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the people were ambitious of catching the foreign idioms to the detriment of the native English, the alphabet of which had fallen into discredit and disuse a long time previous, and become so difficult and obsolete that few beside the oldest men could understand the characters. Edward is said to have favored this movement by making French the court language; but if he preferred the use of this language, it is more than probable that it was on account of his having almost entirely forgotten his native English. He was only thirteen years old when he was first sent into Normandy; he was somewhat past forty when he ascended the English throne; so that for twentyseven years he had been accustomed to foreign manners and habits, and to convey all his thoughts and feelings through the medium of Norman French. Thus he preferred the society of Normans, among whom the best years of his life had been passed, to that of his own subjects, whose civilization and social refinement, owing to the terrible wars the nation had been so long engaged in, had not kept pace with that of their French neighbors. Those, therefore, who hoped to prosper at court, learned to speak French, and imitated the dress, the style, and manners of the latter. Even in those rude ages fashion had her influence and her votaries. Not to know French was to acknowledge one's social inferiority; and, following the example of the court, the rich, the young, and the gay of both sexes were not satisfied unless their tunics, their chausses, their streamers, and mufflers were cut after the latest Norman pattern.
“ England was slumbering in this declining state when the Norman conquest, like a moral earthquake, suddenly shook its polity and population to their center, crushed and hurled into ruin all its ancient aristocracy, destroyed the native proprietors of its soil, broke up its corrupt habits, thinned its enervated population, kindled a vigorous spirit of life and action in all classes of its society, and excited that national taste for letters, and commenced that system of education which, assisted by new sources of instruction, produced a love and cultivation of knowl. edge which has never since departed from the island."1
The conquest of England by William, duke of Normandy, in 1066, which is now to be considered, is the last territorial conquest that has occurred in Western Europe. Since then there have been only political conquests, far different from those in which whole tribes invaded a neighboring country, with the avowed purpose of divid. ing the conquered territory among themselves, and of leaving the people nothing but their
1 Sharon Turner, History of England, P. 1, ch. iii.
lives, on condition of keeping quiet and toiling for their new masters. The Norman conquest of England having taken place at a period less remote than those of the Saxons and Danes, we are in possession of documents relating to this epoch far more complete than those which refer to previous times. Availing ourselves of these data, as collected by the best writers on the subject, we will now present, in brief outline, such parts as relate to the origin and history of the men who weighed so heavily in the destinies of England; their character and institutions; their social and political relations with the conquered population; the gradual emancipation of the latter, and the final amalgamation of the contending races, which will enable us to discuss understandingly with our readers the causes and circumstances that led to the fusion of the various idioms and dialects once current in England, and the formation of the English language.
THE NORMANS IN GAUL.1
We must here cast a retrospective glance upon the history of these northern adventurers who, expelled from their own country, had sought their fortune in Gaul, where, more successful than their Scandinavian brethren in England, they established a permanent dominion in one of the best parts of the country, giving the world the interesting spectacle of a barbarous people civilizing themselves with unexampled rapidity, so much so as, within one hundred and fifty years after their arrival, to be ranked among the most influential and most civilized nations of the age. The prominent part they were then about to take in the destinies of England renders it important that we should acquaint ourselves with the men whose energies had been so well directed, and among whom originated many of the best of our present institutions.
In a former chapter we had occasion to mention that, at the close of the ninth century, Harald Harfager, king of one portion of Norway, extended by force of arms his power over the remainder, and made of the whole country one sole kingdom. This destruction of a number of petty states, previously free, did not take place without resistance. Not only was the ground disputed inch by inch, but, after the conquest was completed, many of the inhabitants preferred expatriation and a wandering life on the sea to the domination of a foreign ruler. These exiles infested the northern seas, ravaged the coasts and
"Man en engleiz e en noreiz
Senefie hom en francheiz;
islands, and constantly labored to excite their countrymen to insurrection. Polítical interest thus rendered the conqueror of Norway the most determined enemy of the pirates. · With a numerous fleet he pursued them along the coasts of his own kingdom, and even to the Orcades and Hebrides, sinking their vessels, and destroying the stations they had formed on many of the islands of the northern seas. He, moreover, by the severest laws, prohibited the practice of piracy and of every species of armed exactions throughout his states.
It was an immemorial custom of the Vikings to exercise upon every coast, without distinction, a privilege which they termed strandhug, or impressment of provisions. When a vessel found its stores drawing to an end, the pirate crew landed at the first place where they perceived a flock insecurely guarded, and seizing upon the animals, killed them, cut them up, and carried them off without payment, or at best, with a payment quite below the value. The strandhug was thus the scourge and terror of the country districts which lay along the sea-coast or the banks of rivers, and all the more so as it was often exercised by men who were not professional pirates, but to whom power and wealth gave impunity.?
There was at the court of King Harald, among the iarls or chieftains of the first rank, a certain Rognvald, whom the king greatly loved, and who had served him zealously in all his expeditions. Rognvald had several sons, all of them noted for their valor. Of these the most renowned was Hrolf or Rolf, or, by a sort of euphony common to many Teutonic names, Roll
. He was so tall that, unable to make use of the small horses of his country, he always marched on foot, a circumstance which procured him the appellation of Gaungu Rolfur, that is,
Roll the Walker."9" One day when he, with his companions, was on his return from a cruise in the Baltic, before landing in Norway, he shortened sail off the coast of Wiggen, and there, whether from actual want of provisions, or simply availing himself of an opportunity, he exercised
I Mallet, Histoire du Danemarck, i, 223.
Depping, Histoire des Expéditions Maritimes des Normands. 3 Rolfur var vikingur mikill
, hann var sva mikill mathur vexti, at engi hestur matti bera bann, oc geck hann hvargi sem hann for, hann var kallathur Gaungu Rolfur (Harald Harfagers-saga, cap 24), that is : “Rolf was a powerful vikingr, and of such a large size that no horse could carry him; he therefore was obliged always to go on foot, whence he was called Gaungu Rolfur (Rollo the Walker).
strandhug. It so happened that King Harald was in the vicinity at that moment, and the peasants having laid their complaints before him, he at once, without heeding the position of the offender, summoned a Thing, or high council of justice, to try Roll according to law. Ere the accused appeared before the assembly, which would in all probability sentence him to banishment, his mother hastened to the king and implored for pardon. But Harald was inexorable; sentence was pronounced ; and Roll, find. ing himself banished for life, collected some vessels, and sailed toward the Hebrides. There he met a number of dissatisfied Norwegians who, after the conquests of Harald, had emigrated, and who were all men of high birth and great military reputation. With these he entered into association for the purpose of piracy, and his vessels, added to theirs, formed a numerous fleet which, it was agreed, should act under the orders, not of one sole chieftain, but of the confederates generally, Roll having no other pre-eminence than that of his personal merits and of his name.1
Sailing from the Hebrides late in the season, the fleet doubled the extreme point of Scotland, and effected a landing on the east coast of England; but either that their countrymen would not have anything to do with them, or that they were prevented from joining them by the English, Roll and his companions encountered a body of the latter on their way, and lost many of their number. Still they managed to hold their own, and to winter on the island, living on pillage as usual. Early in spring they set sail for the Continent, and entered the Scheldt, robbing and taking whatever they could lay their hands upon; but as Flanders, naturally poor and already devastated on several occasions, offered very little to take, the pirates soon put to sea again. Going farther south, they sailed up the Seine as far as Jumièges, five leagues from Rouen. It was just at this period that the limits of the kingdom of France had been definitively fixed between the Loire and the Maas. To the protracted territorial
. revolutions which had lacerated that kingdom, there had succeeded a political revolution, the object of which, realized a century later, was the expulsion of the second dynasty of the Frank kings. The king of the French, a descendant of Karl the Great, and bearing his name-the
* Harald Harfagers-saga, cap. 24; Snorre's Heimskringla, i, 100.