« НазадПродовжити »
From this period the events of each separate state constitute a part of the general history of the country. Winchester, the original capital of Wessex, now became the metropolis of England, and long continued to be regarded as such, although the growing importance of London was soou sensibly experienced, and, shortly after the Conquest, obtained forit that pre-eminerce which its numerous natural advantages, aided by its artificial improvements, afford the best security of its ever retaining. The principal subsequent transactions by which this county has been signalized, will be narrated in mentioning the scenes of their occurrence.
WINCHESTER. This city is situated at the distance of 62 miles from London, on the eastern declivity of a hill, which gradually slopes to the river Itchin; and is said to derive the name of Caer Gwent, or the White City, by which it was distinguished before the Roman invasion, from the chalky downs among which it stands. Its origin is involved in the mist of antiquity. By Geoffrey of Monmouth its foundation is attributed to a British king, named Hudibras*, 892 years before the Christian era; authentic history gives it an existence of nearly 300 years prior to the landing of Julius Cæsar. It was the capital of the Belgæ, and retained its distinction until this part of Britain submitted to the Roman yoke. About the middle of the first century it was fortified by the conquerors, and a portion of the walls then reared, are still in existence; vestiges of an encampment have been discovered on Catharine Hill, about a mile from the city, which are supposed to indicate the summer quarters of the legionaries; and sepulchres, urns, bones, and coins have been found in the neighbourhood in such numbers as to show that a considerable Roman station was established here. By these invaders its name was changed to Venta Belgarum, the latter epithet being added, to distinguish it from two other cities, bearing the first appellation, one in Monmouthshire, the other in Norfolk.
* This prince is stated to have been the eighth monarch in succession from Brute or Brutus, the great grandson of Æneas, who, about 1195 years before Chrisi, established himself in this island 1 and built the city of London, which, in memory of the ancient seat of his family, he called Troynovant, or New Troy. Many of the circumstances of this story are doubtless fabulous; but that it has its foundation in fact is confessed, after mature examination, by several writers, whose learning and abilities entitle their opinions to respect. It has also been ascertained that these circumstances, whether true or false, were not invented, as has frequently been asserted, by Geoffrey of Monmouth, but are to be found in preceding chroniclers, and are, in fact, taken from Armorican manuscripts of very remote antiquity.
Although subdued by the arms of Rome, this part of Britain was long governed by tributary native princes, of whom Caractacus, called by some historians Arviragus, was the first, and Lucius, who died A.D. 169, the last. This monarch is said to have been converted to Christianity, to have built a Cathedral in this city, and to have devoted to the Christian worship the pagan temples which existed in 28 other cities of his dominions, bestowing the revenues appropriated to the support of the priests, upon the preachers of the new doctrines which he embraced so zealously. This account, although given by many British and Saxon writers, and supported by the learned Dr. Milner, has been discredited by most authors, on the ground of its improbability; and the very existence of Lucius has been questioned, as no account is found in any historian of his decease or interment.
The Cathedral, (if one were really erected by Lucius), was destroyed during the persecution by Dioclesian, towards the close of the third century; but was rebuilt in the time of Constantine. When the Romans withdrew from Britain, Vortigern was chosen by the native chieftains to be the head of the confederacy formed for their mutual defence against the Scots and Picts; and by him Venta was made the metropolis of the island. It was afterwards the residence of his successors, Ambrosius, and Uther Pendragon; the latter of whom, driven from his dominions by the Saxons, is said to have died at St. Alban's in 516, and to have been succeeded by the celebrated Arthur, whose achievements are so distorted by the fabulous narrations of British historians, as to have incurred disbelief, even in circumstances which further investigation renders credible. That he sustained his sinking country during many years against the formidable attacks of the Saxop invaders, is established by good authority; but the judicious and learned historian of Winchester, Dr. Milner, denies that that city or its neighbourhood were ever the scenes of his exploits, and consequently that the Castle was erected, and the celebrated Round Table placed there, by this prince. He is of opinion that the city in which Arthur kept his court was Caer Gwent, or Venta Silurum, in Monmouthshire; and that this has been mistaken for Caer Gwent, Venta Belgarum, or Winchester.
When Cerdic had succeeded in establishing himself as King of Wessex, this city,under the name of Wintanceaster, became the metropolis of his dominions, and here he was crowned in 519. The Cathedral was defiled by the worship of Thor and Woden; and it was not until 635 that the doctrines of Christianity were embraced by the West Saxons. At that period, as already mentioned, the conversion of the sovereign, by Birinus, was rapidly followed by that of many of his subjects; and, although the progress of the new religion was a little checked by the succession of a pagan prince, it derived additional vigour from his subsequent adoption of it, and he completed the new Cathedral which his father had begun. During the reign of this prince a dreadful plague nearly depopulated the city; but we do not find any other event of importance recorded in its history until the time of Egbert, who was solemnly crowned King of all England in the Cathedral, in the year 827, when be constituted Winchester the capital of his dominions, and issued an edict abolishing the former distinctions of Saxons, Jutes, and Angles, and decreeing that all his subjects should thenceforth bear the name of Englishmen only. Egbert died in 837, and was buried at Winchester. He was succeeded by Ethelwolf, a weak prince, who in this city granted to the clergy a charter for the collection of tythes, and confirmed it in the most solemn manner at the altar of the Cathedral. In his reign Winchester was a place of great trade, and the principal inhabitants formed a Guild, or association, similar to those which became so common in subsequent periods, but which precedes any other recorded in history by at least a century. During this and the succeeding reigns, the Danes committed dreadful ravages in various parts of the country, and Ethelbald, the successor of Ethelwolf, fortified the precincts of the Cathedral; a measure whose good effects were experienced in the following reign of Ethelbert, when the barbarous invaders landing at Southampton, and ravaging all the intermediate country, seized upon Winchester, and committed the most horrible outrages in the city, while the Cathedral and its offices remained secure. The Danes were shortly afterwards defeated with great slaughter, and deprived of the principal part of their plunder; but new swarms were continually issuing from the northern hive," and after a series of desperate conflicts, continued during nearly thirty years, the heroic Alfred was compelled to submit, for a season, to the irresistible storm, and Winchester was abandoned, about 873, to the vengeance of the Danes, who destroyed a great part of the Cathedral, burnt the city, and massacred nearly all the clergy and people.
The happy reverse afterwards produced by the wisdom and valour of this great prince is well known; under his fostering care the cities and towns which had been destroyed by the invaders were rebuilt, and Winchester, as the capital, experienced a large share of his attention. Beside restoring the Cathedral and other public edifices, he began to build a Monastery for his friend St. Grimbald, one of the most learned men of the age, but dying before it was completed; was interred in the Cathedral. Athelstan*, the grandson of Alfred, established six mints in this city, a proof of its great importance at that time.
The reign of Edgar, which commenced in 959, was distinguished by the framing of several excellent laws, among which was one for providing an
* During the reign of this prince, the combat between Guy Earl of Warwick and Colbrand the Danish giant is traditionally said to have taken place before the walls of this city; and Dr. Milner considers the fact as
so strongly supported by innumerable traditions, founded on so many ancient records, and confirmed by so great a number of monuments existing till a recent period, that to reject it savours of absolute scepticism “monuments recently existing,” he states to be-1. Athelstan's Chair, a turret in the northern wall of the city, from whence that prince is said to have beheld the combat; 2. A representation of the battle, carved in stone, on a part of the wall ; 3. Two Statues, one of a tall man, and the other much less, apparently engaged in combat; 4. Colbrand's Axe, which was preserved, as late as the reign of James I, in the Cathedral Treasury; and probably disappeared when the sacred edifice was despoiled by the Parliamentarians.
uniform measure, to be used in all parts of the country, and which, from the standard being deposited in this city, obtained the name of the Winchester measure, and the original bushel is still preserved in the Guildhall. Under Ethelred, the weak and barbarous measure of a general massacre of the Danish residents, who had incensed the English by their insolence and rapacity, was commenced in this city, November 13th, 1002, and was terribly revenged by their countrymen in the following year. When the kingdom was divided between Edmund Ironside and Canute, this part of the country fell to the lot of the former; but on Edmund's death the Danish monarch made Winchester his capital, presented rich gifts to the Cathedral, and conferred great privileges on the city.
Edward the Confessor frequently resided here; and here his mother, Queen Emma, was absolved, by the fiery ordeal, which she underwent in the Cathedral, from the suspicion of a criminal intercourse with Bishop Alewyn, her cousin. Here also the great Earl Godwin is said to have died suddenly at the King's table, in consequence of an exclamation (occasioned by his being accused of the murder of Alfred, the King's brother) that, if he were at all guilty of that barbarous action, he wished the next morsel he put into his mouth might choak him; which wish was accomplished by his falling down dead, after a few minutes of extreme agony. This miraculous story, however, rests upon the authority of the Norman monks, who omitted no opportunity of blackening the characters of the family of Harold. The Great Seal of England was first made and deposited here in the reign of the Confessor.
William the Conqueror founded a Castle here, and made it frequently his residence, especially at Easter, which sacred festival he always celebrated in this city with great pomp, as did his son William II, who was buried here, after meeting with his death in the New Forest. On this event Henry, his younger brother, seized on the royal treasure deposited here, and made use of it to secure his election to the throne. In the Cathedral he, the same year, espoused Matilda, who was lineally descended from the Saxon kings, and by this measure conciliated the affections of his Saxon