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N the very same year, which was the year of human salvation 1035, a parliament was convened at Oxford for the purpose of choosing a king, where the subject was long debated. Some argued for Harald, who had been left as governor of the island by his father when he set out for his war in Normandy. Others felt that Canute, his son by Emma, who at the time was ruling Dacia, deserved to be chosen king, as being his father’s legitimate heir. Finally the majority settled on Harald, who was made the thirty-third in the line of kings. And the death of Canute also created confusion overseas. For the Norwegians suddenly revolted and chose as their king Olav’s son Magnus. And the Dacians hailed as theirs Canute III, to whom all the inheritance rightly belonged. And so the mighty empire of the Danes was suddenly diminished. At this time the English, since their royal line was all but extinct, were most distressed about the royal secession, and this thought especially troubled the monk Brithowold, a monk of Glastonbury who was Bishop of Winchester (and also, as I find in some authors, of Worcester), a very holy man. The story goes that at night he dreamed he saw the Apostle Peter consecrating Ethelred’s son Edward as King of England (at this time he was an exile in Normandy), and that he asked the Apostle who should succeed Edward, and he replied, “Do not be concerned about such a thing, for the kingdom of England is the kingdom of God.” And, in all seriousness, this is shown to be the case by many arguments, and especially by this, that although the English, according to their ancient custom, have the least care for their commonwealth of all peoples, only chasing after monopolies (as will be discussed elsewhere), and although their very noble kingdom was so often harmed, and often wasted by incursions, first by the Dacians, and then by the Normans, very ferocious peoples, who were not content to seize rule from the English, but also tried to extirpate the English race wholesale. Likewise this ill-disposed Norman nation for the most part repudiated, trampled upon, and nullified the most excellent laws enjoined by earlier kings, and, as if it hated nothing more than the name of the English, substituting their own, less fair, ones, as will be told below. And yet the English kingdom itself still stands, nor seems ever likely to fall, so that you can imagine it enjoys the particular care of God Almighty, since among this people such a pious zeal waxes warmer day by day, although it grows cold among many other peoples. Now I have sufficiently digressed. Harald, his father Canute’s successor in the kingdom, if not in his morals, as soon as he was crowned began to exercise his power in the harming of his subjects. For he proscribed his stepmother Emma, held his subjects of no account and greatly oppressed them, made notorious for the blots of many a crime. But the brevity of his life served to protect his reputation, for he departed this life in the fourth year of his reign. In the selfsame year died Athelnot Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeded by Edsin, the thirtieth in the order of archbishops.
2. Meanwhile Canute, learning of Harald’s death, straightway held a levy and outfitted a fleet, and sought out England. Brought by a favorable wind to the Kentish shore the sixth day after he had set sail, he went to London and was accepted most willingly, and was proclaimed king by the common consent of all men. Imitating his brother Harald, he began ruling with savagery. For, mindful of the insult done to him and his mother Emma, he ordered Harald’s body, buried at Westminster, to be dug up, beheaded, and thrown in the river. This was soon found by fishermen and once more buried. Likewise he began to impose individual punishments on the nobles who had given the kingship to Harald, although it was owed to himself, and to impose intolerable tributes on the people, and this created great hatred against him. But then, converted to piety, he recalled his mother Emma, then living in Flanders, and relied on her counsel together and on the help of Earl Godwin of Kent, a very sage man. In that year Edward came from Normandy to greet his brother Canute and his mother, and, having stayed there a few days, returned whence he had come. There are those who write that at the king’s bidding Edward and the Normans he had brought with him were dealt with harshly, and that he barely made his escape. But the majority record that Canute received his brother most kindly, and this does not contradict the truth. For Canute was a man both mild and liberal by nature, who lavishly and elegantly entertained his guests at meals and feasts, and frequently gave public banquets, thrice daily setting forth meals for those who wished them. And he also was in the habit of dining with others, and so, invited to the wedding of a certain nobleman, when he dining in the vicinity of Westminster, on the other bank of the tames, in a village called Lambeth, he suddenly collapsed and died while he was at the wine, not without suspicion of poison, in the second year of his reign. But Saxo Grammaticus, whose credibility is not to be scorned, sets forth the history of these times quite differently. For he says that Canute’s son Harald was appointed governor of the English, but that he died before his father and was succeeded as governor by his brother Sweno, the son of Hestritha. For she, who was afterwards widowed and married to Richard Duke of Normandy, had first married a Swede named Ulvo, by whom she had this son, and so he shows that Harald never reigned, but that Canute, his son by Emma, was Canute’s successor. And when he came to England and discovered that everything was safe and sound thanks to the effort of Sweno the governor, he ceded rule to his brother Edward, born of Ethelred and his mother Emma. Since Edward was an upright man but lacking experience or fit for the conduct of affairs, he left behind his representative Sweno, who ruled together with Edward. Then, when Canute died two years later, Sweno entrusted the government partly to Edward, and partly to Godwin Earl of Kent, his kinsmen (as I shall show below), he returned to Dacia to seek his ancestral kingdom, which had already been occupied by Magnus, the son of Olav, King of Norway, owed to him both by right of treaty and according to Canute’s testament. And Saxo shows that in this way Dacian affairs were thrown into confusion, as I shall relate more fully elsewhere. But now let us return homeward.
3. Learning of Canute’s death, the nobles of the kingdom, desiring to reclaim their liberty, or at least to have an Englishman as their king, gathered together and consulted about what was best to be done for the safety of the nation. In the end, considering that under Dacian rule Peers and Commons alike were ill-treated and possessed no favor or authority, and thinking all men blessed when compared to themselves, they concluded that the day was at hand when they could safely cast off their necks this yoke of foreign rule. So they chose to create as their king Ethelred’s son Alfred, a man of great virtue, and to kill off all the Dacians. And so at a stroke Alfred was summoned and an attack launched against the Dacians. A multitude of men was aroused, partly by the atrocity of the thing, partly out of hope of regaining their liberty. The Dacians, even if overwhelmed by this sudden power and terrified by this mutation of all things, still sought to protect themselves from harm, now by fighting, and now by flight. In the end, when there was no limit to the slaughter, to a man they were either killed or driven back to the Continent. Then by common consent a law was enacted that forever afterwards no Dacian was to be made king over the English. And in this way Dacian rule in England was concluded, the twenty-eighth year after Sweno, the first of the Dacians, gained rule over all of England. And indeed in the course of this time Ethelred occupied the throne for two years after Sweno had gone home to his own homeland, and Edmund for one. Hence it is clear that the Dacians ruled England for only twenty-five years. And the death of Canute produced no fewer innovations in Dacia. For nobody of the royal line was left who could lawfully inherit the realm. Sweno, the son of Ulvo the Swede by Hestritha, sought to gain it by winning over some Dacian nobleman. At this, King Magnus of Norway (a man truly great for his virtues and character) took umbrage, since he claimed that the kingdom was his by right. And so, by gifts and his reputation for virtue, he managed to destroy the Dacians’ support for Sweno, and likewise compelled him to desist from this attempt, and so gained control over the kingdom of Dacia. Sweno, distraught by such a great insult, gathered an army as quickly as he could, together with his countrymen the Swedes, very opportunely recruited for this alliance, and hastened against Magnus, and without hesitation he joined battle. This lasted from dawn to dusk. In the end, his enemies bested, Magnus came out the winner, and henceforth so lived that he governed both Dacians and Norwegians with no commotion. But after his death Sweno finally gained the Dacian throne. And, after Magnus, Harald received the kingdom of Norway, the brother of that Olav whom they say was canonized after his death. Harold, having routed his brother Olav, as I have recounted above, fled to Byzantium, here he was falsely convicted of murder by the barbarians, and thrown to a lion. But, contrary to all expectation, this mighty man killed the beast, and because of this his penalty was revoked and he was granted leave to depart. And so, coming home, he easily gained a throne occupied by nobody. And now this place demands that I say something appropriate about Robert Duke of Normandy and his son William, before continuing with the rest about Alfred and Edward.
4. As I have said above, Richard III Duke of Normandy was succeeded by his brother Robert, a cheerful man, liberal, strong and prudent, who energetically protected his subjects from harm at the hands of all their enemies, and who often came to the aid of his neighbors. He supported the poor and the helpless out of his resources, and treated all men with liberality. And he particularly defended King Henri of France, asking for help against the undertakings of his mother Constance, who a little while earlier had caused great trouble for her son. And by a certain concubine of elegant beauty he fathered a son, William. I shall describe a very fine trick of this girl, although not very honorable or notable, because no law is imposed on history that it must keep silent about any deeds. And so, on the night she first slept with the duke, out of bashfulness she refused to take off her linen shift, but since Robert wanted to get on with the business of procreating children, she immediately ripped of its top portion. Asked by the duke why she did this, she answered that it was not fitting for her to raise the bottom of the garment, which touched her feet, to her master’s mouth. And it is said that this same girl, before giving birth, dreamed that her guts were lifted aloft and spread over all the area of Normandy of England. Thenceforth his mother readily conceived great hopes for William. In the end, as some writers like to tell it, Robert repented having poisoned his brother and, about to leave for Jerusalem to fulfil a vow, commended his son to King Henri of France, and decided that, should he die on the road, this son should become Duke of Normandy. And so he first went to Rome to ask Pope Benedict IX for permission to so do, as was the custom. And there he bestowed great gifts, for he dressed a statue of the Emperor Constantine in a golden mantle, saying that the Romans were ingrates because they did not give such a prince a mantle every year. He made various donatives to churches. Then he went forth on his journey, and it chanced that he had become separated from his henchmen and got in a brawl with some rustic who gave him a thrashing, yet he prevented his men from harming the follow, saying he the beating had been deserved. Arriving at Constantinople, he had a very kindly reception by the Emperor Constantine Duca. Since the emperor had previously heard that the duke was liberal and urbane, he commanded that he and his lords should not be given stools more than a foot and a half high to sit on at their dinner. And so it came about that the duke, whose wits did not fail him at this sudden juncture, promptly took off his tunic, balled it up, and sat on it. The Norman nobles did the same, finished their meal, and left, leaving their garments behind. The smiling emperor suggested they put their clothing back on. To this the duke responded, “Normans are not in the habit of carrying their chairs with them.” Some days later the duke went on his way, and was attacked by some manner of bad health that prevented him from riding his horse, and so was obliged to have some local rustics carry him on their shoulders. Meanwhile, when one of his companions, who was about to return to Normandy, asked if there was anything he would like him to report to his Normans, then he wittily and elegantly replied, “Tell them you saw demons carrying Duke Robert up to heaven.” Thus he signified that he was being carried by infidel barbarians, who he not inappropriately compared to demons, and he called Jerusalem heaven, since from there we have received our salvation. And when he arrived there, he used such liberality towards all men that the sexton of the church, moved by his kindness, would have given him back a goodly portion of the fee he paid to enter the church, as is the custom. But he refused this and ordered it distributed to the needy. Then, having performed his vow, he wandered into Bithynia, a region of Asia Minor across from Thrace, in which Constantinople is located. And there, overcome by disease, he died about 1039 A. D. William the Bastard succeeded to the dukedom of Normandy, a man among men and a prudent man among the prudent, at whose court Alfred and Edward long lived as exiles. But now I must return to the point from which I digressed.
5. Alfred, hearing the news of Canute’s death, speedily came over to England. Meanwhile the nobility of the realm had gathered to deliberate about who they wanted for their king. At that point Godwin, either concerned about marrying his daughter Editha to a future king, or to throw everything into confusion so that his son Harald, whom, together with that girl and his sons Biorno and Tosto, he had fathered on his wife Thira, the sister of Canute II, could gain the kingdom, since he greatly feared Alfred’s nature and despaired of having his way, began to rail against Alfred in the presence of individual nobles. He said that man was bringing with him a great band of Normans, and had promised them the goods of his subjects, whom he had long ago marked down for slaughter. He spread these reports, true or false, and made such an impression on the nobles’ minds that each man began to fear or hope to himself that something bad would happen so that Alfred would not gain the throne. These things becoming common knowledge, Godwin grew bolder and decided that Alfred should be robbed of his life at the earliest possible moment. Therefore he went to confront him with a goodly following of fighting men, and killed the young man and all his escort while they were on the road, capturing the Normans and killing them to a man. After committing this foul deed, Godwin quickly returned to London and undertook new acts of treachery. First he used many arguments to excuse himself of blame for Alfred’s murder. Then, so his new fraud would be believed, he urged them to send ambassadors who would, on their behalf, urge Alfred’s brother Edward, an excellent man, not to return to gain the throne. This was promptly done. Godwin did not do this because he liked the boy or cared for his nation’s safety, rat herit was a sudden outburst of feigned charity, since Edward was a mild-mannered man of little sagacity, and particularly a man who who abhorred wars and killing, so that even in exile he used to say he preferred to live a life of perpetual exile rather than gain the throne by bloodshed. And so he hoped that he, who had no idea how to manage affairs in his own right, would either rule according to his own whims or that one day he could destroy him.
6. Edward, perceiving the desire of his subjects and aided by the effort and money of Duke William, returned to England and was made king with such joy that all men vied with each other in praying for his happy reign. And they did so with all the more sincerity because he fired men’s enthusiasm by all manner of kindness. Trusting in this, Godwin humbly approached him and excused himself as best he could for the murder of the king’s brother. And because he was repentant the king forgave him and afterwards greatly used his help and counsel against his mother Emma, with whom he was angry for a number of reasons. In the first place, he blamed her for having married his enemy Canute, second, because he had given her sons no help in their exile, and third, because there was a rumor that she had sought to encompass their murder. For these reasons, and at the instigation of Godwin, this most pious women was stripped of all her goods. To these calamities was added another, that she was also stripped of her good reputation. For a little later she was accused of the crime of debauchery with Adwin Bishop of Winchester. For this reason both of them were imprisoned at Winchester, where each of them was troubled, tormented, and distressed with grief that the other was held in disrepute. But the indignity of this thing so stung Emma that, trusting in her innocence, she offered to undergo a trial by fire to prove her chastity. At this Edward, who was guided by other men’s counsel more than his own, remained unmoved and allowed a day to be appointed on which his mother might undergo this great punishment. But the woman, partly because of a clean conscience (for truth was on her side), and partly, as they say, advised in a dream by St. Swithen, walked boldly over red-hot plowshares and came away unscathed, thus upholding her chastity, as they say, through fire and water. And the king, moved by this miracle, henceforth cherished and honored his mother with wonderful piety. This was in the fifth year of Edward’s reign. In that selfsame year Dacian pirates put in to the port of Sandwich and came ashore to lay waste to the entire seaboard. But they were partly slain and partly routed with no great trouble. During the remaining nineteen years of Edward’s reign there was no domestic or external war which was not immediately put down with little bloodshed, or pacified with no memorable result. And I could doubtless say this was done by divine intervention. For it was the will of God that this king, who from the outset of his reign chose to deserve well both of religion and mankind, should enjoy these and be free of the cares of such matters as in his great wisdom he always regarded as most mutable and fragile, so that he might more freely fix his mind on heavenly things.
7. Meanwhile Godwin bestowed on Edward his daughter Editha, born of Thira, the sister of Canute II, and not, as some wrongly think, of another wife, and now he enjoyed great authority with the king, when behold, a great quarrel arose between them. The cause of the thing was the arrival of Eustace Earl of Boulogne, who once was married to the king’s sister Edgina. When he landed on the shore of Kent, he headed straight for Canterbury to visit the king. In that city a riot between his servants and the townsmen chanced to occur, and one of the citizens was cut down. The citizens of Canterbury were generally in an uproar and quickly took up arms. They attacked Eustace’s retinue and killed a goodly number. Then Eustace, enraged, cruelly assaulted the townsmen. The battle was hard-fought by both sides. But Eustace, his men falling all around him, became frightened. He broke off the fight and fled to London, where he told how he had been insulted when the English violated the laws of hospitality. The king took this amiss and commanded those responsible for this crime to be executed. The Kentishmen took refuge with Godwin, their Earl, and begged for his aid against the Frenchmen, those enemies of the English name. They shouted that the French had been the first to commit an injury by killing a townsman of Canterbury, and so they argued that they had used force to ward off force, as was their right, and were protecting their own when they assaulted the enemy. Godwin was moved by the indignity of the thing and thought the royal edict was hardly to be obeyed. And he forthwith got together an army and strove to protect his subjects from harm. The king for his part grew more and more angry and sent his army against Godwin, after declaring him and his whole family enemies. Now both armies were ready to come to grips when Godwin, terrified of the king’s strength, saw no hope of victory and fled to Flanders with his sons. Then Edward executed the guilty, divorced his wife, the daughter of Godwin, and confiscated her goods. But meanwhile Godwin, helped by Earl Baldwin of Flanders, whose daughter Judith was married to his son Tosto, outfitted a fleet and harried all the seaboard until he was suddenly confronted by the royal fleet. At this juncture, before they could fight, by God’s intervention (as we may believe), the captains realized how disgraceful it would be for a nation to be destroyed by its own forces, and a reconciliation swiftly ensued. Godwin was restored to his erstwhile place of honor, giving Edward his sons Biorno and Tosto as hostages for his continued loyalty. The king likewise took back his wife. But by no scheme could Godwin avoid his due punishment. Not many days passed before his son Harald, the royal cupbearer, gave a drink to Edward while he was at his meal, and it chanced that he tripped with one foot and almost fell, but rescued himself with his other foot and stood upright, having spilled none of the wine. Then his father, who was dining with the king, observed, “Now one brother is helping the other.” At this remark, albeit said in jest, Edward became enraged (for the death of his brother Alfred suddenly came to mind), and, turning to Godwin, said, “Thus my brother would have been a help to me, had you allowed it.” Then this guilty man, fearing the royal wrath, began to make excuses for himself, appealing to God to witness his innocence, and adding an oath, as if he were dealing with a dunce, saying, “If ever, king, I have ever sought to encompass the death of your brother or of yourself, I pray that by God’s will this crust of bread choke me on the spot.” And having said this, he ate the bread, and suddenly his jaws clamped shut and he choked, and thus paid for the parricide with his death. Such was the end of Godwin, who according to that Gospel statement, ask and ye shall find, asked and did receive — not forgiveness for his sins, as he should have asked for, but a doom worthy of his deeds. Would that many men would be stricken down after this example, who do not know how to take a single step unless perjury guides them. In these days the king’s mother Emma died. Likewise William Duke of Normandy, invited by the king, came to England. For Edward, mindful of his old hospitality when he was lived with him, desired to do well by the duke, and so he received him handsomely and loaded him down and many and various gifts. Besides these displays of kindness, as I have it from my authors, Edward is said to have promised to make the duke his heir if he should chance to die childless, a promise he had previously made while languishing in Normandy. And this, as another place will show, was the bane of his nation. To the departing William the king gave Biorno and Tosto, the hostages given by Godwin, to be kept under guard in Normandy. Here I would offer this warning, that ignorant historians carelessly give these sons of Godwin (and many others) strange unheard-of names, and thus they pervert history and render it more obscure.
8. It was the twelfth year of Edward’s reign, and he, now enjoying peace by land and sea, was no less concerned for the welfare of his subjects than his own, being naturally inclined to love men (the foundation of law), first of all thought he should make laws he deemed to be useful. For a multiplicity of laws once made by the Britons, then by the English, and most recently by the Dacians were in use, and a goodly number of men, measuring all things according to their own advantage, so accommodated these laws to their manners that often iniquity was practiced rather than justice. Therefore out of this immense abundance of laws Edward elected the best and most necessary, and sanctioned a few, wholesome ones which would henceforth prescribe the right way of living for all men alike. Posterity called these the Common Law, and when the Normans gave them others and they complained these ones were taken away, as if they were the best part of their life, they took up arms to regain them, and caused great trouble for their kings, who often refused to restore them to their old usage, as being less profitable for themselves, as will be shown at appropriate times below. Having laid this foundation for justice, the king began with wonderful vigor to help the helpless, to foster religion, and to deserve well of all men, so that liberality, piety, and charity would flow from him to others, as if from a fountain. For which virtues he was so acceptable in the sight of God that that he earned the merit of performing miracles. Were I to record these, time would doubtless fail me. Yet I cannot omit some of the more memorable. When tax-gatherers imposed on the people once heaped up a great pile of money gained from that tax in his presence to delight him, he suddenly seemed to see a demon sporting around the pile. And so, abhorring this money as a deadly thing, he is said to have straightway commanded it to be removed from his sight and given back to the people. Then too, while hearing masse he is said to have seen the baby Jesus in the eucharist, as did Earl Leofred of Mercia, a very pious man who was present. He immediately broke out in a smile, and, asked what the reason was, he answered he had seen the Dacians invading, but when their flagship sank, they all hastened back to Dacia, as came to pass a little later. And so he easily perceived that God was caring for his kingdom. Like a seer, he had a premonition that the Normans would soon take the kingdom by force. For at that time Harald began to beg him earnestly for permission to go to Normandy to visit is brothers, who were hostages at the court of the duke, as I have said. To this the king responded, “You may go, since I am not permitted to hinder you. But trust me, you are attempting a thing which will be fatal to your nation and yourself.” Harald went, and when he spent some time in begging the duke to return the hostages (a request he did not make entirely without Edward’s knowledge), he gave the duke the opportunity to reveal his counsel. For the duke, who had already formed the hope of gaining the kingdom of England, told Harald how Edward had twice promised to make him his heir if he had no children, as I have told before. And since Edward had no hope of children, the duke asked him to make this arrangement with Edward. If he were successful, then he could hope for great rewards and highest honors from the duke. This Harald swore upon his oath to do to the best of his ability, and so he got back one of his brothers Tosto, who the duke freed at his behest, returned to England, and set forth in their due order all things which the Norman had transacted with him. Then the king is said to have replied, “Didn’t I tell you would visit great evils on our nation if you went to William? But may God bring it to pass either that this doom is averted or, if it is quite fated to happen, that it not come in my time.” From this we can gather either that Edward did not keep his word to William about the inheritance of the realm, which he had originally given thoughtlessly (after the manner of exiles, who will promise seas and mountains so as not to be abandoned by their friends), or else, as is more likely, that he had made no such promise.
9. King Edward, by divine aid, was in the habit of healing scrofula with his touch, i. e., a humor in which acorn-sized excretions erupt, filled with pus and blood, and frequently spread across the chest and throat. And this immortal gift has descended to later kings, as if by hereditary right. For even nowadays the kings of England cleanse the scrofulous by their touch, with certain hymns sung and rites performed beforehand. By these divine signs Edward was seen to be most dear to God, and had now reigned about twenty-four years when, as a persistent report has it, a ring was given him by some men come back from Jerusalem, when he himself had in the past secretly given to a pauper who had begged for alms in the name of the love he bore for St. John the Baptist. Thus by these divine warnings the king’s death was announced, and not long thereafter, having been overtaken by disease, he was forewarned by Almighty God in a dream. He yielded up his soul to heaven in the twenty-fourth year of his realm, was buried at Westminster, and soon thereafter canonized. For a long time the ring was preserved in the same church, with great veneration, since it was wholesome for those with paralyzed limbs and had power against the falling sickness, then sufferers of those diseases touched it. Hence arose the custom that on Good Friday kings would ceremoniously consecrate rings, the wearers of which would always be free of these diseases. This most holy king fathered no sons. At this time lived very great men, Edsin Archbishop of Canterbury, who sat more than eleven years, in whose place was substituted Robert Bishop of London, a Norman. At first this man was greatly beloved by Edward and held in honor. But after he persuaded him that his mother Emma, accused of debauchery, should undergo trial by fire, and after she survived the ordeal, as I have narrated above, he fled to the Continent, repentant and fearful. He was followed by Stigand, the thirty-second archbishop. Vulfstan Bishop of Worcester was famed for his sanctity and learning, and after a life most piously led he was canonized. Sward Earl of Northumbria flourished, a Northumbrian, famed for his martial prowess. When he suffered from dysentery and had a presentiment of his impending death, his strength failing him, he put on his armor and stood keen with his arms (as Vergil says), just as if he were about to come to blows with his enemy, saying it did not befit a brave man to die lying down, like some pack animal. And thus he departed this life, in this respect imitating the custom of the Nasamones, a people of Libya, as I have abundantly explained in Book III of De Rerum Inventoribus. Suard was replaced as Εarl by Tosto, whom Morcat followed.
10. Edward’s death held the nobility in great suspense and doubt, since they had no idea to whom they should offer the office of kingship. For there was nobody suitable for ruling the kingdom who could obtain it by right, although Edgar Etheling, born from Edward, the son of Edmund Ironsides, had lately come to England from Hungary, where he had been born, with his mother and sisters. But this boy was not of age to rule. Likewise, terrified by many oracles which they suspected to portend an alteration of the kingdom, they were wonderfully afraid of Duke William, both because he was a Norman and because he was giving out that the kingdom was rightfully his since he had been named the legitimate heir of Edward, and particularly since he was entitled to this by the second and third degree of descent. For Richard I Duke of Normandy fathered Richard II and Emma. She gave birth to Edward, the son of King Ethelred of England. And Richard II fathered Richard III and Robert, the father of William by a concubine. While they pondered these things, Harald, Godwin’s son by Canute’s sister, relying on his pedigree and virtue, proclaimed himself king. The people were not at all displeased by this act, for they placed most of their hope on Harald. And so, according to ancestral custom, he was consecrated by Adred Archbishop of Canterbury or, as some say, crowned himself with no ceremony. This was the year of human salvation 1065. Immediately at the start of his reign, mindful that he had gained the throne by violence, he omitted no occasion of employing liberality, mercy, or affability, He either suspended or lessened the more heavy taxes, and increased the pay of his soldiers and the salary of his servants. But he was less concerned with these things than with the cultivation of religion. While he was occupied with this display of popularity and piety, there suddenly appeared ambassadors from William of Normandy, who had a good understanding of what had been done concerning the kingdom’s government. They had been sent quickly, and employed many words in reminding him of the oath he had once given the duke, and at the same time asking him to stand by his agreement. To these things Harald answered that he would satisfy William as long as he did not desire the kingdom, which he himself had now gained. Hearing this answer, the Norman, so he might first attempt all things by counsel rather than arms, again warned Harald through his ambassadors that, if he refused to be faithful in other things, he should at least not ignore the marriage of his daughter who, although not yet ripe for a husband, he had still betrothed her to himself when he was in Normandy, as some say. As far as I am aware, the name of his daughter is not given by any historian, since, I fancy, she did not live long. But Harald, inspired by his evil genius, regarded the ambassadors with a harsh and truculent expression, and said he would do neither thing, and with this reply he dismissed them. After that, so he would not be taken unawares, he outfitted as powerful a fleet as he could, and also recruited soldiers, setting garrisons at opportune places so that he could debar the Normans from his territories by both land and sea, should they come to harry him. When the duke had heard the king’s harsh reply from his ambassadors, he called his nobles together for a conference, and busily set about preparing for an English war. Meanwhile Harald began to be caught up in domestic seditions, for his brother Tosto gave him trouble. But to make this clearer, I must go back. From childhood onwards, Harald had many ornaments both of body and mind, and a handsome appearance at all stages of his life, being a man possessed of no less dignity than grace. He was especially endowed with strength, ability to learn virtually all the arts, and a great skill at arms and riding. These things brought it abut that he was wonderfully loved by all men, and especially by Edward. But his younger brother Tosto, who, as I have shown above, came back out of Normandy a little earlier, so envied him such ample virtues that once he struck him on the head in the royal presence and fought with him a while. After this, strongly rebuked by Edward, he left for Hereford where he mistreated Harald’s retinue. And for this he was proscribed by the king and fled to France. And so, hearing of Edward’s death, he collected ships and, waging war against Harald, captured and sacked the Isle of Wight. Then he headed for Kent, harrying all that shore with his banditry. This thing fell out ill for Harald. For to ward of this harm he was compelled to recall the fleet and army arrayed against the Normans. A frightened Tosto made for Northumbria and, landing his men, with great bloodshed. But he was driven headlong into Scotland both by the local inhabitants, who hated him as a common thief, and by the royal fleet, not without loss of ships and men.
11. This commotion was scarcely settled when another and more serious misfortune befell Harald. For since Tosto anticipated no help from the Scots in his affairs, he set sail for Norway, relying on the power and valor of their King Harald, whose name was everywhere most famous in those days. He asked the king for his help, and with many promises kindled in him a desire to possess the kingdom amidst these domestic English squabbles. So straightway, outfitting no mean fleet, he sailed with a fair wind. Striking the English shore, he entered the mouth of the Tyne, the river that waters Newcastle, a noble city of County Durham. I do not agree with those writers who assert that the Norse king, spontaneously and led only by his lust for power, began this war when he saw the brothers quarrelling. For this is so far removed from the truth that it seems unlikely. Could anyone believe that Harald, a man of great counsel and reason, unfamiliar with these places and persons since he had had no dealings with the English, and who by rights could seek nothing from them, would have chosen this expedition to a faraway place, when he could foresee no sure risk or profit? And so it can be taken for granted that he was invited by Tosto, and this is vouched for by Saxo, whose credibility is not to be neglected, especially about the doings of his own people. And so Harald and Tosto, after they had lingered several days in the Tynemouth their soldiers had recovered from their exertions and were readied for war, took the road together and disposed their forces. They were met by the brothers Edwin and Morcat, Earls of Mercia and Northumbria, with no negligible army. Here, the signal being given on both sides, battle was joined. For a while it was doubtful, but in the end the English were surrounded by the multitude of their enemy and bested, and so, giving hostages, they surrendered. Harald, who had hastened to bring aid to his subjects, heard of this setback while on the march but remained undaunted. Rather, he picked up his step and arrived at Stanford on the fourth day after the battle, where the Norwegians had halted a little beyond the river Derwent and had occupied a bridge, so that the enemy could not march there unexpectedly. The next day, the king drew nearer, his forces in array, so as to bring his army across the bridge. And there, by the courage of a single Norwegian, they were held back until late in the day before they could cross over. For that day he chanced to have been stationed as a guard for the bridge, when he saw the English suddenly appear and come running towards it. He planted himself at the entryway to the bridge, looked about with his cruel eyes, and he either killed or beat back one after another as they made their rush. At this deed, the enemy were amazed at this miracle of bravery, that one man could withstand many for so long a time, and so they strove to overcome this man they could not overcome by a stratagem. The bridge was made of wood and there were many chinks in its flooring. While the others kept the Norwegian busy with a skirmish, one took a small boat under the bridge and stealthily stabbed him in the groin with his spear. So finally by this means that man, whose name is not remembered, fell, after killing many a man. Having gained the bridge, Harald fell on his enemies from their rear as they straggled about, and the Norwegian king and Tosto were killed in the first assault. Learning this, everybody quickly took to their heels. The slaughter of the refugees, as such as happens when things are done with rage rather than virtue, was ruinous, but not without loss to the English, since their victory was not without bloodshed. And the remainder of the Norwegians, who had been left to protect the fleet, as soon as they learned of their king’s death from the flight of refugees running to the ships, set sail and quickly vanished out of sight of land as they directed their course homeward. Arriving there, they filled everything with grief, reporting such a ruinous defeat. And so all Norway was plunged in mourning, and, bereft of a ruler, soon thereafter reverted to Dacian control. In this context I am ashamed to have to note the negligence of certain modern writers who wrongly claim this war against the English was waged, not by the Norwegians, but by the Dacians (whom they incorrectly persist in calling Danes), under the rule of Harvic, even if no man of that name is recorded to have obtained the Danish throne. For at the time Sweno was ruling the Dacians, and was so preoccupied at home that he had no time for a foreign war, so I can affirm that Tosto did not apply to him for help. And these same historians of English affairs (whose names I gladly omit to set down) often report things in such a different manner that you can easily determine they have never seen the annals of that nation, as is particularly shown by the variety of names they give to places and men. I have given this timely warning, partly because it suffices to advertise this fact once for all, and partly lest their ignorance or careless be a source of reproach to my history, when readers observe this difference in names. But let me pursue the sequel. King Harald, very gratified by this victory, hastened to Yorkshire to pacify and regulate that province, still in a state of turbulence after so many upheavals of war.
12. Meanwhile Duke William of Normandy learned by his spies that the English were occupied with this Norwegian war and that the island’s southern seaboard, where he expected to direct his ships, was not garrisoned. So he immediately loaded his young fighters on the fleet and crossed over to England with more than thirty ships, quicker than all men’s expectation, and landed near a coastal village which they call Hastings, where he gathered his soldiers and pitched camp. Here he is said to have received an omen of his coming victory. For as soon as he disembarked, he slipped a trifle and planted his foot deep in the sand. Seeing this, a quick-witted soldier said, leaping for joy, “Now, duke, you possess England with a firm footing.” The inhabitants of the nearby places, amazed at the duke’s sudden arrival and seeing such great forced drawn up against themselves, did not hesitate in reporting all these things to the king in a letter, and this sudden development added to his great concern. For he had lost nearly all his strength in the Norwegian war. Likewise, many of his soldier were ill-disposed because the spoils of that war had been divided unfairly. Even if Harald was stung by these things, yet with a high heart (such a man he was) he changed his course when he heard the news, and, gathering his forces, of necessity he returned directly to London and set out against the enemy, his army growing along the way as men who cared for their nation’s safety came flocking to their king. And the Norman, moving camp, came into sight of his enemy, ready to join battle. At this point many sources have it that conditions for a bloodless peace were proposed by both sides, but that both generals, eager to try the fortune of war, scorned these, and likewise that both began to fire their men for the struggle, now exhorting, now warning. And first Harald, summoning his company together, was the first to deliver a harangue of this kind:
13. “You have heard, smy oldiers, that from its very beginning our ancestors did not gain this noble kingdom, nor protect it when it was harried by its neighbors, nor by their virtue increase it to the point that now other peoples dread our power, without great toil and bloodshed. And our neighbors do dread us, daily they beg us for peace. The barbarians envy us, they who, oppressed at home by shortages of all things and greedy for the property of others, are compelled to employ their arms in the manner of bandits rather than according to the laws of just warfare, and to expose themselves to dangers. Thus the Dacians have been opposed to us for many years. Thus (not to mention more examples) the Norwegians recently invaded us, a people descended from the Dacians, whom we have conquered, whom we regard as base to have among us except as our slaves. And now William, a fellow born of a concubine, having scraped together a gang of thieves, is attempting to steal our goods, befoul our kingdom, destroy our nobility. And so I warn you that you be of stout and ready minds, and when you enter into the battle, with God’s good help, you need to bear in mind that the safety of yourselves and the entire English people is in your own right hands. If we conquer, we will free our country from the harm of our enemies forever. If we are overcome (God avert the omen), we shall die for our nation, which is a fine and fair thing.” When he had spoken, each man promised that at the signal he would fearlessly go against the enemy. Likewise the Norman is said to have encouraged his men thus: “Wherever I turn my eyes, you most loyal and brave of men, I see everything full of courage and strength. Not without joy, I behold you, always my sturdy companions in war, you who are like Rollo, the founder of our race, in your virtue. For with great effort he once carved out a dukedome in a hostile land for himself and his posterity, our ancestors expanded it by their strength, and you have made it to flourish greatly. And now, if God favors us, you will add to it England, which is mine, which that right excellent King Edward my kinsman freely bestowed on me. I for my part am not making war on this land, but striving to wrest it from Harald, son of Godwin the traitor, who possesses it wrongfully. And I am seeking to punish him for his oath-breaking, a man who has nothing of faith, nothing of piety, for whicch reasons (it is reasonable to believe) he has long ago incurred the wrath of God Almighty. Therefore the victory is destined to be ours, and the greater our hope for this is, the more keenly you should devote yourself to
14. When the minds of soldiers on both sides were inflamed for the fight on both sides, on the last day of September, the armies were led out to battle. First they gave the signal in the ancient way, then a great shout arose and their standards came together. The battle was first fought with arrows and missiles, then swords were drawn. The English, mindful of their ancient virtue, pressed forward vigorously. The Normans resisted, scarce fearful, and they fought with might and main. Harald entered into the forefront with his light horse. Here he aided those of his men who were toiling, substituting fresh men for the weary. Meanwhile the Norman general, seeing the English fight so forcefully, ordered his horse to enter the midst of the fray, so that they might break the enemy ranks. These horsemen fell everywhere, but could not budge the English. Then the duke, most skilled at war, thought the best thing would be to feign flight, and ordered his men gradually to break off the fight and retreat, so that in this way he would disrupt the order of the pursuing ranks. For the English, who were outnumbered, confronted that multitude packed in a close group. And so William, when he saw his men falling back a little, and being pressed by their enemy, eager for a slaughter, stationed part of his horsemen and his footmen who were still fresh in a hidden place a little removed from where the fighting was being done, so that they might encounter the enemy unexpectedly. Then the battle grew hot, and those pretending to turn tail gradually fell back. And the English, thinking victory to be in their grasp, broke ranks and followed after them in confusion, and as they ran they were led to the place where the ambush was set. Here the Normans attacked the English, who were scattered in their dash, formed a circle and, cutting off their avenues of retreat, inflicted a massacre. It is wonderful to tell with what presence of mind and what strength the English resisted, although thrown into confusion and surrounded. They did not leave off fighting, and their king supported their effort, now by exhorting, now by fighting. But after they saw him run through the brain by a missile and falling dead from his horse, then the very few who remained in good condition fled. The rest were slain. William, having gained the victory, was overjoyed, and the following night he is said to have heard a voice in a dream, saying. “You have conquered, William. You and your descendants will reign.” So we sometimes dream of that which we desire. As soon as the following day dawned, they turned to gathering up the spoils and refreshed their toil-wearied bodies. This done, the duke, being eager to take advantage of his victory, marched quickly on London, receiving the panic-stricken islanders’ surrender wherever he he went. But this will be told at the appropriate place in my next Book.
15. After this disastrous defeat, Earls Edwin and Morcat, who had survived the great slaughter, fled to London so they might deliberate what was to be done. There you could only hear lamentations, you could see everything was plunged in gloom. This was a noble fight, with many lost on both sides, with more than twenty thousand men killed. In it was destroyed all English strength, together with their empire. This downfall was presaged by a comet of unusual magnitude which was visible for a number of days. Harald was found among the bodies of his men, and his body, returned to his mother Thira by the enemy, was buried in the church of Holy Cross at the village of Waltham, which he himself had begun to build, or rather which he had restored, as is shown by the brevity of his life. Here there was a monastery of so-called secular canons, about twelve miles from London, which Harald had endowed with landholdings. Waltham is watered by the river Lea, which divides Essex from Herefordshire. Harald was the thirty-sixth king after Cerdic, and, having scarce reigned a year, being the final English king he was at one and the same moment deprived of life and kingdom. And this was the year of human salvation 1066, 617 years after the coming of the English to Britain under the leadership of Hengist. In this space of time England was governed variously. First came the kingdom of Cent, which began in the year of salvation 450, and then at other times the six other kingdoms had their beginnings, as is told above at appropriate points. And since these came under West Saxon rule, something must be said about the chronology of that kingdom. The kingdom of the West Saxons was founded by Cerdic, the first of their kings, and this was in the year of salvation 521, 71 years after the coming of the English, and after a period of 417 years the other kingdoms were adjoined to it, in the year of our salvation 937, when Adelstan, son of Edward the Elder, in the thirteenth year of his reign, expelled Analaph and Gottofred, the sons of the Dacian King Suthric of Northumbria, as has been told in Book VI, and at length received the homage of the Northumbrians. Thus the first English king gained power over all of England, and this endured for about 128 years, until Harald died at the hands of the Normans. But yet it was not an unbroken stretch of time, since the Dacians ruled over the island for an interval of twenty-five years. Therefore the rule of the West Saxon kingdom came to an end 546 years after their first king Cerdic obtained jurisdiction in the island, and 617 years after the arrival of the English, in the year 1066. At that time Duke William of Normandy conquered Harald and gained the kingdom. Human affairs fluctuate so much that nothing in them is as assured as the certainty of alteration, either for the better or for the worse.
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