Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

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 abovenamed Jarls, as Gunner, Scule, Haldan, and Urm, together with Grim and the chiefs, or ministers, Thurkytel and Thurmod, continued to sign the Anglo-Saxon letterspatent, 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 AngloSaxons called “Eorl."

With King Edgar's reign (959-975) began a fortunate epoch for the Danish dominion in England. Edgar him. self 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) Ulf kytel, 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 semiDanish queen, he had several children, and amongst them à 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 AngloSaxon 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,

rs-patent inumber of Dan find the namestic,

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), Brodor, Tofig, and several others; and among the knights (milites), Thord, Thirkil, Thrim, Brodor, 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, Half. den, 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.

« НазадПродовжити »