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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Aldermen and people abandoned Edgar


William

expected, now that his rival had fallen, to be recognised by the Anglo-Saxons as their King. Instead of this the chiefs and the capital raised Edgar the Aetheling, grandson of Edmund Ironsides, to the throne: as though William would retire before a scion of the old West-Saxon house, of which he professed to be the champion. He held firmly to the transfer made to him by the last king without regard to any third person, ratified as it was by the Roman See, and marched on the capital.

Edgar was a boy, and the magnates were at variance as to who should have the authority to exercise guardianship over him. When William appeared before the city, and threatened the walls with his siege-machines, it too lost courage. The embassy which it sent him was amazed at the grandeur and splendour of his appearance, was convinced as to the right which King Edward had transferred to him,[18] and penetrated by the danger which a resistance, in itself hopeless, would bring on the city. Aldermen and people abandoned Edgar, and recognised William as King. There is an old story, that the county of Kent, on capitulating, made good conditions for itself. To the nobles also, who submitted by degrees, similar terms may have been accorded, but their position was almost entirely altered. We need notice only this one point. Their chief right, which they exercised to a perhaps unauthorised extent, was that of electing the King; they had now elected twice, but the first election

was annulled by defeat in the open field, the second by increasing superiority in arms; they had to recognise the Conqueror, who claimed by inheritance, as their King, whether they would or no. There is something almost symbolic of the resulting state of things in the story of William's coronation, which was now celebrated by the tomb of Edward the Confessor at Westminster. For the first time the voices of the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans were united to greet him as King, but the discordant outcry of the two languages seemed a sign of conflict to the troops gathered outside, and made the warlike fury, so hardly kept under control, boil up again in them; they set the houses of London on fire. Whilst all hurried from the church, the ceremony it is said was completed by shuddering priests in the light of the flames: the new King himself, who at other times did not know what fear was, trembled.[19]

By this coronation-acclaim, two constituent elements of the world, which had been fundamentally at conflict with each other, became indissolubly united.

That against which the Anglo-Saxons had set themselves to guard with all their strength during the last period, the inroad of the Norman-French element into their Church and their State, was now accomplished in fullest measure. William's maxim was, that all who had taken arms against him and his right had forfeited their property; those who escaped, and the heirs of those who had fallen, were deprived alike. In a short time we find William's leading comrades in the war, as earls of Hereford, Buckingham, Shrewsbury, Cornwall; his valiant brothers were endowed with hundreds of fiefs; and when the insurrection which quickly broke out led to new outlawries and new confiscations, all the counties were filled with French knights. From Caen came over the blocks of freestone to build castles and towers, by which they hoped to bridle the towns and the country. It is an exaggeration


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