Page 1223

1223 THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE-ALFRED AND HIS SUCCESSORS.

In the year 1035 Canute died, and was

buried at Winchester. He left to the realm

another disputed succession; for the claims of

Hardicanute, his son by the widow of Ethelred, were disputed by his two illegitimate

sons, named Sweyn and Harold. As to these

two princes, the scandal of the time declared

that they were not of the royal blood at

all. It was said that Alfgiva, the mistress

of Canute, had imposed on him two children not his own; the gossip of the times was

perhaps a true interpretation of the facts.

Nevertheless, the credulous Canute recognized Sweyn and Harold as joint heirs with

Hardicanute, and purposed to divide his

kingdom among them. He accordingly provided that England should fall to Harold,

Denmark to Hardicanute, and Norway to

Sweyn.

When the king died, two of his sons,

Hardicanute and Sweyn, were in the north

of Europe, only Harold being in England.

The claims of Hardicanute to the English

crown were ardently supported by the old

Saxon party in the island, for he was the son

of the widow of Ethelred, and therefore

allied to the royal family. In the Danelagh,

however, the people recognized Harold. Civil

war was again imminent, and was only

obviated by the interference of the Witenagemot, which body convened at Oxford and

divided the realm between the rival claimants. Harold should have the country

north of the Thames, with London for his

capital, and Hardicanute should rule the

South.

The latter prince, being still in Denmark, sent his mother, Emma, as regent

of England. With her the powerful Earl

Godwin was to share the authority during

the absence of the king. Harold, however,

perceiving the weakness of the situation resolved to usurp his brother's throne, and

the condition of affairs in the southern

kingdom favored such an enterprise.

Meanwhile Prince Edward, son of Ethelred and Emma, still residing in Normandy, advanced his claims to the crown once worn by

his father. Hearing of the death of Canute,

he set sail for England and landed at Southampton. From his mother's friends he had

expected a cordial reception and support; but

that unscrupulous lady was now engaged in an

intrigue to secure the succession for her son Hardicanute. Edward was obliged to beat a

hasty retreat from the island. Soon afterwards both of the sons of Ethelred were

invited by a treacherous letter, purporting

to have been written by their mother, to

return to England and claim their inheritance.

Edward was wary of the invitation, but the

young Alfred, attended by six hundred followers, accepted his mother's call, and landed

opposite to Canterbury. Here he was met by

the powerful Earl Godwin, who swore allegiance to the prince and began to conduct

him inland. When the party had advanced

as far as Guildford, while Alfred and his

friends were sleeping unarmed at night,

they were suddenly assailed and massacred

by the barbarous soldiers of King Harold.

The eyes of the prince were torn out, and

he died in agony. The ruler of England

had thus put out of the way another of his

possible rivals. Nor was it long until he

secured for himself the full title of the King

of England. He received the surname of

Harefoot. Of his reign there is little to be

recorded other than the quarrels of the

clergy and the intrigues of the Saxon and

Danish parties to obtain an ascendancy in

the affairs of state.

After a reign of four years, Harold died

and in 1040 was succeeded by his half-brother,

Hardicanute. It was the happy fortune of

this prince to be acceptable to both the English factions-to the Saxons, because he was

the son of Emma; to the Danes, because he

was the son of Canute. As for the prince, he

favored his father's people. He chose his

courtiers from among his countrymen of

the North, and his army and navy were

Danish.

During the early years of his reign there

were several insurrections, chiefly traceable to

the king's partiality for men of his own race.

For his predecessor, however, he manifested

such contempt that the Saxons were delighted.

The body of Harold was dug from the

grave, insulted, decapitated, and thrown into

the river. In his tastes the king manifested

all the gluttonous excesses of his people.

Four times a day he feasted, and then held a

carousal at night. Meanwhile, the affairs of

government were managed by Earl Godwin

and the queen-mother Emma. At length,

after a reign of nearly two years, in the

midst of a revel by night, Hardicanute,