1278 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
smiles and allurements, the king's own brother-in-law, Earl Tilleuil of Hastings Castle, and
the powerful Hugh de Grantmesnil, earl of
Norfolk, quitted England and retired into Normandy. So serious was the situation that
the king deemed it expedient to send his
queen, Matilda, back to Rouen. For himself, however, he was as undaunted as ever.
To fill the places made vacant by defection
and desertion, he sent invitations into all
the countries of Western Europe, offering
the brilliant rewards of conquest to those
who would join his standard. Nor was
the call without an answer. Bands of rovers,
wandering knights, soldiers in ill repute, and
refugee noblemen came flocking to the prey.
The year 1069 was mostly occupied with
military operations in the North. The
city of York was besieged by the insurgent
population, and was only relieved by the
approach of William with an army. A second fortress and garrison were established
in the city, which was thus rendered impregnable. As soon as the outposts were
secure, a campaign was undertaken against
the rebels of Durham. The expedition was
led by Robert de Comine, who marched
into the enemy's country and entered Durham with little opposition. During the
night, however, the English lighted signal fires on the neighboring heights and gathered
from all directions. At daybreak on the
following morning they burst into the town,
fired the houses, fell upon the Normans, and
slaughtered them without mercy. Of Robert's forces only two men escaped to tell the
tale of destruction.
Encouraged by their great success, the
Northumbrians immediately dispatched ambassadors to the king of Denmark, urging
him to make an invasion of England. At
the same time they sent overtures to Malcolm, king of the Scots, representing to him
the advantages of an alliance against the
Normans. At the court of the Scottish
monarch Edgar Atheling had found a refuge,
and his claims to the crown of England were
not forgotten in the general movement. The
sons of King Harold, also, were abroad and
were regarded by some as a possibility of the
future. But the very multiplicity of interests
in the attempted combination against the
Normans prevented unity of action and forbade success.
By and by a Danish fleet of two hundred
and forty ships, commanded by the sons
of the Danish king, was sent to aid the Northumbrians and Scots against the Conqueror.
The squadron first appeared off Dover and
then sailing northward entered the Humber. A landing was effected at the mouth
of the Ouse, and the army of Danes, reinforced by their English allies, marched directly on York. The Normans were driven
into the fortifications, and were cut off
from all communication with the country.
For eight days the assailants beat around
the ramparts. Finally a fire broke out, and
the city was wrapped in flames. In order
to escape a more horrid death, the Normans
rushed forth, sword in hand, and met their
fate on the spears of the infuriated Northumbrians and Danes. The slaughter degenerated into a massacre, and of the three
thousand men composing the garrison only
a few escaped with their lives. The smoldering ashes of York steamed with the blood
King William was hunting in the forest of
Dean when the terrible news came to him of
the butchery of his Yorkshire army. Flaming with rage, he burst out with his usual
oath, "by the splendor of God," that he
would leave not a Northumbrian alive. As a
preparatory measure, he at once relaxed his
severity towards the Saxons of South England, and resumed his old r61e of cajoling
them with bountiful promises. At the same
time he managed by shrewd diplomacy to
induce the king of Denmark to withdraw his
army from England. As to the Saxons, however, they were not any longer to be lulled
with soothing words. When with the opening of the following spring, the Conqueror, at
the head of a powerful army began his march
against the Northumbrians the sullen and
vengeful English rose behind him with torch
and pike and pole-ax to satiate their desperate anger in the wake of his campaign.
But the persistent William was not to be distracted from his purpose. The son of a tanner's daughter had in his mind's eye the vision
of burnt-up York and the bleaching bones of
his Norman knights.
Now was it the turn of the men of the
North to quake with well grounded apprehension. In the hour of need the Danish fleet
sailed down the Humber and disappeared.