Ecclesiastical and Secular Aristocracy

The supposition that the Danes in England devoted themselves to study
both earlier, and to a greater extent, than the Normans in France, is
not founded only on loose conjectures. The English chronicles of the
earlier middle ages contain traces of the Danes having not unfrequently
entered into the English Church, in which they sometimes obtained the
highest preferment. On this point we still possess an important source
of information, which has, besides, the advantage of being for the most
part contemporary with the events and circumstances which it elucidates.
This consists of a considerable quantity of letters and diplomas issued
by kings, bishops, and other leading men in England, from about the year
600 to 1066. These documents, which have lately been collected and
published by a gentleman celebrated for historical research, Mr. J. M.
Kemble, (under the title of “Codex Diplomaticus Ævi Saxonici,” vol.
i.-vi., London, 1839-1848, 8vo.) more especially regard the southern and
midland parts of England, as unfortunately the greater part of the
letters relating to the north of England are lost. Nevertheless, those
that remain, taken in conjunction with the chronicles, afford valuable
information, both respecting the Danish clergy in the south-east of
England, and their diffusion throughout that country.

In the centre of the east coast of England, in Lincolnshire, and near
the Wash, stood in the Anglo-Saxon times the large and famous convent of
Croyland, or Crowland, dedicated to St. Guthlac. It was built upon an
island, and so protected on the land side by the vast morasses which in
those times covered the districts nearest the Wash, that it was a sort
of natural fortress. According to the chronicles of the convent,
compiled by one of the abbots in the eleventh century, it was governed,
shortly after the year 800, by an abbot of the name of Sivard; in whose
time there is also mentioned in the convent a priest (presbyter) named
“Turstan,” and a monk “Eskil” (Askillus monachus). In the same ancient
chronicle are also recorded several deeds of gift, which possibly, with
regard to the rights conveyed to the convent, may have been forgeries of
the times, but which, at all events, so far as regards the names of
persons and places mentioned in them, must be perfectly correct and
trustworthy; since incorrectness in these particulars would have easily
led to the discovery of the intended frauds. These deeds mention,
between the years 800 and 868, amongst the benefactors of the convent,
three viscounts in Lincolnshire, “Thorold” (or Thurold), “Norman,” and
“Sivard;” and also “Grymketil” and “Asketellus” (or Asketil), who was
cook to the Mercian king Viglaf. Lastly there appear (particularly in
the year 833) the following names of places:—Langtoft, Asuuiktoft,
Gernthorp, Holbeck, Pyncebek, Laithorp, Badby, and Kyrkeby.

The names of persons in the convent, and of places about it, here cited
are all, perhaps, or at most with a single exception, of undoubted
Danish or Scandinavian origin. They not only prove that, even long
before the treaty between Alfred the Great and the Viking King Gudrum or
Gorm, which in the year 879 secured to the Danes their conquests on the
south-east coast of England, and therefore, more than one hundred and
fifty years before Canute the Great’s time, the Danes really had such a
footing round the Wash that they could give their villages Danish names,
and were governed by their own chiefs; but they likewise indicate the
remarkable fact, that at least a great number of these Danes must have
been already Christians, since they had villages with churches (Kyrkeby)
and gave landed property to a convent, in which we find both Danish
monks (Eskil and Thurstan), and a Danish abbot (Sivard.) It was about
the same time that the Jutland king, Harald Klag, was baptized, together
with his whole suite, during a sojourn with the Emperor Ludvig, at
Ingelheim, near Mayence, in the year 826. This christening of Danish men
abroad, in Germany and England, was the beginning of the subsequent
introduction of Christianity into the Scandinavian North.

The genuineness of the above-mentioned Scandinavian names is placed
beyond all doubt by the circumstance that similar names appear in other
documents connected with the history of Croyland at the same period, or
the ninth century. In the year 867, swarms of Danish-Norwegian Vikings
landed on the east coast of England, and the Christians who then lived
there, whether Danes or Anglo-Saxons, as well as their churches and
convents, suffered from the ferocity of these heathens. After a great
battle in Lincolnshire, in which, however, the heathens lost three of
their kings, whom they buried in a place afterwards called “Trekyngham”
(the three kings’ home), they marched against Croyland. In vain did the
Christians seek to arrest their progress. In a battle near the convent
many of the Christians fell, and amongst them “Toli” or “Tule,” who had
previously been a knight, but who had now entered the cloisters of
Croyland. The Vikings stormed the convent, and committed a terrible
massacre. Their king, “Oskytyl,” cut down the abbot before the altar;
after which the convent was plundered and destroyed. The Danish Viking
Jarl Sidroc, or Sigtryg, saved a boy called Turgar (Thorgeir) from this
massacre, who afterwards escaped to the neighbouring convent of Ely, and
gave an account, which is still preserved, of this terrible devastation.
Meanwhile, however, the convent of Ely, as well as that of Medehamstede
(Peterborough), was plundered and destroyed by the Vikings.

Amongst the monks then killed in Croyland, we may cite from the
chronicle, the prior, Asker, and the friars Grimketulus (Grimketil) and
Agamundus (Amund); and among the few saved, Sveinus or Svend:—names
which, not less than Tule and Thorgeir, indicate a Danish origin. Men of
Danish extraction continued in the following centuries to play a
considerable part in the history of this and of the neighbouring
convents. A Dane named “Thurstan” is said to have rebuilt that of Ely;
and another man of Danish family, “Turketul” (Thorketil), certainly
rebuilt Croyland. Thorketil, who (it is stated) was nearly related to
the royal Saxon family, had previously distinguished himself both as a
warrior and statesman. In the battle of Brunanborg he commanded the
citizens of London who were in Athelstane’s army, and during a long
series of years was chancellor to several kings. Subsequently, however,
he took the vows of the convent, and governed Croyland with honour, as
abbot, till his death in the year 975.

It is, indeed, very striking to observe how many abbots of Danish origin
governed the convent of Croyland from the ninth to the twelfth century.
Sivard and Thorketil have been already mentioned. Thorketil was
succeeded by two of his relations, both named Egelrik; and after the
death of the last of these in 992, followed an abbot with the pure
Danish or Scandinavian name of “Oscytel.” This Asketil had long been
prior of Croyland before he became its abbot, which he continued to be
till his death in the year 1005. To what extent Asketil’s immediate
successors were Danes is at least very uncertain, as they have
Anglo-Saxon names. During the invasions of the Danish kings, however,
the convent was at times suspected of being in league with the Danes.
Canute the Great is said to have presented a chalice, and his son
Hardicanute his coronation mantle, to Croyland. Other Danes also made
similar gifts to that convent. In the year 1053 it again had an abbot
with the Danish name of Ulfketil (Wulketulus); and, what is very
significant, after the Norman conquest, the swampy districts round it
became places of refuge for the Danes and Anglo-Saxons who had in vain
fought the last battle for freedom against the victorious and advancing
Norman conquerors. One of the chief leaders in this battle was the Jarl
Valthiof, a son of the far-famed Danish Jarl, Sivard Digre (_Eng._
Sivard the Stout) of Northumberland. Valthiof, it is expressly stated,
was one of Croyland’s best benefactors and protectors. Subsequently he
made his peace with William, but was at last executed by that monarch’s
directions, and immediately buried at Winchester. Nevertheless the abbot
Ulfketil, together with his monks, obtained permission to convey
Valthiof’s body to Croyland, where many miracles were soon performed at
the shrine of the innocent and murdered martyr of freedom. Exasperated
probably by this, as well as by the refuge which their opponents found
in and about Croyland, the Normans inflicted many calamities on it, and
at length deposed the abbot Ulfketil. He was succeeded by an Englishman
with the Scandinavian name of “Ingulf,” to whom we are indebted for
having indited the ancient chronicles of the convent.

The close connection of Croyland with the Danes, as well as its Danish
monks and abbots, was a natural consequence of the convent’s being
situated in Lincolnshire, a part of England which was pretty nearly the
earliest and most numerously occupied by them. Satisfactory reasons
certainly exist even to justify us in calling this convent peculiarly a
Danish one. In consequence of its size and importance, it is highly
probable that it was one of the principal places whence the Danish
settlers in England derived their civilization. In this manner Croyland
answers in England to the convent of Bec in Normandy (from the Danish
Bæk, a small rivulet), founded by the Northmen, and afterwards very
celebrated; which also seems to have been one of the most important
nurseries for the diffusion of a higher Christian and intellectual
cultivation among the Scandinavian colonists in Normandy.

The very remarkable evidence which the history of Croyland affords of
the Christianity of the Danes in England so early as the ninth century,
is, however, by no means solitary. Before the treaty concluded between
Gorm (Gudrum) and Alfred in the year 879, the former had already been
converted, and received at his baptism the name of Athelstane. In a
somewhat later treaty concluded by the same King Gorm with Alfred’s
successor Edward, it is assumed that there must long have been
Christians among the Danes settled in East Anglia, and that they had at
all events allowed the ecclesiastical institutions to exist unmolested
among them. In the year 890 there was in Northumberland a king called
Guthred (Gutfred, Godfred?), a son of the Danish king Hardicanute, of
whom it is stated that he extended the bishopric of Durham, and
conferred on it considerable rights and privileges, which even at the
present day distinguish that see above all others in England. The coins
of Danish-Norwegian kings minted in the north of England in the ninth
and first half of the tenth century (as mentioned at p. 49), also
indicate an early conversion to Christianity; as they show both the
cross, and frequently also parts of the Christian legend: “Dominus,
dominus, omnipotens rex mirabilia fecit;” or, “The Lord, the Lord, the
Almighty King, hath performed wonderful things.”

About the year 940, Christianity must, on the whole, have had a firm
footing among the Northumbrian Danes. It would otherwise be inexplicable
how, in the wars which Edmund waged at that time with the Danish king
Anlaf, or Olaf, in Northumberland, even the Archbishop of York,
“Wulfstan,” should have sided with the Danes against the Anglo-Saxons.
Wulfstan subsequently, in the year 943, negotiated a peace between Olaf
and Edmund, whereby the latter ceded the country east of Watlinga-Stræt
to Olaf. In this treaty a great man, of Danish extraction, took part on
the Anglo-Saxon side; namely, Odo, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose
father was a Dane who had fought in the host of the Vikings against
Alfred the Great. One might almost be led to believe that Wulfstan
himself was of Danish origin, and that his name was only the Anglo-Saxon
form of the Scandinavian “Ulfsteen.” For under King Edmund’s successor,
Edred, we again find the Archbishop, together with his clergy, paying
homage to the Danish king’s son, Erik (son of Harald Blaatand?),
although he had shortly before, in common with the Northumbrians, taken
an oath of fidelity to the Anglo-Saxon king. After the murder of Erik,
King Edred caused the Archbishop to be deposed and thrown into prison;
but afterwards gave him the bishopric of Dorchester, though far removed
from the Danish possessions.

Another argument in favour of the Danish extraction of Bishop Wulfstan
(or Ulfsteen) is, that several of his successors in the archbishopric
were undoubtedly Danish; which shows that in those days such men were
chiefly elevated to that dignity, as, through their common descent and
kinsmanship, possessed an influence over the Danish population in
Northumberland; where, also, there was doubtless a great body of Danish
clergy. Contemporary with Abbot Thorketil, a certain “Oscetel,” or
Osketil, is also named as churchwarden (circeværd) in the King’s
letters-patent in the year 949; probably the same Osketil who, between
the years 955 and 970, constantly signed the King’s letters as
Archbishop of York. As Odo, the Danish Archbishop of Canterbury, lived
long after Osketil had become Archbishop of York, we are thus presented,
half a century before the reign of Canute the Great, with the singular
spectacle of the two chief ecclesiastics of England, the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York, being both of Danish extraction. Oscytel’s
successor in the archiepiscopal see of York was also a Danish man,
although he bore the Anglo-Saxon name of Oswald. He was both nearly
related to Oscytel (his “nepos”), and, moreover, a brother’s son of
Archbishop Odo; consequently descended in a direct line from the Danish
Viking, Odo’s father. This Archbishop Oswald published some laws for the
Northumbrian clergy which are still extant, and in which, according to
Danish custom, fines are computed in _marks_ and _öre_; whilst in the
rest of England they were reckoned in pounds and shillings.

As these facts lead us to suppose that, at that time, a great part of
the inferior clergy in England must have been of Danish extraction, and
particularly in Danish North and East England; it thus becomes still
clearer that the English priests or missionaries, with Scandinavian
names—as, for instance, Eskild, Grimkild, and Sigurd—who went over to
Scandinavia in the tenth century for the purpose of converting the
heathens, were, as their names show, of Danish origin, and undoubtedly
natives of the Danish part of England. Sprung from Scandinavian
families, which, though settled in a foreign land, could scarcely have
so soon forgotten their mother tongue, or the customs which they had
inherited, they could enter with greater safety than other priests on
their dangerous proselytizing travels in the heathen North; where, also,
from their familiarity with the Scandinavian language, they were
manifestly best suited successfully to prepare the entrance of

The rapid accession of the Danes to the highest ecclesiastical offices
in England must satisfactorily convince every impartial person how
carefully we should discriminate between the Danish or Scandinavian
Vikings, who, only for a certain period, robbed and plundered, and the
Danish colonists, who, from the beginning of the ninth century were
settled down—particularly in the east and north of England—as peaceful
Christian citizens; and whose sons soon became sufficiently accomplished
and respected to fill the highest places among the already powerful
ecclesiastical aristocracy of England. Nor should it be forgotten, that
the Danes in England, who, though fewer in number than the natives, yet
aimed at the supreme authority, were early obliged to apply themselves
to study, and to permit their sons to enter the clerical order; for, the
greater the influence they could acquire among the clergy, who at that
time held a very large share of power, the stronger and more secure
would their position become in the land of their adoption.

After having had, at least, three archbishops of Danish family during
the tenth century, it is not surprising that in the following one the
English clergy had lost a great deal of their horror for the Danes, and
were so willing to do homage to the Danish conqueror, Canute the Great,
in preference to any prince of Anglo-Saxon descent. Nor did Canute
betray their confidence. He conformed to their manners, and built
churches and convents, whilst his followers imitated his example. Under
such a state of things the English clergy must have become still more
mixed with Danes. In Canute’s time the royal letters are signed by the
abbots “Oscytel” (1020-1023) and “Siuuard” (in Abingdon, Berkshire); as
also by “Grimkytel,” bishop in Essex; and under Hardicanute, by “Sivard”
and “Grimkytel” as well as by the _diaconus_ Thurkil. Even long after
the fall of the Danish power, as, for instance, in Edward the
Confessor’s time, we still meet with many high dignitaries of the
church, with Scandinavian names; such as the abbots Sivard, Sihtric, Uvi
or Ove, abbot of St. Edmundsbury, in East Anglia, and Brand; who was
also abbot of a convent on the east coast, namely Peterborough, close to
Croyland. We further have Sitric, chaplain to the Bishop of Dorchester,
and lastly the Kentish bishop, Siward. William the Conqueror’s Doomsday
Book likewise mentions several such Danish clergymen; for instance, in
the old Danish city of Lincoln, the priests “Siuuard” and Aldene or
Haldan. In St. Edmundsbury there was still later (1157) a Danish abbot
named Hugo.

The secular nobility, or chiefs, were closely connected with the high
church dignitaries of that time. The royal letters before mentioned also
show, that whilst the Danes succeeded in placing men of their own race
amongst the highest clergy in England, they likewise procured admittance
into the ranks of the nobility, and even into the suite that surrounded
the Anglo-Saxon kings themselves. This happened not only from the Danish
chiefs frequently entering the service of the Anglo-Saxon kings, and
often marrying among the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy; but still more from
the circumstance, that certain districts became in time so strongly
occupied by the Danes, as to fall under Danish chieftains; and
consequently the Anglo-Saxon kings, inasmuch as they held dominion over
such districts, were compelled to take these chiefs into their court and
councils. History informs us that the Danish kings Halvdan and Gudrum
divided the districts they had conquered in Northumbria and East Anglia
among their followers, and thus formed there, at an early period, a
resident and wealthy Danish aristocracy.

It has been before shown that, so early as the ninth century,
Lincolnshire had had at least three Shire-greves (Sheriffs), or earls of
the shire, of Danish or Scandinavian extraction; viz., Thurold, Norman,
and Sivard. In the ninth century, indeed, as well as in the first part
of the tenth, the Danish possessions in England were almost entirely
independent of the Anglo-Saxon kings. It was at this period that the
Danish-Norwegian kings in the districts north-east of Watlinga-Stræt
minted, as independent sovereigns, the many coins before described.
There could not, consequently, have then existed in the courts of the
Anglo-Saxon monarchs so many Danish chiefs, or vassals, as when those
monarchs subsequently began to acquire dominion over the previously more
independent Danish kingdoms. Thus, among the regular followers of King
Athelstane (925-941), who subdued the Danish kingdoms in England, we
find, even before his successful expeditions into the North, not a few
Danish-Norwegian chiefs, who signed diplomas in conjunction with him,
and particularly during the years 929 to 931; namely, besides the Thane
“Syeweard” (his minister), the Jarls Urm, Gudrum, Healden or Halfdene,
Inhwær (Ingvard), Rengwald, Hadder, Haward, Scule, and Gunner. This may,
perhaps, partly confirm the statement of the chronicles, that Athelstane
availed himself of Danish warriors to suppress rebellion in his kingdom.
It is expressly stated that, at the battle of Brunanborg (treated of at
p. 34), there were Scandinavian warriors in his army; and, among the
rest, two Iceland brothers, namely, Thorolf, who fell in the battle, and
the bard, or scald, Egil Skallegrimsen, who stayed for some time with
King Athelstane, by whom he was presented with rich gifts for his lays.
It is by no means improbable that Egil entertained, with his songs, the
Scandinavian chiefs then at King Athelstane’s court.

Between the years 940 and 960, several of the above-named Jarls, as
Gunner, Scule, Haldan, and Urm, together with Grim and the chiefs, or
ministers, Thurkytel and Thurmod, continued to sign the Anglo-Saxon
letters-patent, in conjunction with their countrymen or relatives, the
Abbot Thurcytel, and Oscytel, Archbishop of York. At this time the Latin
title “dux” varies alternately with the Scandinavian title of Jarl,
which the Anglo-Saxons called “Eorl.”

With King Edgar’s reign (959-975) began a fortunate epoch for the Danish
dominion in England. Edgar himself was educated among the Danes in East
Anglia, under the care of his relative, Alfwena, dowager queen of the
converted Viking king, Gudrum, or Gorm. Hence he had early conceived
such a partiality for the Danes, that during his reign he was accused of
showing too much favour to those foreigners at the expense of the
natives. It was in his time that the two highest ecclesiastics in
England, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, were men of Danish
extraction; and to judge from the diplomas issued by him, he must
certainly have been served by several Scandinavians; for instance (959),
by the Jarl Oscytel, and by the Thanes (or ministers) Ulfkytel, Rold,
and Thurkytel. Thored, or Thured, a son of the before-mentioned Danish
jarl, Gunner, is likewise named in the chronicles as one of Edgar’s most
trusted chiefs.

The Scandinavian, or Danish aristocracy had now gradually taken such
deep root in England, that Ethelred the Second, who can scarcely have
favoured the Danes, since he was repeatedly forced by their kings, Svend
and Canute, to fly his kingdom, was even unable to remove the Danish
chiefs from about his person, and to put in their places Anglo-Saxons of
unmixed descent. In the first years of his reign there were in his
suite, as the letters-patent show, several chiefs with Scandinavian
names; as the Jarl Nordman, and the thanes Ulfkytel, Siweard, Wolfeby,
and Styr, as well as the knights (milites) Ulfkytel and Thurcytel;
whence it is clear that there must have been several chiefs of the same
name at one and the same time in his court, and particularly of the
names of Ulfkytel and Siweard. Nay, Ethelred himself was united, in
first marriage, with a queen of Danish descent; namely, Elfleda, a
daughter of the Danish chief Thured, Jarl Gunner’s son. By this at least
semi-Danish queen, he had several children, and amongst them a son, who
afterwards became the renowned Edmund Ironsides. According to the
chronicles, many powerful Danes had now obtained large fiefs even in the
southern and western parts of England; as, for instance, the Jarl
Paling, who was married to Gunhilde, a sister of the Danish king, Svend
Tveskjæg, and who had extensive fiefs in Devonshire. This Paling, or
Palne, however, to judge from the name, was probably the celebrated
Scandinavian hero Palnetoke, whose possessions are said to have lain in
that district.

The Danes were now so spread over the whole of England, that the Danish
invaders were sure of finding support in almost every corner of it; and
Ethelred consequently saw that, if their power was not crushed at once,
the Anglo-Saxon dominion was threatened with imminent ruin. But it was
too late. The secret massacre planned by him in the year 1002 was far
from sufficing to annihilate, even in South England, the numerous traces
of Danish influence; and to North England, as is well known, it did not
extend. Even after the slaughter, we continue to find in the royal
letters-patent nearly the same Scandinavian names of chiefs as before:
such as Siward, Styr, Ulfkytel, Nordman, and the knights Ulfkytel and
Thurkytel. The Icelandic scald, or bard, Gunlaug Ormstunge, also
remained some time afterwards with Ethelred, just as Egil Skallegrimsen
had before resided at the court of King Edgar, a monarch favourably
disposed towards the Danes. The old chronicles also mention a powerful
chief of Danish extraction who was in Ethelred’s army after the
massacre. This was Thorketil, surnamed Myrehoved (Ant-head); and,
according to the same chronicles, a Dane named Ulfketil Snilling,
sheriff or earl in East Anglia, was even married to Ethelred’s own
daughter Ulfhilde!

Thus, even before the conquest by Canute the Great, Danish families had
frequently ingrafted themselves on the families of the Anglo-Saxon
nobility; nay, even on the royal family itself. After that conquest the
line of demarcation between the Danes and Anglo-Saxons cannot have been
so strongly drawn as is generally imagined. Thus the descriptions given
in the Sagas of the bold chiefs of the heathen North, as being also
shrewd, amiable, and eloquent men, gain more and more credibility; and
we cannot help admiring the ability and manliness which enabled the
heathen Danish chiefs, and their immediate Christian successors, to
maintain their difficult position against a hostile aristocracy, and, in
spite of it, gradually to extend their power in the very midst of
Anglo-Saxon England. Nay, they not only maintained their ground as the
equals of the Anglo-Saxons, but soon became their superiors. The
weakness and depravity of the Anglo-Saxon nobles under the reign of
Ethelred were the best proof that their day was past. Faintheartedness,
bordering very closely on cowardice, want of union, treachery, and every
other vice, reigned no less among the chiefs than among their
dependents. Luxury and effeminacy had usurped the place of the old
Anglo-Saxon simplicity and vigour. Scarcely any great men appeared among
them, notwithstanding the urgent need that there was for such
characters. Even the greatest of their few warriors, Edmund Ironsides,
was, as we have seen, of Danish descent on the mother’s side.

We may almost say that England was the spoil of the Danes before Canute
came over and seized the sceptre. What a contrast does Canute the Great,
with his proud jarls and chiefs, present to the weak Anglo-Saxons! What
vigour was at once developed in the government! What bravery was
displayed in the field!

Canute the conqueror must, from motives of gratitude alone, if not for
other reasons, have rewarded his Danes, and especially his chiefs, with
landed estates, large fiefs, and lucrative posts of honour. He divided
all England into four earldoms (Jarledömmer):—Wessex, the most Saxon
part of England, he himself took, as being the most dangerous and
hostile district. Mercia, or the middle part of England, which was half
Saxon and half Danish, he gave to Edrik Streon, who was in favour with
the mixed population there, possibly because, as the proverb runs, he
wore his cloak on both shoulders. The Danish districts of Northumbria
and East Anglia he assigned to his companion in arms, the Norwegian
jarl, Erik, and the Danish jarl, Thorkil the Tall. Thorkil, meanwhile,
had married King Ethelred’s daughter, Ulfhilde, after her first husband,
Ulfkytel, had fallen in the battle of Ashingdon. A number of smaller
fiefs in different parts of England were made over, in a similar way, to
Danish warriors of lower rank. Canute increased, moreover, the number of
his guards of Scandinavian Huskarle, or _Thingmen_, of whom his
forefathers had already availed themselves; and drew up for them a
special code of laws, of such severity, that even the king himself could
not infringe them with impunity. These Huskarle, or body-guards, being
thus totally separated from the English by a peculiar system of law,
became, in consequence, a really firm support for the kings. This
Huskarle law, called Witherlagsretten, remained in force in the Danish
court long after Canute’s time.

The letters-patent issued by Canute show him surrounded by a great
number of Danish or Norwegian chieftains. Among the signatures we find
the names of men celebrated in history, such as “Thurkil hoga,” “Yric,”
or “Iric,” jarls in East Anglia and Northumberland; Ulf, Canute’s
brother-in-law, and father of King Svend Estridsen of Denmark; and also
Hacun, a sister’s son of Canute, and for a long time jarl in
Worcestershire. All of these met a tragical fate. Thorkil and Erik had
to wander in exile; Ulf was killed by Canute’s order in Roeskilde; and
Hagen, after many vicissitudes of fortune, perished on a voyage to
Norway, where Canute had appointed him Stadtholder. Besides these we
find named the jarl Eglaf or Ælaf (probably the leader of the
_Thingmen_), Eilif Thorgilson, the jarls Haldenne (“princeps regis”),
Ranig (Rane), Thrym, Siuard, Suuegen, Svend (1026), Tosti (1026),
Sihtric, and others. Among the Thanes (ministri), appear Aslac, Tobi,
Acun (Hagen), Boui (Bue), Toui, Siward, Haldan, Thurstan, Thord,
Hastin(g), Broðor, Tofig, and several others; and among the knights
(milites), Thord, Thirkil, Thrim, Broðor, Tokig, Ulf, and Siward.
Several of Canute’s chieftains, according to the genuine old
Scandinavian custom, had surnames, mostly taken from their personal
appearance; as, besides “Thurcyl hoga,” we find Thurcyl hwita (white),
Thurcyl blaca (black), Thoui hwita, Toui reada (red), and Haldan scarpæ
(Halfdan the Sharp). A letter dated in the year 1033, is signed among
others, by the chiefs: Jarl Siward, Osgod Clapa, Toui Pruda, Thurcyl,
Harald, Thord, Halfden, Rold, Swane, Orm, Ulfkitel, Ketel, Gamal, and
Orm; and as the document relates to some land in Yorkshire, it is
probable that many of these Danish chieftains dwelt in that old Danish
district. A powerful Dane, named Ulf, a son of Thorald, is named as of
York in Canute’s time. He gave many estates to the cathedral there,
together with a carved horn, by way of conveyance or title-deed, which
is still preserved in the cathedral under the name of “Ulph’s horn,” or
“the Danish horn.” This Ulf is possibly the knight of that name before
mentioned. A similar horn is said to have been given by Canute the
Great, with some landed property, to the family of Pusey, of Berkshire.

Under Canute’s immediate successor, Harald Harefoot, as well as under
Hardicanute, the power and grandeur of the Danish chieftains continued
steadily to increase. Many besides those just mentioned are spoken of in
letters of Hardicanute’s reign; and above all the celebrated Danish jarl
Siward, surnamed Digre, who in the year 1040 became jarl in
Northumberland. We also meet with the jarl Thuri; the thanes Urki,
Atsere (Adzer), and Thurgils; the knight Ækig (Aage); and, in the
chronicles, Styr and Thrand. Lastly, Osgod Clapa, and Toui Pruda are
mentioned in the history of Hardicanute, but on a mournful occasion. It
was at the marriage festival which Osgod Clapa made for his daughter and
Toui Pruda, that Hardicanute had a stroke of apoplexy, from which he
never recovered. Some, therefore, are of opinion that the marriage did
not take place at Lambeth (see p. 20,) but at Clapham (Clapa-ham, or
Clapa’s home), in Surrey, to the south of Kennington, which now forms
part of London.

As long as their supremacy lasted, the Danes must naturally have behaved
as conquerors in the land which they had subdued. Their innate love of
splendour and profusion found ample nourishment, whilst at the same time
their pride was flattered, by the subjugation of the Anglo-Saxons. The
old English chroniclers complain bitterly of the severe humiliations
which the natives were compelled to endure. If, for instance,
Anglo-Saxons met a Dane upon a bridge, they were obliged to stand still,
and make low bows; nay, even if they were on horseback, they must
dismount, and wait till the Dane had passed. At the same time the
Anglo-Saxon nobility gradually lost the many fiefs and lucrative posts
of honour which had formerly been in their possession, but which were
now transferred to their powerful conquerors. But what really injured
the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy more than anything else, was the wise and
conciliatory policy of Canute the Great, which, by extinguishing the
hatred between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes, amalgamated the aristocracy
of the two nations to such a degree that the Anglo-Saxon nobility at
length existed only in name, having become by imperceptible degrees more
than half Danish. A contrary method of proceeding, a violent and
sanguinary oppression of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy, would, perhaps, in
some respects, have been more serviceable to them, as it would have
inflamed their hatred, and provoked them to a desperate resistance; and
would thus have incited them to keep themselves free from the intrusion
of all foreign admixture.

As the matter stood, the Danish power apparently gave way to the
Anglo-Saxon dominion; but, in reality, it was little more than the name
that was changed. It is said, indeed, that the new Anglo-Saxon king,
Edward the Confessor, some years after his accession (in 1048), expelled
the great Danish chiefs and their descendants from his court, and drove
them into exile; as, for instance, Osgod Clapa, sheriff of Middlesex,
and Asbjörn, a brother of King Svend Estridsen of Denmark, whose second
brother Björn, a jarl in the west of England, had shortly before been
killed by the jarl Svend Godvinsön. He also banished Canute the Great’s
niece, Gunhilde. By her first marriage with her cousin, Hagen Jarl,
Stadtholder of Norway, Gunhilde had a daughter named Bothilde; by her
second with Harald, a son of Thorkil the Tall, who also succeeded to the
Stadtholdership, she had two sons, Hemming and Thorkil. Gunhilde went
into exile with her sons by way of Bruges in Flanders, and thence to her
relatives in Denmark.

Nevertheless the signatures to Edward’s letters-patent prove that this
king, alleged to have been so favourably disposed towards the
Anglo-Saxons, must have had many chiefs of Danish extraction about his
person, even after this expulsion of the Danes; nay, even to the day of
his death. We need not look for them among the “Huskarle,” or
body-guards, alone, amongst whom are named Thurstan and Urk; for
Huskarle with Scandinavian names are mentioned at a still later period
in England; and we find, under William the Conqueror (1071), Eylif
Huscarl, and, even in 1230, Roger Huscarl. Even in King Edward’s suite,
and occupying considerable offices, were such men as “Atsere Swerte
(Adser the black), Atsur röda (Adser the red), Eiglaf (Eylif), Guðmund,
Ulfketil, Thord, Siward, Thurstan, Harold, Turi, Yrc (Erik), Anschitil
(Osketil), Tofi, Neuetofig, Esgar, Ingold, Tosti, Thorgils, Wagen, Ulf
Tofis sune, Askyl Toke’s sune, Jaulf Malte’s sune.” Also the knights
Esbern (Asbjörn) and Siward, together with several others, the greater
part of whose names appear in letters that were issued after the
expulsion of the Danes in 1048. Many of the royal fiefs were still in
the hands of Danes. Jarl Siward Digre governed the extensive district of
Northumberland with the same power and influence as before, till his
death in the year 1055. Somersetshire, lying far towards the west in the
Saxon part of England, had a sheriff (vice-comes) named “Touid,” or
“Tofig,” who can scarcely have been an Anglo-Saxon. We find a person
named “Toli” filling the same high office in East Anglia; as well as in
Huntingdonshire a “Tuli;” in Hamptonshire, a “Norman;” in Lincolnshire a
“Marlesuuein.” Northmen, or at least chiefs of Scandinavian origin,
filled the highest posts at Edward’s court. Between the years 1060 and
1066, a letter mentions the following royal chiefs, or “Hofsinder:”
“Jaulf, Agamund, Ulf, Wegga (Viggo), Locar (Loke), and Hacun.” In one of
Edward’s letters, dated 1062, the following names appear:—“Esgarus,
regiæ procurator aulæ;” “Bundinus, regis palatinus;” “Adzurus, regis
dapifer;” “Esbernus princeps;” “Siwardus princeps;” “Hesbernus regis
consanguineus.” These are all pure Danish names, viz., Esgar, or Asgier,
Bonde, Adser, Asbjörn, and Sivard. The different Latin titles here given
to Esgar, Bonde, and Adser, are translated in contemporary letters by
one and the same word, “steallere” or “stalre.” The dignity of “Staller”
was also, as is well known, an established one in the courts of the
Scandinavian kings, at all events after the time of Canute the Great.
The Staller was superintendent of the court, or a sort of High Steward,
and attended the “Thing” meetings for the king, but more particularly in
cases which concerned the court. From an English diploma, dated
1060-1066, and signed by “Esegar steallere,” “Bondig steallere,” and
“Roulf steallere,” we see that there were several “Stallers” at the same
time in England; which certainly arose from the Stallers being also the
king’s commissaries.

The last-named, “Roulf steallere,” is probably the Ralph so much in
favour with King Edward, and who was a son of Edward’s sister and a
Norman nobleman. Another Staller of Norman descent is mentioned in
letters of the years 1044 and 1065, namely, Roldburtus, or Rodbertus,
son of Winwarc. Indeed Norman names begin to be frequent in Edward’s
letters-patent; for, as a consequence of the favour which he bore
towards the Normans, many of whom he gradually placed in the highest
posts of honour in England, there quickly grew up by the side of the
pure Danish elements, what may be called a half-Danish or
half-Scandinavian influence from Normandy, which was soon to supplant
the Danish power, as well as annihilate once for all the apparent
dominion of the Anglo-Saxons in England. Thus Edward’s reign was clearly
only a state of transition from the Danish to the Norman dominion; a
national Anglo-Saxon reign it could not well be called.

How, indeed, should Edward have been able to maintain, or rather to
reinstate upon the throne of England a purely national Anglo-Saxon line,
after it had long been broken by the Danes? Edward’s own race may, in a
manner, be said to show how weak and irretrievably declining was the
Anglo-Saxon element. Edward himself was a son of the Norman princess,
Emma, and thus brother-in-law to the Danish jarl, Thorkil the Tall, who
had married his sister Ulfhilde, widow of the Danish jarl Ulfketil
Snilling; he was half-brother to his predecessor on the throne, the
Danish king Hardicanute; and he was married to Editha, daughter of Jarl
Godwin, by his second wife, Gyda, who, being a daughter of the Jarl
Thorkil Sprakaleg, nephew of the Danish king Harald Blaatand, was of
Danish descent. Godwin, moreover, in his first marriage, is said to have
espoused a Danish woman, a daughter of Svend Tveskjsæg, and sister to
Canute the Great. Thus Edward the Confessor’s queen, Editha, and her
well-known brothers Svend, Harald, Gurth, and Toste, who, both during
and after Edward’s reign, played a highly remarkable part in English
history, were on the mother’s side of Danish extraction, of which the
Scandinavian names of Godwin’s sons bear sufficient evidence. It was
partly also in consideration of this Scandinavian kinsmanship that Toste
sought assistance in Denmark and Norway against his brother, King
Harald; and that afterwards (in the year 1066), both Toste’s son, Skule,
and Harald’s son, Edmund, fled to Scandinavia—the former through Orkney
to Norway, the latter straight to Denmark—after their fathers had
fallen, within a short period, in the battles of Stamford Bridge and
Hastings. It is remarkable enough that Godwin’s race should return to,
and even flourish in, that same Scandinavian North whence, on the
mother’s side, it had sprung. Toste’s son, Skule, married in Norway
Gudrun, a daughter of Harald Haardraade’s sister, and became by her the
progenitor of so mighty a race, both of jarls and kings, that their
branches extended over the whole of Scandinavia.

[Illustration: [++] Gravestone: Magnus]

During the last period of the declining house of the Anglo-Saxon kings,
we further meet with the Scandinavian names of Guttorm, Hagen, and
Magnus. The name of Magnus, borne by King Harald Godvinsön’s youngest
son, was introduced into Norway through a mistake. It is related that a
son having been born one night to King Olaf (Saint Olaf), no one dared
to awake the King and inform him of it. The child, however, being very
weakly, the priest Sighvat Skjaldt took upon himself to baptize it, and
called it Magnus, after “the best man in the world,” Karl Magnus, or
Charlemagne; probably in the belief that the Latin word _magnus_, which
was only the Emperor Charles’ surname, was a real name. The boy grew up,
and afterwards became king of Norway, where he was usually called
“Magnus the Good.” Magnus’s grave is said to have been discovered in St.
John’s Church, in the town of Lewes, in Sussex. In the new church, which
has lately been built on the site of the old one, has been preserved,
and built into the wall, the monumental stone, which bears the following

“Clauditur hic miles Danorum regia proles; Mangnus nome(n) ei Mangne
nota progeniei. Deponens Mangnum, se moribus induit agnum P(re)pete
p(ro) vita fit parvulus arnacorita.”

Or, “Here lies a warrior (or knight) of the royal Danish race; his name,
Mangnus, is the mark of his great descent. Laying aside his greatness he
adopted the habits of a lamb, and exchanged his busy life for that of a
simple hermit.”

That this Magnus, “of the royal Danish race,” was the son of the Harald
Godvinsön lately mentioned (whose mother Gyda, it is true, was of the
Danish royal family) is, however, a mere conjecture. An older legend
states that he was a Danish chief, or commander, taken prisoner by the
English in a sanguinary battle near Lewes, and who, being well treated,
afterwards laid aside his sword, and became a hermit at that place. (See
Lower, in “Transactions of the British Archæological Association at its
second Congress at Winchester,” pp. 307-310.) It may, perhaps, be most
probable that he was one of those scions of the Danish aristocracy that
remained in the south of England after the Norman conquest had
overthrown the supremacy of the Danish chiefs in that part.

It was in the south of England, where William the Conqueror first
established his power, that the Norman nobility obtained their earliest
possessions. In the midland and northern districts, on the contrary, it
was neither easy to subdue the country, nor to annihilate entirely the
Danish aristocracy, which had completely coalesced with the essentially
Danish population. Long after the conquest, therefore, the Danish chiefs
continued to preserve their independence, or at least their influence,
in those parts. A remarkable instance of this, though taken only from a
single district, is afforded by William’s own “Domesday-Book,” drawn up
about twenty years after the conquest. In this, under the head of
Lincolnshire, are mentioned the great persons who possessed the right of
administering justice on their estates, together with other privileges
belonging to noblemen, such as sacam and socam, and Tol and Thiam; and
among them are found “Harald Jarl; the Jarl Waltef (Valthjof); Radulf
Jarl; Merlesuen; Turgot; Tochi, son of Outi; Stori (Styr); Radulf
“stalre;” Rolf, son of Sceldeware; Harold ”stalre;“ “Siuuard barn;” Achi
(Aage), son of Sivard; Azer, son of Sualena; Outi, son of Azer; Tori,
son of Rold; Toli, son of Alsi; Azer, son of Burg; “Uluuard uuite;” Ulf;
Haminc (Hemming); Bardt; Suan, son of Suane.” Now even if it be certain
that several of these chiefs were Normans, particularly since the Norman
names at that time still preserved their primitive Scandinavian form,
yet it is clear that most of them were Danish-English. It is to be
regretted that Domesday-Book does not comprise the ancient
Northumberland, as that district would certainly have afforded more
names of Danish chieftains than even the old Danish Lincolnshire; for
the Danish aristocracy were never driven out or entirely subdued in
those parts; but rather must have amalgamated in the course of time with
their countrymen, the Norman nobility, until the latter by degrees
gained the ascendancy. This is at once shown by the notorious fact that
neither William the Conqueror, nor his immediate successors, obtained
such mastery over the north of England and its Danish population, as
over the rest of that country; since the inhabitants of the north
fought, with the bravery inherited from their forefathers, for their
Danish chiefs, and for their peculiar, and partly Danish, institutions,
manners, and customs.

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