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reform, and for similar liberal measures. That this spirit of liberty in the north of England is chiefly derived from the old Scandinavian colonists is by no means merely the partial assertion of a Dane. The celebrated English writer, Sir E. Bulwer Lytton, who, in his “Harold,” has successfully begun to awaken the attention of his countrymen to a juster view of the Danish conquest, says in a note appended to that work : “ It might be easy to show, were this the place, that though the Anglo-Saxons never lost their love of liberty, yet that the victories which gradually regained liberty from the gripe of the AngloNorman kings were achieved by the Anglo-Norman aristocracy. And even to this day, the few rare descendants of that race (whatever their political faction) will generally exhibit that impatience of despotic influence, and that disdain of corruption, which characterize the homely bonders of Norway, in whom we may still recognise the sturdy likeness of our fathers; while it is also remarkable that the modern inhabitants of those portions of the kingdom originally peopled by the Danes, are, irrespectively of mere party divisions, noted for their intolerance of all oppression, and their resolute independence of character; to wit, Yorkshire, Norfolk, Cumberland, and large districts in the Scottish lowlands."
It would be impossible to deny that the Danes and Norwegians settled in England before the arrival of the Normans not only essentially contributed to the preservation of popular liberty—which, through the weakness and effeminacy of the Anglo-Saxons, was threatened with destruction—but that they also laid the foundation of its further development, and powerfully contributed to its complete establishment. We need, therefore, be no longer surprised that memorials of the Danes are mixed up with England's freest and most liberal institutions; and that to the present day, for instance, the place whence the candidates for a seat in Parliament address the electors, bears, throughout England, the pure Danish name “ husting.”
General View.- Anglo-Saxon and Danish-Norman England.
Sympathies for Denmark.--The Dane in England.
THE various kinds of Danish and Danish Norwegian memorials which I have alluded to, such as names of places, coins, and peculiarities of language (not to mention contemporary letters-patent and laws), afford so many incontrovertible proofs that the Danish influence in England was neither of short duration, nor, on the whole, of a transient nature. Future and more successful investigations and comparisons, more particularly in England itself, will undoubtedly much extend the circle of known Danish memorials existing there. So much, however, is already placed beyond all doubt, that in no country out of the present homes of the Scandinavian race have its colonists left such various, such considerable, and such clear traces of their existence, as the Danes, especially, have left in England. The Scandinavian spirit has not ruled with so much power in any other, still less in any greater, European kingdom ; nor been able to retain so powerful a dominion for such a length of time.
The Danes, and their successors the Normans, did not content themselves with the temporary overthrow of the Anglo-Saxon dominion; they annihilated it for ever. In this the Danes may be said to have been more active than the Normans. They not only gradually settled themselves under their own laws and their own chiefs, in half of England, but spread themselves over the whole of it. In the time of Alfred the Great, they once held all England in subjection; and at an early period obtained places amongst the highest ecclesiastical and secular aristocracy of the country. In the tenth century, the Anglo-Saxon king Edgar favoured the Danes so much, that during his reign the Danish power had an opportunity to consolidate and extend itself. Even the Anglo-Saxon royal family became mixed with Danish blood. Among the AngloSaxons, both high and low, weakness and proneness to vice went on continually increasing; whilst the Danish dominion, prepared by two centuries of independent Viking expeditions, and by the subsequent settlements of the Northmen, established itself completely, as soon as the sea kings and wandering Vikings were succeeded by Danish monarchs with considerable fleets at their command.
All England yielded to the conqueror Canute, and under his wise, powerful, and just administration, enjoyed that tranquillity and happiness of which it had long felt the want. The Anglo-Saxons and Danes now became more amalgamated. But Canute's sons wanted their father's ability and strength of purpose. The old dissensions and quarrels broke out afresh; whilst violent internal disturbances in the newly Christianized Scandinavian North, where the Viking spirit became extinguished, deprived the Danes in England of the succour necessary in their contests with the natives. The Danish power in England fell, but left the population completely mixed and saturated with Danish elements. The Anglo-Saxon royal race, as it was called, was now half Danish. The higher clergy and nobility were connected by the closest ties of relationship with the Danes and their chiefs, in whose hands several of the most important fiefs remained. The Danes had acquired considerable influence in many of the largest cities; and in about half of England the majority of the population was of Danish extraction, and possessed Danish laws and other Danish characteristics. The Danes who, naturally enough, could not forget that they had been absolute masters in that conquered land, obeyed unwillingly a king of another race, though they had not the power to place one of their own race upon the throne. The unmixed Saxon population, on the other hand, could not endure that the royal sceptre should continue to be borne, in the once independent country of their forefathers, by foreign conquerors from Denmark, whose power, besides, seemed at that time on the wane. Inward dissensions increased; the kings were too feeble to maintain efficiently their difficult position; and the power falling more and more out of the hands of the degenerate AngloSaxons, passed over to the stronger Danes and their Norman kinsmen.
With an unmixed population, England would have been able to maintain herself united and powerful in the hour of danger, and when threatened by foreign conquerors. But split and divided as she now was among different races contending for the mastery, real unanimity was impossible; and, in case of a powerful attack from without, dissolution was inevitable. Through the Danish expeditions, the Danish colonizations, and finally through the fall of the Danish supremacy, it became practicable for William of Normandy to conquer England with an army of only 60,000 men. Had not those events prepared the way, it would be inconceivable that with such a force a foreign conqueror should have been able to subdue a country so extensive, so well peopled, and so favoured by nature; still less that he should have succeeded in retaining such a conquest for any length of time. William won the battle of Hastings, which decided the fate of England, only because Harald Godvinsön's Anglo-Saxon army entered the field weakened and exhausted by the sanguinary battle of Stamford Bridge. This was fought against the Norwegian king, Harald Haardraade, and the discontented Scandinavians in the north of England, who wanted to re-establish a king of their own race on the English throne.
The Danish-Norwegian settlements, and the Danish dominion in England, by subduing for a time the political power of the Anglo-Saxons, had not only prepared the way for the first victory of the Normans, but also for the future progress and establishment of the Norman power in England, and especially for the ultimate triumph of the Norman popular spirit over the remains of the ancient Saxon nationality. The Danes, by expelling the AngloSaxons from the northern and eastern parts of England, as well as by mixing with them in the south, had by degrees undermined their national independence and their popular characteristics, and had thus prepared an entrance for the Scandinavian spirit, which was so nearly allied to the Norman, into a great, if not the greater, portion of the English population. The bold and chivalrous spirit of the Norman aristocracy, their love of daring adventures, and their lofty feeling of freedom, completely agreed with the characteristics of the Scandinavians settled in England at an earlier period. The Normans found among the Scandinavian population of England, and particularly the Danish portion of it, several of those free institutions already in full force which they themselves, with much advantage to liberty, afterwards extended to the whole country.
Thus the conquest of England by Danish-Normans, undoubtedly prepared, or, more properly speaking, was the indispensable and necessary foundation of the subsequent French-Norman conquest; and it may therefore be justly called the first act of that great historical drama, “The Norman Conquest,” of which William of Normandy's conquest is only the concluding act.
But many will undoubtedly ask, was the Norman conquest, on the whole, beneficial to England ? Would it not have been better had the Anglo-Saxon nationality been permitted to develope itself, instead of being arrested by such violent devastations and by such bloodshed as the Danish-Norman expeditions occasioned? And is it not a proof of the nobleness of the Anglo-Saxon nationality, that It has since prevailed so preponderantly in England ?
On this point let us hear a learned and impartial Eng
hman. The latest and most celebrated Anglo-Saxon historian, Mr. Kemble, says, in his preface to the before
loned Collection of Anglo-Saxon Diplomas :-“ With Close of the fourth volume of this work we arrive at the