Зображення сторінки

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 Canate 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 Wash.-The Five Burghs.-The Humber. --York.-

Northumberland. -Stamford Bridge. 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 AngloSaxons, 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 AngloSaxons. The Saxon inbabitants 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.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

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 bis 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 inha

« НазадПродовжити »