The graves of Canute the Great and Hardicanute

In the heart of the city of London, near St. Paul’s Cathedral, is a
street called “Watling Street.” Anciently it was connected with the
great high road of the same name (or more properly Watlinga-Stræt),
which had been made by the Britons from the Channel and London through
the midst of England to the north-east of Wales, Chester, and the Irish
Channel. On account of the importance of this road, as communicating
with the interior of England as well as with Ireland, the Romans
improved it. But, like most of the high roads of ancient times, it was
carried over heights, with the constant view of avoiding streams which
would require the erection of bridges. It followed, as nearly as
possible, the natural division of the watercourse in England, or the
ridge of the land watershed whence rivers take their course in all
directions.

About the year 1000 this road not only showed the natural boundary
between the northern and southern river-valleys, but likewise indicated
in the clearest possible manner a political boundary between the
inhabitants of different extraction, and different manners and customs.
The districts to the north and east of this road belonged for the most
part to the so-called “Dena-lagu,” or “Dane-lagh,” that is, the Dane’s
community (from _lag_, whence in the north itself, in Norway, for
instance, _Thröndelagen_, and in Sweden, _Roslagen_). For here the
Danes, and other conquerors or immigrants of Scandinavian origin, had
gradually subdued and expelled the Anglo-Saxons, and here the Danish
laws, habits, and customs, chiefly prevailed.

In the districts to the south, on the contrary, the repulsed
Anglo-Saxons had concentrated the last remnants of their former power. A
great number of wealthy and leading Danes were indeed also settled here,
either in the country, or, with a view to commerce, in the principal
towns on the coast; as in Winchester, which, like London, long had its
“Husting;” Exeter, where a church was in later times dedicated to St.
Olave; and Bristol. But, out of London, the Danes scarcely formed at
that time any really strong and united power in the south of England.
The predominating people was the Anglo-Saxon, and in general the old
Saxon characteristics had been preserved.

To the south of Watlinga-Stræt, which had already often been agreed upon
between the Danish conquerors and the Anglo-Saxon kings as the boundary
between the Danish and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Edmund Ironsides received
his share of England by agreement with Canute. It was in these districts
that the Anglo-Saxon kings had always found their truest and most
numerous adherents, and they had therefore generally been the theatre of
the more important battles between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes. Near
Wareham, in Dorsetshire, Alfred purchased peace with a host of the
latter, who swore on their armlets to observe it; but, though this oath
was regarded by the Danes as very sacred, they are said to have broken
it immediately. During his exile Alfred concealed himself for a long
time at Athelney, in Somersetshire; and near Eddington he again beat the
Danes. In the neighbourhood of Athelney, Alfred also induced Gudrun
(Gorm), the king of the Danish Vikings, to receive baptism. The
oppressed inhabitants were in these parts scarcely ever free from the
devastating attacks of the Vikings and conquerors. The Danes frequently
established themselves in castles near the coast, as at Exeter, in
Devonshire; Dorchester and Wareham, in Dorsetshire; Winchester, in
Hampshire; and Chichester, in Sussex. At Southampton, in Hampshire, and
under the Isle of Wight, they generally wintered with large fleets.
Thence they made incursions into the land of the Anglo-Saxons; and if
they could not entirely expel them, and colonize the south of England in
their stead, they at least endeavoured to weaken and exhaust it as much
as possible.

On the whole, it would not have been very easy for the Danes to settle
themselves entirely in any parts of the south, or south-west, of
England; not even on the coasts near the harbours, though regularly
visited by the ships of the Norwegian Vikings. The inhabitants in these
parts were mostly of pure Saxon descent, and consequently already
prejudiced against the Danes, on account of the old disputes between the
Scandinavian and Saxon races; at all events, they somewhat differed from
the Danes in character, manners, and customs. These districts were,
besides, too remote from Denmark; and in case of an attack from the
Anglo-Saxons, which might naturally be expected to take place,
assistance might come too late. The Danes were not so safe there as on
the east coast of England, which lay opposite to Jutland, and where, if
any danger threatened them, a ship could easily be sent with a message
to their friends over the sea, so that, with a tolerably favourable
wind, a strong fleet could be speedily brought within sight of the
Anglo-Saxons. The Angles, whose descendants inhabited these eastern and
northern districts, seem too, with regard to language and national
manners, to have borne a greater resemblance to the Danes than the
inhabitants of any other part of England, so that it was by no means
difficult for the Danes speedily to amalgamate with them. In addition to
this, the eastern coasts offered much the same allurements to the Danes
as the more southern provinces. They were remarkable for their fertility
and for the riches of their inhabitants, acquired as well by agriculture
as by trade with Saxony, Belgium, and Gaul. Precisely on the east coast,
indeed, were situated at that time some of the largest commercial towns
in England.

It is not surprising, therefore, that, with the exception of London and
its environs, there are not found in the south of England, as is the
case farther north, many names of places of well-defined Danish or
Norwegian origin, which have preserved the old northern forms down to
the present day, and which thus clearly testify that a genuine
Scandinavian population must long have lived there. It is only at the
extremities of the coasts that an occasional promontory, or “Næs,” and
small islands whose names end in _ey_ and _holm_, remind one of the
Northmen; as Flatholmes (_Dan._, Fladholmene) and Steepholmes in the
Severn, where there are said to be remains of Danish fortifications;
Grasholm (_Dan._, Græsholm), to the west of Pembrokeshire; Bardsey, west
of Caernarvonshire; Priestholm (_Dan._, Præsteholm), near the northern
inlet of the Menai Straits; and several others.

In the south of England one cannot discover any striking resemblance to
the Danes either in the language, features, or frame of body of the
people. What they have chiefly left behind them here is a name, which
will certainly never be entirely eradicated from the people’s memory.
Centuries after the Danish dominion was overthrown in England, the dread
of the Danes was handed down from one generation to another, and even to
this day they occupy a considerable share in the remembrance of the
English nation. Throughout England the common people—nay, even a great
number of the more educated classes—know of no other inhabitants of the
north of Europe than “the Danes;” and as they include under this name
both Swedes and Norwegians, the idea of the unity of Scandinavia has
unconsciously taken root amongst them. That they have so implicitly
awarded the first place in Scandinavia to the Danes, has not originated
solely from the fact that, anciently, the Danes were really regarded as
the leading people in the north—whence also the old Norwegian language
was often called “dönsk tunga” (Danish tongue); nor because the Danes at
that time undoubtedly exercised a more important influence on the
British Isles than the other inhabitants of the north; it may, likewise,
have arisen from the circumstance that, partly in consequence of its
situation, Denmark has continued to stand, even down to our time, in
much closer relations both of peace and war with England, than Sweden
has; and that the separation of Norway from Denmark is still too recent
an event to have completely penetrated to the knowledge of the less
informed part of the English people. Even had the remembrance of the
Danes in England lain slumbering there, such events as the battle in
Copenhagen roads in 1801, and the seizure of the Danish fleet in 1807,
must at once have brought all the old tales respecting the doings of the
Danes in England to the lips of the English people.

Legends about “the Danes” are very much disseminated among the people,
even in the south of England. There is scarce a parish that has not in
some way or another preserved the remembrance of them. Sometimes they
are recorded to have burnt churches and castles, and to have destroyed
towns, whose inhabitants were put to the sword; sometimes they are said
to have burnt or cut down forests; here are shown the remains of large
earthen mounds and fortifications which they erected; there, again,
places are pointed out where bloody battles were fought with them. To
this must be added the names of places; as, _the Danes-walls_, _the
Danish forts_, _the Dane-field_, _the_ _Dane-forest_, _the Danes-banks_,
and many others of the like kind. Traces of Danish castles and ramparts
are not only found in the southern and south-eastern parts of England,
but also quite in the south-west, in Devonshire and Cornwall, where,
under the name of _Castelton Danis_, they are particularly found on the
sea coast. In the chalk cliffs, near Uffington, in Berkshire, is carved
an enormous figure of a horse, more than 300 feet in length; which, the
common people say, was executed in commemoration of a victory that King
Alfred gained over the Danes in that neighbourhood. On the heights, near
Eddington, were shown not long since the entrenchments, which, it was
asserted, the Danes had thrown up in the battle with Alfred. On the
plain near Ashdon, in Essex, where it was formerly thought that the
battle of Ashingdon had taken place, are to be seen some large Danish
barrows, which were long, but erroneously, said to contain the bones of
the Danes who had fallen in it. The so-called dwarf-alder (_Sambucus
ebulus_), which has red buds, and bears red berries, is said in England
to have germinated from the blood of the fallen Danes. It is therefore
also called _Daneblood_ and _Danewort_, and flourishes principally in
the neighbourhood of Warwick; where it is said to have sprung from, and
been dyed by, the blood shed there, when Canute the Great took and
destroyed the town.

Monuments, the origin of which is in reality unknown, are, in the
popular traditions, almost constantly attributed to the Danes. If the
spade or the plough brings ancient arms and pieces of armour to light,
it is rare that the labourer does not suppose them to have belonged to
that people. But particularly if bones or joints of unusual size are
found, they are at once concluded to be the remains of the gigantic
Danes, whose immense bodily strength and never-failing courage had so
often inspired their forefathers with terror. For though the Englishman
has stories about the cruelties of the ancient Danes, their
barbarousness, their love of drinking, and other vices, he has still
preserved no slight degree of respect for Danish bravery and Danish
achievements. “As brave as a Dane” is said to have been an old phrase in
England; just as “to strike like a Dane” was, not long since, a proverb
at Rome. Even in our days Englishmen readily acknowledge that the Danes
are “the best sailors on the Continent;” nay even that, themselves of
course excepted, they are “the best and bravest sailors in all the
world.” It is, therefore, doubly natural that English legends should
dwell with singular partiality on the memorials of the Danes’ overthrow.
Even the popular ballads revived and glorified the victories of the
English. Down to the very latest times was heard in Holmesdale, in
Surrey, on the borders of Kent, a song about a battle which the Danes
had lost there in the tenth century.

Amidst the many memorials of “the bloody Danes,” the name of Canute the
Great lives in glorious remembrance amongst the English people. It is
significant that later times have ascribed to Canute the honour of
important public undertakings for the common benefit, which, however, at
most, he can only have continued and forwarded. In the once marshy
districts towards the middle of the east coast of England, there is a
ditch several miles long, called the Devil’s dyke (in Cambridgeshire),
the formation of which is by some attributed to Canute, although it
existed in the time of Edward the Elder. Canute’s name is also given to
a very long road over the morasses near Peterborough (Kinges or
Cnutsdelfe), although it was made before his reign. Canute’s name is
also preserved in Canewdon (Canuti domus), near London, and close by the
battle-field of Ashingdon, in Essex, where he is said to have frequently
resided. In like manner a bird, said to have been brought into England
from Denmark, has been called after him _Knot_ (_Lat._, Tringa Canutus
seu Islandica).

It may be asserted, with truth, that not many English kings have left a
better name behind them than Canute. He does not owe this only to the
favour he showed the clergy, the authors of most of the chronicles of
ancient times. He acquired it by his numerous and excellent laws, by the
power he exerted in restoring order and tranquillity in the kingdom, by
his wisdom in suppressing the ancient animosities between the Danes and
Anglo-Saxons, as well as by the care he took to promote the knowledge
and piety of his people. He issued severe laws against heathenism, and
endeavoured to wipe out the traces of his forefathers’ devastations by
re-building convents and churches. He even caused the corpse of
Archbishop Elfeg, so cruelly murdered by the followers of Thorkel the
Tall, to be conveyed with great solemnity from London to Canterbury, and
deposited in the cathedral. To these traits may be added his many
excellent personal qualities, his sincere repentance for the acts of
violence which he committed in the heat of passion, and his profound
humility before God. The story of his shaming some of his courtiers, who
flattered him when walking on the seashore whilst the tide was flowing,
is, if possible, still better known in England than in Denmark. It would
be difficult to find any one who is not acquainted with all the
particulars of it, and who has not heard it stated that Canute, from
that very day, placed his golden crown on the altar of Winchester
cathedral, and never wore it more. This is one of those traits of true
nobility and greatness of soul that are imperishable in all times and
ages.

Canute was first buried in the old convent of St. Peter’s at Winchester;
but his body was afterwards removed into the grand choir of the
cathedral, where both his and his son Hardicanute’s tombs are still to
be seen. Over Hardicanute’s, in the wall that surrounds the middle of
the choir, was placed (1661) a stone, on which a ship is carved, and the
following inscription:—

Qui jacet hic regni sceptrum tulit Hardicanutus;
Emmæ Cnutonis gnatus et ipse fuit.
In hac cista Lo. 1661. Obiit A.D. 1042.

Or, “Hardicanute, who lies here, and who was a son of Emma and Canute,
bore the kingdom’s sceptre. He died in the year of our Lord 1042, and
was placed in this coffin in 1661.”

[Illustration: [++] Hardicanute’s Tombstone, ship]

The form of the ship on the tombstone shows it to be of no older date
than the seventeenth century; but it was possibly carved there because a
ship of war had previously adorned the tomb of Hardicanute. At all
events, it indicates his relationship with the powerful Scandinavian
sea-kings, and his descent from those Northmen who for centuries were
absolute on the ocean.

Above the before-mentioned wall, in the grand choir, there stands to the
left of the entrance a rather plain wooden coffin, decorated with a gilt
crown, half fallen off, with the inscription:—

“In this and another coffin, directly opposite, repose the remains
of Kings Canute and Rufus, of Queen Emma, and of the Archbishops
Winde and Alfvin.”

[Illustration: [++] Canute’s Tomb]

In Cromwell’s time, the coffins of the kings in the grand choir of
Winchester cathedral were broken open, and the bones dispersed; but they
were afterwards collected together, as far as this could be done, and
again placed in the grand choir in coffins like the one just mentioned.
Thus Canute the Great, whose ambition could not be bounded even by three
kingdoms, has not retained so much as a grave for himself and his
beloved Emma. The presentiment of the perishableness of all earthly
power that seized him when he deposited his golden crown in the same
place has, in truth, been fulfilled!

The other royal coffins that surround the grand choir in Winchester
contain the bones of several old Saxon kings. That the Danish kings
Canute and Hardicanute should be entombed among them, in the midst of
Anglo-Saxon south England, is a sufficient proof of the immense change
that had taken place with regard to the Danes in England since their
first appearance there as barbarous heathen Vikings. Instead of their
kings seeking renown by the destruction of churches and convents, and by
murdering or maltreating the clergy; instead of their despising any
other kind of burial than that in the open fields, on hills under large
cairns, or monumental stones, their successors were now regarded as the
benefactors and protectors of the Church, and as such worthy to repose
in the most important ecclesiastical edifices, even in the principal
district of their former mortal enemies. Nay, the clergy there were
indefatigable in handing down their glory to the latest ages; and thus a
statue of Canute the Great was long to be seen in the cathedral of
Winchester.

But this also affords a striking proof that the Danes and Anglo-Saxons
no longer regarded each other so much in the light of strangers, or with
such mutual feelings of enmity as before; and that Canute had thus
happily broken through the strong barrier which had hitherto separated
Saxon south England from Danish north England.

The Thames certainly brought many Danes in ancient times to the country
south of Watlinga Stræt; but the large bay on the eastern coast of
England, called the “Wash,” and the rivers Humber, Tees, and Tyne,
attracted still more of them to the eastern and northern districts. The
Wash especially seems to have been one of the landing places most in
favour with them. Whether it were its situation, directly opposite to
Jutland on the one side, and on the other, on a line with the fruitful
midland districts of England; or whether it were rather the rapid
current which sets in there that attracted the ships of the Vikings, is
a point that we must leave undecided. This much, however, is certain,
that the first and richest settlements of the Danes were around this
bay; and from it afterwards extended itself quite up to the frontiers of
Scotland, the so-called “Danelagh;” which was a district so considerable
as to comprise fifteen of the thirty-two counties, or shires, then
existing in England, and amongst them the extensive county of
Northumberland.

South of the Wash, and extending towards the Thames, lay East Anglia
(Norfolk and Suffolk); which, a century after the commencement of the
Vikings’ expeditions, was already in the hands of the Danes. Alfred the
Great was compelled to cede it, together with several adjacent tracts of
country, by formal treaty, to the Danish King Gudrun, or Gorm. It is
certain that it had at that time, like Kent, received many Danish
settlers, particularly from the neighbouring Jutland, and their number
continually increased. Yet in East Anglia they seem to have been
scarcely more in a condition to compete with the Anglo-Saxons, in regard
to population and power, than in Kent. It was only on the coast, and
indeed only on that of Norfolk, that they had any settlements, as the
Scandinavian names of places still preserved there show. These districts
lay too near to the main strength of the Anglo-Saxons. The Saxon
inhabitants did not easily suffer themselves to be expelled, and the
Danish dominion there could not, consequently, become of permanent
importance.

But to the north and west of the Wash the Danes obtained a very
different footing. In the province called Mercia (or the Marches), which
formed the centre of England, and in that of Lindisse (or, in old Norsk,
Lindisey), which extended from the Wash to the Humber, they were not
only in possession of a great number of villages and landed estates,
which they had selected to settle on, but had likewise made themselves
masters of several towns, and particularly the five strong fortresses of
Stamford, Leicester, Derby, Nottingham, and Lincoln. These places, which
as early as Alfred’s reign belonged to the Danes, and which were
distinguished by their size, their commerce, and their wealth, obtained
the name of “The Five Burghs” (Femborgene). They formed, as it were, a
little separate state, and possessed in common their own courts of
judicature, and other peculiar municipal institutions. The hostile and
dangerous neighbourhood of the Saxons naturally compelled them to
coalesce together as much as possible; and for a very long period they
formed the chief support of the Danish power in England. Protected by
them from all attacks from the south, the Scandinavian settlers were
enabled securely to continue establishing themselves in the more
northern districts. To arrest the sudden attacks of the Britons in the
west, the Danes also had, on the north-eastern frontier of Wales, the
city of Chester, whose name (_Anglo-Saxon_, Lægeceaster, from the Latin
castra, a camp) shows that it had been a fortified place still earlier,
under the Romans.

Chester formed one of the principal entrances from Wales into the
midland parts of England, as well as into what was then called
Northumberland: under which name was comprised, at least by the Danes
and Norwegians, all the country to the north of the rivers Mersey and
Humber, from sea to sea, and up to the Scottish frontier. Covered by the
“Five Burghs,” it was here that the greater part of Danish England lay.
It was a country filled, particularly in the north-west, with mountains,
and intersected by numerous rivers. Near these, valleys opened
themselves in every direction, of which the largest and most
considerable lay around the tributary streams of the Humber, in what is
now Yorkshire. A separate kingdom had existed here from the oldest
times; and here the Danes, like the Britons, the Romans, and the
Anglo-Saxons before them, possessed the most important city in the north
of England. Built on the river Ouse, which falls into the Humber, it
carried on an extensive trade; and, as the principal seat of the
Northumbrian kings and chiefs, was doubly important. The Britons called
it “Caer Eabhroig,” or “Eabhruc,” the Romans “Eboracum,” the
Anglo-Saxons “Eoforwic,” and the Danes “Jorvik;” whence it is plain that
the form “York,” now in use, is derived.

The Humber and York were for the north of England much what the Thames
and London were for the south. It is not therefore surprising that York
came to possess within its walls the largest and most splendid cathedral
in England, which still towers aloft, a proud and awe-inspiring monument
of the power and religious enthusiasm of the middle ages; nor that the
history of York comprises, so to speak, the whole of that of
Northumberland.

The soil of south England received the dust of the Christian Danish
kings, and of Canute the Great, the hero of Christendom. But the north
of England held the bones of many a mighty Danish chieftain, who had
never renounced his belief in the ancient gods; and, in the
neighbourhood of York, one of the most renowned of heathen heroes, King
Regner Lodbrog, met his death. The names of Regner and his sons were
reverenced and feared in England from their earlier Viking expeditions.
When about to invade England, he suffered shipwreck, and together with
only a few of his men saved himself on the coast of Northumberland. The
Saxon king, Ella, advanced against him from York; a battle ensued, and,
after the bravest resistance, Regner was overcome and made a prisoner.
With true northern pride he would not make himself known to Ella, who
caused him to be thrown into a pen filled with snakes; and it was not
till the dying Regner had sung his swan’s-song, “Grynte vilde Grisene,
kjendte de Galtens Skjebne” (How the young pigs would grunt if they knew
the old boar’s fate), that Ella too late observed to his terror that he
had exposed himself to the fearful vengeance of the king’s sons; who,
guided by the shrewd Ivar Beenlöse, had long been silently preparing for
the conquest of Ella’s kingdom. Ella was vanquished and made prisoner;
and, according to the Norwegian legend, Regner’s sons, to avenge their
father’s miserable death, caused a blood-eagle to be carved on Ella’s
back. The place of Ella’s death is said by some to have been near the
town of “Ellescroft,” or Ella’s Grave. The English accounts make
Regner’s sons, Ingvar and Ubbe, revenge their father’s death in the year
870, by murdering in a most horrible manner King Edmund (who was
afterwards canonized) at the castle of Æglesdon, in East Anglia. They
shot at him as at a mark, then cut off his head, and lastly laid the
body among thorns, in the same forest where their father had been put to
death.

Ivar Beenlöse (the Boneless) succeeded to the kingdom of Northumberland
after Ella; where also such names of subsequent kings as Sigtryg,
Regnald, Godfred, Anlaf (Olaf), and Heric (Erik), unmistakably show
their Scandinavian origin. In Olaf’s time, at the beginning of the tenth
century, the Anglo-Saxon king Athelstane (Adelsteen) succeeded in
subjecting Northumberland, whilst Denmark and Norway, as before
mentioned, were prevented by internal distractions from sending any
effectual assistance to the Danes in England. Olaf fled to Ireland, and
Godfred to Scotland, to assemble the Scandinavian warriors in those
parts, and Athelstane in the mean time destroyed the Danish castle in
York. It is related that Olaf returned with more than six hundred ships,
and again took possession of York. He had with him a great number of
Northmen and Danes from Ireland and Scotland, together with a great many
Celtic Cymri and Britons, and the Scottish King Constantine was also in
his army. Athelstane and this brother Edmund arrayed a mighty force
against them at Brunanborg (Bromford?), where, in the year 937, a battle
was fought; which, though unfavourable to the Danes, afforded the old
northern bards matter for enthusiastic song, of which the Sagas have
still preserved some remains. Subsequently a treaty with King Edmund, in
941, gave Olaf the dominion over the country east and north of
Watlinga-Stræt; but the dispute soon broke out afresh. After the death
of the Northumbrian King Erik in 951, Northumberland ceased to be a
kingdom. From this time it became an earldom (Jarledömme), which was,
however, for the most part, almost entirely independent of the
Anglo-Saxon kings, and governed by Norwegian chieftains. For a long time
it constantly received fresh inhabitants from the mother countries,
Denmark and Norway. Many Norwegians came over; nay, even the King Erik
just mentioned may possibly have been the renowned Norwegian King Erik
Blodöxe, a son of Harald Haarfager, the first absolute sovereign of
Norway. After the death of Harald, Erik became chief sovereign in
Norway; but he and his queen, the notorious Gunhilde, ruled here with so
much cruelty, that the Norwegians gave Erik the surname of Blodöxe
(Blood-axe). Driven from his kingdom, he at length repaired to
Northumberland, where King Athelstane is said to have made him a
tributary king, and where, after many vicissitudes of fortune, he met
his death.

Between the Northumbrian Jarledömme—whence the dignity of the Northern
“Jarls” began to extend itself to the rest of England, which has still
preserved it in the title of “Earl”—as well as between the Danish part
of England and the proper kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons in general,
disputes must naturally have prevailed of a more or less sanguinary
kind. As a necessary consequence of this, the Danish kings, in their
later expeditions against the Anglo-Saxons for the purpose of conquest,
resorted to, and sought support in, the Danish part of the north of
England, in the districts near the Humber. In the year 1013, King Svend
Tveskjæg anchored in this river with a powerful fleet, when he came over
to conquer England. In conjunction with his son Canute, who afterwards
completed the conquest, he had previously lain at anchor at Sandvik
(Sandwich), in Kent. From the Humber he anchored in the river Trent, at
Gegnesburgh (or Gainsborough), in Lincolnshire; whence he harried the
whole of eastern, and part of southern England. The Old Danish land to
the north of Watlinga-Stræt was the first to pay him homage; the rest of
England soon yielded to him, and King Ethelred was obliged to fly to
Normandy. But just as Svend, in the midst of his victorious career, had
returned to Gainsborough—just as he was fleecing and levying
contributions both on laity and clergy—he suddenly fell from his horse
at an assize, or _Thing_, in a fit of illness, and died the following
night, the 3rd of February, 1014. Monkish chronicles relate that it was
St. Edmund who killed him. Ethelred, who now returned to England, in
vain ordered a strict search to be made for the body of Svend, with the
view of wreaking a cowardly vengeance on the impotent corpse of the man
who, when alive, had been so terrible an antagonist to him. But the body
had been secretly conveyed to York, where it was kept concealed during
the winter (but scarcely in the cathedral, although that church had been
founded long before, and was, perhaps, even considerably enlarged by the
Norwegian princes who resided at York). Towards the spring it was
brought over to Denmark by some Englishwomen, who were probably of
Scandinavian extraction, and placed in the cathedral of Roeskilde, in
one of the pillars in the grand choir.

Under the Danish rule, the Danish-Norwegian population in the north of
England increased considerably, both in strength and numbers; although
Christianity, by the wise arrangements of Canute, and particularly by
his severe laws against heathenism, was almost completely disseminated
there. Even after the Danish dominion had come to an end by the death of
Hardicanute in 1042, and the Anglo-Saxon kings had again taken the helm,
the old warlike spirit of the north continued, in spite of Christianity,
to stir in the Northumbrian people. The successors of the Vikings still
preferred, to a natural death, a glorious one on the field of battle;
but Christian tenets no longer permitted them to be marked, when on the
bed of sickness, with the point of a spear, in order to consecrate
themselves to Odin, according to the heathen custom. The mighty Danish
jarl Sivard (Sigeward or Siwerd) reigned over them at that time, who had
fought in many battles both in England and Scotland, whereby his name
became immortalized in Shakspeare’s “Macbeth.” When the news was brought
to him that his son had fallen in battle, he inquired whether he had
received his death wound in front or behind. Being answered,
“Before;”—“In that case,” he exclaimed, “I have reason to rejoice, for
no other death was befitting my son, or me.” When Siward himself
afterwards lay on his death-bed, and felt the approach of dissolution,
an old chronicler (Henry of Huntingdon) represents him as breaking out
into sorrowful complaints, and exclaiming, “How shameful it is for me,
that I have never been able to meet death in my numerous battles, but
have been reserved to die with disgrace like an old cow. Clothe me at
least in my impenetrable armour, gird me with my sword, cover my head
with my helmet, place my shield in my left, and my gilded axe in my
right hand, that I, the bold warrior, may also die like one.” Attired in
full armour, he passed gladly to his fathers in the year 1055, and
doubtless with the secret hope of enjoying in Valhalla a continuation of
that proud martial life for which there would soon have been no longer
room either in Northumberland or in the parent lands of Scandinavia.

Shortly after the death of Siward, the country near York also became the
theatre where one of the last celebrated Vikings of the north fell.
Harald Haardraade was indeed a Christian, and a king in Norway; but with
him, as with many of his cotemporaries, Christianity dwelt only on his
lips. In his heart he was still the bold Viking, who valued Hildur’s
bloody game more than holy psalms, and who preferred conquest on foreign
shores to the peaceful government of an hereditary kingdom. Whilst still
young he had distinguished himself in expeditions in the East, and in
the Greek Empire. It seemed to him disgraceful that those lands,
particularly in the north of England, which had once belonged to his
forefathers, should for ever be wrested from Norway. He therefore agreed
to assist Toste Godvinsön against his brother, the English King Harald
Godvinsön; but on the condition that he himself, if he succeeded in
conquering Harald, should have the dominion of England, whilst Toste was
to have the half of it as jarl, or earl. They landed in the Humber; but
in the battle which shortly afterwards took place (in 1066) at Stamford
Bridge, a little to the east of York, both Toste and Harald fell. Thus
the latter gained no more of England’s soil than the English King Harald
had offered him before the battle, namely, “seven feet of earth, or as
much as he was taller than other men.”

This was one of the last serious attempts on the part of Denmark or
Norway to reconquer England; and in the same year the Normans, after the
battle of Hastings, in which King Harald fell, seized the kingdom which
their Danish kinsmen had formerly possessed. William the Conqueror went
in person against the Northumbrians; but before he disembarked he is
said to have broken up the tumulus on the coast (by the Humber?) in
which, according to the legend, Regner Lodbrog’s son, Ivar Beenlöse, had
ordered himself to be buried, in order to avert the attacks of
foreigners. William had to combat long before he could reduce
Northumberland; but, as we shall afterwards see, he never succeeded in
subduing that spirit of freedom and independence which the Danes and
Norwegians had planted there.

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