Page 1272


Hastings was to transfer one-fourth of the

kingdom to William the Norman. As soon

as it was clear that the victory was his,

the Conqueror set up the consecrated banner which had been sent him by the Pope,

and his soldiers proceeded in sight of that

sacred emblem to despoil the Saxon dead.

William vowed to erect an abbey on the

very spot where the banner of Saxon England had been struck down, and in a short

time the monastery of St. Martin was filled

with monks to celebrate masses for the

repose of the souls of 'the slain knights of


It was still necessary that William should

make haste slowly in the further reduction

of the kingdom. More than two months

elapsed before he reached the city of London. In the interval he beat along the coast,

hoping that the people would make a voluntary submission; but in this he was disappointed. Finding that moderation was of

little avail with the stubborn Saxons, he

continued the conquest by the capture of

Romney and Dover. While at the latter

place he was strongly reinforced with recruits

from Normandy. Thus strengthened, the

Conqueror left the coast and marched direct

to London. The defeat of Hastings had

broken the spirit of resistance, and little

opposition was manifested to his progress.

Nevertheless, the Witenagemot assembled in

the capital, and the uppermost question related to. the succession rather than submission to the Normans.

After much discussion, it was decided to

confer the crown on Edgar the Atheling, grandson of Edmund Ironside, who had previously

been set aside on account of the spurious descent of his ancestor. This measure, however,

was carried by the old Saxon or National

party, in the face of the strenuous opposition

of the Norman faction, supported as it was by

most of the clergy, who trembled at the

thought of excommunication. The fact that

Prince Edgar himself, was devoid of all kingly

qualities added strength to the Norman cause

and discouraged the national movement.

Such was the condition of affairs when

William appeared before the city. Finding

himself debarred, he burned Southwark and

ravaged the surrounding country. The people of Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, and Berkshire were made to realize all the terrors of war. In a short time communication was

cut off between the city and the country and

the shadow of famine began to hang over

Westminster Abbey. The earls, Edwin and

Morcar, to whom the defense had been

entrusted, withdrew towards the Humber,

taking with them the forces of Northumbria

and Mercia. Their retirement from Lon-

don was the signal of submission. An embassy, headed by "King" Edgar himself and

Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury, went

forth to Berkhampstead, and there presented

themselves to the Conqueror. The submission was formal and complete. Edgar

for himself renounced the throne, and Stigand

for the Church took the oath of loyalty. The

politic William made a pretense of reluctance

in accepting the crown of England; but his

feeble remonstrance was drowned in the

acclaim of his nobles and courtiers. As soon

as the embassy had completed its work,

the Normans set out for the capital, conducted by the distinguished envoys. In a

short time the Conqueror established himself in the city and preparations were completed for the coronation.

The Abbey of Westminster was chosen as

the place for the ceremony. Attended by

two hundred and sixty of his nobles, the

duke rode between files of soldiers that

lined the approaches, and presented himself

before the altar. When in reply to the question addressed to those present by Aldred,

archbishop of York, whether they would

accept William of Normandy as their lawful

king, they all set up a shout. Those Normans outside the Abbey, hearing the noise

and conjecturing that some act of treachery

had been committed against their prince,

began to set fire to the houses of the English

and to kill all who fell in their way. Others

rushed into the Abbey as if to rescue William,

and the ceremony was interrupted in the

midst of universal turmoil. For a while it

appeared that both parties, each misunderstanding the other, would, in the wildness of

their frenzy, raze the city to the ground.

But Archbishop Aldred continued and completed the duty of coronation, and the first

of the Norman kings of England arose from

before the altar, crowned with the crown of


Thus, in the latter part of the year 1066,

was the Norman dynasty established in