King Edward

Bosham Magazine online


vol. 2 of The Prose Works of John Milton. circa 1670

Glad were the English delivered so unexpectedly from their Danish masters, and little thought how near another conquest was hanging over them. Edward, the Easter following, crowned at Winchester, the same year accompanied with earl Godwin, Leofric, and Siward, came again thither on a sudden, and by their counsel seized on the treasure of his mother Emma. The cause alleged is, that she was hard to him in the time of his banishment; and indeed she is said not much to have loved Ethelred her former husband, and thereafter the children by him; she was moreover noted to be very covetous, hard to the poor, and profuse to monasteries. About this time also King Edward, according to promise, took to wife Edith or Egith earl Godwin�s daughter, commended much for beauty, modesty, and beyond what is requisite in a woman, learning. Ingulf, then a youth lodging in the court with his father, saw her oft, and coming from the school was sometimes met by her and posed, not in grammar only, but in logic. Edward the next year but one made ready a strong navy at Sandwich against Magnus king of Norway, who threatened an invasion, had not Swane king of Denmark diverted him by a war at home to defend his own land; not out of good will to Edward, as may be supposed, who at the same time expressed none to the Danes, banishing Gunildis the neice of Canute with her two sons, and Osgod by surname Clapa, out of the realm. Swane, overpowered by Magnus, sent the next year to entreat aid of King Edward; Godwin gave counsel to send him fifty ships fraught with soldiers; but Leofric and the general voice gainsaying, none were sent.

The next year Harold Harvager, king of Norway, sending embassadors, made peace with King Edward; but an earthquake at Worcester and Derby, pestilence and famine in many places, much lessened the enjoyment thereof. The next year Henry the emperor, displeased with Baldwin earl of Flanders, had straitened him with a great army by land; and sending to king Edward, desired him with his ships to hinder what he might his escape by sea. The king therefore, with a great navy, coming to Sandwich, there staid till the emperor came to an agreement with earl Baldwin. Meanwhile Swane son of earl Godwin, who, not permitted to marry Edgiva the abbess of Chester by him deflowered, had left the land, came out of Denmark with eight ships, feigning a desire to return into the king�s favour; and Beorn his cousin german, who commanded part of the king�s navy, promised to intercede, that his earldom might be restored him. Godwin therefore and Beorn with a few ships, the rest of the fleet gone home, coming to Pevensey, (but Godwin soon departed thence in pursuit of twenty-nine Danish ships, who had got much booty on the coast of Essex, and perished by tempest in their return,) Swane with his ships comes to Beorn at Pevensey, guilefully requests him to sail with him to Sandwich, and reconcile him to the king, as he had promised. Beorn mistrusting no evil where he intended good, went with him in his ship attended by three only of his servants: but Swane, set upon barbarous cruelty, not reconciliation with the king, took Beorn now in his power, and bound him; then coming to Dartmouth, slew and buried him in a deep ditch. After which the men of Hastings took six of his ships, and brought them to the king at Sandwich; with the other two he escaped into Flanders, there remaining till Aldred bishop of Worcester by earnest mediation wrought his peace with the king.

About this time King Edward sent to pope Leo, desiring absolution from a vow which he had made in his younger years, to take a journey to Rome, if God vouchsafed him to reign in England; the pope dispensed with his vow, but not without the expense of his journey given to the poor, and a monastery built or re-dified to St. Peter; who in vision to a monk, as is said, chose Westminster, which King Edward thereupon rebuilding endowed with large privileges and revenues. The same year, saith Florent of Worcester, certain Irish pirates with thirty-six ships entered the mouth of Severn, and with the aid of Griffin prince of South Wales, did some hurt in those parts: then passing the river Wye, burnt Dunedham, and slew all the inhabitants they found. Against whom Aldred bishop of Worcester, with a few out of Gloucester and Herefordshire, went out in haste: but Griffin, to whom the Welsh and Irish had privily sent messengers, came down upon the English with his whole power by night, and early in the morning suddenly assaulting them, slew many, and put the rest to flight. The next year� but one, King Edward remitted the Danish tax which had continued thirty-eight years heavy upon the land since Ethelred first paid it to the Danes, and what remained thereof in his treasury he sent back to the owners: but through imprudence laid the foundation of a far worse mischief to the English; while studying gratitude to those Normans, who to him in exile had been helpful, he called them over to public offices here, whom better he might have repaid out of his private purse; by this means exasperating either nation one against the other, and making way by degrees to the Norman conquest. Robert a monk of that country, who had been serviceable to him there in time of need, he made bishop, first of London, then of Canterbury; William his chaplain, bishop of Dorchester. Then began the English to lay aside their own ancient customs, and in many things to imitate French manners, the great peers to speak French in their houses, in French to write their bills and letters, as a great piece of gentility, ashamed of their own: a presage of their subjection shortly to that people, whose fashions and language they affected so slavishly. But that which gave beginning to many troubles ensuing happened this year, and upon this occasion.

Eustace earl of Boloign, father of the famous Godfrey who won Jerusalem from the Saracens, and husband to Goda the king�s sister, having been to visit King Edward, and returning by Canterbury to take ship at Dover, one of his harbingers insolently seeking to lodge by force in a house there, provoked so the master thereof, as by chance or heat of anger to kill him. The count with his whole train going to the house where his servant had been killed, slew both the slayer and eighteen more who defended him. But the townsmen running to arms, requited him with the slaughter of twenty more of his servants, wounded most of the rest; he himself with one or two hardly escaping, ran back with clamour to the king; whom, seconded by other Norman courtiers, he stirred up to great anger against the citizens of Canterbury. Earl Godwin in haste is sent for, the cause related and much aggravated by the king against that city, the earl commanded to raise forces, and use the citizens thereof as enemies. Godwin, sorry to see strangers more favoured of the king than his native people, answered, that �it were better to summon first the chief men of the town into the king�s court, to charge them with sedition, where both parties might be heard, that not found in fault they might be acquitted; if otherwise, by fine or loss of life might satisfy the king, whose peace they had broken, and the count whom they had injured: till this were done refusing to prosecute with hostile punishment them of his own country unheard, whom his office was rather to defend.�

The king, displeased with his refusal, and not knowing how to compel him, appointed an assembly of all the peers to be held at Gloucester, where the matter might be fully tried; the assembly was full and frequent according to summons: but Godwin, mistrusting his own cause, or the violence of his adversaries, with his two sons, Swane and Harold, and a great power gathered out of his own and his sons� earldoms, which contained most of the south-east and west parts of England, came no farther than Beverstan, giving out that their forces were to go against the Welsh, who intended an irruption into Herefordshire; and Swane under that pretence lay with part of his army thereabout. The Welsh understanding this device, and with all diligence clearing themselves before the king, left Godwin detected of false accusation in great hatred to all the assembly. Leofric therefore and Siward, dukes of great power, the former in Mercia, the other in all parts beyond Humber, both ever faithful to the king, send privily with speed to raise the forces of their provinces. Which Godwin not knowing, sent bold to King Edward, demanding count Eustace and his followers, together with those Boloignians, who, as Simeon writes, held a castle in the jurisdiction of Canterbury. The king, as then having but little force at hand, entertained him a while with treaties and delays, till his summoned army drew nigh, then rejected his demands. Godwin, thus matched, commanded his sons not to begin fight against the king; begun with, not to give ground.

The king�s forces were the flower of those counties whence they came, and eager to fall on: but Leofric and the wiser sort, detesting civil war, brought the matter to this accord; that hostages given on either side, the cause should be again debated at London. Thither the king and lords coming with their army, sent to Godwin and his sons (who with their powers were come as far as Southwark) commanding their appearance unarmed with only twelve attendants, and that the rest of their soldiers they should deliver over to the king. They to appear without pledges before an adverse faction denied; but to dismiss their soldiers refused not, nor in aught else to obey the king as far as might stand with honour and the just regard of their safety. This answer not pleasing the king, an edict was presently issued forth, that Godwin and his sons within five days depart the land. He, who perceived now his numbers to diminish, readily obeyed, and with his wife and three sons, Tosti, Swane, and Gyrtha, with as much treasure as their ship could carry, embarked at Thorney, sailed into Flanders to earl Baldwin, whose daughter Judith Tosti had married: for Wulnod his fourth son was then a hostage to the king in Normandy; his other two, Harold and Leofwin, taking ship at Bristow, in a vessel that lay ready there belonging to Swane, passed into Ireland. King Edward, pursuing his displeasure, divorced his wife Edith, earl Godwin�s daughter, sending her despoiled of all her ornaments to Warewel with one waiting-maid; to be kept in custody by his sister the abbess there. His reason of so doing was as harsh as his act, that she only, while her nearest relations were in banishment, might not, though innocent, enjoy ease at home. After this, William duke of Normandy, with a great number of followers, coming into England, was by King Edward honourably entertained, and led about the cities and castles, as it were to show him what ere long was to be his own, (though at that time, saith Ingulf, no mention thereof passed between them,) then, after some time of his abode here, presented richly and dismissed, he returned home.

The next year Queen Emma died, and was buried at Winchester. The chronicle attributed to John Brompton, a Yorkshire abbot, but rather of some nameless author living under Edward III., or later, reports that the year before, by Robert the archbishop she was accused both of consenting to the death of her son Elfred, and of preparing poison for Edward also: lastly, of too much familiarity with Alwin bishop of Winchester; that to approve her innocence, praying overnight to St. Swithune, she offered to pass blindfold between certain ploughshares red-hot, according to the ordalian law, which without harm she performed; that the king thereupon received her to honour, and from her and the bishop, penance for his credulity; that the archbishop, ashamed of his accusation, fled out of England: which, besides the silence of ancienter authors, (for the bishop fled not till a year after,) brings the whole story into suspicion, in this more probable, if it can be proved, that in memory of this deliverance from the nine burning ploughshares, Queen Emma gave to the abbey of St. Swithune nine manors, and bishop Alwin other nine.

About this time Griffin prince of South Wales wasted Herefordshire; to oppose whom the people of that country, with many Normans, garrisoned in the castle of Hereford, went out in arms, but were put to the worse, many slain, and much booty driven away by the Welsh. Soon after which Harold and Leofwin, sons of Godwin, coming into Severn with many ships, in the confines of Somerset and Dorsetshire, spoiled many villages, and resisted by those of Somerset and Devonshire, slew in a fight more than thirty of their principal men, many of the common sort, and returned with much booty to their fleet. King Edward on the other side made ready above sixty ships at Sandwich, well stored with men and provision, under the conduct of Odo and Radulf, two of his Norman kindred, enjoining them to find out Godwin, whom he heard to be at sea. To quicken them, he himself lay on shipboard, ofttimes watched and sailed up and down in search of those pirates. But Godwin, whether in a mist, or by other accident, passing by them, arrived in another part of Kent, and dispersing several messengers abroad, by fair words allured the chief men of Kent, Surrey, and Essex, to his party; which news coming to the king�s fleet at Sandwich, they hasted to find him out; but missing of him again, came up without effect to London. Godwin, advertised of this, forthwith sailed to the Isle of Wight; where at length his two sons Harold and Leofwin finding him, with their united navy lay on the coast, forbearing other hostility than to furnish themselves with fresh victuals from land as they needed. Thence as one fleet they set forward to Sandwich, using all fair means by the way to increase their numbers both of mariners and soldiers.

The king then at London, startled at these tidings, gave speedy orders to raise forces in all parts that had not revolted from him; but now too late, for Godwin within a few days after with his ships or galleys came up the river Thames to Southwark, and till the tide returned had conference with the Londoners; whom by fair speeches (for he was held a good speaker in those times) he brought to his bent. The tide returned, and none upon the bridge hindering, he rowed up in his galleys along the south bank; where his land-army, now come to him, in array of battle now stood on the shore; then turning toward the north side of the river, where the king�s galleys lay in some readiness, and land forces also not far off, he made show as offering to fight; but they understood one another, and the soldiers on either side soon declared their resolution not to fight English against English. Thence coming to treaty, the king and the earl reconciled, both armies were dissolved, Godwin and his sons restored to their former dignities, except Swane, who, touched in conscience for the slaughter of Beorne his kinsman, was gone barefoot to Jerusalem, and, returning home, died by sickness or Saracens in Lycia; his wife Edith, Godwin�s daughter, King Edward took to him again, dignified as before. Then were the Normans, who had done many unjust things under the king�s authority, and given him ill counsel against his people, banished the realm; some of them, not blameable, permitted to stay. Robert archbishop of Canterbury, William of London, Ulf of Lincoln, all Normans, hardly escaping with their followers, got to sea. The archbishop went with his complaint to Rome; but returning, died in Normandy at the same monastery from whence he came. Osbern and Hugh surrendered their castles, and by permission of Leofric passed through his countries with their Normans to Macbeth king of Scotland.

The year following, Rhese, brother to Griffin, prince of South Wales, who by inroads had done much damage to the English, taken at Bulendun, was put to death by the king�s appointment, and his head brought to him at Gloucester. The same year at Winchester on the second holy day of Easter, earl Godwin, sitting with the king at table, sunk down suddenly in his seat as dead: his three sons, Harold, Tosti, and Girtha, forthwith carried him into the king�s chamber, hoping he might revive: but the malady had so seized him, that the fifth day after he expired. The Normans who hated Godwin give out, saith Malmsbury, that mention happening to be made of Elfred, and the king thereat looking sourly upon Godwin, he, to vindicate himself, uttered these words: �Thou, O king, at every mention made of thy brother Elfred, lookest frowningly upon me; but let God not suffer me to swallow this morsel, if I be guilty of aught done against his life or thy advantage;� that after these words, choked with the morsel taken, he sunk down and recovered not. His first wife was the sister of Canute, a woman of much infamy for the trade she drove of buying up English youths and maids to sell in Denmark, whereof she made great gain; but ere long was struck with thunder and died.

The year ensuing, Siward earl of Northumberland, with a great number of horse and foot, attended also by a strong fleet at the king�s appointment, made an expedition into Scotland, vanquished the tyrant Macbeth, slaying many thousands of Scots with those Normans that went thither, and placed Malcolm son of the Cambrian king in his stead; yet not without loss of his own son, and many other both English and Danes. Told of his son�s death,� he asked whether he received his death�s wound before or behind. When it was answered, before; �I am glad,� saith he, �and should not else have thought him, though my son, worthy of burial.� In the mean while King Edward being without issue to succeed him, sent Aldred bishop of Winchester with great presents to the emperor, entreating him to prevail with the king of Hungary, that Edward, the remaining son of his brother Edmund Ironside, might be sent into England. Siward but one year surviving his great victory, died at York reported by Huntingdon a man of giant-like stature; and by his own demeanor at point of death manifested, of a rough and mere soldierly mind. For much disdaining to die in bed by a disease, not in the field fighting with his enemies, he caused himself completely armed, and weaponed with battleaxe and shield, to be set in a chair, whether to fight with death, if he could be so vain, or to meet him (when far other weapons and preparations were needful) in a martial bravery; but true fortitude glories not in the feats of war, as they are such, but as they serve to end war soonest by a victorious peace.

His earldom the king bestowed on Tosti the son of earl Godwin: and soon after, in a convention held at London, banished without visible cause, Huntingdon saith for treason, Algar the son of Leofric; who, passing into Ireland, soon returned with eighteen ships to Griffin prince of South Wales, requesting his aid against King Edward. He, assembling his powers, entered with him into Herefordshire; whom Radulf a timorous captain, son to the king�s sister, not by Eustace, but a former husband, met two miles distant from Hereford; and having horsed the English, who knew better to fight on foot, without stroke he with his French and Normans beginning to fly, taught the English by his example. Griffin and Algar, following the chase, slew many, wounded more, entered Hereford, slew seven canons defending the minster, burnt the monastery and reliques, then the city; killing some, leading captive others of the citizens, returned with great spoils; whereof King Edward having notice gathered a great army at Gloucester under the conduct of Harold, now earl of Kent, who strenuously pursuing Griffin entered Wales, and encamped beyond Straddale. But the enemy flying before him farther into the country, leaving there the greater part of his army with such as had charge to fight, if occasion were offered, with the rest he returned, and fortified Hereford with a wall and gates. Meanwhile Griffin and Algar, dreading the diligence of Harold, after many messages to and fro, concluded a peace with him. Algar, discharging his fleet with pay at West-Chester, came to the king, and was restored to his earldom. But Griffin with breach of faith, the next year* set upon Leofgar the bishop of Hereford and his clerks then at a place called Glastbrig, with Agelnorth viscount of the shire, and slew them; but Leofric, Harold, and King Edward, by force as is likeliest, though it be not said how, reduced him to peace.

The next year, Edward son of Edmund Ironside, for whom his uncle King Edward had sent to the emperor, came out of Hungary, designed successor to the crown; but within a few days after his coming died at London, leaving behind him Edgar Atheling his son, Margaret and Christiana his daughters. About the same time also died earl Leofric in a good old age, a man of no less virtue than power in his time, religious, prudent, and faithful to his country, happily wedded to Godiva, a woman of great praise. His son Algar found less favour with King Edward, again banished the year after his father�s death, but he again by the aid of Griffin and a fleet from Norway, maugre the king, soon recovered his earldom. The next year� Malcolm king of Scots, coming to visit King Edward, was brought on his way by Tosti the Northumbrian, to whom he swore brotherhood: yet the next year but one,∥ while Tosti was gone to Rome with Aldred archbishop of York for his pall, this sworn brother, taking advantage of his absence, roughly harassed Northumberland.

The year passing to an end without other matter of moment, save the frequent inroads and robberies of Griffin, whom no bounds of faith could restrain, King Edward sent against him after Christmas Harold now Duke of West-Saxons, with no great body of horse, from Gloucester, where he then kept his court; whose coming heard of Griffin not daring to abide, nor in any part of his land holding himself secure, escaped hardly by sea, ere Harold, coming to Rudeland, burnt his palace and ships there, returning to Gloucester the same day. But by the middle of May setting out with a fleet from Bristow, he sailed about the most part of Wales, and met by his brother Tosti with many troops of horse, as the king had appointed, began to waste the country; but the Welsh giving pledges, yielded themselves, promised to become tributary, and banish Griffin their prince; who lurking somewhere was the next year taken and slain by Griffin prince of North Wales; his head with the head and tackle of his ship sent to Harold, by him to the king, who of his gentleness made Blechgent and Rithwallon, or Rivallon, his two brothers, princes in his stead; they to Harold in behalf of the king swore fealty and tribute.

Yet the next year Harold having built a fair house at a place called Portascith in Monmouthshire, and stored it with provision, that the king might lodge there in time of hunting, Caradoc, the son of Griffin slain the year before, came with a number of men, slew all he found there, and took away the provision. Soon after which the Northumbrians in a tumult at York beset the palace of Tosti their earl, slew more than two hundred of his soldiers and servants, pillaged his treasure, and put him to fly for his life. The cause of this insurrection they alledged to be, for that the queen Edith had commanded, in her brother Tosti�s behalf, Gospatric a nobleman of that country to be treacherously slain in the king�s court; and that Tosti himself the year before with like treachery had caused to be slain in his chamber Gamel and Ulf, two other of their noblemen, besides his intolerable exactions and oppressions.

Then in a manner the whole country, coming up to complain of their grievances, met with Harold at Northampton, whom the king at Tosti�s request had sent to pacify the Northumbrians; but they laying open the cruelty of his government, and their own birthright of freedom not to endure the tyranny of any governor whatsoever, with absolute refusal to admit him again, and Harold hearing reason, all the accomplices of Tosti were expelled the earldom. He himself, banished the realm, went into Flanders; Morcar the son of Algar made earl in his stead. Huntingdon tells another cause of Tosti�s banishment, that one day at Windsor, while Harold reached the cup to King Edward, Tosti envying to see his younger brother in greater favour than himself, could not forbear to run furiously upon him, catching hold of his hair; the scuffle was soon parted by other attendants rushing between, and Tosti forbidden the court. He with continued fury riding to Hereford, where Harold had many servants, preparing an entertainment for the king, came to the house and set upon them with his followers; then lopping off hands, arms, legs of some, heads of others, threw them into buts of wine, meath or ale, which were laid in for the king�s drinking: and at his going away charged them to send him this word, that of other fresh meats he might bring with him to his farm what he pleased, but of souse he should find plenty provided ready for him: that for this barbarous act the king pronounced him banished; that the Northumbrians, taking advantage at the king�s displeasure and sentence against him, rose also to be revenged of his cruelties done to themselves. But this no way agrees; for why then should Harold or the king so much labour with the Northumbrians to readmit him, if he were a banished man for his crimes done before?

About this time it happened, that Harold putting to sea one day for his pleasure in a fisherboat, from his manor at Boseham (Bosham) in Sussex, caught with a tempest too far off land was carried into Normandy; and by the earl of Pontiew, on whose coast he was driven, at his own request brought to duke William; who, entertaining him with great courtesy, so far won him, as to promise the duke by oath of his own accord, not only the castle of Dover then in his tenure, but the kingdom also after King Edward�s death to his utmost endeavour, thereupon betrothing the duke�s daughter then too young for marriage, and departing richly presented. Others say, that King Edward himself, after the death of Edward his nephew, sent Harold thither on purpose to acquaint duke William with his intention to bequeath him his kingdom but Malmsbury accounts the former story to be the truer. Ingulf writes, that King Edward now grown old, and perceiving Edgar his nephew both in body and in mind unfit to govern, especially against the pride and insolence of Godwin�s sons, who would never obey him; duke William on the other side of high merit, and his kinsman by the mother, had sent Robert archbishop of Canterbury, to acquaint the duke with his purpose, not long before Harold came thither.

The former part may be true, that King Edward upon such considerations had sent one or other; but archbishop Robert was fled the land, and dead many years before. Eadmer and Simeon write, that Harold went of his own accord into Normandy, by the king�s permission or connivance, to get free his brother Wulnod and nephew Hacun the son of Swane, whom the king had taken hostages of Godwin, and sent into Normandy; that King Edward foretold Harold, his journey thither would be to the detriment of all England, and his own reproach; that duke William then acquainted Harold, how Edward ere his coming to the crown had promised, if ever he attained it, to leave duke William successor after him. Last of these Matthew Paris writes, that Harold, to get free of duke William, affirmed his coming thither not to have been by accident or force of tempest, but on set purpose, in that private manner to enter with him into secret confederacy: so variously are these things reported.

After this King Edward grew sickly, yet as he was able kept his Christmas at London, and was at the dedication of St. Peter�s church in Westminster, which he had rebuilt; but on the eve of Epiphany, or Twelfthtide, deceased much lamented, and in the church was entomed. That he was harmless and simple, is conjectured by his words in anger to a peasant, who had crossed his game, (for with hunting and hawking he was much delighted,) �by God and God�s mother,� said he, �I shall do you as shrewd a turn if I can;� observing that law maxim, the best of all his successors, �that the king of England can do no wrong.� The softness of his nature gave growth to factions of those about him, Normans especially and English; these complaining, that Robert the archbishop was a sower of dissension between the king and his people, a traducer of the English; the other side, that Godwin and his sons bore themselves arrogantly and proudly towards the king, usurping to themselves equal share in the government, ofttimes making sport with his simplicity; that through their power in the land, they made no scruple to kill men of whose inheritance they took a liking, and so to take possession.

The truth is, that Godwin and his sons did many things boisterously and violently, much against the king�s mind; which not able to resist, he had, as some say, his wife Edith Godwin�s daughter in such aversation, as in bed never to have touched her; whether for this cause, or mistaken chastity, not commendable; to inquire further, is not material. His laws held good and just, and long after desired by the English of their Norman kings, are yet extant. He is said to be at table not excessive, at festivals nothing puffed up with the costly robes he wore, which his queen with curious art had woven for him in gold. He was full of almsdeeds, and exhorted the monks to like charity. He is said to be the first English king that cured the disease thence called the king�s evil; yet Malmsbury blames them who attribute that cure to his royalty, not to his sanctity; said also to have cured certain blind men with the water wherein he hath washed his hands.

A little before his death, lying speechless two days, the third day, after a deep sleep, he was heard to pray, that if it were a true vision, not an illusion which he had seen, God would give him strength to utter it, otherwise not. Then he related how he had seen two devout monks, whom he knew in Normandy to have lived and died well, who appearing told him they were sent messengers from God to foretel, that because the great ones of England, dukes, lords, bishops, and abbots, were not ministers of God but of the devil, God had delivered the land to their enemies; and when he desired, that he might reveal this vision, to the end they might repent, it was answered, they neither will repent, neither will God pardon them: at this relation others trembling, Stigand the simonious archbishop, whom Edward much to blame had suffered many years to sit primate in the church, is said to have laughed, as at the feverish dream of a doting old man; but the event proved true.