Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.

The remaining story belongs chiefly to the annals of Norman Britain.  Harold was assailed at once from either side.  On the north, his brother Tostig, whom he had expelled from Northumbria, led against him his namesake, Harold Hardrada, king of Norway.  On the south, William of Normandy, Eadward’s cousin, claimed the right to present himself to the English electors.  Eadward’s death, in fact, had broken up the temporary status, and left England once more a prey to barbaric Scandinavians from Denmark, or civilised Scandinavians from Normandy.  The English themselves had no organisation which could withstand either, and no national unity to promote such organisation in future.  Harold of Norway came first, landing in the old Danish stronghold of Northumbria; and the English Harold hurried northward to meet him, with his little body of house-carls, aided by a large fyrd which he had hastily collected to use against William.  At Stamford-bridge he overthrew the invaders with great slaughter, Harold Hardrada and Tostig being amongst the slain.  Meanwhile, William had crossed to Pevensey, and was ravaging the coast.  Harold hurried southward, and met him at Senlac, near Hastings.  After a hard day’s fight, the Normans were successful, and Harold fell.  But even yet the English could not agree among themselves.  In this crisis of the national fate, the local jealousies burnt up as fiercely as ever.  While William was marching upon London, the witan were quarrelling and intriguing in the city over the succession.  “Archbishop Ealdred and the townsmen of London would have Eadgar Child,”—­a grandson of Eadmund Ironside—­“for king, as was his right by kin.”  But Eadwine and Morkere, the representatives of the great Mercian family of Leofric, had hopes that they might turn William’s invasion to their own good, and secure their independence in the north by allowing Wessex to fall unassisted into his hands.  After much shuffling, Eadgar was at last chosen for king.  “But as it ever should have been the forwarder, so was it ever, from day to day, slower and worse.”  No resistance was organised.  In the midst of all this turmoil, the Peterborough Chronicler is engaged in narrating the petty affairs of his own abbey, and the question which arose through the application made to Eadgar for his consent to the appointment of an abbot.  In such a spirit did the English meet an invasion from the stoutest and best organised soldiery in Europe.  William marched on without let or hindrance, and on his way, the Lady—­the Confessor’s widow—­surrendered the royal city of Winchester into his hands.  The duke reached the Thames, burnt Southwark, and then made a detour to cross the river at Wallingford, whence he proceeded into Hertfordshire, thus cutting off Eadwine and Morkere in London from their earldoms.  The Mercian and Northumbrian leaders being determined to hold their own at all hazards, retreated northward; and the English resistance crumbled into pieces.  Eadgar, the rival king, with Ealdred, the archbishop,

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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