Page 1277

1277 FEUDAL ASCENDENCY-FEUDAL ENGLAND.

of his people in the early years of William the

Conqueror:

"He [the king] took away from divers

of the nobility, and others of the better

sort, all their livings, and gave the same

to his Normans. Moreover, he raised great

taxes and subsidies through the realms;

nor in any thing regarded the English nobility, so that they who before thought

themselves to be made forever by bringing

a stranger into the realm, did now see them-

selves trodden under foot, to be despised,

and to be mocked on all sides, in so much

that many of them were constrained (as it were, for a further testimony of servitude and bondage) to shave their beards,

to round their hair, and to frame themselves, as well in apparel as in service and

diet at their tables, after the Norman manner, very strange and far differing from the

ancient customs and old usages of their

country. Others, utterly refusing to sustain such an intolerable yoke of thralldom

as was daily laid upon them by the Normans, chose rather to leave all, both goods

and lands, and, after the manner of outlaws,

got them to the woods with their wives, children, and servants, meaning from thenceforth

to live upon the spoils of the country adjoining,

and to take whatsoever come next to hand.

Whereupon it came to pass within a while that

no man might travel in safety from his own

house or town to his next neighbor's, and

every quiet and honest man's house became,

as it were, a hold and fortress, furnished for

defense with bows and arrows, bills, pole-axes,

swords, clubs, and staves and other weapons,

the doors being kept locked and strongly

bolted in the night season, as it had been in

time of open war and amongst public enemies.

Prayers were said also by the master of the

house, as though they had been in the midst

of the seas in some stormy tempest; and when

the windows and doors should be shut in or

closed they used to say Benedicite, and others

to answer Dominus, in like sort as the priest

and his penitent were wont to do at confession

in the church."

It was in the midst of such conditions as

these that the deep-seated and long enduring

hatred of the Normans was laid in the heart

of Saxon England. Ever and evermore the

chasm seemed to widen between the hostile

races. Now came the great earl, Edwin of Mercia, who, under promise of receiving the

king's daughter in marriage, had supported

his cause, claiming the hand of the Norman

maiden. He was refused and insulted.

Thereupon he left London with a burning

heart, called his brother Morcar to his aid,

and raised the standard of war in the north

of England. The rebel princes took their

stand beyond the Humber. Around their

banners rallied the Saxo-Danish patriots of

Yorkshire and Northumbria. In their wrath

they took an oath that nevermore would

they sleep beneath the roof until they had

taken an ample revenge upon the perfidious and cruel Normans. But the warlike

and energetic William was little alarmed by

the menace of such a rebellion. Putting himself at the head of his army he marched

rapidly from Oxford to Warwick, from Warwick to Leicester, from Leicester to Derby and

Nottingham, from Nottingham to Lincoln,

from Lincoln to the Humber. Near the confluence of the Ouse he met and completely

routed the forces of the rebel earls. Hosts of

the English fell in the battle and the remnant

fled for refuge within the fortifications of

York. Thither .they were pursued by William

and his soldiers, who broke through the

gates, captured the city, and put the people

to the sword. A citadel of great strength

was built within the conquered town and

garrisoned with five hundred warriors and

knights. The city of York became henceforth the stronghold of the Normans in the

North.

In the second and third years after the

Conquest, the country was agitated through

its whole extent by outbreaks and uprising of the Saxons. By degrees the English

nobles, who had thus far upheld the Conqueror's cause, became alienated and took

sides with their own countrymen. As to the

Saxon peasants, they groaned and writhed

under the oppression of their masters and

seized every opportunity, fair or foul, to

wreak their vengeance on the hated foreigners.

While the Norman throne was threatened

with muttering earthquakes in the sea bed

of Saxon humanity, the nobles and knights,

not a few, who as soldiers of fortune had

followed his banner into England, began to

desert the Conqueror's service for some more

promising field of spoil. In spite of all his