Page 1224

1224 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

already drunken, fell down dead on the floor

of his banquet hall.

After his foolish attempt to secure the

throne of England, the Prince Edward had

retired to Normandy, and there devoted

himself to more congenial pursuits. Fain

would he have become a holy man and

retired from the world. With the death

of Hardicanute, however, a plain way was

opened before his feet, and in 1042 he ascended the throne of England. The Danes

had no descendant of Canute to advance against

Edward's claims, and many of their nobles

retired from the island. Even Earl Godwin

forebore to oppose the accession of Edward,

who received the surname of the Confessor,

and began a prosperous but not untroubled

reign.

One of the first acts of the new sovereign

was to accept in marriage the daughter of

Godwin. It is believed that the stern father-in-law himself dictated this union with a

view to increasing his own power in the

kingdom. This circumstance may in part

account for the fact that in no long time the

report went abroad that King Edward treated

his wife with great harshness. As to his

mother, the royal severity was mingled with

scorn. Perhaps the treatment was not

unmerited; for the belief was prevalent that

the death of the Prince Alfred might be

traced to a plot having its seat in the bosom

of Emma.

In the year 1043 an attempt was made by

Magnus, king of Denmark, to restore the fortunes of his House in England. A Danish

fleet once more appeared off the coast; but

the Saxons were now prepared to receive

their enemy, and the latter deemed it prudent

to retire to the Baltic. The Saxon monarchy

had now come to rest on so firm a basis that

an overthrow was no longer to be feared at

the hands of buccaneers and marauders.

Notwithstanding the general quiet of Edward's reign, his authority over his subjects

had in it an element of feebleness. The great

Earl Godwin and the other Thanes and nobles

of the kingdom had so augmented their power

as to make their ruler a king by sufferance.

By them most of the lands of the kingdom

had been appropriated. By them courts were

held, judges appointed, and levies made of

troops and money. The combined power of

this nascent, feudal nobility was greater than that of the monarch, and but for their jealousies and quarrels, they might have at any

time compassed his dethronement.

Another element of weakness especially

to be noted in the government of Edward

was his preference for the Normans. He

could but see that those polite gentlemen

of Rouen, in whose society he had passed

the greater part of his life, were greatly

superior in manners and culture to even

the most refined of his rough, untutored

countrymen. He preferred the language

and dress of his adopted country to those

of his native land. The royal predilection

in these regards furnished a sufficient motive

for constant communication with the gay

court of Rouen. Many scholarly and courtly

Normans came over to Edward's capital,

and brought with them the sunlight of Normandy. For these ample provision was

made by the king, and it was not long before this dawning Norman ascendancy was

felt in all parts of the kingdom.

However agreeable this state of affairs may

have been to the king himself, it was gall

and wormwood to the Saxons. The already

overgrown power of Earl Godwin was thus

greatly increased; for he was regarded as the

leader of the native nobility against the

Norman innovations. In 1044, however,

a circumstance occurred which for a while

greatly injured the earl's popularity and

power. His oldest son, bearing the famous

name of Sweyn, proved to be a brigand and

adventurer. Contemptuous of all law and

sanctity, he violated an abbess and was

banished from the kingdom. He improved

his exile by becoming a terrible pirate, which

vocation he plied until what time his father

procured for him a pardon from the king.

In the delay incident to such a business

Sweyn became impatient and laid the blame

upon his cousin Beorn, then residing at the

court. Him, on returning to England, he

first conciliated and then murdered. But

his father's influence was able to secure a

second pardon, and Sweyn was restored to

his estates.

In the year 1051 Count Eustace, of Boulogne, who, by his marriage with the Lady

Goda, daughter of Ethelred, became brother-in-law to the king, paid a visit to Edward

and his court. Here he found every thing

conformed to the style and manner of