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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 Godvinson'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 inscription:—
"Clauditur hie miles Danorum regia proles; Mangnus nome(n) ei Mangne nota progeniei. Deponens Mangnum, so 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 Godvinson 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 Archseological 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 (Valtbjof); Radulf Jarl; Merlesuen; Turgot; Tochi, son of Outi; Stori (Styr); Radulf " stake;" 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.
The Danelag.—Holmgang, or Duel.—Jury.—The Feeling of
The Anglo-Saxons were the teachers of the Danes in several ways; above all they made them Christians, and thus communicated to them a new and higher civilization. The Danes in England reaped advantage from the civilization of the Anglo-Saxons, just as the Anglo-Saxons themselves had once begun their own, by building on that refinement which their predecessors, the Romans, had disseminated in England.
But as the Anglo-Saxons did not become Romans, because they adopted and remodelled the Roman civilization; nor the Normans in Normandy Frenchmen, because after their settlement in France they soon assumed many of the French manners and customs; so neither did the Danes in England become Anglo-Saxons, however much they might have been indebted to them for their civilization. The Normans in France retained, in spite of their Christianity and French refinement, the characteristic stamp of their Scandinavian origin, which afterwards caused them to play quite a peculiar part in history. In like manner the Danes in England, amidst the refinements of the Anglo-Saxons, undoubtedly preserved many of their Scandinavian characteristics, which did not disappear without leaving visible and very remarkable traces. But the Scandinavian spirit stamped itself, though perhaps only apparently, in a somewhat different manner on the Norman race in Normandy, and on the Danes in England.
Among the Normans in France the Scandinavian spirit worked, so to speak, only outwardly, in magnificent conquests, of which the chief theatres were England, Italy, and Sicily. Chivalry and feudalism, with their crusades, communicated a new impulse to it; but, internally, it
effected comparatively little for France. It did not manifest itself in Normandy by forming political institutions capable of supplanting the oldest and most essential French laws and constitutions; nor, indeed, are we able to point out with exactness what really Scandinavian customs the Normans established in that country. Yet it can scarcely be doubted that they introduced there trial by jury, as well as trial by battle, and other Scandinavian legal institutions.
In England, on the other hand, the northern character showed itself so far outwardly active as to exercise a vast and unmistakable influence on her commerce and navigation, and on the bold and adventurous spirit of enterprise among her people; which, though at a much later period than the conquests of the Normans, has nevertheless extended her dominion over every sea. But in England it has also been internally a living and guiding spirit, in the formation of her judicial and political institutions. It is an incontrovertible and notorious fact, which has, however, hardly been sufficiently insisted upon, that about half of England—the so-called " Danelag," or community of the Danes—was for centuries subject to Danish laws; that these laws existed even after the Norman conquest; and that they did not pass into the general or common law of England, till the successors of William the Conqueror at last united into a whole the various discordant parts into which England had been previously divided. When we remember that the Normans long retained a predilection for old Scandinavian institutions and forms of judicature, it seems highly probable that the Danish laws, which had for so long a period prevailed in England, did not disappear under their sway without the new laws, which they established, deriving from the old a particular colour, and certain Scandinavian stamp. A further examination of this point will scarcely be superfluous, as it will enable us to judge how far those are right who, in company with one of England's most