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The North was making ready for war while the war in the West went on, but one part of England did nothing to help the other. In the summer the movement in the North took shape. The nominal earls Edwin, Morkere, and Gospatric, with the AEtheling Edgar and others, left William's court to put themselves at the head of the movement. Edwin was specially aggrieved, because the king had promised him one of his daughters in marriage, but had delayed giving her to him. The English formed alliances with the dependent princes of Wales and Scotland, and stood ready to withstand any attack. William set forth; as he had taken Exeter, he took Warwick, perhaps Leicester. This was enough for Edwin and Morkere. They submitted, and were again received to favour. More valiant spirits withdrew northward, ready to defend Durham as the last shelter of independence, while Edgar and Gospatric fled to the court of Malcolm of Scotland. William went on, receiving the submission of Nottingham and York; thence he turned southward, receiving on his way the submission of Lincoln, Cambridge, and Huntingdon. Again he deemed it his policy to establish his power in the lands which he had already won rather than to jeopard matters by at once pressing farther. In the conquered towns he built castles, and he placed permanent garrisons in each district by granting estates to his Norman and other followers. Different towns and districts suffered in different degrees, according doubtless to the measure of resistance met with in each. Lincoln and Lincolnshire were on the whole favourably treated. An unusual number of Englishmen kept lands and offices in city and shire. At Leicester and Northampton, and in their shires, the wide confiscations and great destruction of houses point to a stout resistance. And though Durham was still untouched, and though William had assuredly no present purpose of attacking Scotland, he found it expedient to receive with all favour a nominal submission brought from the King of Scots by the hands of the Bishop of Durham.
If William's policy ever seems less prudent than usual, it was at the beginning of the next year, 1069. The extreme North still stood out. William had twice commissioned English earls of Northumberland to take possession if they could. He now risked the dangerous step of sending a stranger. Robert of Comines was appointed to the earldom forfeited by the flight of Gospatric. While it was still winter, he went with his force to Durham. By help of the Bishop, he was admitted into the city, but he and his whole force were cut off by the people of Durham and its neighbourhood. Robert's expedition in short led only to a revolt of York, where Edgar was received and siege was laid to the castle. William marched in person with all speed; he relieved the castle; he recovered the city and strengthened it by a second castle on the other side of the river. Still he thought it prudent to take no present steps against Durham. Soon after this came the second attempt of Harold's sons in the West.
Later in this year William's final warfare for the kingdom began. In August, 1069 the long-promised help from Denmark came. Swegen sent his brother Osbeorn and his sons Harold and Cnut, at the head of the whole strength of Denmark and of other Northern lands. If the two enterprises of Harold's sons had been planned in concert with their Danish kinsmen, the invaders or deliverers from opposite sides had failed to act together. Nor are Swegen's own objects quite clear. He sought to deliver England from William and his Normans, but it is not so plain in whose interest he acted. He would naturally seek the English crown for himself or for one of his sons; the sons of Harold he would rather make earls than kings. But he could feel no interest in the kingship of Edgar. Yet, when the Danish fleet entered the Humber, and the whole force of the North came to meet it, the English host had the heir of Cerdic at its head. It is now that Waltheof the son of Siward, Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon, first stands out as a leading actor. Gospatric too was there; but this time not Edwin and Morkere. Danes and English joined and marched upon York; the city was occupied; the castles were taken; the Norman commanders were made prisoners, but not till they had set fire to the city and burned the greater part of it, along with the metropolitan minster. It is amazing to read that, after breaking down the castles, the English host dispersed, and the Danish fleet withdrew into the Humber.
England was again ruined by lack of concert. The news of the coming of the Danes led only to isolated movements which were put down piecemeal. The men of Somerset and Dorset and the men of Devonshire and Cornwall were put down separately, and the movement in Somerset was largely put down by English troops. The citizens of Exeter, as well as the Norman garrison of the castle, stood a siege on behalf of William. A rising on the Welsh border under Eadric led only to the burning of Shrewsbury; a rising in Staffordshire was held by William to call for his own presence. But he first marched into Lindesey, and drove the crews of the Danish ships across into Holderness; there he left two Norman leaders, one of them his brother Robert of Mortain and Cornwall; he then went westward and subdued Staffordshire, and marched towards York by way of Nottingham. A constrained delay by the Aire gave him an opportunity for negotiation with the Danish leaders. Osbeorn took bribes to forsake the English cause, and William reached and entered York without resistance. He restored the castles and kept his Christmas in the half-burned city. And now William forsook his usual policy of clemency. The Northern shires had been too hard to win. To weaken them, he decreed a merciless harrying of the whole land, the direct effects of which were seen for many years, and which left its mark on English history for ages. Till the growth of modern industry reversed the relative position of Northern and Southern England, the old Northumbrian kingdom never fully recovered from the blow dealt by William, and remained the most backward part of the land. Herein comes one of the most remarkable results of William's coming. His greatest work was to make England a kingdom which no man henceforth thought of dividing. But the circumstances of his conquest of Northern England ruled that for several centuries the unity of England should take the form of a distinct preponderance of Southern England over Northern. William's reign strengthened every tendency that way, chiefly by the fearful blow now dealt to the physical strength and well-being of the Northern shires. From one side indeed the Norman Conquest was truly a Saxon conquest. The King of London and Winchester became more fully than ever king over the whole land.
The Conqueror had now only to gather in what was still left to conquer. But, as military exploits, none are more memorable than the winter marches which put William into full possession of England. The lands beyond Tees still held out; in January 1070 he set forth to subdue them. The Earls Waltheof and Gospatric made their submission, Waltheof in person, Gospatric by proxy. William restored both of them to their earldoms, and received Waltheof to his highest favour, giving him his niece Judith in marriage. But he systematically wasted the land, as he had wasted Yorkshire. He then returned to York, and thence set forth to subdue the last city and shire that held out. A fearful march led him to the one remaining fragment of free England, the unconquered land of Chester. We know not how Chester fell; but the land was not won without fighting, and a frightful harrying was the punishment. In all this we see a distinct stage of moral downfall in the character of the Conqueror. Yet it is thoroughly characteristic. All is calm, deliberate, politic. William will have no more revolts, and he will at any cost make the land incapable of revolt. Yet, as ever, there is no blood shed save in battle. If men died of hunger, that was not William's doing; nay, charitable people like Abbot AEthelwig of Evesham might do what they could to help the sufferers. But the lawful king, kept so long out of his kingdom, would, at whatever price, be king over the whole land. And the great harrying of the northern shires was the price paid for William's kingship over them.
At Chester the work was ended which had begun at Pevensey. Less than three years and a half, with intervals of peace, had made the Norman invader king over all England. He had won the kingdom; he had now to keep it. He had for seventeen years to deal with revolts on both sides of the sea, with revolts both of Englishmen and of his own followers. But in England his power was never shaken; in England he never knew defeat. His English enemies he had subdued; the Danes were allowed to remain and in some sort to help in his work by plundering during the winter. The King now marched to the Salisbury of that day, the deeply fenced hill of Old Sarum. The men who had conquered England were reviewed in the great plain, and received their rewards. Some among them had by failures of duty during the winter marches lost their right to reward. Their punishment was to remain under arms forty days longer than their comrades. William could trust himself to the very mutineers whom he had picked out for punishment. He had now to begin his real reign; and the champion of the Church had before all things to reform the evil customs of the benighted islanders, and to give them shepherds of their souls who might guide them in the right way,
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William the Conqueror -by- E.A. Freeman