxford to be besieged there in 1142 by
Stephen himself, who had obtained his release in exchange for Earl Robert
after the capture of the Earl in a battle at Winchester. She escaped from
the castle, but with the death of Robert her struggle became a hopeless
one, and in 1148 she withdrew to Normandy. The war was now a mere chaos
of pillage and bloodshed. The royal power came to an end. The royal
courts were suspended, for not a baron or bishop would come at the king's
call. The bishops met in council to protest, but their protests and
excommunications fell on deafened ears. For the first and last time in
her history England was in the hands of the baronage, and their outrages
showed from what horrors the stern rule of the Norman kings had saved
her. Castles sprang up everywhere. "They filled the land with castles,"
say the terrible annals of the time. "They greatly oppressed the wretched
people by making them work at these castles, and when they were finished
they filled them with devils and armed men." In each of these
robber-holds a petty tyrant ruled like a king. The strife for the Crown
had broken into a medley of feuds between baron and baron, for none could
brook an equal or a superior in his fellow. "They fought among themselves
with deadly hatred, they spoiled the fairest lands with fire and rapine;
in what had been the most fertile of counties they destroyed almost all
the provision of bread." For fight as they might with one another, all
were at one in the plunder of the land. Towns were put to ransom.
Villages were sacked and burned. All who were deemed to have goods,
whether men or women, were carried off and flung into dungeons and
tortured till they yielded up their wealth. No ghastlier picture of a
nation's misery has ever been painted than that which closes the English
Chronicle whose last accents falter out amidst the horrors of the time.
"They hanged up men by their feet and smoked them with foul smoke. Some
were hanged up by their thumbs, others by the head, and burning things
were hung on to their feet. They put knotted strings about men's heads,
and writhed them till they went to the brain. They put men into prisons
where adders and snakes and toads were crawling, and so they tormented
them. Some they put into a chest short and narrow and not deep and that
had sharp stones within, and forced men therein so that they broke all
their limbs. In many of the castles were hateful and grim things called
rachenteges, which two or three men had enough to do to carry. It was
thus made: it was fastened to a beam and had a sharp iron to go about a
man's neck and throat, so that he might noways sit, or lie, or sleep, but
he bore all the iron. Many thousands they starved with hunger."

[Sidenote: Religious Revival]

It was only after years of this feudal anarchy that England was rescued
from it by the efforts of the Church. The political influence of the
Church had been greatly lessened by the Conquest: for pious, learned, and
energetic as the bulk of the Conqueror's bishops were, they were not
Englishmen. Till the reign of Henry the First no Englishman occupied an
English see. This severance of the higher clergy from the lower
priesthood and from the people went far to paralyze the constitutional
influence of the Church. Anselm stood alone against Rufus, and when
Anselm was gone no voice of ecclesiastical freedom broke the silence of
the reign of Henry the First. But at the close of Henry's reign and
throughout the reign of Stephen England was stirred by the first of those
great religious movements which it was to experience afterwards in the
preaching of the Friars, the Lollardism of Wyclif, the Reformation, the
Puritan enthusiasm, and the mission work of the Wesleys. Everywhere in
town and country men banded themselves together for prayer: hermits
flocked to the woods: noble and churl welcomed the austere Cistercians, a
reformed offshoot of the Benedictine order, as they spread over the moors
and forests of the North. A new spirit of devotion woke the slumbers of
the religious houses, and penetrated alike to the home of the noble and
the trader. London took its full share in the revival. The city was proud
of its religion, its thirteen conventual and more than a hundred
parochial churches. The new impulse changed its very aspect. In the midst
of the city Bishop Richard busied himself with the vast cathedral church
of St. Paul which Bishop Maurice had begun; barges came up the river with
stone from Caen for the great arches that moved the popular wonder, while
street and lane were being levelled to make room for its famous
churchyard. Rahere, a minstrel at Henry's court, raised the Priory of St.
Bartholomew beside Smithfield. Alfune built St. Giles's at Cripplegate.
The old English Cnichtenagild surrendered their soke of Aldgate as a site
for the new priory of the Holy Trinity. The tale of this house paints
admirably the temper of the citizens at the time. Its founder, Prior
Norman, built church and cloister and bought books and vestments in so
liberal a fashion that no money remained to buy bread. The canons were at
their last gasp when the city-folk, looking into the refectory as they
passed round the cloister in their usual Sunday procession, saw the
tables laid but not a single loaf on them. "Here is a fine set out," said
the citizens; "but where is the bread to come from?" The women who were
present vowed each to bring a loaf every Sunday, and there was soon bread
enough and to spare for the priory and its priests.

[Sidenote: Thomas of London]

We see the strength of the new movement in the new class of ecclesiastics
whom it forced on to the stage. Men like Archbishop Theobald drew
whatever influence they wielded from a belief in their holiness of life
and unselfishness of aim. The paralysis of the Church ceased as the new
impulse bound prelacy and people together, and at the moment we have
reached its power was found strong enough to wrest England out of the
chaos of feudal misrule. In the early part of Stephen's reign his brother
Henry, the Bishop of Winchester, who had been appointed in 1139 Papal
Legate for the realm, had striven to supply the absence of any royal or
national authority by convening synods of bishops, and by asserting the
moral right of the Church to declare sovereigns unworthy of the throne.
The compact between king and people which became a part of constitutional
law in the Charter of Henry had gathered new force in the Charter of
Stephen, but its legitimate consequence in the responsibility of the
crown for the execution of the compact was first drawn out by these
ecclesiastical councils. From their alternate depositions of Stephen and
Matilda flowed the after depositions of Edward and Richard, and the
solemn act by which the succession was changed in the case of James.
Extravagant and unauthorized as their expression of it may appear, they
expressed the right of a nation to good government. Henry of Winchester
however, "half monk, half soldier," as he was called, possessed too
little religious influence to wield a really spiritual power, and it was
only at the close of Stephen's reign that the nation really found a moral
leader in Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald's ablest agent
and adviser was Thomas, the son of Gilbert Beket, a leading citizen and,
it is said, Portreeve of London, the site of whose house is still marked
by the Mercers' chapel in Cheapside. His mother Rohese was a type of the
devout woman of her day; she weighed her boy every year on his birthday
against money, clothes, and provisions which she gave to the poor. Thomas
grew up amidst the Norman barons and clerks who frequented his father's
house with a genial freedom of character tempered by the Norman
refinement; he passed from the school of Merton to the University of
Paris, and returned to fling himself into the life of the young nobles of
the time. Tall, handsome, bright-eyed, ready of wit and speech, his
firmness of temper showed itself in his very sports; to rescue his hawk
which had fallen into the water he once plunged into a millrace and was
all but crushed by the wheel. The loss of his father's wealth drove him
to the court of Archbishop Theobald, and he soon became the Primate's
confidant in his plans for the rescue of England.

[Illustration: The Dominions of the Angevins (v1-map-4t.jpg)]

[Sidenote: Treaty of Wallingford]

The natural influence which the Primate would have exerted was long held
in suspense by the superior position of Bishop Henry of Winchester as
Papal Legate; but this office ceased with the Pope who granted it, and
when in 1150 it was transferred to the Archbishop himself Theobald soon
made his weight felt. The long disorder of the realm was producing its
natural reaction in exhaustion and disgust, as well as in a general
craving for return to the line of hereditary succession whose breaking
seemed the cause of the nation's woes. But the growth of their son Henry
to manhood set naturally aside the pretensions both of Count Geoffry and
Matilda. Young as he was Henry already showed the cool long-sighted
temper which was to be his characteristic on the throne. Foiled in an
early attempt to grasp the crown, he looked quietly on at the disorder
which was doing his work till the death of his father at the close of
1151 left him master of Normandy and Anjou. In the spring of the
following year his marriage with its duchess, Eleanor of Poitou, added
Aquitaine to his dominions. Stephen saw the gathering storm, and strove
to meet it. He called on the bishops and baronage to secure the
succession of his son Eustace by consenting to his association with him
in the kingdom. But the moment was now come for Theobald to play his
part. He was already negotiating through Thomas of London with Henry and
the Pope; he met Stephen's plans by a refusal to swear fealty to his son,
and the bishops, in spite of Stephen's threats, went with their head. The
blow was soon followed by a harder one. Thomas, as Theobald's agent,
invited Henry to appear in England, and though the Duke disappointed his
supporters' hopes by the scanty number of men he brought with him in
1153, his weakness proved in the end a source of strength. It was not to
foreigners, men said, that Henry owed his success but to the arms of
Englishmen. An English army gathered round him, and as the hosts of
Stephen and the Duke drew together a battle seemed near which would
decide the fate of the realm. But Theobald who was now firmly supported
by the greater barons again interfered and forced the rivals to an
agreement. To the excited partizans of the house of Anjou it seemed as if
the nobles were simply playing their own game in the proposed settlement
and striving to preserve their power by a balance of masters. The
suspicion was probably groundless, but all fear vanished with the death
of Eustace, who rode off from his father's camp, maddened with the ruin
of his hopes, to die in August, smitten, as men believed, by the hand of
God for his plunder of abbeys. The ground was now clear, and in November
the Treaty of Wallingford abolished the evils of the long anarchy. The
castles were to be razed, the crown lands resumed, the foreign
mercenaries banished from the country, and sheriffs appointed to restore
order. Stephen was recognized as king, and in turn recognized Henry as
his heir. The duke received at Oxford the fealty of the barons, and
passed into Normandy in the spring of 1154. The work of reformation had
already begun. Stephen resented indeed the pressure which Henry put on
him to enforce the destruction of the castles built during the anarchy;
but Stephen's resistance was but the pettish outbreak of a ruined man. He
was in fact fast drawing to the grave; and on his death in October 1154
Henry returned to take the crown without a blow.


[Sidenote: Henry Fitz-Empress]

Young as he was, and he had reached but his twenty-first year when he
returned to England as its king, Henry mounted the throne with a purpose
of government which his reign carried steadily out. His practical,
serviceable frame suited the hardest worker of his time. There was
something in his build and look, in the square stout form, the fiery
face, the close-cropped hair, the prominent eyes, the bull neck, the
coarse strong hands, the bowed legs, that marked out the keen, stirring,
coarse-fibred man of business. "He never sits down," said one who
observed him closely; "he is always on his legs from morning till night."
Orderly in business, careless of appearance, sparing in diet, never
resting or giving his servants rest, chatty, inquisitive, endowed with a
singular charm of address and strength of memory, obstinate in love or
hatred, a fair scholar, a great hunter, his general air that of a rough,
passionate, busy man, Henry's personal character told directly on the
character of his reign. His accession marks the period of amalgamation
when neighbourhood and traffic and intermarriage drew Englishmen and
Normans into a single people. A national feeling was thus springing up
before which the barriers of the older feudalism were to be swept away.
Henry had even less reverence for the feudal past than the men of his
day: he was indeed utterly without the imagination and reverence which
enable men to sympathize with any past at all. He had a practical man's
impatience of the obstacles thrown in the way of his reforms by the older
constitution of the realm, nor could he understand other men's reluctance
to purchase undoubted improvements by the sacrifice of customs and
traditions of bygone days. Without any theoretical hostility to the
co-ordinate powers of the state, it seemed to him a perfectly reasonable
and natural course to trample either baronage or Church under foot to
gain his end of good government. He saw clearly that the remedy for such
anarchy as England had endured under Stephen lay in the establishment of
a kingly rule unembarrassed by any privileges of order or class,
administered by royal servants, and in whose public administration the
nobles acted simply as delegates of the sovereign. His work was to lie in
the organization of judicial and administrative reforms which realized
this idea. But of the currents of thought and feeling which were tending
in the same direction he knew nothing. What he did for the moral and
social impulses which were telling on men about him was simply to let
them alone. Religion grew more and more identified with patriotism under
the eyes of a king who whispered, and scribbled, and looked at
picture-books during mass, who never confessed, and cursed God in wild
frenzies of blasphemy. Great peoples formed themselves on both sides of
the sea round a sovereign who bent the whole force of his mind to hold
together an Empire which the growth of nationality must inevitably
destroy. There is throughout a tragic grandeur in the irony of Henry's
position, that of a Sforza of the fifteenth century set in the midst of
the twelfth, building up by patience and policy and craft a dominion
alien to the deepest sympathies of his age and fated to be swept away in
the end by popular forces to whose existence his very cleverness and
activity blinded him. But whether by the anti-national temper of his
general system or by the administrative reforms of his English rule his
policy did more than that of all his predecessors to prepare England for
the unity and freedom which the fall of his house was to reveal.

[Sidenote: The Great Scutage]

He had been placed on the throne, as we have seen, by the Church. His
first work was to repair the evils which England had endured till his
accession by the restoration of the system of Henry the First; and it was
with the aid and counsel of Theobald that the foreign marauders were
driven from the realm, the new castles demolished in spite of the
opposition of the baronage, the King's Court and Exchequer restored. Age
and infirmity however warned the Primate to retire from the post of
minister, and his power fell into the younger and more vigorous hands of
Thomas Beket, who had long acted as his confidential adviser and was now
made Chancellor. Thomas won the personal favour of the king. The two
young men had, in Theobald's words, "but one heart and mind"; Henry
jested in the Chancellor's hall, or tore his cloak from his shoulders in
rough horse-play as they rode through the streets. He loaded his
favourite with riches and honours, but there is no ground for thinking
that Thomas in any degree influenced his system of rule. Henry's policy
seems for good or evil to have been throughout his own. His work of
reorganization went steadily on amidst troubles at home and abroad. Welsh
outbreaks forced him in 1157 to lead an army over the border; and a
crushing repulse showed that he was less skilful as a general than as a
statesman. The next year saw him drawn across the Channel, where he was
already master of a third of the present France. Anjou, Maine, and
Touraine he had inherited from his father, Normandy from his mother, he
governed Britanny through his brother, while the seven provinces of the
South, Poitou, Saintonge, La Marche, Périgord, the Limousin, the
Angoumois, and Gascony, belonged to his wife. As Duchess of Aquitaine
Eleanor had claims on Toulouse, and these Henry prepared in 1159 to
enforce by arms. But the campaign was turned to the profit of his
reforms. He had already begun the work of bringing the baronage within
the grasp of the law by sending judges from the Exchequer year after year
to exact the royal dues and administer the king's justice even in castle
and manor. He now attacked its military influence. Each man who held
lands of a certain value was bound to furnish a knight for his lord's
service; and the barons thus held a body of trained soldiers at their
disposal. When Henry called his chief lords to serve in the war of
Toulouse, he allowed the lower tenants to commute their service for
sums payable to the royal treasury under the name of "scutage," or
shield-money. The "Great Scutage" did much to disarm the baronage, while
it enabled the king to hire foreign mercenaries for his service abroad.
Again however he was luckless in war. King Lewis of France threw himself
into Toulouse. Conscious of the ill-compacted nature of his wide
dominion, Henry shrank from an open contest with his suzerain; he
withdrew his forces, and the quarrel ended in 1160 by a formal alliance
and the betrothal of his eldest son to the daughter of Lewis.

[Sidenote: Archbishop Thomas]

Henry returned to his English realm to regulate the relations of the
State with the Church. These rested in the main on the system established
by the Conqueror, and with that system Henry had no wish to meddle. But
he was resolute that, baron or priest, all should be equal before the
law; and he had no more mercy for clerical than for feudal immunities.
The immunities of the clergy indeed were becoming a hindrance to public
justice. The clerical order in the Middle Ages extended far beyond the
priesthood; it included in Henry's day the whole of the professional and
educated classes. It was subject to the jurisdiction of the Church courts
alone; but bodily punishment could only be inflicted by officers of the
lay courts, and so great had the jealousy between clergy and laity become
that the bishops no longer sought civil aid but restricted themselves to
the purely spiritual punishments of penance and deprivation of orders.
Such penalties formed no effectual check upon crime, and while preserving
the Church courts the king aimed at the delivery of convicted offenders
to secular punishment. For the carrying out of these designs he sought an
agent in Thomas the Chancellor. Thomas had now been his minister for
eight years, and had fought bravely in the war against Toulouse at the
head of the seven hundred knights who formed his household. But the king
had other work for him than war. On Theobald's death he forced on the
monks of Canterbury his election as Archbishop. But from the moment of
his appointment in 1162 the dramatic temper of the new Primate flung its
whole energy into the part he set himself to play. At the first
intimation of Henry's purpose he pointed with a laugh to his gay court
attire: "You are choosing a fine dress," he said, "to figure at the head
of your Canterbury monks"; once monk and Archbishop he passed with a
fevered earnestness from luxury to asceticism; and a visit to the Council
of Tours in 1163, where the highest doctrines of ecclesiastical authority
were sanctioned by Pope Alexander the Third, strengthened his purpose of
struggling for the privileges of the Church. His change of attitude
encouraged his old rivals at court to vex him with petty lawsuits, but no
breach had come with the king till Henry proposed that clerical convicts
should be punished by the civil power. Thomas refused; he would only
consent that a clerk, once degraded, should for after offences suffer
like a layman. Both parties appealed to the "customs" of the realm; and
it was to state these "customs" that a court was held in 1164 at
Clarendon near Salisbury.

[Sidenote: Legal Reforms]

The report presented by bishops and barons formed the Constitutions of
Clarendon, a code which in the bulk of its provisions simply re-enacted
the system of the Conqueror. Every election of bishop or abbot was to
take place before royal officers, in the king's chapel, and with the
king's assent. The prelate-elect was bound to do homage to the king for
his lands before consecration, and to hold his lands as a barony from the
king, subject to all feudal burthens of taxation and attendance in the
King's Court. No bishop might leave the realm without the royal
permission. No tenant in chief or royal servant might be excommunicated,
or their land placed under interdict, but by the king's assent. What was
new was the legislation respecting ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The
King's Court was to decide whether a suit between clerk and layman, whose
nature was disputed, belonged to the Church courts or the King's. A royal
officer was to be present at all ecclesiastical proceedings in order to
confine the Bishop's court within its own due limits, and a clerk
convicted there passed at once under the civil jurisdiction. An appeal
was left from the Archbishop's court to the King's Court for defect of
justice, but none might appeal to the Papal court save with the king's
leave. The privilege of sanctuary in churches and churchyards was
repealed, so far as property and not persons was concerned. After a
passionate refusal the Primate was at last brought to give his assent to
these Constitutions, but the assent was soon retracted, and Henry's
savage resentment threw the moral advantage of the position into his
opponent's hands. Vexatious charges were brought against Thomas, and he
was summoned to answer at a Council held in the autumn at Northampton.
All urged him to submit; his very life was said to be in peril from the
king's wrath. But in the presence of danger the courage of the man rose
to its full height. Grasping his archiepiscopal cross he entered the
royal court, forbade the nobles to condemn him, and appealed in the teeth
of the Constitutions to the Papal See. Shouts of "Traitor!" followed him
as he withdrew. The Primate turned fiercely at the word: "Were I a
knight," he shouted back, "my sword should answer that foul taunt!" Once
alone however, dread pressed more heavily; he fled in disguise at
nightfall and reached France through Flanders.

Great as were the dangers it was to bring with it, the flight of Thomas
left Henry free to carry on the reforms he had planned. In spite of
denunciations from Primate and Pope, the Constitutions regulated from
this time the relations of the Church with the State. Henry now turned to
the actual organization of the realm. His reign, it has been truly said,
"initiated the rule of law" as distinct from the despotism, whether
personal or tempered by routine, of the Norman sovereigns. It was by
successive "assizes" or codes issued with the sanction of the great
councils of barons and prelates which he summoned year by year, that he
perfected in a system of gradual reforms the administrative measures
which Henry the First had begun. The fabric of our judicial legislation
commences in 1166 with the Assize of Clarendon, the first object of which
was to provide for the order of the realm by reviving the old English
system of mutual security or frankpledge. No stranger might abide in any
place save a borough and only there for a single night unless sureties
were given for his good behaviour; and the list of such strangers was to
be submitted to the itinerant justices. In the provisions of this assize
for the repression of crime we find the origin of trial by jury, so often
attributed to earlier times. Twelve lawful men of each hundred, with four
from each township, were sworn to present those who were known or reputed
as criminals within their district for trial by ordeal. The jurors were
thus not merely witnesses, but sworn to act as judges also in determining
the value of the charge, and it is this double character of Henry's
jurors that has descended to our "grand jury," who still remain charged
with the duty of presenting criminals for trial after examination of the
witnesses against them. Two later steps brought the jury to its modern
condition. Under Edward the First witnesses acquainted with the
particular fact in question were added in each case to the general jury,
and by the separation of these two classes of jurors at a later time the
last became simply "witnesses" without any judicial power, while the
first ceased to be witnesses at all and became our modern jurors, who are
only judges of the testimony given. With this assize too a practice which
had prevailed from the earliest English times, the practice of
"compurgation," passed away. Under this system the accused could be
acquitted of the charge by the voluntary oath of his neighbours and
kinsmen; but this was abolished by the Assize of Clarendon, and for the
fifty years which followed it his trial, after the investigation of the
grand jury, was found solely in the ordeal or "judgement of God," where
innocence was proved by the power of holding hot iron in the hand or by
sinking when flung into the water, for swimming was a proof of guilt. It
was the abolition of the whole system of ordeal by the Council of Lateran
in 1216 which led the way to the establishment of what is called a "petty
jury" for the final trial of prisoners.

[Sidenote: Murder of Thomas]

But Henry's work of reorganization had hardly begun when it was broken by
the pressure of the strife with the Primate. For six years the contest
raged bitterly; at Rome, at Paris, the agents of the two powers intrigued
against each other. Henry stooped to acts of the meanest persecution in
driving the Primate's kinsmen from England, and in confiscating the lands
of their order till the monks of Pontigny should refuse Thomas a home;
while Beket himself exhausted the patience of his friends by his violence
and excommunications, as well as by the stubbornness with which he clung
to the offensive clause "Saving the honour of my order," the addition of
which to his consent would have practically neutralised the king's
reforms. The Pope counselled mildness, the French king for a time
withdrew his support, his own clerks gave way at last. "Come up," said
one of them bitterly when his horse stumbled on the road, "saving the
honour of the Church and my order." But neither warning nor desertion
moved the resolution of the Primate. Henry, in dread of Papal
excommunication, resolved in 1170 on the coronation of his son: and this
office, which belonged to the see of Canterbury, he transferred to the
Archbishop of York. But the Pope's hands were now freed by his successes
in Italy, and the threat of an interdict forced the king to a show of
submission. The Archbishop was allowed to return after a reconciliation
with the king at Fréteval, and the Kentishmen flocked around him with
uproarious welcome as he entered Canterbury. "This is England," said his
clerks, as they saw the white headlands of the coast. "You will wish
yourself elsewhere before fifty days are gone," said Thomas sadly, and
his foreboding showed his appreciation of Henry's character. He was now
in the royal power, and orders had already been issued in the younger
Henry's name for his arrest when four knights from the King's Court,
spurred to outrage by a passionate outburst of their master's wrath,
crossed the sea, and on the 29th of December forced their way into the
Archbishop's palace. After a stormy parley with him in his chamber they
withdrew to arm. Thomas was hurried by his clerks into the cathedral, but
as he reached the steps leading from the transept to the choir his
pursuers burst in from the cloisters. "Where," cried Reginald Fitzurse in
the dusk of the dimly-lighted minster, "where is the traitor, Thomas
Beket?" The Primate turned resolutely back: "Here am I, no traitor, but a
priest of God," he replied, and again descending the steps he placed
himself with his back against a pillar and fronted his foes. All the
bravery and violence of his old knightly life seemed to revive in Thomas
as he tossed back the threats and demands of his assailants. "You are our
prisoner," shouted Fitzurse, and the four knights seized him to drag him
from the church. "Do not touch me, Reginald," cried the Primate, "pander
that you are, you owe me fealty"; and availing himself of his personal
strength he shook him roughly off. "Strike, strike," retorted Fitzurse,
and blow after blow struck Thomas to the ground. A retainer of Ranulf de
Broc with the point of his sword scattered the Primate's brains on the
ground. "Let us be off," he cried triumphantly, "this traitor will never
rise again."

[Sidenote: The Church and Literature]

The brutal murder was received with a thrill of horror throughout
Christendom; miracles were wrought at the martyr's tomb; he was
canonized, and became the most popular of English saints. The stately
"martyrdom" which rose over his relics at Canterbury seemed to embody the
triumph which his blood had won. But the contest had in fact revealed a
new current of educated opinion which was to be more fatal to the Church
than the reforms of the king. Throughout it Henry had been aided by a
silent revolution which now began to part the purely literary class from
the purely clerical. During the earlier ages of our history we have seen
literature springing up in ecclesiastical schools, and protecting itself
against the ignorance and violence of the time under ecclesiastical
privileges. Almost all our writers from Bæda to the days of the Angevins
are clergy or monks. The revival of letters which followed the Conquest
was a purely ecclesiastical revival; the intellectual impulse which Bee
had given to Normandy travelled across the Channel with the new Norman
abbots who were established in the greater English monasteries; and
writing-rooms or scriptoria, where the chief works of Latin literature,
patristic or classical, were copied and illuminated, the lives of saints
compiled, and entries noted in the monastic chronicle, formed from this
time a part of every religious house of any importance. But the
literature which found this religious shelter was not so much
ecclesiastical as secular. Even the philosophical and devotional impulse
given by Anselm produced no English work of theology or metaphysics. The
literary revival which followed the Conquest took mainly the old
historical form. At Durham Turgot and Simeon threw into Latin shape the
national annals to the time of Henry the First with an especial regard to
northern affairs, while the earlier events of Stephen's reign were noted
down by two Priors of Hexham in the wild border-land between England and
the Scots.

These however were the colourless jottings of mere annalists; it was in
the Scriptorium of Canterbury, in Osbern's lives of the English saints or
in Eadmer's record of the struggle of Anselm against the Red King and his
successor, that we see the first indications of a distinctively English
feeling telling on the new literature. The national impulse is yet more
conspicuous in the two historians that followed. The war-songs of the
English conquerors of Britain were preserved by Henry, an Archdeacon of
Huntingdon, who wove them into annals compiled from Bæda, and the
Chronicle; while William, the librarian of Malmesbury, as industriously
collected the lighter ballads which embodied the popular traditions of
the English kings. It is in William above all others that we see the new
tendency of English literature. In himself, as in his work, he marks the
fusion of the conquerors and the conquered, for he was of both English
and Norman parentage and his sympathies were as divided as his blood. The
form and style of his writings show the influence of those classical
studies which were now reviving throughout Christendom. Monk as he is,
William discards the older ecclesiastical models and the annalistic form.
Events are grouped together with no strict reference to time, while the
lively narrative flows rapidly and loosely along with constant breaks of
digression over the general history of Europe and the Church. It is in
this change of historic spirit that William takes his place as first of
the more statesmanlike and philosophic school of historians who began to
arise in direct connexion with the Court, and among whom the author of
the chronicle which commonly bears the name of "Benedict of Peterborough"
with his continuator Roger of Howden are the most conspicuous. Both held
judicial offices under Henry the Second, and it is to their position at
Court that they owe the fulness and accuracy of their information as to
affairs at home and abroad, as well as their copious supply of official
documents. What is noteworthy in these writers is the purely political
temper with which they regard the conflict of Church and State in their
time. But the English court had now become the centre of a distinctly
secular literature. The treatise of Ranulf de Glanvill, a justiciar of
Henry the Second, is the earliest work on English law, as that of the
royal treasurer, Richard Fitz-Neal, on the Exchequer is the earliest on
English government.

[Sidenote: Gerald of Wales]

Still more distinctly secular than these, though the work of a priest who
claimed to be a bishop, are the writings of Gerald de Barri. Gerald is
the father of our popular literature as he is the originator of the
political and ecclesiastical pamphlet. Welsh blood (as his usual name of
Giraldus Cambrensis implies) mixed with Norman in his veins, and
something of the restless Celtic fire runs alike through his writings and
his life. A busy scholar at Paris, a reforming Archdeacon in Wales, the
wittiest of Court chaplains, the most troublesome of bishops, Gerald
became the gayest and most amusing of all the authors of his time. In his
hands the stately Latin tongue took the vivacity and picturesqueness of
the jongleur's verse. Reared as he had been in classic studies, he threw
pedantry contemptuously aside. "It is better to be dumb than not to be
understood," is his characteristic apology for the novelty of his style:
"new times require new fashions, and so I have thrown utterly aside the
old and dry method of some authors and aimed at adopting the fashion of
speech which is actually in vogue to-day." His tract on the conquest of
Ireland and his account of Wales, which are in fact reports of two
journeys undertaken in those countries with John and Archbishop Baldwin,
illustrate his rapid faculty of careless observation, his audacity, and
his good sense. They are just the sort of lively, dashing letters that we
find in the correspondence of a modern journal. There is the same modern
tone in his political pamphlets; his profusion of jests, his fund of
anecdote, the aptness of his quotations, his natural shrewdness and
critical acumen, the clearness and vivacity of his style, are backed by a
fearlessness and impetuosity that made him a dangerous assailant even to
such a ruler as Henry the Second. The invectives in which Gerald poured
out his resentment against the Angevins are the cause of half the scandal
about Henry and his sons which has found its way into history. His life
was wasted in an ineffectual attempt to secure the see of St. David's,
but his pungent pen played its part in rousing the nation to its later
struggle with the Crown.

[Sidenote: Romance]

A tone of distinct hostility to the Church developed itself almost from
the first among the singers of romance. Romance had long before taken
root in the court of Henry the First, where under the patronage of Queen
Maud the dreams of Arthur, so long cherished by the Celts of Britanny,
and which had travelled to Wales in the train of the exile Rhys ap
Tewdor, took shape in the History of the Britons by Geoffry of Monmouth.
Myth, legend, tradition, the classical pedantry of the day, Welsh hopes
of future triumph over the Saxon, the memories of the Crusades and of the
world-wide dominion of Charles the Great, were mingled together by this
daring fabulist in a work whose popularity became at once immense. Alfred
of Beverley transferred Geoffry's inventions into the region of sober
history, while two Norman _trouveurs_, Gaimar and Wace, translated them
into French verse. So complete was the credence they obtained that
Arthur's tomb at Glastonbury was visited by Henry the Second, while the
child of his son Geoffry and of Constance of Britanny received the name
of the Celtic hero. Out of Geoffry's creation grew little by little the
poem of the Table Round. Britanny, which had mingled with the story of
Arthur the older and more mysterious legend of the Enchanter Merlin, lent
that of Lancelot to the wandering minstrels of the day, who moulded it as
they wandered from hall to hall into the familiar tale of knighthood
wrested from its loyalty by the love of woman. The stories of Tristram
and Gawayne, at first as independent as that of Lancelot, were drawn with
it into the whirlpool of Arthurian romance; and when the Church, jealous
of the popularity of the legends of chivalry, invented as a counteracting
influence the poem of the Sacred Dish, the San Graal which held the blood
of the Cross invisible to all eyes but those of the pure in heart, the
genius of a Court poet, Walter de Map, wove the rival legends together,
sent Arthur and his knights wandering over sea and land in quest of the
San Graal, and crowned the work by the figure of Sir Galahad, the type of
ideal knighthood, without fear and without reproach.

[Sidenote: Walter de Map]

Walter stands before us as the representative of a sudden outburst of
literary, social, and religious criticism which followed this growth of
romance and the appearance of a freer historical tone in the court of the
two Henries. Born on the Welsh border, a student at Paris, a favourite
with the king, a royal chaplain, justiciary, and ambassador, his genius
was as various as it was prolific. He is as much at his ease in sweeping
together the chitchat of the time in his "Courtly Trifles" as in creating
the character of Sir Galahad. But he only rose to his fullest strength
when he turned from the fields of romance to that of Church reform and
embodied the ecclesiastical abuses of his day in the figure of his
"Bishop Goliath." The whole spirit of Henry and his Court in their
struggle with Thomas is reflected and illustrated in the apocalypse and
confession of this imaginary prelate. Picture after picture strips the
veil from the corruption of the mediæval Church, its indolence, its
thirst for gain, its secret immorality. The whole body of the clergy from
Pope to hedge-priest is painted as busy in the chase for gain; what
escapes the bishop is snapped up by the archdeacon, what escapes the
archdeacon is nosed and hunted down by the dean, while a host of minor
officials prowl hungrily around these greater marauders. Out of the crowd
of figures which fills the canvas of the satirist, pluralist vicars,
abbots "purple as their wines," monks feeding and chattering together
like parrots in the refectory, rises the Philistine Bishop, light of
purpose, void of conscience, lost in sensuality, drunken, unchaste, the
Goliath who sums up the enormities of all, and against whose forehead
this new David slings his sharp pebble of the brook.

[Illustration: Ireland just before the English Invasion (v1-map-5t.jpg)]

[Sidenote: Invasion of Ireland]

It would be in the highest degree unjust to treat such invectives as
sober history, or to judge the Church of the twelfth century by the
taunts of Walter de Map. What writings such as his bring home to us is
the upgrowth of a new literary class, not only standing apart from the
Church but regarding it with a hardly disguised ill-will, and breaking
down the unquestioning reverence with which men had till now regarded it
by their sarcasm and abuse. The tone of intellectual contempt which
begins with Walter de Map goes deepening on till it culminates in Chaucer
and passes into the open revolt of the Lollard. But even in these early
days we can hardly doubt that it gave Henry strength in his contest with
the Church. So little indeed did he suffer from the murder of Archbishop
Thomas that the years which follow it form the grandest portion of his
reign. While Rome was threatening excommunication he added a new realm to
his dominions. Ireland had long since fallen from the civilization and
learning which its missionaries brought in the seventh century to the
shores of Northumbria. Every element of improvement or progress which had
been introduced into the island disappeared in the long and desperate
struggle with the Danes. The coast-towns which the invaders founded, such
as Dublin or Waterford, remained Danish, in blood and manners and at feud
with the Celtic tribes around them, though sometimes forced by the
fortunes of war to pay tribute and to accept the overlordship of the
Irish kings. It was through these towns however that the intercourse with
England which had ceased since the eighth century was to some extent
renewed in the eleventh. Cut off from the Church of the island by
national antipathy, the Danish coast-cities applied to the See of
Canterbury for the ordination of their bishops, and acknowledged a right
of spiritual supervision in Lanfranc and Anselm. The relations thus
formed were drawn closer by a slave-trade between the two countries which
the Conqueror and Bishop Wulfstan succeeded for a time in suppressing at
Bristol but which appears to have quickly revived. In the twelfth century
Ireland was full of Englishmen who had been kidnapped and sold into
slavery in spite of royal prohibitions and the spiritual menaces of the
English Church. The slave-trade afforded a legitimate pretext for war,
had a pretext been needed by the ambition of Henry the Second; and within
a few months of that king's coronation John of Salisbury was despatched
to obtain the Papal sanction for an invasion of the island. The
enterprise, as it was laid before Pope Hadrian IV., took the colour of a
crusade. The isolation of Ireland from the general body of Christendom,
the absence of learning and civilization, the scandalous vices of its
people, were alleged as the grounds of Henry's action. It was the general
belief of the time that all islands fell under the jurisdiction of the
Papal See, and it was as a possession of the Roman Church that Henry
sought Hadrian's permission to enter Ireland. His aim was "to enlarge the
bounds of the Church, to restrain the progress of vices, to correct the
manners of its people and to plant virtue among them, and to increase the
Christian religion." He engaged to "subject the people to laws, to
extirpate vicious customs, to respect the rights of the native Churches,
and to enforce the payment of Peter's pence" as a recognition of the
overlordship of the Roman See. Hadrian by his bull approved the
enterprise, as one prompted by "the ardour of faith and love of
religion," and declared his will that the people of Ireland should
receive Henry with all honour, and revere him as their lord.

The Papal bull was produced in a great council of the English baronage,
but the opposition was strong enough to force on Henry a temporary
abandonment of his designs, and twelve years passed before the scheme was
brought to life again by the flight of Dermod, King of Leinster, to
Henry's court. Dermod had been driven from his dominions in one of the
endless civil wars which devastated the island; he now did homage for his
kingdom to Henry, and returned to Ireland with promises of aid from the
English knighthood. He was followed in 1168 by Robert FitzStephen, a son
of the Constable of Cardigan, with a little band of a hundred and forty
knights, sixty men-at-arms, and three or four hundred Welsh archers.
Small as was the number of the adventurers, their horses and arms proved
irresistible by the Irish kernes; a sally of the men of Wexford was
avenged by the storm of their town; the Ossory clans were defeated with a
terrible slaughter, and Dermod, seizing a head from the heap of trophies
which his men piled at his feet, tore off in savage triumph its nose and
lips with his teeth. The arrival of fresh forces heralded the coming of
Richard of Clare, Earl of Pembroke and Striguil, a ruined baron later
known by the nickname of Strongbow, and who in defiance of Henry's
prohibition landed near Waterford with a force of fifteen hundred men as
Dermod's mercenary. The city was at once stormed, and the united forces
of the earl and king marched to the siege of Dublin. In spite of a relief
attempted by the King of Connaught, who was recognized as overking of the
island by the rest of the tribes, Dublin was taken by surprise; and the
marriage of Richard with Eva, Dermod's daughter, left the Earl on the
death of his father-in-law, which followed quickly on these successes,
master of his kingdom of Leinster. The new lord had soon however to hurry
back to England and appease the jealousy of Henry by the surrender of
Dublin to the Crown, by doing homage for Leinster as an English lordship,
and by accompanying the king in 1171 on a voyage to the new dominion
which the adventurers had won.

[Sidenote: Revolt of the younger Henry]

Had fate suffered Henry to carry out his purpose, the conquest of Ireland
would now have been accomplished. The King of Connaught indeed and the
chiefs of Ulster refused him homage, but the rest of the Irish tribes
owned his suzerainty; the bishops in synod at Cashel recognized him as
their lord; and he was preparing to penetrate to the north and west, and
to secure his conquest by a systematic erection of castles throughout the
country, when the need of making terms with Rome, whose interdict
threatened to avenge the murder of Archbishop Thomas, recalled him in the
spring of 1172 to Normandy. Henry averted the threatened sentence by a
show of submission. The judicial provisions in the Constitutions of
Clarendon were in form annulled, and liberty of election was restored in
the case of bishopricks and abbacies. In reality however the victory
rested with the king. Throughout his reign ecclesiastical appointments
remained practically in his hands, and the King's Court asserted its
power over the spiritual jurisdiction of the bishops. But the strife with
Thomas had roused into active life every element of danger which
surrounded Henry, the envious dread of his neighbours, the disaffection
of his own house, the disgust of the barons at the repeated blows which
he levelled at their military and judicial power. The king's withdrawal
of the office of sheriff from the great nobles of the shire to entrust it
to the lawyers and courtiers who already furnished the staff of the royal
judges quickened the resentment of the baronage into revolt. His wife
Eleanor, now parted from Henry by a bitter hate, spurred her eldest son,
whose coronation had given him the title of king, to demand possession of
the English realm. On his father's refusal the boy sought refuge with
Lewis of France, and his flight was the signal for a vast rising. France,
Flanders, and Scotland joined in league against Henry; his younger sons,
Richard and Geoffry, took up arms in Aquitaine, while the Earl of
Leicester sailed from Flanders with an army of mercenaries to stir up
England to revolt. The Earl's descent ended in a crushing defeat near St.
Edmundsbury at the hands of the king's justiciars; but no sooner had the
French king entered Normandy and invested Rouen than the revolt of the
baronage burst into flame. The Scots crossed the border, Roger Mowbray
rose in Yorkshire, Ferrars, Earl of Derby, in the midland shires, Hugh
Bigod in the eastern counties, while a Flemish fleet prepared to support
the insurrection by a descent upon the coast. The murder of Archbishop
Thomas still hung round Henry's neck, and his first act in hurrying to
England to meet these perils in 1174 was to prostrate himself before the
shrine of the new martyr and to submit to a public scourging in expiation
of his sin. But the penance was hardly wrought when all danger was
dispelled by a series of triumphs. The King of Scotland, William the
Lion, surprised by the English under cover of a mist, fell into the hands
of Henry's minister, Ranulf de Glanvill, and at the retreat of the Scots
the English rebels hastened to lay down their arms. With the army of
mercenaries which he had brought over sea Henry was able to return to
Normandy, to raise the siege of Rouen, and to reduce his sons to

[Sidenote: Later reforms]

Through the next ten years Henry's power was at its height. The French
king was cowed. The Scotch king bought his release in 1175 by owning
Henry's suzerainty. The Scotch barons did homage, and English garrisons
manned the strongest of the Scotch castles. In England itself church and
baronage were alike at the king's mercy. Eleanor was imprisoned; and the
younger Henry, though always troublesome, remained powerless to do harm.
The king availed himself of this rest from outer foes to push forward his
judicial and administrative organization. At the outset of his reign he
had restored the King's Court and the occasional circuits of its
justices; but the revolt was hardly over when in 1176 the Assize of
Northampton rendered this institution permanent and regular by dividing
the kingdom into six districts, to each of which three itinerant judges
were assigned. The circuits thus marked out correspond roughly with those
that still exist. The primary object of these circuits was financial; but
the rendering of the king's justice went on side by side with the
exaction of the king's dues, and this carrying of justice to every corner
of the realm was made still more effective by the abolition of all feudal
exemptions from the royal jurisdiction. The chief danger of the new
system lay in the opportunities it afforded to judicial corruption; and
so great were its abuses, that in 1178 Henry was forced to restrict for a
while the number of justices to five, and to reserve appeals from their
court to himself in council. The Court of Appeal which was thus created,
that of the King in Council, gave birth as time went on to tribunal after
tribunal. It is from it that the judicial powers now exercised by the
Privy Council are derived, as well as the equitable jurisdiction of the
Chancellor. In the next century it became the Great Council of the realm,
and it is from this Great Council, in its two distinct capacities, that
the Privy Council drew its legislative, and the House of Lords its
judicial character. The Court of Star Chamber and the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council are later offshoots of Henry's Court of Appeal. From
the judicial organization of the realm, he turned to its military
organization, and in 1181 an Assize of Arms restored the national fyrd or
militia to the place which it had lost at the Conquest. The substitution
of scutage for military service had freed the crown from its dependence
on the baronage and its feudal retainers; the Assize of Arms replaced
this feudal organization by the older obligation of every freeman to
serve in defence of the realm. Every knight was now bound to appear in
coat of mail and with shield and lance, every freeholder with lance and
hauberk, every burgess and poorer freeman with lance and helmet, at the
king's call. The levy of an armed nation was thus placed wholly at the
disposal of the Crown for purposes of defence.

[Sidenote: Henry's death]

A fresh revolt of the younger Henry with his brother Geoffry in 1183
hardly broke the current of Henry's success. The revolt ended with the
young king's death, and in 1186 this was followed by the death of
Geoffry. Richard, now his father's heir, remained busy in Aquitaine; and
Henry was himself occupied with plans for the recovery of Jerusalem,
which had been taken by Saladin in 1187. The "Saladin tithe," a tax
levied on all goods and chattels, and memorable as the first English
instance of taxation on personal property, was granted to the king at the
opening of 1188 to support his intended Crusade. But the Crusade was
hindered by strife which broke out between Richard and the new French
king, Philip; and while Henry strove in vain to bring about peace, a
suspicion that he purposed to make his youngest son, John, his heir drove
Richard to Philip's side. His father, broken in health and spirits,
negotiated fruitlessly through the winter, but with the spring of 1189
Richard and the French king suddenly appeared before Le Mans. Henry was
driven in headlong flight from the town. Tradition tells how from a
height where he halted to look back on the burning city, so dear to him
as his birthplace, the king hurled his curse against God: "Since Thou
hast taken from me the town I loved best, where I was born and bred, and
where my father lies buried, I will have my revenge on Thee too--I will
rob Thee of that thing Thou lovest most in me." If the words were
uttered, they were the frenzied words of a dying man. Death drew Henry to
the home of his race, but Tours fell as he lay at Saumur, and the hunted
king was driven to beg mercy from his foes. They gave him the list of the
conspirators against him: at its head was the name of one, his love for
whom had brought with it the ruin that was crushing him, his youngest
son, John. "Now," he said, as he turned his face to the wall, "let things
go as they will--I care no more for myself or for the world." The end was
come at last. Henry was borne to Chinon by the silvery waters of Vienne,
and muttering, "Shame, shame on a conquered king," passed sullenly away.


[Sidenote: John and Longchamp]

The fall of Henry the Second only showed the strength of the system he
had built up on this side the sea. In the hands of the Justiciar, Ranulf
de Glanvill, England remained peaceful through the last stormy months of
his reign, and his successor Richard found it undisturbed when he came
for his crowning in the autumn of 1189. Though born at Oxford, Richard
had been bred in Aquitaine; he was an utter stranger to his realm, and
his visit was simply for the purpose of gathering money for a Crusade.
Sheriffdoms, bishopricks, were sold; even the supremacy over Scotland was
bought back again by William the Lion; and it was with the wealth which
these measures won that Richard made his way in 1190 to Marseilles and
sailed thence to Messina. Here he found his army and a host under King
Philip of France; and the winter was spent in quarrels between the two
kings and a strife between Richard and Tancred of Sicily. In the spring
of 1191 his mother Eleanor arrived with ill news from England. Richard
had left the realm under the regency of two bishops, Hugh Puiset of
Durham and William Longchamp of Ely; but before quitting France he had
entrusted it wholly to the latter, who stood at the head of Church and
State as at once Justiciar and Papal Legate. Longchamp was loyal to the
king, but his exactions and scorn of Englishmen roused a fierce hatred
among the baronage, and this hatred found a head in John. While richly
gifting his brother with earldoms and lands, Richard had taken oath from
him that he would quit England for three years. But tidings that the
Justiciar was striving to secure the succession of Arthur, the child of
his elder brother Geoffry and of Constance of Britanny, to the English
crown at once recalled John to the realm, and peace between him and
Longchamp was only preserved by the influence of the queen-mother
Eleanor. Richard met this news by sending Walter of Coutances, the
Archbishop of Rouen, with full but secret powers to England. On his
landing in the summer of 1191 Walter found the country already in arms.
No battle had been fought, but John had seized many of the royal castles,
and the indignation stirred by Longchamp's arrest of Archbishop Geoffry
of York, a bastard son of Henry the Second, called the whole baronage to
the field. The nobles swore fealty to John as Richard's successor, and
Walter of Coutances saw himself forced to show his commission as
Justiciar, and to assent to Longchamp's exile from the realm.

[Sidenote: Richard]

The tidings of this revolution reached Richard in the Holy Land. He had
landed at Acre in the summer and joined with the French king in its
siege. But on the surrender of the town Philip at once sailed home, while
Richard, marching from Acre to Joppa, pushed inland to Jerusalem. The
city however was saved by false news of its strength, and through the
following winter and the spring of 1192 the king limited his activity to
securing the fortresses of southern Palestine. In June he again advanced
on Jerusalem, but the revolt of his army forced him a second time to fall
back, and news of Philip's intrigues with John drove him to abandon
further efforts. There was need to hasten home. Sailing for speed's sake
in a merchant vessel, he was driven by a storm on the Adriatic coast, and
while journeying in disguise overland arrested in December at Vienna by
his personal enemy, Duke Leopold of Austria. Through the whole year John,
in disgust at his displacement by Walter of Coutances, had been plotting
fruitlessly with Philip. But the news of this capture at once roused both
to activity. John secured his castles and seized Windsor, giving out that
the king would never return; while Philip strove to induce the Emperor,
Henry the Sixth, to whom the Duke of Austria had given Richard up, to
retain his captive. But a new influence now appeared on the scene. The
see of Canterbury was vacant, and Richard from his prison bestowed it on
Hubert Walter, the Bishop of Salisbury, a nephew of Ranulf de Glanvill,
and who had acted as secretary to Bishop Longchamp. Hubert's ability was
seen in the skill with which he held John at bay and raised the enormous
ransom which Henry demanded, the whole people, clergy as well as lay,
paying a fourth of their moveable goods. To gain his release however
Richard was forced besides this payment of ransom to do homage to the
Emperor, not only for the kingdom of Arles with which Henry invested him
but for England itself, whose crown he resigned into the Emperor's hands
and received back as a fief. But John's open revolt made even these terms
welcome, and Richard hurried to England in the spring of 1194. He found
the rising already quelled by the decision with which the Primate led an
army against John's castles, and his landing was followed by his
brother's complete submission.

[Sidenote: Richard and Philip]

The firmness of Hubert Walter had secured order in England, but oversea
Richard found himself face to face with dangers which he was too
clear-sighted to undervalue. Destitute of his father's administrative
genius, less ingenious in his political conceptions than John, Richard
was far from being a mere soldier. A love of adventure, a pride in sheer
physical strength, here and there a romantic generosity, jostled roughly
with the craft, the unscrupulousness, the violence of his race; but he
was at heart a statesman, cool and patient in the execution of his plans
as he was bold in their conception. "The devil is loose; take care of
yourself," Philip had written to John at the news of Richard's release.
In the French king's case a restless ambition was spurred to action by
insults which he had borne during the Crusade. He had availed himself of
Richard's imprisonment to invade Normandy, while the lords of Aquitaine
rose in open revolt under the troubadour Bertrand de Born. Jealousy of
the rule of strangers, weariness of the turbulence of the mercenary
soldiers of the Angevins or of the greed and oppression of their
financial administration, combined with an impatience of their firm
government and vigorous justice to alienate the nobles of their provinces
on the Continent. Loyalty among the people there was none; even Anjou,
the home of their race, drifted towards Philip as steadily as Poitou. But
in warlike ability Richard was more than Philip's peer. He held him in
check on the Norman frontier and surprised his treasure at Fréteval while
he reduced to submission the rebels of Aquitaine. Hubert Walter gathered
vast sums to support the army of mercenaries which Richard led against
his foes. The country groaned under its burdens, but it owned the justice
and firmness of the Primate's rule, and the measures which he took to
procure money with as little oppression as might be proved steps in the
education of the nation in its own self-government. The taxes were
assessed by a jury of sworn knights at each circuit of the justices; the
grand jury of the county was based on the election of knights in the
hundred courts; and the keeping of pleas of the crown was taken from the
sheriff and given to a newly-elected officer, the coroner. In these
elections were found at a later time precedents for parliamentary
representation; in Hubert's mind they were doubtless intended to do
little more than reconcile the people to the crushing taxation. His work
poured a million into the treasury, and enabled Richard during a short
truce to detach Flanders by his bribes from the French alliance, and to
unite the Counts of Chartres, Champagne, and Boulogne with the Bretons in
a revolt against Philip. He won a yet more valuable aid in the election
of his nephew Otto of Saxony, a son of Henry the Lion, to the German
throne, and his envoy William Longchamp knitted an alliance which would
bring the German lances to bear on the King of Paris.

[Sidenote: Château Gaillard]

But the security of Normandy was requisite to the success of these wider
plans, and Richard saw that its defence could no longer rest on the
loyalty of the Norman people. His father might trace his descent through
Matilda from the line of Hrolf, but the Angevin ruler was in fact a
stranger to the Norman. It was impossible for a Norman to recognize his
Duke with any real sympathy in the Angevin prince whom he saw moving
along the border at the head of Brabançon mercenaries, in whose camp the
old names of the Norman baronage were missing and Merchade, a Provençal
ruffian, held supreme command. The purely military site that Richard
selected for a new fortress with which he guarded the border showed his
realization of the fact that Normandy could now only be held by force of
arms. As a monument of warlike skill his "Saucy Castle," Château
Gaillard, stands first among the fortresses of the Middle Ages. Richard
fixed its site where the Seine bends suddenly at Gaillon in a great
semicircle to the north, and where the valley of Les Andelys breaks the
line of the chalk cliffs along its banks. Blue masses of woodland crown
the distant hills; within the river curve lies a dull reach of flat
meadow, round which the Seine, broken with green islets and dappled with
the grey and blue of the sky, flashes like a silver bow on its way to
Rouen. The castle formed part of an entrenched camp which Richard
designed to cover his Norman capital. Approach by the river was blocked
by a stockade and a bridge of boats, by a fort on the islet in mid
stream, and by a fortified town which the king built in the valley of the
Gambon, then an impassable marsh. In the angle between this valley and
the Seine, on a spur of the chalk hills which only a narrow neck of land
connects with the general plateau, rose at the height of three hundred
feet above the river the crowning fortress of the whole. Its outworks and
the walls which connected it with the town and stockade have for the most
part gone, but time and the hand of man have done little to destroy the
fortifications themselves--the fosse, hewn deep into the solid rock, with
casemates hollowed out along its sides, the fluted walls of the citadel,
the huge donjon looking down on the brown roofs and huddled gables of Les
Andelys. Even now in its ruin we can understand the triumphant outburst
of its royal builder as he saw it rising against the sky: "How pretty a
child is mine, this child of but one year old!"

[Sidenote: Richard's death]

The easy reduction of Normandy on the fall of Château Gaillard at a later
time proved Richard's foresight; but foresight and sagacity were mingled
in him with a brutal violence and a callous indifference to honour. "I
would take it, were its walls of iron," Philip exclaimed in wrath as he
saw the fortress rise. "I would hold it, were its walls of butter," was
the defiant answer of his foe. It was Church land and the Archbishop of
Rouen laid Normandy under interdict at its seizure, but the king met the
interdict with mockery, and intrigued with Rome till the censure was
withdrawn. He was just as defiant of a "rain of blood," whose fall scared
his courtiers. "Had an angel from heaven bid him abandon his work," says
a cool observer, "he would have answered with a curse." The twelve
months' hard work, in fact, by securing the Norman frontier set Richard
free to deal his long-planned blow at Philip. Money only was wanting; for
England had at last struck against the continued exactions. In 1198 Hugh,
Bishop of Lincoln, brought nobles and bishops to refuse a new demand for
the maintenance of foreign soldiers, and Hubert Walter resigned in
despair. A new justiciar, Geoffry Fitz-Peter, Earl of Essex, extorted
some money by a harsh assize of the forests; but the exchequer was soon
drained, and Richard listened with more than the greed of his race to
rumours that a treasure had been found in the fields of the Limousin.
Twelve knights of gold seated round a golden table were the find, it was
said, of the Lord of Châlus. Treasure-trove at any rate there was, and in
the spring of 1199 Richard prowled around the walls. But the castle held
stubbornly out till the king's greed passed into savage menace. He would
hang all, he swore--man, woman, the very child at the breast. In the
midst of his threats an arrow from the walls struck him down. He died as
he had lived, owning the wild passion which for seven years past had kept
him from confession lest he should be forced to pardon Philip, forgiving
with kingly generosity the archer who had shot him.

[Sidenote: Loss of Normandy]

The Angevin dominion broke to pieces at his death. John was acknowledged
as king in England and Normandy, Aquitaine was secured for him by its
duchess, his mother Eleanor; but Anjou, Maine, and Touraine did homage to
Arthur, the son of his elder brother Geoffry, the late Duke of Britanny.
The ambition of Philip, who protected his cause, turned the day against
Arthur; the Angevins rose against the French garrisons with which the
French king practically annexed the country, and in May 1200 a treaty
between the two kings left John master of the whole dominion of his
house. But fresh troubles broke out in Poitou; Philip, on John's refusal
to answer the charges of the Poitevin barons at his Court, declared in
1202 his fiefs forfeited; and Arthur, now a boy of fifteen, strove to
seize Eleanor in the castle of Mirebeau. Surprised at its siege by a
rapid march of the king, the boy was taken prisoner to Rouen, and
murdered there in the spring of 1203, as men believed, by his uncle's
hand. This brutal outrage at once roused the French provinces in revolt,
while Philip sentenced John to forfeiture as a murderer, and marched
straight on Normandy. The ease with which the conquest of the Duchy was
effected can only be explained by the utter absence of any popular
resistance on the part of the Normans themselves. Half a century before
the sight of a Frenchman in the land would have roused every peasant to
arms from Avranches to Dieppe. But town after town surrendered at the
mere summons of Philip, and the conquest was hardly over before Normandy
settled down into the most loyal of the provinces of France. Much of this
was due to the wise liberality with which Philip met the claims of the
towns to independence and self-government, as well as to the overpowering
force and military ability with which the conquest was effected. But the
utter absence of opposition sprang from a deeper cause. To the Norman his
transfer from John to Philip was a mere passing from one foreign master
to another, and foreigner for foreigner Philip was the less alien of the
two. Between France and Normandy there had been as many years of
friendship as of strife; between Norman and Angevin lay a century of
bitterest hate. Moreover, the subjection to France was the realization in
fact of a dependence which had always existed in theory; Philip entered
Rouen as the overlord of its dukes; while the submission to the house of
Anjou had been the most humiliating of all submissions, the submission to
an equal. In 1204 Philip turned on the south with as startling a success.
Maine, Anjou, and Touraine passed with little resistance into his hands,
and the death of Eleanor was followed by the submission of the bulk of
Aquitaine. Little was left save the country south of the Garonne; and
from the lordship of a vast empire that stretched from the Tyne to the
Pyrenees John saw himself reduced at a blow to the realm of England.



A Chronicle drawn up at the monastery of Barnwell near Cambridge, and
which has been embodied in the "Memoriale" of Walter of Coventry, gives
us a contemporary account of the period from 1201 to 1225. We possess
another contemporary annalist for the same period in Roger of Wendover,
the first of the published chroniclers of St. Albans, whose work extends
to 1235. Though full of detail Roger is inaccurate, and he has strong
royal and ecclesiastical sympathies; but his chronicle was subsequently
revised in a more patriotic sense by another monk of the same abbey,
Matthew Paris, and continued in the "Greater Chronicle" of the latter.

Matthew has left a parallel but shorter account of the time in his
"Historia Anglorum" (from the Conquest to 1253). He is the last of the
great chroniclers of his house; for the chronicles of Rishanger, his
successor at St. Albans, and of the obscurer annalists who worked on at
that Abbey till the Wars of the Roses are little save scant and lifeless
jottings of events which become more and more local as time goes on. The
annals of the abbeys of Waverley, Dunstable, and Burton, which have been
published in the "Annales Monastici" of the Rolls series, add important
details for the reigns of John and Henry III. Those of Melrose, Osney,
and Lanercost help us in the close of the latter reign, where help is
especially welcome. For the Barons' war we have besides these the
royalist chronicle of Wykes, Rishanger's fragment published by the Camden
Society, and a chronicle of Bartholomew de Cotton, which is contemporary
from 1264 to 1298. Where the chronicles fail however the public documents
of the realm become of high importance. The "Royal Letters" (1216-1272)
which have been printed from the Patent Rolls by Professor Shirley (Rolls
Series) throw great light on Henry's politics.

Our municipal history during this period is fully represented by that of
London. For the general history of the capital the Rolls series has given
us its "Liber Albus" and "Liber Custumarum," while a vivid account of its
communal revolution is to be found in the "Liber de Antiquis Legibus"
published by the Camden Society. A store of documents will be found in
the Charter Rolls published by the Record Commission, in Brady's work on
"English Boroughs," and in the "Ordinances of English Gilds," published
with a remarkable preface from the pen of Dr. Brentano by the Early
English Text Society. For our religious and intellectual history
materials now become abundant. Grosseteste's Letters throw light on the
state of the Church and its relations with Rome; those of Adam Marsh give
us interesting details of Earl Simon's relation to the religious movement
of his day; and Eceleston's tract on the arrival of the Friars is
embodied in the "Monumenta Franciscana." For the Universities we have the
collection of materials edited by Mr. Anstey under the name of "Munimenta

With the close of Henry's reign our directly historic materials become
scantier and scantier. The monastic annals we have before mentioned are
supplemented by the jejune entries of Trivet and Murimuth, by the
"Annales Anglic et Scotias," by Rishanger's Chronicle, his "Gesta Edwardi
Primi," and three fragments of his annals (all published in the Rolls
Series). The portion of the so-called "Walsingham's History" which
relates to this period is now attributed by Mr. Riley to Rishanger's
hand. For the wars in the north and in the west we have no records from
the side of the conquered. The social and physical state of Wales indeed
is illustrated by the "Itinerarium" which Gerald de Barri drew up in the
twelfth century, but Scotland has no contemporary chronicles for this
period; the jingling rimes of Blind Harry are two hundred years later
than his hero, Wallace. We possess however a copious collection of State
papers in the "Rotuli Scotiæ," the "Documents and Records illustrative of
the History of Scotland" which were edited by Sir F. Palgrave, as well as
in Rymer's Foedera. For the history of our Parliament the most noteworthy
materials have been collected by Professor Stubbs in his Select Charters,
and he has added to them a short treatise called "Modus Tenendi
Parliamentum," which may be taken as a fair account of its actual state
and powers in the fourteenth century.


[Sidenote: England and the Conquest]

The loss of Normandy did more than drive John from the foreign dominions
of his race; it set him face to face with England itself. England was no
longer a distant treasure-house from which gold could be drawn for wars
along the Epte or the Loire, no longer a possession to be kept in order
by wise ministers and by flying visits from its foreign king. Henceforth
it was his home. It was to be ruled by his personal and continuous rule.
People and sovereign were to know each other, to be brought into contact
with each other as they had never been brought since the conquest of the
Norman. The change in the attitude of the king was the more momentous
that it took place at a time when the attitude of the country itself was
rapidly changing. The Norman Conquest had given a new aspect to the land.
A foreign king ruled it through foreign ministers. Foreign nobles were
quartered in every manor. A military organization of the country changed
while it simplified the holding of every estate. Huge castles of white
stone bridled town and country; huge stone minsters told how the Norman
had bridled even the Church. But the change was in great measure an
external one. The real life of the nation was little affected by the
shock of the Conquest. English institutions, the local, judicial, and
administrative forms of the country were the same as of old. Like the
English tongue they remained practically unaltered. For a century after
the Conquest only a few new words crept in from the language of the
conquerors, and so entirely did the spoken tongue of the nation at large
remain unchanged that William himself tried to learn it that he might
administer justice to his subjects. Even English literature, banished as
it was from the court of the stranger and exposed to the fashionable
rivalry of Latin scholars, survived not only in religious works, in
poetic paraphrases of gospels and psalms, but in the great monument of
our prose, the English Chronicle. It was not till the miserable reign of
Stephen that the Chronicle died out in the Abbey of Peterborough. But the
"Sayings of Ælfred" show a native literature going on through the reign
of Henry the Second, and the appearance of a great work of English verse
coincides in point of time with the return of John to his island realm.
"There was a priest in the land whose name was Layamon; he was the son of
Leovenath; may the Lord be gracious to him! He dwelt at Earnley, a noble
church on the bank of Severn (good it seemed to him!) near Radstone,
where he read books. It came to mind to him and in his chiefest thought
that he would tell the noble deeds of England, what the men were named
and whence they came who first had English land." Journeying far and wide
over the country, the priest of Earnley found Bæda and Wace, the books
too of St. Albin and St. Austin. "Layamon laid down these books and
turned the leaves; he beheld them lovingly; may the Lord be gracious to
him! Pen he took with finger and wrote a book-skin, and the true words
set together, and compressed the three books into one." Layamon's church
is now that of Areley, near Bewdley in Worcestershire; his poem was in
fact an expansion of Wace's "Brut" with insertions from Bæda.
Historically it is worthless; but as a monument of our language it is
beyond all price. In more than thirty thousand lines not more than fifty
Norman words are to be found. Even the old poetic tradition remains the
same. The alliterative metre of the earlier verse is still only slightly
affected by riming terminations; the similes are the few natural similes
of Cædmon; the battle-scenes are painted with the same rough, simple joy.

[Sidenote: English Patriotism]

Instead of crushing England, indeed, the Conquest did more than any event
that had gone before to build up an English people. All local
distinctions, the distinction of Saxon from Mercian, of both from
Northumbrian, died away beneath the common pressure of the stranger. The
Conquest was hardly over when we see the rise of a new national feeling,
of a new patriotism. In his quiet cell at Worcester the monk Florence
strives to palliate by excuses of treason or the weakness of rulers the
defeats of Englishmen by the Danes. Ælfred, the great name of the English
past, gathers round him a legendary worship, and the "Sayings of Ælfred"
embody the ideal of an English king. We see the new vigour drawn from
this deeper consciousness of national unity in a national action which
began as soon as the Conquest had given place to strife among the
conquerors. A common hostility to the conquering baronage gave the nation
leaders in its foreign sovereigns, and the sword which had been sheathed
at Senlac was drawn for triumphs which avenged it. It was under William
the Red that English soldiers shouted scorn at the Norman barons who
surrendered at Rochester. It was under Henry the First that an English
army faced Duke Robert and his foreign knighthood when they landed for a
fresh invasion, "not fearing the Normans." It was under the same great
king that Englishmen conquered Normandy in turn on the field of
Tenchebray. This overthrow of the conquering baronage, this union of the
conquered with the king, brought about the fusion of the conquerors in
the general body of the English people. As early as the days of Henry the
Second the descendants of Norman and Englishman had become
indistinguishable. Both found a bond in a common English feeling and
English patriotism, in a common hatred of the Angevin and Poitevin
"foreigners" who streamed into England in the wake of Henry and his sons.
Both had profited by the stern discipline of the Norman rule. The
wretched reign of Stephen alone broke the long peace, a peace without
parallel elsewhere, which in England stretched from the settlement of the
Conquest to the return of John. Of her kings' forays along Norman or
Aquitanian borders England heard little; she cared less. Even Eichard's
crusade woke little interest in his island realm. What England saw in her
kings was "the good peace they made in the land." And with peace came a
stern but equitable rule, judicial and administrative reforms that
carried order and justice to every corner of the land, a wealth that grew
steadily in spite of heavy taxation, an immense outburst of material and
intellectual activity.

[Sidenote: The Universities]

It was with a new English people therefore that John found himself face
to face. The nation which he fronted was a nation quickened with a new
life and throbbing with a new energy. Not least among the signs of this
energy was the upgrowth of our Universities. The establishment of the
great schools which bore this name was everywhere throughout Europe a
special mark of the impulse which Christendom gained from the crusades. A
new fervour of study sprang up in the West from its contact with the more
cultured East. Travellers like Adelard of Bath brought back the first
rudiments of physical and mathematical science from the schools of
Cordova or Bagdad. In the twelfth century a classical revival restored
Cæsar and Virgil to the list of monastic studies, and left its stamp on
the pedantic style, the profuse classical quotations of writers like
William of Malmesbury or John of Salisbury. The scholastic philosophy
sprang up in the schools of Paris. The Roman law was revived by the
imperialist doctors of Bologna. The long mental inactivity of feudal
Europe broke up like ice before a summer's sun. Wandering teachers such
as Lanfranc or Anselm crossed sea and land to spread the new power of
knowledge. The same spirit of restlessness, of enquiry, of impatience
with the older traditions of mankind either local or intellectual that
drove half Christendom to the tomb of its Lord, crowded the roads with
thousands of young scholars hurrying to the chosen seats where teachers
were gathered together. A new power sprang up in the midst of a world
which had till now recognized no power but that of sheer brute force.
Poor as they were, sometimes even of servile race, the wandering scholars
who lectured in every cloister were hailed as "masters" by the crowds at
their feet. Abelard was a foe worthy of the threats of councils, of the
thunders of the Church. The teaching of a single Lombard was of note
enough in England to draw down the prohibition of a king.

[Sidenote: Oxford]

Vacarius was probably a guest in the court of Archbishop Theobald where
Thomas of London and John of Salisbury were already busy with the study
of the Civil Law. But when he opened lectures on it at Oxford he was at
once silenced by Stephen, who was at that moment at war with the Church
and jealous of the power which the wreck of the royal authority was
throwing into Theobald's hands. At this time Oxford stood in the first
rank among English towns. Its town church of St. Martin rose from the
midst of a huddled group of houses, girded in with massive walls, that
lay along the dry upper ground of a low peninsula between the streams of
Cherwell and the Thames. The ground fell gently on either side, eastward
and westward, to these rivers; while on the south a sharper descent led
down across swampy meadows to the ford from which the town drew its name
and to the bridge that succeeded it. Around lay a wild forest country,
moors such as Cowley and Bullingdon fringing the course of Thames, great
woods of which Shotover and Bagley are the relics closing the horizon to
the south and east. Though the two huge towers of its Norman castle
marked the strategic importance of Oxford as commanding the river valley
along which the commerce of Southern England mainly flowed, its walls
formed the least element in the town's military strength, for on every
side but the north it was guarded by the swampy meadows along Cherwell or
by an intricate network of streams into which the Thames breaks among the
meadows of Osney. From the midst of these meadows rose a mitred abbey of
Austin Canons, which with the older priory of St. Frideswide gave Oxford
some ecclesiastical dignity. The residence of the Norman house of the
D'Oillis within its castle, the frequent visits of English kings to a
palace without its walls, the presence again and again of important
Parliaments, marked its political weight within the realm. The settlement
of one of the wealthiest among the English Jewries in the very heart of
the town indicated, while it promoted, the activity of its trade. No
place better illustrates the transformation of the land in the hands of
its Norman masters, the sudden outburst of industrial effort, the sudden
expansion of commerce and accumulation of wealth which followed the
Conquest. To the west of the town rose one of the stateliest of English
castles, and in the meadows beneath the hardly less stately abbey of
Osney. In the fields to the north the last of the Norman kings raised his
palace of Beaumont. In the southern quarter of the city the canons of St.
Frideswide reared the church which still exists as the diocesan
cathedral, while the piety of the Norman Castellans rebuilt almost all
its parish churches and founded within their new castle walls the church
of the Canons of St. George.

[Sidenote: Oxford Scholars]

We know nothing of the causes which drew students and teachers within the
walls of Oxford. It is possible that here as elsewhere a new teacher
quickened older educational foundations, and that the cloisters of Osney
and St. Frideswide already possessed schools which burst into a larger
life under the impulse of Vacarius. As yet however the fortunes of the
University were obscured by the glories of Paris. English scholars
gathered in thousands round the chairs of William of Champeaux or
Abelard. The English took their place as one of the "nations" of the
French University. John of Salisbury became famous as one of the Parisian
teachers. Thomas of London wandered to Paris from his school at Merton.
But through the peaceful reign of Henry the Second Oxford quietly grew in
numbers and repute, and forty years after the visit of Vacarius its
educational position was fully established. When Gerald of Wales read his
amusing Topography of Ireland to its students the most learned and famous
of the English clergy were to be found within its walls. At the opening
of the thirteenth century Oxford stood without a rival in its own
country, while in European celebrity it took rank with the greatest
schools of the Western world. But to realize this Oxford of the past we
must dismiss from our minds all recollections of the Oxford of the
present. In the outer look of the new University there was nothing of the
pomp that overawes the freshman as he first paces the "High" or looks
down from the gallery of St. Mary's. In the stead of long fronts of
venerable colleges, of stately walks beneath immemorial elms, history
plunges us into the mean and filthy lanes of a mediæval town. Thousands
of boys, huddled in bare lodging-houses, clustering round teachers as
poor as themselves in church porch and house porch, drinking,
quarrelling, dicing, begging at the corners of the streets, take the
place of the brightly-coloured train of doctors and Heads. Mayor and
Chancellor struggled in vain to enforce order or peace on this seething
mass of turbulent life. The retainers who followed their young lords to
the University fought out the feuds of their houses in the streets.
Scholars from Kent and scholars from Scotland waged the bitter struggle
of North and South. At nightfall roysterer and reveller roamed with
torches through the narrow lanes, defying bailiffs, and cutting down
burghers at their doors. Now a mob of clerks plunged into the Jewry and
wiped off the memory of bills and bonds by sacking a Hebrew house or two.
Now a tavern squabble between scholar and townsman widened into a general
broil, and the academical bell of St. Mary's vied with the town bell of
St. Martin's in clanging to arms. Every phase of ecclesiastical
controversy or political strife was preluded by some fierce outbreak in
this turbulent, surging mob. When England growled at the exactions of the
Papacy in the years that were to follow the students besieged a legate in
the abbot's house at Osney. A murderous town and gown row preceded the
opening of the Barons' war. "When Oxford draws knife," ran an old rime,
"England's soon at strife."

[Sidenote: Edmund Rich]

But the turbulence and stir was a stir and turbulence of life. A keen
thirst for knowledge, a passionate poetry of devotion, gathered thousands
round the poorest scholar and welcomed the barefoot friar. Edmund Rich--
Archbishop of Canterbury and saint in later days--came about the time we
have reached to Oxford, a boy of twelve years old, from a little lane at
Abingdon that still bears his name. He found his school in an inn that
belonged to the abbey of Eynsham where his father had taken refuge from
the world. His mother was a pious woman of the day, too poor to give her
boy much outfit besides the hair shirt that he promised to wear every
Wednesday; but Edmund was no poorer than his neighbours. He plunged at
once into the nobler life of the place, its ardour for knowledge, its
mystical piety. "Secretly," perhaps at eventide when the shadows were
gathering in the church of St. Mary and the crowd of teachers and
students had left its aisles, the boy stood before an image of the
Virgin, and placing a ring of gold upon its finger took Mary for his
bride. Years of study, broken by a fever that raged among the crowded,
noisome streets, brought the time for completing his education at Paris;
and Edmund, hand in hand with a brother Robert of his, begged his way as
poor scholars were wont to the great school of Western Christendom. Here
a damsel, heedless of his tonsure, wooed him so pertinaciously that
Edmund consented at last to an assignation; but when he appeared it was
in company of grave academical officials who, as the maiden declared in
the hour of penitence which followed, "straightway whipped the offending
Eve out of her." Still true to his Virgin bridal, Edmund on his return
from Paris became the most popular of Oxford teachers. It is to him that
Oxford owes her first introduction to the Logic of Aristotle. We see him
in the little room which he hired, with the Virgin's chapel hard by, his
grey gown reaching to his feet, ascetic in his devotion, falling asleep
in lecture time after a sleepless night of prayer, but gifted with a
grace and cheerfulness of manner which told of his French training and a
chivalrous love of knowledge that let his pupils pay what they would.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," the young tutor would say, a touch of
scholarly pride perhaps mingling with his contempt of worldly things, as
he threw down the fee on the dusty window-ledge whence a thievish student
would sometimes run off with it. But even knowledge brought its troubles;
the Old Testament, which with a copy of the Decretals long formed his
sole library, frowned down upon a love of secular learning from which
Edmund found it hard to wean himself. At last, in some hour of dream, the
form of his dead mother floated into the room where the teacher stood
among his mathematical diagrams. "What are these?" she seemed to say; and
seizing Edmund's right hand, she drew on the palm three circles
interlaced, each of which bore the name of a Person of the Christian
Trinity. "Be these," she cried, as the figure faded away, "thy diagrams
henceforth, my son."

[Sidenote: The University and Feudalism]

The story admirably illustrates the real character of the new training,
and the latent opposition between the spirit of the Universities and the
spirit of the Church. The feudal and ecclesiastical order of the old
mediæval world were both alike threatened by this power that had so
strangely sprung up in the midst of them. Feudalism rested on local
isolation, on the severance of kingdom from kingdom and barony from
barony, on the distinction of blood and race, on the supremacy of
material or brute force, on an allegiance determined by accidents of
place and social position. The University on the other hand was a protest
against this isolation of man from man. The smallest school was European
and not local. Not merely every province of France, but every people of
Christendom had its place among the "nations" of Paris or Padua. A common
language, the Latin tongue, superseded within academical bounds the
warring tongues of Europe. A common intellectual kinship and rivalry took
the place of the petty strifes which parted province from province or
realm from realm. What Church and Empire had both aimed at and both
failed in, the knitting of Christian nations together into a vast
commonwealth, the Universities for a time actually did. Dante felt
himself as little a stranger in the "Latin" quarter round Mont St.
Genevieve as under the arches of Bologna. Wandering Oxford scholars
carried the writings of Wyclif to the libraries of Prague. In England the
work of provincial fusion was less difficult or important than elsewhere,
but even in England work had to be done. The feuds of Northerner and
Southerner which so long disturbed the discipline of Oxford witnessed at
any rate to the fact that Northerner and Southerner had at last been
brought face to face in its streets. And here as elsewhere the spirit of
national isolation was held in check by the larger comprehensiveness of
the University. After the dissensions that threatened the prosperity of
Paris in the thirteenth century, Norman and Gascon mingled with
Englishmen in Oxford lecture-halls. Irish scholars were foremost in the
fray with the legate. At a later time the rising of Owen Glyndwr found
hundreds of Welshmen gathered round its teachers. And within this
strangely mingled mass society and government rested on a purely
democratic basis. Among Oxford scholars the son of the noble stood on
precisely the same footing with the poorest mendicant. Wealth, physical
strength, skill in arms, pride of ancestry and blood, the very grounds on
which feudal society rested, went for nothing in the lecture-room. The
University was a state absolutely self-governed, and whose citizens were
admitted by a purely intellectual franchise. Knowledge made the "master."
To know more than one's fellows was a man's sole claim to be a regent or
"ruler" in the schools. And within this intellectual aristocracy all were
equal. When the free commonwealth of the masters gathered in the aisles
of St. Mary's all had an equal right to counsel, all had an equal vote in
the final decision. Treasury and library were at their complete disposal.
It was their voice that named every officer, that proposed and sanctioned
every statute. Even the Chancellor, their head, who had at first been an
officer of the Bishop, became an elected officer of their own.

[Sidenote: The Universities and the Church]

If the democratic spirit of the Universities' threatened feudalism, their
spirit of intellectual enquiry threatened the Church. To all outer
seeming they were purely ecclesiastical bodies. The wide extension which
mediæval usage gave to the word "orders" gathered the whole educated
world within the pale of the clergy. Whatever might be their age or
proficiency, scholar and teacher alike ranked as clerks, free from lay
responsibilities or the control of civil tribunals, and amenable only to
the rule of the Bishop and the sentence of his spiritual courts. This
ecclesiastical character of the University appeared in that of its head.
The Chancellor, as we have seen, was at first no officer of the
University itself, but of the ecclesiastical body under whose shadow it
had sprung into life. At Oxford he was simply the local officer of the
Bishop of Lincoln, within whose immense diocese the University was then
situated. But this identification in outer form with the Church only
rendered more conspicuous the difference of spirit between them. The
sudden expansion of the field of education diminished the importance of
those purely ecclesiastical and theological studies which had hitherto
absorbed the whole intellectual energies of mankind. The revival of
classical literature, the rediscovery as it were of an older and a
greater world, the contact with a larger, freer life whether in mind, in
society, or in politics introduced a spirit of scepticism, of doubt, of
denial into the realms of unquestioning belief. Abelard claimed for
reason a supremacy over faith. Florentine poets discussed with a smile
the immortality of the soul. Even to Dante, while he censures these,
Virgil is as sacred as Jeremiah. The imperial ruler in whom the new
culture took its most notable form, Frederick the Second, the "World's
Wonder" of his time, was regarded by half Europe as no better than an
infidel. A faint revival of physical science, so long crushed as magic by
the dominant ecclesiasticism, brought Christians into perilous contact
with the Moslem and the Jew. The books of the Rabbis were no longer an
accursed thing to Roger Bacon. The scholars of Cordova were no mere
Paynim swine to Adelard of Bath. How slowly indeed and against what
obstacles science won its way we know from the witness of Roger Bacon.
"Slowly," he tells us, "has any portion of the philosophy of Aristotle
come into use among the Latins. His Natural Philosophy and his
Metaphysics, with the Commentaries of Averroes and others, were
translated in my time, and interdicted at Paris up to the year of grace
1237 because of their assertion of the eternity of the world and of time
and because of the book of the divinations by dreams (which is the third
book, De Somniis et Vigiliis) and because of many passages erroneously
translated. Even his logic was slowly received and lectured on. For St.
Edmund, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first in my time who read
the Elements at Oxford. And I have seen Master Hugo, who first read the
book of Posterior Analytics, and I have seen his writing. So there were
but few, considering the multitude of the Latins, who were of any account
in the philosophy of Aristotle; nay, very few indeed, and scarcely any up
to this year of grace 1292."

[Sidenote: The Town]

If we pass from the English University to the English Town we see a
progress as important and hardly less interesting. In their origin our
boroughs were utterly unlike those of the rest of the western world. The
cities of Italy and Provence had preserved the municipal institutions of
their Roman past; the German towns had been founded by Henry the Fowler
with the purpose of sheltering industry from the feudal oppression around
them; the communes of Northern France sprang into existence in revolt
against feudal outrage within their walls. But in England the tradition
of Rome passed utterly away, while feudal oppression was held fairly in
check by the Crown. The English town therefore was in its beginning
simply a piece of the general country, organized and governed precisely
in the same manner as the townships around it. Its existence witnessed
indeed to the need which men felt in those earlier times of mutual help
and protection. The burh or borough was probably a more defensible place
than the common village; it may have had a ditch or mound about it
instead of the quickset-hedge or "tun" from which the township took its
name. But in itself it was simply a township or group of townships where
men clustered whether for trade or defence more thickly than elsewhere.
The towns were different in the circumstances and date of their rise.
Some grew up in the fortified camps of the English invaders. Some dated
from a later occupation of the sacked and desolate Roman towns. Some
clustered round the country houses of king and ealdorman or the walls of
church and monastery. Towns like Bristol were the direct result of trade.
There was the same variety in the mode in which the various town
communities were formed. While the bulk of them grew by simple increase
of population from township to town, larger boroughs such as York with
its "six shires" or London with its wards and sokes and franchises show
how families and groups of settlers settled down side by side, and
claimed as they coalesced, each for itself, its shire or share of the
town-ground while jealously preserving its individual life within the
town-community. But strange as these aggregations might be, the
constitution of the borough which resulted from them was simply that of
the people at large. Whether we regard it as a township, or rather from
its size as a hundred or collection of townships, the obligations of the
dwellers within its bounds were those of the townships round, to keep
fence and trench in good repair, to send a contingent to the fyrd, and a
reeve and four men to the hundred court and shire court. As in other
townships, land was a necessary accompaniment of freedom. The landless
man who dwelled in a borough had no share in its corporate life; for
purposes of government or property the town consisted simply of the
landed proprietors within its bounds. The common lands which are still
attached to many of our boroughs take us back to a time when each
township lay within a ring or mark of open ground which served at once as
boundary and pasture land. Each of the four wards of York had its common
pasture; Oxford has still its own "Port-meadow."

[Sidenote: Towns and their lords]

The inner rule of the borough lay as in the townships about it in the
hands of its own freemen, gathered in "borough-moot" or "portmanni-mote."
But the social change brought about by the Danish wars, the legal
requirement that each man should have a lord, affected the towns as it
affected the rest of the country. Some passed into the hands of great
thegns near to them; the bulk became known as in the demesne of the king.
A new officer, the lord's or king's reeve, was a sign of this revolution.
It was the reeve who now summoned the borough-moot and administered
justice in it; it was he who collected the lord's dues or annual rent of
the town, and who exacted the services it owed to its lord. To modern
eyes these services would imply almost complete subjection. When
Leicester, for instance, passed from the hands of the Conqueror into
those of its Earls, its townsmen were bound to reap their lord's
corn-crops, to grind at his mill, to redeem their strayed cattle from his
pound. The great forest around was the Earl's, and it was only out of his
grace that the little borough could drive its swine into the woods or
pasture its cattle in the glades. The justice and government of a town
lay wholly in its master's hands; he appointed its bailiffs, received the
fines and forfeitures of his tenants, and the fees and tolls of their
markets and fairs. But in fact when once these dues were paid and these
services rendered the English townsman was practically free. His rights
were as rigidly defined by custom as those of his lord. Property and
person alike were secured against arbitrary seizure. He could demand a
fair trial on any charge, and even if justice was administered by his
master's reeve it was administered in the presence and with the assent of
his fellow-townsmen. The bell which swung out from the town tower
gathered the burgesses to a common meeting, where they could exercise
rights of free speech and free deliberation on their own affairs. Their
merchant-gild over its ale-feast regulated trade, distributed the sums
due from the town among the different burgesses, looked to the due
repairs of gate and wall, and acted in fact pretty much the same part as
a town-council of to-day.

[Sidenote: The Merchant Gild]

The merchant-gild was the outcome of a tendency to closer association
which found support in those principles of mutual aid and mutual
restraint that lay at the base of our old institutions. Gilds or clubs
for religious, charitable, or social purposes were common throughout the
country, and especially common in boroughs, where men clustered more
thickly together. Each formed a sort of artificial family. An oath of
mutual fidelity among its members was substituted for the tie of blood,
while the gild-feast, held once a month in the common hall, replaced the
gathering of the kinsfolk round their family hearth. But within this new
family the aim of the gild was to establish a mutual responsibility as
close as that of the old. "Let all share the same lot," ran its law; "if
any misdo, let all bear it." A member could look for aid from his
gild-brothers in atoning for guilt incurred by mishap. He could call on
them for assistance in case of violence or wrong. If falsely accused they
appeared in court as his compurgators, if poor they supported, and when
dead they buried him. On the other hand he was responsible to them, as
they were to the State, for order and obedience to the laws. A wrong of
brother against brother was also a wrong against the general body of the
gild and was punished by fine or in the last resort by an expulsion which
left the offender a "lawless" man and an outcast. The one difference
between these gilds in country and town was this, that in the latter case
from their close local neighbourhood they tended inevitably to coalesce.
Under Æthelstan the London gilds united into one for the purpose of
carrying out more effectually their common aims, and at a later time we
find the gilds of Berwick enacting "that where many bodies are found side
by side in one place they may become one, and have one will, and in the
dealings of one with another have a strong and hearty love." The process
was probably a long and difficult one, for the brotherhoods naturally
differed much in social rank, and even after the union was effected we
see traces of the separate existence to a certain extent of some one or
more of the wealthier or more aristocratic gilds. In London for instance
the Cnighten-gild which seems to have stood at the head of its fellows
retained for a long time its separate property, while its Alderman--as
the chief officer of each gild was called--became the Alderman of the
united gild of the whole city. In Canterbury we find a similar gild of
Thanes from which the chief officers of the town seem commonly to have
been selected. Imperfect however as the union might be, when once it was
effected the town passed from a mere collection of brotherhoods into a
powerful community, far more effectually organized than in the loose
organization of the township, and whose character was inevitably
determined by the circumstances of its origin. In their beginnings our
boroughs seem to have been mainly gatherings of persons engaged in
agricultural pursuits; the first Dooms of London provide especially for
the recovery of cattle belonging to the citizens. But as the increasing
security of the country invited the farmer or the landowner to settle
apart in his own fields, and the growth of estate and trade told on the
towns themselves, the difference between town and country became more
sharply defined. London of course took the lead in this new developement
of civic life. Even in Æthelstan's day every London merchant who had made
three long voyages on his own account ranked as a Thegn. Its "lithsmen,"
or shipmen's-gild, were of sufficient importance under Harthacnut to
figure in the election of a king, and its principal street still tells of
the rapid growth of trade in its name of "Cheap-side" or the bargaining
place. But at the Norman Conquest the commercial tendency had become
universal. The name given to the united brotherhood in a borough is in
almost every case no longer that of the "town-gild," but of the

[Sidenote: Emancipation of Towns]

This social change in the character of the townsmen produced important
results in the character of their municipal institutions. In becoming a
merchant-gild the body of citizens who formed the "town" enlarged their
powers of civic legislation by applying them to the control of their
internal trade. It became their special business to obtain from the crown
or from their lords wider commercial privileges, rights of coinage,
grants of fairs, and exemption from tolls, while within the town itself
they framed regulations as to the sale and quality of goods, the control
of markets, and the recovery of debts. It was only by slow and difficult
advances that each step in this securing of privilege was won. Still it
went steadily on. Whenever we get a glimpse of the inner history of an
English town we find the same peaceful revolution in progress, services
disappearing through disuse or omission, while privileges and immunities
are being purchased in hard cash. The lord of the town, whether he were
king, baron, or abbot, was commonly thriftless or poor, and the capture
of a noble, or the campaign of a sovereign, or the building of some new
minster by a prior, brought about an appeal to the thrifty burghers, who
were ready to fill again their master's treasury at the price of the
strip of parchment which gave them freedom of trade, of justice, and of
government. In the silent growth and elevation of the English people the
boroughs thus led the way. Unnoticed and despised by prelate and noble
they preserved or won back again the full tradition of Teutonic liberty.
The right of self-government, the right of free speech in free meeting,
the right to equal justice at the hands of one's equals, were brought
safely across ages of tyranny by the burghers and shopkeepers of
the towns. In the quiet quaintly-named streets, in town-mead and
market-place, in the lord's mill beside the stream, in the bell that
swung out its summons to the crowded borough-mote, in merchant-gild, and
church-gild and craft-gild, lay the life of Englishmen who were doing
more than knight and baron to make England what she is, the life of their
home and their trade, of their sturdy battle with oppression, their
steady, ceaseless struggle for right and freedom.

[Sidenote: London]

London stood first among English towns, and the privileges which its
citizens won became precedents for the burghers of meaner boroughs. Even
at the Conquest its power and wealth secured it a full recognition of all
its ancient privileges from the Conqueror. In one way indeed it profited
by the revolution which laid England at the feet of the stranger. One
immediate result of William's success was an immigration into England
from the Continent. A peaceful invasion of the Norman traders followed
quick on the invasion of the Norman soldiery. Every Norman noble as he
quartered himself upon English lands, every Norman abbot as he entered
his English cloister, gathered French artists, French shopkeepers, French
domestics about him. Round the Abbey of Battle which William founded on
the site of his great victory "Gilbert the Foreigner, Gilbert the Weaver,
Benet the Steward, Hugh the Secretary, Baldwin the Tailor," dwelt mixed
with the English tenantry. But nowhere did these immigrants play so
notable a part as in London. The Normans had had mercantile
establishments in London as early as the reign of Æthelred, if not of
Eadgar. Such settlements however naturally formed nothing more than a
trading colony like the colony of the "Emperor's Men," or Easterlings.
But with the Conquest their number greatly increased. "Many of the
citizens of Rouen and Caen passed over thither, preferring to be dwellers
in this city, inasmuch as it was fitter for their trading and better
stored with the merchandise in which they were wont to traffic." The
status of these traders indeed had wholly changed. They could no longer
be looked upon as strangers in cities which had passed under the Norman
rule. In some cases, as at Norwich, the French colony isolated itself in
a separate French town, side by side with the English borough. But in
London it seems to have taken at once the position of a governing class.
Gilbert Beket, the father of the famous Archbishop, was believed in later
days to have been one of the portreeves of London, the predecessors of
its mayors; he held in Stephen's time a large property in houses within
the walls, and a proof of his civic importance was preserved in the
annual visit of each newly-elected chief magistrate to his tomb in a
little chapel which he had founded in the churchyard of St. Paul's. Yet
Gilbert was one of the Norman strangers who followed in the wake of the
Conqueror; he was by birth a burgher of Rouen, as his wife was of a
burgher family from Caen.

[Sidenote: Freedom of London]

It was partly to this infusion of foreign blood, partly no doubt to the
long internal peace and order secured by the Norman rule, that London
owed the wealth and importance to which it attained during the reign of
Henry the First. The charter which Henry granted it became a model for
lesser boroughs. The king yielded its citizens the right of justice; each
townsman could claim to be tried by his fellow-townsmen in the town-court
or hustings whose sessions took place every week. They were subject only
to the old English trial by oath, and exempt from the trial by battle
which the Normans introduced. Their trade was protected from toll or
exaction over the length and breadth of the land. The king however still
nominated in London as elsewhere the portreeve, or magistrate of the
town, nor were the citizens as yet united together in a commune or
corporation. But an imperfect civic organization existed in the "wards"
or quarters of the town, each governed by its own alderman, and in the
"gilds" or voluntary associations of merchants or traders which ensured
order and mutual protection for their members. Loose too as these bonds
may seem, they were drawn firmly together by the older English traditions
of freedom which the towns preserved. The London burgesses gathered in
their town-mote when the bell swung out from the bell-tower of St. Paul's
to deliberate freely on their own affairs under the presidency of their
alderman. Here, too, they mustered in arms if danger threatened the city,
and delivered the town-banner to their captain, the Norman baron
Fitz-Walter, to lead them against the enemy.

[Sidenote: Early Oxford]

Few boroughs had as yet attained to such power as this, but the instance
of Oxford shows how the freedom of London told on the general advance of
English towns. In spite of antiquarian fancies it is certain that no town
had arisen on the site of Oxford for centuries after the withdrawal of
the Roman legions from the isle of Britain. Though the monastery of St.
Frideswide rose in the turmoil of the eighth century on the slope which
led down to a ford across the Thames, it is long before we get a glimpse
of the borough that must have grown up under its walls. The first
definite evidence for its existence lies in a brief entry of the English
Chronicle which recalls its seizure by Eadward the Elder, but the form of
this entry shows that the town was already a considerable one, and in the
last wrestle of England with the Dane its position on the borders of
Mercia and Wessex combined with its command of the upper valley of the
Thames to give it military and political importance. Of the life of its
burgesses however we still know little or nothing. The names of its
parishes, St. Aldate, St. Ebbe, St. Mildred, St. Edmund, show how early
church after church gathered round the earlier town-church of St. Martin.
But the men of the little town remain dim to us. Their town-mote, or the
"Portmannimote" as it was called, which was held in the churchyard of St.
Martin, still lives in a shadow of its older self as the Freeman's Common
Hall--their town-mead is still the Port-meadow. But it is only by later
charters or the record of Domesday that we see them going on pilgrimage
to the shrines of Winchester, or chaffering in their market-place, or
judging and law-making in their hustings, their merchant-gild regulating
trade, their reeve gathering his king's dues of tax or money or
marshalling his troop of burghers for the king's wars, their boats paying
toll of a hundred herrings in Lent-tide to the Abbot of Abingdon, as they
floated down the Thames towards London.

[Sidenote: Oxford and the Normans]

The number of houses marked waste in the survey marks the terrible
suffering of Oxford in the Norman Conquest: but the ruin was soon
repaired, and the erection of its castle, the rebuilding of its churches,
the planting of a Jewry in the heart of the town, showed in what various
ways the energy of its new masters was giving an impulse to its life. It
is a proof of the superiority of the Hebrew dwellings to the Christian
houses about them that each of the later town-halls of the borough had,
before their expulsion, been houses of Jews. Nearly all the larger
dwelling houses in fact which were subsequently converted into academic
halls bore traces of the same origin in names such as Moysey's Hall,
Lombard's Hall, or Jacob's Hall. The Jewish houses were abundant, for
besides the greater Jewry in the heart of it, there was a lesser Jewry
scattered over its southern quarter, and we can hardly doubt that this
abundance of substantial buildings in the town was at least one of the
causes which drew teachers and scholars within its walls. The Jewry, a
town within a town, lay here as elsewhere isolated and exempt from the
common justice, the common life and self-government of the borough. On
all but its eastern side too the town was hemmed in by jurisdictions
independent of its own. The precincts of the Abbey of Osney, the wide
"bailey" of the Castle, bounded it narrowly on the west. To the north,
stretching away beyond the little church of St. Giles, lay the fields of
the royal manor of Beaumont. The Abbot of Abingdon, whose woods of Cumnor
and Bagley closed the southern horizon, held his leet-court in the hamlet
of Grampound beyond the bridge. Nor was the whole space within the walls
subject to the self-government of the citizens. The Jewry had a rule and
law of its own. Scores of householders, dotted over street and lane, were
tenants of castle or abbey and paid no suit or service at the borough

[Sidenote: Oxford and London]

But within these narrow bounds and amidst these various obstacles the
spirit of municipal liberty lived a life the more intense that it was so
closely cabined and confined. Nowhere indeed was the impulse which London
was giving likely to tell with greater force. The "bargemen" of Oxford
were connected even before the Conquest with the "boatmen," or shippers,
of the capital. In both cases it is probable that the bodies bearing
these names represented what is known as the merchant-gild of the town.
Royal recognition enables us to trace the merchant-gild of Oxford from
the time of Henry the First. Even then lands, islands, pastures belonged
to it, and amongst them the same Port-meadow which is familiar to Oxford
men pulling lazily on a summer's noon to Godstow. The connexion between
the two gilds was primarily one of trade. "In the time of King Eadward
and Abbot Ordric" the channel of the Thames beneath the walls of the
Abbey of Abingdon became so blocked up that boats could scarce pass as
far as Oxford, and it was at the joint prayer of the burgesses of London
and Oxford that the abbot dug a new channel through the meadow to the
south of his church. But by the time of Henry the Second closer bonds
than this linked the two cities together. In case of any doubt or contest
about judgements in their own court the burgesses of Oxford were
empowered to refer the matter to the decision of London, "and whatsoever
the citizens of London shall adjudge in such cases shall be deemed
right." The judicial usages, the municipal rights of each city were
assimilated by Henry's charter. "Of whatsoever matter the men of Oxford
be put in plea, they shall deraign themselves according to the law and
custom of the city of London and not otherwise, because they and the
citizens of London are of one and the same custom, law, and liberty."

[Sidenote: Life of the Town]

A legal connexion such as this could hardly fail to bring with it an
identity of municipal rights. Oxford had already passed through the
earlier steps of her advance towards municipal freedom before the
conquest of the Norman. Her burghers assembled in their own
Portmannimote, and their dues to the crown were assessed at a fixed sum
of honey or coin. But the formal definition of their rights dates, as in
the case of London, from the time of Henry the First. The customs and
exemptions of its townsmen were confirmed by Henry the Second "as ever
they enjoyed them in the time of Henry my grandfather, and in like manner
as my citizens of London hold them." By this date the town had attained
entire judicial and commercial freedom, and liberty of external commerce
was secured by the exemption of its citizens from toll on the king's
lands. Complete independence was reached when a charter of John
substituted a mayor of the town's own choosing for the reeve or bailiff
of the crown. But dry details such as these tell little of the quick
pulse of popular life that beat in the thirteenth century through such a
community as that of Oxford. The church of St. Martin in the very heart
of it, at the "Quatrevoix" or Carfax where its four streets met, was the
centre of the city life. The town-mote was held in its churchyard.
Justice was administered ere yet a townhall housed the infant magistracy
by mayor or bailiff sitting beneath a low pent-house, the "penniless
bench" of later days, outside its eastern wall. Its bell summoned the
burghers to council or arms. Around the church the trade-gilds were
ranged as in some vast encampment. To the south of it lay Spicery and
Vintnery, the quarter of the richer burgesses. Fish-street fell noisily
down to the bridge and the ford. The Corn-market occupied then as now the
street which led to Northgate. The stalls of the butchers stretched along
the "Butcher-row," which formed the road to the bailey and the castle.
Close beneath the church lay a nest of huddled lanes, broken by a stately
synagogue, and traversed from time to time by the yellow gaberdine of the
Jew. Soldiers from the castle rode clashing through the narrow streets;
the bells of Osney clanged from the swampy meadows; processions of
pilgrims wound through gates and lane to the shrine of St. Frideswide.
Frays were common enough; now the sack of a Jew's house; now burgher
drawing knife on burgher; now an outbreak of the young student lads who
were growing every day in numbers and audacity. But as yet the town was
well in hand. The clang of the city bell called every citizen to his
door; the call of the mayor brought trade after trade with bow in hand
and banners flying to enforce the king's peace.

[Sidenote: St. Edmundsbury]

The advance of towns which had grown up not on the royal domain but
around abbey or castle was slower and more difficult. The story of St.
Edmundsbury shows how gradual was the transition from pure serfage to an
imperfect freedom. Much that had been plough-land here in the Confessor's
time was covered with houses by the time of Henry the Second. The
building of the great abbey-church drew its craftsmen and masons to
mingle with the ploughmen and reapers of the Abbot's domain. The troubles
of the time helped here as elsewhere the progress of the town; serfs,
fugitives from justice or their lord, the trader, the Jew, naturally
sought shelter under the strong hand of St. Edmund. But the settlers were
wholly at the Abbot's mercy. Not a settler but was bound to pay his pence
to the Abbot's treasury, to plough a rood of his land, to reap in his
harvest-field, to fold his sheep in the Abbey folds, to help bring the
annual catch of eels from the Abbey waters. Within the four crosses that
bounded the Abbot's domain land and water were his; the cattle of the
townsmen paid for their pasture on the common; if the fullers refused the
loan of their cloth the cellarer would refuse the use of the stream and
seize their cloths wherever he found them. No toll might be levied from
tenants of the Abbey farms, and customers had to wait before shop and
stall till the buyers of the Abbot had had the pick of the market. There
was little chance of redress, for if burghers complained in folk-mote it
was before the Abbot's officers that its meeting was held; if they
appealed to the alderman he was the Abbot's nominee and received the
horn, the symbol of his office, at the Abbot's hands. Like all the
greater revolutions of society, the advance from this mere serfage was a
silent one; indeed its more galling instances of oppression seem to have
slipped unconsciously away. Some, like the eel-fishing, were commuted for
an easy rent; others, like the slavery of the fullers and the toll of
flax, simply disappeared. By usage, by omission, by downright
forgetfulness, here by a little struggle, there by a present to a needy
abbot, the town won freedom.

[Sidenote: The Towns and Justice]

But progress was not always unconscious, and one incident in the history
of St. Edmundsbury is remarkable, not merely as indicating the advance of
law, but yet more as marking the part which a new moral sense of man's
right to equal justice was to play in the general advance of the realm.
Rude as the borough was, it possessed the right of meeting in full
assembly of the townsmen for government and law. Justice was administered
in presence of the burgesses, and the accused acquitted or condemned by
the oath of his neighbours. Without the borough bounds however the system
of Norman judicature prevailed; and the rural tenants who did suit and
service at the Cellarer's court were subjected to the trial by battle.
The execution of a farmer named Ketel who came under this feudal
jurisdiction brought the two systems into vivid contrast. Ketel seems to
have been guiltless of the crime laid to his charge; but the duel went
against him and he was hung just without the gates. The taunts of the
townsmen woke his fellow farmers to a sense of wrong. "Had Ketel been a
dweller within the borough," said the burgesses, "he would have got his
acquittal from the oaths of his neighbours, as our liberty is"; and even
the monks were moved to a decision that their tenants should enjoy equal
freedom and justice with the townsmen. The franchise of the town was
extended to the rural possessions of the Abbey without it; the farmers
"came to the toll-house, were written in the alderman's roll, and paid
the town-penny." A chance story preserved in a charter of later date
shows the same struggle for justice going on in a greater town. At
Leicester the trial by compurgation, the rough predecessor of trial by
jury, had been abolished by the Earls in favour of trial by battle. The
aim of the burgesses was to regain their old justice, and in this a
touching incident at last made them successful. "It chanced that two
kinsmen, Nicholas the son of Acon and Geoffrey the son of Nicholas, waged
a duel about a certain piece of land concerning which a dispute had
arisen between them; and they fought from the first to the ninth hour,
each conquering by turns. Then one of them fleeing from the other till he
came to a certain little pit, as he stood on the brink of the pit and was
about to fall therein, his kinsman said to him 'Take care of the pit,
turn back, lest thou shouldest fall into it.' Thereat so much clamour and
noise was made by the bystanders and those who were sitting around that
the Earl heard these clamours as far off as the castle, and he enquired
of some how it was there was such a clamour, and answer was made to him
that two kinsmen were fighting about a certain piece of ground, and that
one had fled till he reached a certain little pit, and that as he stood
over the pit and was about to fall into it the other warned him. Then the
townsmen being moved with pity, made a covenant with the Earl that they
should give him threepence yearly for each house in the High Street
that had a gable, on condition that he should grant to them that the
twenty-four jurors who were in Leicester from ancient times should from
that time forward discuss and decide all pleas they might have among

[Sidenote: Division of Labour]

At the time we have reached this struggle for emancipation was nearly
over. The larger towns had secured the privilege of self-government, the
administration of justice, and the control of their own trade. The reigns
of Richard and John mark the date in our municipal history at which towns
began to acquire the right of electing their own chief magistrate, the
Portreeve or Mayor, who had till then been a nominee of the crown. But
with the close of this outer struggle opened an inner struggle between
the various classes of the townsmen themselves. The growth of wealth and
industry was bringing with it a vast increase of population. The mass of
the new settlers, composed as they were of escaped serfs, of traders
without landed holdings, of families who had lost their original lot in
the borough, and generally of the artizans and the poor, had no part in
the actual life of the town. The right of trade and of the regulation of
trade in common with all other forms of jurisdiction lay wholly in the
hands of the landed burghers whom we have described. By a natural process
too their superiority in wealth produced a fresh division between the
"burghers" of the merchant-gild and the unenfranchised mass around them.
The same change which severed at Florence the seven Greater Arts or
trades from the fourteen Lesser Arts, and which raised the three
occupations of banking, the manufacture and the dyeing of cloth, to a
position of superiority even within the privileged circle of the seven,
told though with less force on the English boroughs. The burghers of the
merchant-gild gradually concentrated themselves on the greater operations
of commerce, on trades which required a larger capital, while the meaner
employments of general traffic were abandoned to their poorer neighbours.
This advance in the division of labour is marked by such severances as we
note in the thirteenth century of the cloth merchant from the tailor or
the leather merchant from the butcher.

[Sidenote: Trade-Gilds]

But the result of this severance was all-important in its influence on
the constitution of our towns. The members of the trades thus abandoned
by the wealthier burghers formed themselves into Craft-gilds which soon
rose into dangerous rivalry with the original Merchant-gild of the town.
A seven years' apprenticeship formed the necessary prelude to full
membership of these trade-gilds. Their regulations were of the minutest
character; the quality and value of work were rigidly prescribed, the
hours of toil fixed "from day-break to curfew," and strict provision made
against competition in labour. At each meeting of these gilds their
members gathered round the Craft-box which contained the rules of their
Society, and stood with bared heads as it was opened. The warden and a
quorum of gild-brothers formed a court which enforced the ordinances of
the gild, inspected all work done by its members, confiscated unlawful
tools or unworthy goods; and disobedience to their orders was punished by
fines or in the last resort by expulsion, which involved the loss of a
right to trade. A common fund was raised by contributions among the
members, which not only provided for the trade objects of the gild but
sufficed to found chantries and masses and set up painted windows in the
church of their patron saint. Even at the present day the arms of a
craft-gild may often be seen blazoned in cathedrals side by side with
those of prelates and of kings. But it was only by slow degrees that they
rose to such a height as this. The first steps in their existence were
the most difficult, for to enable a trade-gild to carry out its objects
with any success it was first necessary that the whole body of craftsmen
belonging to the trade should be compelled to join the gild, and secondly
that a legal control over the trade itself should be secured to it. A
royal charter was indispensable for these purposes, and over the grant of
these charters took place the first struggle with the merchant-gilds
which had till then solely exercised jurisdiction over trade within the
boroughs. The weavers, who were the first trade-gild to secure royal
sanction in the reign of Henry the First, were still engaged in a contest
for existence as late as the reign of John when the citizens of London
bought for a time the suppression of their gild. Even under the House of
Lancaster Exeter was engaged in resisting the establishment of a tailors'
gild. From the eleventh century however the spread of these societies
went steadily on, and the control of trade passed more and more from the
merchant-gilds to the craft-gilds.

[Sidenote: Greater and Lesser Folk]

It is this struggle, to use the technical terms of the time, of the
"greater folk" against the "lesser folk," or of the "commune," the
general mass of the inhabitants, against the "prudhommes," or "wiser"
few, which brought about, as it passed from the regulation of trade to
the general government of the town, the great civic revolution of the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. On the Continent, and especially
along the Rhine, the struggle was as fierce as the supremacy of the older
burghers had been complete. In Köln the craftsmen had been reduced to all
but serfage, and the merchant of Brussels might box at his will the ears
of "the man without heart or honour who lives by his toil." Such social
tyranny of class over class brought a century of bloodshed to the cities
of Germany; but in England the tyranny of class over class was restrained
by the general tenor of the law, and the revolution took for the most
part a milder form. The longest and bitterest strife of all was naturally
at London. Nowhere had the territorial constitution struck root so
deeply, and nowhere had the landed oligarchy risen to such a height of
wealth and influence. The city was divided into wards, each of which was
governed by an alderman drawn from the ruling class. In some indeed the
office seems to have become hereditary. The "magnates," or "barons," of
the merchant-gild advised alone on all matters of civic government or
trade regulation, and distributed or assessed at their will the revenues
or burthens of the town. Such a position afforded an opening for
corruption and oppression of the most galling kind; and it seems to have
been a general impression of the unfair assessment of the dues levied on
the poor and the undue burthens which were thrown on the unenfranchised
classes which provoked the first serious discontent. In the reign of
Richard the First William of the Long Beard, though one of the governing
body, placed himself at the head of a conspiracy which in the
panic-stricken fancy of the burghers numbered fifty thousand of the
craftsmen. His eloquence, his bold defiance of the aldermen in the
town-mote, gained him at any rate a wide popularity, and the crowds who
surrounded him hailed him as "the saviour of the poor." One of his
addresses is luckily preserved to us by a hearer of the time. In mediæval
fashion he began with a text from the Vulgate, "Ye shall draw water with
joy from the fountain of the Saviour." "I," he began, "am the saviour of
the poor. Ye poor men who have felt the weight of rich men's hands, draw
from my fountain waters of wholesome instruction and that with joy, for
the time of your visitation is at hand. For I will divide the waters from
the waters. It is the people who are the waters, and I will divide the
lowly and faithful folk from the proud and faithless folk; I will part
the chosen from the reprobate as light from darkness." But it was in vain
that he strove to win royal favour for the popular cause. The support of
the moneyed classes was essential to Richard in the costly wars with
Philip of France; and the Justiciar, Archbishop Hubert, after a moment of
hesitation issued orders for William Longbeard's arrest. William felled
with an axe the first soldier who advanced to seize him, and taking
refuge with a few adherents in the tower of St. Mary-le-Bow summoned his
adherents to rise. Hubert however, who had already flooded the city with
troops, with bold contempt of the right of sanctuary set fire to the
tower. William was forced to surrender, and a burgher's son, whose father
he had slain, stabbed him as he came forth. With his death the quarrel
slumbered for more than fifty years. But the movement towards equality
went steadily on. Under pretext of preserving the peace the
unenfranchised townsmen united in secret frith-gilds of their own, and
mobs rose from time to time to sack the houses of foreigners and the
wealthier burgesses. Nor did London stand alone in this movement. In all
the larger towns the same discontent prevailed, the same social growth
called for new institutions, and in their silent revolt against the
oppression of the Merchant-gild the Craft-gilds were training themselves
to stand forward as champions of a wider liberty in the Barons' War.

[Sidenote: The Villein]

Without the towns progress was far slower and more fitful. It would seem
indeed that the conquest of the Norman bore harder on the rural
population than on any other class of Englishmen. Under the later kings
of the house of Ælfred the number of absolute slaves and the number of
freemen had alike diminished. The pure slave class had never been
numerous, and it had been reduced by the efforts of the Church, perhaps
by the general convulsion of the Danish wars. But these wars had often
driven the ceorl or freeman of the township to "commend" himself to a
thegn who pledged him his protection in consideration of payment in a
rendering of labour. It is probable that these dependent ceorls are the
"villeins" of the Norman epoch, the most numerous class of the Domesday
Survey, men sunk indeed from pure freedom and bound both to soil and
lord, but as yet preserving much of their older rights, retaining their
land, free as against all men but their lord, and still sending
representatives to hundred-moot and shire-moot. They stood therefore far
above the "landless man," the man who had never possessed even under the
old constitution political rights, whom the legislation of the English
kings had forced to attach himself to a lord on pain of outlawry, and who
served as household servant or as hired labourer or at the best as
rent-paying tenant of land which was not his own. The Norman knight or
lawyer however saw little distinction between these classes; and the
tendency of legislation under the Angevins was to blend all in a single
class of serfs. While the pure "theow" or absolute slave disappeared
therefore the ceorl or villein sank lower in the social scale. But though
the rural population was undoubtedly thrown more together and fused into
a more homogeneous class, its actual position corresponded very
imperfectly with the view of the lawyers. All indeed were dependents on a
lord. The manor-house became the centre of every English village. The
manor-court was held in its hall; it was here that the lord or his
steward received homage, recovered fines, held the view of frank-pledge,
or enrolled the villagers in their tithing. Here too, if the lord
possessed criminal jurisdiction, was held his justice court, and without
its doors stood his gallows. Around it lay the lord's demesne or
home-farm, and the cultivation of this rested wholly with the "villeins"
of the manor. It was by them that the great barn was filled with sheaves,
the sheep shorn, the grain malted, the wood hewn for the manor-hall fire.
These services were the labour-rent by which they held their lands, and
it was the nature and extent of this labour-rent which parted one class
of the population from another. The "villein," in the strict sense of the
word, was bound only to gather in his lord's harvest and to aid in the
ploughing and sowing of autumn and Lent. The cottar, the bordar, and the
labourer were bound to help in the work of the home-farm throughout the

But these services and the time of rendering them were strictly limited
by custom, not only in the case of the ceorl or villein but in that of
the originally meaner "landless man." The possession of his little
homestead with the ground around it, the privilege of turning out his
cattle on the waste of the manor, passed quietly and insensibly from mere
indulgences that could be granted or withdrawn at a lord's caprice into
rights that could be pleaded at law. The number of teams, the fines, the
reliefs, the services that a lord could claim, at first mere matter of
oral tradition, came to be entered on the court-roll of the manor, a copy
of which became the title-deed of the villein. It was to this that he
owed the name of "copy-holder" which at a later time superseded his older
title. Disputes were settled by a reference to this roll or on oral
evidence of the custom at issue, but a social arrangement which was
eminently characteristic of the English spirit of compromise generally
secured a fair adjustment of the claims of villein and lord. It was the
duty of the lord's bailiff to exact their due services from the villeins,
but his coadjutor in this office, the reeve or foreman of the manor, was
chosen by the tenants themselves and acted as representative of their
interests and rights. A fresh step towards freedom was made by the
growing tendency to commute labour-services for money-payments. The
population was slowly increasing, and as the law of gavel-kind which was
applicable to all landed estates not held by military tenure divided the
inheritance of the tenantry equally among their sons, the holding of each
tenant and the services due from it became divided in a corresponding
degree. A labour-rent thus became more difficult to enforce, while the
increase of wealth among the tenantry and the rise of a new spirit of
independence made it more burthensome to those who rendered it. It was
probably from this cause that the commutation of the arrears of labour
for a money payment, which had long prevailed on every estate, gradually
developed into a general commutation of services. We have already
witnessed the silent progress of this remarkable change in the
case of St. Edmundsbury, but the practice soon became universal, and
"malt-silver," "wood-silver," and "larder-silver" gradually took the
place of the older personal services on the court-rolls. The process of
commutation was hastened by the necessities of the lords themselves. The
luxury of the castle-hall, the splendour and pomp of chivalry, the cost
of campaigns drained the purses of knight and baron, and the sale of
freedom to a serf or exemption from services to a villein afforded an
easy and tempting mode of refilling them. In this process even kings took
part. At a later time, under Edward the Third, commissioners were sent to
royal estates for the especial purpose of selling manumissions to the
king's serfs; and we still possess the names of those who were
enfranchised with their families by a payment of hard cash in aid of the
exhausted exchequer.

[Sidenote: England]

Such was the people which had been growing into a national unity and a
national vigour while English king and English baronage battled for rule.
But king and baronage themselves had changed like townsman and ceorl. The
loss of Normandy, entailing as it did the loss of their Norman lands, was
the last of many influences which had been giving through a century and a
half a national temper to the baronage. Not only the "new men," the
ministers out of whom the two Henries had raised a nobility, were bound
to the Crown, but the older feudal houses now owned themselves as
Englishmen and set aside their aims after personal independence for a
love of the general freedom of the land. They stood out as the natural
leaders of a people bound together by the stern government which had
crushed all local division, which had accustomed men to the enjoyment of
a peace and justice that imperfect as it seems to modern eyes was almost
unexampled elsewhere in Europe, and which had trained them to something
of their old free government again by the very machinery of election it
used to facilitate its heavy taxation. On the other hand the loss of
Normandy brought home the king. The growth which had been going on had
easily escaped the eyes of rulers who were commonly absent from the realm
and busy with the affairs of countries beyond the sea. Henry the Second
had been absent for years from England: Richard had only visited it twice
for a few months: John had as yet been almost wholly occupied with his
foreign dominions. To him as to his brother England had as yet been
nothing but a land whose gold paid the mercenaries that followed him, and
whose people bowed obediently to his will. It was easy to see that
between such a ruler and such a nation once brought together strife must
come: but that the strife came as it did and ended as it did was due
above all to the character of the king.

[Sidenote: John]

"Foul as it is, hell itself is defiled by the fouler presence of John."
The terrible verdict of his contemporaries has passed into the sober
judgement of history. Externally John possessed all the quickness, the
vivacity, the cleverness, the good-humour, the social charm which
distinguished his house. His worst enemies owned that he toiled steadily
and closely at the work of administration. He was fond of learned men
like Gerald of Wales. He had a strange gift of attracting friends and of
winning the love of women. But in his inner soul John was the worst
outcome of the Angevins. He united into one mass of wickedness their
insolence, their selfishness, their unbridled lust, their cruelty and
tyranny, their shamelessness, their superstition, their cynical
indifference to honour or truth. In mere boyhood he tore with brutal
levity the beards of the Irish chieftains who came to own him as their
lord. His ingratitude and perfidy brought his father with sorrow to the
grave. To his brother he was the worst of traitors. All Christendom
believed him to be the murderer of his nephew, Arthur of Britanny. He
abandoned one wife and was faithless to another. His punishments were
refinements of cruelty, the starvation of children, the crushing old men
under copes of lead. His court was a brothel where no woman was safe from
the royal lust, and where his cynicism loved to publish the news of his
victims' shame. He was as craven in his superstition as he was daring in
his impiety. Though he scoffed at priests and turned his back on the mass
even amidst the solemnities of his coronation, he never stirred on a
journey without hanging relics round his neck. But with the wickedness of
his race he inherited its profound ability. His plan for the relief of
Château Gaillard, the rapid march by which he shattered Arthur's hopes at
Mirebeau, showed an inborn genius for war. In the rapidity and breadth of
his political combinations he far surpassed the statesmen of his time.
Throughout his reign we see him quick to discern the difficulties of his
position, and inexhaustible in the resources with which he met them. The
overthrow of his continental power only spurred him to the formation of a
league which all but brought Philip to the ground; and the sudden revolt
of England was parried by a shameless alliance with the Papacy. The
closer study of John's history clears away the charges of sloth and
incapacity with which men tried to explain the greatness of his fall. The
awful lesson of his life rests on the fact that the king who lost
Normandy, became the vassal of the Pope, and perished in a struggle of
despair against English freedom, was no weak and indolent voluptuary but
the ablest and most ruthless of the Angevins.

[Sidenote: Innocent the Third]

From the moment of his return to England in 1204 John's whole energies
were bent to the recovery of his dominions on the Continent. He
impatiently collected money and men for the support of those adherents of
the House of Anjou who were still struggling against the arms of France
in Poitou and Guienne, and in the summer of 1205 he gathered an army at
Portsmouth and prepared to cross the Channel. But his project was
suddenly thwarted by the resolute opposition of the Primate, Hubert
Walter, and the Earl of Pembroke, William Marshal. So completely had both
the baronage and the Church been humbled by his father that the attitude
of their representatives revealed to the king a new spirit of national
freedom which was rising around him, and John at once braced himself to a
struggle with it. The death of Hubert Walter in July, only a few weeks
after his protest, removed his most formidable opponent, and the king
resolved to neutralize the opposition of the Church by placing a creature
of his own at its head. John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich, was elected by
the monks of Canterbury at his bidding, and enthroned as Primate. But in
a previous though informal gathering the convent had already chosen its
sub-prior, Reginald, as Archbishop. The rival claimants hastened to
appeal to Rome, and their appeal reached the Papal Court before
Christmas. The result of the contest was a startling one both for
themselves and for the king. After a year's careful examination Innocent
the Third, who now occupied the Papal throne, quashed at the close of
1206 both the contested elections. The decision was probably a just one,
but Innocent was far from stopping there. The monks who appeared before
him brought powers from the convent to choose a new Primate should their
earlier nomination be set aside; and John, secretly assured of their
choice of Grey, had promised to confirm their election. But the bribes
which the king lavished at Rome failed to win the Pope over to this plan;
and whether from mere love of power, for he was pushing the Papal claims
of supremacy over Christendom further than any of his predecessors, or as
may fairly be supposed in despair of a free election within English
bounds, Innocent commanded the monks to elect in his presence Stephen
Langton to the archiepiscopal see.

[Sidenote: The Interdict]

Personally a better choice could not have been made, for Stephen was a
man who by sheer weight of learning and holiness of life had risen to the
dignity of Cardinal, and whose after career placed him in the front rank
of English patriots. But in itself the step was an usurpation of the
rights both of the Church and of the Crown. The king at once met it with
resistance. When Innocent consecrated the new Primate in June 1207, and
threatened the realm with interdict if Langton were any longer excluded
from his see, John replied by a counter-threat that the interdict should
be followed by the banishment of the clergy and the mutilation of every
Italian he could seize in the realm. How little he feared the priesthood
he showed when the clergy refused his demand of a thirteenth of movables
from the whole country and Archbishop Geoffry of York resisted the tax
before the Council. John banished the Archbishop and extorted the money.
Innocent however was not a man to draw back from his purpose, and in
March 1208 the interdict he had threatened fell upon the land. All
worship save that of a few privileged orders, all administration of
Sacraments save that of private baptism, ceased over the length and
breadth of the country: the church-bells were silent, the dead lay
unburied on the ground. Many of the bishops fled from the country. The
Church in fact, so long the main support of the royal power against the
baronage, was now driven into opposition. Its change of attitude was to
be of vast moment in the struggle which was impending; but John recked
little of the future; he replied to the interdict by confiscating the
lands of the clergy who observed it, by subjecting them in spite of their
privileges to the royal courts, and by leaving outrages on them
unpunished. "Let him go," said John, when a Welshman was brought before
him for the murder of a priest, "he has killed my enemy." In 1209 the
Pope proceeded to the further sentence of excommunication, and the king
was formally cut off from the pale of the Church. But the new sentence
was met with the same defiance as the old. Five of the bishops fled over
sea, and secret disaffection was spreading widely, but there was no
public avoidance of the excommunicated king. An Archdeacon of Norwich who
withdrew from his service was crushed to death under a cope of lead, and
the hint was sufficient to prevent either prelate or noble from following
his example.

[Sidenote: The Deposition]

The attitude of John showed the power which the administrative reforms of
his father had given to the Crown. He stood alone, with nobles estranged
from him and the Church against him, but his strength seemed utterly
unbroken. From the first moment of his rule John had defied the baronage.
The promise to satisfy their demand for redress of wrongs in the past
reign, a promise made at his election, remained unfulfilled; when the
demand was repeated he answered it by seizing their castles and taking
their children as hostages for their loyalty. The cost of his fruitless
threats of war had been met by heavy and repeated taxation, by increased
land tax and increased scutage. The quarrel with the Church and fear of
their revolt only deepened his oppression of the nobles. He drove De
Braose, one of the most powerful of the Lords Marchers, to die in exile,
while his wife and grandchildren were believed to have been starved to
death in the royal prisons. On the nobles who still clung panic-stricken
to the court of the excommunicate king John heaped outrages worse than
death. Illegal exactions, the seizure of their castles, the preference
shown to foreigners, were small provocations compared with his attacks on
the honour of their wives and daughters. But the baronage still
submitted. The financial exactions indeed became light as John filled his
treasury with the goods of the Church; the king's vigour was seen in the
rapidity with which he crushed a rising of the nobles in Ireland, and
foiled an outbreak of the Welsh; while the triumphs of his father had
taught the baronage its weakness in any single-handed struggle against
the Crown. Hated therefore as he was the land remained still. Only one
weapon was now left in Innocent's hands. Men held then that a king, once
excommunicate, ceased to be a Christian or to have any claims on the
obedience of Christian subjects. As spiritual heads of Christendom, the
Popes had ere now asserted their right to remove such a ruler from his
throne and to give it to a worthier than he; and it was this right which
Innocent at last felt himself driven to exercise. After useless threats
he issued in 1212 a bull of deposition against John, absolved his
subjects from their allegiance, proclaimed a crusade against him as an
enemy to Christianity and the Church, and committed the execution of the
sentence to the king of the French. John met the announcement of this
step with the same scorn as before. His insolent disdain suffered the
Roman legate, Cardinal Pandulf, to proclaim his deposition to his face at
Northampton. When Philip collected an army for an attack on England an
enormous host gathered at the king's call on Barham Down; and the English
fleet dispelled all danger of invasion by crossing the Channel, by
capturing a number of French ships, and by burning Dieppe.

[Sidenote: John's Submission]

But it was not in England only that the king showed his strength and
activity. Vile as he was, John possessed in a high degree the political
ability of his race, and in the diplomatic efforts with which he met the
danger from France he showed himself his father's equal. The barons of
Poitou were roused to attack Philip from the south. John bought the aid
of the Count of Flanders on his northern border. The German king, Otto,
pledged himself to bring the knighthood of Germany to support an invasion
of France. But at the moment of his success in diplomacy John suddenly
gave way. It was in fact the revelation of a danger at home which shook
him from his attitude of contemptuous defiance. The bull of deposition
gave fresh energy to every enemy. The Scotch king was in correspondence
with Innocent. The Welsh princes who had just been forced to submission
broke out again in war. John hanged their hostages, and called his host
to muster for a fresh inroad into Wales, but the army met only to become
a fresh source of danger. Powerless to oppose the king openly, the
baronage had plunged almost to a man into secret conspiracies. The
hostility of Philip had dispelled their dread of isolated action; many
indeed had even promised aid to the French king on his landing. John
found himself in the midst of hidden enemies; and nothing could have
saved him but the haste--whether of panic or quick decision--with which
he disbanded his army and took refuge in Nottingham Castle. The arrest of
some of the barons showed how true were his fears, for the heads of the
French conspiracy, Robert Fitzwalter and Eustace de Vesci, at once fled
over sea to Philip. His daring self-confidence, the skill of his
diplomacy, could no longer hide from John the utter loneliness of his
position. At war with Rome, with France, with Scotland, Ireland, and
Wales, at war with the Church, he saw himself disarmed by this sudden
revelation of treason in the one force left at his disposal. With
characteristic suddenness he gave way. He endeavoured by remission of
fines to win back his people. He negotiated eagerly with the Pope,
consented to receive the Archbishop, and promised to repay the money he
had extorted from the Church.

[Sidenote: John becomes vassal of Rome]

But the shameless ingenuity of the king's temper was seen in his resolve
to find in his very humiliation a new source of strength. If he yielded
to the Church he had no mind to yield to the rest of his foes; it was
indeed in the Pope who had defeated him that he saw the means of baffling
their efforts. It was Rome that formed the link between the varied
elements of hostility which combined against him. It was Rome that gave
its sanction to Philip's ambition and roused the hopes of Scotch and
Welsh, Rome that called the clergy to independence, and nerved the barons
to resistance. To detach Innocent by submission from the league which
hemmed him in on every side was the least part of John's purpose. He
resolved to make Rome his ally, to turn its spiritual thunders on his
foes, to use it in breaking up the confederacy it had formed, in crushing
the baronage, in oppressing the clergy, in paralyzing--as Rome only could
paralyze--the energy of the Primate. That greater issues even than these
were involved in John's rapid change of policy time was to show; but
there is no need to credit the king with the foresight that would have
discerned them. His quick versatile temper saw no doubt little save the
momentary gain. But that gain was immense. Nor was the price as hard to
pay as it seems to modern eyes. The Pope stood too high above earthly
monarchs, his claims, at least as Innocent conceived and expressed them,
were too spiritual, too remote from the immediate business and interests
of the day, to make the owning of his suzerainty any very practical
burthen. John could recall a time when his father was willing to own the
same subjection as that which he was about to take on himself. He could
recall the parallel allegiance which his brother had pledged to the
Emperor. Shame indeed there must be in any loss of independence, but in
this less than any, and with Rome the shame of submission had already
been incurred. But whatever were the king's thoughts his act was
decisive. On the 15th of May 1213 he knelt before the legate Pandulf,
surrendered his kingdom to the Roman See, took it back again as a
tributary vassal, swore fealty and did liege homage to the Pope.

[Sidenote: Its Results]

In after times men believed that England thrilled at the news with a
sense of national shame such as she had never felt before. "He has become
the Pope's man" the whole country was said to have murmured; "he has
forfeited the very name of king; from a free man he has degraded himself
into a serf." But this was the belief of a time still to come when the
rapid growth of national feeling which this step and its issues did more
than anything to foster made men look back on the scene between John and
Pandulf as a national dishonour. We see little trace of such a feeling in
the contemporary accounts of the time. All seem rather to have regarded
it as a complete settlement of the difficulties in which king and kingdom
were involved. As a political measure its success was immediate and
complete. The French army at once broke up in impotent rage, and when
Philip turned on the enemy John had raised up for him in Flanders, five
hundred English ships under the Earl of Salisbury fell upon the fleet
which accompanied the French army along the coast and utterly destroyed
it. The league which John had so long matured at once disclosed itself.
Otto, reinforcing his German army by the knighthood of Flanders and
Boulogne as well as by a body of mercenaries in the pay of the English
king, invaded France from the north. John called on his baronage to
follow him over sea for an attack on Philip from the south.

[Sidenote: Geoffry Fitz-Peter]

Their plea that he remained excommunicate was set aside by the arrival of
Langton and his formal absolution of the king on a renewal of his
coronation oath and a pledge to put away all evil customs. But the barons
still stood aloof. They would serve at home, they said, but they refused
to cross the sea. Those of the north took a more decided attitude of
opposition. From this point indeed the northern barons begin to play
their part in our constitutional history. Lacies, Vescies, Percies,
Stutevilles, Bruces, houses such as those of de Ros or de Vaux, all had
sprung to greatness on the ruins of the Mowbrays and the great houses of
the Conquest, and had done service to the Crown in its strife with the
older feudatories. But loyal as was their tradition they were English to
the core; they had neither lands nor interest over sea, and they now
declared themselves bound by no tenure to follow the king in foreign
wars. Furious at this check to his plans John marched in arms northwards
to bring these barons to submission. But he had now to reckon with a new
antagonist in the Justiciar, Geoffry Fitz-Peter. Geoffry had hitherto
bent to the king's will; but the political sagacity which he drew from
the school of Henry the Second in which he had been trained showed him
the need of concession, and his wealth, his wide kinship, and his
experience of affairs gave his interposition a decisive weight. He seized
on the political opportunity which was offered by the gathering of a
Council at St. Albans at the opening of August with the purpose of
assessing the damages done to the Church. Besides the bishops and barons,
a reeve and his four men were summoned to this Council from each royal
demesne, no doubt simply as witnesses of the sums due to the plundered
clergy. Their presence however was of great import. It is the first
instance which our history presents of the summons of such
representatives to a national Council, and the instance took fresh weight
from the great matters which came to be discussed. In the king's name the
Justiciar promised good government for the time to come, and forbade all
royal officers to practise extortion as they prized life and limb. The
king's peace was pledged to those who had opposed him in the past; and
observance of the laws of Henry the First was enjoined upon all within
the realm.

[Sidenote: Stephen Langton]

But it was not in Geoffry Fitz-Peter that English freedom was to find its
champion and the baronage their leader. From the moment of his landing in
England Stephen Langton had taken up the constitutional position of the
Primate in upholding the old customs and rights of the realm against the
personal despotism of the kings. As Anselm had withstood William the Red,
as Theobald had withstood Stephen, so Langton prepared to withstand and
rescue his country from the tyranny of John. He had already forced him to
swear to observe the laws of Edward the Confessor, in other words the
traditional liberties of the realm. When the baronage refused to sail for
Poitou he compelled the king to deal with them not by arms but by process
of law. But the work which he now undertook was far greater and weightier
than this. The pledges of Henry the First had long been forgotten when
the Justiciar brought them to light, but Langton saw the vast importance
of such a precedent. At the close of the month he produced Henry's
charter in a fresh gathering of barons at St. Paul's, and it was at once
welcomed as a base for the needed reforms. From London Langton hastened
to the king, whom he reached at Northampton on his way to attack the
nobles of the north, and wrested from him a promise to bring his strife
with them to legal judgement before assailing them in arms. With his
allies gathering abroad John had doubtless no wish to be entangled in a
long quarrel at home, and the Archbishop's mediation allowed him to
withdraw with seeming dignity. After a demonstration therefore at Durham
John marched hastily south again, and reached London in October. His
Justiciar at once laid before him the claims of the Councils of St.
Alban's and St. Paul's; but the death of Geoffry at this juncture freed
him from the pressure which his minister was putting upon him. "Now, by
God's feet," cried John, "I am for the first time King and Lord of
England," and he entrusted the vacant justiciarship to a Poitevin, Peter
des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester, whose temper was in harmony with
his own. But the death of Geoffry only called the Archbishop to the
front, and Langton at once demanded the king's assent to the charter of
Henry the First. In seizing on this charter as a basis for national
action Langton showed a political ability of the highest order. The
enthusiasm with which its recital was welcomed showed the sagacity with
which the Archbishop had chosen his ground. From that moment the baronage
was no longer drawn together in secret conspiracies by a sense of common
wrong or a vague longing for common deliverance: they were openly united
in a definite claim of national freedom and national law.

[Sidenote: Bouvines]

John could as yet only meet the claim by delay. His policy had still to
wait for its fruits at Rome, his diplomacy to reap its harvest in
Flanders, ere he could deal with England. From the hour of his submission
to the Papacy his one thought had been that of vengeance on the barons
who, as he held, had betrayed him; but vengeance was impossible till he
should return a conqueror from the fields of France. It was a sense of
this danger which nerved the baronage to their obstinate refusal to
follow him over sea: but furious as he was at their resistance, the
Archbishop's interposition condemned John still to wait for the hour of
his revenge. In the spring of 1214 he crossed with what forces he could
gather to Poitou, rallied its nobles round him, passed the Loire in
triumph, and won back again Angers, the home of his race. At the same
time Otto and the Count of Flanders, their German and Flemish knighthood
strengthened by reinforcements from Boulogne as well as by a body of
English troops under the Earl of Salisbury, threatened France from the
north. For the moment Philip seemed lost: and yet on the fortunes of
Philip hung the fortunes of English freedom. But in this crisis of her
fate, France was true to herself and her king. From every borough of
Northern France the townsmen marched to his rescue, and the village
priests led their flocks to battle with the Church-banners flying at
their head. The two armies met at the close of July near the bridge of
Bouvines, between Lille and Tournay, and from the first the day went
against the allies. The Flemish knights were the first to fly; then the
Germans in the centre of the host were crushed by the overwhelming
numbers of the French; last of all the English on the right of it were
broken by a fierce onset of the Bishop of Beauvais who charged mace in
hand and struck the Earl of Salisbury to the ground. The news of this
complete overthrow reached John in the midst of his triumphs in the
South, and scattered his hopes to the winds. He was at once deserted by
the Poitevin nobles; and a hasty retreat alone enabled him to return in
October, baffled and humiliated, to his island kingdom.

[Sidenote: Rising of the Baronage]

His return forced on the crisis to which events had so long been
drifting. The victory at Bouvines gave strength to his opponents. The
open resistance of the northern barons nerved the rest of their order to
action. The great houses who had cast away their older feudal traditions
for a more national policy were drawn by the crisis into close union with
the families which had sprung from the ministers and councillors of the
two Henries. To the first group belonged such men as Saher de Quinci, the
Earl of Winchester, Geoffrey of Mandeville, Earl of Essex, the Earl of
Clare, Fulk Fitz-Warin, William Mallet, the houses of Fitz-Alan and Gant.
Among the second group were Henry Bohun and Roger Bigod, the Earls of
Hereford and Norfolk, the younger William Marshal, and Robert de Vere.
Robert Fitz-Walter, who took the command of their united force,
represented both parties equally, for he was sprung from the Norman house
of Brionne, while the Justiciar of Henry the Second, Richard de Lucy, had
been his grandfather. Secretly, and on the pretext of pilgrimage, these
nobles met at St. Edmundsbury, resolute to bear no longer with John's
delays. If he refused to restore their liberties they swore to make war
on him till he confirmed them by Charter under the king's seal, and they
parted to raise forces with the purpose of presenting their demands at
Christmas. John, knowing nothing of the coming storm, pursued his policy
of winning over the Church by granting it freedom of election, while he
embittered still more the strife with his nobles by demanding scutage
from the northern nobles who had refused to follow him to Poitou. But the
barons were now ready to act, and early in January in the memorable year
1215 they appeared in arms to lay, as they had planned, their demands
before the king.

[Sidenote: John deserted]

John was taken by surprise. He asked for a truce till Easter-tide, and
spent the interval in fevered efforts to avoid the blow. Again he offered
freedom to the Church, and took vows as a Crusader against whom war was a
sacrilege, while he called for a general oath of allegiance and fealty
from the whole body of his subjects. But month after month only showed
the king the uselessness of further resistance. Though Pandulf was with
him, his vassalage had as yet brought little fruit in the way of aid from
Rome; the commissioners whom he sent to plead his cause at the
shire-courts brought back news that no man would help him against the
charter that the barons claimed: and his efforts to detach the clergy
from the league of his opponents utterly failed. The nation was against
the king. He was far indeed from being utterly deserted. His ministers
still clung to him, men such as Geoffrey de Lucy, Geoffrey de Furnival,
Thomas Basset, and William Briwere, statesmen trained in the
administrative school of his father and who, dissent as they might from
John's mere oppression, still looked on the power of the Crown as the one
barrier against feudal anarchy: and beside them stood some of the great
nobles of royal blood, his father's bastard Earl William of Salisbury,
his cousin Earl William of Warenne, and Henry Earl of Cornwall, a
grandson of Henry the First. With him too remained Ranulf, Earl of
Chester, and the wisest and noblest of the barons, William Marshal the
elder, Earl of Pembroke. William Marshal had shared in the rising of the
younger Henry against Henry the Second, and stood by him as he died; he
had shared in the overthrow of William Longchamp and in the outlawry of
John. He was now an old man, firm, as we shall see in his after-course,
to recall the government to the path of freedom and law, but shrinking
from a strife which might bring back the anarchy of Stephen's day, and
looking for reforms rather in the bringing constitutional pressure to
bear upon the king than in forcing them from him by arms.

[Sidenote: John yields]

But cling as such men might to John, they clung to him rather as
mediators than adherents. Their sympathies went with the demands of the
barons when the delay which had been granted was over and the nobles
again gathered in arms at Brackley in Northamptonshire to lay their
claims before the King. Nothing marks more strongly the absolutely
despotic idea of his sovereignty which John had formed than the
passionate surprise which breaks out in his reply. "Why do they not ask
for my kingdom?" he cried. "I will never grant such liberties as will
make me a slave!" The imperialist theories of the lawyers of his father's
court had done their work. Held at bay by the practical sense of Henry,
they had told on the more headstrong nature of his sons. Richard and John
both held with Glanvill that the will of the prince was the law of the
land; and to fetter that will by the customs and franchises which were
embodied in the barons' claims seemed to John a monstrous usurpation of
his rights. But no imperialist theories had touched the minds of his
people. The country rose as one man at his refusal. At the close of May
London threw open her gates to the forces of the barons, now arrayed
under Robert Fitz-Walter as "Marshal of the Army of God and Holy Church."
Exeter and Lincoln followed the example of the capital; promises of aid
came from Scotland and Wales; the northern barons marched hastily under
Eustace de Vesci to join their comrades in London. Even the nobles who
had as yet clung to the king, but whose hopes of conciliation were
blasted by his obstinacy, yielded at last to the summons of the "Army of
God." Pandulf indeed and Archbishop Langton still remained with John, but
they counselled, as Earl Ranulf and William Marshal counselled, his
acceptance of the Charter. None in fact counselled its rejection save his
new Justiciar, the Poitevin Peter des Roches, and other foreigners who
knew the barons purposed driving them from the land. But even the number
of these was small; there was a moment when John found himself with but
seven knights at his back and before him a nation in arms. Quick as he
was, he had been taken utterly by surprise. It was in vain that in the
short respite he had gained from Christmas to Easter he had summoned
mercenaries to his aid and appealed to his new suzerain, the Pope.
Summons and appeal were alike too late. Nursing wrath in his heart, John
bowed to necessity and called the barons to a conference on an island in
the Thames, between Windsor and Staines, near a marshy meadow by the
river side, the meadow of Runnymede. The king encamped on one bank of the
river, the barons covered the flat of Runnymede on the other. Their
delegates met on the 15th of June in the island between them, but the
negotiations were a mere cloak to cover John's purpose of unconditional
submission. The Great Charter was discussed and agreed to in a single

[Sidenote: The Great Charter]

Copies of it were made and sent for preservation to the cathedrals and
churches, and one copy may still be seen in the British Museum, injured
by age and fire, but with the royal seal still hanging from the brown,
shrivelled parchment. It is impossible to gaze without reverence on the
earliest monument of English freedom which we can see with our own eyes
and touch with our own hands, the great Charter to which from age to age
men have looked back as the groundwork of English liberty. But in itself
the Charter was no novelty, nor did it claim to establish any new
constitutional principles. The Charter of Henry the First formed the
basis of the whole, and the additions to it are for the most part formal
recognitions of the judicial and administrative changes introduced by
Henry the Second. What was new in it was its origin. In form, like the
Charter on which it was based, it was nothing but a royal grant. In
actual fact it was a treaty between the whole English people and its
king. In it England found itself for the first time since the Conquest a
nation bound together by common national interests, by a common national
sympathy. In words which almost close the Charter, the "community of the
whole land" is recognized as the great body from which the restraining
power of the baronage takes its validity. There is no distinction of
blood or class, of Norman or not Norman, of noble or not noble. All are
recognized as Englishmen, the rights of all are owned as English rights.
Bishops and nobles claimed and secured at Runnymede the rights not of
baron and churchman only but those of freeholder and merchant, of
townsman and villein. The provisions against wrong and extortion which
the barons drew up as against the king for themselves they drew up as
against themselves for their tenants. Based too as it professed to be on
Henry's Charter it was far from being a mere copy of what had gone
before. The vague expressions of the old Charter were now exchanged for
precise and elaborate provisions. The bonds of unwritten custom which the
older grant did little more than recognize had proved too weak to hold
the Angevins; and the baronage set them aside for the restraints of
written and defined law. It is in this way that the Great Charter marks
the transition from the age of traditional rights, preserved in the
nation's memory and officially declared by the Primate, to the age of
written legislation, of Parliaments and Statutes, which was to come.

Its opening indeed is in general terms. The Church had shown its power of
self-defence in the struggle over the interdict, and the clause which
recognized its rights alone retained the older and general form. But all
vagueness ceases when the Charter passes on to deal with the rights of
Englishmen at large, their right to justice, to security of person and
property, to good government. "No freeman," ran a memorable article that
lies at the base of our whole judicial system, "shall be seized or
imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or in any way brought to ruin:
we will not go against any man nor send against him, save by legal
judgement of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no man will we
sell," runs another, "or deny, or delay, right or justice." The great
reforms of the past reigns were now formally recognized; judges of assize
were to hold their circuits four times in the year, and the King's Court
was no longer to follow the king in his wanderings over the realm but to
sit in a fixed place. But the denial of justice under John was a small
danger compared with the lawless exactions both of himself and his
predecessor. Richard had increased the amount of the scutage which Henry
the Second had introduced, and applied it to raise funds for his ransom.
He had restored the Danegeld, or land-tax, so often abolished, under the
new name of "carucage," had seized the wool of the Cistercians and the
plate of the churches, and rated movables as well as land. John had again
raised the rate of scutage, and imposed aids, fines, and ransoms at his
pleasure without counsel of the baronage. The Great Charter met this
abuse by a provision on which our constitutional system rests. "No
scutage or aid [other than the three customary feudal aids] shall be
imposed in our realm save by the common council of the realm"; and to
this Great Council it was provided that prelates and the greater barons
should be summoned by special writ, and all tenants in chief through the
sheriffs and bailiffs, at least forty days before. The provision defined
what had probably been the common usage of the realm; but the definition
turned it into a national right, a right so momentous that on it rests
our whole Parliamentary life. Even the baronage seem to have been
startled when they realized the extent of their claim; and the provision
was dropped from the later issue of the Charter at the outset of the next
reign. But the clause brought home to the nation at large their
possession of a right which became dearer as years went by. More and more
clearly the nation discovered that in these simple words lay the secret
of political power. It was the right of self-taxation that England fought
for under Earl Simon as she fought for it under Hampden. It was the
establishment of this right which established English freedom.

The rights which the barons claimed for themselves they claimed for the
nation at large. The boon of free and unbought justice was a boon for
all, but a special provision protected the poor. The forfeiture of the
freeman on conviction of felony was never to include his tenement, or
that of the merchant his wares, or that of the countryman, as Henry the
Second had long since ordered, his wain. The means of actual livelihood
were to be left even to the worst. The seizure of provisions, the
exaction of forced labour, by royal officers was forbidden; and the
abuses of the forest system were checked by a clause which disafforested
all forests made in John's reign. The under-tenants were protected
against all lawless exactions of their lords in precisely the same terms
as these were protected against the lawless exactions of the Crown. The
towns were secured in the enjoyment of their municipal privileges, their
freedom from arbitrary taxation, their rights of justice, of common
deliberation, of regulation of trade. "Let the city of London have all
its old liberties and its free customs, as well by land as by water.
Besides this, we will and grant that all other cities, and boroughs, and
towns, and ports, have all their liberties and free customs." The
influence of the trading class is seen in two other enactments by which
freedom of journeying and trade was secured to foreign merchants, and an
uniformity of weights and measures was ordered to be enforced throughout
the realm.

[Sidenote: Innocent annuls the Charter]

There remained only one question, and that the most difficult of all; the
question how to secure this order which the Charter established in the
actual government of the realm. It was easy to sweep away the immediate
abuses; the hostages were restored to their homes, the foreigners
banished by a clause in the Charter from the country. But it was less
easy to provide means for the control of a king whom no man could trust.
By the treaty as settled at Runnymede a council of twenty-five barons
were to be chosen from the general body of their order to enforce on John
the observance of the Charter, with the right of declaring war on the
king should its provisions be infringed, and it was provided that the
Charter should not only be published throughout the whole country but
sworn to at every hundred-mote and town-mote by order from the king.
"They have given me five-and-twenty over-kings," cried John in a burst of
fury, flinging himself on the floor and gnawing sticks and straw in his
impotent rage. But the rage soon passed into the subtle policy of which
he was a master. After a few days he left Windsor; and lingered for
months along the southern shore, waiting for news of the aid he had
solicited from Rome and from the Continent. It was not without definite
purpose that he had become the vassal of the Papacy. While Innocent was
dreaming of a vast Christian Empire with the Pope at its head to enforce
justice and religion on his under-kings, John believed that the Papal
protection would enable him to rule as tyrannically as he would. The
thunders of the Papacy were to be ever at hand for his protection, as the
armies of England are at hand to protect the vileness and oppression of a
Turkish Sultan or a Nizam of Hyderabad. His envoys were already at Rome,
pleading for a condemnation of the Charter. The after action of the
Papacy shows that Innocent was moved by no hostility to English freedom.
But he was indignant that a matter which might have been brought before
his court of appeal as overlord should have been dealt with by armed
revolt, and in this crisis both his imperious pride and the legal
tendency of his mind swayed him to the side of the king who submitted to
his justice. He annulled the Great Charter by a bull in August, and at
the close of the year excommunicated the barons.

[Sidenote: Landing of Lewis]

His suspension of Stephen Langton from the exercise of his office as
Primate was a more fatal blow. Langton hurried to Rome, and his absence
left the barons without a head at a moment when the very success of their
efforts was dividing them. Their forces were already disorganized when
autumn brought a host of foreign soldiers from over sea to the king's
standard. After starving Rochester into submission John found himself
strong enough to march ravaging through the Midland and Northern
counties, while his mercenaries spread like locusts over the whole face
of the land. From Berwick the king turned back triumphant to coop up his
enemies in London while fresh Papal excommunications fell on the barons
and the city. But the burghers set Innocent at defiance. "The ordering of
secular matters appertaineth not to the Pope," they said, in words that
seem like mutterings of the coming Lollardism; and at the advice of Simon
Langton, the Archbishop's brother, bells swung out and mass was
celebrated as before. Success however was impossible for the
undisciplined militia of the country and the towns against the trained
forces of the king, and despair drove the barons to listen to Fitz-Walter
and the French party in their ranks, and to seek aid from over sea.
Philip had long been waiting the opportunity for his revenge upon John.
In the April of 1216 his son Lewis accepted the crown in spite of
Innocent's excommunications, and landed soon after in Kent with a
considerable force. As the barons had foreseen, the French mercenaries
who constituted John's host refused to fight against the French sovereign
and the whole aspect of affairs was suddenly reversed. Deserted by the
bulk of his troops, the king was forced to fall rapidly back on the Welsh
Marches, while his rival entered London and received the submission of
the larger part of England. Only Dover held out obstinately against
Lewis. By a series of rapid marches John succeeded in distracting the
plans of the barons and in relieving Lincoln; then after a short stay at
Lynn he crossed the Wash in a fresh movement to the north. In crossing
however his army was surprised by the tide, and his baggage with the
royal treasures washed away. Fever seized the baffled tyrant as he
reached the Abbey of Swineshead, his sickness was inflamed by a
gluttonous debauch, and on the 19th of October John breathed his last at


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the English People, Volume I (of 8) - Early England, 449-1071; Foreign Kings, 1071-1204; The Charter, 1204-1216" ***

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