Page 1268

1268 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.

affections of the people. Onerous taxes were

abolished, and the wages of all those who

were in the royal service were raised to a

higher figure. Meanwhile Harold sought

to strengthen himself in the esteem of the

Church by a careful observance of the duties

of religion.

In secular affairs the king, first of all, expelled from the court the whole swarm of

Norman favorites. But while this policy was

rigorously pursued with respect to the foreigners, they were not driven from the country or robbed of their estates. Many of the

Normans, however, fled from England and returned with all speed to their own country.

They it was who brought to Duke William

the news of the death of Edward the Confessor

and the usurpation of the throne by Harold,

the son of Godwin.

Tradition has recorded that William, when

he first received the intelligence, was hunting in the wood of Rouen, and that his countenance and manner were at once changed to an expression of great concern and indignation. He affected to regard the act

of Harold as the grossest and most outrageous perjury. Notwithstanding his wrath

William deemed it prudent to conciliate his

enemies, actual and possible, with a show

of moderation. He at once dispatched ambassadors to Harold with the following

message: "William, duke of the Normans,

warns thee of the oath thou hast sworn

him with thy mouth and with thy hand on

good and holy relics." To this message,

which had all the superficial semblance of

soundness, King Harold responded with sterling speech: "It is true that I made an

oath to William, but I made it under the influence of force. I promised what did not

belong to me, and engaged to do what I never

could do; for my royalty does not belong to

me, nor can I dispose of it without the consent of my country. In the like manner I

can not, without the consent of my country,

espouse a foreign wife. As for my sister,

whom the duke claims in order that he may

marry her to one of his chiefs, she has been

dead some time. Will he that I send him her

corpse?"

There was no mistaking the nature of

these negotiations. England was to be invaded by the Normans. Duke William, however, took pains to send over another embassy, again pressing his claims and reminding Harold of his oath. Threats and

recriminations followed, and then preparations for war. According to the constitution of Normandy it was necessary for William to have the consent of his barons, and this

was not obtained without much difficulty.

The Norman vassals held that their Feudal

oath did not bind them to follow and serve

their lord beyond the sea, but only in the

defense of his own realms. A national assembly was called at Lillebonne, and a

stormy debate had well-nigh ended in riot

and insurrection; but William, by patience

and self-restraint, finally succeeded in bringing the refractory nobles to his support. A

great force of knights, chiefs, and foot soldiers

flocked to his standard. At this fortunate

crisis in the duke's affairs a legate arrived

from the Pope, bringing a bull expressing

the approval of the Holy Father. Hereupon

a new impetus was given to the enterprise.

Under the sanction of religion the oath breaking Harold was to be punished and his kingdom given to another. A consecrated banner

and a ring containing one of the hairs of

St. Peter was sent from Rome to the ambitious prince, who, thus encouraged, made no

concealment of his intentions soon to be king

of England.

During the early spring and summer

of 1066 all the seaports of Normandy rang

with the clamor of preparation. Ships were built and equipped, sailors enlisted,

armor forged, supplies brought into the storehouses. Meanwhile a similar but less energetic scene was displayed across the channel. Harold, hearing the notes of preparation from the other side, braced for the struggle. He sent over spies to ascertain the nature and extent of William's

armament; but when one of these was brought

into the duke's presence he showed him

every thing, and bade him say to King

Harold not to trouble himself about the

Norman's strength, as he should see and feel

it before the end of the year.

It was now the misfortune of the English king to be attacked by a domestic foe.

His own brother Tostig, formerly earl of

Northumbria, but now an exile in Flanders,

succeeded in raising abroad a squadron with

which he made a descent on the Isle of Wight.

Driven back by the king's fleet, Tostig