Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

After having overrun Persia, and a great part of India try, and were employed in cultivating the estates of and Syria, this great conqueror was invited by some of their masters. Cities and villages found it necessary the minor princes of Asia, who were suffering under to hold of some great lord, on whom they might depend the Ottoman tyranny, to come and protect them. Ta- for protection, and became no less subject to his arbimerlane was flattered by the request, and having trary jurisdiction. The inhabitants were deprived of brought a great army into Phrygia, he was there met those rights which, in social life, are deemed most naby Bajazet, the Ottoman emperor, who readily gave tural and inalienable. They could not dispose of the battle, but was defeated and made prisoner (1402). effects which their own industry had acquired, either Tamerlane made Samarcand the tal of his

by a later will, or by any deed executed during their and there received the homage of all the princes of the lives. Neither could they marry, nor carry on lawsuits, East. Illiterate himself, he was solicitous for the cul- without the consent of their lord. But as soon as the tivation of literature and science in his dominions; and cities of Italy began to turn their attention towards Samarcand became for a while the seat of learning, commerce, and to conceive some idea of the advan. politeness, and the arts, but was destined to relapse tages which they might derive from it, they became after a short period into its ancient barbarism. The impatient to shake off the yoke of their insolent lords, Turks, after the death of Tamerlane, resumed their and to establish among themselves such a free and purpose of destroying the empire of the East. The equal government as would render property and indushonour, or disgrace, as it may be thought, of effecting try secure. The Italian cities were the first to eman. this, fell to the lot of Mohammed 11., commonly sur cipate themselves, and their example was followed in named the Great. At the early age of twenty-one, other great seats of population, the king of the country Mohammed projected this conquest. His countrymen in general countenancing the establishment of free had already passed into Europe; they had possessed communities, in order to gain support against the enthemselves of the city of Adrianople, and indeed had croachments of the overgrown power of the barons. left nothing of all the empire of the East to the Greeks The first community of this description formed in Scotbut the city of Constantinople itself. The preparations land is understood to have been that of Berwick-uponmade for defence were not such as became the descen- | Tweed, which received its charter from William the dants of Romans, and the powers of Europe now looked Lion. Towns, upon acquiring the right of community, upon the East with the most supine indifference. The became so many little republics, governed by known Turks assailed the city both on the land side and on and equal laws. The inhabitants being trained to that of the sea; and battering down its walls with arms, and being surrounded by walls, they soon began their cannon, entered sword in hand, and massacred to hold the neighbouring barons in contempt, and to all who opposed them (1453). Mohammed, like many withstand aggressions on their property and privileges. other ambitious conquerors, showed himself unwilling Another great good, of fully more importance, was proto destroy unnecessarily. The inperial edifices were duced. These free communities were speedily admitted, preserved, and the churches were converted into by their representatives, into the great council of the mosques: the exercise of their religion was freely nation, whether distinguished by the name of a Parliaallowed to the Christians, and this privilege they have ment, a Diet, the Cortes, or the States-General. This never been deprived of. Constantine (for that was the is justly esteemed the greatest event in the history of name of the last, as well as the first emperor of the mankind in modern times. Representatives from the East) was slain in battle. From the time that it was English boroughs were first admitted into the great nafounded by Constantine the Great, the city had sub- tional council by the barons who took up arms against sisted 1123 years. Mohammed liberally patronised the Henry III. in the year 1265; being summoned to add to arts and sciences. He was himself not only a politi- the greater popularity of their party, and to strengthen cian, but a scholar, and he invited both artists and the barrier against the encroachments of regal power. men of letters to his capital from the kingdoms of Readers may draw their own conclusions from an event Europe. But the taking of Constantinople had an which ultimately had the effect of revolutionising the effect contrary to his wishes: it dispersed the learned framework of society, and of rearing that great body of Greeks, or Greeks who were called learned, all over the people commonly styled the middle class." Europe; and this, among other things, may be looked The enfranchising of burghal communities led to the upon as a help to the great revival of letters which manumission of slaves. Hitherto the tillers of the the fifteenth century witnessed. The taking of Con- ground, all the inferior classes of the country, were the stantinople was followed by the conquest of Greece and bondsmen of the barons. The monarchs of France, in Epirus ; and Italy might probably have met with a order to reduce the power of the nobles, set the example, similar fate, but for the fleet of the Venetians, who by ordering (1315-1318) all serfs to be set at liberty on opposed the arms of Mohammed with considerable just and reasonable conditions. The edicts were carried success, and even attacked him in Greece ; but the into immediate execution within the royal domain. contending powers soon after put an end to hostilities The example of their sovereigus, together with the exby a treaty. By this time Europe was trembling at pectation of considerable sums which they might raise Mohammed's success, and was afraid, not without by this expedient, led many of the nobles to set their reason, that he might pursue his conquests westwards. dependents at liberty; and servitude was thus gradually It was relieved from fear by his death, which took place abolished in almost every province of the kingdom. in 1481. His descendants have continued to our own This beneficial practice similarly spread over the rest day to occupy one of the finest countries in Europe; of Europe ; and in England, as the spirit of liberty and it was only in the present age that Greece was gained ground, the very name and idea of personal serliberated from their dominion.

vitude, without any formal interposition of the legislature to prohibit it, was totally banished.

While society was assuming the semblance of the Civil freedom, as we have seen, dawned first in the form it now bears, the progress of improvement was great commercial cities of Italy, whence it spread to accelerated by various collateral circumstances, the Germany, Flanders, and Britain. This important first of which worth noticing was change in society may be traced to the institution of The Revival of Letters. The first restorers of learning free communities of traders, or guilds of merchants; in Europe were the Arabians, who, in the course of and such confederacies were a necessary consequence of their Asiatic conquests, became acquainted with some the usurpation and tyranny of the nobles and feudal of the ancient Greek authors, discovered their merits, possessors of the soil. In the eleventh and twelfth cen- and had them translated into Arabic, esteeming those turies the usurpations of the nobility became intoler- principally which treated of mathematics, physics, and able; they had reduced the great body of the people metaphysics. They disseminated their knowledge in to a state of actual servitude. Nor was such oppres- the course of their conquests, and founded schools and sion the portion of those alone who dwelt in the coun- I colleges in all the countries which they subdued. The

RISE OF CIVIL FREEDOM AND SOCIAL IMPROVEMENT.

[ocr errors]

western kingdoms of Europe became first acquainted quently on board Mediterranean ships at the latter with the learning of the ancients through the medium of part of the preceding age.' The Genoese, however, are those Arabian translations. Charlemagne caused them known in the fourteenth century to have come out of to be retranslated into Latin; and, after the example that inland sea, and steered for Flanders and England. of the caliphs, founded universities at Bonona, Pavia, But by far the greatest sailors of the age were the Osnaburg, and Paris. Similar efforts were made in Spaniards and Portuguese. This latter nation had little England by Alfred; and to him we owe the establish- or no existence during the greater part of the middle ment, or at least the elevation, of the university of ages, but in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth cenOxford. The first efforts, however, at literary improve- turies, they were able to expel the Moors from a great ment were marred by the subtleties of scholastic divi- part of their country; and in the beginning of the fifnity. Perhaps the greatest and wisest literary cha- teenth, John, surnamed the Bastard, who was then their racter of the middle ages was an English friar, named king, was the first European prince who exhibited a Roger Bacon. This extraordinary individual was not respectable navy. It was in 1486 that this adventuonly learned, but, what was more uncommon in those rous people first doubled the Cape of Good Hope. times, he was scientific. Hallain asserts that he was The discovery of America (1493) may be mentioned acquainted with the nature of gunpowder, though he supplementarily to the invention of the mariner's comdeemed it prudent to conceal his knowledge. He saw pass, as an event which, without it, could never have the insufficiency of school philosophy, and was the first taken place. The immortal honour of that discovery to insist on experiment and the observation of nature as rests with Christopher Columbus, & sailor of Genoa. the fittest instrunients by which to acquire knowledge. After unsuccessful applications at almost every court in He reformed the calendar, and made discoveries in as- Europe, and braving obloquy and contempt, Columbus tronomy, optics, chemistry, medicine, and mechanics. at last obtained a miserable force from Ferdinand and

It is to Italy, however, that we owe the first and Isabella of Spain; and with no landmark but the heagreatest exertions in the revival of letters. The spirit vens, nor any guide but his compass, he launched of liberty which had arisen among its republics was boldly into the sea, and at last conducted Europeans favourable to the cultivation of literature ; and ac- to the great western hemisphere. cordingly we find that not only did they produce many In the course of the fourteenth and beginning of the individuals who were most active and successful in fifteenth centuries, various discoveries in the arts were bringing to light the relics of classical lore, but that made, which powerfully tended to the advancement there also arose among them men possessed of the of society; among these the more important were the highest order of original genius. Florence produced invention of gunpowder and firearms, clocks and Dante so early as 1265. Dante was associated with watches, paper-making and printing. This last, the the magistracy of his native city in his earlier years; greatest of all, prepared the way for the Reformation but having given dissatisfaction in that capacity, he in religion, in the sixteenth century, by which reliwas banished, and in his exile produced his great gious was added to civil freedom, and a great spur poem entitled the ‘Divine Comedy.' It is a representa- given to individual activity. tion of the three supposed kingdoms of futurity-Hell, Important as these events were in their ultimate Purgatory, and Paradise-divided into one hundred tendencies, it is to be remembered that they did not cantos, and containing about 14,000 lines. The poem immediately make any distinct change in the comforts has been much praised. Petrarch, born in the year of the people. In the latter centuries of the middle 1304, was likewise a Florentine by birth. The misfor- ages, the amusements of the common people were tunes of his father had impoverished the family, and metrical and prose romances, unintelligible prophePetrarch was too proud to take the usual method of cies, and fables of giants and enchanters. The state retrieving his affairs. His genius, however, earned for of England and of France at this period shows the snall him the friendship of many Italian princes, and even advance which had been made towards those comforts of more popes than one, although he had exerted his and improvements which now exist. Even in the large talents to expose the vices of their courts. Petrarch's cities, the houses were roofed with thatch, and had no personal character seems to have exhibited some un- chimneys. The two most essential improvements in amiable traits ; but he has sung of love, friendship, architecture during this period,' says Mr Hallam, .one glory, patriotism, and religion, in language of such of which had been missed by the sagacity of Greece sweetness and power as to have made him the admira- and Rome, were chimneys and glass windows. Nothing tion of every succeeding age. Boccaccio, like the two apparently can be more simple than the former ; yet great poets named, was also a Florentine. He was the wisdom of ancient times had been content to let born in 1313, and his name has descended to posterity the smoke escape by an aperture in the centre of the less associated with his poetry than the light, elegant, roof; and a discovery, of which Vitruvius had not a and easy prose of his novels.

glimpse, was made, perhaps in this country (England), The discovery of Justinian's Laws, as detailed in the by some forgotten semi-barbarian. About the middle Pandects (see History of Laws), was another event of the fourteenth century the use of chimneys is diswhich powerfully tended to modify the barbarism that tinctly mentioned in England and in Italy; but they prevailed during the middle ages in Europe.

are found in several of our castles which bear a much The invention of the Mariner's Compass must be older date. This country seems to have lost very early reckoned of still greater importance, and yet it is abso- the art of making glass, which was preserved in France, lutely unknown to whom we owe it. That honour has whence artificers were brought into England to furnish been often bestowed on Gioja, a citizen of Amalphi, who the windows of some new churches in the seventh cenlived about the commencement of the fourteenth century. It is said that, in the reign of Henry III., few tury. But the polarity of the magnet at least was known ecclesiastical buildings had glazed windows. Suger, to the Saracens two hundred years before that time; however, a century before, had adorned his great work, though even after the time of Gioia, it was long before the Abbey of St Denis, with windows not only glazed the magnet was made use of as a guide in navigation. but painted ; and I presume that other churches of the . It is a singular circumstance,' says Mr Hallam,' and same class, both in France and England, were geneonly to be explained by the obstinacy with which men rally decorated in a similar manner. Yet glass is said are apt to reject improvement, that the magnetic needle not to have been employed in the domestic architecwas not generally adopted in navigation till very long ture of France before the fourteenth century, and its after the discovery of its properties, and even after introduction into England was probably by no means their peculiar importance had been perceived. The earlier. Nor, indeed, did it come into general use writers of the thirteenth century, who mention the po. during the period of the middle ages. Glazed windows larity of the needle, mention also its use in navigation; were considered as movable furniture, and probably yet Campany has found no distinct proof of its employ- bore a high price. When the Earls of Northumberment till 1403, and does not believe that it was fre- I land, as late as the reign of Elizabeth, left Alnwick Castle, the windows were taken out of their frames and be extraordinary well provided ; few probably had carefully laid by.'

more than two. The walls were commonly bare, withBy far the finest specimens of architecture which out wainscot or even plaster, except that some great the middle ages produced were the religious edifices houses were furnished with bangings, and that perbuilt in the twelfth and three following centuries. The haps hardly so soon as the reign of Edward VI. superstition of the times was favourable to the produc- Neither books nor pictures could find a place in such tion of works of that sort. To leave one's means for dwellings as these. Some inventories of furniture, such a purpose was deemed so meritorious, as to entitle bearing dates in the fourteenth century, have been prethe donor to eternal happiness in the next scene of served to our own day, and they are curious and amus. existence; and men in this world thought it a duty to ing. In Sir F. Eden's work on the State of the Poor, render structures designed for purposes so sacred as a carpenter's stock is said to have been valued, in the beautiful and becoming as they could. It was about year 1301, at a shilling! In an inventory of the goods the middle of the twelfth century that what has been of .John Port, late the king's servant,' who died about called the Gothic style of architecture took its rise, of 1524, we find that this gentleman's house had consisted which the peculiar feature is thought to be the pointed of a hall, parlour, buttery, and kitchen, with five bedarch, formed by the segment of two intersecting semi-steads, two chambers, three garrets, and some minor circles, struck from points equidistant from the centre accommodations. From this it may be inferred that of a common diameter. This style of architecture has Mr Port was a rather important man in his day, for been said by different individuals to have originated in very few individuals at that time could boast of such France, in Germany, in Italy, and in England (Vol. 1. accommodation. His plate wus valued at £94, his p. 438). The truth is, we neither know where it origi- jewels at £23; and, strange to say, his funeral expenses nated nor from what source it was derived. It has amounted to £73, 6s. 8d ! afforded antiquaries a curious subject of speculation Of all the arts necessary to existence, perhaps that how 80 perfect a system, as this has been thought, of agriculture was in the most miserable condition durshould not only have originated but reached perfection ing the middle ages. On a thousand spots of land which in times so dark. Any effectual explanation is probably we now behold subjected to a fruitful cultivation, there now impossible; the knowledge of the art was never was nothing to be seen at that time but 'tracts of forest permitted to go beyond a fraternity of freemasons, and ground, stagnating with bog or darkened by native it is not to be supposed that the early archives of that woods, where the wild ox, the roe, the stag, and the wolf, association have survived so many revolutions. had scarcely learned the supremacy of man.' We owe

The living even of the highest nobility under the the first efforts at improvement in agriculture over the Edwards was such as would not prove very palatable to greater part of Europe to the monks. They chose, for their luxurious descendants. They drank little wine, the sake of retirement, secluded regions, which they had no foreign luxuries, rarely kept male servants cultivated with the labour of their hands. Of the except for husbandry, and still more rarely travelled Anglo-Saxon husbandry we may remark,' says Mr beyond their native country. An income of £10 or £20 | Turner, ‘that Doom’s-day Survey gives us some indiwas reckoned a competent estate for a gentleman-at cation that the cultivation of the church lands was least the lord of a single manor would seldom have much superior to that of any other. They had much enjoyed more. A knight who possessed £150 a year less wood upon them, and their meadow was more passed for extremely rich. Sir John Fortescue speaks abundant, and in more numerous distributions. The of five pounds a year as 'a fair living for a yeoman;' culture of arable land in general was very imperfect: and we read that the same sum (£5) served as the according to Sir John Cullum, a full average crop on annual expense of a scholar attending the university. an acre sown with wheat amounted only to about nine Modern lawyers must be surprised at the following, or ten bushels--a circumstance, the knowledge of which which Mr Hallam extracts from the churchwarden's may save us any surprise at a calculation by which it accounts of St Margaret, Westminster, for 1476 : appears that, in the thirteenth century,

the

average • Also paid to Roger Fylpott, learned in the law, for his annual rent of an acre of arable land was from sixcounsel giving, 3s. Bd., with fourpence for his dinner.' pence to a shilling. In the time of Edward I., the or

It has been remarked that the wages of day-labourers, dinary price of a quarter of wheat appears to have been particularly those engaged in agriculture, were better about four shillings. A sheep was sold high at a shilin the times of Edward III. and Henry VI. than they ling, and an ox might be reckoned at ten or twelve. have ever been at any other period of English his- In considering these statements, however, of positive tory; nor can it be denied that this, upon the whole, money values, it must be recollected by persons of this is true. In the fourteenth century, a harvest man had day that the precious metals were depreciated progresfourpence a day, which enabled him in a week to buy sively in their value by every sovereign in Europe, who a comb of wheat; but, says Sir John Cullum, in his enabled themselves in this way to pay debts in appear. History of Hawsted, to buy a comb of wheat a man must ance, while in reality they were cheating their creditors to now (1784) work ten or twelve days. “So,' says Mr that extent; and sums of small name in those days were Hallam, ' under Henry VI., if meat was at a farthing every way equal in value to greater sums in our own. and a-half the pound, which, I suppose, was about the At this time wine was sold only in the shops of the mark, a labourer earning threepenice a day, or eighteen- English apothecaries. Yet the progress of luxury, as it pence in the week, could buy a bushel of wheat at six was called, had already begun to excite serious aların. shillings the quarter, and twenty-four pounds of meat, The parliament of Edward III. passed an act prohibitfor his family. A labourer at present earning twelve ing the use of gold and silver in apparel to all who shillings a week, can only buy a bushel of wheat at had not a hundred pounds a year; and Charles VI. of eighty shillings the quarter, and twelve pounds of meat France ordained that none should presume to entertain at sevenpence.' It is thus undeniable that the day their guests with more than two dishes and mess of labourers' wages could purchase greater quantities of soup. It is almost unnecessary to add, that laws of certain kinds of food than the wages given to the same that sort were passed only with a view to persons in the class of persons could do in the present day, but they highest ranks; for others they were not needed. Conwanted a thousand comforts which the meanest of our temporary history has recorded nothing of the poorer workmen now enjoy; aud few surely would be willing classes but their slaughter in war; but we are at little to exchange all these blessings for the wars and miseries loss to perceive that domestic comforts must have been which Edward caused, eren although they were in- few and slender among them, when we know that sured, along with them, of daily supplies of beef and neither chairs nor looking-glasses could be found in the ale, of which the ancient yeomen boasted.

bedrooms of the nobility. Ages over which this sketch The internal accominodation of houses was even does not extend, were required before the great inass less than their outward splendour. A gentleman's of human beings should become possessed of personal house containing three or four beds was thought to comforts or of political rights.

128

[ocr errors]

HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND,

ing them with a chain of forts. It was his policy, after he had subdued part of the country, to render it permanently attached to Rome, by introducing the pleasures and luxuries of the capital. He was the first to sail round the island. In the year 84, having gone beyond the Forth, he was opposed by a great concourse of the rude inhabitants of the north, under a chief named Galgacus, whom he completely overthrew at Mons Grampius, or the Grampian Mountain; a spot about which there are many disputes, but which was probably at Ardoch in Perthshire, where there are still magnificent remains of a Roman camp. Tacitus, a writer related to Agricola, gives a very impressive account of this great conflict, and exhibits the bravery of the native forces as very remarkable; but the correctness of his details cannot be much relied on.

It appears that Agricola, while on the west coast of Scotland, was desirous of making the conquest of Ireland, which he thought would be useful, both as a medium of communication with Spain, and as a position whence he could overawe Britain. He formed an

acquaintance with an Irish chief, who, having been CONQUEST BY THE ROMANS.

driven from his country by civil commotions, was ready PREVIOUSLY to the year 55 before Christ, the British to join in invading it. By him Agricola was informed Islands, in common with the whole of northern and that the island might be conquered by one legion and Festern Europe, were occupied by barbarous tribes, a few auxiliaries. The inhabitants, according to Tacitus, who bore nearly the same relation to the civilised na- bore a close resemblance to the Britons. tions of Greece and Italy, which the North American It is generally allowed that the Romans experienced Indians of the present day bear to the inhabitants of an unusual degree of difficulty in subduing the Britons; Great Britain and the United States. The Romans, and it is certain that they were baffled in all their atwho for ages had been extending their power over their tempts upon the northern part of Scotland,

which was nude neighbours

, had concluded the conquest of Gaul, then called Caledonia. The utmost they could do with now called France, when, in the year just mentioned, the inhabitants of that country, was to build walls across their celebrated commander, Julius Cæsar, learning the island to keep them by themselves. The first wall from the merchants of that country that there was an

was built in the year 121, by the Emperor Hadrian, other fertile land on the opposite side of the narrow sea between Newcastle and the Solway Firth. The second Row termed the British Channel, resolved to proceed was built by the Emperor Antoninus, about the year thither, and subject it also to the Roman arms.

Dis- 140, as a connexion of the line of forts which Agricola embarking at the place since called Deal, he soon over- had formed between the Firths of Forth and Clyde. swed the savage natives, though they were naturally This boundary was not long kept, for in 210 we find warlike, and averse to a foreign yoke. He did not, how the Emperor Severus fortifying the rampart between erer

, gain a firm footing in Britain till the succeeding the Tyne and Solway. Roman armies, however, proyear, when he employed no fewer than 800 vessels to bably under the command of Lollius Urbicus, had anvey his troops from Gaul. Except along the coasts, penetrated far beyond the more northerly wall, although, where some tillage prevailed, the British tribes lived unfortunately, no accounts of their reception are preexactly as the Indians now do, upon animals caught in served. From comparing Roman remains lately dishunting, and fruits which grew spontaneously. They covered with ancient geographies

, it is held as estabstained and tattooed their bodies, and had no religion | lished that the Romans reached the north-east end of bat a bloody idolatry called Druidism. The people of Loch Ness, near the modern town of Inverness. The Ireland were in much the same condition.

number of roads and camps which they made, and the Little was done on this occasion to establish the regularity with which the country was divided into Roman power in Britain; but about a century after- stations, prove their desire to preserve these conquests. wards-namely, in the year of Christ 43, when the When the conquest was thus so far completed, the Esperor Claudius was reigning at Rome-another large country was governed in the usual manner of a Roman army invaded the island, and reduced a considerable province; and towns began to rise in the course of part of it. A British prince called Caradoc, or Carac- time-being generally those whose names are tacus, who had made a noble defence against their found to end in chester, a termination derived from arts

, was finally taken and sent prisoner to Rome, castra, the Latin word for a camp. The Christian rewhere he was regarded with the same wonder as we ligion was also introduced, and Roman literature made should bestow upon a North American chief who had some progress in the country. greatly obstructed the progress of our settlements in that quarter of the world. In the year 61, an officer

CONQUEST BY THE SAXONS. named Suetonius did much to reduce the Britons, by

At length a time came when the Romans could no destroying the numerous Druidical temples in the Isle longer defend their own native country against the of Anglesea; religion having in this case, as in many nations in the north of Europe. The soldiers were then ithers since, been a great support to the patriotic cause. withdrawn from Britain

(about the year 440), and the le soon after overthrew the celebrated British princess people left to govern themselves. The Caledonians, Bradicca, who had raised an almost general insurrec- who did not like to be so much straitened in the north,

took advantage of the unprotected state of the Britons In the year 79, Agricola, a still greater general, ex- to pour in upon them from the other side of the wall, tended the influence of Rome to the Firths of Forth and despoil them of their lives and goods. The British and Clyde, which he formed into a frontier, by connect- had no resource but to call in another set of protectors, No. 59,

129

[graphic]

now

tion against the Roman power.

EARLY NORMAN KINGS.

the Saxons, a warlike people who lived in the north of named Harold. The country was then invaded by
Germany, and the Jutes and Angles, who inhabited William, Duke of Normandy, a man of illegitimate
Denmark. The remedy was found hardly any better birth, attended by a large and powerful army. Harold
than the disease. Having once acquired a footing in opposed him at Hastings (October 14), and after a
the island, these hardy strangers proceeded to make it well-contested battle, his army was defeated, and him-
a subject of conquest, as the Romans had done before, self slain. William then caused himself to be crowned
with this material difference, that they drove the Bri- king at Westminster; and in the course of a few years
tish to the western parts of the island, particularly into he succeeded, by means of his warlike Norman fol-
Wales, and settled, with new hordes of their country- lowers, in completely subduing the Saxons. His chiefs
men, over the better part of the land. So completely were settled upon the lands of those who opposed him,
was the population changed, that, excepting in the and became the ancestors of most of the present noble
names of some of the hills and rivers, the British lan- families of England.
guage was extinguished, and even the name of the coun- Previously to this period, the church of Rome, which
try itself was changed from what it originally was to was the only surviving part of the power of that em-
Angle-land, or England, a term taken from the Angles. pire, had established its supremacy over England. The
The conquest required about a hundred and fifty years land was also subjected to what is called the feudal
to be effected, and, like that of the Romans, it extended system (see History of THE MIDDLE AGES), by which
no farther north than the Firths of Forth and Clyde. all proprietors of land were supposed to hold it from
Before the Britons were finally cooped up in Wales, the king for military service, while their tenants were
many battles were fought; but few of these are accu- understood to owe them military service in turn for
rately recorded. The most distinguished of the British their use of the land. All orders of men were thus
generals were the Princes Vortimer and Aurelius Am. kept in a chain of servile obedience, while some of the
brosius. It is probably on the achievements of the lower orders were actually slaves to their superiors.
latter that the well-known fables of King Arthur and In the year 853, Kenneth, king of the Scots, had
his knights are founded.

added the Pictish kingdom to his own, and his de-
England, exclusive of the western regions, wag now scendant Malcolm II., in 1020, extended his dominions
divided into seven kingdoms, called Kent, Northumber- over not only the south of Scotland, but a part of the
land, East Anglia, Mercia, Essex, Sussex, and Wessex, north of England. Thus, putting aside Wales, which
each of which was governed by a race descended from continued to be an independent country, under its own
the leader who had first subdued it; and the whole princes, the island was divided, at the time of the Nor-
have since been called by historians the Saxon Hep- man Conquest, into two considerable kingdoms, Eng-
tarchy, the latter word being composed of two Greek land and Scotland, as they were for some centuries
words, signifying seven kingdoms. To the north of the afterwards. Ireland, which had also been invaded by
Forth dwelt & nation called the Picts, who also had a hordes from the north of Europe, was divided into a
king, and were in all probability the people with whom number of small kingdoms, like England under the
Agricola had fought under the name of Caledonians. Saxon Heptarchy.
In the Western Highlands there was another nation,
known by the name of the Scots, or Dalriads, who had
gradually migrated thither from Ireland, between the William, surnamed The Conqueror, reigned from
middle of the third century and the year 503, when 1066 to 1087, being chiefly engaged all that time in
they established, under a chief named Fergus, a mo- completing the subjugation of the Saxons. He is allowed
narchy destined in time to absorb all the rest. About to have been a man of much sagacity, and a firm ruler;
the year 700 there were no fewer than fifteen kings, but his temper was violent, and his dispositions brutal.
or chiefs, within the island,

while Ireland was nearly At the time of his death, which took place in Normandy, in the same situation. In Britain, at the same time, bis eldest son Robert happening to be at a greater disfive languages were in use, the Latin, Saxon, Welsh, tance from London than William, who was the second the Pictish, and the Irish. The general power of the son, the latter individual seized upon the crown, of country has been found to increase as these nations which he could not afterwards be dispossessed, till he and principalities were gradually amassed together. was shot accidentally by an arrow in the New Forest,

Although three of the Saxon kingdoms, Wessex, in the year 1100, Towards the close of this king's Mercia, and Northumberland, became predominant, reign, the whole of Christian Europe was agitated by the Heptarchy prevailed from about the year 585 to the first Crusade-an expedition for the recovery of the 800, when Egbert, king of Wessex, acquired a para- Holy Land from the Saracens. Robert of Normandy mount influence over all the other states, though their | had a high command in this enterprise, and gained kings still continued to reign. Alfred, so celebrated for much fame as a warrior; but while he was in Italy, his virtues, was the grandson of Egbert, and began to on his return, his youngest brother Henry usurped the reign in the year 871. At this time the Danes, who throne left vacant by William, so that he was again are now a quiet, inoffensive people, were a nation of disappointed of his birthright. Henny I.-surnamed pirates, and at the same time heathens. They used to Beauclere, from his being a fine scholar—was a prince come in large fleets, and commit dreadful ravages on of some ability; but he disgraced himself by putting the shores of Britain. For some time they completely out the eyes of his eldest brother, and keeping him overturned the sovereignty of Alfred, and compelled nearly thirty years in confinement. Such barbarous him to live in obscurity in the centre of a marsh. But conduct shows that in this age might was the only he at length fell upon them when they thought them right, and that men hesitated at no actions which selves in no danger, and regained the greater part of might promise to advance their own interests. his kingdom. Alfred spent the rest of his life in lite- Contemporary with William the Conqueror in Engrary study, of which he was very fond, and in forming land, was MALCOLM III. in Scotland, surnamed Canlaws and regulations for the good of his people. He more, from his having a large head. This prince, was perhaps the most able, most virtuous, and most after overthrowing the celebrated usurper Macbeth, popular prince that ever reigned in Britain; and all married Margaret, a fugitive Saxon princess, through this is the more surprising, when we find that his pre- whom his posterity became the heirs of that race of decessors and guccessors, for many ages, were ex- English sovereigns. He was a good prince, and by tremely cruel and ignorant. He died in the year 901, settling Saxon refugees upon his lowland territory, did in the fifty-third year of his age.

much to improve the character of the Scottish nation,

who are described as having been before this time a CONQUEST BY THE NORMANS.

nation in which there was no admixture of civilisation. The Saxon line of princes continued to rule-with | At Malcolm's death, in 1093, the crown was contested the exception of three Danish reigns--till the year 1066, for a while by a usurper called Donald Bane, and the when the crown was in the possession of a usurper , elder sons of the late monarch, but finally fell to the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »