| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
EDWARD THE CONFESSOR
 YOU remember that, when the Danes invaded England in the
time of Sweyn, Canute's father, Ethelred, who was then king,
fled to France with his wife and children. After Ethelred's
death Edmund Ironside, one of his sons, became king, shared
the kingdom with Canute, and died after a reign of only
seven months. Edward, whom the English now chose to be king,
was Edmund Ironside's brother, another son of King Ethelred
Edward was a boy when he was first taken to Normandy, so
although he was English, he had lived all his life in
Normandy, and he liked the Normans better than the English.
He brought Norman friends over from France with him. The
Norman language, Norman customs and fashions were soon heard
and seen everywhere in England.
It had been greatly through the advice of Godwin, Earl of
Wessex, that Edward had been chosen, and now the earl was
sorry when he found that the king seemed not to be English,
However, Godwin thought that an English wife might make
Edward love England better, so he persuaded the King to
marry his daughter Edith. But although Edward married this
beautiful and good lady, he never
 loved her. Indeed,
although he was perhaps not really cruel to her, he was not
kind, and he hardly ever even spoke to her. So she had no
chance of making him love England better.
The Normans, like the Danes, were very proud and haughty.
And Edward's friends behaved so haughtily towards the
English, that very soon they were hated, just as the Danes
had been hated. The hatred grew and grew, and at last it
broke out into fighting.
It happened that one of Edward's friends, called Eustace,
Count of Boulogne, was going back to France, after having
visited the King. Like most of the Normans Eustace was
proud, and he and his company rode into Dover, on their way
to their ships, with jingling swords and clanking armour,
making a great noise and stir, and behaving as if the whole
town belonged to them.
They went to the best houses, rudely demanding food and
lodging. They entered the houses without leave, and took
what they wanted without a word of thanks.
Now the English have ever been hospitable, but an
Englishman's house is his castle. He will give freely, but
he does not like to be bullied and robbed. So one brave man
refused to allow the Normans to enter his house. Angry at
that, a Norman soldier struck him in the face. The man
returned the blow. It was enough. In a few minutes a fierce
fight had begun, the Normans against the men of Dover.
The Englishmen fought well. They were glad to have a chance
of showing their dislike of the Normans, they beat them
thoroughly, and drove them out of the town.
Back to King Edward rode Count Eustace in furious rage.
"See," he cried, bursting into the room where the King was,
"see how these Englishmen of yours have
 treated us. They set
upon us as we rode peaceably through Dover. They have killed
twenty of my men, and I myself have barely escaped with my
life. Is this the way to treat your friend and guest, my
Count Eustace, you see, did not tell the story truly. He did
not tell King Edward that he and his men had begun the
quarrel and were to blame.
King Edward was very angry with the English. He sent at once
for Earl Godwin, as Dover was in his earldom. Godwin came,
but when he had heard the story of the fight, he felt sure
that the fault was not all on the side of the English. So
when the King told him to take an army and go to punish the
brave men of Dover, he refused. "You have only heard one
side of the story," he said. "You have no right to blame or
punish the Englishmen until you have heard what they have to
say. I will not go."
King Edward was so angry at this, that he banished Earl
Godwin and his sons from the land, and gave their earldoms
to other people. Then he shut Queen Edith up in a convent,
because she was Godwin's daughter.
Now there was no one to hinder the King from doing just as
he wanted. He brought more people than ever from France, and
among them came his cousin, the Duke of Normandy.
William of Normandy only came for a visit, but many of the
other nobles remained in England, and Edward gave them all
the best places at court.
William thought England was a very beautiful country, and
before he went away he made Edward promise that he should be
king next. And Edward was so fond of his cousin that he
Of course Edward had no right to do this. He could not give
away the crown of England to any one without
 the consent of
the people. And certainly the people did not wish a Norman
king. The kings of England had really no power to act in
great matters without calling together a council of the
nobles and wise men. The English had always been a free
people, who had a share in governing themselves. Their kings
had been kings, not tyrants.
Nearly all the chief men at court were now Normans, and the
people longed for Godwin and his sons to return and free
them from these hated strangers. At last they did return.
Edward was angry when he heard that these banished men had
come back without leave. But the people rejoiced and flocked
to join the great earl, and it seemed as if there might be
war. But there was none. Earl Godwin was very clever, and
somehow he forced the king to send away his Norman
favourites, and put Englishmen in their places, without any
fighting at all. Then Frenchmen fled back to their own
country, and the things went better in England.
Soon after this, Earl Godwin died and his son Harold took
his place. During what remained of Edward's reign it was
really Harold who ruled, for the king was growing old and
feeble. And Harold governed well, for love of England filled
his heart. He even banished his own brother, Tostig, who was
Earl of Northumbria, because he governed his earldom badly.
This was a difficult thing for Harold to do. But although he
loved his brother, he loved his country more, and when he
had to choose between them, he chose his country.
Now a very sad thing happened which, together with Edward's
foolish promise, made a great difference in the lives of the
English people, and perhaps changed all our island story.
 One day Harold was sailing upon the sea when a terrible
storm arose. The sailors worked hard and tried to get into a
safe port, but it was of no use. The masts were broken, the
sails torn away. The ship drifted helplessly, and at last
was dashed to pieces on the rocky coast of Normandy. Harold
and some of the sailors escaped drowning, but they fell into
the hands of Duke William.
Now Duke William had never forgotten what a beautiful
country England was, and he still hoped to be its king. He
knew that Harold was a very great man in England, and he was
glad to have him in his power.
Duke William pretended to treat Harold very kindly, but he
really kept him prisoner. He would not let him go home until
he promised to help him to become king when Edward died.
At last Harold promised. Now of course Harold had no more
right to do this than Edward had. But there was more excuse
for Harold than for Edward, because the King was a free man
in his own country, while Harold was a prisoner in a foreign
country, and to make this promise was his only hope of
freedom. We must blame Harold for making a promise which he
did not mean to keep, but we must blame William more for
forcing him to make it, as he took a mean advantage of a
Harold went back home, glad to be free, but sad at heart at
the remembrance of what William had forced him to do, and
hating the Normans more than ever.
Very soon after this, on 5th January 1066 A.D., King Edward
died. He was buried with great pomp and ceremony in the
grand new church at Westminster, which he had built and
which had been finished only a few days before.
King Edward on the whole was a good king, but he
 had not
those things in him which make a great king. He was gentle
and pious, and after his death people began to think that he
was really a holy man and called him Edward the Confessor,
by which name we remember him in history.
If his reign was a happy one for England, it was partly
because the great Earl Godwin and his noble son Harold were
so powerful that they forced the King to act justly.
Edward did not feel as all great kings must feel, that they
are put in their high position, not to please themselves but
to do what is best for their people. Edward did not love his
people, and he pleased himself by bringing his proud Norman
friends from France, and by giving them all the chief posts
in England. He thought more about building churches and
buying relics or bones of holy men, long since dead, than of
strengthening his castles and trying to make the lives of
his people peaceful and happy. This and his foolish promise
to his cousin, Duke William of Normandy, brought great
sorrow upon the country.
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