The Problem of the Succession

From William the Conqueror and the rule of the Normans by Frank Merry Stenton 1908

The idea of a Norman conquest of England was no new thing when the actual blow fell in the autumn of 1066. The fateful marriage of Ethelred and Emma, sixty years before, had made it impossible that the politics of the island and the duchy should ever again be independent of each other; it led directly to the English expedition of Robert of Normandy in 1034, and in Edward the Confessor it gave England a king who was half a Norman in blood, and whose ideas of government were derived from the political conditions of his mother's land. To whatever aspect of the history of this period we may turn, this Norman influence will sooner or later become apparent; in religion and commerce, as in the narrower field of politics, the Norman is working his way into the main current of English national life.
All this, however, is somewhat apart from the question as to the date at which Duke William began to lay plans for carrying out the conquest of England in his own person. There are two unknown quantities in the problem: the date at which it was generally recognised that Edward the Confessor would leave no direct heir to the English throne, and the king's own subsequent intentions with respect to the succession. Had such an heir been forthcoming in 1066 we may be sure that his inheritance would have been undisturbed from the side of Normandy, for William's daim to succeed his childless cousin by right of consanguinity was something more than a matter of form. Now Edward was married in 1045, being then in the very primei of life, and we must certainly allow for the passage of a reasonable period of time before we can feel certain that the politicians of England and Normandy were treating the succession as an open question. In particular it is difficult to be confident that in 1049, when the negotiations for the marriage of William and Matilda of Flanders were in progress, the ultimate childlessness of Edward the Confessor was known to be inevitable. [1]
A similar uncertainty hangs over the plans which the Confessor formed in the latter event for the future of his kingdom. His Norman blood, his early residence in the duchy, and the marked predilection which he showed for men of Norman race, very naturally lead to the impression that, in the earlier part of his reign at least, his desire was to provide for the transmission of his inheritance to his mother's family. But even this conclusion is not beyond question. Edward on his accession in 1042 occupied a most difficult position. After twenty-five years of Danish rule a very distinct party in the state wished to maintain the Scandinavian connection. Edward's recognition as king was mainly the work of Earl Godwine and his party, and the earl expected and could enforce full payment for his services. Edward would have shown less than the little intelligence with which he is to be credited if he had failed to see that some counterpoise to the power of his overmighty subject might be found by giving wealth and influence to strangers from across the Channel. Hence arose that stream of Norman immigration which distinguishes the reign and the consequent formation of a royalist, non-national party; for each individual settler must have understood that all he might possess in the island depended on the king's favour. Such a policy was bound sooner or later to produce a reaction on the part of Godwine and his associates; and thus arose the famous crisis of the autumn of 1051. Godwine, trying to reassert his influence in the state, fails to carry with him the other earls of England in an attack on the king's favourites and is driven to flee the country. What Godwine resented was clearly the existence of a rival power at court, and the apathy in his cause of such men as Leofric of Mercia and Siward of Northumbria suggests that he was not recognised by them as in any real sense the champion of national as against foreign influences. With his flight the first period of the reign of Edward the Confessor ends, and in the interval before his restoration William of Normandy made his first appearance on the shores of England.
Of this visit we know very little; the native chronicler of Worcester simply tells us that " Earl William came from over sea with a great company of Frenchmen, and the king received him and as many of his companions as pleased him and let them go again." The question at once presents itself, did Edward at this time make any promise of the English crown to William ? If he ever did make an explicit promise to this effect it can scarcely be placed at any other date, for this was the only occasion after Edward's departure from Normandy in 1042 on which the king and the duke are known to have met in person. The fact that such a promise forms an essential part of the story of the Conquest as told by all Norman writers is an argument in its favour which would more than counterbalance the natural silence of the English authorities, were they much better informed upon matters of high policy than is actually the case. But, after all, the question is really of secondary importance, for in the next year Godwine returned to power, and Edward for the rest of his reign seems to have made no serious attempt to disturb the ascendency of the English party.
The death of Godwine in 1053 made little immediate difference to the political situation in general nor to the existing relations between Normandy and England. The succession of his son Harold to the earldom of Wessex provokes no comment on the part of the contemporary chroniclers; the semi-hereditary character of the great earldoms was by this time recognised for all working purposes. Nevertheless, we can see that the accession of Harold to a provincial government of the first rank, and most probably to the unofficial primacy in the state which had been held by Earl Godwine, takes place among the chief events in the sequence of causes which ended in the great overthrow of 1066. On the other hand we should not be led by the actual cause of the history into the assumption that Harold's designs upon the crown had already begun at this early date. With all his personal weakness, King Edward's own wishes were likely to be the decisive factor in the choice of his successor, nor have we any record that Harold opposed the candidate whom we know to have received the king's favour shortly after this time.
This candidate, whose appearance in the field with the king's sanction was likely to prove fatal to any aspirations to the throne in which either William or Harold might have begun to indulge, was Edward the Etheling, son of the famous Edward Ironside, and therefore nephew by the half-blood to the Confessor. He had been sent by Cnut into remote exile, and the summons which brought him back to England as its destined heir was the work of King Edward himself. By a strange chance, immediately on his arrival in 1057, and before he had even seen the king, the etheling fell ill and died, [2] and, although there was something about his end which was rather mysterious, there is nothing to suggest that it was accelerated in the interest of any other pretender to the crown. With his death there really passed away the one promising chance of perpetuating the old English dynasty, for Edgar, the son of the dead etheling, who was to live until 1126 at least, can only have been the merest child in 1057.
It would seem then that 1057 is the earliest possible year from which the rivalry of Wi11iam of Normandy and Harold Godwinson for the throne of England can be dated. The recall of Edward the Etheling suggests that it cannot be placed earlier, while the state of preparedness in which both parties are found at the beginning of 1066 shows that their plans must have been formed for some years at least before the Confessor's death. And there is one mysterious episode which may very possibly have some connection with the change in the succession question caused by the death of Edward the Etheling. In or about 1058 Earl Harold made a tour on the continent, reaching as far as Rome, but also including Normandy and North France generally, and we are told that he made ' arrangements for receiving help from certain French powers if he should need it at any time. [3] The passage in which we are told of these negotiations is very obscure, but it is by no means improbable that Harold, when the death of the etheling had opened for him a possibility of succeeding to the crown, may have tried to find allies who would hamper the movements of his most formidable rival when the critical time came. Also it is not without significance that 1058 is the year of Varaville, a date at which French jealousy of Norman power would be at its height. At any rate we may at this point stop to consider the relative position occupied by the earl and the duke respectively with respect to their chances of succeeding to the splendid inheritance of the oldest dynasty in Western Europe.
The first point which deserves discussion is the nature of the title to the English crown. " Hereditary" and "elective," the words which one naturally contrasts in this connection, are terms of vague and fluctuating meaning in any case, while it has always been recognised that neither can be employed in relation to the tenure of the crown at any period of English history without due qualification. To say simply that the English monarchy was "elective" at the period with which we are dealing, is an insufficient statement unless we also consider the limits within which the choice lay on any given occasion, the process involved in the act of election, and the body which exercised the elective right. With regard to the first of these matters there undoubtedly existed an ancient and deep-seated feeling that a king should only be chosen from a kingly stock; in the eleventh century the sentiment still survived with which at an earlier period the nation had demanded that its rulers should have sprung from the blood of the gods. This idea was far older than any feeling of nationality, to which it might from time to time run counter it helps, for instance, to explain the ease with which the English had accepted the royal Dane Cnut for their ruler but with this highly important reservation it is very improbable that the succession was determined by anything which could be called general principles. The crown would naturally pass to the most popular kinsman of the late ruler, and the question of the exact relationship between the dead king and his heir would be a secondary matter.
William of Normandy was of sufficiently noble birth to satisfy the popular sentiment in the former respect, for Rollo himself was the scion of an ancient line of Norwegian chieftains. Harold on his mother's side inherited royal blood, for Gytha, Earl Godwine's wife, was descended from the family of the kings of Sweden; but whereas no writer near the time remarks on this feature in Harold's descent, the origin of the "jarls of Normandy " was still a living memory in the north. Far more important in every way, however, was the undoubted kinship between William and King Edward, a fact which William made the very foundation of his claim and which was undoubtedly recognised by the men of the time as giving him an advantage which could not be gainsaid. At the present day, indeed, it is rather difficult to understand the influence exercised by the somewhat distant relationship which was all that united William and Edward, especially in view of the fact that Edgar, son of Edward the Etheling, still continued the male line of the royal house of Wessex. We can only explain it on the ground that in 1066 Edgar was under the age at which he would be competent to rule independently, and that the public opinion of the time would not accept a minor as king so long as there existed another candidate connected with the royal house and capable of taking up the reins of government in his own hands. In fact, of the three candidates between whom the choice lay on the Confessor's death William, after all, was the one who combined the greatest variety of desirable qualifications. Edgar was nearest to the throne by order of birth, but his youth placed him at a fatal disadvantage; Harold was a man of mature years and of wide experience in the government, but his warmest supporters could not pretend that he was a kinsman of King Edward; William was already a ruler whose fame had spread far beyond the borders of his own duchy, and in the third generation he could claim a common ancestor with the dead king. Lastly, we should remember that the fact which tinder modern conditions would outweigh all other considerations, the fact that William was a foreigner, was less important in the eleventh century than at any later time. It was certainly a disadvantage, but one which was shared in a less degree by both William's competitors: if he was a pure Norman, Harold was half a Dane, Edgar was half a German. The example of Cnut showed that there was nothing to prevent a man of wholly foreign blood from receiving general acceptance as long of England ; and if the racial differences which existed in the country prepared the way for his reception, something of the same work was done for William by those Normans who had flocked into England under King Edward's protection.
In all those cases in which the late king had left no single, obvious, heir to the throne, the succession would naturally be settled by the great men of the land by that informal, fluctuating body known as the "witan." So fax as we can tell, the witan would be guided in part by the preva.ili.Tig popular opinion, but more effectually by the known wishes of the dead sovereign with respect to his successor; we know, for instance, that both these influences contributed to the election of Edward the Confessor himself. [4] It is, however, probable that, so far from the elective nature of the monarchy having been a main principle of English institutions from the earliest date, the idea was really an importation of the eleventh century. It has recently been suggested that the action of the witan in early times with regard to the choice of a new king was something which would be much better described as "recognition" than as election in any modern sense, that there is no evidence to prove that the witan behaved as a united body, and that it was the adhesion of individual nobles to the most likely heir which really invested him with the royal power. [5] According to this account, such traces of election in the wider sense as are discernible in the eleventh century may with probability be set down to Danish influence, for the three Scandinavian nations had advanced much further than other Teutonic peoples in the development of their native institutional forms. But, even so, there is much in the history of the year 1066 to suggest that the older ideas still prevailed: William claimed the throne by hereditary right and it was the submission of Stigand, Edwin, Morcar, Edgar the Etheling, and the citizens of London, not the vote of any set assembly, which gave sanction to his claim.
In the light of this anticipation we may now consider the most perplexing question in William's life, the truth underlying the famous story of Harold's visit to Normandy and the oath which lie there swore to William. Unlike most questions relating to the eleventh century, the difficulty in the present case arises from the wealth of our information on the subject; with the exception of those purely English writers Florence of Worcester and the authors of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, the significance of whose silence will be seen shortly, every historical writer of the fifty years succeeding the Conquest tells the story at length, and no two writers tell the same story. And yet we cannot safely reject the tale as fabulous for two reasons: the silence of those who wrote with native sympathies proves that there was an element of truth in the Norman story which they did not feel themselves at liberty to deny, while the rapid diffusion of the tale itself among writers widely separated in point of place and circumstance would be unintelligible if it were the result of sheer invention. Nor is a story necessarily suspicious because its details are romantic.
The skeleton of the tale is that Harold, happening, for reasons diversely stated, to be sailing in the Channel, was driven by a storm on to the coast of Ponthieu, and that being thereby regarded as the lawful prey of the count he was thrown into prison at Beaurain, evidently to be held to ransom. While Harold was in prison the Duke of Normandy became apprised of the fact, and sending to Count Guy, who had become his feudal dependant after the battle of Mortemer, William had Harold brought with all honour into the duchy. For an indefinite time the earl stayed at the court of the duke, and even accompanied him on the Breton expedition which was described in the last chapter; but before his departure he placed himself under some obligation to his host, the nature of which is the key to the whole matter, but with regard to which scarcely any two writers are in unison. There is no doubt that Harold became William's man, and it would seem certain that he took an oath which bore some reference to the rivalry for the English throne in which both were evidently engaged. Most writers make the essence of the oath to be a promise on the part of Harold to do all in his power to secure the crown for William upon Edward's death, and there is a powerful current of tradition which asserts that Harold pledged himself to marry one of William's daughters. In other words, Harold undertook to recognise William as king of England in due season, and to secure for him the adhesion of such of the English nobility as were under his influence; his marriage with William's daughter being doubtless intended to guarantee his good faith when the critical moment came. Such an agreement would still leave Harold obviously the first man to England; indeed the relationship which would have been created between William and Harold, if it had been carried into effect, would in some respects have reproduced the relationship in which Edward the Confessor had stood with regard to Earl Godwine in 1042. This fact mates it difficult to believe that Harold was necessarily acting under compulsion when he took the oath; he had many rivals and enemies in England, and it was well worth his while to secure his position in the event of Edward's death before his own plans were mature. [6]
William on his part had everything to gain by causing Harold to enter into such an engagement. If the oath were kept William would have turned a probable rival into an ally; if it were broken he would secure all the moral advantage which would accrue to him from the perjury of his opponent. But there is no reason to believe that he insisted on Harold taking the oath merely in order that he might break it, nor is there any good authority for the famous story that William entrapped Harold into taking a vow of unusual solemnity by concealing a reliquary beneath the chest on which the latter's hand rested while he swore. It was inevitable that an incident of this kind should gather round it a mythiest accretion: but the whole course of the history proves that some such episode really took place. William's apologists could put it in the forefront of their narratives of the Conquest, and all subsequent writers have dwelt upon it as a main cause of the invasion; yet, although scepticism is from time to time expressed upon this detail or that, not one of the historians of the next century, some of whom were possessed of distinct critical powers, and had access to good sources of information, has given a hint that the whole story was a myth.
On January 5, 1066, King Edward died, and on Thursday, January 6th, Earl Harold was chosen as king by the Witan assembled at Westminster for the Christmas feast, and crowned that same day by Ealdred, archbishop of York. We possess a circumstantial account of the last days of Edward, written only a few years after these events, which describes how the King, within an hour of his death, had emphatically commended his wife and his kingdom to the care of Harold. [7] With little debate, as it would seem, the last wishes of the last king of the line of Egbert were carried into effect; Harold was chosen king forthwith, and on the same day the sanction of the church made the step irrevocable. England was now committed to the rule of a king whose title to the crown depended solely upon the validity of the elective principle, and whose success or failure would depend upon the recognition which this principle would obtain among foreign powers, and upon the support which those who had chosen to accept him as their lord were prepared to extend to him, should his claim be challenged. Under the circumstances the choice of Harold was perhaps inevitable. The dying wish of Edward could not with decency be disregarded; the scene of the election lay in just that part of the country where the interest of the house of Godwine was at its strongest; and if traditional custom were to be disregarded and the royal line forsaken no stronger native candidate could have been found. On the other hand, there could be no doubt that the event of that memorable Epiphany was fraught with danger on every side. Even if it had not thrown defiance to the most formidable prince in Europe, it founded an ominous precedent, it showed that the royal dignity was not beyond the grasp of an aspiring subject, it exposed the crown to intrigues of a class from which England, weak at the best as was its political structure, had hitherto been exempt. The Norman Conquest was an awful catastrophe; but at least it saved England from the perils of an elective monarchy.
The impression which the coronation of Harold made upon the politicians of Europe was unmistakable. From Rome to Trondheim every ruler to whom the concerns of England were a matter of interest realised that a revolutionary step had been taken. From the crude narrative of the Latin historian of the Norwegian kings, as from the conventional periods of the papal chancery, we gather that the accession of Harold was regarded as an act of usurpation, although there is no unanimity as to the personality of the rightful heir whom he had supplanted. Old claims, long dormant, were revived; the kings of Norway and Denmark remembered that England had once belonged to the Scandinavian world. Had Edgar the Etheling or William of Normandy been elected, murmurings from this quarter at least would no doubt have been heard, but they would have lost half their force: the former could have appealed to the prevailing sentiment in favour of hereditary right; the latter could in addition have poured at once into England a military force sufficient to meet all possible invaders on equal terms. Harold had neither of these safeguards, and his oath to William had given to the most powerful section of his opponents an intelligible ground on which to base their quarrel. Seldom in any country has a new dynasty been inaugurated under circumstances so full of foreboding.
All this, of course, meant a corresponding increase of strength to William. Vague as is our knowledge of the negotiations with the several powers whose good-will was desirable for his enterprise, we can see that he brought them at least into a general attitude of friendly neutrality. We are told that the Emperor Henry IV. promised the unqualified support of Germany if it should be needed, [8] and also that Swegen Estrithson of Denmark joined William's side, though our informant adds that the Danish king proved himself in effect the friend of William's enemies. The French crown was, as we have seen, under the influence of Baldwin of Flanders, William's father-in-law; and so long as a war of succession distracted Anjou, William need fear no danger from that quarter. Maine was a dependency of the Norman duchy. Nothing, in fact, in William's history is more remarkable than the way in which, at the very moment of his great attempt, the whole political situation was in his favour. No invasion of England would have been possible before 1060, when King Henry of France and Geoffrey Mattel were removed from William's path, while the growth of King Philip to manhood and the formation of Flanders into an aggressive anti-Norman state under Robert the Frisian would have increased William's difficulties a thousandfold if Edward the Confessor had lived for five years longer. In great part William's advantageous position in 1066 was due to his own statesmanship ; in no small degree it resulted from the discredit which the national cause of England suffered in the eyes of Europe from the election of Harold; but above all it must be set down to William's sheer good luck. William the Conqueror, like Napoleon, might have believed in his star without incurring the reproach of undue superstition.
Of all William's negotiations that which was most characteristic of the temper in which he pursued his claim was an appeal to the head of the church to decide between his right and that of Harold:
"That no rashness might stain his righteous cause he seat to the Pope, formerly Anselm, bishop of Lucca, asserting the justice of the war he had undertaken with all the eloquence at his command. Harold neglected to do this; either because he was too proud by nature, or because he mistrusted his own cause, or because he feared that his messengers would be hindered by William and his associates, who were watching all the ports. The Pope weighed the arguments of both sides, and then sent a banner to William as an earnest of his kingdom." [9]
The nature of this transaction should not be misunderstood. By inviting the papal arbitration William was in no sense mortgaging any of the royal prerogatives in the island which he hoped to conquer. His action, that is, does not in any way resemble the step which his descendent John took a hundred and fifty years later, when he surrendered his kingdom to Innocent III. to be held thenceforward as a papal fief. [10] William was simply submitting his cause to the court which was the highest recognised authority in all matters relating to inheritance, and which was doubly competent to try the present case, involving as it did all the questions of laesio fidei which arose out of Harold's oath. Nor need we doubt that the verdict given represented the justice of the case as it would be presented to the pope and his advisers; we know at least, on the authority of Hildebrand himself, that it was not without an acrimonious discussion that judgment was given in favour of William. It would seem, in fact, that it required all the personal influence that Hildebrand could exercise to persuade the leaders of the church to commit themselves to the support of claims which, if prosecuted, must inevitably lead to bloodshed. And in later years Hildebrand told William that his action had been governed by his knowledge of the latter's character, and by the hope that when raised to a higher dignity he would continue to show himself a dutiful subject of the church. [11] Hildebrand added that he had not been disappointed; and in fact the attraction of the great island of the west within the influence of the ideas of the reformed papacy was worth the suppression of a few scruples on the part of the Curia.
Seventy years afterwards the papal court was again called upon to adjudicate in a dispute relating to the succession to the English throne, and this under circumstances which deserve notice here as illustrating the nature of William's appeal. In 1136, immediately, it would seem, after the coronation of Stephen, his rival, the Empress Matilda sent envoys to Pope Innocent II. to protest against the usurpation. Stephen, wiser in his generation than Harold, replied by sending his own representative, and the case was argued in detail before a council specially convened for the purpose by the pope. Just as in the more famous episode of 1066, the point on which the plaintiff's advocates grounded their case was the fact that the defendant had taken an oath to secure the succession of his rival; and it rested with the pope to decide whether this oath were valid. It is with reference to this last point that the parallel between the events of 1066 and 1136 ceases: in the latter case the pope by refusing to give judgment tacitly acquitted Stephen of the guilt of perjury; in 1066 Harold's neglect to lay a statement of his case before the papal court produced its natural result in the definite decision which was given against him. [12] In either case it will be seen that what 'is submitted to the Curia is a question of law, not of politics; the pope is not regarded as having any right to dispose of the English crown; he is merely asked to consider the respective titles of two disputants.
Armed thus with the sanction of the church there lay before William the serious task of raising an army sufficiently large to meet the military force at his rival's command on something like equal terms. Such an army could not possibly be derived from Normandy alone, great as was the strength of the duchy in comparison with its area. However favourable the general outlook might be for William's plans, he cannot have thought for an instant of staking the whole resources of Normandy upon a single venture; a venture of which the possible results might be very brilliant but of which the immediate risk was very great. Nor was it possible for William by any stretch of feudal law to summon his vassals and their men to follow him across the Channel as a matter of right and duty ; if he were to obtain their support he was bound to place the expedition before them as a voluntary enterprise. Thus stated there can have been little doubt as to the response which would be made to his appeal. The Norman conquest of Naples and the Norman exploits in Spain had proclaimed to the world the mighty exploits of which the race was capable, nor need we believe that the Normans themselves mistrusted their reputation. And although William's contemporary biographer, anxious to display the magnanimity of his hero, has represented the latter's subjects as viewing the enterprise with dismay, [13] it is not really probable that the Norman knighthood was seriously deterred from adventuring itself for -unlimited gains in the rich and neighbouring island by the prospect of having to fight hard for them.
In the early part of 1066, but most probably after the termination of William's cause at Rome, a council of the Norman baronage met at Lillebonne [14] to discuss the proposed invasion of England. It is plain that what most exercised the minds of William and his barons was the difficulty of building, equipping and manning a number of ships sufficient for the transport of the army within a reasonable time. In fact it seems probable that one special purpose of the council was to ascertain the number of ships which each baron was prepared to contribute towards the fleet a matter which lay altogether outside the general question of military service and could only be solved by amicable agreement between the duke and his vassals taken individually. William stipulated that the ships should be ready within the year; a demand which to some at least appeared impossible of fulfilment; and, indeed, the creation of an entire fleet of transport vessels within six months is a wonderful illustration of the energy with which the Norman nobility adopted the cause of the duke. Transport vessels the ships were, and nothing else, as is evident from the representation of them in the Bayeux tapestry, and we are bound to conclude that it was well for William that his passage of the Channel met with no serious opposition on the part of Harold. As might be expected, the number of ships actually provided is very variously given by different writers. Curiously enough the most probable, because the lowest, estimate is made by a very late authority, the Norman poet Wace, who says that when he was a boy his father told him that six hundred and ninety-six ships assembled at St. Valery. There have also come down to us several statements of the contribution which the greater barons of Normandy made to the fleet, which are probably true in substance although the lists differ among themselves and the totals which they imply exceed the modest figures presented by Wace. [15] It would appear that William's two half-brothers headed the list; Robert of Mortain giving a hundred and twenty ships, Odo of Bayeux a hundred. The counts of Evreux and Eu, both members of the ducal family, furnished eighty and sixty ships respectively. William Fitz Osbera, Roger de Beaumont, Roger de Montgomery, and Hugh d'Avranches gave sixty ships each; Hugh de Montfort, fifty. Two men who do not appear in the subsequent history, a certain Fulk the Lame and one Gerald, who, although styled the seneschal, is difficult to identify at William's court, gave forty ships each. Thirty ships were given by Walter Giffard and by Vulgrin, bishop of Le Mans; and Nicholas, abbot of St. Ouen, and the son of Duke Richard III. contributed twenty. An interesting figure in the list is Remi, the future bishop of Lincoln, who in 1066 was only almoner of Fecamp abbey, but nevertheless provided a ship and manned it with twenty knights. The Duchess Matilda herself supplied the ship, named the Mora, which was to carry her husband. One fact stands out clearly enough on the surface of this list the great bulk of the fleet was supplied by William's kinsmen and by men whom we know to have enjoyed his immediate confidence, and it is significant that we can recognise in this brief account just those men who received the greatest spoils of the conquered land. Among these few names the future earldoms of Kent, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Chester, Buckingham, Warwick, and Leicester are represented. Doubtless the rest of the Norman nobility in one way or another contributed in proportion to its wealth, but we have just accounted for nearly eight hundred vessels, and it is dear that in the all-important matter of the fleet William found his fullest support among his relatives and personal friends. How far this statement would hold good in relation to the army of the Conquest is a question which we have no detailed means of answering. Doubtless the lords of Montfort, Longueville, Montgomery, and their fellows brought the full complement of their vassals to the duke's muster, but the essential fact in the composition of William's army lies in the width of the area from which it was recruited. From every quarter of the French kingdom, and from not a few places beyond its borders, volunteers crowded in to swell the Norman host. Brittany supplied the largest number of such volunteers, and next to Brittany came Flanders, but the fame of William's expedition had spread beyond the Alps, and the Norman states in South Italy and Sicily sent their representatives. [16] And this composite character of the army which fought at Hastings had deep and abiding results. A hundred years after the Conquest, Henry II. will still be sending out writs addressed to his barons and lieges "French and English," and the terminology here expresses a fact of real importance. The line of racial distinction which was all-important in later eleventh-century England was not between Englishmen and Normans, but between Englishmen and Frenchmen. England fell, not before any province, however powerful, of the French kingdom, but, in effect, before the whole of French-speaking Europe, and, by her fall, she herself became part of that whole. For nearly a hundred years England had been oscillating between the French and the Scandinavian world ; the events of 1066 carried her finally within the influence of Southern ideas in religion, politics, and culture.
The French auxiliaries of William have often been described as adventurers, and adventurers in a sense no doubt they were. But the word should not be pressed so as to imply that they belonged to a social rank inferior either to their Norman associates or to the English thegnhood whom they were to displace, there should be no talk of "grooms and scullions from beyond the sea" [17] in this connection. Socially there was little to distinguish a knight or noble from Brittany or Picardy from Normans like Robert d'Oilly or Henry de Ferrers; nor, rude as their ideas of comfort and refinement must seem to us, have we any warrant for supposing that Wigod of Wallingford or Tochi the son of Outi had been in advance of either in this respect. Like the Normans themselves the Frenchmen varied indefinitely in point of origin. Some of them were the younger sons of great houses, some belonged to the lesser baronage, some to the greater; Count Eustace of Bologne might by courtesy be described as a reigning prince. Some of the most famous names in the succeeding history can be traced to this origin Walter Tirel was lord of Poix in Ponthieu, Gilbert of Ghent was the ancestor of the medieval earls of Lincoln. But the best way of realising the prevalence of this non-Norman element among the conquerors of England is to work through one of the schedules which the compilers of Domesday Book prefixed to the survey of each county, giving the names of its land-owners, and to note the proportion of "Frenchmen" to pure Normans. In Northamptonshire, for example, among forty-three lay tenants there occur six Flemings, three Bretons, and two Picards, and Northamptonshire in this respect is a typical county.
At or about the time of the council of Lillebonne there is reason to believe that messages were passing between William and Harold concerning the fulfilment of the fateful oath. It is fairly certain that William demanded the surrender of the crown and Harold's immediate marriage to his daughter, agreeing in return to confirm him in his earldom of Wessex, which last is probably what is meant when our rhetorical informants tell us that William promised to grant half the kingdom to his rival. Such negotiations were bound to fall through; Harold had gone too far to withdraw, even if he had been so minded, and William's object in making these proposals could only have been to maintain in the eyes of the world the appearance of a lawful claimant deprived of his inheritance. Also we may be quite sure that the building of the fleet was not interrupted during the progress of the negotiations.
The difficulties of Harold's reign began early. The weakness of his position was revealed at the outset by the refusal of Northumbria to accept him as king, a refusal very possibly prompted by Earl Morcar, who could not be expected to feel much loyalty towards the new dynasty. By making a special journey to York, Harold succeeded in silencing the opposition for the moment, and his marriage with Ealdgyth, the sister of Earls Edwin and Morcar, which may be dated with probability to about this time, [18] was very possibly intended to conciliate the great midland house. It would certainly serve as a definite assertion that Harold had no intention of fulfilling that part of his oath to William which pledged him to a marriage with the duke's daughter, nor can we doubt that Harold realised the expediency of providing an heir to his crown with the least possible delay. At any rate he seems to have been enjoying a few weeks of tranquillity after his visit to York when he received an unmistakable intimation of the coming storm, which was none the less ominous because its immediate results were insignificant.
Tostig, the dispossessed earl of Northumbria, had spent the winter of 1065-6, as we have seen, with Baldwin of Flanders, [19] a fact which is suggestive when we remember the relations between Baldwin and William of Normandy. It is evident that Tostig was spending the period of his banishment in forming schemes for his restoration, and the fact that his brother on becoming king dare not or would not recall him made him inevitably a willing tool of William's policy. Accordingly, early in 1066 Tostig moved from Flanders Into Normandy, appeared at the duke's court, and urged him on to an invasion of England. It is quite possible that he was present at the assembly of Lillebonne; one writer goes so far as to say that the arguments of Tostig contributed largely to persuade the Norman nobility to undertake the enterprise, [20] and William may have derived some little advantage from the fact that he could point to one man of high rank among the English nation as an adherent. But it would seem that Tostig was unwilling to await the development of his host's plans, and in May he set off from the Cotentin on an expedition of his own intended to ravage the English coasts. He landed first in the Isle of Wight, where the inhabitants bought him off with money and provisions, and then sailed, ravaging the coast of Sussex and Kent, until he came to Sandwich. At Sandwich he raised a small force of sailors, but at the same time the news of his expedition was brought to his brother in London, who at once set out for the Kentish coast. Before he could reach Sandwich, however, Tostig had started northward again and finally entered the Humber with sixty ships, harrying the coast of Lindsey. Upon receiving the news Earls Edwin and Morcar, having called out the local fyrd, inarched with it to the Humber and compelled Tostig to take refuge in his ships. At this point Tostig was deserted by the men of Sandwich whom he had impressed, and, his fleet being now reduced to twelve ships, he made his way to Scotland and spent the summer, we are told, with King Malcolm. [21]
Tostig's futile raid has an interest of its own in the glimpse which it gives us of the English defences just before the Norman invasion. The evidence of Domesday Book shows that an Anglo-Saxon king had some sort of naval force permanently at his disposal, and we know that Harold built and maimed a number of ships to keep the Channel against his Norman rival, but from whatever cause, the English navy in this critical year proved itself miserably ineffective. [22] A mere adventurer, with no foreign aid of any consequence and no local support in England, Tostig could still spread devastation with impunity along half the English coast. The story of Tostig's expedition reads like a revival of one of the Danish raids of the ninth century the enemy sacks a town, the fyrd are summoned and hurry to the spot to find that the raiders have just left to plunder the nearest unprotected locality. Clearly the coast defences of England, for all the bitter experience of the Danish wars, had made no real advance since the days of Alfred ; and it is not unfair to remark that this fact reflects little credit upon the statesmanship of Harold. He had himself been an exile and had made a bid for power by a piratical descent upon England very similar to the present expedition of Tostig's. If he really possessed the power, during the last ten years of the Confessor's reign, with which he is usually credited, it should not have been impossible for him, to create a naval force strong enough to counteract such attempts for the future. The events of 1066 are an excellent illustration of the influence of sea power in history; wind and weather permitting, an invader could land an army in England at whatever time and place best suited hi. As for Tostig himself, his expedition had been ignominious enough, but before the year was out he was to earn immortality by his association with the last great Scandinavian invasion of England and by the part which he is made to play in the magnificent saga of Stanifordbridge.
The summer visit of Tostig to Scotland must have been interrupted by another voyage of greater distance and followed by most momentous consequences. Very possibly he was dissatisfied with the amount of immediate support which his claims had received from William of Normandy; at all events he now made application to a prince of higher rank, more restless spirit, and still more varied experience in the art of war. Although there are chronological difficulties in the story which cannot be discussed here, there can be little real doubt that Tostig in person sailed to Norway, was received by Harold Hardrada, and incited the most warlike king in Europe to an invasion of England. As a matter of fact it is probable that Harold Hardrada, like William of Normandy, would have made his attempt even if Tostig had never come upon the scene; the passage of the English crown to a subject house, coming at a time when there was a temporary lull in the chronic warfare between the three Scandinavian powers, might remind the king of Norway that he could himself, if he chose, put forward a decent pretext for an adventure which would be certain to bring him fame and might rival the exploits of Swegen and Cnut. The extent of the preparations which Harold Hardrada had evidently made for his enterprise would of itself suggest that they were independent of the representations of the banished earl of Northumbria, while on the other hand Tostig plays too prominent a part in the Norwegian traditions of the expedition for us to reject his voyage to Norway as mere myth, and his presence may have had some influence in determining the objective of the invaders when once they had touched the shores of England.
After making his appeal to Harold Hardrada, Tostig returned to Scotland and began to raise a force of volunteers there on his own account. Early in September the king of Norway set sail from the Sogne Fiord near Bergen, due west to the subject earldom of the Orkneys and Shetlands, where he was joined by Paul and Erling, the two joint earls, and by a large reinforcement of the islanders. [23] From the Orkneys Harold sailed on without recorded incident as far as the Tyne, where he was joined, according to agreement, by Tostig with his Scottish auxiliaries, and then the combined force made for the Yorkshire coast and began offensive operations by a harrying of Cleveland. Passing southward the invaders encountered an ineffectual resistance at Scarborough and along the coast of Holderness, but were able to round Spurn Head without any opposition from the English fleet. The Humber and the inland waters of Yorkshire lay open to Harold, and it would seem that as the Norwegian fleet sailed up the Ouse the English fleet retreated up the Wharf e, for Harold chose to disembark at Riccall, a village some five miles below the confluence of these rivers. Riccall was chosen as the headquarters of the fleet, which could easily block at this point any attempt on the part of the English vessels to break out to the open sea while Harold and his army marched straight on York. At Fulford, two miles from the city, the invaders met the fyrd of Yorkshire under Earls Edwin and Morcar, and the defeat of the local force led to the surrender of York four days afterwards. The city was not put to the sack; hostages [24] were exchanged between Harold and the men of York, and it was very possibly to await the delivery of further sureties from the rest of the shire that the king moved out of his new conquest to the otherwise undistinguished village of Stamfordbridge.
On the following day King Harold of England himself arrived at York. News of what was happening in Yorkshire must have been brought to London with extraordinary rapidity, for the battles of Fulford and Stamfordbridge were fought, as men remarked at the time, within five days of each other. Harold possessed the permanent nucleus of an army in the famous body of "huscarles" who resided at his court, and with them he dashed up the great road from London to York, taking along with him so much of the local militia of the counties through which he passed as happened to fall in with his line of inarch. At Tadcaster, where the north road crosses the Wharfe, he found and inspected the English "fleet," and on Monday, the 25th of September, one day after Harold Hardrada had entered the capital of Northtunbria, it opened its gates to Harold of England. At this time Harold can have done scarcely more than pass through the city for the same day he covered the ten miles which separate York from Stamfordbridge and fell unexpectedly upon the Norwegian army scattered in utter unpreparedness along either bank of the Derwent. The Norwegians on the right, or York, bank of the Derwent were driven into the river by the English attack, and then occurred a strange incident of which the record, curiously enough, is only preserved in the chronicle of the distant monastery of Abingdon. It was essential for the English to get possession of the bridge which spanned the unf ordable river before the Norwegians on the left bank should have time to form up in line of battle, and we are told:
"There was one of the Norwegians who withstood the Englishmen so that they could not climb over the bridge and gain the victory. Then one of the Englishmen shot with an arrow and that did nothing, and then came another under the bridge and stabbed him underneath his coat of mail, and then Harold king of the English came over the bridge and his army with him. [25] We have no details of the straggle which must have raged along the rising ground on which the modern village of Stamfordbridge stands, nor do we know with certainty how Harold Hardrada and Tostig fell, but it is clear that the result of that day's fighting was an unequivocal victory for the English; the men who had been left in charge of the Norwegian fleet at Riccall were willing to accept peace at Harold's hands and were allowed to depart with their ships to Norway. Harold indeed in this great fight had proved himself a worthy inheritor of the crown of the West Saxon kings, and it was a strange destiny which ruled that the last victory in the struggle of three centuries between Englishman and Northman should fall to no descendant of Egbert or Alfred, but to an English king who was half a Northman himself by blood. But a stranger destiny was it which ruled that one week should see the overthrow of the last great invader from the north and the opening of a new era for England in the entry of the greater invader from beyond the Channel. Harold Hardrada fell at Stamfordbridge on Monday, William of Normandy landed at Pevensey on Thursday.

1. The scheme of policy which Green (Conquest of England, 522-524, ed. 1883) founded an relation to their marriage rests upon this assumption.
2. Poem in Worcester Chronicle, 1057.
3. Vita Eadwardi Confessoris (R. S.), 410.
4. Worcester Chronicle, 1042 : "All the people chose Edward and received him for King, as it belonged to him by right of birth."
5. Chadwick, Studies in Anglo-Saxon Institutions, Excursus iv.,p.355.
6. The one contemporary account of Harold's oath which we possess is that given by William of Poitiers (ed. Giles, 108). According to this Harold swore (i) to be William's representative (vicarius) at Edward's court; (2) to work for William's acceptance as king upon Edward's death; (3) in the meantime to cause Dover castle to receive a Norman garrison, and to build other castles where the duke might command in his interest. In a later passage William of Poitiers asserts that the duke wished to marry Harold to one of his daughters. In all this there is nothing impossible, and to assume with Freeman that the reception of a Norman garrison into a castle entrusted to Harold's charge would have been an act of treason is to read much later political ideas into a transaction of the eleventh century. William was Edward's kinsman and we have no reason to suppose that the king would have regarded with disfavour an act which would have given his cousin the means of making good the claim to his succession which there is every reason to believe that he himself had sanctioned twelve years before.
7. Vita Edwardi Confessoris (R. S.), 432
8. William of Poitiers, 123.
9. William of Malrnesbury, Gesta Regum, ii., 299.
10. The statement that William promised, if successful, to hold England as a fief of the papacy is made by no writer earlier than Wace, who has no authority on a point of this kind.
11. Monumenta Gregoriana.
12. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 8.
13. William of Poitiers, 124.
14. William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum.
15. The list followed here is that printed by Giles as an appendix to the Brevis Relatio. Scriptores, p.21.
16. Guy of Amiens, 34: "Appulus et Caluber, Siculus quibus jacula fervet."
17. Kingsley, Hereward the Wake, ed. 1889, p. 368.
18. This was Freeman's final view. N. C. iii., 625.
19. Florence of Worcester, 1066.
20. Ordericus Vitalis, P.120.
21. Chronicles of Abingdon, Peterborough, and Worcester, 1066.
22. John of Oxenedes, a thirteenth-century monk of St. Benet of Holme, asserts that Harold entrusted the defence of the coast to AElfwold, abbot of that house. The choice of an East Anglian abbot suggests that his appointment was intended as a precaution against the Scandinavian danger.
23. Heimskringla, page 165.
24. Simeon of Durham, 1066.
25. This episode forms the last entry in the Abingdon version of the Chronicle, and it is described in a northern dialect.