Thursday, March 31, 2016

Visit of Duke William. 1051

In Godwine's absence, in 1051 King Edward the Confessor received a visit from the Duke of the Normans, William, the bastard son of Duke Robert and the daughter of a tanner of Falaise.

Robert was a son of Richard II., and William was thus the grandson of the brother of Edward's mother, Emma. Such a relationship gave him no title whatever to the English throne, as Emma was not descended from the English kings, and as, even if she had been, no one could be lawfully king in England who was not chosen by the Witenagemot. Edward, however, had no children or brothers, and though he had no right to give away the crown, he now promised William that he should succeed him.

William, indeed, was just the man to attract one whose character was as weak as Edward's. Since he received the dukedom he had beaten down the opposition of a fierce and discontented nobility at Val-ès-dunes (1047). From that day peace and order prevailed in Normandy. Law in Normandy did not come as in England from the traditions of the shire-moot or the Witenagemot, where men met to consult together. It was the Duke's law, and if the Duke was a strong man he kept peace in the land. If he was a weak man, the lords fought against one another and plundered and oppressed the poor. William was strong and wily, and it was this combination of strength and wiliness which enabled him to bear down all opposition.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Banishment of Godwine. 1051

At last, in 1051, the strife between King Edward and the Earl broke out openly. Edward's brother-in-law, Eustace, Count of Boulogne, visited England. On his return his men made a disturbance at Dover, and in the riot which ensued some of the townsmen as well as some of his own men were slain.

Edward called on Godwine, in whose earldom Dover was, to punish the townsmen. Godwine refused, and Edward summoned him to Gloucester to account for his refusal. He came attended by an armed host, but Leofric and Siward, who were jealous of Godwine's power, came with their armed followers to support the king. Leofric mediated, and it was arranged that the question should be settled at a Witenagemot to be held in London.

In the end Godwine was outlawed and banished with all his family. Swegen went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and died on the way back.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Edward the Confessor

The Seal of Edward the Confessor
The English were tired of foreign rulers. 'All folk chose Edward king.'

Edward, the son of Æthelred and the brother of the murdered Ælfred, though an Englishman on his father's side, was also the son of the Norman Emma, and had been brought up in Normandy from his childhood. The Normans were now men of French speech, and they were more polite and cultivated than Englishmen. Edward filled his court with Normans. He disliked the roughness of the English, but instead of attempting to improve them as the great Ælfred had formerly done, he stood entirely aloof from them. The name of the Confessor by which he was afterwards known was given him on account of his piety, but his piety was not of that sort which is associated with active usefulness. He was fond of hunting, but was not active in any other way, and he left others to govern rather than himself.

For some years the real governor of England was Earl Godwine, who kept his own earldom of Wessex, and managed to procure other smaller earldoms for his sons. As the Mercia over which Leofric ruled was only the north-western part of the old kingdom, and as Siward had enough to do to keep the fierce men of North-humberland in order, Godwine had as yet no competitor to fear. In 1045 he became the king's father-in-law by the marriage of Edward with his daughter, Eadgyth. Edward, however, did his best for his Norman favourites, and appointed one of them, Robert of Jumièges, to the bishopric of London, and afterwards raised him to the Archbishopric of Canterbury.

Between Godwine and the Normans there was no goodwill, and though Godwine was himself of fair repute, his eldest son, Swegen, a young man of brutal nature, alienated the goodwill of his countrymen by seducing the Abbess of Leominster, and by murdering his cousin Beorn. Godwine, in his blind family affection, clung to his wicked son and insisted on his being allowed to retain his earldom.