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evil of disunion to a close. If all the English magnates had been of the type of Brythnoth, the empire of Canute might never have been established, but the redeless Æthelred and the ironside Edmund were both hampered by treachery. The story was repeated at the time of the Norman invasion. On the one side we have foresight, determination, unity, on the other a brave leader contending in vain against lukewarmness and disloyalty. If an English fleet had been able to keep the sea, William ought never to have landed; if an English army could have maintained its watch upon the coast, he might never have got beyond Senlac. But the fleet, on which Alfred had set such store, had been allowed to go to ruin, and one that was hastily scraped together by private loyalty disbanded as soon as provisions ran short. The army was summoned up north to meet the invasion of a foreign king and an English earl, and when Harold turned south again, with his thinned ranks, the two northern earls refused to follow him. And so his tactical and strategical skill went for nothing, and all he and his followers could do for their country was to die. After this the whole realm was defenceless to slavery, and though risings might break out in this or that part of the country, they were sectional and spasmodic, easy for the conqueror to stamp out in detail. London, the most important of the towns, was ready to throw open her gates and obtain favourable terms on her own behalf. In short, the England of Harold hardly deserved to be called a nation at all, though a keen eye might have detected the germs of nationality.
"Self-reliance in great and small alike," says Bishop Stubbs, "without self-restraint, without the power of combination, with a national pride and yet no national spirit, laid England an easy, though unwilling, prey at the feet of the Conqueror."
The coming of the Normans seemed to have quenched
any spark of patriotism there might have been. The invaders themselves can have been no strangers to the feeling, for we know how they marched into action to the strains of the "Chanson de Roland," which is intoxicated with the love of France. The last wish of Roland is that his country may not suffer dishonour, his last thought is of his sweet land. But the conquest tended to kill patriotism in the invaders, as it did in the conquered. William was holding down a sullen and humiliated people by means of a foreign garrison. He planted castles all over the land, for much the same reason as Lord Kitchener covered the Dutch republics with blockhouses, the difference being that the castle was intended to be an abiding habitation, and martial law a permanent system of government.
The Normans were not as ready to become Englishmen, as their forefathers had been to become Frenchmen. They had every reason for treating the English with the contempt due to an inferior civilization. Of their spirit we can judge with as direct a certainty as if we could see, with our own eyes, Lanfranc celebrating Mass, or William hunting the tall deer amid the glades of the New Forest. For those were days in which men put their thoughts into stone more than into books, and architecture, instead of being merely a decorative art, as nowadays, was a real and most eloquent language, capable of expressing the aspirations, and even the humour of nations. The Norman had caught something not only of the form, but of the spirit of old Rome. To beauty he was no doubt keenly sensitive, but it was a beauty held in subordination to the demands of the will. To playfulness he rarely condescended, to softness never; his was the stern and deliberate arch propped up on mighty columns, that scorned to barter strength for delicacy, for in more than a literal sense, the Norman buildings are silent. It was an imperial architecture, in days when Empire had not
yet been yoked with Liberty. By this we understand how it was that the noblest of the Normans was renowned for his "starkness," and how one of the worst of them, the suave, relentless Robert de Belesme, did not hesitate to tear out the eyes of a child hostage with his own nails.
If we are to believe in a guiding providence that controls the destinies of nations, we should nowhere find a more beneficent instance of its operation than in the Norman Conquest. The English nation was dying for lack of discipline, and this was just what the Normans were qualified to give. It is possible that if the English had not broken their ranks, with a hot-headed rashness which the Normans, not only in England but in Sicily, knew how to provoke and turn to account in their foes, Senlac Hill might have been held. The slovenliness of the native Englishman, alike in Church and State, was rightly intolerable to his conquerors, and this William and his successors set themselves to purge. The contempt of Norman for Englishman died hard. When Henry I married a Saxon princess, the courtiers named them Godric and Godiva, and one of Cœur de Lion's favourite oaths was, "Do you take me for an Englishman?"
It is a favourite, and not very profitable inquiry, to what extent the Conquest was responsible for the introduction of feudalism. It is more than likely that if England had been left to herself, she would have broken up into several loosely compacted fiefs or earldoms, owing a more or less shadowy allegiance to some nominal overlord. This was what became of the "sweet France" of Roland, and Harold had found, even before he formally ascended the throne, that the disruptive forces were too strong for him to curb. Besides, the tendency to feudalization was European, and it is difficult to see how England could have escaped its influence. But for its
formal and definite establishment as a system of government, the Conquest must be held responsible. It was the Conqueror who established tenure by knight-service.
The essence of feudalism is the negation of patriotism. The bond which held together lord and vassal was personal, and based upon the ownership of land. A kingdom was regarded not as a state, but as an estate, and one of the most disconcerting features of medieval history, is the way in which the demands of policy are continually being subordinated to personal considerations. We find the ablest of statesmen building empires, and then splitting them up among their children, and thus not only pulling to pieces their own work, but directly causing the most bloody and profitless of wars. Whole provinces are given away as dowries, in the same spirit as the bride's father presents a cheque nowadays. The futility of the feudal military system may be gauged by the ridiculous obligation imposed upon a knight, to serve his lord for forty days in the year, and no more. It need hardly be a matter of surprise that under such conditions decisive battles were rare. Again, when applied with thoroughgoing consistency, it made the unit of loyalty not the state, but the fief.
A mere oath of fealty, without the sanction of force to back it, was powerless to bind an unruly baron, and the spirit of these magnates is contained in the rhyme:
"Nor king nor prince am I;
I am the lord of Couçy.”
When the Earl Warenne was asked, in the reign of Edward I, by what title he held his franchises, he produced an old and rusty sword, saying that this was his warranty, for William the Bastard had not conquered the land without the help and partnership of the Earl's ancestors. This turbulent and disruptive pride was the greatest of all hindrances to the unity of nations,
The political theory of the time easily lent itself to feudalism. Its tendency was to regard the whole world as one spiritual unity, but at the same time to treat every subordinate member as a little world in itself, and therefore as possessed of a spiritual dignity not inferior to that of the macrocosmus itself. This doctrine, though sublime, is obviously a dangerous weapon in the hands of one, who chooses to regard his commune or fief as a self-sufficing and practically independent unit, only bound to the macrocosm by the shadowiest of ties.
In many parts of Europe this system prevailed with hardly any qualification, except such as was provided by the Church. In Germany only the semblance of unity survived the Hohenstaufen, and the heir of the Cæsars was generally a titular chief among a swarm of rivals over whom he did not pretend to exercise control. In France the patriotism of Roland slumbered for centuries, until the process began which was to culminate in the concentration beneath the palace roof at Versailles of the nobility of France; for the forces of disunion were so strong that they compelled the Line of Capet to forge the engine of despotism which caused, and survived, its own downfall. But we have to thank our Norman and Angevin kings, that the worst effects of feudalism were not felt in England, and that, in spite of painful tackings, she finally succeeded in steering clear alike of anarchy and despotism.
We need not follow their policy in detail. Its keynote was given by William's master-stroke of summoning to a meeting at Salisbury "all the landowning men of property there were over all England, whose soever men they were, and all bowed down to him and became his men, and swore oaths of fealty to him that they would be faithful to him against all other men." It has been contended that as a practical measure the effect of this