Page 1276


Insurrections broke out in various parts,

and woe to the luckless Norman knight

who was caught outside the walls of his

castle. Soon there was concert of action

among the insurgents, and the foreign dominion was menaced with destruction in

the first year of its existence. The Saxon

plotters sent word to Count Eustace of

Boulogne to come over and be their leader;

for he was known to be a bitter foe to King

William. The count accepted the call and

landed with a chosen band near the castle

of Dover. Here he was joined by the rebel

Saxons of Kent, and an imprudent and

disastrous attack was made on the castle.

The assailants were beaten back by the garrison, who sallied forth from the gates and

drove the rash men of Kent headlong over

the cliffs. Count Eustace fled to the coast

and thence across the sea.

Among those who soon after his landing

in the previous year did obeisance to the

Conqueror was Thane Edric the Forester,

of the river Severn. He had been sincere

in his protestations, but was soon provoked

into hostility by the cruelty and injustice

of the rapacious Normans. With two of the

princes of Wales he made an alliance, and

the Norman garrison that held the city

of Hereford was quickly pent-up within

the fortifications. All the country round

about was overrun by the insurgents, and

for the time it appeared that there only

wanted a national leader to rally the Saxons

as one man and expel their oppressors from

the island.

At this juncture the two sons of Harold

came over from Ireland with a fleet of sixty

ships, and made a spasmodic attempt to regain

the crown of their father. But they were received with little favor, even by their own

countrymen. Attacking the city of Bristol,

they were repulsed and driven to their ships,

pursued by the Saxons. The two princes

then made their way back to the safe obscurity of Ireland.

Meanwhile the spirit of discontent and

rebellion grew rife throughout the country. One message after another was sent

to King William, urging his immediate return to England. But, either not sharing

the alarm of his own countrymen in the

island or desirous that the Saxons should

still further provoke him to war, he tarried at Rouen for the space of eight months,

and then, in December of 1067, returned

to London. On arriving at his capital, he

at once resorted to his old policy of favor

and blandishment to the Saxon chiefs. At

the Christmas festival he received them with

all the kingly courtesy which he was able

to command. He promised the people of

London a restitution and observance of the

old laws of the Anglo-Saxons; and then, as

soon as confidence was somewhat restored,

proceeded to levy a burdensome tax upon his


The spring of 1068 witnessed the outbreak

of a rebellion in Devonshire. The people of

Exeter fortified their city and made ready

to defend it to the last. So great was the

popular exasperation that the crews of some

Norman ships, which were wrecked on the

coast, were butchered after the worst manner of savagery. Against the insurgents

of .Devonshire, King William led out his

army in person. Approaching the city

of Exeter he demanded submission, but

was met with refusal and defiance. A siege

ensued for eighteen day, and

then Exeter fell into the hands of the Conqueror. A strong castle was built in the

captured town and garrisoned with Norman


During the summer of this year the sons

of Godwin made a second absurd attempt to

create a rising in the West. Several landings

were effected on the shores of Devon and

Cornwall, but the leaders were met with the

same aversion as in the previous year. Finding neither support nor sympathy, they again

abandoned their native land and took refuge

in Denmark.

After the conquest of Devon, King William quickly added that of Somerset and

Gloucester. The city of Oxford was taken

and fortified. In every district subdued by

his arms, the lands were confiscated and apportioned to his followers. New castles were

built and occupied by Norman lords. Meanwhile every ship from Rouen brought another

company of hungry nobles to demand a share

in the spoils o^ England. The enforced consideration which William had hitherto compelled his followers to show to the Saxons

was soon no longer observed. After the

garrulous manner of his tribe, the old chronicler Holinshed thus describes the afflictions