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HARDICANUTE, KING OF ENGLAND.
canute, 1040 to
BEFORE the death of his half-brother Harold, Hardi- Hardicanute had, at the earnest advice of his mother, determined to make an attempt to seize the crown of Eng- 1012. land. With this object in view he engaged the services of a considerable body of men, whom he conveyed from his kingdom of Denmark in sixty ships. Instead of directing his course to England, he made sail for Flanders in order to consult his mother, who resided at: Bruges. Whilst he was there Harold died; and both Saxons and Danes sent messengers to invite him to come to England and ascend the throne. He did so, and was received with universal satisfaction.
The joy of the nation at the accession of Hardicanute soon ceased. He showed his new subjects that he had a bad heart, for as soon as he was crowned and established in his kingdom, he sent Elfric, Archbishop of Arch. York, Godwin, and others, to dig up the body of his Elfric predecessor, to cut off the head, and to throw both body and head into the river Thames. A fisherman dragged up the body in his net, and the Danes buried it in their cemetery at London. This savage
and senseless act5 was done in childish revenge for his exclusion from the throne of England,
Saxon Chronicle ; Flor. of Worcester gives 50 as the number of ships. ? Matt. of Westminster. 3 Flor. of Worcester. 4 Will. of Malmesbury.
• Charles II. appears to have studied this portion of history, as shown by his treatment of Cromwell's dead body.
Accusation of Godwin.
Godwin's gilt to Hardicanute.
his mother's banishment from its shores, and his halfbrother's cruel treatment and death.
Shortly after his arrival, Elfric accused Godwin, and Living, Bishop of Worcester, of the murder of the Atheling Alfred. Living was deprived of his bishopric, which was bestowed upon Elfric, a suspicious exchange, who only held it one year, as at the end of that time Living was reinstated. Godwin was very indignant at the charge brought against him. He made an oath, and all the chief men and thanes of the country stated that he told the truth, to the effect that it was not at his advice or with his consent that the king's brother's eyes had been put out, but that Harold had given orders for what had been done.2
In order to remove the impression of the foul accusation brought against him, and to gain the king's favour, Godwin made him a rich and beautiful present—a ship of admirable workmanship, with a figure-head of gold, rigged with the best materials, and manned with eighty chosen soldiers magnificently armed: on each arm they had two gold bracelets weighing 16oz. 2-piece : they wore a triple coat of mail, and a helmet partly gilt; a sword with gilded hilt was girt by their sides; a Danish battle-axe, inlaid with gold and silver, hung from their left shoulders; in their left hands they held a shield with boss and studs of gilt, and in their right hands a lance.
In the year 1041, Hardicanute imposed a heavy tax upon his subjects in order to pay eight marks to each
1 William of Malmesbury terms him Bishop of Crediton. Flor. of Worcester; Matt. of Westminster, &c.
3 Will. of Malmesbury. • A mark, a Danish coin, varied in value from 8s. 4d. to 13s. 4d.
oarsman and ten marks to each pilot of his fleet. His father, Canute, had reduced his fleet to sixteen' vessels : Harold maintained the same number. The total amount of money he compelled his subjects to raise for the support of his Danish army and fleet was upwards of 32,000 pounds of silver. This tax caused those who had longed for him before it was levied to hate him after its imposition. The king sent the huscarls, his body guard, to collect the money. Two of them, Fleader and Thurstan, went to Worcester. Their presence caused a tumult. The citizens rose up against Revolt of them. The tax collectors fled for safety to an upper 1041. chamber of the abbey tower; there they were found, and there they were killed.
Ilardicanute determined to avenge the death of his servants. So he sent Godwin of Wessex, Leofric of Mercia, Siward of Northumbria, with their forces, together with those of other Saxon nobles, and almost all his huscarls, to Worcester, with orders to kill all its people, to burn down the city, and to lay waste the province. For four days this large force burnt and destroyed. The number captured and slain was small, as the people heard of their approach and fled in all directions.
A considerable number of the citizens determined to stand up for their lives. They took refuge in a small island called Beverege, which was situated in the middle of the river Severn. They fortified it, and fought so well against their enemies that they obtained
· Henry of Huntingdon ; Will. of Malmesbury states that this tax was levied in order to pay twenty marks to each soldier who had followed Hardicanute from Denmark.
2 Sacon Chronicle.
3 Flor. of Worcester.
terms of peace, and were allowed to return to their homes. This is one of the very few instances recorded in history of citizens repelling the attacks of a large and disciplined force, and of overcoming a confederation of king, nobles, and army. .
Hardicanute did nothing royal” during his reign, except that his mother was well treated by him, and that he also received his half-brother Edward with honour, and entertained him at his court. The Atheling arrived in England from Normandy in the year 1041. His presence in England familiarised him with its people, and helped him to the throne.
In addition to his kindness to the members of his own family, the King appeared to have studied the tastes of the eating and drinking nobles of his day, for we are informed that he excelled as an entertainer of guests; four times a day the royal tables were set with generous hospitality for the refreshment and entertainment of his whole court. After the Norman Conquest princes only provided one meal a day for guests.
With his companions he was familiar, and the manner of his death in the flowers of his age gives evidence of this familiarity, and of the habits of his Danish followers, for at the feast given in honour of the marriage of Gytha, daughter of Osgod Clappa, a man of great power, Hardicanute caroused, full of health and spirits, with the bride and others. And “as he stood at his drink," he suddenly fell to the earth in an awful spasm, and "lost his life amidst
Death oí Hardicanute, 1042.
I Flor. of Worcester. 2 Saxon Chronicle. Henry of Huntingdon.
* Matt. of Westminster. 6 William of Malmesbury.
Thus ended the Danish rule in England, 1042: it began with blood; it ended with drink!
The Accession of Hardicanute; the Mutilation of
Harold's body; and the Accusation against Godwin 1040 A.D. The King's tax, and the Defeat of his forces at Worcester
1041 The Death of Hardicanute